Thursday, August 04, 2016

Cruising the Web

While Democrats beat their breasts over Trump's attack on the Khans as somehow an attack on member of the military who died honorably fighting for the country, James Taranto reminds us of a prominent Democrat who publicly criticized honorable American servicemen and has never apologized.
But do you remember John Kerry?

He launched his public career in 1971 by testifying to a series of outrageous slanders against American servicemen. Subsequently he was elected lieutenant governor of, and U.S. senator from, Massachusetts. He was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, when he presented himself as a war hero.

Kerry has never apologized for his calumnies against his fellow Vietnam veterans, which the liberal media played down as he was pursuing the Democratic nomination. When a group of vets eventually called him out on it, Democrats and journalists smeared them.

In 2013 Kerry left the Senate after the president nominated him as secretary of state. If by Obama’s standards Trump is unfit to serve because of his obnoxious comments, how is Kerry fit?
John Kerry's most prominent actions as Secretary of State have been negotiating with Iran - a shameful deal that we just learned was even more shameful: the administration sent off $400 million of cash to Iran on the same day that Iran released the Americans they had illegally taken.
The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.

Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The settlement, which resolved claims before an international tribunal in The Hague, also coincided with the formal implementation that same weekend of the landmark nuclear agreement reached between Tehran, the U.S. and other global powers the summer before.

“With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well,” President Barack Obama said at the White House on Jan. 17—without disclosing the $400 million cash payment.

Senior U.S. officials denied any link between the payment and the prisoner exchange. They say the way the various strands came together simultaneously was coincidental, not the result of any quid pro quo.
Just a coincidence - sure.

Remember that even the administration admits that Iran may very well use some of that money to fund terrorism.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged Wednesday that Iran might be using the secret $400 million payment it received from the United States — the same day the country released four American prisoners — to sponsor terrorist organizations....

Speaking a press briefing, Earnest was asked if the administration knows how Iran has used that “pile of cash.”

“First of all, it’s Iranian money,” he stated. “And I think what is true from all of the money Iran has received since January — including from sanctions relief … the analysis that we’ve done confirms what we predicted.”
This ignores the fact that money is fungible. Even John Kerry, back in January, has admitted this.
Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged to CNBC Thursday that some of the money Iran received in sanctions relief would go to groups considered terrorists.

When asked about whether some the $150 billion in sanctions relief to Iran would go to terrorist groups, Kerry reiterated that, after settling debts, Iran would receive closer to $55 billion. He conceded some of that could go to groups considered terrorists, saying there was nothing the U.S. could do to prevent that.

"I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists," he said in the interview in Davos, referring to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. "You know, to some degree, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented."
Kerry said that on January 21, just four days after they secretly sent of that $400 million to Iran. And Kerry was the one who praised and thanked the Iranians for releasing those Americans knowing full well that their release coincided with the administration secretly sending off a plane full of cash.

Since the Obama administration sent off that money, the Iranians have detained two more Americans and have tested ballistic missiles.

This money will fund terrorist attacks that will kill people. And this administration facilitated those killings by their drive to make a deal with Iran, no matter how bad.

Oh, by the way, this is what the State Department said in September 2015 while trying to win support for the deal, just a few months before this plane of cash was sent off.
When the State Department was pushing for the Iran deal in September 2015, a State official pooh-poohed the idea that Iran would get a "big suitcase full of cash."

"[T]here's a common misperception that on implementation day a big suitcase full of cash shows up in Tehran and all of a sudden they have all this money, which I think is really – does a disservice to what actually is going to happen," said the anonymous official.

Just days before the deal was implemented, State Department spokesman John Kirby remarked that "nobody is handing [Iran] some sort of windfall of cash", though he was specifically addressing sanctions relief and not the arms dispute settlement. Administration officials on a conference call on January 17 also skirted the issue of the cash delivery when describing the timing of the Iran deal, the dispute settlement, and the Americans' release.
"Skirting the issue" is a euphemism for lying to the American people and deceiving Congress.

The WSJ, which first broke this story, is now reporting that officials in the Justice Department objected to this cash payout to Iran.
The timing and manner of the payment raised alarms at the Justice Department, according to those familiar with the discussions. “People knew what it was going to look like, and there was concern the Iranians probably did consider it a ransom payment,’’ said one of the people.

The disclosures reignited a political furor over the Iran deal in Washington that could complicate White House efforts to fortify it before Mr. Obama’s term ends.

