Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cruising the Web

The Obama administration once again chooses symbolic moves instead of substance as it pretends to support Saudi Arabia in Yemen but doesn't do enough to truly upset their new best friends in the region - the Iranians. The WSJ writes,
Shortly after the Iranian revolution in 1979, Jimmy Carter dispatched two squadrons of F-15s to Saudi Arabia to reassure the Kingdom that America had its back. Only when the fighters were in mid-flight did the President announce they were unarmed. Mr. Carter wanted to send a signal of resolve—but not too much resolve.

Here’s guessing the Saudis are experiencing déjá vu all over again after President Obama ordered the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the coast of Yemen, perhaps to interdict a flotilla of Iranian ships thought to be carrying supplies to the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in that country. We say “perhaps” because the Administration won’t say whether the U.S. would, in fact, stop the Iranian ships from making for the Yemeni coast. “I’m not telegraphing anything,” said a Pentagon spokesman about what the U.S. might be prepared to do....

But Riyadh won’t forbear for long if the Iranians can resupply by sea what the Saudis are destroying by air. The Saudis are also looking for evidence that the U.S. is still prepared to back them as Iran continues to arm the Kingdom’s enemies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Mr. Obama has insisted that the nuclear negotiations with Iran will not affect broader U.S. Mideast policy or reshape U.S. regional alliances. Stopping the Iranian ships would be a good way to prove the President means it.

All the more so given Mr. Obama’s track record of trying not to offend Tehran. In Syria the U.S. has gone out of its way not to hit regime targets or make good on its promises to arm the Free Syrian Army because it feared upsetting Bashar Assad’s patrons in Tehran.

The Administration also reached out to the Houthis as recently as January. “The Obama administration has sought to describe the Houthis as a potential partner of Washington’s ever since the militia gained control of San’a in January,” the Journal reported late that month. “One Houthi commander said the U.S. provided logistical aid to the militants and exchanged intelligence” on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In February the U.S. was forced to evacuate its embassy in San’a, then as now under Houthi control. So much for the outreach.

Mr. Obama seems to believe that his nuclear concessions will mollify Tehran and moderate its behavior in the region. But what we’ve seen so far is that nuclear diplomacy has instead convinced Iran that it can extend its writ throughout the Middle East.

Would Mr. Obama risk his nuclear deal over a naval incident, all for the sake of standing with the Saudis over Yemen? The Iranians surely doubt it, which is why they are now testing the U.S. at sea.

A U.S. carrier battle group is a formidable display of power, especially when wielded by a President with credibility. The reason so much of the Middle East is in flames is because no one believes Mr. Obama would use this military power.

If Hillary Clinton accepted money from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State, she violated Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution. And there are quite a few federal laws that she also violated. And don't buy the argument that all the money from foreign entities flowing into the Clinton Foundation were for worthwhile charitable causes.
Between 2009 and 2012, the Clinton Foundation raised over $500 million dollars according to a review of IRS documents by The Federalist (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008). A measly 15 percent of that, or $75 million, went towards programmatic grants. More than $25 million went to fund travel expenses. Nearly $110 million went toward employee salaries and benefits. And a whopping $290 million during that period — nearly 60 percent of all money raised — was classified merely as “other expenses.” Official IRS forms do not list cigar or dry-cleaning expenses as a specific line item. The Clinton Foundation may well be saving lives, but it seems odd that the costs of so many life-saving activities would be classified by the organization itself as just random, miscellaneous expenses.

Now, because the Clintons are Clintons (“It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is…”), their fallback defense will likely be that they didn’t technically run afoul of the law. After all, Hillary didn’t officially take control of the foundation until after she left the State Dept. And the Constitution doesn’t ever say that foreign governments can’t bribe the impeached and disbarred spouses of government officials. Sure, the Constitution says current officials can’t accept dirty cash from foreign government, but it never says that jetset spouses who fly to sex slave islands with convicted sex offenders aren’t allowed to collect under-the-table foreign cash.

That defense makes sense if you think the Founders opposed the practice of foreign governments directly bribing U.S. officials, but wholeheartedly supported the practice of foreign governments indirectly bribing U.S. officials by paying off their spouses. Are we to believe that Hillary was so divorced from the goings-on of the foundation that she was just randomly given official control of it (including having her first name added to the tax-exempt organization’s official name) immediately after leaving the State Department? Are we to believe that poor Hillary just had no clue what was going on at her family’s tax-exempt slush fund?

Marc Thiessen writes in the Washington Post about why Democrats should worry about Hillary's campaign.
If you want to know why Democrats should be worried after Hillary Clinton’s first week on the campaign trail, ask yourself this question: Can you imagine Marco Rubio, Scott Walker or Jeb Bush walking into a Chipotle wearing big, dark sunglasses, trying not to be recognized?

