Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cruising the Web

Yet another of the media hits against Ben Carson bites the dust.
A former staff member of the Yale Record says that he recalls many of the details of a prank that Dr. Ben Carson wrote about in an autobiography.

The incident has been the subject of media coverage in recent days, after the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that it found no evidence to support Carson’s claim that he was a victim of a hoax that led him to take a fake psychology test, as he wrote in his 1990 autobiography, Gifted Hands.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News on Monday, Curtis Bakal, an editorial assistant at the satirical Yale Record who says he helped write the fake test, said he was “99% certain the way Carson remembers it is correct.”

“When I read about the story in the Wall Street Journal, I immediately said, to my wife and friend, ‘That was the prank we played at the Record! And Ben Carson was in the class,’” said Bakal, who noted he wasn’t actually present during the taking of the fake test. “We did a mock parody of the Yale Daily News during the exam period in January 1970, and in this parody we had a box that said: ‘So-and-so section of the exam has been lost in a fire. Professor so-and-so is going to give a makeup exam.’”

“We got a room to do the test in and one of us from the Record impersonated a
So what of the media attacks on his veracity remain? It seems to me that every single accusation that he was misrepresenting his past have been shot down by other witnesses to those events or news that his mother told the same story. Meanwhile, the media have made him the true Teflon candidate. Every attack bounces off him and then winds up making the journalists look even worse. And Trump looks bad for desperately jumping on each of those media attack caissons. As David French writes, "The media assault on Ben Carson is worse than malice - it's incompetence."
o, for those keeping score, days of media hits on decades-old incidents revealed, at most, utterly trivial contradictions (a dinner Carson thought happened in May really occurred in a different month; a psychology-class incident may have occurred his freshman year, not his junior year) while backing up the core assertions. Yes, there was a hoax exam. Yes, a person from Detroit heard of the Carson stabbing incident. Yes, there was a riot at his school. In the meantime, all this digging has not yielded a single person to contradict the primary elements of his stories. Not one.

This isn’t investigative journalism. It’s a clown show. To “raise questions” about incidents that occurred more than 40 years ago, one does not interview people who weren’t involved and weren’t there. Maybe it’s a scoop if CNN found the person who argued with Carson and says that Carson pushed him and didn’t try to stab him.... But the media’s “investigative” standard here is strange, indeed — actual corroboration of Carson’s account followed by no meaningful contradiction does not “raise questions” about Carson’s honesty.

Let’s be clear: If this is the new media standard for “vetting,” then no candidate can ever survive a run for office. Unless the stories of your life are so memorable that other, unrelated people who weren’t present at the incidents in question can describe the events decades later, then you may not be honest enough to be president. Here’s my advice for young people — carry around a stack of affidavits, because you never know when you’ll need to document the facts of your life. Sworn witness statements are always helpful.

Conservatives have grown accustomed to wild conspiracy theories and bizarre reporting from fever-swamp leftist blogs. But is there now no meaningful distinction between CNN and Daily Kos, between Politico and Salon? And this is just the beginning. Soon enough the Left will recognize its true peril — that a conservative victory in 2016 would leave the Democratic party weaker than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. And if that defeat came at the hands of a black Christian conservative, the consequences would be catastrophic for the entire identity-politics enterprise.

No one thinks conservatives are perfect, but there is a difference between scandal and slander. So far there is no Carson scandal, and everyone who uses the “reporting” of the last week to justify accusations of dishonesty is verging on slander. Carson’s reputation is intact. And, ironically, so is the media’s. They behaved exactly as conservatives expect.
By the way, I love to see someone use one of Talleyrand's famous quotes, or a quote attributed to him. I was just teaching about Napoleon's murder of the French cousin of the Bourbon monarchs, the Duc d'Enghien yesterday and Talleyrand's supposed response, "It was worse than a crime, it was a blunder." And we talked about Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna today.