Fred Fleitz, author of Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud about the Iran deal, reminds us of all the ways that Iran has been violating the deal and how the Obama administration continues to deceive the public about it.
Contrary to Obama-administration claims, the timeline to an Iranian nuclear bomb will shorten — not lengthen — because of this deal. The agreement also has very weak verification provisions. We also know from a May 5, 2016, New York Times profile of national-security adviser Ben Rhodes that he manipulated journalists by giving them false narratives intended to promote President Obama’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

Last month, the Obama administration celebrated the one-year anniversary of the nuclear deal by claiming that Iran has fully complied with the agreement. There is compelling evidence this is false and that Iran has been engaged in massive cheating. In addition, contrary to assurances by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry that the nuclear agreement would improve U.S.–Iran relations and help bring Iran into the community of nations, Iran’s behavior has worsened and our relationship with the mullahs has weakened since the nuclear deal was announced.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials are complaining that the nuclear deal has not been generous enough to Iran. Further, the White House has been so active in encouraging U.S. and international firms to do business in Iran that leading members of Congress have accused the Obama administration of being Iran’s global “lobbying shop.”

The WSJ editorializes to explain what exactly the Obama administration was doing as they paid cash for hostages.
On the day the U.S. hostages came home from Iran, an unmarked cargo plane landed in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport with cash amounting to $400 million of euros, Swiss francs and other currencies. U.S. law forbids direct dollar transactions with Iran, and the $400 million in cash wasn’t disclosed to Congress. Justice Department officials objected but were overruled.

One reason the Administration is keen to deny that the cash was ransom is because it had already paid a high price by freeing seven Iranians charged or convicted of U.S. crimes and dropping extradition requests for 14 others. But the Iranians weren’t satisfied.

As the Journal reports, “U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible.” Cash is an excellent way to pay terrorists, fund Hezbollah in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen, and buy dual-use, nuclear-related hardware—which Iran continues to do, according to reports from Germany’s intelligence services.

The Administration is pretending this money is being used for strictly kosher purposes. “The revenue that’s flowing to Iran is being used to support its currency, to provide moneys to the departments and agencies, build up its infrastructure,” CIA Director John Brennan said last week. Has he heard the word fungible?

The Iranians are less shy about their hostage taking. Iran’s negotiating team for the settlement payment “was largely staffed by members of its domestic spy service,” the Journal reports. Iranian defense officials told the press the cash was “a ransom payment.”

Oh, and Iran has taken three more Americans hostage and insists that the U.S. owes $2 billion in assets frozen in 2009 to pay the victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei this week complained that the U.S. isn’t living up to the nuclear bargain and Iranians hadn’t seen anything “tangible.” The Ayatollah is clearly angling for additional payments for these new hostages. Iran also knows it can threaten to walk away from the nuclear deal if its new cash demands aren’t met.
Remember when the Democrats were outraged about the Iran-Contra scandal, which was at its heart a deal to pay Iran to free American hostages who had been held for around seven years by Hezbollah in Lebanon. Let's see how many Democrats today support Obama's paying cash for hostages when we all know that that money is going to go to fund more terrorism and that the Iranians are going to take more hostages. What does Hillary think of Obama's actions? Will she forthrightly condemn them or will her weaseling encourage more hostage-taking?

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Trump should take Giuliani up his offer and advice, but that would make too much sense.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is calling for Donald Trump to focus solely on criticisms of Hillary Clinton, and has volunteered himself to take care of Trump’s proverbial light work. Giuliani made his case Tuesday to the hosts of Fox News’ Fox and Friends.

Giuliani said there’s “a big difference between what Donald Trump did and what Hillary Clinton did” when Trump chose to question Ghazala Khan’s silence at the DNC convention where Khan’s husband, Khizr Khan did all the talking and openly criticized Trump’s planned immigration policy to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the United States.

Many have wondered whether or not Trump seriously damaged his chances for victory in November’s election when he chose to go after the Khans, a Gold Star American family of a fallen U.S. serviceman.

Giuliani implied it’s one thing to react when being attacked, it’s an entirely different story when you are “lying directly to Gold Star mothers,” he said when Clinton reportedly told families of the four Americans who died in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that a video incited the deadly attack and thus “lied directly about the cause of death when we have a telephone call demonstrating that she knew what the truth was.”

The former mayor of New York City offered advice to the Republican presidential nominee.

