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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cruising the Web

Eliot Abrams explains how the Obama administration has fostered bad relations with Netanyahu and Israel.
First comes the personal relationship and the desire to see Netanyahu lose the election. Recall that Obama became president before Netanyahu became prime minister, and it is obvious that the dislike was both personal and political before Netanyahu had done anything. Obama does not like people on the right, period—Americans, Israelis, Australians, you name it. Obama also decided immediately on taking office to pick a fight with Israel and make construction in settlements and in Jerusalem the central issue in U.S.-Israeli relations. Remember that he appointed George Mitchell as his special negotiator one day after assuming the presidency, and Mitchell was the father of the demand that construction—including even construction to accommodate what Mitchell called “natural growth” of families in settlement populations—be stopped dead. A confrontation was inevitable, and was desired by the White House.

Obama has overplayed his hand, in the sense that in poll after poll Israelis say that they do not support his Middle East policies. Historically, an Israeli prime minister loses domestic support when he cannot manage relations with Washington. This year may be the exception, the time when Israelis want a prime minister to oppose U.S. policies they view as dangerous. They may also believe that the Obama administration is simply so hostile that no prime minister could avoid confrontations.

I well remember how we in the Bush White House handled the poor personal relations between the president and French president Jacques Chirac. In 2004-2005 especially, the two men did not get along (arguing mostly about Iraq and just plain disliking each other as well) but we wanted to prevent their poor personal chemistry from damaging bilateral relations. So National Security Advisor Condi Rice in 2004, and then her successor Steve Hadley in 2005, set up a work-around. The French National Security Advisor Maurice Gourdault-Montagne traveled to Washington almost every month and came to the White House. There the French ambassador to the U.S., Jean-David Levitte, joined him for meetings with key NSC, DOD, and State Department officials. In 2005, Secretary of State Rice would come over from State to join Hadley and several of us on the NSC staff, and in the course of a half-day we would review every issue facing the United States and France. It was a serious time commitment for the American and French officials, but that is because we were determined to quarantine bad personal chemistry and prevent it from infecting the entire relationship—a goal set by President Bush himself.

Quite obviously, President Obama has no such goal. Israeli officials have complained to me for several years about the lack of contacts and communications with the White House. Susan Rice has determined that her job is to make bilateral relations worse, and has established no relationship with her Israeli counterpart Yossi Cohen. So the problem is not just bad chemistry at the top; it is an administration that has decided to create a tense and negative relationship from the top down.

One reason, as noted, is the hope that tension with America can lead to Netanyahu’s defeat in the March 17 election. The second reason is Iran policy. The administration is desperately seeking a deal with Iran on terms that until recently were unacceptable to a broad swath of Democrats as well as Republicans. One after another, American demands or “red lines” have been abandoned. Clearly the administration worries that Israeli (not just Netanyahu, but Israeli) criticisms of the possible Iran nuclear deal might begin to reverberate. So it has adopted the tactic of personalizing the Israeli critique.

As Brendan Finnegan explains, if Scott Walker gets the nomination in 2016, he'll have the Left and their over-the-top response to the labor reforms he instituted to thank. The Left made him into the conservative favorite that he is today.
The attempt to boot Walker by Wisconsin progressives and labor activists accomplished a rare feat: absolute party unity. But instead of unifying Democrats enough to unseat him, it created a brief moment where libertarian, establishment, Tea Party, and traditional conservative members of the Republican Party united to defend him. He just wasn’t some guy: he was their guy and, damn it, they were not going to let him fall. This unity didn’t end with the recall: Walker received a jaw-dropping 96 percent of the Republican vote in 2014 per the exits, and election analysts have frequently pointed to him as the possible “bridge candidate” between the money and masses within the party. Again, without the recall challenge, would he be enjoying such overwhelming party support as he does now? Would he even be dipping his toe in the water?

The ferocity of the anti-Walker attacks during the recall attempt cannot be understated: no stone was left unturned, no “scandal” or slip of the tongue left unmentioned, and this may only help candidate Walker going into 2016. The Democrats spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours digging, scooping, ad-cutting, and hammering. They threw the kitchen sink at the guy in 2012, threw their neighbor’s sink at him in 2014, and now nobody on the block will let them inside to pee. Out of useful topsoil, what do they do now?

Had the Democrats not targeted Walker with a recall, that massive fundraiser network, the national profile, the party unity, and his highly developed get-out-the-vote team almost certainly wouldn’t exist. He may have still won re-election, but he would be just another Midwestern Republican governor who enacted reforms and faced push-back, not the conservative folk hero of a party longing for a win. He would most likely resemble Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a reformer but hardly a man with a cult following. There would still be plenty of new problems with the governor his opposition could cite, instead of leaving him mostly vetted for 2016.

