Democrats Are Winning the Money War

I am uneasy about November’s election, partly because I don’t think Republicans have succeeded in nationalizing (or even drawing much attention to) the election, partly because any coherent themes are being drowned out by various “squirrels” (Ray Rice and the NFL, for instance), and partly because the Democrats are raising an astonishing amount of money to defend the dysfunctional status quo. Politico headlines: “Democrats relying on big donors to win.”

Democrats love to cast Republicans as the party of big money, beholden to the out-of-touch billionaires bankrolling their campaigns.

But new numbers tell a very different story — one in which Democrats are actually raising more big money than their adversaries.

Among the groups reporting the biggest political ad spending, the 15 top Democrat-aligned committees have outraised the 15 top Republican ones $453 million to $289 million in the 2014 cycle, according to a POLITICO analysis of the most recent Federal Election Commission reports, including those filed over the weekend — which cover through the end of last month.

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The analysis shows the fundraising edge widening in August, when the Democratic groups pulled in more than twice as much as their GOP counterparts — $51 million to $21 million. That’s thanks to a spike in massive checks from increasingly energized labor unions and liberal billionaires like Tom Steyer and Fred Eychaner.

This is only surprising to those who haven’t been paying attention. Cronyism has always worked well if you are a crony. Like most of us, you probably don’t fall into the “major donor” category, but every little bit helps. If you are looking for good conservative candidates to support, please check out the Power Line Picks in the sidebar.

Beyond Catalist, perhaps

Last week J. Christian Adams posted an important and informative column on “‘CATALIST’: The Democrats’ database for fundamentally transforming America.” This was all news to me, I confess, and I am grateful to have it brought to my attention. Please check it out.

Catalist, as I understand it, is the database that, among other things, helps Democrats microtarget voters. Adams points out that Mitt Romney won independents in the 2012 election and yet still lost. “If you wondered why the conventional wisdom about independents and moderates didn’t seem so wise in 2012,” Adams writes, “the answer is Catalist.” The Democrats’ 2012 campaign gives new meaning to the term “political science,” and Catalist is part of it.

I think there is more to it than that. The Democrats have a natural genius for blackening the reputation of men and women of outstanding character. They did it with Romney in 2012. Whatever Romney’s faults, the man has led a blameless life. If the Democrats could effectively defame him, who can’t they do it to?

Working Romney over in swing states after he locked up the GOP nomination, the Democrats scared away the potential votes of demoralized voters who ultimately stayed at home. By the time he was crowned the nominee at the GOP convention, he was dead man walking.

This year Democrats are working their genius on Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst and others (Minnesota’s Torrey Westrom, a candidate for Congress in the Seventh District, is among them). Democrats show us that in politics it helps not to be constrained by conscience.

Nevertheless, we need to understand what the Democrats have in Catalist and develop a counter to it. Adams leaves us on a despairing note. “Some of you reading this might think this is much ado about nothing, because the Republicans can match the power of Catalist. Think again.” He makes a powerful case, concluding:

The strength and power of Catalist is based on the huge number of groups feeding it data. Leftist players sacrifice their egos for the larger messianic call of destroying Republicans, obliterating conservatives, and ultimately gutting the Constitution. Non-profit interest groups on the left gladly feed their internal data into Catalist because it helps progressives win, period. They don’t care about profit, glory, connections, or a new car.

As far as I can tell, conservative database models don’t capture anywhere near the level of inputs that Catalist does.

Catalist does not derive its power because it has the insiders imprimatur as the official party-sanctioned database. It derives its power because nobody feeding it data cares about who gets the glory. They have a country to transform.

In her weekly Wall Street Journal column this past Friday — “Leapfrogging the Democrats’ tech advantage” (behind the Journal’s paywall but accessible via Google) — Kim Strassel reports on the Republican Party’s program to counter Catalist. “The RNC line is that it intends to leapfrog Democrats in the technology of turnout,” Strassel writes, “and a lot is riding on the claim.”

I am dubious. Who wouldn’t be? I hope Adams will address Strassel’s column and allow some hope for the future.

High Noonan

Peggy Noonan joined the crowd that turned on George W. Bush in what I thought was (in Noonan’s case) a most unfair manner in 2008. I wrote critically about one of Noonan’s weekly Wall Street Journal columns in which she identified with the public disapproval of Bush in “Season of the witch.”

Having turned on George W. Bush, Noonan moved on to support the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Noonan all but endorsed Obama in the 2008 column “Obama and the runaway train.” The anti-Bush and pro-Obama columns fit neatly together. She wrote of Obama just before the election:

He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief. He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make. We witnessed from him this year something unique in American politics: He took down a political machine without raising his voice.

