Secretary Carter praises the boss

We doubt that President Obama is a great leader in the defense of the national security of the United States, and the evidence supporting our doubt is abundant. In the Middle East, we see Iran asserting its power from Iraq and Yemen to Syria and Lebanon. We see ISIS on the march. We see al Qaeda and its affiliates expanding their forces. Elsewhere in the world, we see China and Russia presenting threats to our friends in the area of each. All these developments pose serious national security threats to the United States, threats whose seriousness continues to increase.

Adding to the evidence is Obama’s recent commencement speech to the graduates of the Coast Guard Academy. In the address Obama identified “climate change” (f/k/a “global warming”) as the great national security threat of our time. Obama briefly mentioned the threat of terrorism. He had not come to talk about terrorism or any other of the pressing threats that confront us around the world. The climate, it is a changin’.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter addressed the doubters in his Memorial Day remarks at Arlington Cemetery. Carter said “troops of such caliber demand great leaders, and there’s no doubt they have one in our commander in chief.”

“I see that every day,” he added. “He knows well the challenges we must face, the obligations we must meet, and the opportunities we must seize in order to keep our nation safe and to make a better world for our children. And I see that he cares deeply about the safety, welfare, and dignity of our men and women in uniform and their families.”

Secretary Carter is a perceptive man. He must realize how widely shared our doubts are among the troops and the resulting need for reassurance. Reassurance, however, usually comes from deeds, not words, especially not words from an appointee in praise of his own boss. That the words need to be said should be a cause of dismay to, if not introspection by, Obama. That they won’t be is another story.

Via Bridget Johnson/PJ Media.

Let’s call the whole thing off

The starting point of statutory construction is the language of the statute itself. If the words of a statute are clear, they are to be construed according to their plain meaning. See generally Yule Kim, Statutory Interpretation: General Principles and Recent Trends (Congressional Research Service, 2008). If the words of a statue are ambiguous, a court may resort to legislative history and other devices to construe it. The Supreme Court has demonstrated that it can do whatever it wants and has said just about as much on occasion in the past.

The case of King v. Burwell pending before the Supreme Court raises a question of statutory construction regarding the phrase “established by the state.” The IRS has disregarded the words in promulgating the regulation making Obamacare subsidies available in exchanges established by the federal government for states that have declined to establish them as well as states that have established them under duly enacted state law. I wrote about the case briefly in “Triumph of the leftist will.” Documents filed in the case have been compiled by the Competitive Enterprise Institute here.

New York Times reporter Robert Pear now turns to the question before the Court in his New York Times story “Four words that imperil health care law were all a mistake, writers now say.” In his first sentence Pear begins with the proposition that the words “established by the state” are ambiguous, which rigs the game. In a sense, under traditional rules of statutory construction, Pear begs the question, assuming what is to proved. What part of “state” don’t you understand?

Pear nevertheless creates ambiguity by treating various Senators as authors of the 2,000 page bill and therefore authorities on its meaning. The first to whom he turns is former Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, who voted against the Obamacare bill enacted by Congress. I don’t think there is any theory of statutory construction that would make Snowe an authority under these circumstances, but that doesn’t stop Pear. Pear quotes Snow: “I don’t ever recall any distinction between federal and state exchanges in terms of the availability of subsidies.”

Snowe had more such helpful commentary for Pear: “It was never part of our conversations at any point.” A reasonable person might conclude at this point that there is no illumination to be shed by Snowe on the question, but neither Snowe nor Pear thinks so. Snowe asked a rhetorical question: “Why would we have wanted to deny people subsidies? It was not their fault if their state did not set up an exchange.” Well, Senator Snowe, you voted against the bill. Why did you want to deny the whole country the benefits of Obamacare?

Pear doesn’t go there. Rather, he quotes Snowe further. The four words, she said, were perhaps “inadvertent language,” adding, “I don’t know how else to explain it.”

Snowe only provides the comic opening to Pear’s long, nervous article. He has much more. One resource to whom Pear does not turn, however, is Jonathan Gruber. Gruber is conspicuous by his absence.

Congress said exchanges “established by the state.” Pear’s sources say “drafting error” or “oversight” or “accident.” I say let’s call the whole thing off. The Supreme Court will have its say before the end of its current term on June 30.

Return to Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos acted as an advocate for the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation when Peter Schweizer appeared to discuss his book Clinton Cash on This Week with the Democratic Operative. I noted Stephanopoulos’s absurd pose that Sunday in “For the Clinton defense.”

Subsequent reporting by the Washington Free Beacon’s Andrew Stiles dug out Stephanopoulos’s undisclosed contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Asked for comment by Stiles when the story was ready to go, ABC News kept the Free Beacon hanging and leaked the story to Politico media reporter/blogger Dylan Byers, who ludicrously credited Stephanopoulos with disclosing the contributions. The episode showed Stephanopoulos at work doing damage control on his own behalf in the style of a campaign operative. He had plenty of experience doing it for Bill Clinton himself. I last wrote about this series of events in “Weasel words from a weasel.”

