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Friday, May 22, 2015

Cruising the Web

Well, all right then. The President doesn't think we're losing in the struggle against ISIS. In fact, losing Ramadi is just a setback in what President Obama says he's always thought would be "a multiyear campaign." While Obama isn't worried, the Islamic State is moving successfully across the region. As the WSJ writes,
Meanwhile, back on Planet Middle East, an opposition monitoring group estimates that after taking Palmyra Islamic State now controls about half of Syria, including most of its oil fields. The West is fretting about Palmyra because of its 2,000-year-old cultural treasures, and rightly so.

But of more immediate importance is that Palmyra is the first major city that Islamic State has captured from Syrian government troops, as opposed to other rebel groups. The would-be caliphate is consolidating its base in Syria even as it expands its reach in Iraq. In September Mr. Obama vowed to “degrade” and “destroy” ISIS, but the jihadists are doing most of the destroying.

It’s also worth mulling over Mr. Obama’s claim that he always “anticipated” this would be “a multiyear campaign.” This is the same President who criticized George W. Bush for conducting endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan and vowing to end it in both places. The Iraqi city of Mosul fell last June, Mr. Obama laid out his anti-ISIS strategy in September, and eight months later he promises years of more American commitment to Iraq.

At least Mr. Bush, for all his mistakes after the fall of Saddam Hussein, ordered a change of strategy that left Iraq stable by the time Mr. Obama took office. On present trend Mr. Obama’s Cool Hand Luke generalship will leave his successor an Iraq in turmoil and a mini-caliphate entrenched across hundreds of miles. If this isn’t “losing,” how does the President define victory?

Charles Krauthammer sets up the question that the media should be asking today instead of, if we'd known what we know now, would you support the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The fact is that by the end of Bush’s tenure the war had been won. You can argue that the price of that victory was too high. Fine. We can debate that until the end of time. But what is not debatable is that it was a victory. Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” This was, said the president, a “moment of success.”

Which Obama proceeded to fully squander. With the 2012 election approaching, he chose to liquidate our military presence in Iraq. We didn’t just withdraw our forces. We abandoned, destroyed or turned over our equipment, stores, installations and bases. We surrendered our most valuable strategic assets, such as control of Iraqi airspace, soon to become the indispensable conduit for Iran to supply and sustain the Assad regime in Syria and cement its influence all the way to the Mediterranean. And, most relevant to the fall of Ramadi, we abandoned the vast intelligence network we had so painstakingly constructed in Anbar province, without which our current patchwork operations there are largely blind and correspondingly feeble.

The current collapse was not predetermined in 2003 but in 2011. Isn’t that what should be asked of Hillary Clinton? We know you think the invasion of 2003 was a mistake. But what about the abandonment of 2011? Was that not a mistake?

Mme. Secretary: When you arrived at State, al-Qaeda in Iraq had been crushed and expelled from Anbar. The Iraqi government had from Basra to Sadr City fought and defeated the radical, Iranian-proxy Shiite militias. Yet today these militias are back, once again dominating Baghdad. On your watch, we gave up our position as the dominant influence over a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” — forfeiting that position gratuitously to Iran. Was that not a mistake? And where were you when it was made?

Iraq is now a battlefield between the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State and the Shiite jihadists of Iran’s Islamic Republic. There is no viable center. We abandoned it. The Obama administration’s unilateral pullout created a vacuum for the entry of the worst of the worst.

And the damage was self-inflicted. The current situation in Iraq, says David Petraeus, “is tragic foremost because it didn’t have to turn out this way. The hard-earned progress of the surge was sustained for over three years.”

Do the math. That’s 2009 through 2011, the first three Obama years. And then came the unraveling. When? The last U.S. troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011.

Want to do retrospective hypotheticals? Start there.

Steve Huntley ponders the same hypothetical question that Charles Krauthammer has posed.
Democrats might start viewing such “knowing what you know now” inquiries as hypothetical questions, mental exercises based on 20-20 hindsight and arrogantly dismissive of conditions existing at the time the original decisions had to be made. Democrats might also begin to see them as “gotcha questions” — designed to elicit a potentially embarrassing answer — as some GOP presidential contenders see the Iraq question. Those Republicans have a point in that none of the declared presidential contestants, including Jeb Bush, had anything to do with President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq.

Bush, given his name and family relationship, has no choice but to expect questions arising out of his brother’s White House years. It’s also possible to argue that the questions have relevance because he picked for his foreign policy team some of the same advisers who worked for President Bush and advocated the Iraq invasion.

By the same token Clinton can’t escape such questions, and with more reason. She served as secretary of state for President Barack Obama, was a leading voice on foreign affairs, and advocated many of the positions embodied in the questions above.

It’s also worth remembering that Clinton, as a member of the U.S. Senate, voted to authorize military action against Iraq. She now calls that vote a “mistake.” Would she admit to other mistakes?

No doubt it would be politically problematical for Clinton to try to distance herself from the foreign policy of the president she served.

But the ISIS crisis, Russia’s interference in Ukraine, the festering Libya dilemma, the loss of U.S. credibility in the Middle East and other of today’s headaches are the result of decisions made when Clinton served in the Obama administration.

She is, in effect, running for president on the premise that she is the best person to clean up the foreign policy mess that she is in no small measure responsible for.

“Knowing what you know now” might be the wrong way to approach these issues, but they without doubt pose questions that Clinton must answer to persuade voters she can at long last get foreign policy issues right.
I've seen enough writers around the web pointing out that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should be asked such hypothetical questions about the decisions that they made in Iraq to suppose that some reporters will indeed start asking these questions. Perhaps Hillary will laugh it off as she has questions about her dear friend, Sidney Blumenthal, or about the Clinton Foundation receiving money from groups that also had business before the Department of State when she was there.

Meanwhile, national security adviser Susan Rice is still trumpeting that the Obama administration "ended two wars responsibly."

Oh, what a shocker. The Clinton Foundation is now catching up with payments that it hadn't previously reported.
The Clinton Foundation reported Thursday that it has received as much as $26.4 million in previously undisclosed payments from major corporations, universities, foreign sources and other groups.

The disclosure came as the foundation faced questions over whether it fully complied with a 2008 ethics agreement to reveal its donors and whether any of its funding sources present conflicts of interest for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins her presidential campaign.

The money was paid as fees for speeches by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Foundation officials said the funds were tallied internally as “revenue” rather than donations, which is why they had not been included in the public listings of its contributors published as part of the 2008 agreement.
And now we are finding out that the kind of money that Peter Schweizer reported on in Clinton Cash was made tax deductible by rules proposed when Bill Clinton was still president and was setting up the Clinton Foundation and with the full endorsement by then First Lady Hillary Clinton.
As first lady in the final year of the Clinton administration, Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed a White House plan to give tax breaks to private foundations and wealthy charity donors at the same time the William J. Clinton Foundation was soliciting donations for her husband's presidential library, recently released Clinton-era documents show.

The blurred lines between the tax reductions proposed by the Clinton administration in 2000 and the Clinton Library's fundraising were an early foreshadowing of the potential ethics concerns that have flared around the Clintons' courting of corporate and foreign donors for their family charity before she launched her campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

The Clinton campaign is so secretive that they even demand anonymity in a conference call with Clinton campaign operatives.

Peggy Noonan has some advice for all those college students bemoaning the lack of trigger warnings presented before they have to read great literature that might signal some thoughts of feeling unsafe like the Columbia undergrads who were upset at having to read Ovid's Metamorphoses because there were stories of mythological rapes.
Why are you so fixated on the idea of personal safety, by which you apparently mean not having uncomfortable or unhappy thoughts and feelings? Is there any chance this preoccupation is unworthy of you? Please say yes.

There is no such thing as safety. That is asking too much of life. You can’t expect those around you to constantly accommodate your need for safety. That is asking too much of people.