“You have one person to attack, Hillary Clinton…let all of us, myself, Gingrich, Christie, this whole army, let us attack everybody else.” Giuliani said. “That’s always been my rule in politics, which is you’re running against one person, don’t run against the world.”

Giuliani also advised Trump to let the surrogates for Clinton, which the Fox News anchors suggested were attempting to make Trump look unstable, let them all be “yesterday’s news.”

“He’s not running against Buffet … Bloomberg … (or) Cuban. You (Trump) just go after Hillary.”

One of the smartest analysts of political numbers, Michael Barone, has some thoughts on turnout in this year's election.
And it’s plausible as well that many of these people will simply not vote. Voter turnout surged enormously during the Bush presidency, from 105 million in 2000 to 131 million in 2008. But contrary to popular impression, it has sagged perceptibly during the Obama presidency, in both the 2012 presidential election (from 131 million to 129 million) and the 2014 House contests (from 86 million in 2010 to 79 million). In a nation closely divided between two partisan blocs, differences in turnout can produce differences in results. Democrats hope that voters antagonized by Trump will turn out in large numbers, but there is little history in presidential elections of high turnout motivated by negative feelings toward a candidate. Trump backers hope that voters energized by Trump’s unorthodox messages will turn out in great numbers, noting that Republican primary turnout in 2016 surged far ahead of 2008 and 2012 levels while Democratic primary turnout lagged behind that of 2008. But the evidence suggests that Trump’s specific appeal was responsible for less than half the increased primary turnout.

Both parties face difficulty in maximizing turnout for their sides. Trump won the Republican nomination without any large organization and in the weeks running up to the national conventions did little to assemble one, apparently intending to rely on Republican National Committee efforts. The Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party appeared to have a much more effective turnout apparatus, and one that delivered victory in 2012. But even then Barack Obama received 3.5 million fewer votes than he had four years before.

The Clinton camp is likely to have difficulty matching the 2008 Obama campaign’s success in mobilizing support from young voters. The exit poll that year showed Obama leading John McCain by 66 to 32 percent among those under thirty; his popular-vote margin among that age group amounted to 7 percent of the total electorate, identical to his overall popular-vote margin. In the 2014 House election, in contrast, the Democratic margin among young voters was 54 to 43 percent and, with lower turnout, amounted to only 1.5 percent of the total electorate. Young people tend to move frequently, have few community ties, and be less interested in politics and government than older people. Clinton’s weak showing among young voters in the primaries suggests they lack enthusiasm for her despite their evident distaste for Trump.

The Trump camp is likely to have difficulty maximizing turnout as well. His strongest support in primaries came from those with low social connectedness, who are presumably hard to contact and mobilize. For all his success in the primaries, he had won just 42 percent of Republican primary and caucus voters when he clinched the nomination in the Indiana primary on May 3.

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This is how much the Democrats care about Zika. They'd rather have an issue that they could pretend was the Republicans' fault than actually do something.
To wit, the Obama Administration that is sitting on money and methods to reduce the Zika outbreak is using the virus as a political bludgeon to elect more Democrats....

The White House that is responsible for public health is trying to blame Congress while ducking its own failures. “The keys here are sitting with Congress, and they have to turn them to unleash more federal funding,” White House press secretary Eric Schultz said Friday.

He should talk to Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer because Senate Democrats blocked Zika funding. The Administration in February requested $1.9 billion for Zika research, education and prevention. Last month the Senate and House agreed to a $1.1 billion compromise that was offset by $543 million in leftover ObamaCare funds when Puerto Rico chose to expand Medicaid rather than set up exchanges. The bill also temporarily waived duplicative permitting requirements for anti-mosquito pesticides.

But Senate Democrats blocked the conference report, inventing the excuse that the bill banned funding for Planned Parenthood, restricted access to birth control and gutted the Clean Water Act. None of this is true. Planned Parenthood wasn’t specifically identified on a list of public health clinics and community health centers eligible for funding, but it also wasn’t barred from receiving federal funds as a sub-grantee.

Even with Congress on vacation, the Administration currently has $385 million in reprogrammed Ebola funds at its disposal. Only about half of that has been obligated, which Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Hall attributes to bureaucratic federal procurement regulations. Yet the Administration continues to insist it needs more money even though it can’t spend the money it has fast enough.