Former New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter has succeeded to Howard Kurtz’s seat as the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources media show. Stelter is a knowledgeable reporter and good at what he does.

This past Sunday Stelter invited Free Beacon editor Matt Continetti to review the Free Beacon’s role in breaking the Stephanopoulos/Clinton Foundation story. Stelter drew out the elements worthy of note and let Matt do the talking. This is an excellent interview (video below).

This outrage has come to rest in a state of repose conducive to Stephanopoulos continuing the charade at ABC News. ABC News has calculated the angles and has apparently decided to let it ride.

The mainstream media adjunct of the Democratic Party is not loosening its grip at ABC News or anywhere else among the mainstream media. It’s time for Stephanopoulos to go, if only to help them keep up the pretense that they are something other than what they are. ABC News, however, must not see it that way. I therefore appreciate the opportunity afforded by Stelter’s interview of Continetti to return to this illuminating story.

Behind Science Fraud, Chapter 2

We’ve been following the story of the apparently fraudulent article in Science about whether people will change their mind about gay marriage after a short conversation with a real live gay person (I guess watching Will & Grace and Modern Family reruns just doesn’t quite do the trick), as well as yesterday’s excellent op-ed in the NY Times about the pervasive problem of scientific journals and media credulity. Tomorrow’s New York Times extend the story with an excellent news feature, “Maligned Study on Gay Unions Is Shaking Trust.”

Here are the highlights:

The case has shaken not only the community of political scientists but also public trust in the way the scientific establishment vets new findings. It raises broad questions about the rigor of rules that guide a leading academic’s oversight of a graduate student’s research and of the peer review conducted of that research by Science. . .

Critics said the intense competition by graduate students to be published in prestigious journals, weak oversight by academic advisers and the rush by journals to publish studies that will attract attention too often led to sloppy and even unethical research methods.

I’m sure this never happens in climate science. . .  Anyway, to continue:

“You don’t get a faculty position at Princeton by publishing something in the Journal Nobody-Ever-Heard-Of,” Dr. Oransky said. Is being lead author on a big study published in Science “enough to get a position in a prestigious university?” he asked, then answered: “They don’t care how well you taught. They don’t care about your peer reviews. They don’t care about your collegiality. They care about how many papers you publish in major journals.”

But since the “major journals” are so often captured by an “in-group” with a narrow ideology or favoritism toward certain kinds of methodology, maybe this is one of the things wrong with universities today.

Kudos to the NY Times for excellent reporting.

Hillary Clinton, asleep at the switch

John has done a great job analyzing Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi emails. His posts are here and here. I urge you to read both of them.

Here’s an additional item that caught my eye. On September 15, 2012 — just four days after the Benghazi attacks — Monica Hanley, a Clinton aide, sent an email to Hillary 9:17 a.m. telling her that senior White House official Dan Pfeiffer “has some sensitive items that he would like to personally show you when he arrives.”

At 10:43 — almost an hour and a half later — Clinton responded that she “just woke up so i missed Dan. Could he come back after finish my calls?”

Hillary Clinton comes across at times as a bit sluggish, especially compared to young potential Republican opponents like Marco Rubio, who has hammered home the point that Clinton represents “yesterday.” Sleeping until almost 11:00 a.m., and thereby missing a briefing (apparently on Benghazi), reinforces this perception.

During the 2008 campaign, Clinton attacked Barack Obama’s capacity to respond wisely to a 3:00 a.m. emergency call. In 2016, opponents might question whether Hillary will be able to rouse herself merely to answer important calls made at a much more reasonable time of day.

“But spare your country’s flag”

The replica of Barbara Fritchie’s house in Frederick, Maryland is just 45 minutes from mine. Yet I had never visited it until this weekend. If you’re in the area, it’s worth the trip.

Fritchie’s story is well known, I think, to anyone who attended school in my era. I suspect, however, that students of more recent vintage know nothing about it. Stories of patriotism are so passe.

In 1862, Confederate troops marching through Frederick passed the house of 95 year-old Barbara Fritchie. The widow proudly displayed her American flag from an upstairs window (or was it her doorway?). A rebel soldier fired at her flag (or did he just threaten to?).

In response, Fritchie (or was it her much younger neighbor Mary Quantrell?) shouted at the troops. “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag,” is the line with which she is credited. Whereupon the rebel commander (was it Stonewall Jackson?) is said to have threatened to kill anyone who harmed Fritchie or her flag.

A few months later, when he heard this story, the abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized it in the poem “Barbara Fritchie.” He took advantage of poetic license. Just how much, we do not know.

The poem was taught to school children for at least a century, and not just in this country. British school children memorized it. Indeed, Winston Churchill recited it to President Roosevelt when the two visited the Fritchie house during World War II.

There is, actually, a British connection to Fritchie. Barbara’s husband John Fritchie was the son of a “Tory” — an American supporter of Great Britain during the Revolution. Frederick residents executed Fritchie’s father, who may or may not have engaged in some form of treachery.

Barbara’s family took pity on the son and hired him to help around the inn they ran. Eventually, Barbara, who was considerably older than John, married him.