Life gives you potentials for freedom, creativity, achievement, love, all sorts of beautiful things, but none of us are “safe.” And you are especially not safe in an atmosphere of true freedom. People will say and do things that are wrong, stupid, unkind, meant to injure. They’ll bring up subjects you find upsetting. It’s uncomfortable. But isn’t that the price we pay for freedom of speech?

You can ask for courtesy, sensitivity and dignity. You can show others those things, too, as a way of encouraging them. But if you constantly feel anxious and frightened by what you encounter in life, are we sure that means the world must reorder itself? Might it mean you need a lot of therapy?

Masterpieces, by their nature, pierce. They jar and unsettle. If something in a literary masterpiece upsets you, should the masterpiece really be banished? What will you be left with when all of them are gone?

What in your upbringing told you that safety is the highest of values? What told you it is a realistic expectation? Who taught you that you are entitled to it every day? Was your life full of . . . unchecked privilege? Discuss.

Do you think Shakespeare, Frieda Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Langston Hughes and Steve Jobs woke up every morning thinking, “My focus today is on looking for slights and telling people they’re scaring me”? Or were their energies and commitments perhaps focused on other areas?

I notice lately that some members of your generation are being called, derisively, Snowflakes. Are you really a frail, special and delicate little thing that might melt when the heat is on?

Do you wish to be known as the first generation that comes with its own fainting couch? Did first- and second-wave feminists march to the barricades so their daughters and granddaughters could act like Victorians with the vapors?

Everyone in America gets triggered every day. Many of us experience the news as a daily microaggression. Who can we sue, silence or censor to feel better?

Finally, social justice warriors always portray themselves—and seem to experience themselves—as actively suffering victims who need protection. Is that perhaps an invalid self-image? Are you perhaps less needy than demanding? You seem to be demanding a safety no one else in the world gets. If you were so vulnerable, intimidated and weak, you wouldn’t really be able to attack and criticize your professors, administrators and fellow students so ably and successfully, would you?

Are you a bunch of frail and sensitive little bullies? Is it possible you’re not intimidated but intimidators?

Heather Wilhelm bemoans what has become of feminism that some are cheering the Columbia University student who has become known as Mattress Girl for hauling a mattress around campus to protest a supposed rape.
Sulkowicz’s claims, to put it kindly, are dubious. After an allegedly brutal attack, she refused to press criminal charges, saying it would be “too draining”—strange, given that she had the raw and obsessive energy to cart a mattress around all day for two semesters—and sent intimate and cutesy texts to Paul Nungesser, the young man she accused, in the months following the alleged assault. Mr. Nungesser, meanwhile, has been cleared multiple times by the university, and has filed a lawsuit against Columbia for enabling a targeted harassment campaign.

Oh, well. Details, details! “Mattress Girl” has gained media accolades, applause from high-profile politicians, and even an invite to the State of the Union. MTV lauded the mattress’s graduation appearance as a “touching act of symbolism” worthy of a “slow clap.” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Columbia’s commencement speaker, gave the mattress a triumphant shout-out in his address. Sulkowicz’s mattress, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte wrote, ended its run “as a piece celebrating women’s strength.”

....Sulkowicz’s mattress project was an act of symbolism, to be sure, but it certainly didn’t celebrate women’s strength. Rather, it serves as a striking illustration of the logic-free, wild-eyed, finger-pointing, all-bitterness mess that modern feminism has become.....

Let us now contemplate modern feminism, a movement that drives university professors to offer agonized trigger warnings for poems like Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock,” which is not about rape, but about a young rapscallion who cuts off a piece of a lady’s hair. More importantly, let us look at the latest feminist shock study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which claims, among other things, that a jaw-dropping 37 percent of American women will be victims of rape or attempted rape by the end of their freshman year in college.

Let’s pretend, as a thought experiment, that these shocking numbers are accurate and representative of reality. (They are almost certainly not, thanks to flaws in the study—including some seriously cloudy numbers surrounding alcohol use—but work with me here.) If these mind-boggling numbers are real, after all, American women live in a savage, dangerous wasteland rivaling some of the worst war-torn environments in history, and maybe even the one in “Game of Thrones.”

With this in mind, if you really care about women, shouldn’t your first priority be locking this army of perpetrators—male monsters, apparently still on the loose, ready to assault other women—in the clink? Shouldn’t item one on the feminist agenda involve encouraging women to officially report sex crimes, seek some real justice, and stop the alleged madness?

Alas, in the world of today’s feminism, hand wringing is 80 percent of the fun. As the “37 percent” report was released this week, it was, rather predictably, greeted by a chorus of feminist horror, self-pity, sanctimony, and utterly impractical, quasi-therapeutic advice—not to mention repeated proclamations that drinking until incapacitation is a treasured modern women’s right, up there with suffrage and dodging questions about mysteriously deleted emails and your shady family foundation during various political runs. To suggest otherwise, you see, is “victim blaming.”

Strange, isn’t it? It’s almost like feminists (a) don’t care about women; (b) don’t really expect anything of women; or (c) deep down, know that the truth about the sexual assault “epidemic” is far cloudier than they acknowledge. The result, sadly, is mattress feminism: a squishy, no-backbone ideology that eschews female agency, rejects critical thinking, and encourages women to be helpless doormats—or downright delusional—when it comes to the topic of sexual assault.

Ian Tuttle writes that Emma Sulkowicz or Columbia's Mattress Girl, whose claims of rape have been totally debunked, demonstrates that the feminist left doesn't seem to care about facts.
What Sulkowicz wants is to make claims about another person that cannot be challenged, checked, questioned, or doubted.

That was the substance, if not the style, of her address in April to a group of Brown University students marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The speech, live-tweeted by students in attendance, included alarming, Jezebel-worthy taglines — “If we use proof in rape cases,” said Sulkowicz, “we fall into the patterns of rape deniers.” Yet it also trafficked in high-sounding maxims composed of that mélange of pseudo-academic, quasi-mystical jargon that passes today for profundity: “In saying I expose the truth, the viewer superimposes their truth upon mine, and once again silences me.” “Well-meaning people on the street will touch me reverently. . . . They do not believe they are violating me with their hands.” “When people engage in believing in me, they objectify me.”

With such aperçus Sulkowicz was not making an effort to say anything of substance, but rather to stifle speech — to put a “transcendent” gloss on her claims and, in so doing, to elevate accusations like her own out of the realm of reasoned consideration. When she can’t do that — for instance, in e-mails with dogged reporters — she resorts to outrage.

It’s fortuitous, then, in a grim way, that the feminist Left found Emma Sulkowicz. As a response to the horrific selfishness of rape, feminists have increasingly embraced their own, intellectual selfishness, a uniquely destructive brand of have-it-all-ism that rejects responsibility for anything beyond one’s own feeling of victimization — and Sulkowicz is their pitiable poet.

John Hinderaker ridicules a Washington Post story reporting that Marco Rubio has debts and has had to borrow from a retirement account. So now it's a potential scandal that a presidential candidate hasn't become rich while being a public servant.

Mona Charen rejects the premise that only a woman, such as Carly Fiorina, can criticize Hillary Clinton.
Here's how Democrats prefer to arrange matters regarding women: They claim that nominating the first woman for president is a huge advance for all women, proving that women are just as competent as men. Yet they demand that their particular woman be insulated from the usual vigorous debate that is essential for democracy. Any criticism of Hillary Clinton is presumptive sexism, while her attacks on opponents are unrestricted. Neat trick if you can pull if off -- and she can if Republicans accept the bridle.

In a sense, Clinton has been using the victimized-woman angle for her whole political career. Her popularity soared during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for example, when Americans sympathized with her for enduring her husband's satyriasis. In her 2000 Senate race, she was losing to Republican Rick Lazio until her campaign picked up on a moment in a debate when he crossed the stage to ask her to sign a pledge. As Mother Jones recounted:

"In the hours and days after the debate, Clinton's team worked mightily to turn this interaction to her advantage. Clinton aide Ann Lewis told the press that Lazio had 'spent much of the time being personally insulting.' Howard Wolfson, another veteran Clinton hand, said Lazio was 'menacing' to Clinton.

