Friday, September 11, 2015

Cruising the Web

This Politico headline is indeed the truth: "Being a Clinton Apologist is a Hard Life." Jack Shafer marvels at how Clinton's mouthpieces have been saying that she didn't have to apologize and then, after seeing the results of a focus group, she ups and apologizes.
From the outside at least, being a friend of the Clintons looks like a demeaning occupation. You defend them, you defend them some more, you lie down in front of tanks for them and then—when you least suspect it—they reverse gear and betray you....

You can decide for yourself how sincere these devious and dissembling comments by Clinton are. What interests me is how dramatically this turnaround ditches the surrogates who rushed to the airwaves and to defend her conduct. In early March, when the story broke, Clinton defenders (and intimates) David Brock, Lanny Davis, Maria Cardona, Jennifer Granholm, James Carville and Karen Finney advanced with absolute certainty that the Clinton email/server story was, in Granholm’s words, “just a nothing burger.” Brock’s pro-Clinton advocacy organization Correct the Record called the email affair a “manufactured controversy” and a “tempest in a teapot.” Carville called the email dispute “made up” and Clinton a victim of a double standard (“Colin Powell does the same thing. Jeb Bush does the same thing.”). About the emails, Davis said, “All preserved. And if deleted you know they can be found.” Cardona had so much faith in Clinton that she said, “I don’t think she needs to say anything more until she actually announces her campaign.”

Clinton has now conceded on national TV that the email story is not quite a nothing burger. It’s actually a Royale With Cheese—maybe a Double Royale With Cheese and Pineapple. Nothing was “manufactured” and indeed, yes, some of the emails were deleted. In recognition of these facts, will these Hillary loyalists volunteer to return to the TV chat shows to acknowledge their errors? Better yet, will the shows revisit the issue to illustrate how Clinton’s proxies attempted to roll them? Nah, but it would make great TV, wouldn’t it?

Did the surrogates even know what they were talking about? According to a Washington Post story from the opening week of the “scandal,” some “supporters in Congress and others were willing to go on cable television to defend Clinton” were dismayed by the fact that her aides did not prepare talking points to help them help her. “A lot of people were flying blind,” one anonymous Democratic ally told the Post. As the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf noted in a splendid follow-up to the Post account, two levels of political sleaze were revealed: First, the Clinton defenders sought talking points—rather than the truth—about the emails for use in their rebuttals; and second, when given none, some winged it on pure faith in their patrona.
And they willingly sign up to be stooges in public even though the Clintons have a long history of forcing their spokespeople have to present absurd defenses that eventually will have to be dropped.

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Charles Krauthammer explains how we have been watching performance art in Congress's supposed consideration of the Iran deal.
It is all precooked. Last month, Britain’s foreign secretary traveled to Tehran with an impressive delegation of British companies ready to deal. He was late, however. The Italian and French foreign ministers had already been there, accompanied by their own hungry businessmen and oil companies. Iran is back in business.

As a matter of constitutional decency, the president should have submitted the deal to Congress first. And submitted it as a treaty. Which it obviously is. No international agreement in a generation matches this one in strategic significance and geopolitical gravity.

Obama did not submit it as a treaty because he knew he could never get the constitutionally required votes for ratification. He’s not close to getting two-thirds of the Senate. He’s not close to getting a simple majority. No wonder: In the latest Pew Research Center poll, the American people oppose the deal by a staggering 28-point margin.

To get around the Constitution, Obama negotiated a swindle that requires him to garner a mere one-third of one house of Congress. Indeed, on Thursday, with just 42 Senate supporters — remember, a treaty requires 67 — the Democrats filibustered and prevented, at least for now, the Senate from voting on the deal at all.

But Obama two months ago enshrined the deal as international law at the U.N. Why should we care about the congressional vote? In order to highlight the illegitimacy of Obama’s constitutional runaround and thus make it easier for a future president to overturn the deal, especially if Iran is found to be cheating.

As of now, however, it is done. Iran will be both unleashed — sanctions lifted, economy booming, with no treaty provisions regarding its growing regional aggression and support for terrorists — and welcomed as a good international citizen possessing a peaceful nuclear program. An astonishing trick.

Iran’s legitimation will not have to wait a decade, after which, as the Iranian foreign minister boasts, the U.N. file on the Iranian nuclear program will be closed, all restrictions will be dropped and, as Obama himself has admitted, the breakout time to an Iranian bomb will become essentially zero. On the contrary. The legitimation happens now. Early next year, Iran will be officially recognized as a peaceful nuclear nation.

