Diversity of thought, Princeton style

The Daily Princetonian reports that during the 2012 presidential campaign, 157 Princeton University faculty and staff members donated directly to the presidential candidates. Two of them gave to Mitt Romney; the rest gave to President Obama. The amount donated to Obama exceeded $169,000. The two donations to Romney amounted to $1,901.

Who were the two renegades that gave to Romney? One was James Shinn, a visiting lecturer at the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education. The other was Mark Oresic, a custodian.

This means that no member of the Princeton faculty or administration contributed to the Romney campaign.

According to the Princetonian, “some employees said their contributions were inspired by their professions, while others were influenced by their personal political beliefs.” In the case of many Princeton professors, I’m not sure there’s much of dichotomy here. There isn’t at Dartmouth.

Hillary: My Emails Are Gone, Gone, Gone!

In another email-related bombshell, Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, has told the House Select Committee on Benghazi that all emails have been deleted from Hillary’s private email server:

An examination of the server that housed the personal email account that Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used when she was secretary of state showed that there are no copies of any emails she sent during her time in office, her lawyer told a congressional committee on Friday.

Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, said in a letter that after her lawyers determined which emails were personal and which were private, a setting was changed to retain only emails sent in the previous 60 days.

“Thus, there are no hdr22@clintonmail.com emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized,” Mr. Kendall said.

Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy was not amused:

The head of the committee, Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, said in a written statement that it appeared that Mrs. Clinton deleted the emails after Oct. 28, when the State Department first asked her to turn over emails that were government records.

“Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest,” Mr. Gowdy said.

He said that Mrs. Clinton’s “unprecedented email arrangement with herself and her decision nearly two years after she left office to permanently delete all emails” had deprived Americans of a full record of her time in office.

Well, yes. That’s the idea.

What can one say about such brazen corruption? Will the Democrats really hold their noses and nominate Hillary? Do they have any choice? As Steve likes to say, get out the popcorn.

NCAA, the New PC Police?

Yesterday the NCAA announced that it is deeply concerned about Indiana’s just-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and intends to scrutinize Indiana carefully to determine whether the state is fit to host events like the Final Four, scheduled to take place in Indianapolis next week:

The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.

This statement betrays deep ignorance of Indiana’s RFRA, as well as the topic in general. Currently, 29 states have similar legislation in place, so if the NCAA seriously thinks that laws like Indiana’s are somehow incompatible with its principles, it will have a hard time staging events anywhere. It will also need to move, since its headquarters are in Indianapolis. And, of course, the state laws, including Indiana’s, are identical in substance to the federal RFRA. So maybe next year the Final Four will have to be held in Canada.

For a good primer on RFRAs, what they say and why they are needed, see Joe Carter’s web site.

So, when did sports become the epicenter of political correctness? It isn’t just the NCAA. Anyone who reads Sports Illustrated regularly has seen the same phenomenon there. And, while there are honorable exceptions, most sportswriters who have migrated into news have turned out to be leftists. Then, of course, there is Keith Olbermann.

I think part of the explanation may be that people who cover or administer sports for a living are beset by a fear that what they do is trivial. They relieve that fear by associating sports with great social movements. Thus, baseball is significant only because Jackie Robinson once played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and a grown man can follow boxing because Muhammad Ali, a great but somewhat overrated fighter, opposed the Vietnam War and became a Black Muslim.

All of this is annoying to sports fans who don’t need an excuse to enjoy basketball, football, and other sports (even soccer, in Paul’s case) on their own terms. What the athletes themselves make of being in the forefront of the gay supremacy movement, God only knows.

Fred Siegel Explains It All, Part 1

We recently spent two hours conversing with the great historian Fred Siegel, author of several fine books, including most recently The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class (coming out soon in paperback with additional material).  We range widely, Brian Lamb-style, over the whole of his life and career, and we’ll be rolling out highlights in short installments over the next few weeks.  I had some problems with my sound and the video from Camera #2, so these selections are edited a bit crudely and abruptly, but we think Fred is so compelling it doesn’t matter.

Part 1 here, where Fred talks about his early intellectual roots and fascinating family background, is about 8 minutes long:

Saudi Arabia throws a monkey wrench into Obama’s Iran deal

As noted in a post I wrote earlier today, France has joined Israel in expressing dismay over the nuclear deal President Obama seems intent on reaching with Iran. Needless to say, Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch-enemy, shares the disgust.

Israel and France seem to have little leverage with Obama. Indeed, Obama probably feels delighted that Prime Minister Netanyahu is unhappy.

Saudi Arabia might be another matter. In fact, the Saudis may already have thrown a monkey wrench into the deal. The Washington Free Beacon reports that, as condition of any deal, Iran is demanding that Saudi Arabia immediately halt airstrikes in Yemen. According to WFB reporter Adam Kredo, “the issue could complicate the talks, as the United States attempts to balance its regional alliance with Iran in Iraq against competing interests with traditional allies in Saudi Arabia.”

The Saudi bombing in Yemen is intended to prevent forces aligned with Iran from bringing down what’s left of an American-backed government. But who can doubt that, for Obama, getting a deal, almost any deal, with Iran trumps backing U.S. interests in Yemen?

If the Saudis stick to their guns in Yemen, and the Iranians insist that Yemen is a deal-breaker, the deal could fall through. Alternatively, the U.S. could simply make more concessions to the mullahs as compensation for the dastardly action taken by the Saudis to support an American-backed government in a terrorist-infected state.

If it comes to this, who would bet against Obama making additional concessions?

What price appeasement?