"'They saw this opportunity and they drove it and that's the clip that was on TV over and over again,' (Lazio said). The next day, media outlets began to embrace Wolfson's portrayal of Lazio as a sexist bully. ... Jon Stewart titled his segment on the debate 'Rodham 'N Creep.'"

In 2008, Clinton's comeback began when she seemed to be patronized by Barack Obama's "you're likeable enough" comment. Patti Solis Doyle, her campaign chairman, summed it up: "Whether it was during the Lewinsky scandal or whether it was when Lazio was bullying her, people seem to like (the) damsel-in-distress sort of thing, which is sad to me, but it helped her (as first lady) in '98, and it helped her in 2000 certainly."

There's a different standard for Republican women. South Carolina's Democratic gubernatorial candidate called Gov. Nikki Haley a "whore" without creating national outrage. And then there was the treatment meted out to Sarah Palin.

The American electorate signaled in 2014 that there are limits to its tolerance for "war on women" hooey. It failed miserably in Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana and elsewhere -- most spectacularly in Colorado, where former Sen. Mark Udall earned the moniker "Mark Uterus."

The best response to the charge of sexism is ridicule. Any female candidate who hides behind her own skirts to avoid robust debate is not striking a blow for equality or dignity. Rather than displaying fitness for the job of commander in chief, she's conveying her weakness and inability to compete. Any male candidate who pulls his punches is patronizing her. Anyone who takes her on (within the bounds of civility) is according her respect.

James Taranto ridicules the logic, or lack of logic perhaps, underlying President Obama's recent speech to the Coast Guard Academy about climate change.
He rehearsed the litany of weather disasters supposedly caused by climate change: “more extreme storms,” “deeper droughts and longer wildfires,” flooding of streets in coastal cities. And he went further, blaming global warming for geopolitical problems:
Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world. Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East. So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services—including the Coast Guard—will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, because you need to be ready.
Even if one assumes all these assertions are true, they do not advance a case for urgent action. As the president acknowledged with that initial disclaimer, the chain of causation is just too weak. Global climate change contributes somehow to local droughts, which contribute somehow to instability, which contributes somehow to the rise of Boko Haram and rebellion in Syria (a rebellion, let us recall, for which the president briefly urged U.S. military support back in 2013). The vagueness of the hypotheses make it impossible to evaluate any proposed climate policy as a remedy for the Nigerian or Syrian conflicts.

The most telling assertion in the president’s speech was meant as a throwaway line. Immediately after setting up his some-folks-back-in-Washington straw man, Obama allowed as how “on a day like today, it’s hard to get too worried about it,” the antecedent being “climate change.” It was a cool spring day in New London, Conn.

Now of course weather isn’t the same thing as climate, as global warmists are quick to point out in fair weather. But that’s true of all weather. It is fallacious to attribute bad weather but not good weather to “climate change,” as if every day was idyllic everywhere on preindustrial Earth.

Similarly, if “climate change” is contributing to war and instability, it must also be contributing to peace and stability. Obama boasts of various foreign-policy achievements, such as the “end of the war” in Iraq and the diplomatic openings to Iran and Cuba. Stipulating for the sake of argument that these are in fact favorable developments, the logic of the president’s Coast Guard speech is that he must share the credit for them with all humans whose activities have contributed to climate change.

But of course he does not. As with the weather, he presents “climate change” as a cause of all manner of bad effects but no good ones. In the geopolitical realm, it is an all-purpose excuse when things go wrong. It is logically little different from saying of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, “It was God’s will.” That statement is true if one accepts the underlying metaphysical theory, and it may provide comfort to those who do. But it is not an empirical explanation. It isn’t science.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cruising the Web

Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute sums up what Obama's real approach to foreign policy is.
In his memoirs, Duty, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tells a story that could only have occurred in the Obama White House. In February 2011, as crowds occupying Tahrir Square in Cairo demanded the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a debate swirled over the proper American response: should the U.S. force Mubarak to abdicate, or support his plan to manage an orderly transition of power over the next seven months?

On one side stood Gates and the other principal members of the National Security Council (NSC). Mubarak, they argued, though a dictator, had been a reliable ally for 30 years, and toppling him would unleash chaos in Egypt, with no guarantee that the forces replacing him would be sympathetic to Washington, to America’s regional allies, or to democracy. On the other, pro-ouster side stood White House staffers vocally represented by Ben Rhodes—who, though only in his early thirties, bore the grand title of Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication and Speechwriting. In addition to his youthfulness, Rhodes had limited experience in international politics; his master’s degree was in creative writing, and his official role was that of a “communicator,” or spinmeister.

In the end, the president sided with the Rhodes faction, thus placing himself, in a phrase that soon emerged from the White House, “on the right side of history.” That side led, as Gates had warned, to a political vacuum in which the only established and well-organized party was the Muslim Brotherhood, which soon took power.

One might conclude from this story that Ben Rhodes has a deep influence over the president, but in truth he is simply his mouthpiece, or his clone. As Obama’s own two memoirs attest, he himself has long practiced a literary approach to his profession, acting simultaneously as author and as heroic protagonist. In this conception, the exercise of foreign policy is not simply about safeguarding American interests abroad; it is also about fashioning a creative and compelling personal narrative of the effort.

To be sure, all politicians impute pure motives to themselves and malign ones to their rivals. But Obama, raising the practice to the level of art, has recognized a simple but profound truth about political life: if you can convince people that you are well-intentioned, they will tend to side with you even if you fail to achieve your stated aims. In the Middle East, especially, the list of the president’s failed efforts is already long and growing longer by the day; it includes, among many others debacles, solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, launching a humanitarian intervention in Libya, and promoting a political solution to the Syrian civil war. Becoming painfully obvious is the last and greatest item on this list of pious failures: the president’s promises on Iran, embodied most recently and dramatically in the deal struck in Lausanne on April 2.

Obama has presented this deal as an effort to solve, through entirely peaceful means, the most consequential dispute in the Middle East. At the same time, he is signaling that his Iran gambit heralds much more than that. It is nothing less than the birth of a new vision of the American role in the world—an antidote to the military approach that allegedly characterized our foreign policy for decades.

This vision, however, is a fiction. Just as Robert Gates could see clearly in February 2011 that ousting Mubarak would deliver chaos and not democracy, it is clear to sober observers on all sides that the agreement with Tehran will fail to establish the elementary conditions for preventing the regime’s development of a nuclear bomb. Yet most people still do not appear to regard the president as either the cause of this disaster or as the solution to it. Will they ever?
And that is exactly right. Obama's approach to Iran is based on a fiction that Iran will become a useful member of the international community and a positive force in the Middle East if we would just conclude this nuclear deal with them. No one could believe that unless one had bought into the central fictions of Obama's whole foreign policy from the beginning.

Ron Christie identifies the question that the media refuse to ask Democratic leaders. Forget about rehashing the invasion of Iraq. What about what is going on right now?
Rather than chase announced and presumed Republican candidates such as Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL)—gentlemen who weren’t in the Congress to cast a vote going to war with Iraq more than a decade ago—why won’t the media ask this question of America’s two top diplomats who have steered our foreign policy since 2009: If they knew then what they know now, would Clinton and Kerry still have supported President Obama’s decision to remove our troops in Iraq, which has led to a void now filled by ISIS? Do they agree that the president’s belief in December 2011 that the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” that was a “moment of success” is still true today?

The media should demand that the current administration account for the deterioration in Iraq as well as ask potential candidates on either side of the aisle running for president how they would move to stabilize the region. The time for gotcha games is over—the time for serious journalism presents itself now more than ever. Are the media up to the task?

To celebrate the end of the year, my AP Government classes have been watching the 1972 classic movie, The Candidate, starring Robert Redford. I've just been struck by how modern it is. Sure the campaign aides have to worry about making a response to get on the nightly news or they'll lose 24 hours before their next opportunity. But otherwise, I would guess that today's campaign operatives would recognize quite a bit from the movie.

