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Friday, April 17, 2015

Cruising the Web

So what does the first week of Hillary's campaign tell us about her? Charles Krauthammer has some thoughts.
This quality of purposeful abstractness makes everything sound and seem contrived. It’s not really her fault. True, she’s got enough genuine inauthenticity to go around — decades of positioning, framing, parsing, dodging — but the perception is compounded by the obvious staginess of the gigantic political apparatus that surrounds her and directs her movements.

Why is she running in the first place? Because it’s the next inevitable step in her career path. But that’s not as damning as it seems. It can be said of practically every presidential candidate. The number of conviction politicians — those who run not to be someone but to do something — is exceedingly small. In our lifetime: Ronald Reagan. And arguably, Barack Obama, although with him (as opposed to Reagan) a heavy dose of narcissistic self-fulfillment is admixed with genuine ideological conviction.

Hillary Clinton’s problem is age, not chronological but political. She’s been around for so long that who can really believe she suddenly has been seized with a new passion to champion, as she put it in Iowa, “the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here”?

Or developed a new persona. She will, of course, go through the motions. Her team will produce a “message,” one of the most corrosive, debased words in the lexicon of contemporary politics — an alleged synonym for belief or conviction, it signifies nothing more than a branded marketing strategy.

She will develop policies. In Iowa, she’d already delivered her top four, one of which is to take unaccountable big money out of politics. This is rather precious, considering that her supporters intend to raise $2.5 billion for 2016 alone and that the Clinton Foundation is one of the most formidable machines ever devised for extracting money from the rich, the powerful and the unsavory.

She will try to sell herself as champion of the little guy. Not easy to do when you and your husband have for the last 25 years made limo-liberal Davos-world your home. Hence the van trek to Iowa, lest a Gulfstream 450 invade the visual.

Clinton’s unchangeability, however, is the source of her uniqueness as a candidate: She’s a fixed point. She is who she is. And no one expects — nor would anyone really believe — any claimed character change.

The greatest plus for Marco Rubio's candidacy is that he is "the anti-Hillary." He's young, historic, and isn't wealthy. But the biggest contrast is that he's been willing to put forth policy proposals instead of anodyne platitudes.

So why is the Democratic field so old? Byron York contemplates this fact.
There are five Democrats who have either declared or are thinking about running for president. Three — Joe Biden, Bernard Sanders, and Jim Webb — will be over 70 years old on Inauguration Day 2017. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be nine months short of 70. Only Martin O'Malley, who will turn 54 a couple of days before the 2017 swearing-in, has not reached retirement age already.

In 2008, Democrats had a 47 year-old candidate who mesmerized the party and ran away with the votes of Americans aged 18 to 29. Republicans, meanwhile, ran a 72 year-old man whose reputation was based on heroism in a war 40 years earlier. Youth won.

This time the situation is reversed. The average age of the Republican field is far below the Democrats, with every candidate younger than Clinton. The most senior is Jeb Bush, who will be 64 on Inauguration Day. Scott Walker will be 49; Marco Rubio will be 45; Ted Cruz, 46; Rand Paul, 54; Chris Christie, 54; Mike Huckabee, 61; Bobby Jindal, 45. Although Bush is in the older range, they're all in the career sweet spot to win the White House.

What accounts for the Democrats' dramatic change from the party of youth to the party of age?

"It's the snuffing out of young talent by the strength and size and sheer velocity of the inevitable nominee," says a well-connected Democratic strategist. "The Clintons took all the air out of the collective Democratic room. There are a lot of people who would be running who are much younger, but they've got their future in front of them, and they don't want the Clintons to ruin it, in this campaign or after this campaign. So they're waiting for a moment when there is enough oxygen to run."

"If Hillary Clinton weren't running, we'd have a field that looks like the Republican field — young and vibrant and diverse."
Well, it's nice of them to think so. But who would those young, vibrant candidates be?

The real student loan crisis is one that Obama has created.
The real crisis is one Obama himself manufactured since taking office.

In 2010, Obama eliminated the federal guaranteed loan program, which let private lenders offer student loans at low interest rates. Now, the Department of Education is the only place to go for such loans.

Obama sold this government takeover as a way to save money — why bear the costs of guaranteeing private loans, he said, when the government could cut out the middleman and lend the money itself?

The cost savings didn't happen. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office just increased its 10-year forecast for the loan program's costs by $27 billion, or 30%.

What did happen was an explosive growth in the amount of federal student loan debt. President Clinton phased in direct federal lending in 1993 as an option, but over the next 15 years the amount of loans was fairly stable. The result of Obama's action is striking. In each of the past six years, federal direct student loan debt has climbed by more than $100 billion.

And since Obama keeps making it easier and easier to avoid repaying those loans, it's a problem that taxpayers will eventually have to shoulder.

Through words and actions, Obama has encouraged irresponsibility on the part of student borrowers. He constantly talks as if student debt were an unfair burden they unknowingly had foisted upon them.

At the same time, he's made it easier and easier to avoid paying back student loans in full. Earlier this year, for example, Obama expanded eligibility for his "pay as you earn" program, which limits loan payments to 10% of income, with any debt left after 20 years forgiven.

Students got the message. The St. Louis Fed reports that 27.3% of student loans in repayment are at least a month behind in payments. That's a far higher delinquency rate than any other kind of debt, and it's significantly higher than the delinquency rate 10 years ago.

