“ISIL is not going to pose an existential threat to us,” he said, insisting that although they were a “dangerous organization,” the country had strengthened national security under his administration."And then that afternoon was the attack in San Bernardino by murderers that the authorities think was radicalized and reading ISIS social media. That was just the sort of bad timing for Obama's effort to instill confidence by telling us that ISIS was contained. Unfortunately for those efforts at making us feel better about the fight against ISIS, the attacks in Paris happened just the next day. Apparently, ISIS hasn't gotten the White House talking points. They don't seem to realize what a rebuke it was for them to have the world's leaders gather in Paris to make a meaningless agreement on climate change. As In describing the imaginary word that Barack Obama inhabits, Ben Shapiro writes,
Regardless of ISIS' feelings on global warming, they obviously don't sit around in Raqqa lamenting that their plans have been defeated by those dastardly Westerners and their catered diplomatic lunches. But President Obama says they do. That's because he crafts his own enemies based on who he wishes they were. Obama is thoroughly uncomfortable with the idea that those who wish to fight him are members of radical Islam. He wishes they were right-wing American ideologues. So he simply plays them off as such.
Obama did the same thing with regard to the Iran nuclear deal. While handing Iran $150 billion in funding, opening their economy, and granting them a full nuclear weapons program in a decade, Obama claimed that the real enemies of peace were Republicans siding with Iranian hardliners. Never mind that those hardliners didn't exist. Obama created them magically, and then made them Republicans.
At least Obama was giving us those assurances before the actual attacks. Barbara Boxer, never the sharpest knife in the senatorial drawer, assures us that California's "sensible gun laws work."
One aspect of this whole story that should give us all pause is the failure of our ability to screen immigrants or refugees to our country for potential terrorist activity. Tashfeen Malik, the wife who shot up San Bernardino with her husband on Wednesday, had received a visa to come here.
The State Department confirmed Thursday that Malik held a Pakistani passport and was in the U. S. on a “K-1” visa reserved for fiancées of U.S. citizens. Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that Malik was granted the visa in Islamabad and would have had to have undergone “counterterrorism screening” in order to receive the document from U.S. authorities.She got a green card last July after passing a background check. And why wouldn't she have passed such a check if she hadn't done anything to trigger suspicion? Just like her husband.
But specifics on the timing of the visa, as well as other details about Malik’s travel were still not clear on Thursday. While investigators said that Farook had traveled at one point to Pakistan, before returning to the U.S. in July 2014 with his bride to be, it was unclear what other countries the couple may have traveled to together.
Mr. Toner told reporters that the State Department simply does not track the movements of U.S. citizens overseas.
We have quotes from Farook's co-workers that they had no suspicion that he had become radicalized. Farook's brother-in-law professed to be totally amazed by Farook's behavior and his brother had served in the US Navy from 2003 to 2007. There were no hints of his radicalization. If authorities were so totally unable to pick up on any signs from this guy and his wife, why should we have any confidence of their ability to do so for any other applicant to come here as an immigrant or refugee? As Kerry Picket reported last month, our Homeland Security officials do not screen for religion or ideology when screening people entering the country. The focus is explicitly on behavior without anyone asking them about their actual beliefs since the guidelines strive to stress that we should not equate "an entire religion, nation, region, or culture with evil or violence, For example, it is incorrect and damaging to assert that all Muslims have terrorist ties.”
Instead, the training encourages to “ensure that it uses examples to demonstrate that terrorists span ethnicity, race, gender, and religion.” Officials don't have to treat every Muslim as a potential terrorist, but there are some questions that might be asked.
“The 2012 FBI directive to remove religious and political motivations from investigations and screening came at a time when the Obama administration was busy purging anything they believed might reflect poorly on Muslims, regardless of how it effected our national security,” national security consultant David Reaboi told The Daily Caller.It's hard to strike the correct balance between our respect for religious liberty and our concerns about admitting terrorist sympathizers, but aren't some of those questions ones that should be asked? Sure an applicant could lie, but we're not even trying to distinguish terrorist sympathizers at this point. Don't you rather suspect that Israel has a better way to screen applicants? Why don't we work with Israeli counterterrorism officials to see what they do? We've given up before we even begun.