I suspect that they were modeling Redford's character on JFK and there are some scenes where he looks a lot like Kennedy. The film ridicules how he makes these platitudinous speeches talking about the future and how we need to fulfill the dreams of the young and help the poor. Redford's character gives these cliche-ridden speeches to adoring crowds of young people and women who are just enthralled with him because he's young and good-looking and sounds inspirational if you ignore the fact that he's not really saying anything. Hmmmm. Sound familiar? All he needed was the Greek columns for his last speech. And of course the Republican candidate is a bogey-man of all the left thinks of Republicans. He rants against environmentalists and welfare recipients. He's clearly in the pocket of big business, just as the Democratic candidate, Redford, is going to be indebted to labor unions. The movie holds up quite well and if you haven't seen it recently, it's well worth watching.

Jonah Goldberg identifies Jeb Bush's real problem. He's just not up to par with campaigning these days.
By now everyone has had their say about Jeb Bush’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. The consensus is that Bush misheard Megyn Kelly’s “knowing what we know now” question about the Iraq War. I’m not convinced.

Politicians routinely answer the question they wish they were asked rather than the question they were actually asked. Indeed, those are the only kinds of questions some politicians — particularly ones with the last name Clinton — ever answer. The question Fox News’ Kelly asked is the tougher one, at least for Bush, so perhaps he opted to answer in a way that let him take a shot at Hillary Clinton, who also supported the war?

But it doesn’t matter. Bush should have murder-boarded every possible variant of that question. His team should have run drills on it, as if he were prepping for a presidential debate. And, he should have given a speech specifically about the Iraq War months ago to inoculate himself against all of this.

In other words, the disturbing thing about his response and the awkward effort to clean it up is that it was necessary at all.

Josh Kraushaar warns Democrats of the problems they will have if Alan Grayson is their candidate for the Florida Senate seat.
The list of Grayson's greatest hits is long—and contains equal-opportunity vitriol against Republicans, Democrats, and reporters alike. He reportedly called Murphy a "piece of shit" when recently meeting with DSCC Chairman Jon Tester. In the run-up to a 2010 landslide loss against GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, he aired an ad labeling his opponent as "Taliban Dan" and, without basis, accused him of wanting to outlaw divorce for abused women. Grayson called a Federal Reserve adviser a "K Street whore" and told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Dick Cheney has blood "dripping from his teeth" when talking. He threatened a conservative constituent with five years of prison time for launching a website titled Most recently, he asked Tampa Bay Times political reporter Adam Smith whether he was some kind of "shitting robot" when confronted with questions surrounding his offshore investments.

Grayson also is enmeshed in an ugly divorce battle with his wife of 24 years, who has accused him of domestic abuse. He's vigorously denied the allegations, and has accused her of engaging in bigamy and being a "gold digger."

"On a professional level, before he went to Congress he was a wealthy trial lawyer looking for fights to make a living. That's what he had to do. In 2010 [when he lost his first reelection], Alan Grayson proved to me that when the going got tough, he completely lost control," said Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who led President Obama's campaigns in the state. "My gut says Grayson's looking for a fight. This is a guy whose entire career has been based on looking for a bully to hit. If he says he's probably going to run for the Senate, he's probably going to run for the Senate."
What a charmer. And here is another story about what a despicable man he is.
Florida Rep. Alan Grayson recently called his estranged wife a “gold digger,” but a review of the potential Senate candidate’s soap-opera divorce case shows he unsuccessfully tried to have her criminally charged for far less: ringing up grocery, gasoline and car-repair expenses on his credit card.

Grayson’s previously unreported effort to have Lolita Grayson arrested on credit-card fraud charges was revealed in one of her court filings that complained about the wealthy Democrat’s tactics to withhold money from her.

Jotkoff noted an irony between Grayson’s 2010 campaign — in which he ran a misleading ad attacking an opponent for saying women should “submit” to their husbands — and Grayson’s current divorce proceedings. Others have pointed out that Grayson’s 2012 campaign criticized another opponent for trying “to cheat his wife out of alimony and his children out of child support.” Now he’s being accused of the same thing.
And this man is in the House of Representatives today. Perhaps other Democrats should be asked if they support the way that their fellow Democrat treats his estranged wife. That is what happens whenever some Republican says or does something stupid or worse. Every other Republican suddenly becomes his brother's keeper in the eyes of the media.

Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing, about how liberals are trying to shut conservatives out of public discourse, explains why George Stephanopoulos could have made such a mistake and endangered his reputation. It's the environment he works in.
While Stephanopoulos might be the piñata of the week, singling him out misses the point. Simpson is harkening back to an era of journalism that sadly no longer exists. After all, we have a mainstream news media that took a Democratic Party talking point — "the war on women" — and reported it as if it's breaking news.

Presuming guilt among Republicans and goodness among Democrats is so reflexive and rewarded in today's mainstream media culture, it's not that hard to see how Stephanopoulos truly would not have understood he had an egregious conflict of interest as he faced down Schweizer. Like a fish doesn't notice the water, today's mainstream journalists are impervious to their bias in favor of Democratic candidates or liberal issues. They believe they are being objective because they have mistaken their ideological belief system for truth. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted repeatedly, "The facts have a liberal bias."

This view has fertile ground in which to flourish, as the ideological and intellectual diversity of the nation's newsrooms decreases. Per The Atlantic, "Among journalists who align with one of the two major parties, four in five said they're Democrats." While many of these people are able to account for their bias, too many aren't. A friend recently recalled to me watching journalists at a mainstream media outlet erupt in cheers as election returns came in favoring President Obama. It must have been lonely for the few Republicans: According to an Indiana University survey, in 1971, almost 26% of reporters were Republican. Today, it's 7%.

Expect the facts to keep getting more liberal.

So does sending out daily emails attacking a political opponent actually help a campaign? Not in the case of last year's North Carolina Senate race.
From February 2013 through Election Day 2014, I received more than 550 emails from Democratic entities attacking Tillis. That’s an average of nearly one email per day. And those are just the ones I didn’t delete.

“The emails helped control the conversation and the issues,” Ben Ray, the author and deliverer of at least 300 of the emails as communications director of Forward North Carolina, told CQ Roll Call.

Another 200 or so emails came from the Hagan campaign, 18 from EMILY’s List (including “Thom Tillis — outright scary for NC women”), a handful from Progress North Carolina and 30 from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

It’s a “win the day” mentality that seems to have started with Rahm Emanuel’s Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 and was accelerated by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign two years later.

By some indications, the tactic appeared to be working in North Carolina.

Democrats point to some tangible ways the aggressive email strategy directed at reporters was making a difference. An NBC News segment featured a focus group of Charlotte mothers who identified education as the defining issue in the race. Democrats also point to Tillis’ own ads, well into September, defending his record on education as evidence their messaging was resonating.
As a North Carolinian, I can testify that the attacks were constant on TV and radio. The anti-Tillis ads seems to greatly outnumber the anti-Hagan or pro-Tillis ads. I really thought Hagan was going to win. She was consistently up in the polls...until election day. But don't expect campaign operatives to give up the cheap and easy tactic of inundating people with emails and tweets.

Fox News has announced that their first debate will involve the top ten candidates as determined by an average of the five most recent polls before the debate. The Washington Post looks at who that would be if it were held today.
That's Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Donald Trump and Rick Perry, in that order. Just out of the running? John Kasich, Rick Santorum, etc.
Let's hope that future polls move Donald Trump to the clown range where he belongs. I can also imagine Carly Fiorina moving up as she gains more attention as the only woman in the race. She's relatively unknown now, but she has been quite active in appearing in basically any media venue that will interview her. I can't believe there are still people who take Trump seriously. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has a slightly different configuration of Bush, Walker, Rubio, Paul, Huckabee, Cruz, Carson, Christie, Perry, and Santorum. Of course, so much of the polls now are just name recognition. That's the problem with relying on polling to determine who gets into the debates, but it's hard to see what other solution there might be.

