Monday, March 30, 2015

Cruising the Web

George Will reminds us of the Clinton record of both Hillary and Bill.
The party, adrift in identity politics, clings, as shipwrecked sailors do to floating debris, to this odd feminist heroine. Wafted into the upper reaches of American politics by stolid participation in her eventful marriage to a serial philanderer, her performance in governance has been defined by three failures.

Her husband, having assured the 1992 electorate that voting for him meant getting “two for the price of one,” entrusted to her the project that he, in a harbinger of the next Democratic president’s mistake, made his immediate priority — health-care reform. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan urged him to begin with welfare reform, just as wise Democrats wanted President Obama to devote 2009 to economic recovery rather than health care, perhaps sparing the nation six years and counting of economic sluggishness.

Hillary Clinton enveloped her health-care deliberations in secrecy, assembling behind closed doors battalions of the best and the brightest — think of many Jonathan Grubers weaving complexities for the good of, but beyond the comprehension of, the public. When their handiwork was unveiled, it was so baroque that neither house of a Congress controlled by her party would even vote on it. This was one reason that in 1994 Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years — a harbinger of 2010, when Obamacare helped end Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as the first female speaker.

Clinton’s Senate interlude was an uneventful prelude to her 2008 presidential quest, which earned her, as a consolation prize, the State Department. There her tenure was defined by the “reset” with Russia and by regime-change-by-bombers in Libya.

Russia has responded by violently dismembering a European nation. Libya was the object of “humanitarian intervention,” an echo of Bill Clinton’s engagement in the Balkans that appealed to progressives because it was connected only tenuously, if at all, to the U.S. national interest. Today, Libya is a humanitarian calamity, a failed state convulsed by civil war and exporting jihadists.

These episodes supposedly recommend a re-immersion in Clintonism, a phenomenon that in 2001 moved the Washington Post to say, more in anger than in sorrow, that “the Clintons’ defining characteristic” is that “they have no capacity for embarrassment.”
George Will then goes on to remind us of all the garbage associated with the end to Bill Clinton's presidency. Younger voters might not know of all that sleaze, but do the voters who remember all this, and who will be reminded in coming months, really want to go through all this again?

Byron York visits reviews the "long, complicated story of Hillary Clinton's Benghazi subpoena."
Now that the public knows Hillary Clinton destroyed all the emails on her secret server -- her lawyer told the House Benghazi Committee that there's nothing left to search -- a question remains: Did Clinton destroy documents that were under subpoena from Congress?

The answer is more complex than it might seem. There's no doubt Clinton withheld information that Congress demanded she turn over, and some Republicans believe the documents she destroyed were covered under a subpoena as well. But a look at the story behind the subpoena and other document requests from congressional Benghazi investigators is a tale of obstruction, delay, and frustration that underscores the limits of Congress' power to investigate Benghazi. Clinton and her aides had the means to make life very difficult for Republicans trying to learn the full story of the attacks in Libya, and they did just that....

And what if a secretary of state simply refuses to comply with a requests and subpoenas? "We can hold them in contempt or run to the U.S. Attorney," notes the Republican. "But guess what? Nothing is going to happen."

The bottom line is that the system of congressional investigations has a very difficult time dealing with an official who acts in bad faith, as Hillary Clinton did in the Benghazi affair. She hid documents from investigators for more than two years, and then, when investigators wanted to see the larger group of documents from which she selected what would be released, she destroyed the whole thing.

Trey Gowdy is determined to piece together the full story of the secretary of state's actions and communications before, during, and after the Benghazi attack. The last few weeks have shown just how tough that job will be.

While they're celebrating Harry Reid's reign in the Senate, perhaps they could do what the conservative media have been doing - revisiting the sleaze and questionable deals that have made him a very wealthy man.
In 1998, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid paid $400,000 for two pieces of residential land outside Las Vegas. It was a complicated deal. Reid secretly transferred ownership of the property to a company set up by his friend and lawyer Jay Brown, who then convinced the local government to re-zone the land for commercial development. In 2004, Brown sold it to a group of developers and Reid walked away with $1.1 million.

"The complex dealings allowed Reid to transfer ownership, legal liability and some tax consequences to Brown's company without public knowledge, but still collect a seven-figure payoff nearly three years later," the Associated Press reported in 2006. "Reid hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview."

It was a classic Harry Reid transaction: legal but a little shady, and undoubtedly lucrative. Business deals like that allowed Reid to do very well during his years in the Senate, spent of late in a luxury condominium in Washington's Ritz Carlton.