Reaboi explained, “Since then — and now, presumably, in screening refugees, investigators are trained not to ask about all the key identifiers that would allow them to spot Islamic terrorists or other Islamists who want to do harm to America. Because ISIS, al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood understand themselves in precisely those ways, they’re prevented from asking anything meaningful beyond, ‘are you a terrorist?'”
“‘Are you a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? What school of Islamic law do you follow? Where do you go to mosque? Do you believe someone who insults Islam deserves to be killed? Would you like to make America an Islamic country?’ All of these questions — the most important ones — are off-limits,” Reaboi said.
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Rich Lowry argues that Republicans should regard the Rubio vs. Cruz battle as just what they were dreaming about.
The initial conventional wisdom about the Republican field — that it was the most talented in decades — didn’t seem borne out as it was over-awed by Trump. But if the race eventually has Rubio and Cruz among the finalists, or winnows down to a Rubio-Cruz fight, it will feature supremely skilled campaigners who are eloquent and sure-footed and represent the best next-generation politicians the party has to offer.
A Cruz-Rubio race would play as the grass roots vs. the establishment, although Rubio in the establishment slot would be an enormous victory for the tea party.
In this scenario, the so-called establishment candidate would be the guy who ran for Senate in Florida in 2010 against a sitting Republican governor with presidential ambitions and the firm backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. As far as RINO-hunting goes, by stopping Charlie Crist and chasing him out of the party, Rubio still has the best and most consequential hide.
And, in a Cruz-Rubio scenario, the grass-roots candidate would be the guy who emulated the establishment candidate’s upstart campaign two years later in Texas.
The tea party has over the years backed some flagrantly unsuitable candidates in Senate primaries — remember Christine O’Donnell? or Chris McDaniel? — but it invested very wisely in Cruz and Rubio....
There are doubts about both of them. Is Cruz electable? Can Rubio be trusted on immigration? Does Cruz lack a winning personal touch? Is Rubio too youthful-looking? And Donald Trump can’t be wished away.
If Trump wins Iowa, it will indeed be like the First Bull Run of the Republican civil war. Regardless, the race is still highly unpredictable. Chris Christie, in a testament to his resiliency and talents as a communicator, is showing signs of life. Jeb Bush will get another look at some point. The last couple of weeks before Iowa and New Hampshire always bring surprises.
But Republicans hyperventilating over Trump should pause long enough to appreciate the slow but steady rise of two conservative 40-somethings who represent the party’s future.
David Graham in The Atlantic explains why Carson's poll numbers have faded while Trump's numbers, despite all predictions, have stayed high. Carson has to compete now, not only with Trump for the outsider vote, but Ted Cruz for the evangelical vote. Graham also notes that the media have cut back on their coverage of Carson.
Matt Lewis writes that the team around Rubio has the taste for the jugular that typifies a winning candidate.
While the optimists have their lunch stolen, the bruisers can be shameless and conniving. Nobody seems to care (as Bill Clinton said, in politics it’s better to be “strong and wrong” than “weak and right”).Of course, Ted Cruz fights also. Rubio's advantage might be appearing to be that affable, optimistic guy while sticking the shiv into his competitors. Cruz will never give off the vibe of optimistic affability.
That dynamic isn’t likely to play out this time around. In recent days, Team Rubio has shown a clear willingness to play hardball. They have matched Team Cruz’s petty attacks on Rubio’s immigration reform stance with their own petty attacks on Cruz’s national security stance.
Today—just in time for the big Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in DC—Team Rubio is pushing around a Wall Street Journal op-ed that begins thus: “Ted Cruz ’s bid for the GOP’s presidential nomination has always rested on the proposition that he is the only ‘real Republican’ in the race. So why is the junior Senator from Texas advocating a Syria policy that seems to have been drawn from President Obama’s situation room?”
The lede tells you all you need to know about Rubio’s strategy: They realize their guy’s support for immigration reform (while noble and courageous—in my view) is a political liability. But rather than playing defense (a fool’s errand), they know the smart move is to muddy the waters—to attack Cruz for apostasy—have Republican primary voters basically conclude that it’s a wash—to have them scratch their heads and say: “Well, neither of these guys are 100 percent pure.”