However, Daniel Henninger is right that having 19 or more Republicans competing for the nomination is preferable to just having Hillary Clinton lurching alone to a coronation.
The Democrats don’t need the Roman Colosseum. They’ve got the Clinton Foundation. It isn’t every day you get to see a candidate create her own trial by ordeal, but Hillary Clinton has done it with evaporating emails and speaking mega-fees.

So long as the Clinton mess stays this side of being legally actionable, Hillary Clinton will be in Iowa next February to pocket the caucuses she lost in 2008. Still, how did an American political party of such size and history become so sclerotic that beyond one candidate, there’s no one—other than Joe Biden and John Kerry?

Barack Obama was a Democratic anomaly. He became president at 47 in large part because he slipped through his party’s coast-to-coast bedrock of aging officeholders-for-life. If the NBA were run like the Democratic Party, Charles Barkley would still be starting for the Houston Rockets and James Harden would be on the bench.

For now, the Republicans are running 19 to 1. It may be unseemly, but last time I looked, there’s never been a coronation in the United States.

Those who have been paying close attention to the GOP nomination fight like Marco Rubio. Unfortunately for him, they're not the only ones who get to vote.

Yet another blow to the UAW.
Alabama factory workers voted for the fifth time in two years to break ties with the UAW on Tuesday.

Workers at NTN-Bower voted 74-52 to boot the union off the premises of the manufacturer, making it the third time anti-union employees have beaten UAW Local 1990 in the last 18 months.

So a bunch of sports reporters are irritated that Stephen Curry's adorable two-year old daughter, Riley, stole the show at the postgame conference. My first response when I saw the clip was to think that there should be a lot more children at these press conferences. Reporters are complaining that they have a job to do and deadlines to meet and having a toddler at the podium interferes with their ability to file their stories. Oh, come on. How often is it that anything worthwhile is said at these press conferences? Would their postgame stories be that much worse without the athletes' answers to questions about what went right and what went wrong during the game. If they're real sports analysts they should be able to watch a game and use their analytical powers to figure out what went well without the mostly empty answers that athletes give at these press conferences. Bring on the toddlers instead. In fact, the NBA should welcome the appearance of their players as loving fathers in contrast to the sort of Adrian Peterson story that the NFL has had to deal with.

And now we get the real reason why Alcee Hastings wants a congressional pay raise.
Hastings is far from wealthy: he has the second-lowest net worth of any member of Congress. However, his own financial troubles may have less to do with the cost of living in D.C. than the exorbitant legal fees he amassed since the 1980s.

According to his most recent personal financial disclosures, Hastings is as much as $7.5 million in debt. With the exception of a 2009 mortgage on which he owes up to $250,000, all of those debts are legal fees stemming from decades-old corruption charges.

In 1981, two years after President Jimmy Carter appointed Hastings to the federal bench, the FBI conducted a sting operation designed to catch Hastings soliciting bribes in exchange for reducing racketeering sentences for two brothers convicted of ripping off a union pension fund.

FBI agents busted a friend of Hastings’, D.C. lawyer William Borders, when he accepted a $150,000 bribe, allegedly on Hastings’ behalf, in exchange for lenient sentencing.

Hastings was acquitted of subsequent bribery charges, while Borders was convicted and later given a full pardon by President Bill Clinton. However, a subsequent investigation by a federal court of appeals found that Hastings was probably complicit in the scheme, his acquittal notwithstanding.

The report also concluded that Hastings had lied under oath during the trial. The House took up impeachment proceedings against Hastings, leveling 17 charges against him.

A Senate investigative panel voted to convict him on six of them, including charges that he had “engaged in a corrupt conspiracy to obtain $150,000 from defendants in United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings, in return for the imposition of sentences which would not require incarceration of the defendants.”

Hastings became the sixth federal official in U.S. history to be removed by impeachment.

Hastings sued, claiming that he was improperly convicted by a Senate committee, as opposed to the full Senate. A federal judge agreed, striking down the conviction, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling in 1993.

All of those legal proceedings resulted in massive fees for Hastings. In 2013, according to financial disclosures, his legal bills were somewhere between $2.1 million and $7.3 million.
So don't cry for Congressman Hastings. He made his bed and now he wants the taxpayers to help pay for it.

Perhaps Sean Davis's idea would get Hillary to talk more to the media.
You have to admire the sheer chutzpah of the Clinton media operation here. They know that their candidate is unlikable, that she has no charisma, and no ability to connect on a personal level with most voters. They know she is grating. They know she is no Bill Clinton. What she lacks in raw political ability she makes up for with raw political ambition. It is that animation, that desire for political power, that keeps the Hillary engine running, day after day. The Clinton operation knows this, and it’s why the campaign is so desperate to protect her from scrutiny and to avoid any and all opportunities for unscripted conversation.

There’s a simple solution to this problem. There’s a very simple way to incentivize Hillary to do the unthinkable and *gasp* answer questions from those whose job it is to solicit information from candidates for public office: ignore her entirely.

As political consultant Rick Wilson noted in an extended Twitter rant this morning, media coverage is the oxygen that keeps candidacies alive. Without it, they suffocate and die. Yes, paid media in the form of massive ad buys is important, but it’s nothing compared to the power of earned media. In politics, you only matter if you’re on the news. And if you’re not on the news or in the newspapers, you’re a nobody. And nobodies don’t get elected president.

Hillary desperately needs coverage of her painfully scripted and obviously inauthentic campaign events with the kinds of normal people she goes out of her way to avoid when not seeking office. She knows that America wants to see a friendly grandmother, not a conniving, corrupt, cynical career cuckquean trying to claw her way into office. That image can only be portrayed via coverage of her official campaign events. So if reporters and their news bureaus and TV networks want her to start answering questions, they should institute an immediate blackout of all her campaign events.
What if they gave a Hillary photo op and no one showed up? Now that's an idea.

Megan McArdle objects to the idea enunciated by President Obama and other liberals that Christians don't care about the poor.
Conservative denominations could easily argue that they are putting poverty on their public agenda, just not in ways that Putnam thinks are right, or effective, or enough. Groups like Chuck Colson's prison ministry have been a leading voice in prison reform, which I think we can all agree is an issue that largely effects the economically disadvantaged, and arguably creates a lot more of them. Conservative denominations also fight for what they consider traditional morality on issues like premarital sex and abortion. But it's a mistake to see these campaigns as being just about sex and sin. These are priorities because the denominations want to encourage stable families -- something that both they and Putnam can agree we'd like to have more of. Some conservative Christians oppose big expansions of the welfare state. Because they don't care about the poor? Here's another theory: because they don't think a massive welfare state is the best way to help the poor.

You may not agree with them on all of these points, of course; I certainly don't. But the fact that I disagree does not preclude the possibility that these are their honest convictions, pursued with good intentions. If you let yourself get sucked in by egocentric bias, you can't see this. For people with these blinders on, the invitation to join a national conversation on poverty is actually code for "hush up and repeat after me."

To put it another way: What if conservative Christians started saying that secular liberals don't care about poverty, and the only way liberals could show their human decency would be to step up charitable donations to the same level as conservative religious people, get active in efforts to provide private assistance, take in foster kids, and aggressively support stable nuclear families through a combination of exhortation and social sanction? It doesn't feel quite fair, right?
Good point, but don't expect it to sink in.

Rich Lowry reminds us of the history of Sidney Blumenthal, known in political circles as Sid Vicious. And this is the man whom Hillary Clinton arranged to give her back-channel advice on Libya while she was Secretary of State even while he was receiving money from a business that had stakes in what was happening in Libya.
Let’s think about this. One scenario is that Blumenthal’s would-be business associates got together and thought, “We need to find the best expert we can on North Africa, someone who understands the subtleties of Libyan political and tribal dynamics. Let’s get Sidney Blumenthal!”

Another is that they thought, “We need to find someone who is in tight with the Clintons and has a back channel to Hillary so, when the time comes, the State Department will give our venture the most favorable possible consideration. Let’s get Sidney Blumenthal!”
One of the principals in the prospective Libya venture, Bill White, told The New York Times, “We were thinking, ‘O.K., Qaddafi is dead, or about to be, and there’s opportunities. We thought, ‘Let’s try to see who we know there [emphasis added].”