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Oh what a non-surprise. Iran's parliament wants to make changes in the nuclear deal. Amazing how many differences there still are between what the Obama administration is trumpeting as their great achievement and what Iran says they are willing to agree to. And who really doubts that Obama and his negotiators will eventually give in on such details?

We've only had a few days of Hillary the Candidate and already she's providing opponents with a lot of material for snarkiness.

And apparently, this "shallow and risk-averse" campaign is exactly what Americans deserve.
It’s all so dull, so bland, so scripted, so planned, so typically political. And perhaps, just perhaps, it’s what American voters deserve.

Americans want to believe that we’re a nation of risk-takers, pioneers, people willing to cast comfort and safety aside to achieve a dream, tell the truth, and change the world. Some of us still are those things, too. But in reality, a lot of us have become something else in recent years: narcissistic, overly-cautious, superficial, reality-disconnected, and above all, very, very boring.

Even among those of us who loathe the former Madam Secretary, we have become in so many ways just like her campaign promises to be. We are, in effect, Ready for Hillary....

When we have a choice between meeting people in real life, with all the potential awkwardness that might entail, or just sitting around texting and Facebook messaging, more and more, we seem to go for the “virtual.” We don’t want the sacrifices or pain entailed to really achieve; we prefer the comfort of telling ourselves that we are excelling, even when any objective analysis would show that is at best a half-truth. We don’t actually want reality, whether in our entertainment, our jobs, our education, our lives, or our politics. We just want something that kind of looks like it.

Hillary Clinton may appear past her political prime: a constructed, fake and self-obsessed persona; a boring, risk-averse, default option for a party out of touch with many of its would-be constituents and lacking in creativity and ambition.

But given the way many Americans lead our lives now, she may also be exactly what we deserve.

Of course: the Clinton campaign makes sure to confiscate cellphones and cameras before Iowans can meet Hillary.

Al Sharpton has violated tax laws again and again and somehow he just doesn't have to suffer the consequences.
New York’s velvet-glove handling of Sharpton’s tax and business woes might be justified if he had few assets to aggressively seize.

But his rock-and-roll lifestyle, in addition to his lucrative MSNBC and radio contracts, suggests he should be able to pay up.

Yet for some reason, New York authorities don’t seem terribly interested in holding Sharpton accountable.

As a civil-rights activist, Sharpton has pushed for equality under the law. New York should offer some reassurances that it holds that same principle dear — especially where Sharpton is concerned.

Meanwhile, law-abiding taxpayers in this state, who pay some of the biggest tax bills in the nation, should be infuriated at this disparate treatment.

The Justice Department is indicting Senator Menendez for asking for favors for a wealthy donor. But somehow the indictment avoids reference to one senator who was in the meeting that Menendez held with HHS Secretary Sebelius.
Oh, and who is “Senator 3”? None other than Harry Reid, and the Super PAC was Mr. Reid’s campaign fund, Majority PAC. The indictment doesn’t mention it, but Dr. Melgen gave another $100,000 to the PAC in 2012 that was not earmarked for New Jersey. Either the Medicare issue had enough merit for the Senate’s most powerful Democrat to host the sitdown with Ms. Sebelius. Or else it was corruption, and Dr. Melgen bribed Mr. Reid too and he should also be indicted.

If we’re going to slip down this slope, should Democrats who take money from the trial bar and then vote to make it easier to file class actions go to jail? By this standard, Hillary should be rung up for the foreign donations the Clinton Foundation accepted while she was Secretary of State, and Senators should serve time for recommending donors’ kids for the military academies.

The reality is that money and political speech are inseparable, and the metaphysical questions of why politicians believe what they do and why citizens give them money can’t be resolved by the courts. The Justice Department’s open-ended definition of corruption, applied consistently, would make every politician in America a felon. Justice may be trying to use selective prosecutions to enforce—or intimidate politicians into abiding by—campaign-finance restrictions that the Supreme Court holds unconstitutional.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cruising the Web

Just more one example of how, in the Clintons' minds, they are above the rules that limit ordinary politicians.
The board of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has decided to continue accepting donations from foreign governments, primarily from six countries, even though Hillary Clinton is running for president, a summary of the new policy to be released Thursday shows.

The rules would permit donations from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K.—countries that support or have supported Clinton Foundation programs on health, poverty and climate change, according to the summary.

That means other nations would be prohibited from making large donations to the foundation. But those governments would be allowed to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative, a subsidiary of the foundation where companies, nonprofit groups and government officials work on solutions to global problems.

Ministers from any government would be allowed to attend meetings and appear on panels at the group’s meetings and their governments would be allowed to pay attendance fees of $20,000.

The new policy, which was designed to address growing concern that the donations would present a conflict of interest for a Hillary Clinton presidency, all but ensures that Mrs. Clinton’s links to the charity will be a feature of the emerging presidential campaign....

The six countries on the approved donor list are less controversial and politically sensitive than some who gave in 2014, such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Still, even the allowed countries would pose issues for a Hillary Clinton administration. Canada’s Foreign Department has made Clinton Foundation donations and is also leading the charge to win approval for the Keystone XL pipeline. Germany and the U.K. are two of the five countries, including the U.S., that drafted an antinuclear accord with Iran. The U.S. and Germany also differ on how best to respond to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The foundation plan will likely renew the foreign-gift controversy just as Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign launched this week. Earlier this year, Mrs. Clinton came under fire from both Democrats and Republicans when The Wall Street Journal reported that foreign donations to the foundation had resumed last year after a virtual halt when she served as secretary of state from 2009-13.
but why would the family that rented out the Lincoln bedroom to donors care about the perception of corruption.