In a sense, Obama delivered, but in another sense Noonan got everything wrong. Obama has changed the direction and tone of American foreign policy, alright, yet the change hasn’t yielded the results Noonan anticipated.

Noonan has now turned on Obama. She actually turned on him a while ago. Her most recent column — “The unwisdom of Barack Obama,” behind the Journal’s subscription paywall but accessible via Google — condemns Obama on one of the grounds she had supported him in 2008: “His essential problem is that he has very poor judgment.”

Now you tell us.

In her defense, Noonan might plead that she acknowledged the paltry evidence in support of her 2008 claim that Obama has “good judgment.” If “judgment” were the issue, perhaps the excuse would mitigate the verdict that Noonan herself is guilty of incredibly poor judgment.

Yet the problems with Obama run much deeper than poor judgment. Noonan overlooks his sophisticated ignorance and leftist ideological rigidity. If you were following the news in 2008 and acquainting yourself with Obama’s background, you had to work hard to miss the evidence. Indeed, Noonan must have worked hard to avoid mentioning any of it and to work up her lyrical tribute to Obama in her 2008 column.

We have written a lot over the years about Obama’s ignorance and ideology. Today Bret Stephens focuses on Obama’s ignorance in the Wall Street Journal column “What Obama knows” (behind the Journal’s subscription paywall but also accessible via Google). Noonan to the contrary notwithstanding, Stephens writes: “[E]ven at an elementary level, Mr. Obama often doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It isn’t so much his analysis of global events that’s wrong, though it is. The deeper problem is the foundation of knowledge on which that analysis is built.”

I would go further than Stephens. Something beyond ignorance explains Obama’s affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, and his hostility to Israel. The ideological component of Obama’s failures is probably the most important.

He advertised it in his promise of “fundamental transformation” of the United States. He clearly meant it. He has done his best to deliver on it. He has another two years to work on it. And on this score, he knows what he is doing and it would be a serious mistake to count him a failed president.

U.S. launches air strikes in Syria

The United States has expanded its war against ISIS into Syria by launching air attacks against an array of ISIS targets in that country. President Obama should be commended for ordering these attacks.

The attacks don’t rise to the level of “shock and awe” but as described, they sound like a good start. Apparently, they involve a mix of fighter jets and bombers plus Tomahawk missiles delivered from ships.

The attacks reportedly were directed at approximately 20 targets. The administration didn’t identify them, as the attacks were ongoing. However, residents of Raqqa in northeast Syria, ISIS’s capital, reported news of large explosions and said they heard repeated passes from military aircraft.

The administration emphasized that five Arab countries are “participating” in the air attacks. The president will undoubtedly continue to tout this participation, even though it is window dressing. What matters is the number and efficacy of the air attacks, not the number of “participant,” Arab or otherwise.

The Syrian regime has never authorized U.S. airstrikes in Syria against ISIS, and Syria has some pretty sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry. But inasmuch as our attacks target a force opposed (generally speaking) to the Assad regime, it seems unlikely that Assad will risk the wrath of the U.S. by shooting at our planes.

War is always uncertain and the consequences of the interjection of U.S. military power into a complex civil war in Syria seem particularly so. But for reasons I have advanced elsewhere, defeating ISIS looks like the right course of action. And air attacks against ISIS in Syria are a necessary, though probably not sufficient, condition of inflicting such a defeat.

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Obama’s “Yemen model” is failing in Yemen

In his address to the nation about countering ISIS, President Obama said that the will model for his strategy will be the one we have employed in Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP). That strategy consists of relying on the Yemeni government to combat AQAP on the ground and pitching in with targeted air strikes to degrade that terrorists’ leadership.

On its face, the applicability of the Yemen model to Iraq and Syria seems dubious. ISIS, an army of up to 30,000 members, is far more formidable than AQAP in Yemen.

In addition, Katherine Zimmerman, a senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project, warns that “Yemen model” may well fail even in Yemen. The problem is that the government of Yemen, on whom we rely for the foot soldiers, will only fight AQAP to the extent it is not diverted by threats it views as more pressing. And currently, a more pressing threat looms.

That threat consists of the al Houthis, an armed Yemeni opposition group supported by Iran. Already, it has seized parts of the capital and forced the main Sunni party out of power.

The implications for the struggle against AQAP are clear. As Zimmerman explains:

[T]he concern is that the political tensions seething under a veneer of stability in Yemen post-Arab Spring will catapult the country into another bout of unrest that would make the prosecution of a counterterrorism campaign near impossible. Any Yemeni government is unlikely to pursue AQAP in Yemen’s south and east if threatened directly in Sana’a, the capital.

