Washington Post selects Reagan staffer as publisher, but don’t expect change in slant

Jeff Bezos has named Fred Ryan to be the Washington Post’s new publisher. Ryan is a former Reagan administration official. He served as Director of Presidential Appointments and Scheduling and as head the White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives. Near the end of Reagan’s second term, Ryan became Assistant to the President, the highest level of staff position in the White House, as I understand it.

After Reagan left office, Ryan served as Chief of Staff to the former president. He was responsible for the establishment and operation of Reagan’s office in Century City, and he helped create the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Should liberals worry that Ryan’s selection as publisher of the Post signals less leftism in the paper’s news coverage and less liberalism in it editorial page? I don’t think so.

Ryan co-founded Politico, which is about as reliably left-leaning as the Post. Moreover, those who have worked with various media companies owned by Ryan’s corporation say he’s a businessman above all else, and not one to attempt to influence the direction of coverage or editorial policy.

The Post depends on an overwhelmingly leftist readership, namely the inhabitants of Washington DC and its suburbs. It would be bad for business to disappoint that crowd, many of whose members already find their patience stretched by the Post’s generally responsibly liberal editorial page.

It’s sweet to contemplate a Washington Post without, say, Dana Milbank and E.J. Dionne. It’s even sweeter to contemplate a Post that doesn’t collaborate with traitors like Edward Snowden and doesn’t have the likes of Bart Gellman deciding which state secrets can be revealed without harming America.

But I don’t expect Fred Ryan to bring about either scenario. If anything, I wonder whether he will bend over backwards to avoid criticism from the left. That, in any case, will be the left’s objective.

What a “demilitarized” police force can look like

We’ve all seen the pictures presented by those who decry the “militarization” of American police forces. Typically, these pictures juxtapose sophisticated police equipment and weaponry with a crowd that is peacefully demonstrating or just milling about.

But what does a “demilitarized” police force look like when the crowd is less peaceful? This video of an angry, jeering mob forcing the police into an ignominious retreat through the streets of London provides one example.

I understand and respect the arguments made by those who argue that some of our police forces have become “militarized.” However, I’ve seen no evidence that the fancy equipment possessed by these police forces has caused harm.

There will always be incidents of police brutality and over-reaction. But has the “militarization” of the police led to more such incidents? Has the specific equipment that people object to the police now having been misused in ways that have caused more damage than the more traditional equipment that (I hope) is considered unobjectionable? Not that I’m aware of.

As a general matter, I think it’s desirable for the police to possess overwhelmingly more force than those who may confront it. That way, you probably avoid scenes like the one in the video I posted above.

Arguments for proportionality in the use of force have merit in the context of policing. (We wouldn’t want the London police, for example, to mow down the crowd in the video above). But arguments for proportionality in available force are less persuasive and fail, in my view, absent evidence of a pattern of abuse.

Via Bill Otis at Crime and Consequences.

ISIS Beheads Second American Journalist

ISIS has released a video which it says shows the beheading of American freelance journalist Steven Sotloff. Sotloff was captured in Syria in 2013, and ISIS threatened to kill him in the video showing the beheading of James Foley.

Commenting on Sotloff’s murder, an administration spokesman proved a master of understatement:

Washington has contacted about two dozen countries for help in freeing the three, but no foreign government appears to have influence over or even significant contact with IS, which has declared an Islamic caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.

“What we’ve found is that ISIS isn’t responsive” to outreach, said a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity….

Melanie Phillips: Paying the price for Gaza

I borrow from this HonestReporting post to note that Prominent British commentator Melanie Phillips addressed a crowd of nearly 300 people in Jerusalem’s Heichal Shlomo building on August 27 to address the subject: “The Jewish Diaspora: Paying the Price for Gaza.”

Referring to Israel as a “life-affirming place of hope where Jews are not on their knees but are fighting for the defense of civilization against barbarism,” Ms. Phillips noted how, in the discourse surrounding the Gaza conflict, anti-Israel attitudes had morphed into overt anti-Judaism in a “tsunami of bigotry and hatred.”

Using the UK as a case study, Phillips addressed attitudes towards Israel from both Muslims and left-wingers and so-called liberals before criticizing the UK Jewish community for failing to respond adequately and preferring to keep their heads down.

Although her speech is addressed to a Jewish Israeli audience and she takes the British scene as her point of reference, Ms. Phillips is an exceedingly clear-eyed observer and her lecture is of interest in its entirety. I think many readers will find her remarks worth the time to take them in via the video below.

Quotable quote, as to the President of the United States: “He claims to have Israel’s back, but I think it’s more like a knife in the back.”

Hamas’ popularity surges in aftermath of its great “victory”

Hamas has once again precipitated mass destruction, almost entirely of its own structures and people, and has achieved nothing concrete unless you count a few more miles of fishing rights. The upshot? Hamas’ popularity has surged, at least according to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

The survey finds that 61 percent of Arab residents of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza would pick Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for unity government president if elections were held today. Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas garners the support of only 32 percent. This was the first time in eight years that Haniyeh has gained majority support in these surveys.

Not surprisingly, Hamas is more popular on the West Bank, which sat out the war, than in Gaza. Haniyeh trounced Abbas in the West Bank, his former stronghold, by a 66-25 margin. In Gaza, the Hamas man’s margin was 53-43.

Abbas had urged Hamas to accept a cease fire before the real war began. He has consistently condemned Hamas for insisting on a fight.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research claims to be “independent.” Whether it is or isn’t — and regardless of what “independence” might mean in this context — its surveys do not appear to be biased in favor of Hamas. As noted, Hamas has not necessarily fared well in this outfit’s past polling.