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This is what happens when an inept campaign telegraphs their tactics. The Bushies had been telling the NYT that they were ready to go after Marco Rubio. And the Rubio campaign doesn't wait around to be attacked. Instead they put out an ad featuring Jeb Bush talking about how much he likes Rubio and how thinks he'd make a "good president." And that was back in 2012 when Rubio had two fewer years experience. I like the dexterity that the Rubio campaign demonstrates. And Jeb demonstrates once again what a lousy candidate he is.

Jeet Heer at New Republic marvels at some people's perception that Marco Rubio is the GOP front-runner. He's not ahead in the polls, but is in third place. He doesn't have the most money or the most endorsements.
To date, then, Rubio has proven a mediocre candidate by any reasonable measure. So how do we explain the rush to hail him as the likely winner? As Douthat observes, Rubio earns the nod “by process of elimination.” Trump and Carson are viewed as too extreme and inexperienced not to crash and burn. Cruz is the darling of the Tea Party base, but hated by Republican officials and his colleagues in Congress. Fiorina lacks political experience, money, and organization. Bush is thrashing around like a turkey afraid it’s about to become Thanksgiving dinner. John Kasich, Christie, Huckabee, and Rand Paul are slowing sinking, though their demises have been less dramatic than Bush's. And you have to remind yourself that Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Lindsay Graham are still in the race. So, simply by crossing out the names of every other candidates for one reason or another, all you have left is Rubio.
But there is nothing guaranteed by this. We still keep waiting for Carson and Trump to start the decline that pundits keep predicting.

On the other hand, David Freedlander at the Daily Beast argues that Rubio would be quite a challenge for Clinton. Clinton's disadvantages would be balanced out by Jeb Bush who has a lot of the same disadvantages.
Think Clinton is a has-been from the 1990s? Well then, you won’t vote for a Bush. Tired of political dynasties? Same. Disapprove of the Clintonian post-political dash for cash and the six-figure speaking fees at investment banks? Well, get a load of Bush’s post-gubernatorial work with Lehman Brothers. Even Mitt Romney told donors at a private meeting in New York that “a Bush can’t beat a Clinton.”
But Bush's campaign is stuttering to a slow finish. So the Clinton campaign has stopped their regular attacks on Bush. They're hoping that he'll improve and bring down Rubio's hopes.
A general election matchup with Rubio will present its own set of problems. If he is able to run as well among Latinos as George W. Bush was in 2004, Democrats acknowledge that their path to victory gets exceedingly narrow. Rubio presents a youthful contrast to a woman who has been in public life for a quarter of a century, and can make his own case for a pathbreaking candidacy of his own right. Bush has tried to dull Rubio’s momentum by comparing him to another charismatic first-term senator: Barack Obama. But if this charge is meant to elicit the right’s favorite bogeyman, it gives loyal Clintonites, still wearing the scars of 2008, the frights as well.

“It’s youth versus experience again—that’s what inspires the terror,” said one top Clinton fundraiser. “He’s young, he’s ambitious, he’s got an ethnic advantage, he’s got a great personal story and he gives a great fucking speech.”

“Marco is the one who makes the policies matter a lot less,” added a Florida-based Clintonista. “It really becomes Marco versus Hillary, and not a race about the issues. He is the least cookie-cutter Republican out there.”

“It’s youth versus experience again—that’s what inspires the terror,” said one top Clinton fundraiser.
Democrats say they plan to prosecute their case against Rubio in much the same way that Clinton campaigned against Obama in the waning days of their 2008 race, and much the way that Bush is running against Rubio now: by raising questions about his readiness for the presidency.
Well, we saw how well that worked in 2008. The Clintonistas keep arguing that Rubio's political skills are overblown and he'll fade in the bright lights of a general campaign. And they'll do their best to bring him down. And they are crossing their fingers that too many Republicans hate Hispanics and would never vote for the son of Cuban immigrants.
Even if he captures the nomination, Democrats wonder if Rubio will be able to capture the imagination of rank-and-file Republicans in the same way that he seems to have captured the imagination of the media. Conservative websites like Breitbart have been harping on Rubio’s onetime support for immigration reform for years, and it remains an open question about whether the older, whiter, more rural Republican base is ready for Rubio.
I think they're way overestimating such bigotry among Republican voters. Those are the same voters who are ecstatic about Ben Carson. And Cuban immigrants who came here in the 1950s are quite different from illegal immigrants coming in today.

