Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cruising the Web

Bret Stephens knows that the Clintons are just assuming that the American people will no more care about how they sold themselves to any business or foreign entity that wanted to purchase access. He writes, that "the Clintons are counting on America to digest their ethical lapses the way a python swallows a goat." Perhaps swallowing is not a fortuitous word to be using when talking about Bill Clinton's behavior, but Stephens is exactly right.
All of which means that Mrs. Clinton’s presidential bid is an exercise in—and a referendum on—cynicism, partly hers but mainly ours. Democrats who nominate Mrs. Clinton will transform their party into the party of cynics; an America that elects Mrs. Clinton as its president will do so as a nation of cynics. Is that how we see, or what we want for, ourselves?

This is what the 2016 election is about. You know already that if Mrs. Clinton runs for president as an Elizabeth Warren-style populist she won’t mean a word of it, any more than she would mean it if she ran as a ’90s-style New Democrat or a ’70s-style social reformer. The real Hillary, we are asked to believe, is large and contains multitudes.

In other words, she’s singing a Song of Herself. She will say, do, and be pretty much anything to get elected. And the rest of us are supposed to fall in line because we prefer our politics to be transactional not principled, our politicians to be opportunists not idealists, and our national creed to be “do what you gotta do” not “upon this rock.” This is what might be called the Clinton Bargain: You can always count on their self-interest trumping other considerations, so you never have to fear that they can’t be bought.
What just astounds me is that, knowing her political ambitions, they still couldn't stop themselves from finding ways to enrich themselves regardless of the picture of their own corruption they were painting.

And the culture of corruption continues.
On their nine-day trip to Africa, Bill and Chelsea Clinton are traveling with 20 wealthy donors and foundation supporters, a group that includes fundraisers for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and others who are expected to give generously to her campaign.

The opportunity to accompany Bill Clinton on trips across the globe on behalf of his philanthropic foundation has for years been considered both a reward for past donations and an inducement for future giving, say sources familiar with the foundation’s finance operation. This trip, they say, was an especially coveted invite — one that was extended to wealthy Clinton supporters.

We may not have documentary evidence that Bill Clinton took advantage of his wife's position at the Department of State to enrich himself, but we don't need to have him on tape discussing his plans. The evidence is quite clear.
Former President Bill Clinton accepted more than $2.5 million in speaking fees from 13 major corporations and trade associations that lobbied the U.S. State Department while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, an International Business Times investigation has found. The fees were paid directly to the former president, and not directed to his philanthropic foundation.

Many of the companies that paid Bill Clinton for these speeches -- a roster of global giants that includes Microsoft, Oracle and Dell -- engaged him within the same three-month period in which they were also lobbying the State Department in pursuit of their policy aims, federal disclosure documents show. Several companies received millions of dollars in State Department contracts while Hillary Clinton led the institution.

The disclosure that President Clinton received personal payments for speeches from the same corporate interests that were actively seeking to secure favorable policies from a federal department overseen by his wife underscores the vexing issue now confronting her presidential aspirations: The Clinton family is at the center of public suspicions over the extent of insider dealing in Washington, emblematic of concerns that corporate interests are able to influence government action by creatively funneling money to people in power.

“The dynamic is insidious and endemic to this system,” said Meredith McGhee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog group in Washington. "The fact is that the wealthiest .01 percent on the outside of government believes -- fervently -- that by paying speaking fees, or making campaign contributions, that it can gain access and influence."

Federal ethics rules aim to discourage officials and their spouses from accepting gifts from interests “seeking official action” from a government agency. But the rules do not apply to speaking fees, said Craig Holman an advocate for tightened ethics structures at Public Citizen, a watchdog group in Washington.
Well, of course there is a loophole through which the Clintons skated. That is their modus operandi.