Marco Rubio is hoping to reprise the success that brought him from being an underdog candidate for the Senate in 2010 to the winner in November.
That said, Rubio's broader political profile is immensely attractive to a wide range of Republicans. His record on a host of issues is decidedly conservative, and he communicates his ideology as effectively as anyone in his party. At the same time, Rubio, the bilingual son of immigrant parents who worked as a bartender and a maid, articulates his conservatism in an aspirational way. This combination allows him to claim a broad appeal that would allow him to attract new demographics—particularly young people and minorities—into a party desperate for diversification.

Many Republicans believe that Rubio would be the GOP's strongest general-election competition against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But after six years of bashing President Obama's inexperience—arguing that he'd only served one partial term in the U.S. Senate before running for president—it's evident already that some Republicans will be skeptical of giving Rubio, 43, that same opportunity.
Of course, the Republicans he would face in the primaries are not Charlie Crist. So few people are.

Daniel Pipes looks at how modern Islamists seem to delight in destroying historic sites and artifacts as they take over new territories. The list is depressingly long.
While the seizure and appropriation of other monuments began at the very inception of Islam (e.g., the Kaaba), the destruction that has reached orgiastic heights with ISIS is something new; note that nearly all the examples listed here date from the 21st century. Turned around, those recently destroyed antiquities survived so long because Muslims had left them alone. In this regard, things are far worse these days than ever before — not a surprise, as Islam is in its worst shape ever. All other major religions have moved beyond such crudely violent impulses, whose motive is unacceptable and whose results are tragic. Is there a Middle Eastern country that exults in its multi-religious heritage, celebrates ancient artifacts on coins and stamps, builds fabulous museums for its antiquities, treats archeology as a national pastime, and studies manuscripts instead of burning them? Well, yes, there is. It’s called Israel. The rest of the region could learn a thing or two about historical appreciation from the Jewish state.

David Harsanyi explains what there was in Ted Cruz's announcement for his candidacy that any student of American history should find familiar whether one is a believing Christian or an atheist.
As an atheist, I suppose I should be deeply troubled by Ted Cruz’s God-heavy presidential announcement. Although the Texas senator’s blast of old-fashioned American exceptionalism garnered most of the chortling media’s attention, it’s what troubles me the least about his aspirations. If the politicians treated the ideals of the Enlightenment as if they were handed down from heaven rather than a pliable set of guidelines perpetually bending to accommodate the vagaries of contemporary politics, I imagine the world would be a better place. They don’t.

As one reporter for Yahoo! News asked during Cruz’s speech on Twitter: “Bizarre to talk about how rights are God-made and not man-made in your speech announcing a POTUS bid? When Constitution was man-made?”

The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This founding document informs the Constitution, which restricts government from meddling in important areas of our lives. That’s how the Founders saw it. That’s how we’ve pretended to see it for a long time. Some of us believe that these natural rights, divine or secular, are universal, that they can’t be repealed or restrained or undone by democracy, university presidents, or rhetorically gifted presidents.

If that’s God’s position — or, more specifically, if enough people think that’s His position — well then He’s my co-pilot, as well.

By the way, here’s John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1961: “And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

Weird, huh?

On one side of the deep cultural divide, the very notion that God tells us anything is silly. That’s why you see many journalists react with confusion or with contemptuous tweets or feel the need to highlight something so obvious. On a political level, the idea that God can give us unalienable rights only threatens an agenda that doesn’t exactly hold your right to live in peace without interference sacred. And this lack of reverence for rights will lead to a serious battle between religious freedom and progressive aims.

Eliana Johnson looks at the series of unforced errors that Scott Walker has made since he shot to the head of the polls back in January and points to his staff as not being ready for the bright lights.
According to several people who have worked with Walker over the years — most of whom requested anonymously to speak candidly — the central problem in the Walker organization is that the governor has long served as his own campaign strategist — and he’s obviously a good one. As a result, he’s never had to build a large team of political professionals and delegate to it.

“He’s his own chief strategist, he’s his own speechwriter, he’s his own PR person,” says a Wisconsinite who has known the governor since his days as a county executive. “That may work when you’re a county executive. It’s a little more problematic when you’re the governor of a state, but you absolutely can’t do that when you’re running for president.” The Washington Post once called Walker a “hands-on tactician fixated on his public image” who “operated as the county executive, chief of staff, press secretary and campaign strategist all at once.”