Timothy Carney analyzes how Hillary "Clinton represents everything Democrats say they oppose."
Sen. Clinton, of course, voted for the Iraq war and spoke on the Senate floor in defense of it. But it's not just Iraq. Her entire record is pro-war. Her husband launched wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. When he was getting impeached in 1998, he launched missile attacks on Iraq.

As Obama's Secretary of State, Clinton was one of the three Obama aides most responsible for the illegal pre-emptive war in Libya. "We came, we saw, he died," she gloated after the U.S. helped depose dictator Moammar Qadhafi. This regime change, like the one she supported in Iraq, left a power vacuum that has been filled by chaos and murder. Libya has become a terrorist hotbed and an Islamic State foothold.

Hillary Clinton is a war candidate. Is the Left now cool with that sort of thing?

Ethics, good government, the fight against big money, and the devolution of power away from the lobbyists and political power-brokers — these were the other major themes in 2006 and 2008. Democrats ran promising lobbying reforms. One of Obama's most compelling themes was his war on lobbyists, and his promise to "end the game-playing" in Washington.

Maybe Obama's failures in this regard have made the Left give up hope for any change in this regard. That's the best way to explain how the same electorate could be happy with Hillary Clinton.

Clinton isn't simply cozy with K Street. She is a hub of the Democrat-K Street axis. Her closest advisors are mostly revolving-door operatives who used their connections from her husband's administration to get rich as lobbyists or consultants, and then peddle their influence in the Obama administration.

John Podesta, arguably her closest advisor, was a pioneer in the industry of revolving-door lobbyists in the late 1980s, founding a firm with his brother Tony, also a former Democratic aide. In the 1990s, Podesta joined the Clinton administration, and then cashed out again to rejoin his lobbying firm. The firm's lobbying clients included Citigroup, Aetna, Blue Cross, Dow Chemical, Eli Lilly, AOL-Time Warner, General Electric and other corporate titans.

Clinton-world is full of names that hardly scream good government: Terry McAuliffe, Rahm Emanuel, Mark Penn, Sandy Berger and Lanny Davis. These are the people Democrats are inviting back into the inner circles of power if they send another Clinton to the White House.

Finally, there's her total resistance to transparency — a necessary pillar of good government. Clinton is famously and stubbornly closed to media. She refused to use the State Department's email system, instead creating her own email system, which was scrubbed totally clean once congressional digging got too close.

At worst, the email saga shows that Hillary is covering up something. At best, it shows she suffers from a paranoid obsession with secrecy.

Are America's Democrats really ready to put up with four years of war, corporatism and power-hungry secrecy?
In the face of how much Hillary represents so much of what the Democratic left hates, they'll have to yank her to the left in the upcoming campaign. Daniel Henninger predicts what is going to happen.
Mrs. Clinton is a Democrat inheriting the economic headwinds of the Obama presidency, six years of below-average economic growth that has produced middle-class anxiety over flat incomes and flat jobs. Her solution: Make big government bigger.

Start to finish, the Clinton campaign will be about income maintenance, education subsidies, refundable tax credits, expanded Social Security payments and, needless to say, pumping more helium into the ObamaCare balloon.
We're already seeing her do this. That is why it is so important for the Republicans to have a candidate who can forcefully and eloquently defend conservative principles.
More than anything, Leviathan has become vulnerable. The benevolent edifice of big government has been cracking, perhaps since FEMA’s nonperformance during Hurricane Katrina. The loss of faith accelerated under Barack Obama, with bland, acronymic facades cracking across Washington, from HHS to the IRS to the VA.

Marco Rubio this week called the whole federal thing so last century. And of course it is. It’s hard to know whether voters born in the 1980s or ’90s, women, independents and minorities will buy the argument that they or their families will be better off if government steps back. What we know for sure is that the lady in the Scooby van has to spend 19 months arguing for more of the same.

Doyle McManus of the LA Times writes on the same theme of how many Democrats are working hard to pull Hillary to the left.

James Pethokoukis defends the Marco Rubio tax proposal which several conservatives have criticized.
And, for all you heartbroken liberals, here's good news: In that debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is still a full-fledged player — not as a candidate but as an insistent voice in Clinton's left ear.

Warren, the heroine of the party's progressive wing, met with Clinton a few months ago to urge her to run a populist campaign.

The senator outlined some of the policies she'd like to see: an increase in Social Security benefits, a much higher minimum wage and stronger financial regulation to force big banks to get smaller.

And one more request: Warren urged Clinton to distance herself from the Wall Street fat cats who she thinks have amassed too much influence in Democratic administrations, including both Bill Clinton's and Barack Obama's.

Warren didn't get a solid commitment, I'm told, so she's a long way from giving her blessing to Clinton's campaign.

"I want to see who else gets in this race, and I want to see what the issues are that they push," she said in a CNN interview last week....

While we don't know how things will shake out, the results matter. At stake is whether the Democratic nominee will continue in the center-left "New Democratic" tradition of Bill Clinton, the slightly more liberal vein of Barack Obama, or move further to the populist left.

Clinton already knows what she thinks about most of those issues, of course; she's been in politics a long time. But she's avoided taking precise positions, a way of keeping her options open to see how the campaign develops. That can't last. It's not just pesky reporters who will be asking her questions; as soon as she starts talking with ordinary Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire, whose voters are among the best informed in the country, they're going to demand to know where she stands.

Christina Hoff Sommers takes on the ridiculousness of "trigger warnings."