This is a revolution in Iran’s international standing, yet its consequences have been largely overlooked. The deal goes beyond merely leaving Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact. Because the deal legitimizes that nuclear program as peaceful (unless proven otherwise — don’t hold your breath), it is entitled to international assistance. Hence the astonishing provision buried in Annex III, Section 10, committing Western experts to offering the Iranian program our nuclear expertise.

Specifically “training courses and workshops.” On what? Among other things, on how to protect against “sabotage.”

Imagine: We are now to protect Iran against, say, the very Stuxnet virus, developed by the NSA and Israel’s Unit 8200, that for years disrupted and delayed an Iranian bomb.

Secretary of State John Kerry has darkly warned Israel to not even think about a military strike on the nuclear facilities of a regime whose leader said just Wednesday that Israel will be wiped out within 25 years. The Israelis are now being told additionally — Annex III, Section 10 — that if they attempt just a defensive, nonmilitary cyberattack (a Stuxnet II), the West will help Iran foil it.

Ask those 42 senators if they even know about this provision. And how they can sign on to such a deal without shame and revulsion.
But out of party unity, Democrats signed on to this. Party trumps common sense and national security.

Larry Sabato takes a look at the upcoming deadlines for getting on the ballot for the primaries and caucuses. Some of those deadlines are coming up in November so don't expect any candidate to be able to jump in after November has passed. Meanwhile, Brookings counts up the delegates that a candidate who jumped in late would forfeit if jumping in at a later date.
By the end of November a candidate who is not in the race and on ballots has forfeited around 500 votes. By the end of December, a candidate not on primary ballots has forfeited more than 1000 votes. And so on.
A candidate needs about 2200 delegates to win the Democratic convention. So those numbers are nothing to spit at.

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The Washington Post revisits the story of a little widow who resisted attempts by Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse, and Donald Trump to use eminent domain to take her tiny Atlantic City house as they built a casino next door. She resisted and won.
Coking’s telling, Trump first tried to charm her, then tried to stomp her.

“He’d come over to the house, probably thinking, ‘If I butter her up now, I’ll get her house for a good price,’ ” Coking told the New York Daily News in 1998. “Once, he gave me Neil Diamond tickets. I didn’t even know who Neil Diamond was.”

Coking, who is now more than 90 years old and was not available to be interviewed, was having none of it. This was her “dream house,” said Dana Berliner, an attorney with the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm that represented Coking in her case against Trump and Atlantic City’s casino development authority.

“She was a very determined person,” Berliner said.

Coking held firm, even as the 22-story Trump Plaza soared outside her windows with its ever-flashing lights. The house was deteriorating, but Coking’s will wasn’t. Demolition crews had set fire to her roof, broken windows and smashed up much of the third floor, according to her attorneys. Still, she didn’t move.

In May 1994, Coking got a letter from the city’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority offering her $250,000 — a quarter of what Guccione had offered a decade before — and threatening to use eminent domain powers to take control of the property if she didn’t take the deal, according to a summary of the case by the Institute of Justice.

Coking had stared down Guccione. Now she was going to battle with the government, armed with lawyers. But the government had an important ally: Trump, the man whose company would benefit if Coking could be shoved out of her home. Trump’s company took the casino authority’s side in the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for the casino authority did not respond to an interview request.

The feud over Coking’s house pitted two big personalities. Berliner remembers Coking as “quite a character,” a woman who favored huge sunglasses and bright clothes. Her nemesis, the brash developer, was unfiltered, pugnacious and supremely confident.

In her interview with the Daily News, Coking called Trump “a maggot, a cockroach and a crumb.”

Trump responded by suggesting that Coking was making a play for sympathy in the media in hopes of getting him to pay more for her land.

“Did she put on her old clothing for you?” Trump said to one reporter.

Bolick saw the case as a key moment in the battle over eminent domain and property rights. It was a struggle over precious liberties but lacked an obvious embodiment of the stakes.
Perhaps some journalist will ask him about his willingness to use eminent domain to benefit his own businesses and take away people's homes that they do not want to move.

Sean Davis finds some wisdom from Jerry Seinfeld in how to deal with hecklers and recommends that Trump's Republican rivals adopt that method. Seinfeld said he'd deal with hecklers by becoming the "Heckler Therapist." It worked for him and might work for the GOP candidates.
Republican skeptics of Trump shouldn’t become outraged every time Trump says something absurd or ridiculous. They should be sympathetic. Republican candidates on the debate stage with Trump shouldn’t attack him, they should feel empathy for him.

