Vexing the Vaxers

Is there a vaccine for liberalism? I guess not. Maybe Big Pharma ought to get to work on one—or at least announce a research program for a cure for liberalism. Think of the comedy gold you’d get from the Left.

Not so funny is the growing anti-vax movement, which is mostly on the Left but finds a few adherents on the conspiratorial Right as well. (Maybe Big Pharma could disseminate the anti-liberalism vaccine from Chemtrails!) The recent news of a spreading measles outbreak originating in unvaccinated carriers of the virus at Disneyland lends new salience to this issue.

Of course there are risks from vaccinations, as there are with most medications these days. But the people who disdain vaccinations are putting everyone else at risks that are almost certainly much larger. Penn & Teller do a nice job of explaining the comparative risk assessment of vaccines in this short treatment (language warning):

Meanwhile, whatever became of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the 1905 case that blessed mandatory vaccinations? I don’t care for state power of this dimension either, but the alternative would be requiring people to show their vaccination certificates for admission to Disneyland and other public places. I wonder how the Left would like that.

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Iran nonsense

Steve Hayes captures the Obama administration’s current line on Iran in the Weekly Standard editorial “Iran nonsense.” One fount of nonsense is President Obama’s intent, as I see it, to deliver an agreement with Iran that will secure and finance its nuclear program. President Obama wishes to clear the path to do so without any interference from Congress.

While President Obama continues to withdraw the United States from engagements with Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world, he adamantly denies the Islamic connection to the terrorism perpetrated by our enemies. He is an ardent defender of the faith. According to Obama, the terrorists are themselves at war with Islam. They misunderstand.

What about the Islamic Republic of Iran and the mullahs who run the show? Their genocidal anti-Semitism is an organic principle of the regime to which the mullahs have adhered with great fidelity since the revolution of 1979 that brought them to power. It seems to have something to do with Islam. I wish someone would ask Josh Earnest or Jen Psaki about it. We all stand to benefit from the administration’s understanding of this issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the foremost opponent of the Iranian regime in the West. He has long had a good handle on the challenges presented by the regime, not just to Israel, but to the West in general. Israel is the Little Satan; we are the Great Satan.

Among other things, Obama resents the damp rag that Netanyahu will throw over the forthcoming deal with Iran when he speaks to the joint session of Congress on March 3. The forthcoming deal is to be announced at the end of March. Netanyahu’s speech will make it slightly more difficult for Obama to present such an agreement as a triumph and a cause for celebration.

On January 21 Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a three-hour hearing. The hearing is posted in its entirety by C-SPAN here. We posted a video clip of Senator Robert Menendez questioning Blinken here.

Blinken makes it perfectly clear that the Obama administration will present any final agreement with Iran to Congress as a fait accompli. In his testimony Blinken dispensed a boatload of Iran nonsense (to borrow Steve Hayes’s formulation in the editorial linked above) to advance the administration’s plan.

The hearing really warrants viewing in its entirety. I used C-SPAN’s tools to clip the excerpt below from Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker’s questioning of Blinken during the first hour of the hearing; the excerpt runs only 7:42. If you want to understand what is happening here, I assure you it is well worth your time.

Sharpton vs. the Teleprompter, vol. 4

The Free Beacon’s David Rutz has kept his eye on Al Sharton’s travails with the Teleprompter on his MSNBC show PoliticsNation. Having compiled volume 4 of his video series on Sharpton, Rutz notes: “In this latest installment, Sharpton wrecks the names of such people as Ebola patient Nina Pham, quarterback Troy Aikman and actor Ray Romano, of animals like koalas (kola-cue?), and of general terms like waterboarding (waterboating), manhunts (manhoods), YouTube (UseTube) and asphyxia (asphema). And as one guest reminded him, the fatal Canadian Parliament shootings last year occurred in Ottawa, not Iowa, which is in the United States.”

There is nothing remotely funny about Al Sharpton, but he and MSNBC are fit subjects of mockery. I wouldn’t want you to miss Rutz’s latest contribution to the cause (video below).

Risen at large

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was convicted on nine counts alleging violation of the Espionage Act; Sterling blew a highly classified Bush-era operation intended to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. He did so to no discernible public good; the crimes of which he now stands convicted are truly heinous.