It’s the smart move. It’s exactly the right strategy. And Rubio’s team of professionals are aggressively pushing it....
Don’t let the smile fool you. Rubio has a tough side. You can see it in his eyes. He’s different from most of the squishy “kinder, gentler” mainstream conservatives patsies out there. He fights.
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Donald Trump did something quite unusual for a Republican. He went before the Republican Jewish Coalition and expressed skepticism about Israel's desire for peace with the Palestinians.
He also turned heads after suggesting for the second time in as many days that he was unsure whether Israel was committed to securing peace with the Palestinian Authority.Gee, he sounds like he'd fit right into the Obama foreign policy team in their dislike of Israel. This is so ridiculous and insulting. Does anyone truly think that, if the Palestinians suddenly gave up violence against Israelis, that Israel would still be prosecuting military efforts against the Palestinians? THink of how long they've been at peace with Egypt and Jordan. Hasn't Trump noticed that Hamas is refuses to recognize Israel and has devoted itself to violence against Israel? Israel is not the problem. Anyone who cares about Israel should be appalled by Trump's words. And then to have him play into stereotypes of Jews as moneymakers who buy politicians is really insulting. I know that nothing Trump can say would turn off his supporters, but I keep hoping that, at some point, more people will see the loathsome person behind his mask.
“I don’t know that Israel has the commitment to make [a peace agreement],” Trump told the crowd of several hundred donors. His similar comments Wednesday evening to the Associated Press were condemned by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio earlier Thursday.
At points he appeared to be playing to centuries-old stereotypes of Jews and money.
“Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals,” he said. “Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”
Trump had kicked off the event with several jabs at the well-heeled crowd, saying he didn’t want their money.
“I would love your support, but I don’t want your money,” he said. Later, he asserted that the audience wasn’t going to support him “because I don’t want your money.”
“You want to control your own politicians,” he added.
Forget about that threat that Donald Trump made to not participate in next week's CNN debate unless they would pay him $5 million that he would then donate to military veterans. That's all over. The great deal-maker caved without a peep. He even acknowledged that he didn't have the leverage to force CNN to give him money.
First, CNN President Jeff Zucker pretty adamantly said no, explaining that “we do not pay candidates to appear at debates.”It was all bluster, just like most everything he says. Is that the art of the deal - make empty threats that he knows he has no way of carrying out? Think of how that would translate into foreign policy? Rather like drawing a red line and then doing nothing about Syria crossing that red line. Just another reason why David Drucker wrote about "Trump's surprisingly Obama-like foreign policy."
And second, Trump gave an interview to The Washington Post today in which he candidly said, “When you’re leading in the polls, I think it’s too big of a risk to not do the debate. I don’t think I have the kind of leverage I’d like to have in a deal and I don’t want to take the chance of hurting my campaign. So I’ll do the debate.”
So basically, it was an empty threat.
And why doesn't Trump just shell out the $5 million to the vets without the showboating over the debate?
Peggy Noonan shames the prayer-shamers.
This managed to enrage the progressive left. You can take your prayers and stuff ’em. The answer and the only answer to this tragedy is gun control, and if you’re not for it you’re not allowed to be part of the conversation. “Please shut up and slink away,” tweeted a reporter. Another: “Your thoughts and prayers don’t mean a damn thing.” A reporter at the Huffington Post damned public officials’ “useless thoughts and prayers.” Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos: “How many dead people did those thoughts and prayers bring back to the life?”
Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist noted that all these denunciations were literally coming in while victims of the shooting were sending out requests for prayer.
Journalists, bloggers, contrarians and citizens jumped into the fray. Then the U.S. senator, Chris Murphy, came forward rather menacingly. “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing—again.”
Wow. You might think he was aiming this at President Obama, who when he was a popular president with an overwhelmingly Democratic House and Senate did not prioritize gun control. But it was clearly aimed at all those Republicans and religious people who were praying, saying they were praying, and implicitly asking you to pray, rather than doing what they should do, which is supporting the senator’s cause.
All this immediately won a name: “prayer shaming.”