Can you imagine Barack Obama doing it?

Maybe Clinton’s future’s so bright she has to wear shades, but the grainy security camera pictures of the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination hiding from voters presents a troubling contrast with the growing Republican field.

Clinton planned to launch her presidential campaign with an intimate “listening tour” where she could meet and interact with everyday Americans. But when she had the chance to meet and interact with some actual everyday Americans eating their burritos, she avoided them. Then her campaign staged a visit to an Iowa coffee shop, recruiting “fake” everyday Americans for her to meet and talk with.

Who stages a visit to a coffee shop?

The whole purpose of Clinton’s road trip was to counter the image of her as a creature of Washington who can’t relate to regular folks. Instead, she highlighted that fact by planting party insiders posing as regular folks.
However, Jennifer Rubin also writes in the Washington Post to warn Republicans that they shouldn't count on Hillary Clinton's political weaknesses and various scandals to destroy her chances.
But Republicans cannot come to believe that Clinton’s faults will be sufficient to beat her. That was the mistake Republicans made in 2012 — the Obama economy would justify a GOP president.

For one thing, she will have a carefully modulated agenda that tells centrists what they want to hear and liberals what they long to hear. Lots of “investments” and “family friendly” tax credits. Much talk will be devoted to early childhood education and unspecified “fixes” in Obamacare. Moreover, she will do a number on GOP plans to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor” or “bust the budget.” She will argue that corporations and the rich should pay more so the little guy can get ahead. How do we know?

Well, that was her husband’s successful game plan. It also matches the Democratic playbook that former Bill Clinton and Obama economic adviser Larry Summers has been pushing (e.g. raise minimum wage, bolster unions, increase infrastructure spending, create a “more progressive” tax code). Is this tax and spend liberalism? Yes, but with slick packaging and lots of soothing words. After all who could be against “raising middle class incomes”?

And of course. The IRS will be monitoring churches for the content of their sermons to see if they're violating laws against electioneering by nonprofits. And they've been resisting FOIA requests into their communications with an atheist group to go after churches.
Completely apart from the administrative law-breaking, it is that First Amendment right that remains the nub of the underlying case. The public has been bombarded in recent weeks with stories of battles about the limits of private expressions of faith in the business world. What the IRS apparently is doing, at the atheist group’s request, attacks faith at an even more fundamental level than that: inside the churches’ own doors, at their very pulpits.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1808, “I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, disciplines, or exercises.”

Surely, if a government agency is monitoring religious institutions in a way that could lead to such intermeddling, the public deserves an explanation of how, why, when, and where such monitoring is taking place. But this is Obama’s IRS. It seems to think it answers to nobody. The courts must disabuse it of that virtually criminal notion, with every power at the courts’ disposal.

Here's an interesting question: "Why are Democrats talking about income inequality in the 7th year of Obama?" Silvio Canto links to this post by W. James Antle III analyzing how income inequality got worse under Obama.
Let’s consult that notorious spewer of right-wing talking points, The New York Times: “Income inequality in the United States has been growing for decades, but the trend appears to have accelerated during the Obama administration.”

Income inequality may be even worse under Obama than George W. Bush. Emmanuel Saez, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, memorably found that the average income of the top 1 percent grew by 11.2 percent in real terms since 2009. The bottom 99 percent saw their incomes decrease by 0.4 percent.

That means 121 percent of the income gains from the Obama recovery went to the wealthiest during the period Saez examined. The top 1 percent took in 65 percent of the income gains when the economy was expanding under Bush from 2002-07, only 45 percent during the Clinton economic boom from 1993 to 2000....

Let’s consult that notorious spewer of right-wing talking points, The New York Times: “Income inequality in the United States has been growing for decades, but the trend appears to have accelerated during the Obama administration.”

Income inequality may be even worse under Obama than George W. Bush. Emmanuel Saez, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, memorably found that the average income of the top 1 percent grew by 11.2 percent in real terms since 2009. The bottom 99 percent saw their incomes decrease by 0.4 percent.

That means 121 percent of the income gains from the Obama recovery went to the wealthiest during the period Saez examined. The top 1 percent took in 65 percent of the income gains when the economy was expanding under Bush from 2002-07, only 45 percent during the Clinton economic boom from 1993 to 2000....

But if Obama was a Republican, he would be more widely criticized for devoting yet another State of the Union to an economic trend he’s watched get worse for six years.

Moreover, it’s not like most of the workers who would be imported under the president’s preferred immigration will compete with CEOs. He supported the Wall Street bailout.