What a lovely story. Chief Justice John Roberts reported for jury duty in Rockville, Maryland.
John G. Roberts Jr. showed up for jury duty in Rockville like other civic-minded citizens and was being considered for a civil trial in a case involving a car crash. He answered two questions in open court about relatives — noting that his sister in Indiana is a nurse, and his brother-in-law was with Indiana State Police — but none about his own line of work, which would be listed on a questionnaire. He then talked with attorneys and the judge privately at the bench.

Roberts was not selected, and left court without comment.

Justices are often called for jury duty — Justice Elena Kagan has been to the courthouse in the District at least twice — but rarely chosen. Roberts, who lives in Chevy Chase, was being considered for a two-day trial....

Rubin eventually asked people to raise their hands if they were involved in certain professions or were close to people involved in those professions. When the topic turned to medicine, Roberts spoke up.

“Juror 49,” he began. “My sister is a nurse.”

Rubin asked for a few more details and got them – she lived in Indiana, with a specialty of cardiology. Then Rubin asked the highest ranking member of his profession a question he obviously knew by rote: “Would that in any way make it difficult or impossible for you to be fair and impartial?”

“Nope,” the chief justice said....

Minutes later, Rubin asked No. 49 to step to the bench, asking the lawyers in the case to join them for a quiet conversation out of the presence of the other prospective jurors. It seemed clear what Rubin was doing: He was about to ask the panelists if they had any experience as a lawyer or close connections to lawyers, and Rubin wanted to save Roberts from having to answer in the detailed affirmative in front of everyone else.

“Sir, good morning. How are you?” Rubin asked No 49.

“Very good, thank you,” No. 49 said.

“I’ve discussed this with counsel. Obviously we know what you do for a living, sir.”
I think the lawyers should have picked him. Who better to sit in judgment in an unbiased manner than someone whose job description is to do that very thing?

John Hinderaker laughs at the hypocrisy of the Clinton campaign that is planning to raise $1.5 or $2 billion to run for presidency, but now is talking about a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Citizens United held that the federal government cannot make it a crime to put out a movie criticizing a candidate for public office shortly prior to an election. Don’t take my word for it, read the opinion yourself. Oh, and, by the way–who was the politician who was criticized by the movie at issue in the Citizens United case? Hillary Clinton.

The Udall Amendment would go far beyond repealing Citizens United, i.e., authorizing the federal government to fine people or send them to jail for producing movies and books that criticize politicians prior to elections. Bad as that certainly would be, the Udall Amendment goes much further.
Read the rest of his discussion. He concludes,
The Udall Amendment would repeal the core of the First Amendment, the constitutional right to support and oppose candidates for office, and Hillary Clinton is in favor of it.

Why? She knows that Republicans believe in free speech and would never try to criminalize opposition to their policies and candidates. The Democrats, on the other hand, can’t wait to shut the rest of us up. That is why they keep talking about “money in politics.” They don’t mean their money, they mean ours.

The hypocrisy abounds.
Mrs. Clinton said in her Sunday campaign video that the “deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” and she would know based on her taste for amenities and expenses along with her speaking fees. “She insists on staying in the ‘presidential suite’ of luxury hotels that she chooses anywhere in the world, including Las Vegas,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote last August. “She usually requires those who pay her six-figure fees for speeches to also provide a private jet for transportation—only a $39 million, 16-passenger Gulfstream G450 or larger will do.”

There’s one more way she and husband Bill have stacked the deck in their favor. The average worker—if she could even dream of pulling down $200,000 for an hour of work—would pay taxes on this income; Mrs. Clinton often doesn’t.

By routing speaking fees through their family’s foundation, the Clintons ensure that the money won’t be taxed before it is directed to support foundation travel, meals and promotional events, among other things. The highly compensated political influence peddlers at the top of the untaxed sector of the U.S. economy have found their champion.
Hey, wealthy hypocrites need representation also.

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James Taranto notes how the same media that hated the Citizens United outcome have found one aspect of corporate speech that they fully endorse.
Over the past couple of weeks we were keeping an eye (though only one) on the Indiana kerfuffle, and we were struck by an editorial from the New York Times in praise of corporate speech: “Big corporations like Walmart, Apple, and General Electric and their executives have done the right thing by calling on officials in Indiana and Arkansas to reject ‘religious freedom’ laws designed to give businesses and religious groups legal cover should they deny service to gay couples.”

The Times editors were pleased but not satisfied: “Just issuing corporate statements against such a law is relatively easy and actually doesn’t provide protection against discrimination.” The Times wants corporate America to engage in far broader political activism. For one thing, “corporations and their executives . . . should make clear that they will not donate to or support the campaigns of politicians who back such regressive legislation.” (Actually, campaign donations by corporations are legally prohibited at the federal level.)

The editorial adds: “Another thing businesses can do is to make clear that they want lawmakers in all states to pass anti-discrimination protections for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people. More than three dozen chief executives of technology companies did just that in a statement released on [April 1].”
So here is one kind of corporate activism in elections that the NYT loves even thought it had a conniption after Citizens United was decided.
The charge of hypocrisy certainly fits. What the Times now urges is that corporations attempt to “intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding”—precisely what it found objectionable five years ago. On the other hand, it is possible to reconcile the paper’s objection to Citizens United with its support for corporate political activism—but that resolution reveals something worse than hypocrisy.

