Will Obama’s deal with Iran bind our next president?

A reader wonders whether, assuming that President Obama does not submit his nuclear deal with Iran to the Senate for ratification, the deal would bind our next president. In my opinion, it would not.

The administration apparently does not intend to submit the deal to Congress. Secretary of State Kerry justifies this decision on the theory that the president has the inherent authority to execute foreign policy.

If so, the next president has the same inherent authority and can exercise it by reversing course. Only a ratified treaty would legally constrain the next president, in my view.

Rick Perry, who conceivably could be our next president, agrees with me. In a video obtained by the Weekly Standard, Perry stated:

If President Obama signs an agreement that the Congress cannot support, our next president should not be bound by it. An arms control agreement that excludes our Congress, damages our security, and endangers our allies has to be reconsidered by any future president. We must not allow the incompetence of one administration to damage our country’s security for years and decades to come.

Presumably, Iran understands that, absent Senate ratification, the next U.S. president could disregard the deal. But this reality is probably not of great concern to the mullahs for two reasons.

First, the deal would, at a minimum, buy Iran nearly two years to revive its economy without having seriously to hinder its nuclear program. That’s worth plenty to the mullahs.

Second, even if the next U.S. president decided to abandon the deal, what would his or her options be? The main option would be to reinstate sanctions. However, it’s unlikely that an effective sanctions regime could be revived because it’s unlikely that other major powers would cast the agreement aside. Without international cooperation, sanctions are unlikely to have a great impact.

Given a choice between an ineffective sanctions regime and whatever inspections Obama’s deal permits, the next president may be reluctant to void Obama’s deal. In any event, the mullahs probably don’t fear a U.S. attempt to reimpose sanctions two years from now.

As for a military strike, the next president would almost surely not undertake one absent a clear and major breach of Obama’s agreement by Iran. Even then, it’s likely that the U.S. would seek to resolve the breach through talks, rather than through military action.

If, however, the next president decided to take military action in response to a breach by Iran, he or she probably would not declare Obama’s agreement invalid. Instead, the president would rely on the breach.

Barack Obama used to talk about “the fierce urgency of now.” As he works fervently, and often unlawfully, to impose his will and narrow his successor’s options, I finally understand what he means.

Koch to Democratic Senators: Get Lost!

The Democrats’ campaign to smear climate realists is not going well. Congressman Raul Grijalva is taking a beating, and Dr. Willie Soon has struck back against the climate hysterics who are persecuting him.

As part of their smear campaign, Democratic Senators Boxer, Markey and Whitehouse wrote to Koch Industries to request information, covering the last 10 years, “about Koch Industries’ payments made in support of scientific research and scientists, as well as support for other efforts related to climate change, if such payments have been made.” Yesterday, Koch’s General Counsel, Mark Holden, responded to the Democrats’ request:

The activity and efforts about which you inquire, and Koch’s involvement, if any, in them, are at the core of the fundamental liberties protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. To the extent that your letter touches on matters that implicate the First Amendment, I am sure you recognize Koch’s right to participate in the debate of important public policy issues and its right of free association. …

In reviewing your letter, I did not see any explanation or justification for an official Senate Committee inquiry into activities protected by the First Amendment. Under the circumstances, we decline to participate in this endeavor and object to your apparent efforts to infringe upon and potentially stifle fundamental First Amendment activities.

Here is the letter in full:

Holden Ltr 030515

Senator Markey’s web site contains a list of 100 “fossil fuel companies, trade groups, and other organizations” to which the senators have sent the same request. The “other organizations” include the Chamber of Commerce, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Energy Research, the John Locke Foundation, the John Williams Pope Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the Searle Freedom Trust, the Heartland Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Holden’s letter is an excellent model for those organizations, as well as the energy companies on the list, to use in responding to the senators’ request, should they choose to respond at all.

Mark Falcoff: More thoughts on Cuba

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at AEI. He is the author of several books including Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes further to posts for us on Cuba, most recently, here and here:

The story has kind of disappeared from the headlines, or even the second page, but the efforts of the Obama administration to reestablish relations with Castro’s Cuba continues apace. All kinds of people are getting into the act–not just unreconstructed Marxists or pie-in-the-sky peaceniks, but hard driving business people hoping to make a buck once the trade embargo is lifted.

At first glance this seems rather odd. What could Cuba buy from the US? What would it use for money? The government is flat broke. The average Cuban has virtually nothing to spend. Presumably the government and its enterprises (hotels, resorts) would get some hard currency from tourism, but at present — because of the lack of a small business community and an unproductive agriculture — it would have to turn around and buy almost all the inputs elsewhere This has been the case for some years now since the country opened itself to Canadian, European and Latin American travelers.

