Friday, February 19, 2016

Cruising the Web

Jonah Goldberg is exactly right that we have a lot more foreign policy problems that we should be talking about today than whether it was a mistake or not to attack Iraq in 2003.
But ISIS is just one of our problems. Obama’s own director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that we now face “the most diverse array of challenges and threats that I can recall.”

By no means is it all Obama’s fault. Saudi Arabia’s problems, for instance, are a poisonous mix of religious extremism and medieval political arrangements temporarily sustained by an ultimately unsustainable economic model. Similarly, Vladimir Putin has had his eyes on restoring the grandeur of imperial Russia for decades. China’s burgeoning nationalism has been baked into the political and demographic cake for even longer.

But these and other challenges have all been made worse on Obama’s watch. Russia seized Crimea and declared an unofficial war on Ukraine. China has only grown emboldened in the face of American lassitude. Just this week, China deployed new missile systems to one of its manmade islands in a disputed region of the South China Sea while Obama was holding his South Asia summit in California. The insult was not subtle.

Obama’s Iran deal, crafted unilaterally as an end-run around Congress, has started a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race and caused our longstanding allies in the region to question our reliability. To date, there’s no evidence that Iran has abandoned its role as a terrorism sponsor, its quest for nuclear weapons, or its goal of becoming a regional hegemon.

Before that, Obama’s decision to renege on our missile-defense commitments to our Eastern European allies sent a similar signal to friends and foes alike.

We can debate how much blame Obama deserves for Syria’s civil war, but almost no one outside his paid staff disputes that he’s only made things worse. The conflict there has set off the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the end of World War II — that’s John Kerry’s own assessment — which may yet tear the European Union asunder.

The instability closer to the fighting is even more dangerous. Russia and Turkey may soon go to war with one another, as Russia mercilessly and indiscriminately massacres anyone standing in the way of its pet, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The Jordanian monarchy may crumble, in part for a lack of assistance from the United States.

And yet, the gravity of the situation has yet to enter into the presidential contest in a serious way. As a co-author of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy, Hillary Clinton has no interest in calling attention to the global catastrophes unfolding around us. Bernie Sanders doesn’t want to talk about anything he can’t blame on billionaires, and Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about anything other than his poll numbers, his insults, and the fraudulent claim that he predicted all of this before Bush launched the war in Iraq.

It’s time to take these things seriously, before it’s too late.
It's amazing how little such foreign policy problems get debated on the Democratic side. And as long as we're having debates where the candidates just get 60-second answers, we're not going to hear much beyond slogans on the GOP side. And mostly what we get are accusations thrown back and forth. It really is discouraging.

Charles Krauthammer refutes the idea that either the Republicans or Democrats are running on principle as they take positions on whether or not to confirm an Obama nominee to replace Justice Scalia. We all know that, if the show were on the other foot, they'd each be arguing the opposite side, just as Democrats did when George W. Bush was president.
It’s hard to swallow demands for deference from a party that for seven years has cheered Obama’s serial constitutional depredations: his rewriting the immigration laws by executive order (stayed by the courts); his reordering the energy economy by regulation (stayed by the courts); his enacting the nuclear deal with Iran, the most important treaty of this generation, without the required two-thirds of the Senate (by declaring it an executive agreement).

Minority Leader Harry Reid complains about the Senate violating precedent if it refuses a lame-duck nominee. This is rich. It is Reid who just two years ago overthrew all precedent by abolishing the filibuster for most judicial and high executive appointments. In the name of what grand constitutional principle did Reid resort to a parliamentary maneuver so precedent-shattering that it was called “the nuclear option”? None. He did it in order to pack the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia with liberals who would reliably deflect challenges to Obamacare.

On Tuesday, Obama loftily called upon Congress to rise above ideology and partisanship in approving his nominee. When asked how he could square that with his 2006 support of a filibuster to stop the appointment of Samuel Alito, Obama replied with a four-minute word-salad signifying nothing. There is no answer. It was situational constitutional principle, i.e., transparent hypocrisy.

As I said, this is all about raw power. When the Democrats had it, they used it. The Republicans are today wholly justified in saying they will not allow this outgoing president to overturn the balance of the Supreme Court. The matter should be decided by the coming election. Does anyone doubt that Democrats would be saying exactly that if the circumstances were reversed?
As Krauthammer explains, this is the moment for the Senate Republicans to redeem themselves from all the opprobrium that conservatives have cast their way. And they have the advantage because of how the Constitution gives the Senate the last say on a nominee. That reverses the standard pattern which gives a president the last say on a bill.
If McConnell succeeds, he will have resoundingly answered the “what did we get for 2014?” question. Imagine if the Senate were now in Democratic hands. What we got in 2014 was the power to hold on to Scalia’s seat and to the Court’s conservative majority.

But only for now. Blocking an Obama nominee buys just a year. The final outcome depends on November 2016. If the GOP nominates an unelectable or unconservative candidate, a McConnell victory will be nothing more than a stay of execution.