The Times’s position is that corporations (with the convenient exception of “media corporations” like the New York Times Co. itself) have no rights under the First Amendment. That view underlay its histrionic objections to both Citizens United and last year’s Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, in which the high court extended the religious-liberty protection of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to corporations that objected to the ObamaCare abortifacient mandate on conscientious grounds.

But now the Times is urging corporations, and executives acting in their corporate capacity, to speak out aggressively in favor of a political cause the Times supports. How could they even do so without free speech?

That seems like a rhetorical question but isn’t. Opponents of free speech, such as the Times editorial board, do not oppose speech. They oppose freedom. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes may not brook dissent, but they encourage speech in favor of the regime. Totalitarian regimes frequently compel pro-regime speech.

To be sure, the New York Times is not a government; its editorials have the force of wishes, not laws. But the aspirations here are authoritarian in character. In the Times’s ideal world, corporate speech would be permitted, but only in the service of permissible viewpoints. That is the antithesis of free speech, a central feature of which is viewpoint-neutrality.

We can't even trust Hillary to tell us the truth of how her "Scooby van" got its name.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cruising the Web

Hillary Clinton, multi-millionaire and recipient of millions from Wall Street, is attacking CEO pay. Yeah, that sort of populism is totally believable. And when she attacks hedge-fund managers, is she also attacking her daughter Chelsea who, with no experience at all, joined a hedge fund that was a big contributor to Democratic Party campaigns? Or what about Chelsea's husband Marc Mezvinsky who founded and managed a hedge fund that lost millions by betting on Greece's economic recovery? Betting on Greece's economy - who knew that would be a bad idea? Are those the sorts of politically-connected hedge-fund managers that Hillary is condemning? Hillary's hypocrisy seems to grow every day. Does anyone besides Republican partisans care?

Ed Morrissey expands on why Hillary Clinton is exactly why Hillary is the wrong spear-carrier for the inequality message.
Hillary is the wrong banner carrier for the message by any measure. First, she takes in six times the annual average household income per hour for her speeches, at $300,000 a pop. It would only take her 50 speeches to get to the same 300x metric she decries here. Furthermore, Hillary signed a deal in 2013 for a $14 million book advance for the memoir she released last year, which sold unimpressively for such a marquee advance. On top of that, she’d already received an $8 million advance for her first memoir, “Living History.” That totals $22 million in advance of any work at all, or roughly 440 times what average American households gross in a year. In the years since the Clintons left the White House, they’ve earned well over $100 million. And unlike CEOs at that level, they don’t employ many people, and don’t produce anything except income for their own benefit.

This provides an odd parallel to Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. The issue that most fired up the base was opposition to ObamaCare, and Romney had overseen the launch of its predecessor in Massachusetts. The conundrum left the base uninspired, and despite coming close to Obama in a lower-turnout election, Romney could not get enough of the vote out to the polls to bridge the gap. Having Hillary front the issue of CEO pay as irrational and unfair would be almost delicious for its hypocrisy.

So what is the likelihood that Hillary can maintain the Obama coalition? She not only has to overwhelmingly win black and young voters, but get them to turn out at something like the unprecedented levels that they turned out for Barack Obama. So can she make up any losses there by increased numbers from women voters.
But even here, it isn't clear that she can improve substantially on Obama's performance. In both of his campaigns, Obama already did better among female voters than almost any other Democratic candidate since data are available in 1976. In 2004, Kerry only won women by 3 points, but Obama won them by 13 points in 2008 and 11 points in 2012. The one candidate who did better was Clinton in 1996, who won women by 17 points that year. However, once again, it's unclear how the Perot factor may have affected this margin.

Victor Davis Hanson runs through several suggestions of why Hillary Clinton is even running for president. It's not enough to say there is no one else and that it's her turn. She can raise lots of money. She can't run on her record as Secretary of State or on carrying on Obama's record which too many Americans don't like. All that is left is her gender and the ensuing attacks on Republicans who dare to oppose her.
What is then left? Actually one motif.

Hillary is both a victim and trailblazer. Her disastrous record of unethical and illegal activities — shaking down foreigners for donations to her foundation while secretary of State, creating her exclusive server for a private email account, destroying all her emails after admitting that she was judge and jury of what were and were not government records — is instead proof of right-wing McCarthyism.

Those who attack her are afraid of a woman president and what she represents — an inclusive social agenda that protects gays, women, and minorities from right-wing hooliganism and religious bigotry, fire-and-brimstone anti-abortionists who want entrance into our bedrooms and to erect glass ceilings to thwart feminists, reincarnations of Bull Connors and Lester Maddoxes who would put blacks back in chains, nativists and restrictionists who hide their racism by faux calls for border enforcement, and greedy speculators and stock manipulators who care little for the 99%.

That is Hillary Clinton’s past, present, and future. There is nothing more. No record — ever — of success, no innate charm, eloquence, brilliance, or campaign savviness. And given her iconic female candidacy, her turn, her money — and the lack of an alternative — Hillary Clinton needs no agenda, whether a past one to defend or a future one to rally to.

The agenda is simply that Americans are not doing well because of all sorts of illiberal enemies who conspire to thwart them due to their class, race, and gender — and the nation’s first woman president will make it all nice.

Don’t laugh. It may well be a winning formula in the present-day United States.

Lauren Fox of the National Journal looks at the moments that made Marco Rubio stand out as "more than just another freshman senator." Are there any moments like that for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in their Senate careers?