Don’t ridicule Trump for the kind of behavior that would never be tolerated from toddlers, let alone fully grown adults. Instead, engage him and ask him why he thinks a rich, powerful, famous man like himself feels the need to belittle the looks of a cancer survivor.

As Seinfeld noted, the key to disarming an angry, insecure heckler who’s desperate for attention isn’t a quick, witty response. It’s pity.
Since I'm not running for anything, I'll continue to criticize him.

Here is Kimberley Strassel pointing out Donald Trump's standard answer to policy questions that he had no ideas about.
“Whatever” is The Donald’s response whenever or wherever he confronts something that he doesn’t like or understand. It’s a way out of taking a position: Does he support D.C. statehood? He’ll do “whatever is good for the District of Columbia.” (Whatever that is.)

It’s a way of ending discussion on a topic he can’t remember, or never knew in the first place. (“I stand by whatever I read.” Next.)

It’s a stand-alone, irritated dismissal. (Mr. Trump, what say you to the argument that most of your proposals are legally or politically or geophysically impossible? Whatever.)

Imagine a Marco Rubio or a Jeb Bush explaining that his position on Iran is to do whatever is terrific. It’s not simply that they couldn’t get away with it. It’s that it wouldn’t occur to them to try. And that’s the great disconnect of this current race. The conservative electorate is thrilling to a “whatever” moment just as it is finally getting the quality candidates and substantive debate it has spent years demanding.

That electorate threw its heart into GOP primaries that cleared out dead wood and sent new blood to Washington. It threw its soul into delivering a new crop of young reformers to state houses and governors’ mansions. It fumed as the party blew two presidential elections, and it made clear it expected far better.

Slowly, the effort paid off. This Republican field is teeming with serious candidates (many elected in response to Mr. Obama) who’ve collectively beaten public unions, reformed pensions, cut spending and taxes, overhauled education, and embraced the energy boom. It’s a talent pool that contains a neurosurgeon, a businesswoman, a Rhodes scholar, a prosecutor, and several state executives—not one of whom looks remotely like Mitt Romney or John McCain. And not one of whom teamed up with a state casino authority to try to seize a woman’s property, to make way for a Trump hotel limousine parking lot. But, whatever.

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Oh, poor Hillary. Voters can't seem to figure out what she's accomplished in her life.
When Bloomberg News posed the question in May to a focus group of 10 Iowa Democrats, they praised Clinton for strength, experience and competence but could not recall a single thing she had done.

Some Democrats say that they have only a vague sense of Clinton’s actual accomplishments. Liberal activist Arnie Arnesen was the Democratic nominee for New Hampshire governor in 1992, and she often crossed paths with the Clintons as Bill Clinton made his first bid for the White House. But all these years later, Arnesen said: “I don’t really know Hillary. I know Hillary under Clinton. I know Hillary under Obama. And in the Senate she was a workhorse, not a show horse. What does that mean? It means she didn’t take a leadership role.”

Hillary Clinton’s team also recognizes that while her credentials are well known, her achievements are not. That was part of her message in a speech Wednesday supporting the Iran nuclear deal, which was negotiated by her successor, John Kerry. Clinton spotlighted her own role in bringing Tehran to the table.
Yeah, that is a sign of good judgment. She's going to have to answer for that. And there is not much else.
Clinton’s tenure as first lady is remembered most for her politically disastrous effort to transform the health-care system. In the Senate, she was a relatively junior member with few legislative victories that bear her name. And as secretary of state, she was carrying out President Obama’s agenda in an administration where diplomatic policymaking was tightly controlled by the White House.

When it came to stopping Iran from obtaining the ability to build a nuclear weapon, “I voted for sanctions again and again as a senator from New York. But they weren’t having much effect. Most of the world still did business with Iran. We needed to step up our game,” she said Wednesday in her speech at the Brookings Institution. “So President Obama and I pursued a two-prong strategy: pressure and engagement. We made it clear that the door to diplomacy was open if Iran answered the concerns of the international community in a serious and credible way,”

“I traveled the world,” she added, “capital by capital, leader by leader, twisting arms to help build the global coalition that produced some of the most effective sanctions in history.”
Yeah, those sanctions were so great that the administration gave them up without really getting anything from Iran in return.