Could it be any clearer that the Palestinian people want war, not peace, with Israel? Could it be any clearer that Israel must not make territorial concessions to a people that favors indiscriminately firing missiles into Israel even when it knows that the response will cost them dearly?

It could not be. Yet, this reality still does not appear to have registered with Barack Obama and John Kerry.

Reid rage

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s diatribes against the Koch brothers on the floor of the Senate might be evidence of certifiable insanity if anyone took them seriously. But the attitude of the mainstream media, to the extent one can be detected, is ho-hum. The fact that no moderately well informed citizen of sound mind takes Reid’s diatribes seriously should be news all by itself.

Reid renders his diatribes on the floor of the United States Senate where he is cloaked in the immunity afforded representatives “in either house” under the speech or debate clause of Article I of the Constitution. He is a bully and a coward who has done great damage to the institution that he leads. It is simply impossible to imagine how he would be treated by an impartial press in an alternative universe. Reid represents a dramatic example of the powerful advantage Democrats hold by virtue of their media adjunct.

The failure of Congress to act is one of Barack Obama’s talking points whenever he threatens or undertakes lawless executive action. The Senate having failed even to entertain many of the bills that have passed the House, Reid himself has been instrumental to Congress’s failure to act. Like Reid’s diatribes, Obama’s talking points seek to exploit the ignorance of the Democrats’ core voters. The powerful advantage Democrats hold by virtue of their media adjunct again asserts itself.

Today Byron York reports on Reid’s latest scheme to consume Senate time debating a profoundly tyrannical constitutional amendment that has no chance of passage. York anticipates the following scenario:

The first action Reid has scheduled for next week is a cloture vote on whether to even begin considering the amendment. Republicans could filibuster the measure, which would stop it and allow the Senate to move on to move meaningful matters. But that would allow Democrats to accuse the GOP of obstructionism. So Republicans will likely allow the amendment to go forward.

A long debate will then ensue in which Democrats denounce the Kochs and “corporate money” and Republicans argue the amendment would abridge First Amendment rights. After an extended back-and-forth, there will be another vote, this time on whether to end debate. Again, Republicans don’t need to use the filibuster to stop the measure, because they know it will fail in the final vote.

After more pointless debate, there will be yet another vote to move toward a final vote on the matter. If the amendment goes on to that final vote, and even if all 55 Democrats ultimately support it, it will fall a dozen votes short of passage.

York asks what will have been accomplished and answers: “Reid and fellow Democrats will have gotten a few more days to denounce the Kochs.” He notes the cost cost: “[T]he issues the Senate might have addressed — not just government funding, but the urgent crises in Iraq and Syria, not to mention continuing problems along the U.S. southwestern border — will be squeezed into a mad, and probably unproductive, final rush.”

He also comments: “It’s rare for a Majority Leader to propose a measure he knows has zero chance of passing; that alone suggests the fundamentally political nature of Reid’s strategy.” Byron says it’s rare, but I’m guessing that if his research disclosed another example, he would have cited it. And the diatribes against the Kochs are little more than lies intended to exploit the ignorant for purely partisan purposes in the service of an unforgivably bad cause.

CRB: Déjà Two

The Summer 2014 issue of the Claremont Review of Books has arrived just in time for Fall, and our friends at the Claremont Institute have once again dropped the paywall to allow us to preview some of the issue’s best pieces. We will be rolling out four that I have selected with a bias toward deepening of our understanding of the challenges before us. Subscribe here for the ridiculously low price of $19.95 and get immediate online access to the whole shebang.

We kick off our preview of the Summer issue with the cover essay on a possible Clinton co-presidency — “Déjà Two,” by Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz. In 1992 the Clintons touted themselves as a package deal: “Buy one, get one free!” It remains to be seen whether Clinton Inc. will once again offer Americans their package deal in fall 2016. If Americans heed Kurtz, they will shop elsewhere.

Eschewing the typical examination of Hillary’s particular strengths and weaknesses as a potential candidate — notably, her various political failures and policy blunders — Kurtz raises instead what he calls the “deepest political problem” facing a Hillary presidency: the fundamental “structural defect” of “Bill and Hillary’s still poorly-understood power-sharing arrangement.”

No matter how much you know about Bill and Hillary, I think you are likely to learn something about them from Kurtz’s essay. Amassing evidence from the major biographies of the Clintons, Kurtz shows just how fully the couple has embraced the notion of shared, or plural, executive power, from Bill’s early forays into electoral politics in Arkansas, to Hilary’s 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Over and over again Kurtz demonstrates the failure of the Clintons to either resist the lure of their power-sharing arrangement, or to learn the lessons past failures might teach. What could be learnt? Mostly, argues Kurtz, the lesson that the Founders had already discovered: that the division of executive authority leads inexorably to a weakened, conflict-plagued, and irresponsible executive: ” From ancient Rome to contemporary Latin America, history shows that in the absence of clear, hierarchical lines of authority, joint executive power tends to produce debilitating confusion and weakness.”

The scandals, hesitancies, and failures of the Clinton years were exacerbated by their “co-consular” arrangement. Far from being a feature of a Hilary presidency, the presence of Bill ensures that another Clinton Administration will be structurally compromised from the get-go. Read the entire essay to see a case study of the dangers and debilitations of the plural executive. As Kurtz puts concludes: “Buy one, get two—but at far too high a price.”