Friday, July 15, 2016

Cruising the Web

How heartbreaking the stories and pictures out of Nice are. I'm so afraid that this is our new normal. I remember in the 1970s when it seemed as if plane hijackings were happening all the time, but eventually airports built security and those became a thing of the past. But if evil people can just find places and times when crowds are gathered for a celebration or a club or a restaurant, how do we stop this? And, if this is indeed an ISIS attack, as they suffer more attacks in the Middle East, they must feel that their best way to maintain their status is to launch attacks elsewhere. As Charles Krauthammer said last night, such attacks serve two purposes,
And the other thing — the conjunction of one other horrible development — which is this terror organization that thrives, glorifies brutality. And what it does for them is the idea that you can terrorize your enemy, and you can recruit the more disturbed and sadistic people in the world who want to follow this into their own distorted promised land.
Add in the possibilities of social media and instantaneous news, they can magnify the power of any attack. I don't know what the answer is. Krauthammer recommends fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them at home, but as long as they can find people willing to die while killing people in other countries, it may not matter how many of them we kill on their home turf.

Think of how lucky we were to get through July Fourth without such an incident. It scares me for the conventions and Olympics. But they don't have to wait for such big events. They can get the publicity they seek by attacking anywhere at anytime.

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I don't know if anyone is excited by the choice of Mike Pence. I think he's a better choice than either Gingrich or Christie who both had too much baggage. I guess Trump decided to balance the ticket by personality - Pence has to be the direct opposite from Trump in demeanor. And that is all to the good.

Being Trump's vice-presidential nominee sounds like an awful job. I hope Pence is ready to spend his time defending and explaining away whenever Trump says or Tweets something that causes a mini brouhaha. Will Trump actually listen to his advice? Who knows? It's not clear that Trump listens to anyone except maybe his family members.

So I'm still a bit surprised that a conventional politician who reportedly has higher ambitions would accept the job. I don't think the conventional wisdom that the VP candidate of a losing nominee is the leading candidate for the following election will hold true for Trump. Maybe I'm just being overly optimistic, but I'm hoping that the GOP will have gotten Trumpism out of its system by 2020 and will be looking for someone untainted by having supported Trump in 2016.

Rich Lowry expresses about what I was thinking on why he picked Pence. Trump needed to do more to solidify Republicans behind him.
I’m not sure Pence makes a lot of sense, except as perhaps the most impressive conventional officeholder who is willing to run with Trump. The pick would signal Trump’s willingness to bend to the desires of the party, at least on this matter. Indeed, Trump-Pence would be the bastard spawn of the Trump-establishment alliance. I wonder how Trump thinks he’s going to deploy Pence. Will Pence be able to build crowds on his own, or will he be a dominant presence in the media? I’m guessing if Trump makes this pick, it is to placate the establishment, help smooth over any potential turbulence at the convention, get credit in some quarters for a safe, responsible choice, and then he will move on and not think much about his running-mate again after next week.

Nate Silver agrees that Pence is Trump's least worst choice. Now that's a ringing endorsement. I don't think Pence will do much to help Trump but Gingrich or Christie might have been an overall negative as a choice. Silver points out that Pence is not well known in the country so it will be a race to see how he gets defined. Given Hillary's money and organization advantage and the slipshod way the Trump campaign has been run so far, this does not augur well for Pence.

With all the anticipatory hoopla about which unlucky individual would end up being Donald Trump's running mate, Michael Barone reminds us that, even though a VP pick won't do much to change the electoral story, a VP still matters when it comes to governing. It all started with Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.
Perhaps familiar with the experience of his mentor Humphrey, Mr. Mondale insisted, as he recalled in a 1981 lecture, on making the vice presidency “a useful instrument of government.” He and Mr. Carter agreed that he would be given high-level intelligence, presidential paperflow, membership in policy groups, an independent staff and permanent access to the president.

This arrangement worked well in large part because of the temperaments of the principals. The president, according to Mr. Mondale, did not feel threatened by a deputy willing to give advice sometimes different from his own views. The vice president was not one to go off the rails either in public statements or by whispering around town.

That relationship carried forward to subsequent administrations. “I believe,” Mr. Mondale wrote in 1981, “the new president and vice president are showing every sign of continuing this tradition and further strengthening the role of the vice president.” The same judgment holds today. Similar access and responsibilities were given to Vice Presidents George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle (if you doubt that, read Bob Woodward’s book on him), Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, as Joel Goldstein’s recent book, “The White House Vice Presidency,” recounts.