President Obama is fond of executive action, yet in this case he hasn’t taken lawful steps on his own to arrest Zika’s spread. For example, the Food and Drug Administration could expedite the approval of a genetically engineered male mosquito pioneered by the British company Oxitec. Due to a mutation, the mosquito and its offspring die before reaching maturity, substantially shrinking the infectious population in a few months.

Trials in Brazil, the Cayman Islands and Panama have shown a 90% reduction in the mosquito population within six to nine months, and the World Health Organization has endorsed Oxitec’s strategy. The FDA accepted Oxitec’s application for a field trial in the Florida Keys five years ago, without notable action.

Despite the FDA’s finding in March that the modified mosquito posed “no significant impact” to the environment, the company hasn’t received clearance to conduct tests. Environmental activists have stirred up opposition in the Florida Keys that appears to have scared the federal bureaucracy. How about getting your government moving, Mr. President, instead of passing the buck to Congress?
I thought that Mr. Obama had a pen that he was going to use whenever he didn't think that Congress was acting expeditiously enough for him. Apparently not when the health of Americans is at issue.

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When Trump first hired Paul Manafort, critics pointed to Manafort's history of working for the Putin-supported Ukrainian president who was deposed by the Ukrainian people. And Manafort has, apparently, been successful in changing Trump's mind on Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Donald Trump sounded like a supporter of Ukraine's territorial integrity last September, when he spoke by video feed to a gathering of political and business elites in Kiev.

“Our president is not strong and he is not doing what he should be doing for the Ukraine,” Trump told he group of pro-Western businessmen, diplomats and politicians. “I don’t think you’re getting the support you need."

That view was in line with other statements Trump has made calling for a firmer Western response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's March 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for a pro-Russian separatist movement in the country’s east, according to a review of Trump's public comments about Ukraine since 2014.
In recent days, however, Trump has struck a far milder tone. He now says he might recognize Crimea as Russian territory and lift punitive U.S. sanctions against Russia. The alternative, he warned on Monday, could be World War III.

While the reason for his shift is not clear, Trump's more conciliatory words — which contradict his own party's official platform — follow his recent association with several people sympathetic to Russian influence in Ukraine. They include his campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has worked for Ukraine's deposed pro-Russian president, his foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and the former secretary of state and national security adviser Henry Kissinger.

In the days after Putin annexed Crimea in mid-March 2014, for instance, Trump expressed strong opposition to the move. Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show on March 13, he said that the land grab — which Obama and top European leaders denounced as a gross violation of international law — “should never have happened.”

While criticizing Trump on Putin and Ukraine, let us not forget how disastrous the Obama administration's policies on Russia have been.
The Obama administration prided itself on believing every other country would see the light of Barack Obama’s halo in 2008 and change their ways, especially Russia. Upon assuming office, they offered Russia a diplomatic “reset,” because why not?

After paring down our alliances in Eastern Europe and our leading role in NATO with several measures aimed at appeasing Vlad the Putin (a policy Obama is finally reversing), Obama was caught on hot mic telling Putin’s fluffer Dimitri Medvedev that he’d have “more flexibility” to negotiate after the 2012 election.

Then came everyone on the Left’s favorite moment of the 2012 presidential debates, when Obama hit opponent Mitt Romney with that siiiiiick burn about getting his foreign policy from the 1980s when Romney dared to suggest Russia was our primary geopolitical foe. Obama’s “burn” and the media’s rush to laud it was confirmation for many and a harbinger for some that the majority of the Left had no idea what the word “geopolitical” meant and that an unchecked Russia was beginning to destabilize the present world order.

Obama’s reelection was soon followed by an arbitrary red line in Syria that left a power vacuum in the Middle East Russia was thrilled to fill, and by Russia’s not-so-peaceful takeover of pieces of Ukraine. Never mind that a Russian missile system brought down a passenger jet carrying 283 souls, either, this was all just a small glitch in the Pax Obama Matrix. Somewhere in there, Oliver Stone’s latest hero “fled” to Russia after selling out the American intelligence community. It was merely a coincidence that Moscow is where Edward Snowden landed, and Moscow has reaped the most benefits from his betrayal.

Throughout the last four years, the vast majority of the Left and their friends in the media have downplayed the growing threat posed by Russia and Obama’s feckless foreign policy as a whole. Why? Well, you don’t want to talk foreign policy and its failures when Obama’s one-time chief Pantsuited diplomat is running for his third term. But there is one way the Left can finally call Russia a threat to America, and that is if they find out the Russians are responsible for an attack on—wait for it—the Democratic Party!