Tourists, of course, must eat (even if Cubans have to depend on sometimes empty ration stores.) This is where American agriculture comes in. Cuba has destroyed what agriculture it had through Soviet-type policies. It is already buying American foodstuffs, but under the current restrictive legislation, it must pay cash. It would naturally like to buy more–on credit.
This is, to repeat, not possible at present.

However, there is something called the Commodity Credit Corporation, created by Congress under pressure from senators from farm states sometime in the 1970s. It basically insures commodity suppliers against the default of purchasing governments. There have been many such–most notably Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

This explains the current convergence of views on the part of both the US agribusiness community and Cubans friends in the administration and the media. If only Congress could change the legislation and give Havana a chance to stock up on US products at the expense of the US taxpayer–before, that is, it finally defaults, as it did thirty years ago on its hard currency debt to Europe and Japan. Now that oil prices have collapsed and Maduro’s Venezuela is no longer able to bail the Castro brothers out, guess who is coming to pick up the slack?

Someone misled us on AQ’s demise

The Wall Street Journal carries an important column by Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn on the status of al Qaeda. The column is “How America was misled on al Qaeda’s demise.” The column is behind the Journal’s subscription paywall but accessible here via Google.

One of the central themes of President Obama’s campaign for reelection in 2012 rested on the proposition that he had essentially defeated al Qaeda. By one count, Obama described al Qaeda as having been “decimated,” “on the path to defeat” or some other variation at least 32 times in the aftermath of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. Like so much of what Obama asserts as a matter of course: not true.

Here are three paragraphs in which Hayes and Joscelyn warm to their argument:

In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”

The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.

It was a reassuring portrayal. It was also wrong. And those responsible for winning the war—as opposed to an election—couldn’t afford to engage in such dangerous self-delusion.

The headline puts the argument of the column in the passive voice. It should read “How Obama misled us on al Qaeda’s demise.” Giving the principal credit would make his agency clear, though “misled” might be euphemistic in this case, as Hayes and Jocelyn strongly suggest. Please read the whole thing.

13 questions for Hillary Clinton [Plus one more]

The mainstream media won’t let up on Hillary Clinton (nor should it). Ruth Marcus poses 13 questions about Clinton’s use of private email at the State Department:

1. Why did you make the decision to use a personal email account rather than government email upon becoming secretary of state?

2. Why did you believe this approach was necessary and/or preferable to using an official email account?

3. Did others working for you at the State Department use personal email for government business? If so, please identify them and explain whether their correspondence has been transferred to the State Department.

4. Would it have been appropriate for others working for you at the State Department to use personal email for official purposes? If not, why does a different standard apply to the secretary?

5. What steps did you or others working on your behalf take before making this decision to determine whether it complied with applicable laws and regulations, and whether your communications would be adequately secured?

6. Specifically, did you consult with officials at the State Department, the White House, or other government agencies to determine whether this approach was permissible?

7. If not, why not, given the obvious questions about compliance with federal disclosure laws and concerns about cybersecurity?

8. If you did consult with officials, what were you advised? Please provide copies of any email or other correspondence/documentation reflecting these consultations.

9. If you were advised that applicable laws and regulations did not permit and/or counseled against the use of private email, why did you decide to proceed with that plan?

10. Please explain how the decision to rely on personal email and not to provide the records until after your departure and after being requested complies with, as your spokesman has said, “the letter and spirit of the rules.”

11. Specifically, C.F.R. 1236.22, which dates from 2009, provides that “agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.” What steps did you take to comply with this requirement?

12. When emails were turned over to the State Department last year, who in your office determined what emails constituted official business and what standards did they use to make that determination? Did anyone from the State Department oversee or vet this process to ensure that all relevant emails were supplied?

13. In 2007, criticizing the George W. Bush White House during the controversy over fired U.S. attorneys, you decried the use of “secret White House email accounts” to conduct government business. Please explain how your use of personal email differed.

If I recall correctly, Marcus is a law school graduate. Her questions read like well-framed interrogatories. Tweets will not suffice to answer most of them.

ONE MORE: A reader with extensive service in the government proposes the following question, given that Clinton would routinely have transmitted classified information via email:

How did you and your staff pass classified information via e mail in light of your exclusive use of private/personal accounts?

Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll returns with a familiar question: DIDJA EVER NOTICE? She writes:

Didja ever notice that bad comics will overuse this convention?