The damage to America’s relationship with Israel caused by President Obama’s desperate quest for a deal with Iran has been well-documented. It’s of no concern to Obama, who would like to see our ties with the Jewish state weakened anyway. For him, the weakening is a collateral benefit of the appeasement.

But now, the U.S. relationship with France has been shaken by Obama’s accommodation of the mullahs. Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reports:

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The disagreement over France’s cautious position in regard to Iran threatens to erode U.S. relations with Paris, sources said. . . .

Western policy analysts who spoke to the Free Beacon, including some with close ties to the French political establishment, were dismayed over what they saw as the White House’s willingness to sacrifice its relationship with Paris as talks with Iran reach their final stages. . . .

A recent phone call between Obama and Hollande was reported as tense as the leaders disagreed over the White House’s accommodation of Iranian red lines.

The opinion of the French is highly regarded by many on the American left, John Kerry for example. But chances are that Obama sees the French as former imperialists in decline — less despicable than Great Britain, but not a partner to be taken seriously. The future resides in Tehran, not Paris.

Obama’s arrogance aside, the French have good reason to be upset with the American president. Like other major European countries, France has paid a higher price than the U.S. for the economic sanctions against Iran. Now they fear that ten years of economic sacrifice are about to be for naught thanks to Obama’s capitulation to the mullahs.

Accordingly, France has made its unhappiness known. French officials say they want a deal, but see no reason to rush, given that Iran needs a deal more than the West does. For this reason, they disagree with fixing artificial deadlines that put more pressure on us than on Iran.

The French recognize, moreover, that Obama’s desperation for a deal has produced American weakness at the negotiating table. Benjamin Haddad, who has advised senior French political figures on foreign policy issues, says:

The French want a robust deal with clear guarantees on issues like [research and development] and inspections to ensure that Iranians won’t be able to reduce breakout time during the duration of the agreement (also an issue of discussion), or just after thanks to research conducted during the period. That is also why they disagreed on lifting sanctions.

In addition, the French “don’t trust Iran and believe an ambiguous deal would lead to regional proliferation,” says Haddad.

Obama is reacting to these concerns as he always does — not by listening to the message, but by attacking the messenger. Kredo reports:

There have been very harsh expressions of displeasure by the Americans toward French officials for raising substantive concerns about key elements of what the White House and State Department negotiators are willing to concede to Iran,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That is because the clarifications expose just how weak the Americans’ deal is shaping up to be.”

In sum, Obama — as indifferent to French concerns as he is to those of Israel and Saudi Arabia — is prepared to harm relations with America’s oldest ally in order to get his “historic” deal with our leading enemy state.

Anyone who stands it the way of the deal will be attacked and demonized. Except for the mullahs. They will be appeased.

Iranian-backed militias accept Obama’s invitation to pull back from Tikrit

When President Obama decided to employ U.S. air power to support the effort to dislodge ISIS from Tikrit, he pushed for the Iranian-dominated Shiite militias to leave the battlefield. He did so even though these forces made up more than 80 percent of the attacking force.

The Shiite militiamen didn’t need to be asked twice. According to the Washington Post, they have refused to continue fighting. One militia threatens to shoot down coalition planes in the area on the pretext that we are airlifting supplies to ISIS.

So now the force that remains in the fight consists of an estimated 4,000 regular Iraqi troops and some Sunni tribsmen. To succeed in taking Tikrit, they must do the job that more than 30,000 troops couldn’t.

The use of U.S. air power and intelligence should help, but will it compensate for such a significant decline in manpower? And will the remaining troops even be willing to continue what has been a very difficult fight?

There’s plenty of room for serious doubt on both scores. Yet Obama’s policy on Tikrit seems to be predicated on the view that U.S. air power plus a small Iraqi force will prevail.

I’m not certain we should take at face value the Shiite militias’ assertion that they have pulled back due to U.S. involvement. These militias were taking a serious beating. According to Max Boot, there are reports that they have lost 6,000 men in the fighting and were already pulling back.

Most of the Shiite militias remain in the area (the only one that reportedly has left is that of Moqtada al-Sadr — remember him? — which had just arrived and hadn’t fought). It may be that the Shiites plan to let the U.S. soften up the battlefield and then, if the outlook seems improved, rush in and, if successful, claim victory.

But this brings us back to the question of whether our bombing campaign and a fighting force of maybe 4,000 will significantly weaken ISIS in Tikrit. A reader, formerly with the State Department, tells me that in the Second Battle of Fallujah, U.S.-U.K. forces numbering around 13,000 troops needed almost two months to root out 3,000 al Qaeda forces. Iraqi forces were also present but mostly just observed, according to the reader.

In Tikrit, ISIS is once again demonstrating what a tough, highly-motivated fighting force it is. When it wants to advance, ISIS can sometimes be halted by tough, highly-motivated fighters like the Kurds plus U.S. air power.

But when it comes to pushing ISIS out of towns and cities they are determined to hold, it may be that only U.S. led ground forces are up to the task. Conceivably, large numbers of Iranian-dominated forces might accomplish this. As for regular Iraqi forces and Sunni tribesmen, one fears this may be mission impossible.

If there is any basis for optimism, it lies in the fact that Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has called for unity among the armed factions fighting ISIS. Sistani said:

Differing points of view lead to negative results in the military position. I don’t distinguish the public mobilizations [militias] from the [government] security forces. The public mobilization is a part of the security forces.

However, after he visited forces arrayed outside of Tikrit, Sistani admitted that there are “differences” over the status of the international coalition. This sounds like an understatement. As influential as Sistani is, the differences may be too vast for him to bridge.