Yes, now that our government has identified Russia as responsible for the cyber-attacks against the DNC, Russia is being recognized for the actual geopolitical foe Romney called them. While they carved up Ukraine, sheltered Snowden, destroyed any semblance of a Russian free press, exploited a Syrian civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, incited a refugee crisis that is pushing the European Union to its limits, and flexed their thuggish muscles wherever and whenever possible, it was not until they threatened the election of America’s first Pantsuit that Russia finally became a geopolitical foe in the eyes of America’s Left.

While Trump is no foe of Russia, such a naked example of hypocrisy (and there are plenty more beyond Obama’s Russian mismanagement) likely motivates many of his voters. Yet in that motivation lies more hypocrisy—you cannot be enraged at Obama’s handling of Russia, then turn around and vote for Trump, who has endorsed their cyber-espionage, praised Putin and his ilk, and even shared advisors with him.

Charles C.W. Cooke explores the luck of the Clintons. Bill Clinton benefited by weak opposition in the 1992 primaries to get the nomination and then by Perot's presence on the ballot. And then he took office at a particularly fortunate moment in US history.
In office, Clinton’s fairy godmother continued to visit him as a matter of course. Through no great skill of his own, Clinton took the reins at the precise moment at which the economy began to recover, when the hitherto-silent tech boom sprung happily into public view, and at which the international order — which, for decades, had been polluted by a grinding cold war — settled down enough to accommodate the promise of a “peace dividend.” An old saw holds that Barry Goldwater won the 1964 election but took office in 1981 under a different name. An updated version might contend that the supply-side reforms and deregulatory efforts that began under Jimmy Carter and accelerated under presidents Reagan and Bush found their most obvious expression while Bill Clinton sat in the White House. For declining to interfere too heavily in the 1990s boom, both President Clinton and the Republican Congress deserve some credit. But they do not necessarily deserve the plaudits of authorship. Of all the factors that contributed to Clinton’s perceived success, being in the right place at the right time was perhaps the most crucial.

If 1992 served as a comedy of serendipities for the Clintons, 1996 and 1998 hinted at Providence itself. In ’96, the Republican party nominated Bob Dole as its presidential candidate, and then proceeded to split down the middle having done so. In 1998, a year that should have been infamous for Clinton, the GOP disastrously overplayed its hand and thereby managed to turn a story about the president’s arrogance, mendacity, and adulterousness into a distressing tale of tone-deafness and overreach. As ever, Clinton was lucky in his foes and fortunate to have inherited a prosperous backdrop against which the notion of impeachment held limited luster. How could a commander-in-chief survive a sex scandal and a perjury charge? Ken Starr and 4 percent growth, that’s how.
Now Hillary is also benefiting from undeserved luck. Her only opposition in the primaries was a septuagenarian socialist. And then the GOP underwent self-immolation in nominating a candidate just as loathsome as she is.
That Clinton remains the favorite in November is, when one stops to reflect for a moment, nothing short of extraordinary. Damaged by scandal, suspected of methodical dishonesty, loathed by much of the country, and charged with seeking the third term of a divisive president whose performance has been mediocre at best, Clinton remains viable only because the opposing party has accorded her the opportunity to utter a magical, life-restoring phrase: “I am not Donald Trump.”

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Ah, if only this could happen. I wouldn't care how the RNC decided on another candidate.
Senior officials in the Republican Party are reportedly preparing a contingency plan in case Donald Trump decides to drop out of the presidential race.

ABC's Jon Karl reported on "Good Morning America" today that top GOP officials are in a state of panic as it becomes increasingly clear that Trump's promised presidential pivot is not going to happen.

"This is absolutely unprecedented," Karl told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "First of all, I am told that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is furious -- that he has had multiple discussions with Trump telling him that he needs to drastically change course."

He continued, "I am told senior officials at the party are actively exploring what would happen if Trump dropped out and how to replace him on the ballot....They can't force him out -- he would have to go out voluntarily."

Karl explained that the 168 members of the RNC would then -- through a very complicated process -- pick a new candidate and that it would have to happen by early September.
But I don't think there is any possibility of Trump dropping out. It doesn't seem to be in his nature. After all, this is the guy who is in full attack mode if anyone says anything against him. He'd be more likely to turn his entire campaign into an attack on the RNC.

So this is my feeling about this year's election.