Here is how reporter Matt Apuzzo describes Sterling’s conviction in the lead paragraph of his page-one New York Times story: “Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage Monday on charges that he told a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.” The New York Times reporter is James Risen; Sterling’s conviction is based on his disclosures to Risen.

Unlike other highly classified national security programs that Risen has blown, however, Risen was unable to enlist the assistance of the Times in publishing the details of this particular program. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared to testify at trial; she had succeeded in persuading Times editors that publication of Risen’s story would do great harm to the national security of the United States.

The Times passed on the story. Risen accordingly saved it for his book State of War, whose publisher lacked the Times’s compunctions in this case. Apuzzo’s story on Sterling’s conviction omits this illuminating context.

James Risen was the key to Sterling’s guilty acts. Sterling was induced to disclose the classified information regarding the operation against Iran’s nuclear program with Risen’s promise of confidentiality as to the source.

The obligation to provide testimony to matters within his personal knowledge in criminal cases applies to James Risen as it does to other citizens. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice nevertheless abandoned its efforts to secure Risen’s testimony against Sterling.

Without Risen’s testimony, the government’s case against Sterling was circumstantial in crucial parts. Not surprisingly, before the jury returned with the convictions against Sterling yesterday, by the way, it had reported to the judge that it was deadlocked on several counts.

While Risen is subject to the same testimonial obligations as other citizens, he is also subject to the same criminal liability under the Espionage Act as Jeffrey Sterling and others. Neither he nor his colleagues at the Times are cloaked in immunity for violation of the espionage laws of the United States.

Risen has been charged with no offense; he has even skated on his noncompliance with the subpoena for his testimony in Sterling’s case. Jeffrey Sterling is headed for prison; James Risen remains at large.

NOTE: I wrote about the legal issues in the Times’s publication of national security information protected under the Espionage Act in the Weekly Standard column “Exposure,” but Gabriel Schoenfeld owns this story. For a full understanding of what Risen has wrought here I urge interested readers to read Schoenfeld’s Weekly Standard articles “Not every leak is fit to print” (2008), “What gives?” (2010), and “A privileged press?” (2014) as well as Schoenfeld’s Power Line post “A Risen in the sun.”

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Jeffrey Sterling convicted; his accomplice remains free

Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage today. He was charged with telling a journalist about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. The journalist was James Risen of the New York Times.

Scott has written extensively about this case, focusing on Risen’s disclosure of Sterling’s secrets and the government’s unwillingness to require the journalist to testify in the case. Fortunately, Sterling was convicted without Risen’s testimony. But since this outcome wasn’t assured, the government should have forced Risen to testify or go to jail. For that matter, Risen should have been prosecuted. He was, after all, Sterling’s accomplice.

Eric Holder had this to say following the verdict:

This is a just and appropriate outcome. The defendant’s unauthorized disclosures of classified information compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security. The disclosures placed lives at risk. And they constituted an egregious breach of the public trust by someone who had sworn to uphold it.

As this verdict proves, it is possible to fully prosecute unauthorized disclosures that inflict harm upon our national security without interfering with journalists’ ability to do their jobs.

But Sterling’s disclosures would not have “compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security” and would not have “placed lives at risk” if Risen hadn’t published them. Even the New York Times, Risen’s employer, declined to run Risen’s story; he used Sterling’s material in a book.

Unlike Sterling, Risen took no oath to uphold the public trust. But one can violate the law without having taken such an oath. As Scott says: “if Sterling violated the Espionage Act, it is even clearer that Risen did so too. He is subject to the same criminal liability as Sterling and other citizens for violation of the Espionage Act.”

Holder is correct that it is possible successfully to prosecute unauthorized disclosures that harm our national security without getting journalists to divulge their sources. But it’s also possible for such a prosecution to fail for want of the journalists’ testimony. That it didn’t happen in Sterling’s case doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Nor was it a foregone conclusion that it wouldn’t happen in the Sterling case. If the offense is as serious as Holder says — and it is — why not use every avenue possible to force the accomplice to testify?