I have accumulated a number of ideas that don’t necessarily merit a whole column on their own but yet are things that I want to comment upon. As an exercise in nostalgia for my old job, I thought it might be fun to use many of the clichés in a standup’s bag of tricks. So, here we go.

Hey, whazzup, ____________? (Insert your city here and cheer wildly at its mention, thereby proving that you know where you live.)

Give yourselves a round of applause for coming out to read Thoughts From the Ammo Line! (I find this the most odious of all the comedy conventions, by the way, except for asking “How you doin’ tonight?” Nobody cares. Shut up and do your material…)

Didja ever notice that the PC crowd believes we are duty-bound to let all people be whoever they say they are with but a single exception? If a treasonous little gay creep is feeling kind of PMS-y one day and declares that from now on he wishes to be addressed as “Chelsea,” then Chelsea he is called by all the hip correct people who sit with the cool kids in the lunchroom. Your tax dollars will also pay for his hormone treatments. Continue to call him either “him” or Bradley, and you’re an obvious H8R. Don’t even think of being a graduation speaker.

But if a terrorist group calls itself The Islamic Islamists for Really Strict Islam-y Islam, these same people feel perfectly comfortable insisting that whatever this group is about, and we have no clue, it has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, the FARTHEST from it, according to Mr. Strategic Patience.

Isn’t it remarkable that Barry feels it is really important to pronounce Tolly-bon and Pocky-ston correctly, but has no interest in getting the Marine Corpse right?

If the Tea Party had ransacked the IRS building out of rage at being targeted and discriminated against – not that I am for a minute suggesting that; they have their own SWAT team just for starters with billions of bullets. Lois Lerner’s snotty smug look alone could probably maim – do you think the President would advise them to “stay the course”? Me neither.

If the Tolly-bon are really “just like” the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, do you think it is actually meant as a compliment when the Tea Party is called “The Taliban wing of the Republican Party”? Me neither.

If the married Rush Limbaugh had sexted a girlfriend with as lurid a series of messages as Steve Croft has sent his squeeze, how long would that have been a big story? A) For 2 weeks. B) For 3 months. C) For 4 Presidential election cycles. D) Till Hell froze over.

If Megyn Kelly had lied for many years about seeing bodies floating in a section of New Orleans that flooded up to her ankles, or taking enemy fire in a helicopter, the response from Democrats would be: A) Lying is groovy, but is there some way to make what she said racist? B) Is it remotely fair that anyone that beautiful should also be that smart? (no, wait, I’m confusing Democrats with my own personal take on the Magnificent Megyn).

Do you think Jen Psaki got her big promotion because — even while telling the most preposterous whoppers – she lacks the physical ability to blush?

How upset do you think Bibi was that John Kerry and Gropie Uncle Choo Choo were unavailable to meet with him during his visit due to urgent scheduling problems? I don’t know if Bibi even brought along a grope-able woman (admittedly, a low bar for Biden – breathing, apparently). How long do you think it took for Bibi to stop laughing when he heard that they would both be “out of the country” and Barry would be taking an important phone call during his speech?

Thank you very much! I’ll be here all week. Writing stuff for next Friday.

A lot of entertainers establish funds for charity. If you would care to, please send a check to the Ammo Grrrll Wildlife Fund. Remember, if you don’t give, I can’t lead a wild life. Or buy sufficient ammo. I’m especially looking for billions from foreigners. (Ho, ho. Just kidding! Really. Send no money. Except for the foreigners.)

The Climate Beclowning Continues

Malibu hed copyFar be it from me to prevent a mediocre leftist Democratic congressman from beclowning himself like Rep. Grijalva, but today the whole story jumped more sharks than Sharknado I & II combined when the Malibu Times, a local sheet devoted chiefly to Kardashian sightings and Bruce Jenner accident reports, ran the headline, “Pepperdine Professor Investigated by Congressman.”

Do you think the Malibu Times follows these Capitol Hill stories that closely? I happen to know for a fact that the Malibu Times was contacted by Rep. Grijalva’s staff and encouraged to do a story on the matter—a fact not disclosed in the story. And apparently the reporter and paper editor simply asked “how high?” when suggested they jump on this story. The reporter never called or emailed me for a comment, which is contrary to standard journalistic practice (if standard practice can be presumed to exist any more).