They shot the king and missed, making a balding, sleepy-eyed executive into a god among a growing horde of followers. That’s bad enough for the Progressive set. In the unlikely event he wins the Republican nomination and the presidency? They struck the match that ignited their own national hell.
Thanks, Left. If their actions helped elevate Walker among Republicans above people like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, or Jeb Bush, I am indeed grateful.

Democrats are starting to worry about how old their party leaders have become.

Ed Morrissey discusses what the recent brouhaha over Scott Walker's response to a question as to whether Obama is a Christian reveals about the bubble that the media inhabit.
Put aside the illegitimacy of this question for now; we’ve covered that angle of it enough. Does anyone actually care what Scott Walker thinks about Barack Obama, outside of the media elite that has been in a tizzy over it? Salena spent nearly a week with Walker on the campaign trail, and she told me during the show yesterday that Walker never once brought up Obama’s faith or patriotism; in fact, he barely talked about Obama at all with voters. Nor were voters much interested in Walker’s views about Obama personally, or even on policy; they wanted Walker to tell then what he would do after 2016 rather than what Obama was doing before 2015. It’s not just that the question from Costa and Balz came out of nowhere and has nothing to do with the 2016 campaign — it’s that they’re the only ones who care about it. So for whom are they writing? Each other, it appears from outside the bubble.

Nearly at the same time that this highly-celebrated non-sequitur was unfolding, another Walker story grabbed attention. Walker, an evangelical Christian, has spoken of his reliance on faith to make significant decisions, such as running for President. “I’m still trying to decipher if this is God’s calling,” Walker told the Wall Street Journal. “[Y]ou should only do it if you feel that God’s called you to get in there and make a difference.” To that end, Walker noted, he has been talking with God to see whether this is indeed his calling. For most Americans, this is nothing new; it’s called prayer, and the 56% of Americans who say that religion in their own life is “very important” would understand exactly what Walker meant. Another 22% say that religion is “fairly important,” and would likely also grasp this point easily. That’s almost 4 out of every 5 adults in the US.

And yet, Taegan Goddard of Political Wire, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, and others found this to be inexplicably strange.
The gotcha question about Obama's religion struck me since one of the interviewers was Robert Costa who was brought on board the Washington Post from the National Review explicitly to cover conservative politicians. We don't know if Balz or Costa asked that question, but I suspect it wasn't Costa. But Morrissey is right that the question served no purpose other than to produce an uncomfortable headline about Walker's answer. Walker could have avoided that with a more adroit answer which, I hope, he'll improve on delivering in the coming month since it is clear that the media will continue to ask such meaningless questions. Morrissey is also right to point out how uncomfortable many media elite are with politicians who refer openly to their faith. I still remember the exasperation with Jimmy Carter's discussions of his faith. Apparently, they have had such little contact in their lives with people of faith that they just can't get their minds around anyone who makes a public profession of his.
Discernment, especially on vocation, takes prayer, meditation, and an openness in one’s spiritual life to the still, small voice of God (for Christians, through the Holy Spirit). It’s what “calling” means — not a calling of our own will but that of God for us to take a certain path, usually closely related to vocations. One can have skepticism over a claim to having a specific calling, of course, but not even knowing about prayerful discernment itself exposes a frightful disconnect between the media and the populace. Snickering over what is a common tenet of faith for the vast majority of Americans says nothing about Walker, but it speaks volumes about the disconnect that we see between the mainstream political press and the people that they are purporting to inform.

Ashe Schow explains why it is a joke to look at Hillary Clinton as some champion of feminism. Remember how sh e led an effort to target women who charged Bill with sexual harassment? There was no solidarity with the sisterhood when her husband's political career was on the line even when he admitted the allegations. But even beyond that her career was built on riding her husband's coattails rather than based on any accomplishment of her own.
Because while Hillary made her own way in the world during the 70s and 80s at a law firm, those doors opened for her after Bill was elected Arkansas attorney general. Prior to that, she was teaching criminal law at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. Now, that could have led to her work at a prestigious law firm and then higher office (worked for President Obama), but her upward trajectory really started because her husband’s name was elevated.