“There’s a little speculation that his inner circle is like a dot, it’s like two or three people,” says Sykes, “because he’s very, very talented at these things.”
Remember when Obama was claiming that he was better at every job his campaign staff did than they were. He was LeBron. Well, no one is that good and, even if he were, comparative advantage would suggest that he should delegate. I bet even LeBron doesn't mow his own lawn.

Jonah Goldberg explains how the Bergdahl fiasco exemplifies all the Obama fiascos we have witnessed.
What I find interesting about the Bergdahl story is that it is the quintessential Obama fiasco. If you were compiling a checklist of all the things that drive conservatives crazy — and by conservatives I basically mean people who are (a) paying attention and (b) not enthralled in the Obama cult of personality — the Bergdahl story would achieve a near-perfect score.

The Obama M.O. remains remarkably consistent. He announces some initiative, policy, or presidential action. The public rationale for the move is always rhetorically grounded in some deep, universally shared principle, even if the real agenda is something far more ideological or partisan. The facts driving the decision are never as the White House presents them. Indeed, the more confident the White House appears to be about the facts, the more likely it is they’re playing games with them.

Sometimes the facts are simply made up. There are millions of “shovel ready jobs” right around the corner! “You can keep your doctor!” The Benghazi attack was “about a video!” “One in five women are raped!” “The Islamic State isn’t Islamic!” “These exclamation points are totally necessary!” At other times, the facts are selectively deployed. “Something something tax breaks for corporate jets mumble mumble poor Warren Buffet’s secretary’s tax bill blah blah Spain is winning the future with solar panels” and, course, “core al-Qaeda has been decimated” (in which “core al-Qaeda” is defined as “the bits of al-Qaeda that have been decimated”).

The Obama response to all opposition is to either attack the motives of his critics or to dismiss the objections as mere politics or ideology. When Obama met with congressional leaders back in 2009, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan made substantive critiques of Obamacare, and Obama responded by waving away their objections as mere “talking points” — as if any facts written on a sheet of paper suddenly become untrue if you can call them “talking points.”

Republican 1: “It is unsafe to smoke cigarettes around the propane tank.”

Republican 2: “Mass collectivization of agriculture has not worked well in the past.”

Republican 3: “You should not feed salmon to grizzly bears using your lap as a plate.”

Obama: “Those are just talking points…..Ahhhhh! Get this bear off of me!”

When Senate Democrats, led by Bob Menendez (now conveniently under the Department of Justice’s thumb), expressed concerns about Obama’s overtures to Iran, Obama reportedly sympathized, saying he understood their plight, what with the pressure from “donors.” The insinuation, obviously, is that Obama is doing the right thing, while those opposed were motivated by fear of nefarious unnamed “donors” cracking their whips (between servings of lox and bagels, no doubt). Only Obama’s motivations are pure, noble, and fact-driven. Only his opponents are ideologues incapable of “putting politics aside for the good of the American people,” as he likes to say.

There are other anatomical features of an Obama outrage. A few come to mind:

He has a tendency to frame issues in such a way that America is the villain and America’s enemies have a point.

He has an outsized faith — fueled equally by ego and the media’s eagerness to take his side — in his ability to persuade the public not to believe their lying eyes.

Since Obama sees himself as the People’s Tribune and the sole champion of what is right and good, he has little to no use for Congress or legal or constitutional requirements to work with it.

And, of course, there’s the incompetence factor — amplified by groupthink in the White House bunker. They may think Obama is the smartest guy in the room, but they also all think they’re geniuses who just happen to agree with each other. This creates a near total blindness to facts, data, and opinions that don’t line up with their worldview.


Using the above criteria, the Bergdahl story is quintessential Obama.

Invoking high-minded principle? Check!

Really motivated by partisan and ideological agenda? Check!

Made-up facts? Check!

Critics denounced as partisan ideologues opposed to high-minded principle? Check!

Group-think-driven White House’s failure to anticipate the political downsides? Check!

Flagrant contempt for Congress and its laws? Check!

The National Journal looks at how Harry Reid passed the Affordable Care Act and allowed the mistakes in the bill go through without corrections resultiing in the case before the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, if you have your health insurance through an exchange, expect surprises when you do your taxes.

Ah, proof that you don't have to be intelligent to rise to an administrative position at an Ivy League university.
A video sting operation shows Cornell’s assistant dean for students, Joseph Scaffido, agreeing to everything suggested by an undercover muckraker posing as a Moroccan student.
Scaffido casually endorses inviting an ISIS “freedom fighter’’ to conduct a “training camp” for students at the upstate Ithaca campus — bizarrely likening the activity to a sports camp.

