Thursday, March 05, 2015

Cruising the Web

Jay Cost looks at how the Clintons are running a modern political machine.
Much of this is reminiscent of the Clintons -- the initial fall from grace, the careful management of political contacts, the accumulation of wealth via political channels, the carefully run political shop, and especially the nepotism. And also, the cheesy scandals that embarrassed Simon Cameron but never brought him down. Cameron was caught up in a scandal trying to defraud the Winnebago tribe, and later on the House censured him for bilking the War Department -- but it barely ever slowed him down. Sound familiar?

So, ultimately the question is: how is a machine liked this stopped? Unfortunately, the only thing that brought down Cameron, Inc. was the Great Depression. It survived the outlawing of the spoils system, the direct election of senators, and even the entirety of the progressive movement against the machines. It even survived the Camerons themselves. That is how powerful it was.

At a minimum, the GOP needs to nominate somebody whose hands are clean -- impeccably, impossibly, squeaky clean -- to press the case for honest and open governance. Only a candidate with a clear conscience, and a vacant closet can train a critical eye on this kind of bad behavior. And even then it may not be enough. For better or worse, money moves American politics -- and the Clintons have shown in the 14 years since they’ve left office that they are very, very good at moving money.

How convenient and typical of Harry Reid:
Corporate donors to a green energy nonprofit operated by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D., Nev.) former staffers and a current campaign operative have received billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees and grant money as a result of Reid’s advocacy.

Fulcrum Bioenergy began contributing to the Clean Energy Project (CEP) in 2013. One year later, the Nevada Democrat steered tens of millions of dollars in federal grant money to the California biofuel company.

Fulcrum is one of at least nine corporate donors to the Clean Energy Project (CEP) that have secured federal financing for themselves or a client due in part to Reid’s behind-the-scenes advocacy—activity that watchdogs warn could be construed as unethical.

The recent scandals concerning Hillary Clinton's emails and the donations to her foundation by foreign governments demonstrate how little control Obama had over Hillary even though that was an important reason for having her in his cabinet in the first place.
Sometimes the Clintons’ parallel government works in Obama’s favor, such as Clinton’s Benghazi disaster. Her independent email server and private addresses enabled her to hide her correspondence on the attack, which also shielded the rest of the administration from that scrutiny. Obama is infamously secretive about his own records and his administration’s unprecedented lack of transparency was a good match for the Clintons.

But it also meant a certain degree of this went beyond his control. Hillary’s family foundation, which essentially became a super-PAC for foreign governments, was supposed to have donations vetted. They didn’t. They were supposed to have Bill Clinton’s paid events cleared. And they did–they were cleared by Hillary’s State Department. They weren’t supposed to accept foreign-government money while Hillary was secretary of state. They did.

Clintonworld operated as a distinct, independent entity for its own purposes while also running American foreign policy. The phrase “conflict of interest” does not even begin to approach the disturbing ethical calculations here. But it can’t be argued that Obama didn’t know what he was getting the country into. He just thought he could control it. He was wrong, and he was wrong to try. And we’re only beginning to see the consequences.

But will these scandals end the chances of Hillary Clinton being elected president? S.E. Cupp answers that Hillary has become too big to fail.
In short, much like the banks she has cozied up to, she has become too big to fail, and the political apparatus around her will do anything to prop her up so that she doesn’t.

That’s dangerous. The office of the presidency usually creates this larger-than-lifeness, imbuing previously puny personalities of minor achievement with all-but-god-like status. But Clinton already has it, which will make it incredibly difficult for her to surround herself with honest advisers who will tell her the hard truths in the Oval Office — truths like “That, Madame President, is illegal” or “But what about the Constitution?”

Even if she does find such advisers, she may be under the impression that there are no repercussions to playing by her own rules.

The presidency isn’t a monarchy or a dictatorship. It’s a powerful post to be sure, but ultimately one that’s still answerable to the Constitution, the laws of the land and the citizens of the United States. Checks and balances to the President’s power shouldn’t just come from Congress but from within the White House as well.

But with Hillary’s stature, can there realistically be any?