Here’s an odd thing. If you really are for some new gun-control measure, if you are serious about it, you just might wait a while, until the blood has cooled, for instance, and then try to win people over to see it your way. You might offer information, argument, points of persuasion. Successful politics involves pulling people together. You don’t use a tragedy to shame and silence those who don’t see it your way; that only hardens sides. Which has left me wondering if gun-control proponents are even serious about it. Maybe they’re just using their wedge issue at a moment of high stress to hammer people on the other side of the ideological and philosophical divide.
Jonah Goldberg also scorns all those on the left making fun of "thoughts and prayers" as he tells the New York Daily News, "You're doing it wrong" in reference to their cover story saying "Prayers aren't working."
I’m sure you thought this was all so terribly clever.
Wrong. It was disgusting and sophomoric — and journalistically dubious. You literally had no idea whether the gun-control policies you prefer would have prevented this attack. Such laws clearly wouldn’t have prevented the numerous pipe bombs the attackers had prepared. You had no clue if this was a jihadist attack, which would diminish the relevance of gun control. (Paris has very strict gun laws. As does California, by the way — and even stricter pipe bomb laws.)
GOP hopefuls weren’t “preaching about prayer.” They were offering their prayers (just like President Obama did the next day). If this had been an earthquake, would you reject prayers while survivors were still being plucked from the rubble? Would you denounce anyone who refrained from touting their preferred building code legislation?
It is no great insight to point out that prayerful statements can be platitudinous. So what? Most of us aren’t really expecting a serious answer when we greet someone with “How are you?”
Just because good manners can be trite doesn’t mean they’re not good manners.
Good manners are a sign of respect. And offering one’s prayers to those suffering is a far more meaningful sign of respect than saying “How are you?”
More important: For some people — a great many people, in fact — those prayers were sincere. You would be among the first to denounce a Republican for questioning the religious sincerity of, say, President Obama. But you preen in self-congratulation disparaging the faith of politicians simply because they disagree with you. Worse, you make it less likely they will listen to your arguments. So what was the point? To get high-fives from people who already agree with you? How courageous.
We hear so much editorializing these days about the coarsening of our culture and the excesses of political polarization. I think that’s overdone. But you should probably hold off joining that conversation for a while, given that you politicized respectful prayers for the dead just to score some cheap points.
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THis is great! A New Hampshire woman asked Hillary whether her position that all sexual assault victims should be believed means that those who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault such as Juanita Broaddrick should have been believed. Hillary Clinton responded, while giving off that uncomfortable laughter that really grates, that such accusers should be believed until "disbelieved based on evidence." Allahpundit asks,
If accusers have a right to be taken seriously, if not quite “believed,” does that mean she took Broaddrick seriously when she first accused Bill of assault? That’s a follow-up question for the next townhall attendee who gets to quiz her.I guess Hillary believed her before she didn't believe her.
Ashe Schow ponders what Hillary's position on believing victims means that she doesn't believe in due process for the accused. That just happens to be the position for accused offenders on many college campuses.
Currently, many who are accused of sexual assault are instantly vilified, and even if it's proven that they did not commit the crime, their lives can be forever tarnished by the accusation. Further, if someone is accused on a college campus, he is not offered the due process protections to properly defend himself from the accusation. He is not allowed to cross-examine his accuser (sometimes he is completely blocked from seeing his accuser), he is not allowed legal representation, he cannot compel evidence and testimony is not given under oath.Would a Clinton Justice and Education Departments encourage colleges to continue denying due process to the accused? Interesting question.
And often, when accused students do present evidence that would cast doubt on an accuser's story, that evidence is twisted as evidence of the trauma the accuser is allegedly suffering.
Glenn Reynolds has some recommendations for political leaders who like to pretend how devoted they are to fighting climate change.
With that in mind, I have a few modest proposals, whereby our leaders, in the United States and worldwide, can demonstrate their seriousness regarding this mortal threat to humanity.Reynolds likes to say that he'd be more willing to treat climate change as a crisis if those warning us about it would act as if it were a crisis.
First, no more jetting around. Congress should provide that no federal money — either at agencies or at institutions receiving federal funds — should pay for travel to attend conferences or meetings. Sure, participating in a Webinar isn’t as much fun as jetting off to a plush hotel, but the carbon footprint is much lower. The savings could be redirected to fund alternative energy projects.