In 2012, Scalia averred that he would not retire until there was a more ideologically congenial president in the White House. “I would not like to be replaced,” he explained, “by someone who immediately sets about undoing everything that I’ve tried to do for 25 years.”

Scalia never got to choose the timing of his leaving office. Those who value the legacy of those now-30 years will determine whether his last wish will be vindicated. Let McConnell do his thing. Then in November it’s for us to win one for Nino.
I can only wish that it will be so. Right now, I am very discouraged that we won't be able to win one for Nino. But we should all remember that goal.

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Bernard Goldberg wonders if Donald Trump really might have considered running as a Democrat instead of as a Republican, but decided to run as a Republican because that gave him a better chance to win the nomination. Back then in June, he might have figured that Hillary would have the Democratic nomination wrapped up, but would still be a weakened candidate so he would be better off running to take her on even though he was ideologically more comfortable in the Democratic Party. And the irony is that he can maintain a lot of those beliefs and still lead the Republican field.
But in spite of his decision to run as a Republican, Trump would have been right at home running as a Democrat. He thinks (as I’ve written in this space) that Bush “lied” about getting us into a war in Iraq. That’s what and Code Pink believe.

He thinks eminent domain is “wonderful” – and not only when the government confiscates private property to build a road or a school or a hospital. He thinks it’s great even when big government takes somebody’s house in order to build a factory, or a resort, or even a limo parking lot for gamblers at Trump’s casino in Atlantic City.

He says he’s against ObamaCare but in favor of universal health care paid for by the government. As recently as last September he told 60 Minutes, “I’m going to take care of everybody.” And when he was asked how he would pay for taking care of everybody, he said: “The government’s going to take care of it.” Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the socialist, would be fine with that.

And before he got into the race he sounded more like Rosie O’Donnell than William F. Buckley.

In 1999, he said the GOP was “just too crazy” so he joined the Reform Party.

In 2000, he let everyone know just how he felt about guns. “I hate the concept of guns,” he said.

In 2004, he came right out and said it: “I identify more as a Democrat.”

In 2007 he said that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified person to make a nuclear deal with Iran.

A year later he said he was “impressed” with Nancy Pelosi and backed the idea of impeaching then president George Bush.

But, yes, people evolve, so it’s possible that Donald Trump woke up one morning in his penthouse apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York and had a come to Reagan moment and decided that conservative values made more sense than liberal values.

But who are we kidding: It’s possible only in the way that anything is possible – like going to Mars next Tuesday for doughnuts and coffee is kind of possible.

I’m not cynical, but if you ask me it was something else that turned Donald Trump to the right – on guns, on abortion, and the rest. I think it was good old-fashioned opportunism. And it was easy for Trump. He’s not an ideologue. More than anything else, he’s a practical businessman. His motto might as well be: I’m for whatever works – as long as it works for ME!

At any other time, voters would see Donald Trump for what he is, which as a friend of mine puts it is, “At best a phony untrustworthy ally and more likely an antagonist to most things they claim to hold dear.”
It's just business. The Republican Party can consider this a hostile takeover. And as long as the opposition to Trump is divided among five other candidates, he can win. And I don't see anyone saying that, for the good of the anti-Trump effort, that he will drop out of the race. Even if 30% or so support Trump, there is about 70% who don't. But in a six-person race, a 30% plurality can win.

So back in 2002 Donald Trump, in one of his regular appearances on Howard Stern, said he supported invading Iraq.
For months, Donald Trump has claimed that he opposed the Iraq War before the invasion began — as an example of his great judgment on foreign policy issues.

But in a 2002 interview with Howard Stern, Donald Trump said he supported an Iraq invasion.

In the interview, which took place on Sept. 11, 2002, Stern asked Trump directly if he was for invading Iraq.

“Yeah I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
Trump has repeatedly claimed that he was against the Iraq War before it began, despite no evidence of him publicly stating this position. On Meet the Press, Trump said there weren’t many articles about his opposition because he wasn’t a politician at the time.
Just another lie to add to the long list of his other lies. Kevin Williamson points out his habitual lies about whether or not he has ever gone bankrupt. He tries to differentiate between declaring personal bankruptcy from having one of his businesses go bankrupt.
Trump proudly insists that he never has had recourse to Chapter 13, the personal bankruptcy code. This is his apparent justification for saying that he’s never been bankrupt. But of course one of the purposes of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is to keep men such as Donald Trump out of Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Williamson summarizes how he first went bankrupt with the failure of Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Then he made the same mistakes with NYC's Plaza Hotel. Then Trump Entertainment Resorts went bankrupt. The pattern continues. His Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts went bankrupt.
Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts was reorganized as Trump Entertainment Resorts . . . which promptly went bankrupt, filing for Chapter 11 protection in 2009. (That’s right: Trump, who wants to be president of these United States, was in bankruptcy that recently.) Too much debt at an interest rate that he couldn’t afford to pay? Check. Loss of ownership? Check. Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, both resigned from the board just before the bankruptcy filing, inviting unkind rodential-nautical metaphors.