The NYT tries to figure out who would be Plan B if Hillary's campaign continues on this downward trajectory. It's the same oldies but goldies.
If Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new apology for her private email server fails to reassure jittery supporters, it could amplify the chatter among some Democrats who have been casting about for a potential white knight to rescue the party from a beleaguered Clinton candidacy.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Al Gore: Each has been discussed among party officials in recent weeks as an alternative to Mrs. Clinton if she does not regain her once-dominant standing in the 2016 presidential field and instead remains mired in the long-running email controversy, with its attendant investigations.
The lack of more exciting options can be blamed squarely on President Obama.
The interest in senior statesmen and stateswomen is partly a reflection of the thin Democratic bench after widespread losses in races for governor, Senate and other offices in 2010 and 2014, which has left the party with relatively few experienced, credible presidential contenders, let alone ones willing to take on Mrs. Clinton. (The paucity of fresh faces even gave rise to a joking Twitter hashtag: #Dukakis2016, offering up the party’s 1988 nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.)

Still, Mr. Biden, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Gore have lost presidential bids before and are hardly guaranteed party saviors — or more popular than Mrs. Clinton among important demographic groups like women, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Indeed, for all of the talk about 2016 fallback plans, Mrs. Clinton remains the front-runner for the nomination, and her comments on Tuesday in an interview with ABC News and in a follow-up message to supporters — saying “I’m sorry” for relying on private email for government business as secretary of state and calling that practice “a mistake” — may help assuage concerns among some Democrats about her candidacy.

But the chatter could continue if Mrs. Clinton does not quickly regain her footing.

“You have Democrats beginning to panic about the one thing that a lot of them never worried about, which was Clinton’s electability in the general election,” said Robert Shrum, a veteran strategist who was a senior adviser to Mr. Gore and Mr. Kerry during their presidential runs. “You still have to think of her as the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination. But the challenge she faces in the general election is both the trust problem and the likability problem.”
The Democrats' woes would be so much more enjoyable if the GOP didn't seem sometimes to be on a path towards self-destruction.

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Just what ever responsible media outlet should provide - a Jew Tracker.
The New York Times has come under fire from Jewish organizations for launching a website aimed at tracking how Jewish lawmakers are voting on the Iran nuclear agreement.

The online chart, which tracks whether lawmakers who opposes the accord are Jewish, is being criticized as anti-Semitic in nature and an attempt to publicly count where Jews fall on the issue, which some have sought to turn into a debate about dual loyalty to Israel.

The feature, titled “Lawmakers Against the Iran Nuclear Deal,” includes a list of legislators currently opposing the deal.

Critics say the chart feeds into a larger narrative promulgated by the Obama administration that Jewish Americans oppose the deal because they feel that it would endanger Israel. The issue of dual loyalty—or claims that lawmakers are more loyal to Israel than America—has become a trademark criticism of administration supporters seeking to discredit opponents of the Iran deal.

“Though more Jewish members of Congress support the deal than oppose it, the Democrats against the deal are more likely to be Jewish or represent Jewish constituencies,” the Times writes on the site....

Jewish leaders criticized the Times for feeding into anti-Semitic stereotypes.

“It’s a grotesque insult to the intelligence of the people who voted for and will vote against [the deal],” said Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which combats anti-Semitism.

Cooper said it evokes images of “Jewish pressure” and “Jewish money” influencing the Iran vote.

This type of reporting “does a disservice to the issue and that’s the exact opposite job of the New York Times,” Cooper said. “They have some explaining to do. Why’d they do it? Shame on the New York Times for the timing and implications of this piece.”

A nationwide poll released this week found that a plurality of American voters, or 37 percent “see accusations of Jewish lawmakers having dual-loyalties on the Iran deal as anti-Semitic,” according to the findings, which were published by the Israel Project.

“This includes pluralities across all partisan and ideological lines,” the poll found. “Even among supporters of the deal, 37 percent view these accusations as anti-Semitic.”

“As a point of comparison, 35 percent said they saw the Confederate Flag as a symbol of racism in a New York Times poll in July 2015, a position that the paper vocally endorsed,” said Nathan Klein, lead pollster at Olive Tree Strategies, which conducted the poll on the Israel Project’s behalf.

One senior official with a Jewish organization based in Washington, D.C., expressed shock when sent a link to the Times feature.

“I guess we should be grateful the New York Times chose not to illustrate its Jew tracker by awarding a six-pointed yellow badge to every Jewish opponent of this catastrophic sellout.”+
It took a lot of criticism from prominent Jewish activists for the NYT to take down their Jew Tracker. But what were they thinking of in the first place?

This is quite impressive, but I'm not sure how anyone would know if he mispronounced the name.

You too can generate your own Donald Trump insults. Or if that's not serious enough for you, you can pose your own question to Hillary Clinton.