Second, to set an example, no air conditioning in federal offices. Sure, it’s uncomfortable without it, but we won World War II with mostly un-air conditioned offices, so we can manage without A/C today. (Besides, according to Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak, air conditioning is sexist.)
Third, no more fundraising jaunts on Air Force One. Typically, presidents schedule a fundraiser, then find an elementary school or something to tour in the same town to make the trip “official business.” Congress should provide that no fundraising appearances can be made on any presidential trip charged to the taxpayers. (Since Barack Obama is on his way out, and we don’t know what party the next president will be from, now is a good time to make this rule without seeming partisan. We could even delay it until January of 2017).
Fourth, no more UN conferences except online. I mentioned Skype, right?
And perhaps all those bien pensants might start thinking about the Olympics to be held next year in Rio in severely polluted waters. The Olympic Committee thought that Brazil could get it cleaned up in time for the games, but there is no sign that this will happen.
A new round of testing by The Associated Press shows the city's Olympic waterways are as rife with pathogens far offshore as they are nearer land, where raw sewage flows into them from fetid rivers and storm drains. That means there is no dilution factor in the bay or lagoon where events will take place and no less risk to the health of athletes like sailors competing farther from the shore.That is horrifying and disgusting. And how typical of the Olympic Committee to be more concerned about not offending Brazil than the health and safety of the world's athletes.
"Those virus levels are widespread. It's not just along the shoreline but it's elsewhere in the water, therefore it's going to increase the exposure of the people who come into contact with those waters," said Kristina Mena, an expert in waterborne viruses and an associate professor of public health at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "We're talking about an extreme environment, where the pollution is so high that exposure is imminent and the chance of infection very likely."
In July, the AP reported that its first round of tests showed disease-causing viruses directly linked to human sewage at levels up to 1.7 million times what would be considered highly alarming in the U.S. or Europe. Experts said athletes were competing in the viral equivalent of raw sewage and exposure to dangerous health risks almost certain.
The results sent shockwaves through the global athletic community, with sports officials pledging to do their own viral testing to ensure the waters were safe for competition in next year's games. Those promises took on further urgency in August, after pre-Olympic rowing and sailing events in Rio led to illnesses among athletes nearly double the acceptable limit in the U.S. for swimmers in recreational waters.
Nevertheless, Olympic and World Health Organization officials have flip-flopped on promises to carry out viral testing in the wake of the AP's July report.
Now, the AP's most recent tests since August show not only no improvement in water quality - but that the water is even more widely contaminated than previously known. The number of viruses found over a kilometer from the shore in Guanabara Bay, where sailors compete at high speeds and get utterly drenched, are equal to those found along shorelines closer to sewage sources.
"The levels of viruses are so high in these Brazilian waters that if we saw those levels here in the United States on beaches, officials would likely close those beaches," Mena said.
Ben Domenech reminds us that Obamacare is still very unpopular and could be a dangerous issue for Democrats next year.
Don’t look now, but the president’s signature domestic policy, his namesake health care law, is doing very poorly. It just received its worst news yet, when the nation’s largest insurer, UnitedHealth, broached the possibility that it could exit the health insurance exchange due to its inability to find profits.And this is going to make all the policy proposals by Democrats to expand the federal government even more suspect.
Its losses from participating in the exchange were simply impossible to maintain. If other insurers follow suit, those left behind will likely raise their rates even more.
To make matters worse, insurers are worried that they won’t get an expected taxpayer bailout for their massive losses thanks to a 2014 change to the existing law inserted by Sen. Marco Rubio into the so-called “Cromnibus” spending bill late last year.
The Obama administration is now scrambling to find another way to bail out the insurers, itself an admission that the exchange cannot function without massive amounts of corporate welfare.
At root, the problem stems from the fact that it has turned out to be far more difficult to get young, healthy people to sign up for plans in the exchanges, and the population is therefore older and sicker than insurers had expected and the Obama administration had predicted.