The Malibu Times isn’t the only reporter working hand-in-glove with Rep. Grijalva and ultimately Greenpeace (the real progenitor of this project). Quite clearly Politico reporter Alex Guillen is in direct contact with Greenpeace; John already noted he dodged a direct question about his contact with Greenpeace. This isn’t the first time I’ve been through this media drill. About eight or nine years ago I spent the better part of a day on and off the phone with a TV network news reporter. He kept calling me back with more pointed (and silly) questions about my climate work at AEI. Finally I was able to figure out who he was talking to between each conversation to get fresh questions: It was Greenpeace. Nice to know I live rent-free in their heads. (Footnote: the network news reporter eventually concluded there was no substance to the Greenpeace attempt at a media smear, as did reporters from the New York Times and Washington Post, where Greenpeace also tried to shop the story.) Guillen really ought to come clean on this. I’m not holding my breath.

Brief aside: a few of our commenters objected to my calling Greenpeace the “John Birch Society of the environmental movement” in a previous post. Let me amend that by noting that you can be right about central issues and still be counterproductively extreme, and that was Bill Buckley’s complaint about the JBS back in the 1960s. But let me change my analogy anyway, and suggest Greenpeace is the Westboro Baptists of the environmental movement. Check out The Spectator of London from a month ago, on “How Green and Peaceful Really Is Greenpeace?” Sample:

As far back as 2007, after another Greenpeace publicity stunt, the science writer Martin Robbins described the group as:

‘an NGO that thinks it is acceptable to lie to the public, to lie to bloggers and journalists, and to then intimidate writers with threatening emails warning of legal action.’

Anyway, one of the little details that seems to escaped the attention of Rep. Grijalva is that the congressional testimonies I gave over a decade’s time included not a single line about climate science; each was about climate policy—a very different matter. So why sweep me up along with the genuine physical scientists like Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, and John Christy? Must be because Greenpeace really does think I am among the most influential persons on climate policy, for which I appreciate the endorsement of what is barely a part time avocation for me.   (I have written—what?—seven books by now; none of them discussing climate change at all. And I don’t teach much about the subject in any of my classes, partly because the subject plainly bores most students.)

My main original contribution to the climate policy debate was to point out, based on raw data from the Department of Energy, that the climate change advocates’ emissions targets for the U.S. for the year 2050—an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels—would require rolling back hydrocarbon energy use to the level of 1910 (or 1905 by a separate analysis by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, a federal government lab I should point out). On a per capita basis (since our population has grown so much), this would mean reducing U.S. hydrocarbon energy use to the per capita level of Somalia today. This is sheer fantasy. No one can produce a credible plan to do this in 35 years (or perhaps ever), which was the point of the Daily Kos series linked to here yesterday.  Even the DailyKos can figure this out!  One of the reasons for my contempt of the Climate Haters is their total and fundamental unseriousness about the entire issue. (This is Roger Piekle’s complaint, too: see his very good book The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming. My review of Roger’s fine book is here.)

It is worth pointing out here that my analysis of the practical effect of the Climate Haters’ emissions target has never been disputed by a climate change activist—not once.  And it did become a prominent talking point in the congressional debate over the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill in 2009 and 2010.  Ah—this probably explains why Greenpeace wants to put out a media hit on me—it’s a genuine inconvenient truth.

I’ll add that the last testimony I gave, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2011, concerned the defects of the international diplomacy of climate change which now go back 25 years; it was from this that Grijalva quoted in his letter to Pepperdine University. There was nothing in it about climate science at all. (Read the whole thing, as they say; quite obviously no one in Rep. Grijalva’s office did.)

It is worth mentioning that a fellow panelist at that hearing was Todd Stern, President Obama’s chief climate negotiator at the State Department. He leaned over and told me he agreed with about two-thirds of my testimony, in particular the part about how the distinction between “developed” and “developing” nations had broken down, which made a complete hash of the Kyoto framework.  No wonder Greenpeace hates me: I’ve pointed out that the climate emperor is naked.

Meanwhile, I have to thank Greenpeace and Rep. Grijalva for all the free publicity. I’ve picked up dozens and dozens of new Twitter followers (@StevenFHayward), and renewed attention for my old thoughts on a subject that, outside of my occasional posts here noting the latest pathetic failures of the Climate Haters, I spend almost no time on any more. They make this part time job so much easier.

Stay tuned. I’ll be back with a separate post about the whole matter of “peer review” in climate science, and also the Michael Mann investigation from a few years ago. But I’ll give you a preview. One of our lefty commentators—Caylee Bovee under a new name?—taunted me that I don’t publish peer reviewed science, which is true, because I don’t publish any science at all. However, one of the leading academic journals in the field uses me as a frequent peer reviewer of submitted articles.  I doubt they use anyone from Greenpeace.