What may fairly be called the Carter-Mondale model of the vice presidency has been, on balance, a success. But it depends greatly on the personal rapport between the two officeholders, which means that the selection of vice presidents has become even more undemocratic than it was when party bosses ruled.

Allahpundit comments on the rumors that Trump had reached out to Condi Rice this past week to see if she was interested in being VP to the guy who has basically said that Bush lied us into the stupid Iraq War and who kept deriding the Bushes during the primaries. But Allahpundit has the perfect choice for Trump based on the story that Newt Gingrich traveled to Indiana by hitching a ride on Sean Hannity's plane.
Even before seeing that story, it occurred to me that Hannity, not Newt, would actually be the perfect Trump VP. Trump’s staff wants a guy a la Pence who has conservative cred that Trump can show off to the base. Well, Hannity has that. Trump wants a guy who’ll be comfortable in front of a mic, as the VP will spend most of his time doing media. Hannity’s an old pro. Trump wants a guy who’ll be a yes-man, willing to defend anything that Trump’s brain farts out even if it directly contradicts something he said the day before. That’s pretty much Hannity’s job description already. Trump wants a guy who can be plausibly described as an “outsider” like him. That’s truer of Hannity than it is of Gingrich, Christie, or Pence, notwithstanding his decades of coziness with Republican politicians as part of the conservative media machine. If Trump’s going to let it all hang out and appoint a guy whose main duties are agreeing with everything he says and attacking Democrats relentlessly, why not choose a guy who does that for a living right now? Trump/Hannity is the ticket we deserve. Hopefully Trump thinks so too. What if, “House of Cards” fans, Hannity only thought he was chaperoning Newt to a VP tryout today when in fact Newt was really chaperoning him?
Ooh, Trump/Hannity: hideousness squared.

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Hillary Clinton made the mistake of making fun of Donald Trump for banishing reporters who have criticized him. She forgot about glass house inhabitants.
"Ok, but Hillary hasn't had a press conference for nearly a year," said Newday's John Asbury.

Mediaite's Alex Griswold wrote, "Hillary hasn't given a press conference in seven months. Is there any doubt she would do the same as president?"

"To be fair, at least he acknowledges we exist," quipped the Guardian's Ben Jacobs....

Clinton and her team keep close tabs on reporters at campaign events, regularly exchanging notes about their whereabouts, and she has not held a press conference since December 2015.

Her reluctance to speak with members of the press has become so glaring, in fact, that the Washington Post launched a widget this month to track how many days it has been since her last presser.

A year ago, Clinton campaign staffers wrangled a group of journalists into a roped-off pen during a Fourth of July Parade. This wasn't even a first time for a Clinton....

"Hillary has a perfectly fair and evenhanded policy of banning all press from her press conferences," said Business Insider's Josh Barro. (links in original)

Politico's Eric Geller said, "You haven't held a press conference in like 500 years. You literally corralled reporters to keep them away from you."

"You should talk about this in your next press conference. You know, your first one of 2016," Autonomous' Steve Krakauer said in response to Clinton's remark.

Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is asking the FBI, IRS, and FTC to investigate pay-to-play allegations about the Clinton Foundation.
In the letter, Blackburn suggests the foundation’s international activities are illegal. In its initial filings with the IRS, the foundation said its activities would involve constructing a presidential library, maintaining a historical site with records and engaging in study and research.

“No mention is made of conducting activities outside of the United States, which is one of the codes included in the IRS ‘Application for Recognition of Exemption’ in effect at that time,” the letter says.

The letter also raises questions about the foundation’s dealings with two companies, Laureate International Universities and Uranium One.

The International Youth Fund, whose board members include Laureate’s founder, Douglas Becker, received more than $55 million in grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development while Hillary Clinton was secretary of State, the letter says. Laureate has given between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation and paid Bill Clinton $16.5 million to serve as honorary chairman.