It is no wonder that he’s had his greatest success renting his name to Macy’s and pretending to run a business on television rather than actually running a business.

So, those are the bankruptcies about which Donald Trump is lying. Trump also is lying about self-funding his campaign: Like any other politician, most of his money comes from donors. That famous fund-raising for veterans? The money is going into Trump’s personal foundation.

Trump has repeatedly failed his business partners and lied about it. He has lied about self-funding his campaign. He has lied to his wives and his family. Given that he received a low-risk draft status because of a health condition that he does not have, he almost certainly lied to the military he seeks to command.

The thing about habitual liars is, they lie habitually.

If you’re voting for Trump because you think he’s a straight shooter, you’re a bigger sucker than those chumps losing money on both sides of the table in Atlantic City.

Some of those veterans' groups that the Donald said would benefit from the charity event he held in place of attending the Iowa FOX debate are still waiting. Yup, he's a guy who just loves veterans and can get things done for them. Sure.

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Hillary has been able to get her friends in the media to run soft stories about Hillary the woman and grandmother. But it doesn't seem to have helped her with women voters.

One thing that is apparent is that the media are on to Clintonian parsing of words and sometimes won't let her get away with it. So we have this exchange between Hillary and CBS's Scott Pelley in which she can't give a straight answer to what should have been a straightforward question.
Pelley, the host of CBS Evening News, mentioned former President Jimmy Carter's famous promise that he would never lie to the country, then paused for Clinton's response.

"I have tried in every way I know how literally from my young lawyer years to time as secretary of state to level with the American people," Clinton said in the interview that aired Thursday night.

The journalist followed up by asking the Democratic front-runner if she had always told the truth to Americans.

Clinton replied, "I've always tried to, always, always."

A visibly frustrated Pelley doubled down, telling Clinton again that Carter did not say he'd always tried, but promised he would never lie. He asked Clinton if by not being specific she was giving herself "wiggle room."

"You're asking me to say I have never, I don't believe I ever have. I don't believe I ever will. I'm going to do the best I can to level with the American people," Hillary said, conclusively.
Sounds like a Clintonian waffle to me.

Maybe Soctt Pelley can ask him if he's ever lied to the American people and we can see if he has a more coherent answer than Hillary. But we should all recognize the truth about Donald Trump and honesty.

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Ted Cruz is also not being honest when he denies attacking his colleagues in the Senate. When he was asked on Wednesday's CNN town hall about his attacks on his fellow senators, he denied attacking them.
n his answer, Cruz explained, "it's not that I speak with a lack of civility or respect, I mean you have seen in the presidential campaign as other people insult me, impugn my integrity, I don't respond in kind. The Bible talks about if someone treats you unkindly, repay them with kindness. It's like heaping coals on the top of their head. That has been the standard I have tried to follow, that's how I have approached it in the Senate. So, I have not attacked or insulted my colleagues in the senate, Democrat or Republican. even if I disagree with them on the issues."

Cruz went on to say that people say he's unlikeable because he honors "the commitments that I made to the women and men who elected me."
Please. We're not stupid. We all should remember that that was how he made his way to national attention in the Senate.
However, Cruz has not only attacked his colleagues, but his attacks have helped him gain support of those disenchanted with the Republican establishment.

Last July, Cruz called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar. "What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what he told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again, was a simple lie." In October, he also called McConnell, "the most effective Democratic leader in modern times."

His attacks on his colleagues have helped build his image as an insurgent who stands up to Washington—a status of which he is proud.

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Legal Insurrection links to this very nice tribute that Stephen Colbert paid to Justice Scalia.

I can tell you one thing I don't care one bit about - whether or not President Obama skips Justice Scalia's funeral. Or if he plays golf instead. We know that Obama despised everything that Scalia stood for. Going as a moment of respect for the third branch of government and as a pretense of bipartisanship wouldn't change that one iota. We know who Obama is and we know who Scalia was. One was classy and one...isn't. The President's decision to attend or not attend wouldn't change anything.

Sadly and inexcusably, the disorder at VA hospitals continues.
Nearly three dozen whistleblowers have come forward saying the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati is in a state of disorder. They say veterans are not getting the care they need in the backyard of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, the former chief executive of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co.

Since October, a team of Scripps reporters has been talking to a group of 34 current and former medical center staff members. The group, including 18 doctors from several departments, sent an unsigned letter to McDonald in September describing "urgent concerns about quality of care" at the facility, which serves more than 40,000 area veterans. They allege a pattern of cost cutting that forced out experienced surgeons, reduced access to care and put patients in harm's way.

Here's the behind-the-scenes story of how the infamous Daisy ad that LBJ used in 1964 to imply that not voting for him would end in a nuclear war that would kill innocent young children who couldn't count daily petals correctly.

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