The 77 cents pay gap myth is exposed once again.
Proponents of the wage-gap myth like to claim that the patriarchy pushes women into those less lucrative careers. That's a sad commentary on their way of thinking — their notion that women are simply too dumb or weak to think for themselves and choose the career they actually want. I think the numbers show that women are choosing the careers they prefer but those careers just aren't as lucrative as those chosen by men. There's nothing wrong with that. Do what makes you happy.

Mark J. Perry of the conservative American Enterprise Institute has also taken apart the myth, showing that different lifestyle choices made by women contribute to the wage gap. For instance, married women and women with children tend to make less on average than men. Again, proponents say this is patriarchal discrimination that allows women to make as much as men only if they never marry or have children. I see no discrimination, only women choosing to work less or choosing more flexible careers that let them care for children.

Lisa Maatz, a spokeswoman for the American Association of University Women, confirmed my suspicion years ago. When asked how much of the gender-wage gap is due to discrimination, Maatz — whose organization is one of the biggest proponents of the myth — responded: "We're still trying to figure that out."

Translation: Despite decades of pushing this number, they still have no evidence that discrimination is the reason.

Mark Perry added a new twist on workplace wage gaps this year, pointing out that men account for nearly all fatal occupational injuries. This is due to men choosing (or maybe being forced by the patriarchy?) more dangerous careers like logging and fishing (think Deadliest Catch).

"The higher concentrations of men in riskier occupations with greater occurrences of workplace injuries and fatalities suggest that more men than women are willing to expose themselves to work-related injury or death in exchange for higher wages," Perry wrote. "In contrast, women more than men prefer lower risk, family-friendly occupations with greater workplace safety, and are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the reduced probability of work-related injury or death."

Those who perpetuate the myth of the 23-cent wage gap myth do so even though they know the real reasons for the gap. President Obama continues to claim women earn less than men even though, using the same statistics to arrive at the 77 or 78-cent figure, his administration has its own wage gap. When that was pointed out, the administration responded by saying it was because there are more women in the administration but they hold lower-paying jobs, which skews the average. A side-by-side comparison of men and women working the same jobs found no such wage gap.
The sad thing is that I see so many of my students totally buying into this myth because they've never heard what baloney it is.

On tax day, here's a story guaranteed to irritate you.
The Internal Revenue Service spent millions of dollars on public opinion polling, office furniture and other items last year, including an $8,000 stair climber, and Thomas the Tank Engine wristbands.

The Senate's top tax lawmaker, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, calling out the expenditure in the wake of complaints by the agency that it lacks the funding to provide adequate customer service and prompt refunds.

"Since your agency continues to have problems prioritizing the use of its budget, which has reduced slightly in recent years after historic growth late in the last decade, I write to offer some courtesy suggestions on spending that might be curtailed," Hatch wrote to Koskinen.

The spending borders on the ridiculous — including plush animals, toy footballs, kazoos, bathtub toy boats, and Thomas the Tank Engine rubber wristbands for managers' meetings.

It also includes very costly expenditures, including $4.3 million on market research and public opinion polling and $4 million on office furniture, in addition to the stair climber.

The letter to Koskinen comes in the wake of news reports that the IRS has been unable to respond to the flood of pre-tax day customer service calls and a threat that refunds could be delayed thanks to reduced funding at the agency.

Peggy Noonan ponders the upcoming election and the role of the media.
Two points on the general feel of the 2016 campaign so far.

One is that in the case of Mrs. Clinton we are going to see the press act either like the press of a great nation—hungry, raucous, alive, demanding—or like a hopelessly sickened organism, a big flailing octopus with no strength in its arms, lying like a greasy blob at the bottom of the sea, dying of ideology poisoning.

Republicans know—they see it every day—that Republican candidates get grilled, sometimes impertinently, and pressed, sometimes brusquely. And it isn’t true that they’re only questioned in this way once they announce, Scott Walker has been treated like this also, and he has yet to announce. Republicans see this, and then they see that Mrs. Clinton isn’t grilled, is never forced to submit to anyone’s morning-show impertinence, is never the object of the snotty question or the sharp demand for information. She gets the glide. She waves at the crowds and the press and glides by. No one pushes. No one shouts the rude question or rolls out the carefully scripted set of studio inquiries meant to make the candidate squirm. She is treated like the queen of England, who also isn’t subjected to impertinent questions as she glides into and out of venues. But she is the queen. We are not supposed to have queens.

Second point: We have simply never had a dynamic like the one that seems likely to prevail next year.

On the Republican side there is a good deep bench and there will be a hell of a fight among serious and estimable contenders. A handful of them—Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rubio, maybe Bobby Jindal—are first-rate debaters, sharp advancers of a thought and a direction. Their debates, their campaigning, their oppo geniuses, their negative ads—it’s all going to be bloody. Will the American people look at them in 2016 and see dynamism and excitement and youth and actual ideas and serious debate? Will it look like that’s where the lightning’s striking and the words have meaning? Will it fortify and revivify the Republican brand? Or will it all look like mayhem and chaos? Will the eventual winner emerge a year from now too bloodied, too damaged to go on and win in November? Will the party itself look bloody and damaged?

On the Democratic side we have Mrs. Clinton, gliding. If she has no serious competition, will the singularity of her situation make her look stable, worthy of reflexive respect, accomplished, serene, the obvious superior choice? Or will Hillary alone on the stage, or the couch, or in the tinted-window SUV, look entitled, presumptuous, old, boring, imperious, yesterday?

Will it all come down to bloody versus boring?

And which would America prefer?

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Oh, gosh! Is there any human being in the United States who was yearning for a George Pataki candidacy for president?