Jonathan H. Adler has a question for George Stephanopoulos. This past weekend Stephanopoulos was questioning Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, about his former employment for Republicans and the funding he used to receive from the Koch brothers. Adler writes,
Stephanopoulos’s question was standard media fare. Journalists often focus on the potential bias of the messenger instead of the content of the message. Ideally, Schweizer’s claims would stand (or fall) on the strength (or weakness) of his reporting. He has either found evidence of problematic conduct by the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation, or he hasn’t. And insofar as he makes strong claims, it’s entirely reasonable for reporters to push back with tough questions about the substance of his allegations. As Schweizer suggested, those interested in this issue should “look at the facts.”

If we are going to consider the potential conflict-of-interest or ideological motivation of a reporter, should not this apply just as much to Stephanopoulos as it does to Schweizer? If the political affiliation or alignment of Schweizer’s former employers or funders is relevant, cannot the same be said of Stephanopoulos? Should not viewers of ABC News’s “This Week” have been reminded that Stephanopoulos spent years working for the Clintons and helping to manage various scandals that arose during Bill Clinton’s campaign and first term in office? (Indeed, at one point, there were allegations Stephanopoulos personally benefited from Clinton-influenced cronyism.)

I don’t object to the content of the interview, but I find it problematic that Stephanopoulos thought it relevant to challenge Schweizer based on the identity of his former employers or funders, but did not disclose his own equal (if not greater) conflict.

I don’t object to the content of the interview, but I find it problematic that Stephanopoulos thought it relevant to challenge Schweizer based on the identity of his former employers or funders, but did not disclose his own equal (if not greater) conflict. Older viewers may have recalled this Time magazine cover, but that was over 20 years ago. Many viewers — and voters — have no recollection of Stephanopoulos’s role as Clinton de facto spokesman. Insofar as Schweizer’s book suggests improper behavior by the Clintons, it is pointing a finger at those Stephanopoulos spent several years of his life defending.
But, but, he's George freaking Stephanopoulos. Of course, the rules of journalism don't apply to him.

Jack Dunphy explains the lesson that the Baltimore police and mayor didn't learn from the Rodney King riots.
I was reminded of this as I watched the chaos unfolding in Baltimore on Monday. It was clear from the television coverage that “restraint” was the order of the day for the police officers forced to stand idly by as stores were looted and burned. Even worse, cops stood like so many cigar store Indians as thugs showered them with rocks, bottles, and bricks from as little as 20 feet away. None of their commanders, it seemed, wanted to be the one to give the order to take control.

If there was a lesson the LAPD learned in 1992, it is that if you do not respond decisively to lawlessness, you will quickly have much more of it. That lesson was learned the hard way, when timid police supervisors (one of them in particular most egregiously) failed to act when violence first flared near the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues. I would argue that had the LAPD responded as it should have in those first hours of the riot, much of the devastation and loss of life that followed could have been averted. Proof of this came in the following months when a number of incidents in South Los Angeles threatened to break out into rioting but were quelled with a swift and sure response by police.

It is clear that authorities in Baltimore have not heeded this simple lesson. In showing restraint, in sending the clear message that lawlessness will not be swiftly and harshly met, they have allowed their city to descend into chaos. And in so allowing, they have ensured that a greater level of force will be required to restore order than would have been had they taken action at the first sign of violence. At the time of this writing no one has yet been killed in Baltimore, but that will likely have changed by the time you read this.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave instructions to police that protesters be given “space” to exercise their right to free speech. But in doing so, she admitted, “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

And who would have dared think that could happen? Only anyone who had studied episodes of urban rioting in America for the last 50 years. Witness the events in Miami in 1989, Crown Heights in 1991, Los Angeles in 1992, Oakland in 2009, and just last year in Ferguson, Mo. In these riots and in too many others to list, we saw political leaders unwilling to take the actions necessary to maintain order in their cities, with the harvest being the destruction of businesses, injuries and deaths, added to which are economic consequences that have endured for years.