Pharmaceutical companies pushed for Obamacare, which the health care law subsidizes along with insurance companies. It’s becoming a talking point on the left that Obama has prosecuted fewer financial crimes than Reagan or either Bush.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton puts on her inner Robespierre and talks about how we need the "toppling" of the wealthiest 1 percent. Of course, she resides in the top percent of the top 1 percent. Allahpundit remembers Hillary's populist roots.
It’s just impossible to take her seriously about this anymore. That’s one of the ironies of the campaign, that the “same old Hillary” really isn’t the same anymore in terms of how she’s politically positioned.

And believe it or not, youngsters, once upon a time righties did take Hillary Clinton kinda sorta seriously as a class warrior (a fact her campaign is now desperate to remind lefties of, as proof that she’s an authentic populist after all). I myself noted more than once during the 2008 campaign how easily startling comments about collectivism and redistribution sometimes seemed to slip from her mouth. Remember when she grumbled about oil companies’ profits being at an all-time high and recommended taking them for an energy fund? Remember the “‘we’re all in it together’ society,” a bit of Warrenism several years before Warren became the rage? Remember “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good”? Calling for “toppling” the one percent is of a piece with that, a little flourish for effect from someone who knows how deeply compromised she is on this subject. If a wave of liberal populism handed Congress back to the Democrats and the White House to Hillary, it’d be worth worrying about how far she’d go to accommodate the true class warriors in her party. As it is, with the House sure to be safely Republican throughout her first term, it’s a cheesy pander aimed at keeping progressives complacent during the primaries.
She might have started out her life in politics as a populist, but she's been a crony capitalist ever since. Her awkwardness of talking the income inequality message reminds me of how candidates such as Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were uncomfortable mouthing conservative arguments. They couldn't defend those positions because they didn't truly believe them. That's why Hillary's efforts to sell herself as someone who was "dead broke" as they left the White House were so cringe worthy. She just can't talk the income inequality rhetoric as smoothly as someone who hasn't spent the past quarter century raking in money from the richest people in the nation.

John Podhoretz also sees the similarities to Mitt Romney's awkwardness in trying to portray himself as a true conservative.
Most of her life is spent exclusively in the company of the very people whom she said she wishes to “topple,” and it’s a simple truism that any normal person does not choose to associate with people of whom she disapproves and wishes to see laid low.

And this is where she reminds me of Mitt, although she has an infinitely easier path to her party’s nomination than he ever had.

Remember when Rom­ney attempted to demonstrate his right-wing bona fides by declaring himself “severely conservative” — a phrase no actual conservative would ever have used to characterize his own views?
Remember when he needed to firm up anti-immigration types and so called upon 11 million illegals to “self-deport” — a weirdly Dr. Evil-like phrase whose wording suggested even he didn’t believe it?

Romney thought it would help to demonstrate his right-wing credentials by saying things that sounded as though they had been written by a left-winger trying to imagine what awful things a right-winger would say about himself.

They didn’t help. They only made him seem like a man wearing a costume.

In the same way, Hillary the Toppler is making herself sound like Madame Defarge, the merciless revolutionary of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” of whom Dickens says: “It was nothing to her, that an innocent man was to die for the sins of his forefathers; she saw, not him, but them.

“It was nothing to her, that his wife was to be made a widow and his daughter an orphan; that was insufficient punishment, because they were her natural enemies and her prey, and as such had no right to live.”

Remember, I’m not the one summoning up Madame Defarge; Hillary Clinton has done it to herself — which is why you know and I know and everybody else knows this radical populist nonsense is totally disingenuous.
And why? Because she knows she looks more like Marie Antoinette these days than a Jacobin on the barricades.

Hillary Clinton shouldn’t need to burnish her left-wing credentials. Twenty years ago, she was considered the liberal conscience of her husband’s White House.

And yet here she is. She has spent the last 15 years as a voice of liberal corporatism, not of Occupy Wall Street.

Before moving to the White House, Hillary Clinton was very much a creature of the upper middle class — a successful lawyer married to a politician who made $35,000 a year.

Since then, she has literally transcended class. It’s likely she has not driven a car in 23 years, or carried a bag.

Her commercial flight back from Iowa last week is almost certainly one of the very few commercial flights she has taken since 1992.

Her husband has earned at least $150 million since 2001. Between a book deal and speeches, she has made something like $20 million since leaving Foggy Bottom in 2013.

So whom exactly is Hillary Clinton going to lead the revolution against? Herself?

She might as well have called herself “severely left-wing.” She might as well have called for her own “self-toppling.”

Her sheer inauthenticity is astonishing. And if she continues to speak in ways that surely set off even the most hardened liberal’s bull detector, she is not going to be the president of the United States.