Is it OK to bring a humanitarian pro-“Islamic State Iraq and Syria” group on campus, the undercover for conservative activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas asks.

Sure, Scaffido says in the recorded March 16 meeting.

Scaffido doesn’t even blink an eye when the undercover asks about providing material support for terrorists — “care packages, whether it be food, water, electronics.”

How about supporting Hamas?

No problem at all, Scaffido said.
“The university is not going to look at different groups and say, ‘You’re not allowed to support that group because we don’t believe them’ or something like that. I think it’s just the opposite. I think the university wants the entire community to understand what’s going on in all parts of the world,” Scaffido said.

The undercover asked if he can invite “a freedom fighter to come and do like a training camp for students.”

Scaffido responds, “You would be allowed to do something like that. It’s just like bringing in a coach, to do a training, a sports trainer or something,” the Cornell official said.

The State Department includes both ISIS and Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations.
Given how James O'Keefe's efforts usually work, I wouldn't be surprised to see other such videos to be released. Or maybe other university administrators are not as stupid as this guy.

The National Journal profiles Hugh Hewitt and how he has grown to be the "go-to pundit" of the Republican establishment. Even Democrats like going on his show.
IF REPUBLICAN pundits fall on a scale from the bombastic right-winger Rush Limbaugh on one end to the civilized centrist David Brooks on the other, then Hewitt is Limbaugh-like in his ideology but Brooks-like in his presentation. In other words, he's an intellectual's ideologue. "He sees himself as a responsible alternative to so much of what's out there," Gearan says. When I tell Hewitt that one Republican I spoke with called him a "gentleman's conservative," he smiles: "Oh, I like that."

Hewitt is popular enough with the base to have hosted a nationally syndicated show for 15 years—and safe enough for the establishment to thrust him into the debate spotlight this fall. In fact, it's hard to find a Hewitt hater anywhere within the GOP. "Hugh's hitting a peak," says David Webb, a tea-party leader and now host of The David Webb Show on SiriusXM. "He's frankly gained the credibility. It's about doing what you do well, gaining the credibility, and people come to you and say you have a voice and you have an audience."

He has a knack for landing on the most conservative possible position a political pragmatist could take.

Jeff Jacoby explores Obama's hypocrisy with Netanyahu.
IT TOOK Bibi Netanyahu nearly a week to apologize properly for his inflammatory comment on Israel’s election day warning that Arab voters were “heading to the polls in droves.” On Monday, speaking at his Jerusalem residence to a group of Israeli Arab community leaders, the newly reelected prime minister expressed his regret: “I know the things I said a few days ago wounded Israel’s Arab citizens. That was not in any way my intention, and I am sorry.”

But even after four and a half years, there has been no apology from Barack Obama for his inflammatory remarks just before the 2010 election, when he exhorted Latinos to generate an “upsurge in voting” in order to “punish our enemies and . . . reward our friends.” Nor has the president ever expressed regret for his running mate’s racially-tinged warning to a largely black audience in 2012 that the GOP was “going to put y’all back in chains” if Mitt Romney won the White House. In fact, the Obama campaign insisted no apology would be forthcoming.

Under normal circumstances, there would be no reason to link these episodes. But the White House pointedly reproached Netanyahu for his distasteful words. “This administration is deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the day after the election. The president himself declared in an interview that Netanyahu’s “rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions,” and warned that it “starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.”

Fair enough — except for Obama’s egregious failure to meet his own standard. The candidate who captivated America with his promise to transcend partisan and racial rancor turned out to be the most consistently polarizing president in modern history. He hasn’t scrupled to inject barbed racial comments into the nation’s political discourse, but if he has ever candidly apologized for doing so, it must have been on deep background. Obama’s contempt for Netanyahu is nothing new, but before he lambastes other political leaders for their “divisive rhetoric,” the president really ought to take a good look in the mirror....

When Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei declaims “Death to America!,” as he did in a speech last week, an unruffled White House brushes it off as “intended for a domestic political audience.” Doesn’t it cast doubt on Tehran’s trustworthiness? Not to worry, Obama’s press secretary assured CNN. Iranian negotiators have “demonstrate[d] a willingness to have constructive conversations.”

But there is no “domestic political audience” allowance for Netanyahu. If he says one thing today and something different tomorrow, the American president’s wrath knows no bounds.