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Bradley Smith, the former chairman of the FEC, explains why the media despises Super PACs.
In 2012 super PACs accounted for approximately 12 percent of political spending. In 2014 the number was below 10 percent. So far in this cycle, super PACs account for about 20 percent of political funds raised. If this is a tsunami, it’s a small one.

But imagine a world without these so-called “outside” voices — so denounced by big media — spending money on politics: What messages would voters hear? Who would control the information needed for Americans to form political opinions? The media, of course! In fact, the complaining from media outlets about super PACs and the court decisions that enabled their existence is little more than a turf war over who gets to talk to voters, influence positions on issues, and tug at the levers of power in Washington. The fact that Super PACs are scorned as “outside spending” is telling. Outside of what? Super PACs are citizens speaking directly to other citizens; what they’re outside of is the traditional media/political power structure. It used to be that the New York Times and other big media had a near-stranglehold on political influence. In the age of super PACs, that is no longer so.

Justice Kennedy made exactly this point in a recent interview defending Citizens United: “Remember,” he told students at Harvard, “the government of the United States stood in front [of] our court and said it was lawful and necessary under the [McCain-Feingold campaign finance] Act to ban a book written about Hillary Clinton in the prohibited period. . . . That can’t be right. I wasn’t surprised the New York Times was incensed their little monopoly to affect our thinking was taken away. I was surprised how virulent their attitude was.”

....Besides the media, the biggest critics of super PACs are often politicians themselves. They, too, often abhor “outside” speech. They want to control the terms of the debate and the issues that are discussed in the campaign, and they can’t control super PACs. For politicians such as Bernie Sanders, other benefits of blasting super PACs are obvious — they get good media coverage and gain votes. For some, the benefits of denouncing super PACs are less immediately obvious, but very real. For example, Donald Trump calls super PACs a “disaster.” But Trump gets much more free coverage than his competition, and he has a huge fund-raising advantage over his rivals for the GOP nomination: While his rivals must raise funds under a complicated regulatory system limiting individual contributions to just $2,700, Trump can simply write his campaign a check whenever he chooses. Super PACs, which can raise money in any amount, help to close the media/financial gap between Trump and other GOP candidates. If Super PACs are banned, Trump benefits.

To be sure, super PACs have a variety of agendas. Most exist to support ideologies, issues, and a broad array of like-minded candidates. But, like any successful innovation, super PACs have been adopted and copied by those very much in the mainstream — for example, Jeb Bush’s campaign is helped by a well-funded super PAC, and Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid is supported by at least three. It shouldn’t be surprising that supporters of Hillary Clinton would form super PACs to support her, or that a group supporting Jeb Bush would run ads similar to those of the Bush campaign. But since super PACs are required by law to disclose all expenditures and the identity of every donor who contributes over $200, voters are free to evaluate their virtue.

In a world that values free speech, super PACs should be a welcome part of the political landscape. Their ads promoting Jeb and Hillary will run alongside ads by Trump and Sanders, ads by the DNC and by the RNC, and ads by groups that want less government spending or more environmental regulation, such as End Spending Action Fund and Next Gen Climate Action. These snippets of paid political speech will run between news broadcasts featuring political stories with partisan tilts, and on talk shows where celebrities interview and endorse candidates.

Here is yet another example that money doesn't buy elections.
A handful of investors and political operatives in Ohio blew more than $15 million on an insane ploy to amend the state's constitution to create a marijuana monopoly for themselves.

The pot hustlers outspent the anti-marijuana group by a 40-to-1 margin according to the latest campaign finance filings available, and they lost at the ballot box last week almost 2-to-1.