As Timothy Carney reminds us, the Clintons are always about the cronyism.
Turn over any rock in Clintonworld, and you'll find some species of cronyism wriggling out from beneath it. Look in her Senate career, and you'll find her selling public policy in exchange for campaign contributions. Peek into the Clinton presidency, and you'll see her husband selling pardons for gifts to his presidential library.

The Clinton Foundation was a breeding ground for cronyism, with new species being bred by the tawdry liaisons of petrol-state money, U.S. corporations, and the former first family. Hillary's brother Tony Rodham, Clinton confidants Terry McAuliffe and Rahm Emanuel — they all occupy this world along with a rogue's gallery of revolving-door lobbyists and public-policy profiteers.
The problem is that many Republicans have problems making the charges stick. But they have to if they want to defeat Hillary Clinton.
When Hillary attacks Republicans for wanting smaller government, point out that her big-government gambits tend to rig the game, profiting her friends and big business donors in ways they could never profit so much in a free market. Point out that her preferred policies enrich the lawmakers-turned-lobbyists and the corporations big enough to afford them.

When Hillary tries to sound populist, saying things like "rich people … do not contribute to the growth of their own countries," the response is easy: "Secretary Clinton, maybe you're speaking from narrow personal experience, because what you said is true mostly of people who get rich off their connections to political power."

The very visible and undeniable fact that Bill and Hillary turned their public service into massive personal wealth is bound to be abhorrent to many Americans, especially swing voters disgusted with a political system that rewards the insiders.

Hillary's deep antipathy toward transparency makes cronyism a more salient issue. Why, as secretary of state, did she try to dodge federal transparency laws and scrub all her email records? What has she been hiding?

Matt Lewis has a new theory about who wins presidential elections - the cooler candidate.
This wasn't always the case, of course. Just going back to the 1970s, Richard Nixon arguably wasn't cooler than George McGovern, and Gerald Ford definitely was not cooler than Ronald Reagan.

But lately, cool means victory. Our last three presidents were cooler than the six competitors they bested. Bill Clinton was cooler than George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, George W. Bush was cooler than Al Gore and John Kerry, and Barack Obama was cooler than John McCain and Mitt Romney (and in the 2008 primary, Obama was cooler than Hillary Clinton, too).

Of course, cool can be in the eye of the beholder — but I'm sure that most liberals would concede that Bush was cooler than Gore, at least in the conventional sense, and that most conservatives know Obama is cooler than Romney.

And that's the thing about cool: You know it when you see it.
And let's just agree that there is no universe where Hillary Clinton is cool.

Meanwhile, Clinton's aides defend their practice of of screening the "everyday Americans" that they allow to interact with Hillary during her political appearances.
Asked whether the campaign had brought any of the customers with them, Palmieri said, 'I think maybe some of them, but I don't know.'

New Hampshire's WMUR-TV later reported that two of the people Clinton spoke with had been asked to come.

Clinton's team took flak last week in Iowa after a Democratic Party operative conceded that Clinton's state political director Troy Price pre-vetted and drove a trio of activists to a coffee shop, where they played the part of everyday Americans while shutters snapped.

The man, Austin Bird, had been an Obama intern in 2012 and was Vice President Joe Biden's chauffeur when he came to Davenport Iowa last year.

As senior campaign aide Huma Abedin made tea, Palmieri defended the practice of recruiting participants to attend those small meetings.

It's a necessary evil in early primary and caucus states, Palmieri said, and part of recruiting future Clinton evangelists from among the Democratic base.

'We have to go after Democrats before we do anything else,' she insisted. 'And in Iowa? Especially in Iowa, and New Hampshire.'

'But sure. People are asked –'

Palmieri thought briefly and reframed her comments in the past tense.

'People were asked to come to a meeting at a coffee house,' she said, referring to a stop in in LeClaire, Iowa.

Price, the Iowa political strategist, brought Bird to the Iowa coffee house along with two young women – one a Planned Parenthood employee, the other a College Democrats chapter head.

'If someone like that loves her, then they'll talk to other people, and so on, and that's going to help,' Palmieri said.
It's so pitiful to see them twist and stretch to try to explain why they have to bring in Democratic activists to be the "everyday Americans" that Hillary is supposed to be listening to as she travels around the early election states.

There are some alert people in Minnesota. Apparently, it was only an observant worker in the Minneapolis Passport Agency who was suspicious enough of an 18-year old student who applied for an expedited passport to travel to Turkey to alert authorities who eventually arrested the young man for trying to join ISIS. It reminds me of the alert flight instructor in Minnesota who noticed that Zacarias Moussaoui was taking flight lessons for a jumbo jet but seemed to not really know anything about the 747 he was getting simulation training to fly. Moussaoui turned out to be one of the 9/11 terrorists, but at that time, the FBI couldn't get permission to search his room and laptop.