Perhaps Netanyahu should be flattered that Obama holds him to such a high standard of constancy. The president has certainly never demanded it of himself. On a whole slew of issues, Obama has adamantly taken one position, then cast it aside when it was politically advantageous to do so.

He stoutly told AIPAC that Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel. Then he took it back.

He endlessly promised voters that if they liked their existing health plan, they could keep it. Then he took it back.

He repeatedly explained that he didn’t have the authority to unilaterally change or ignore immigration law. Then he took it back.

He coldly warned Syrian dictator Bashar Assad that any use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” calling for a military response. Then he took it back.

He firmly asserted that he was not in favor of same-sex marriage. Then he took it back.

Time after time, the president has come down clearly on one side of a controversial policy debate, only to walk away from it and end up on the other side. “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made,” says the White House witheringly about Netanyahu. Hypocrisy, thy name is Obama.

Jay Bilas has some very good ideas about how to bring the free market to college sports.
Under the pretext of preserving amateurism, the NCAA prohibits college athletes from earning compensation tied to their performance.

Mr. Bilas thinks the rules are hogwash. “No other student on any campus is restricted from earning whatever they can earn in whatever area they can earn it,” he notes. That includes techies, musicians and actresses like Emma Watson, who earned millions for playing Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” movies while attending Brown University....

Under Mr. Bilas’s ideal system, college athletes would be paid what the market deems them to be worth. They could earn remuneration from the colleges and cash in on endorsement deals like their professional counterparts. Critics of that idea, including the NCAA, argue that this would corrupt college sports. President Obama last weekend weighed in on the debate by declaring that compensating athletes would “ruin the sense of college sports” and create “bidding wars” for players. The fear is that deep-pocketed programs will be able to buy up the best players, which would make smaller colleges less competitive.

Mr. Bilas scoffs: “What they are calling a ‘bidding war,’ the rest of the world calls business,” he says. “What most reasonable economists would say is: ‘No, actually, if these universities could pay, the smaller, lesser universities would have better opportunities. They could marshal their resources.’ ” For example, he says, Wichita State can’t compete for players with the University of Kansas. However, if colleges could pay, Wichita State might be able to offer the Jayhawks’ third recruit a better salary and poach him.

Mr. Bilas argues that schools are, in a sense, already competing like this. There are no restrictions on coaches’ compensation. “Should we not have nicer facilities at the bigger schools because the smaller schools can’t afford them?” he asks. Point taken.....

Median revenues at the top 120 NCAA Division I programs doubled to $56 million in 2012 from 2004. More than a dozen college-sports programs gross over $100 million a year. Mr. Bilas predicts that the pot will continue to expand. “Nobody could imagine when I was a kid that people would be paying $100 for a ticket to a college-football game—and they’re doing it,” he says.

But he stresses that his beef isn’t that the raw totals are too high; it’s that the ban on paying players skews the market and misallocates resources. For instance, some college basketball players might not bolt for the NBA after one year if they could get paid. “It’s a huge distortion because they don’t pay their primary revenue drivers, which is the players,” he explains. “The NBA doesn’t pay as much for coaches” or “build the facilities that college builds.”

Further, he argues that the compensation ban encourages rather than deters corruption. Many universities, such as Syracuse and the University of Southern California, have been sanctioned by the NCAA because athletes received money under the table. “Right now a player is prohibited from having an agent,” Mr. Bilas says. “That means the only contact an athlete is going to have is with unethical ones because the ethical agents are on the sidelines.”

Under the Bilas system, colleges and athletes would negotiate contracts that could include a noncompete clause, to induce players to stay for their full college terms, and a behavior clause in case they run afoul of the law. Athletes could unionize if they want, as football players at Northwestern University last year sought the approval of the National Labor Relations Board to do.

“The rest of the world operates in a free market. It’s really not that big of a deal. It’s amazing how we can all handle this free-market system, but the athletes can’t,” Mr. Bilas exclaims. Opponents of paying athletes, he says, act as if “the world is going to spin off its axis, that dogs and cats are going to be living together—all these doomsday scenarios.” The real reason why the NCAA is fighting the free market, he says, is that “they don’t want to lose control of the money.”
Exactly. The NCAA and the schools are raking in millions. That's the real reason that they don't want to introduce any reform that would take some of that money from their pockets and put it in the hands of the ones earning that money for them.

Ah, the Dukies are not only good at basketball, but also smart about it.