It’s a telling statement about the nature of so many of the businesses that were drawn to the Clinton Foundation. They weren’t bringing new products to market so much as benefiting from political connections — from whom they knew — to get contracts and other advantages from government favor.

The Blumenthal story underlines what we already knew or suspected about Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state and at the Clinton Foundation.

She portrayed herself as a technological simpleton in her initial news conference about her emails, incapable of juggling multiple devices or email addresses. But here she is with another private email address that we might not know about but for the exertions of a Romanian hacker who first exposed the Blumenthal-Clinton correspondence.

She portrays herself as the picture of openness, explaining in a press availability in Iowa on Tuesday how she wants her emails public as soon as possible. But we wouldn’t know about the Clinton-Blumenthal correspondence but for the exertions of a Romanian hacker.
For all its good works, the Clinton Foundation was a political slush fund and holding tank for Clinton operatives. Presumably, the March of Dimes manages to get along without paying former government officials for vague work as they scheme to return to power.

The ethics of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state were atrocious. In what world is it OK for the secretary of state to get and pass along back-channel advice from a friend about a country where he has business interests at stake? The Clintons have managed to make their own rule book according to which, if there isn’t hard evidence of a felony, there is no ethical breach. But the standard in government is supposed to be avoiding even the appearance of impropriety, which the Clintons have decades of experience failing to meet.

Finally, it’s impossible to credit “the new Hillary” so long as she is dependent on the same old cronies.

Asked about Blumenthal at that brief Iowa press availability, Hillary said his emails were her effort to make sure she wasn’t “caught in the bubble.” Because nothing keeps you intellectually fresh and on your toes like emails from a loyal hatchet man of some 20 years and counting.

For a little history, check out this 19th century British primer for children to learn their ABC's. It's just amazing to see how unself-consiously they use racist little poems in a book meant for little children.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cruising the Web

Hillary gave her irritating phony laugh yesterday as she assured reporters that Sidney Blumenthal was simply an old friend with whom she enjoyed staying in contact while she's in the bubble of public life. This was in response to the NYT story that he was sending her more than two dozen memos while she was at State advising her about Libya while he was receiving money from groups in Libya and being paid by the Clinton Foundation, Media Matters, and the liberal Super PAC American Bridge. The WSJ isn't buying her "he's just an old friend" defense.
The Blumenthal memos also deserve Justice Department scrutiny. Team Clinton wants the world to think Mr. Blumenthal was simply offering his old friend some helpful intelligence gleaned in the course of his Libya work. A less charitable view is that Mr. Blumenthal was funneling information to the nation’s top diplomat in hopes that it would trigger actions to benefit his business interests.

The Times reports that in one memo Mr. Blumenthal provided Mrs. Clinton the name of what he viewed to be one of the “most influential” advisers to the new Libyan government. It happens this was also the adviser the Blumenthal business group was hoping would provide it with financing. Even as Mr. Blumenthal was whispering in Mrs. Clinton’s ear, one of his business associates reached out to a senior Clinton aide to “introduce the venture” and seek a meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Libya.

Meanwhile, among the details in the hacked Blumenthal emails is that he passed along a memo to Mrs. Clinton from an adviser to Georgia billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili—then running for prime minister, opposed by President Mikheil Saakashvili—asking the State Department to give support to his candidate. Mr. Blumenthal warned in his memo that Georgia could be “a potential hot spot a month before the [2012] US elections,” leaving the impression he thought she should take the plea seriously.

This is highly dubious behavior. In early April a conservative-leaning ethics group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, requested that the Justice Department investigate whether Mr. Blumenthal had violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This is the law requiring that anyone lobbying—defined broadly—for a foreign government must register with the Attorney General. Justice brushed off the request, as it always has during this Administration, but the query ought to be renewed in light of Mr. Blumenthal’s work regarding Libya.

....The broader point is that this is how the Clintons operate—on the edge of the law, mixing business and politics, the personal with the official, in a way designed to help the Clintons and their friends profit from both.
And amazingly, the Clintons seem always to be able to attract these shady characters going back to their time in Arkansas.

David French pulls back the curtain on what really happens on college admissions committees as tells us about his time serving on the admissions committee for Cornell Law School. It is not a pretty picture, but what I've always suspected would be the case.
First, few people understand how dramatic the boost is for favored minority groups. If students were black or the “right” kind of Latino, they would often receive admissions offers with test scores 20 or 30 percentile points lower than those of white or Asian students. When I expressed concern about an admissions offer to a black student with test scores in the 70th percentile — after we’d passed over white and Asian students with scores in the 98th percentile and far higher grades — I was told that we had to offer admission or we’d surely lose him to our Ivy League rivals.

Second, these dramatic breaks rarely go to poor kids who are overcoming the challenges of ghetto schools. Many Americans, myself included, understand it is a real and substantial achievement — one that can’t be measured in test scores — to overcome extreme poverty and America’s worst public schools to compete with students from far more prosperous backgrounds. But the same reasoning doesn’t apply to the children of doctors and lawyers. Yet they get dramatic advantages as well. In fact, unless admissions committees gave rich black and Latino kids dramatic advantages, they wouldn’t be able to hit their diversity targets. At the Ivy League level, affirmative action is an enhanced-opportunity program for favored rich kids.

Third, affirmative action isn’t necessarily for every black or Latino applicant. Cuban Americans often get less help. African students get less help. And, worst of all, there are times when admissions committees will actually ideologically cleanse the minority applicant pool of minorities who are seen as “less diverse” because of expressed interest in “white” professions such as, say, investment banking. If you’re a Mexican American who writes an admissions essay about defending the rights of migrant farm workers, you’re a dream candidate. If you’re a black candidate who aspires to work for Goldman Sachs, you’re “less diverse” (these are real-life examples, by the way).

The ideological cleansing also happens to white candidates. In one of the most memorable incidents, the committee almost rejected an extraordinarily qualified applicant because of his obvious Christian faith (he’d attended a Christian college, a conservative seminary, and worked for religious conservative causes). In writing, committee members questioned whether they wanted his “Bible-thumping” or “God-squadding” on campus. I objected, noting that my own background was even more conservative. To their credit, the committee members apologized and offered him admission.
And as long as they don't put down any of this tilting of their criteria down on paper and claim that it's all about diversity, they'll get away with it. That is what the Supreme Court's ruling in Grutteraccomplished. It gave universities the out for how they could discriminate. They can claim that they're just trying to achieve diversity and there would be nothing that an applicant with higher test scores could do to challenge the reverse discrimination going on.

Jason Riley writes about how Asian Americans are realizing how this discriminatory affirmative action is prejudiced against them and are now going to court and the Departments of Justice and Education to protest.
Citing several academic studies, the complaint notes that Asians have some of the highest academic credentials but the lowest acceptance rates at the nation’s top schools, a result that the coalition attributes to “just-for-Asians admissions standards that impose unfair and illegal burdens on Asian-American college applicants.” A 2009 paper by Princeton sociologists Thomas J. Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford found that “Asian-Americans have the lowest acceptance rate for each SAT test score bracket, having to score on average approximately 140 points higher than a white student, 270 points higher than a Hispanic student and 450 points higher than a black student on the SAT to be on equal footing.”

It’s too early to tell whether the Obama administration will take action or wait for the legal process to play out. Regardless, Chunyan Li, a professor of accounting at Pace University and a coalition organizer of the administrative complaint, told me that the complaint will help raise awareness of a problem that is only getting worse. The numbers have become too lopsided to ignore.

“In the past 20 years our population has doubled,” she said, but the percentage of Asians admitted to elite schools “has been capped artificially low. There have been some individual complaints, but they have gone nowhere. An investigation is long overdue.”