As for Uranium One, Hillary Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was one of several Obama administration officials who approved the sale of uranium to the Russian-operated company, whose chairman also has donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to the letter.
IBD adds to the list of allegations.
As we noted back in May, the Clinton Foundation took in some $100 million in donations from a variety of Gulf sheikhs and billionaires who no doubt expected to reap political benefits from a future Hillary Clinton presidency, with Bill serving not just as first gentleman in the White House but also possibly as bagman. Among donors dumping bags of cash on the Clintons include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Lost in the shuffle is Bill Clinton's special "business partnership" from 2003 to 2008 with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the strongman ruler of Dubai. That deal netted Clinton some $15 million in "guaranteed payments," tax records show. And then there's the $30 million delivered to the Clintons by two Mideast foundations and four billionaire Saudis. For the betterment of humankind, no doubt.

As national security analyst and writer Patrick Poole said in May, "These regimes are buying access. ... There are massive conflicts of interest. It's beyond comprehension."

It took Wall Street financial analyst and investment advisor Charles Ortel -- whom the Sunday Times of London once described as "one of the finest analysts of financial statements on the planet" -- to untangle the mess in a series of ongoing reports. Ortel alleges that contribution disclosures by the foundation often don't fit with what donors' own records say -- big red flag.

"This," Ortel summed up, "is a charity fraud."
Chances are low that the FBI, IRS, or FTC would launch investigations and report back before the election. If they did, I predict the result would be that, while the connections are unfortunate, there is no evidence of a clear quid pro quo so there is no crime. No intent to commit fraud, if you will.

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Peggy Noonan celebrates what we heard this past week from "three good men" talking about race. She's referring to Chief Brown of the Dallas Police Department, one of the surgeons who treated the police gunshot victims in Dallas, Dr. Brian Williams, and Senator Tim Scott, the first black senator from South Carolina, who spoke on the Senate floor this week. Senator Scott, who holds the seat Strom Thurmond once held (my mind always boggles at that fact), was especially powerful as he told the rest of us what it is like to be a black man, even a congressman or senator.

He asked his fellow senators to “recognize that just because you do not feel the pain . . . does not mean it does not exist.” Ignoring the struggles of others “does not make them disappear. It simply leaves you blind and the American family very vulnerable.”

Thursday by phone I asked Mr. Scott what reaction he’d received. Colleagues were “very supportive.” “ Orrin Hatch came in and hugged me,” he laughed. Public reaction was “very positive,” though “a minor percentage” disapproved. “Some people asked me to leave the party. Some people feel, they’re white and have been discriminated against as well. My point is, exactly! All discrimination is bad.” Some blacks, he said, are offended that he is Republican.

“I wanted to uncover my own pain and become vulnerable in hopes that others, who may not have my microphone,” will take heart. “I wanted to validate people and their concerns.”

Much progress has been made, he emphasized: “I don’t want us to be mired in the idea we’re losing ground. We’ve made up so much ground in the past 50 years.” But “there are dark corners that need a little light.”

“The good Lord made me black, and he made me black on purpose,” Mr. Scott said. The country “is at a crossroads. . . . We have a chance to listen and not just talk.”
He was not looking to grind a political ax. He wanted to explain that what you hear about being treated differently because you’re a black man is true. He has felt the “humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than being just yourself.” During one of his six years on Capitol Hill he was stopped by law-enforcement officers seven times. “Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood. . . . I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell—no matter their profession, no matter their income, no matter their disposition in life.”

Last year a policeman stopped him on his way into a congressional office building, wearing his Senate pin on the lapel of his suit. “The officer looked at me with a little attitude and said, ‘The pin I know, you I don’t. Show me your ID.’ ” Was the assumption he was “impersonating a member of Congress, or what?”

That night he got a call from the officer’s supervisor, apologizing. Sen. Scott said it was the third such call he’d received since he entered the Senate in 2013.

Blogging will be sporadic next week as I will be traveling with my daughters. I may just give myself a true vacation by not watching the GOP convention. My daughters don't want to see any of it. I suspect that that is a typical attitude among young people. So we'll enjoy Pennsylvania and New York as we make a circuit going from Gettysburg to Pittsburgh to Niagara Falls to upstate New York and coming back down the Hudson. We're very excited to see parts of America we've never seen before. I've been to Gettysburg about ten times before, but my younger daughter has never been there. As I was reading over our plans, I was getting very excited to go again. If you've never been, I heartily recommend that you go. It's well worth the money to pay to have a park guide come in your car to give you a personal tour. I'm always so impressed with how much the guides know and how they can improvise a tour to cater to whatever most interests you.