This chess grandmaster's visit to the bathroom was not as successful as Al Pacino's in The Godfather.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cruising the Web

Marc Thiessen explains how President Obama is applying the lessons of Jonathan Gruber to his foreign policy.
Well it seems, Obama is applying the “Gruber Doctrine” once again — this time to foreign policy.

The Gruber Doctrine is based on the premise that, in the words of the now infamous MIT professor, “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” and that the “basic exploitation of the lack of . . . understanding of the American voter” is “really, really critical” for enacting your preferred policies.

That is precisely what Obama is doing when it comes to Iran and Cuba.
It's been clear that the Obama administration is misleading us about what is in the supposed deal with Iran. It's not a good sign when the Iranians keep saying that the deal is different from what Obama and Kerry claim it says. But Obama will keep saying that there is this deal which is the only possible approach to Iran and hope that most Americans aren't paying attention. And he's doing the same thing with Cuba.
A new poll commissioned by my American Enterprise Institute colleague Roger Noriega for InterAmerican Security Watch finds that Americans do support Obama’s plan by a margin of 51 to 38 percent . . . until they learn some basic facts about Cuba. When Americans are told that Cuba is hosting Russian ships in its harbors, opposition to normalization jumps to 58 percent while support sinks to 30 percent. When Americans are told of Cuba’s attempts to smuggle 240 tons of weaponry to North Korea, opposition jumps to 63 percent and support drops to 26 percent. When Americans are told that Cuba is harboring a cop-killer and terrorists, opposition jumps to 63 percent, and support plummets to 23 percent. When asked whether sanctions should be maintained pending Cuba’s progress on human rights and free elections, Americans agree by a margin of 64-16. And when asked whether Cuba’s designation as a supporter of terrorism should be maintained because it harbors terrorists, respondents agreed 68 percent to 16 percent.

In other words, Noriega says, “When Americans hear basic facts about Castro’s hostility and human-rights violations, they know that the president’s unilateral concessions only emboldened a dangerous, despotic regime.”
But Obama can depend on American ignorance just as they did for passing Obamacare.

The National Journal looks at the vision that Marco Rubio's supporters have for how he might thread his way through to victory. Or how he could just crash and burn. He gives a better speech than any of the other candidates. If he can travel around Iowa and win them over with his personal appearances, he might have a chance. In some ways he's the anti-Hillary. Her announcement on Sunday might have overshadowed his, but it also guaranteed that they would be discussed in the same stories. And his youth, eloquence, and story are stark contrasts to her studied phoniness. He inhabits some of the same ground as his competitors. Ted Cruz is also the descendant of Cuban immigrants. Rubio and Jeb Bush have been friends and allies in Florida and might be going after some of the same financial supporters. He is a fresh, young face like Scott Walker without the executive experience. And he still has to overcome conservative distrust stemming from his stand on immigration. However, Ted Cruz has antagonized a lot of people, including Republicans, and demonstrated a temperament unsuited for governing. Jeb Bush has antagonized even more Republicans and the whole dynasty question rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Rand Paul's approach to foreign policy and echoes of his father are going to repel a lot of conservatives. And Scott Walker has had some notable gaffes that raise questions of his readiness. We'll see if Rubio can avoid the media-generated gaffes that were used to trip up Walker.

The NRO explains why Rubio makes such an attractive candidate.
Rubio is probably the most charismatic potential Republican nominee. He speaks movingly about his love for the United States and the opportunities it has offered him and his family. He is the field’s most articulate advocate of strong American leadership in foreign affairs. These traits alone would be enough to put him in the top tier of Republican candidates.

But he has gone above and beyond that, spending the last couple of years churning out a number of innovative, conservative policy proposals on taxes, higher education, health care, and entitlements. Rubio enters the field with a comprehensive plan for individual and corporate tax reform, which he produced alongside Senator Mike Lee of Utah. The plan is not perfect, but it is an excellent starting point for how conservatives should be thinking about tax policy: It reduces distortions in the tax code, cuts rates for almost all Americans and businesses, encourages corporate investment, and provides badly needed tax relief to middle-class families.

Hillary's biggest fear? The economy.
That’s because the economy has never fully recovered from the financial collapse that President Obama faced when he took office.
The spin from the Obama team on the lousy March jobs report went about like this: Lots of snow and frigid temperatures stopped an otherwise robust economy in its tracks, as people temporarily cut back on eating, drinking and shopping, to the point where employers just didn’t need to hire many new workers.

For those of us waiting for a good laugh, let’s hope Hillary makes these same nonsensical points on the campaign trail.

Fact is, many analysts believe the economy is worse than the headline numbers, filtered through the Obamaites and their media lackeys, suggest. They point to other data that hint things could even get worse in the months ahead.

That weak jobs report alone, of course, should make Clinton fear that — once again — the Obama economy isn’t really getting better.

Again, the headline number sounds good: Unemployment kept steady at a reasonable 5.5 percent, far below the double-digit mess Obama inherited, and not far from our pre-financial-crisis glory days.

But scratch a bit deeper, as many economists and savvy Wall Street investors have, and the economy looks weaker. For example, the real jobless rate — which takes into account the marginally employed and those not looking for jobs, folks who don’t show up in the official stats — is closer to 11 percent, as it’s been for the past year.

Worse, the workforce only gained 126,000 new jobs in March, down from around 200,000 or more a month for the past year.