But, just for fun, let's contemplate what might happen if Hillary were to decide not to run. Democrat blogger Bill Sher takes a look.
Last June, conservative columnist Ross Douthat suggested that Obama presides over an “Austro-Hungarian empire of presidential majorities: a sprawling, ramshackle and heterogeneous arrangement, one major crisis away from dissolution.” Hillary Clinton is the party’s “Franz Josef,” the dual monarchist who kept the empire together until his death and the Great War. “Without her,” warned Douthat, “the deluge.”

If true, Democrats would face a debacle after a Hillary bow-out, no matter whom the Republicans nominate. With only a single unifying figure, without a united philosophy, strategy and agenda, it’s very difficult to govern, much less get elected.

If Douthat is right, and Hillary’s rock-star status is masking deep divisions within her party, then who would donors flock to? As of now, says Lapetina, “there really isn’t any enthusiasm” for the non-Hillary Democrats already flirting with a run—Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb—meaning no one would instantly lay claim to the Clintons’ vast network of donors.

Still, the Democratic bench is hardly shallow. Among other possible candidates who might suddenly find a fire in their belly: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former Gov. Deval Patrick, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Sens. Sanders, Mark Warner and Kirsten Gillibrand. Lapetina believes pressure would build for a few really big names to enter, such as Al Gore.
And then there’s Elizabeth.

If the Democratic establishment doesn’t have a contingency plan drawn up, progressive activists certainly do, and it amounts to the drafting of the reluctant Elizabeth Warren. Would a Warren candidacy spark a pitched battle between the populists and centrists in the party? Not necessarily. Executive Director Ilya Sheyman, one of the leaders of the Draft Warren movement, believes that rather than “all-out war,” the party would see just a “vigorous, contested primary,” with Warren in the catbird seat. And many big Democratic donors are ideological true believers who would give to Warren in a heartbeat.

But neither Republicans nor progressives should start celebrating yet. As Jazz Shaw writes,
Like many of you who track politics and government either professionally or avocationally, I’ve spent a fair share of the last 24 hours watching multiple news outlets covering this latest Clinton scandal. Of course, if you’re watching the same networks and reading the same papers that I am you will have noted that I just used a word which hasn’t passed the lips or pens of most of those media figures… scandal. Nothing with Clinton is ever a scandal. Oh, it’s “questionable” for some of them. For others, it’s a failure to follow best practices. (I’m not kidding. I actually heard that one on CNN just after 2 pm today.) We’re already seeing them offering air time to people from Media Matters and Ready for Hillary who are quick to explain that the laws in question regarding her email accounts were, you know… more of guidelines than actual laws in 2009. In short, as I mentioned earlier, it seems as if the media is already well on their way to yada yadaing this story out of the news cycle.

I agree with Allahpundit, at least in as far as saying that the Clintons don’t *think* they are above the law. They know it. And as long as the public is willing to look the other way and conclude that anything bad said about Hillary is a media mountain created out of a molehill, they’re not going to change their vote. In order to make this stick in a meaningful way which might result in Hillary either dropping out or losing the election, she would need to be personally brought up on charges. And really… who can be bothered to do that?

Sadly, this isn’t the sort of scandal that will stick to a Democrat. (As opposed to a Republican, where a hint of pretty much anything will do.) Violating some obscure rule about where your email server is located is too wonky. It lacks that punch and sex appeal you need. If Hillary was found with some boy toy on a yacht named Monkey Business, then maybe … just maybe you’d have a story. But her email domain won’t sway the media or the liberals, moderates and feminists who love her.

Dylan Gwinn, author of Bias in the Booth: An Insider Exposes How the Sports Media Distort the News, examines what he calls the "new racism" in sports by looking at Stephen A. Smith's rant that sports media pay so much more attention to Ray Rice's and Adrian Peterson's personal scandals than Kurt Busch's suspension for domestic violence. Gwinn reminds us that there is a difference between scandals for which there is a video such as Ray Rice than other stories of abuse. But he also reminds us of how sports media covered the Duke Lacrosse story and the accusations against Ben Roethlisberger.
If there were video of Busch choke-slamming his girlfriend, the reaction would absolutely be stronger.