Just moments ago I watched on CNN as Mayor Rawlings-Blake lamely defended her decision to show restraint in dealing with the rioters. Surely she knows that in the parts of Baltimore where the rioting is ongoing there are vacant lots where stood buildings that burned in the city’s riot of 1968. Earlier today I watched a CVS pharmacy being looted and burned in West Baltimore. Does the mayor expect CVS to rebuild in that spot or anywhere near it when she has publicly announced she will do nothing to prevent the same thing from happening the next time the “community” vents its anger?
I was just covering the 1990s with my U.S. history class and they were certainly struck at the similarities in the stories from 1992 situation and events today.

And yet again we have a leader delaying the request for the National Guard, just like the governor of Louisiana delayed asking President Bush to send in military help to help after Katrina, the mayor delayed asking for help from the governor of Maryland.

Jason Riley notes that racial diversity in a city's political leaders doesn't seem to matter to rioters.
The racial makeup of city leaders, the police department and other municipal workers in Ferguson, Mo., played a central role in the media coverage and analysis of Michael Brown’s death, which is worth remembering as history repeats itself in Baltimore.

The Justice Department’s Ferguson report noted that although the city’s population was 67% black, just four of its 54 police officers fit that description. Moreover, “the Municipal Judge, Court Clerk, Prosecuting Attorney, and all assistant court clerks are white,” said the report. “While a diverse police department does not guarantee a constitutional one, it is nonetheless critically important for law enforcement agencies, and the Ferguson Police Department in particular, to strive for broad diversity among officers and civilian staff.”

Broad diversity is not a problem in Baltimore, where 63% of residents and 40% of police officers are black. The current police commissioner is also black, and he isn’t the first one. The mayor is black, as was her predecessor and as is a majority of the city council. Yet none of this “critically important” diversity seems to have mattered after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died earlier this month in police custody under circumstances that are still being investigated.

Some black Baltimoreans have responded by hitting the streets, robbing drugstores, minimarts and check-cashing establishments and setting fires. If you don’t see the connection, it’s because there isn’t one. Like Brown’s death, Gray’s is being used as a convenient excuse for lawbreaking. If the Ferguson protesters were responding to a majority-black town being oppressively run by a white minority—which is the implicit argument of the Justice Department and the explicit argument of the liberal commentariat—what explains Baltimore?

Tensions between the police and low-income black communities stem from high crime rates in those areas. The sharp rise in violent crime in our inner cities, which dates to the 1970s and 1980s, happened to coincide with an increase in the number of black leaders in many of those very same cities. What can be said of Baltimore is also true of Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., where black mayors and police chiefs and aldermen and school superintendents have held sway for decades.

Chicago’s population is 32% black, along with 26% of its police force, but it remains one of the most violent big cities in the country. There were more than 400 homicides in the Second City last year and some 300 of the victims were black, the Chicago Tribune reports. That’s more than double the number of black deaths at the hands of police in the entire country in a given year, according to FBI data.

Might the bigger problem be racial disparities in antisocial behavior, not the composition of law-enforcement agencies?
Jay Cost takes to American history to refute the idea that Barack Obama has been treated worse by his political foes than other politicians have, presumably due to his race.
-The Election of 1800. Representatives of Thomas Jefferson accused John Adams of being a crypto-monarchist. And Adams’s associates accused Jefferson of being a radical atheist. And these two men had worked together to write the Declaration of Independence!

-Opposition to Andrew Jackson. The Whig party eventually took to comparing Jackson to a monarch. The Whig-controlled Senate actually censured him for removing bank deposits from the Second Bank of the United States.

-Abraham Lincoln. He was roundly and viciously criticized during his tenure, including by his own allies.

-The Bloody Shirt. The Republican party of the Gilded Age retained power in part by “waving the bloody shirt” -- tagging any and all Democrats as being a party to secession.

-“Frying the fat.” This was the infamous strategy of the GOP in the 1888 presidential election, after incumbent Grover Cleveland dared to suggest tariff reductions. The strategy was basically to scare the country into thinking that rationalizing the tax code would bring about economic doom.