Harvard officials deny these allegations. The school’s general counsel said in a May 15 statement that the admissions process, which “considers each applicant through an individualized, holistic review,” is legally sound. Schools use “holistic” criteria as a way to apply different standards to different applicant groups—e.g., play down objective test scores for Asians, play up subjective recommendation letters for blacks and Hispanics. The Supreme Court blessed the approach in 2003. The court has said repeatedly that while explicit racial quotas are unconstitutional, race can be a factor in admissions, just not the predominant factor.

In practice, however, there is strong evidence that racial balance is the highest priority at schools like Harvard, and holistic admissions are used to obscure the racial bean-counting necessary to obtain the desired racial mix. At the California Institute of Technology, a selective private college that uses color-blind admissions, Asian enrollment grew steadily to 42.5% in 2013 from 29.8% two decades earlier, reflecting the nation’s growing Asian population. At Harvard, Asian enrollment consistently remained between 14.3% and 18.4%. Harvard would have us believe that this remarkable consistency in the percentages of Asian (and other racial and ethnic groups) on campus has been achieved without quotas.

Asian interest groups typically have sided with their liberal black and Hispanic counterparts in support of racial preferences, though the negative impact on high-achieving Asian youngsters has been obvious for decades. In 1995 Asian freshman enrollment at the University of California, Berkeley, stood at 37%. The next year California made it illegal for state universities to consider race in admissions, and inside of a decade Berkeley’s freshman class was nearly 47% Asian. UCLA experienced a similar spike in Asian undergrads over the same period, suggesting that the California schools had been doing what Harvard allegedly is still doing.

Last year the California legislature moved to reverse the ban on race-based admissions, but Asian-American lawmakers, primarily at the urging of their Asian constituents, pushed back hard. The legislative leadership dropped the matter. Ms. Li said the episode alerted many of her fellow activists: “That opened up many people’s eyes. They saw it as going backward. These race-based admissions policies pit one group against another.”

So is this a surprise to anyone?
When Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, her staff scrutinized politically sensitive documents requested under public-records law and sometimes blocked their release, according to people with direct knowledge of the activities.

In one instance, her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, told State Department records specialists she wanted to see all documents requested on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and later demanded that some be held back.

In another case, Ms. Mills’s staff negotiated with the records specialists over the release of documents about former President Bill Clinton’s speaking engagements—also holding some back.

The records requests came under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, the public’s main tool to get information from the government. Decisions on what to release belong with each agency’s FOIA staff, say experts on the law, to guard against the withholding of documents for political or other inappropriate reasons.
But of course, Hillary now tells us that no one could possibly want more than she does for the State Department to release the limited number of emails that her people deigned to turn over to the Department. We have no idea if that is all her emails since they destroyed the rest. But, hey, she's all about the transparency, right? Just like Obama.

John Podhoretz hopes that the "ick factor" will doom Hillary Clinton. There is this steady drip-drip of stories about the Clinton sleazy behavior.
She still polls better than every Republican nationally, she’s the most popular Democrat by a country mile and she’s one of the most famous people on earth.

Still, the tarnishment problem is very real, and it may be the Republican ace in the hole in the last few weeks of the 2016 election.

At that point, a few million votes either way might be likely to decide the outcome.

That’s when the get-out-the-vote skills of the campaigns will come into play — as well as certain intangibles that play a key role in helping those last few million voters who may or may not go to the polls or have not yet decided make up their minds.

One of those is something you might call “the ick factor.” What kind of association does the candidate’s name conjure up? Is it positive or negative?
Democrats spent most of 2012 raising the ick factor associated with Mitt Romney’s name — condemning the supposed evils of his investment-banking firm, publicizing his privately uttered remark that 47 percent of the electorate had become wards of the state, raising questions about his essential character because he was mean to a kid in high school and once put the family dog in a carrier on the roof of his car.

In this respect, Republicans are ahead of the game. Hillary is beginning her trek to November 2016 with a built-in “ick factor” regarding her essential truthfulness and the sense that she spends her life dancing around and about ethical lines.
Now, there will be a Republican nominee, and what was done to Romney will be done to him to the extent possible.

So what we may have, as Election Day nears, is a choice between relatively unattractive options. What’s far from clear is how Hillary can make herself even remotely attractive from here on in to anyone who isn’t already in her camp.
The tarnishment is permanent. The Clinton brand is damaged. The question is whether it’s going to tarnish the Democratic Party.

But, of course, some in the media are always more entranced with bringing up alleged sleaze against Republicans. So Roger Simon writes at Politico that what journalists should really be asking Jeb Bush is if he still supports the Willie Horton ad from back in 1988. Simon just doesn't say in his column that the ad was untrue. Massachusetts did have a furlough program for convicted criminals. Willie Horton, a convicted murderer, was granted a weekend pass during which he escaped and assaulted a couple and raped the woman. Why was this not fair game in a political campaign? For the past 13 years, I've done a unit on the history of political advertising using this wonderful site. I show the students ads going back to Eisenhower in 1952 through the present and we discuss various notable ads. When I show them the Willie Horton ad, there is always the same reaction. The kids know nothing about Michael Dukakis. Most of them have never even heard the name. But, after seeing that ad, they're unanimous in that it is a devastating attack ad and they'd have a hard time voting for the guy. Then I ask them if they think the ad is racist. I could probably count on one hand the number of students who have thought that over the years. Mostly, they have the reaction that what matters is what happened and what the policy was, not the race of the man. I ask them if they think the ad is unfair and, uniformly, they reject that argument. Perhaps they've become inured to attack ads, but they seem to have the sensible approach that giving furloughs to convicted murderers was a remarkably stupid policy and, as governor, Michael Dukakis needed to answer for that policy and attacking him for the predictable results of letting a man like Willie Horton out for the weekend was totally fair game when the man was running on his record as governor.

And this is what has Roger Simon upset these days? I guess decades of Clinton sleaze is nothing compared to attacking the Bushes for a phony controversy 27 years ago. It's always old business when it's the Clintons; it's always relevant today when it's the Bushes.

The Washington Post is not impressed with President Obama's approach to the defeating ISIS.
Beginning almost a year ago, the Islamic State carved out, across large swaths of Iraq and Syria, a terrorist state of sorts that Mr. Obama deemed intolerable. He said in September that it is a threat to “the broader Middle East,” including U.S. citizens and facilities, and “if left unchecked . . . could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States.” Yet he refuses to commit the Special Forces and military assistance that could meet that threat, portraying any alternative to his minimalist policy as being “dragged back into another prolonged ground war.” In fact, Sunni allies in the region will be reluctant to work with the United States until it has a Syria policy, and Sunni tribes in Iraq will not confront the Islamic State unless they believe the United States will stand by them. Every conflict will have ups and downs, as administration spokesmen said Monday. But it is Mr. Obama’s unwillingness to match means to strategy that threatens to prolong this war.
David Ignatius explains why the fall of Ramadi is more than a setback.
Given that the Islamic State’s drive to capture Ramadi has been predicted for weeks, why didn’t U.S. and Iraqi planners reinforce the garrison there? Why didn’t coalition forces fight harder to control Camp Blue Diamond, a former U.S. military base on the northwest edge of the city? Why didn’t the coalition add troops to protect Ramadi’s provincial version of the Green Zone in the center of the city? Why were Islamic State fighters allowed to capture new stores of Iraqi weapons and liberate scores of their compatriots in Ramadi’s jails — adding new arms and men at a strike?

The Islamic State’s breakthrough in Ramadi brought wild celebration in other Sunni areas under its control. The group released a video Monday that appeared to show jubilant Iraqi men and boys in the Nineveh area spontaneously dancing and waving its black-and-white banners. The exuberant faces in the video, titled “Glad Tidings of the Supporters with the Conquests of the Predators of al-Anbar,” show how success begets success in the Iraqi conflict. Another jihadist video shows newly freed prisoners kissing the ground. Celebrations of the Ramadi victory, with festive, flag-waving crowds, were posted from as far away as Tripoli, Libya.