Was there no public outcry when white NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was accused of rape? A 2010 ABC News article detailed the fan backlash against him in light of the accusations: “The Facebook page ‘Not being raped by Ben Roethlisberger’ is ‘liked’ by nearly 52,000 users,” which far exceeded “the nearly 41,400 users who ‘like’ his athlete page.”

In that same 2010 article, we learned that Roethlisberger lost local sponsorships in Pittsburgh due to fan anger toward him. National sports talk radio was filled with fan vitriol toward Roethlisberger on shows like mine and many others for weeks after the incident became public.

All this public outcry directed at a white NFL football player. A quarterback no less. So … white privilege?

Stephen A. knows all this. So why does he stoke the racial flames using completely bogus apples and oranges comparisons? Because race has become a business in sports media, used as both ratings-getter and battering-ram to advance the agenda of the leftists who currently run “Big Sports.”

The absence of 20th-century-style institutionalized racism has forced the new racism of the 21st century into the alphabet soup of network studios that bring you your daily sports news. Box scores and highlight reels, with a side of racial strife and division. Except these people aren’t consumed with making racism go away, as were the activists of the past. These activists are here to make sure it stays.

How Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are really the Yankees vs. Moneyball.

Charles C. W. Cooke reminds us that Hillary's latest scandal is just typical of who she has always been.
When we combine this revelation with the week’s other disclosures, we begin to detect a public official who is out of control. Just last week, the Washington Post shocked the public with the news that the Clinton Foundation had “accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments” during Hillary’s “tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration.” In and of themselves, these gifts were highly abnormal. “Rarely, if ever,” the Post noted drily, “has a potential commander in chief been so closely associated with an organization that has solicited financial support from foreign governments.” But the infringement is made even worse when one acknowledges that these donations were never so much as reviewed for eligibility by the powers that be within the State Department. There really is no other way of putting it than to record bluntly that, while she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was making private deals with foreign governments via private e-mail, and then declining to request the requisite approval from the U.S. government. Who, one wonders, does she think she is?

The answer to that question is as it ever was: She is Hillary Clinton, and she believes, with some justification, that she will get away with anything and everything she tries. “Why,” supporters grumble, “knowing full well how effective the charge of elitism can be during a presidential campaign, does she continue to take $300,000 per speech?” Answer: Because she’s Hillary Clinton. “Why,” others inquire, “when tempers are still hot and nerves are still frayed, does she continue to take money from the outfits that are widely blamed for the financial crisis of 2008?” Answer: Because she’s Hillary Clinton. “How could she possibly believe that her ex-president husband’s temporary inability to buy a multi-million-dollar house rendered her ‘dead broke’”? Because she’s Hillary Clinton, and she has a sense of entitlement that would make Imelda Marcos blush.

And so, having been championed and overpraised for years, lionized more for her immutable characteristics than for any concrete achievements, and allowed to pretend that her few successes have been the product of her own ability and not her husband’s uncommon political talent, Clinton has of late fallen disastrously deep into the professional celebrity’s most pernicious trap: She has begun to believe her own hype.

Ashe Snow notices that Hillary avoids taking questions from the press. Republicans have had to answer questions and have recently gotten tripped up by some of their answers. Hillary floats above such mundane political moments.
For now, Clinton's strategy of avoiding the press is paying off. She can give carefully crafted speeches to sympathetic audiences with minimal pushback from the mainstream media and avoid articles and news cycles about something she said. It's a good strategy for her, but one the rest of the media should be more frustrated over.

But at some point she's going to have to start taking questions, and if she doesn't figure out now what the press might ding her on, she'll figure it out later — when the election is much closer. Meanwhile, her Republican and Democratic opponents will (presumably) have many of their worst gaffes out of the way, having been able to prepare for what's to come.

The Washington Examiner reminds us of Obama's hostility toward Israel from the very beginning of his presidency.

The administration's arguments in King v. Burwell yesterday were Orwellian. In fact, so much of Obamacare is based on calling aspects of a law named the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act words opposite to the actual reality.

Rahm Emanuel could win the election for "most unlikeable man in Chicago."

Larry Sabato examines the possibilities for the Democrats retaking the Senate in 2016.