-“Spasmodic, erratic, sensational, spectacular and arbitrary.” That’s what the Democratic platform of 1904 said about Theodore Roosevelt.

-Warren G. Harding … Half Black? This accusation was an explosive one made at the end of the 1920 campaign.

-Grace Coolidge having an affair? The press suggested as such in 1927.

-“President Likens Dewey to Hitler as Facists' Tool.” Stay classy, Harry S. Truman.

-“A stooge for Wall Street.” That’s what Harry Truman said about Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. (Any history of rough political elbows is bound to feature Truman prominently.)

One could go on, but these are some of the most prominent historical examples -- i.e. instances before our collective memory of politics begins. In our lifetimes, we’re bound to come up with countless other examples of politicians being nasty to one another.

The point is that politics ain’t beanbag -- and it never has been. That is because our political divide is rooted in enduring class, social, and religious cleavages, as well as profoundly different views of the good life. A lot is at stake in our politics, and the First Amendment offers a wide latitude for political speech. Unsurprisingly, the two parties hit each other quite hard.

For President Obama to imply that criticisms of his presidency are worse than usual, or not reducible to fundamental ideological and cultural differences, betrays a stunning, self-serving ignorance of American history. But then, what else could we expect from this president?(links in the original)

Of course, Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for not passing bills that would presumably done something to alleviate inter-city tensions.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a sternly-worded speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, echoed the president's call for criminal justice reform and more education and job training investments in impoverished communities.

But he too has done very little to back up his rhetoric with action.

"No American should ever feel that their life is not valued," Reid said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

He also highlighted several bills that would reform the nations sentencing laws. Congress enacted the laws after a national crime wave in the 1980s that both liberals and libertarians now decry as flooding the nation's prison population.

"It's easy to believe the system is rigged against you," he said.

Reid did not mention, however, that while serving as majority leader from 2007 to 2014, he did not bring any sentencing reform measures to the floor, including a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., for debate and a possible vote.

Jonah Goldberg establishes a good rule for judging politicians.
I once had a boss who gave me some great advice, not just for managing people but for judging politicians: You forgive mistakes; you punish patterns. Everybody screws up. But if someone won’t learn from his mistakes and try to correct his behavior, then he either doesn’t think it was a mistake, he just doesn’t care, or he thinks you’re a fool. The one indisputable takeaway from Peter Schweizer’s new book, Clinton Cash, is that Bill and Hillary Clinton fit one or all of those descriptions.

Let us recall Marc Rich, a shady billionaire indicted for tax evasion and defying trade sanctions with Iran during the U.S. hostage crisis. Rich fled to Switzerland to escape prosecution.

He hired Jack Quinn, a former Clinton White House counsel, to lobby the administration for a pardon. Quinn sought help from then–deputy attorney general Eric Holder, who advised Quinn to petition the White House directly — advice Holder later regretted. On the last day of his presidency, Bill Clinton pardoned Rich.

The ensuing scandal was enormous — and bipartisan. It was widely believed that Rich had bought his pardon. Denise Rich, his ex-wife, had made huge donations to the Democratic party, including $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign and $450,000 to the foundation building Bill Clinton’s presidential library.

Liberals were infuriated. “You let me down,” wrote the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen. “It’s a pie in the face of anyone who ever defended you. You may look bad, Bill, but we look just plain stupid.”

“It was a real betrayal by Bill Clinton of all who had been strongly supportive of him to do something this unjustified,” exclaimed then-Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.). “It was contemptuous.” Senator Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) chastised, “It was inexcusable.” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd suggested Clinton had “traded a constitutional power for personal benefit.” Jimmy Carter all but called it bribery and said it was “disgraceful.”

You can understand the bitterness. Democrats had defended the Clintons through Whitewater, Travel-gate, and Hillary Clinton’s billing-records shenanigans. They even defended Bill Clinton when he raised millions in re-election donations from Chinese donors and rented out the Lincoln bedroom. But this was just too much. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us half a dozen times . . .
And the pattern continues....