The implications are also clear for the struggle against ISIS. In Syria, the rebels we intend, finally, to support have taken to the battlefield to fight Assad, not ISIS. As in Yemen, there is no necessary convergence of their objectives and ours.

In Iraq, as in Yemen, conflicts between Sunni and Shia inhere. No matter how hard we try to paper them over, they can, at any moment, trump either faction’s desire (if any) to fight ISIS. If this had not been the case, ISIS probably would not have made nearly as much progress as it has.

Accordingly, the U.S. cannot, with any degree of confidence, simply farm out the “boots on the ground” role to local forces. If we truly want to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, we must use our own boots. The “Yeman model,” far from supporting President Obama’s approach to combatting ISIS, tends to confirm its weakness.

Liberals Want to Throw Us All In Jail. Or Worse.

The totalitarian impulse is all too familiar: since I represent Progress (and, of course, everyone who acts in the political realm fervently believes that he represents Progress) those who stand in my way are retrograde–evil, really–forces, that belong in the dustbin of history. Therefore, I might have to lock them up or kill them to ensure that Progress prevails.

Until recently, the totalitarian impulse has been blessedly absent from American politics. Now, however, the American left has caught the totalitarian bug that infected Lenin, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, and so many others. A case in point: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the drug-addled son of the former Attorney General. Kennedy thinks it is a shame that he isn’t able to jail or execute the Koch brothers and other conservatives, like–for example–me:

Environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lamented that there were no current laws on the books to punish global warming skeptics. “I wish there were a law you could punish them with. I don’t think there is a law that you can punish those politicians under,” Kennedy told Climate Depot in a one-on-one interview during the People’s Climate March. …

Kennedy Jr. accused skeptical politicians of “selling out the public trust.” “Those guys are doing the Koch Brothers bidding and are against all the evidence of the rational mind, saying global warming does not exit. They are contemptible human beings. I wish there were a law you could punish them with. I don’t think there is a law that you can punish those politicians under.”

Kennedy saved his most venomous comments for the Koch Brothers, accusing them of “treason” for “polluting our atmosphere.”
“I think it’s treason. Do I think the Koch Brothers are treasonous, yes I do,” Kennedy explained.

“They are enjoying making themselves billionaires by impoverishing the rest of us. Do I think they should be in jail, I think they should be enjoying three hots and a cot at the Hague with all the other war criminals,” Kennedy declared.

“Do I think the Koch brothers should be tried for reckless endangerment? Absolutely, that is a criminal offence and they ought to be serving time for it,” he added.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at today's climate march

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at today’s climate march

The penalty for treason is death, of course, but Kennedy seems to be willing to settle for life without parole.

The linked Climate Depot post points out that Kennedy isn’t the only liberal who wants to kill or jail those who disagree with him about the Earth’s climate. (Notwithstanding the fact that the “skeptics”–I call them realists–have been resoundingly vindicated, and the CAGW models have proved to be wrong.) Paul Krugman, Josh Marshall, Gawker and James Hansen of NASA are among the many climate hysterics who have demanded that those who disagree with them (i.e., those who have now been proved right) be killed, jailed, or charged with “treason against the planet.”

Nor is the Left’s demand for criminal prosecution of conservatives merely rhetorical. To cite just one instance, Dinesh D’Souza has been criminally charged with a chickenfeed campaign finance offense and the Democratic prosecutor is trying to have him jailed. If D’Souza deserves six months in jail, then Barack Obama deserves 200 years. As we and many others reported in 2008 and again in 2012, Obama set up a web site that was deliberately intended to facilitate illegal contributions. No one else did this–certainly no Republican politicians–but Obama sneered at the law and garnered uncounted millions in illegal contributions as a result.

Then we have the Udall proposal to repeal the First Amendment as it relates to politics. The Udall Amendment would give Congress the unfettered, unqualified power to “regulate…the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” Under this plan, which every Democrat in the Senate voted for, Congress could make it a felony to contribute money to a Republican’s campaign. Or it could throw a filmmaker in jail for producing a movie that the administration doesn’t like. Sort of like they are trying to do with D’Souza, only this time with constitutional sanction.

We are living in perilous times. For the first time in America’s history, one of our political parties–the one that loses all the arguments–has given up on debate and threatens to use naked power to jail or otherwise silence those who point out the flaws in its theories. If we conservatives remain passive, there is a grave danger that our freedoms may be lost.