But a more basic question is, why shouldn’t the government “interfere with journalists’ ability to do their jobs” when, as here, doing the job means “inflict[ing] harm upon national security”? Stated differently, is it the legitimate job of journalists to harm U.S. national security in the manner that Risen did?

The New York Times didn’t view its journalistic mission as requiring it to jeopardize national security by running Risen’s story. Eric Holder seems to believe otherwise. Why?

Scott Walker’s big Iowa challenge

Four years ago, the popular just-retired governor of an Upper Midwest state was pinning his hopes of a presidential run on neighboring Iowa. Those hopes came to an end when Tim Pawlenty withdrew from the presidential race after a poor showing in the Iowa straw poll.

It seemed like a case of being knocked over by a feather. However, Pawlenty needed to do well in Iowa, and was outflanked on the establishment side by the much better-funded Mitt Romney and on the right by Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. I think he correctly read the handwriting on Iowa walls.

Now, another popular Upper Midwest governor needs to do well in Iowa. Accordingly, Scott Walker came to Des Moines this weekend hoping to translate a huge volume of good will into support for a presidential bid.

By all accounts, Walker’s appearance at the Iowa Freedom Summit, hosted by conservative congressman Steve King, went well. According to The Hill:

The Wisconsin governor, in rolled-up shirtsleeves, paced the stage as he blasted big government and touted a long list of conservative reforms he’s pushed through in blue Wisconsin. The governor also showed a rhetorical flourish that’s largely been absent from his previous campaigns, drawing the crowd to its feet multiple times.

“There’s a reason we take a day off to celebrate the 4th of July and not the 15th of April,” he said, almost yelling as his voice grew hoarse. “Because in America we value our independence from the government, not our dependence on it.”

Walker’s speech had something for every element of the activist crowd. The governor touted his three victories over Democrats and recall win as well as his state-level education reforms. Each new policy he helped pass drew cheers: Voter ID laws, education reforms, tax cuts and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Talk to almost any Republican, and Walker will be on his or her shortlist for the presidential nomination. But that probably isn’t good enough. He needs an early primary or caucus victory, or at least a strong second place showing. And he probably won’t be able to survive a middle of the pack finish in a state where he can reasonably be expected to do better.

Given its proximity to Wisconsin, Iowa looks like such a state, just as it was for Pawlenty.

By virtue of the ability to fire up activists that he displayed this weekend (for example), Walker seems better equipped to wow Iowa conservatives than Pawlenty was. But he faces the same structural problem.

Walker is unlikely to be the preferred establishment candidate — that niche presumably will belong to Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, either/both of whom surely will be better financed. And Walker will be hard-pressed to outflank Ted Cruz and perhaps Rand Paul on the right.

Furthermore, Mike Huckabee (and maybe even Rick Santorum) presumably will have the edge with Iowa evangelical voters. Huckabee and Santorum, not coincidentally, are the winners of the most recent Iowa caucuses.

If Walker is lucky, Bush and Romney will both run (along, maybe with Chris Christie), splitting the “establishment” vote; Santorum will be strong enough to peel away support from Huckabee among evangelicals; and Rand Paul will erode Ted Cruz’s support among Tea Party voters.

But this scenario feels like drawing to an inside straight.

What Walker really needs to do is stand out from the crowd. He’s already well-regarded across the Republican spectrum; now he must set hearts a-flutter on a large scale.

It won’t be easy to become the undisputed Iowa heartthrob. Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are terrific speakers, and the latter two are (like Walker) fresh faces. None of three can match Walker’s record of governing successfully (though Bush, Christie, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal arguably can). But since when is such a record required of a heartthrob, especially among Iowa Republican caucus goers?

In 2011-12, a poorly-funded Santorum broke out in Iowa, and not just among evangelicals, partly through sheer persistence. He wasn’t flashy, but to many he seemed compelling. And he was always around.

But Santorum was running in a much weaker field. And Santorum had no job. Walker still has to govern Wisconsin.

In sum, Walker faces a daunting challenge. The Hill’s report suggests that he could catch fire in Iowa.

Walker isn’t the only Republican who could, but he’s the one I think I’ll be rooting for. At a minimum, Walker deserves to make it into the top tier and obtain the scrutiny of Republicans in a cross-section of states.