Her career continued to take off as Bill’s did. When he was elected as attorney general and they moved to Little Rock, Ark., she was able to get a job at a prestigious law firm with political influence. When Bill was elected as Arkansas governor, Hillary was appointed to an influential committee and made partner at her law firm, which also began bringing in big name clients because of her marriage to Bill.
Is that the feminist role model women are seeking today? And let's not forget how she won election to the Senate based mostly on a wave of sympathy for having a dog of a husband.

Now climate change fanatics are going after scientists who don't believe sufficiently in the gospel. Since when does science eschew scepticism? Rich Lowry has more on this story,
Consider the plight of Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has done work on extreme weather. He, too, is on the receiving end of one of Grijalva’s letters.
At first blush, Pielke seems a most unlikely target. It’s not that he doubts climate change. It’s not that he doubts that it could be harmful. It’s not that he doubts it is caused by carbon emissions. It’s not even that he opposes implementing aggressive policies — namely a carbon tax — to try to combat it.
Pielke’s offense is merely pointing to data showing that extreme weather events haven’t yet been affected by climate change, and this is enough to enrage advocates who need immediate disasters as a handy political cudgel.
It can’t be Apocalypse 100 Years From Now; it has to be Apocalypse Now.
Pielke notes that neither hurricanes, nor floods, nor tornadoes, nor droughts have increased in frequency or intensity since the mid-20th century.
Eager to blame the ongoing California drought on climate change, John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s science czar, challenged Pielke on droughts, citing various research showing that they may be getting worse.
But the bible of the climate “consensus,” the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that “there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century.” Even Holdren’s long written response to Pielke is full of stipulations of uncertainty.

To move a political debate this simply is not good enough. It is impossible to scare people with a long list of methodological imponderables and projections showing far-off harms, if all the assumptions and models hold out over the course of 80 years. So the nuances of the actual science have to be jettisoned for alarmist simplifications.
The imperative is to show that, in Holdren’s words, “climate change is an urgent public health, safety, national security, and environmental imperative” (emphasis added).

It has to be counted a small victory in this project that Pielke will no longer be an obstacle. In a blog post responding to the Grijalva letter, Pielke wrote, “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt. I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues. I am simply not initiating any new research or papers on the topic, and I have ring-fenced my slowly diminishing blogging on the subject.”

And so the alarmists have hounded a serious researcher out of the climate business. All hail science!

The other day, the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, quit amid a sexual harassment scandal and noted in his letter of resignation: “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion.”

Is it too much too ask that the man in charge of a project supposedly marshaling the best scientific evidence for the objective consideration of a highly complex and contested phenomenon not feel that he has a religious commitment to a certain outcome?

Why, yes it is. The kind of people who run inquisitions may lack for perspective and careful respect for the facts and evidence. But they never lack for zeal.

There is a rather fishy methodology behind the recent DHS report warning against the violent threat from right-wing terrorists as worse than the threat from foreign terrorists or domestic militia groups.

I've often thought that what was so tawdry about campaign finance regulations is not what is illegal, but what is legal. And the story of the foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation highlight that tawdriness.
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.

The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.

The new disclosures, provided in response to questions from The Washington Post, make clear that the 2008 agreement did not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the U.S. government from giving money to the charity closely linked to the secretary of state.

In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government.
The story leads John Hinderaker to wonder if the Clintons' greed will be their downfall.
Accepting donations to a family foundation from foreign governments while serving as Secretary of State represents extraordinarily bad judgment. Sure, most of the money went to bona fide charitable causes. But there are any number of ways to donate to, say, earthquake or flood relief. Does anyone seriously think that a foreign government would choose the Clinton Foundation as its preferred charitable vehicle unless it sought to curry favor with a) a former president and still leading figure in the Democratic Party, b) the Secretary of State, and c) a possible future president? How dumb do the Clintons think we are?

Moreover, there is reason to suspect that the Clinton Foundation has served as a slush fund to finance the Clintons’ private enjoyments. The New York Post reported in 2013 that the Clinton Foundation had spent more than $50 million on travel expenses since 2003. Think about that: $50 million! That would cover a lot of the globe-trotting for which the Clintons are famous....

The Clintons’ problem is that they are, in fact, greedy. They are bound together by their lust for money. It isn’t a stretch for the average voter to understand that when Hillary extracts $300,000 per speech from public institutions–a laundered campaign contribution that would otherwise be illegal–and the family foundation rakes in millions from foreign governments while Hillary serves as Secretary of State, the Clintons are more interested in cashing on on their position and their notoriety than in serving the American people. You could compare them to the Kardashians, except that the Kardashians don’t pretend to be pursuing some higher goal.
And it has been ever thus with the Clintons. Why should anyone be surprised that they haven't changed?

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