Thus did the Fritchie name, once tarnished, become synonymous with gutsy American patriotism.

More on Hillary’s Benghazi Emails

Late last week, the State Department released a tiny number of Hillary Clinton’s emails related to the Benghazi controversy. On Saturday, I wrote about the most important of those emails in Hillary’s Real Benghazi Problem. If you haven’t read that post, I recommend it; its point is that the real issue isn’t Benghazi in a vacuum, it is the disastrous Libya policy for which Hillary is mostly responsible. The deaths of four Americans in Benghazi comprise only one small part of the fallout from that failed policy.

What follows are some lesser but, I hope, interesting observations on the email production.

This email thread gives a partial glimpse into how information on the Benghazi attacks made its way to the State Department. The original email came from the DS [Department of State, I assume] Command Center at 11:41 p.m. on September 11, 2012. It reported that the second Benghazi attack, the one on the facility commonly referred to as the CIA Annex, was underway and that Americans had been injured. In fact, two were killed. This was described as an “attack by mortar fire.” Click to enlarge.

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The email was promptly forwarded to Secretary Clinton’s closest aides, with the notation, “FYI, fresh attacks on Benghazi.” This is one of a number of documents showing that from the earliest hours, it was obvious to Hillary and others in the State Department that Americans had come under an organized military attack. Demonstrators and protesters don’t use mortars. The Obama administration tried to deflect attention away from its own security failures in the face of known threats, and also away from the fact that Libya had become a terrorist haven as a result of its failed policies, by hyping the silly internet video and claiming that what happened was a spontaneous protest.

The word “spontaneous” is key. On September 16, Jake Sullivan, Hillary’s deputy chief of staff, sent her a roundup of Susan Rice’s performances on the Sunday morning news shows. He started by saying, “She wasn’t asked about whether we had any intel,” suggesting that this was a sensitive point. As we know now, Hillary and her minions had plenty of intel, but failed to act on it. Sullivan goes on to say that Rice “did make clear our view that this started spontaneously and then evolved.” Click to enlarge:

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But within a week or so, enough information had leaked out that the “spontaneous” demonstration angle was becoming a laughingstock. So Sullivan went through all of the public remarks Hillary had made about Benghazi to see how far she had gone in committing herself to that narrative. This is his report:

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So that’s a relief: Hillary “never said spontaneous” or explicitly blamed the internet video. They left that to Susan Rice and others; when that narrative was shot down, Hillary wasn’t exposed. That’s what they thought on September 24, anyway.

One impression you get from the emails is that Hillary and her staffers are weirdly isolated. This batch of emails includes several from Sid Blumenthal, which others, including Paul here and here, have commented on. I don’t have anything to add with regard to Blumenthal’s “intelligence” reports on Libya, but this one struck me as odd:

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The first email from Sid consists of a link to a Salon article that is a transparent smear against the Romney campaign. Purporting to come from a Romney insider, the article says that Republicans are “chortling with glee” and “jubilant” about the Obama administration’s intelligence failures in Benghazi. The article’s anonymous source, however, “said he was dubious about the tactic. ‘To me, it is indicative that they have lost touch with a huge portion of the electorate,’ he said.”

It is hard to believe that anyone was fooled. The subject heading of Sid’s email, which includes “got done and published,” suggests that Blumenthal had something to do with planting the smear, which Hillary says she will “push to the White House.”

But note the last email, from Blumenthal to Hillary on October 1, 2012: “Romney has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal…” Does Hillary really need Sid Blumenthal to tell her that Mitt Romney has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal?

Perhaps so. Positive and negative press coverage is a common subject of these emails. But how about this? Hillary learns that the CIA station chief in Tripoli sent a cable on September 12, which said there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi. Where did she hear of this? On NPR. Cheryl Mills says she hasn’t seen it, but “will see if we can get.”

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One would think that the Secretary of State would be informed about CIA cables that bear directly on her key area of interest, but apparently NPR has better access.

One last point, on which I mostly defend Hillary and her aides. During the chaotic night of September 11, word came that our ambassador had been murdered. This email thread, which discusses whether to make an announcement or wait until morning, bears the subject heading “Re: Chris Smith.” So they didn’t even remember Chris Stevens’s name, a fact for which some have bitterly criticized Hillary and her aides. I don’t know; maybe they mingled in Sean Smith, who also died that night. In any event, I give them a pass–fog of war, and so on. Hillary appointed Stevens and, I think, was well aware of who he was.

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One final observation: Hillary’s response in this email thread, “Ok,” is unusually communicative. In almost every other case, the only words from the Secretary of State are “Pls print,” as she forwards an email thread to a secretary. That is Hillary Clinton’s legacy: Please print. Maybe there once were other emails in which she expressed opinions, gave instructions, and so on, but those emails have been deleted. Maybe. Or else perhaps Hillary is, and always has been, a cipher, much like her boss, Barack Obama. She is no one, so we can all fill in the blank however we want.

If in the heat of the moment, the only response the Secretary of State had to the murder of one of her ambassadors and three other Americans was “pls print,” one thing we can say for sure is that she should never be President of the United States.