What’s worse, the Ramadi defeat showed that the cornerstone of U.S. strategy for Iraq — a Sunni tribal force that can work with the Iraqi military to clear and hold areas seized by the Islamic State — isn’t in place yet. The Iraqi parliament still hasn’t passed a long-promised law to create such a force, and arms shipments to Sunni fighters have been delayed or ignored by the Baghdad government.
So when will journalists ask Obama if, knowing what he knows now, he would still remove so many of US troops from Iraq and limit so determinedly our military response.

Dana Milbank is fed up with the hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton.
In a private meeting last week with 200 of the Democratic Party’s top financiers, Hillary Clinton drew vigorous applause when she said any of her nominees to the Supreme Court would have to share her desire to overturn the Citizens United decision.

Clinton also, as reported by my Post colleagues Matea Gold and Anne Gearan, put in a plug with the fundraisers (all of whom had hauled in at least $27,000 for her) for a constitutional amendment overturning the ruling, which allows unlimited spending by super PACs.

Nice sentiments, to be sure, but the fact that she was unveiling her Citizens United litmus test with party fat cats at an exclusive soiree (four days later, she mentioned it to voters in Iowa) tells you all you need to know about Clinton’s awkward — and often hypocritical — relationship with campaign-finance reform.

Even as she denounces super PACs, she’s counting on two of them, Priorities USA Action and Correct the Record, to support her candidacy — a necessary evil, her campaign says. She’s also chin-deep in questionable financial activities, ranging from the soft-money scandals of her husband’s presidency to the current flap over contributions by foreigners and favor-seekers to the Clinton Foundation. Then there’s the matter of her plans to continue President Obama’s policy of opting out of the public-finance system; Obama’s abandonment of the system did as much as the Citizens United ruling to destroy the post-Watergate fixes.
I don't mind Clinton raising money or having Super PACs or opting out of public financing. Just don't play the American public by decrying those very actions just as you do them. Don't pretend you hate the very things that you do. It's the hypocrisy, Stupid.

David Harsanyi has the same thoughts about journalists. It's not the bias, but the hypocrisy of pretending that they're not biased that is so aggravating.
And candidates should have nothing to fear, unless they’re insecure in their own beliefs. Whether a communist or Objectivist grilled me about my positions, they would not change. Sometimes your answers can give context or challenge the premise. Paul, for example, responded to gotcha question on abortion with the sort of feistiness that’s often necessary when dealing with adversaries.

When Todd Akin – or whomever the next Todd Akin is – says something stupid, it’s because he believes something stupid. Let’s not blame the press. When Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace – one of the few that is equally tenacious with conservatives and liberals – attempted to get an answer out of Marco Rubio about Iraq, he can’t because the candidate has no good answer.

What we don’t need is phony fairness in political coverage. Some candidates have a lot more to answer for than others. Some have positions that are obscure. Some have histories that need more digging. Partisans have the best motivation to ask the right questions. And since journalism is festering with prejudice anyway, it’d be a lot healthier if we were all honest about it.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Meyer, who have just published Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America's Young about how our political system is giving young people the shaft, explain how Obamacare is such a terrible deal for young people.
Young people have no way out of this minefield. Either they must buy expensive coverage for services they do not need, or they must pay a fine for refusing to buy insurance under the “individual mandate.” No matter which way young people turn, the ACA exacts a toll on their pocketbooks.

This is especially true since the law artificially holds down premiums for older people and raises the price for the young. Since insurance companies are not allowed to charge older people more than three times as much as younger people (a provision known as “modified community rating”), the insurance companies have no choice but to pass the health-care costs of older people on to the young in the form of higher premiums. This is a major factor behind the low number of young people who have signed up for insurance under the ACA.

Before the law was enacted, the typical cost of insuring an 18-year-old was one-fifth that of insuring a 64-year-old. Because older people are at much greater risk of serious health problems than people just out of high school, it makes sense that insurance companies would charge the 64-year-old more. But income typically rises with age, so most 64-year-olds would be better able to afford the higher premiums.

Not only do young people face higher premiums, but they also have a harder time paying for them. This more than negates the benefits to young people of being able to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26.

Washington should repeal the ACA’s “essential health benefits” requirements, so that young Americans would not be forced to buy coverage they do not need. It should also increase competition in the health-insurance market by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and affording individuals the same tax advantages on health insurance that employers currently receive.

The pre-ACA status quo in the health-insurance market was not optimal, but Washington has made matters far worse, especially for the young. In order to truly help the uninsured, Congress should repeal the ACA and create a tax credit or deduction to allow people to buy any insurance plan that suits them with pre-tax dollars; this would remove one of the main benefits now bestowed unequally on employer-provided coverage. Until steps such as these are taken, the war against America’s youth will only accelerate.

Ron Fournier has trouble with Hillary Clinton's veracity.
I don't believe her.

I don't believe Hillary Rodham Clinton when she says—as she did at a brief news conference on Tuesday—that she has no control over the release of her State Department email. "They're not mine. They belong to the State Department."

I don't believe her because a person's actions are more revealing than words: She kept her government email on a secret server and, only under pressure from Congress, returned less than half of them to the State Department. She deleted the rest. She considered them hers.

I don't believe her when she says, "I want those emails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in those being released than I do."

I don't believe her because I've covered the Clintons since the 1980s and know how dedicated they are to what former Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry called "telling the truth slowly." The fact is that she would rather delay the document dump until early 2016—and then have the email released on a single day to overwhelm the media and allow her to declare herself exonerated. That was her strategic choice, Clinton advisers confirmed for me, until a federal judge ordered the State Department on Tuesday to release the email in stages.

I don't believe her answer to this question: Is there a conflict of interest in accepting huge speaking fees from special interests seeking government action? "No," she replied.

I don't believe her because I saw how hard Clinton and her husband, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, worked to pass the state's first sweeping ethics initiative. I don't believe her because I've heard Clinton and her husband rail against GOP politicians who were guilty of less-obvious conflicts of interest. I don't believe her because there have been far too many credible news reports about the blurring of lines between family finances, the family foundation, and her political and government interests.
The Clintons lose some honest liberals like Fournier who admits that he likes and respects them. Of course, Fournier blames the bad advice she's been getting instead of the simpler explanation that the Clintons that, when a couple does sleazy and apparently corrupt things for over 30 years, Occam's Razor might indicate that the couple are sleazy and corrupt.

Bret Stephens isn't impressed with the administration's spin about absolutely awesome their handling of the Middle East has been, particularly their hoped-for deal with Iran and how it will miraculously make that region more stable. Stephens then ticks off what has happened in the past month and a half since Obama announced the framework for their deal with Iran.
April 2: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif immediately accuses the U.S. of “spin” and contradicts Mr. Obama’s key claims regarding the terms of the deal.

April 12: A Swedish think tank reports that Saudi Arabia registered the biggest increase in defense spending in the world.

April 13: Moscow says it will deliver the S-300 air-defense system to Tehran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later boasts that the U.S. “can’t do a damn thing” militarily against Iran.

April 14: Iran announces agreements with Russia and China to build additional nuclear reactors.

April 17: Iran dispatches an armed convoy of ships, believed to be destined to resupply pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen in contravention of a U.N. arms embargo. The convoy turns back after the U.S. deploys an aircraft carrier to the region to shadow the ships.

April 20: Jason Rezaian, the American-born Washington Post reporter imprisoned in Iran since July, is charged with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment.”

April 20: The British government informs the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on Iran that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network” associated with two Iranian companies that are under international sanctions.
And the list goes on and on and on. Stephens concludes,
I recount these events not just to illustrate the distance between Ben Rhodes’s concept of reality and reality itself. It’s also a question of speed. The Middle East, along with our position in it, is unraveling at an astonishing pace. Reckless drivers often don’t notice how fast they’re going until they’re about to crash.

We are near the point where there will be no walking back the mistakes we have made. No walking away from them, either. It takes a special innocence to imagine that nothing in life is irreversible, that everything can be put right, that fanaticism yields to reason and facts yield to wishes, and that the arc of Mideast history bends toward justice.

Ben Rhodes, and the administration he represents and typifies, is special.