And a year of 200,000 new jobs a month isn’t much to celebrate: Under President Ronald Reagan, the economy added more than 300,000 jobs a month for 23 months, and had plenty more months above 200,000 over his two terms — and the workforce was smaller then. (Reagan, like Obama, inherited a recession.)

....Consider: The country’s economic growth, as defined by Gross Domestic Product, in last year’s fourth quarter was recently revised downward to a paltry 2.2 percent. And that’s for the period before all the real cold weather kicked in (and before the strong dollar, which hurts exports, really took hold).

All told, the US economy under Obama has grown at an average seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.9 percent — the lowest in nearly 70 years. And it could get worse: The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has cut its projected growth rate for the economy to nearly zero for the first quarter of 2015.

That’s right, zero, which is better than negative — but not enough for Hillary Clinton to be picking new color patterns for the curtains in the Oval office.

Remember when Hillary Clinton told 60 Minutes that she wasn't "some little woman standing by man like Tammy Wynette." Well, it turns out Wynette's story is so much more than that one song title.
It’s certainly true that the late country singer Tammy Wynette was best known for her mega-hit “Stand by Your Man.” But Hillary’s statement was wrong on two counts. In her own life, the thrice-married, twice-divorced Wynette actually did not stand by her men.

Hillary, by any measure, has. In fact, Wynette might be considered a paragon of feminist courage and independence, while Hillary, to win the White House, will have to prove that she has what it takes to accomplish great things on her own.

Here’s some of what Hillary apparently didn’t know about the life of Tammy Wynette. From a start picking cotton on her grandfather’s farm in Itawamba County, Mississippi, Virgina Wynette Pugh rose to become the acknowledged First Lady of country music even before she ended up marrying its king, George Jones. Married as a teenager, she overcame a divorce from her often-unemployed, construction-worker husband to raise three children on her own. To do so, she earned a beautician’s license and worked as a hairdresser, all while singing at night in clubs. Even after becoming a star she kept the license up to date, lest her luck run out.
Hillary certainly never showed that sort of independent toughness. Instead she stuck with her man so she could ride his coattails to success.

The similarities between Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney.

Sean Trende notes little problems with the rollout of Hillary's campaign and wonders if they augur anything beyond an inattention to details. He notes Obama ran a flawless campaign in 2008 and contrasts that with Gore and Romney.
This brings me to the Hillary Clinton campaign rollout yesterday. The video was delayed, and ended up being pre-empted by an e-mail from her campaign manager. The press release had a typo, claiming that she had “fought children and families” her whole career. Her TweetDeck photo was positioned such that the checkmark covered her eye. Whatever you might think about the logo, it wasn’t as powerful as Obama’s. It may well be that the lines on an “H” are never going to produce an image as visually pleasing as an “O,” but even taking that into account, the little things were off (the arrow pointing rightward, for example).

If Hillary loses, it won’t be because of a typo in her campaign announcement. There were also good things about the rollout: The actual video was solid. But like her famous email press conference, the risk is that the mistakes are indicative of a deeper problem. These little things are minor, until it emerges that a higher-up in the campaign doesn’t know that the delegates in the nomination battle are awarded proportionally. Then, suddenly, there is a problem. If the race is close, the little things really can make a difference.

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John Podhoretz has several takeaways from Hillary's announcement and the similarities to George H.W. Bush's race in 1988.
3) Reagan could take credit for the changes because he was president. Hillary seems to be attempting to invoke a sense of optimism about the current American condition (at least among Democrats) for which she can realistically take no credit—which is also helpful, because to the extent that people do not feel optimistic, she doesn’t bear any responsibility for the bad feeling either.

4) Optimism is nice. The ad is nice. Hillary probably needs to look nice. She’s trying to look nice. You don’t immediately associate her with the word “upbeat.” Maybe if she spends $500 million to show she’s upbeat, people will come to agree. On the other hand, New Coke.

5) In the end, as E.J. Dionne points out, she has determined to run the way George H.W. Bush ran in 1988—and that Bush ran as “Reagan plus,” with promises to improve education and the environment. But Bush’s “thousands points of light” argle-bargle really had little to do with his landslide victory, as I recounted in my 1993 book, Hell of a Ride (now available on Amazon for the amazing price of one penny). He was Reagan’s third term, pure and simple; in the fall of 1988, Reagan hit an approval rating of 54 percent, and Bush received…53.4 percent. (And this was, of course, a decline of more than five points from Reagan’s 1984 margin of 58.9 percent. In 1986, before he fell into the trough of Iran-Contra, Reagan routinely scored approval ratings in the low 60s—a number Barack Obama has never even approached.)
6) In 1988, all the data suggested the public believed it was “time for a change.” I worked in the Reagan White House at the time, writing speeches for the president, and this was a problem we addressed head on—and helped Bush win as a result. In rally speech after rally speech, Ronald Reagan said, “People say it’s time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are the change.” The point was that the changes of the 1980s had not fully solidified and Bush was needed in large measure to assure that change was not reversed.

7) The bottom line: If Hillary is to be the second coming of George H.W. Bush, albeit a Democrat, Obama better up his game and fast. In the last quarter of 1988, when people were choosing between Bush or Michael Dukakis, the economy was growing by 5.4 percent. Reagan’s signature policies, from the tax cuts to tax reform to the defense buildup that put the Soviet Union on the track to dissolution, were all judged successes by the electorate. Obama’s signature policy, Obamacare, still polls badly—and his foreign policy isn’t looking any too good either, to put it mildly. To win, Hillary needs to be able to take advantage of the “we are the change” idea. Right now, it would work against her. Pretty badly.