What were they thinking?

I have a theory: Maybe they believed the media line that money could buy elections.

Hillary Clinton is bragging about something she did that you wouldn't think she would brag about.
"Well look," Clinton said, "I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in. And I do think you have to control your borders."
Then she says she'll continue to use executive actions just as Obama has. Well, what is she going to do that won't be halted as Obama's executive actions have by the 5th Circuit?

Ramesh Ponnuru points out that Hillary is making more of being possibly the first female president than Obama himself made of being the first president of African-American descent.
His allies have portrayed his critics as racist much more than he has. Clinton, on the other hand, is taking ludicrously contrived offense to supposed slights against her sex at every opportunity. I get the feeling that she will spend much of the campaign baiting Republicans into calling her shrill.

Why the difference? I can think of a few theories. Maybe the sexism card is more powerful than the racism one, there being more female than black voters. Or maybe it’s less powerful, and thus she has to make a big deal out of being able to be the first female president while the historic nature of Obama’s candidacy was in the front of voters’ minds? Maybe it’s less powerful for her, because she is such a familiar figure that people are more inclined to think of her particular characteristics–for example, that she’s untrustworthy–than about her sex? Maybe the country has changed over the last few years to make claims of victimization more politically rewarding.

Or maybe she’s miscalculating. After the first Democratic debate, Alexandra Petri mocked her heavy-handed messaging: “Hillary is a woman. As such, she would be the first female president. This would be historic, because we have never elected a woman before, a woman such as Hillary, who is female.” I would like to think that this strategy will backfire on Clinton, and that people will tire of false indignation. If there is a risk for her–if it is possible for a presidential candidate to go too far in playing the gender card–she seems like someone who could easily cross the line without knowing it.

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Noah Rothman notes that quite a few of the military advisors to President Obama are resigning. And they're criticizing the President's policies as they leave.
As the fruits of Barack Obama’s feckless approach to foreign affairs ripen, and the conflicts that he sought to resolve only deteriorate, the president’s advisors are increasingly training their fire on him. In the final year of this administration, that trend is only likely to intensify. If the Obama era is going to be remembered as the period when the seeds of chaos and conflict were sown, surely more creatures of Washington are going to emerge to make sure that they do not take the blame for sowing them. A president who has so perfected the art of throwing others under the bus is about to get the same treatment.

Donald Trump's statements on foreign policy are just rather goofy.
But what's genuinely unhinged about it is that Trump is convinced that such policies can painlessly restore the American middle class. "All the Republicans are talking about, 'We're gonna cut, we're gonna raise the age, we're gonna do this, your Medicare, your Medicaid, your Social Security,'" he thunders. "I can bring wealth in so that we can save your Social Security without cuts."

In short, Americans don't have to compete for jobs or endure cuts to old-age entitlement programs; they just have to keep thuggish foreigners from bilking their wealth or taking advantage of them. This might be a comforting vision — but it is also cartoonish and dangerous.

The last time America tried Trump-style protectionism and imposed the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariffs, it triggered a global trade war that turned an economic downturn into the Great Depression. His plans to shake down Mexico to pay for a wall would incense all of Latin America. And his proposal to forcibly take away Iraqi oil would breed even more anti-American hatred around the world — not to mention terrorism.

If Trump's challengers want to prevent his loopy ideas from permanently poisoning the policy conversation, they'll have to stop pussyfooting around — and start exposing Trump for the snake-oil salesman he is.

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Here is a prime exhibit of the different standards for Republicans and Democrats. Hillary cackles with great good humor when a guy in the audience tells her that he wants to reach through the TV and "strangle" Carly Fiorina. Why isn't there the outcry that Trump faced when someone in his audience asked a question referring to Obama as a "black Muslim"? Kate Pavlich writes,
If a Republican presidential candidate had failed to condemn an audience member for making the same remark about Hillary Clinton, not to mention laughing hysterically about a comment that implies domestic violence, we'd never hear the end of it.