So does Hillary Clinton really have the wherewithal, in an era of such distrust for the government to manage anything right, to make the case for a government-run nationwide single-payer system for all? Does she have the boldness to argue that a government which has thoroughly mismanaged Veterans Affairs and struggled to launch a website will manage health care better for the entire population? That seems a heavy lift for an already challenging election year, especially for a candidate more comfortable playing small ball politically.
There’s one more fact that makes this the stealth issue for 2016: In 2012, the GOP nominated the one Republican in the country incapable of making a clear case against Obamacare. That won’t be making that mistake twice.
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Daniel Henninger looks at how Obama wasted all that desire for "hope and change." We're certainly not seeing it either at home or in our foreign affairs. What happened?
For now, the short version is enough: America and the world failed because they didn’t do what Barack Obama told them to do. For seven years, he has been instructing everyone on the “right thing to do.” If Mr. Obama seems down these days, it is because so many—from John Boehner to Vladimir Putin to the man in the street—persisted in doing the wrong thing.
Iran’s ayatollahs got the Obama message, though, and that deal is the legacy.
The other half of the non-domestic legacy is supposed to be climate change. His appearance in Paris this week was Mr. Obama’s last turn on the big global stage, barring a national crisis. Anyone watching the angular figure of the American president making nonstop pleas at the Paris climate summit this week had to be struck by a sense of what the French would call tristesse, a melancholy, even pathetic sadness.
He alone in Paris seemed to take seriously the notion that the climate windmills can be reset to less than 2 degrees Celsius above “preindustrial levels.” In the last of many public apologies for the U.S., Mr. Obama confessed that his own nation is a grievous “emitter.”
Liberals think the right is gloating at Mr. Obama’s end-of-term difficulties. No one is gloating. The nation is either furious (the right) or depressed (the left) at eight wasted, wheel-spinning years whose main achievement is ObamaCare—a morass.
Mr. Obama will go off to do something else, but he leaves behind a country littered with public and private institutions in disrepute. Whatever the cumulative causes for this, a president bears responsibility for maintaining some bedrock level of respect for institutions that are the necessary machinery of the nation’s daily life.
Instead, Mr. Obama spent much of his presidency vilifying the private sector—banks, insurers, energy producers and utilities.
The public’s low opinion of Congress is well known, but consider: The Pew study reports the favorable rating for the Department of Justice is just 46%. That not half the country respects something called the Justice Department is a travesty.
Mr. Obama has repeatedly mocked institutions he didn’t control and abused the powers of those he did. Almost always, the ridicule and condescension came in front of cheering audiences. It’s hardly a surprise that Donald Trump is exploiting and expanding the loss of public faith. Mr. Obama spent seven years softening up Mr. Trump’s audiences for him.
We may get a third Obama term after all.
Tyler O'Neil at PJ Media uses the analysis and interactive tool from Real Clear Politics that Sean Trende and David Byler put together to project the GOP race for delegates to explain why the race will likely come down to a Cruz-Rubio fight for delegates. O'Neil takes into account the differences between which states will be winner-take-all and which award their delegates proportionately. He projects that Cruz will be seriously in the lead after March 1 and the so-called SEC primary. But Rubio will be able to stage a comeback in the later, Northern states which mostly have winner-take-all rules.
This creates a very interesting breakdown between conservative and liberal states. Conservative states decide first, but do not yield large delegate counts for their candidates. This means that conservatives will decide who wins and loses early on, and early wins and losses usually winnow the field -- encouraging losers to drop out and endorse the winners.And then there are the GOP superdelegates - RNC party officials. Would they back an insurgent candidate like Ted Cruz whom most Republicans in Washington dislike or Marco Rubio, the candidate the Democrats seem most worried about? Who knows how it will all turn out, but I bet that a lot of the general public will be surprised to see the role that rather arcane delegate-selection rules will play in the end.
On the flip side, however, liberal states have a disproportionate influence in the later stages of the primary. Being winner-take-all, they award a winning candidate large amounts of delegates. To win the nomination, 1,236 delegates are needed. It is possible for a liberal candidate who stays in the race until the later stages to suddenly rack up large support from delegates.
The influence of northern states explains why the Republican Party has tended to nominate presidential candidates with a more establishment bend, like John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.