Megyn Kelly takes down Rand Paul on the Patriot Act

John has flagged Rand Paul’s ISIS whopper — the claim that Republicans are to blame for the rise of ISIS. When Republicans controlled the White House, ISIS was, as John says, little more than a dream in the minds of a few fanatics. The dream was realized not because of Republicans, but mostly because President Obama reversed President Bush’s policies and prematurely withdrew American forces from Iraq.

But Rand Paul’s struggles with the truth aren’t confined to ISIS. During the debate over renewing the Patriot Act, Paul has wildly exaggerated the extent of the intrusion of privacy that occurs under the Act.

A few days ago, Megyn Kelly called the Senator on this. She told Paul:

Your critics accuse you of overstating the case. For example, one of the things that you’ve said is that the NSA is spying on all your phone calls. And that’s not true, and it doesn’t have cell phone data in almost any case.

Paul responded:

That’s actually not what I’ve said. I’ve been saying the NSA is collecting all of your phone records, and by connecting the dots of your phone records, they can determine your religion 85 percent of the time, who your physician is most of the time, what medicines you have. They can even tell when you go to the doctor, by interference, maybe what kind of procedures you’re having at your doctor’s office.

To this nonsense, Kelly replied:

How? The Wall Street Journal had a report that said the NSA is collecting records of at most 20 percent of U.S. calls. And in general, they do not look at cell phone records.

In other words, Paul’s claim that the NSA is collecting all of our phone records is bull. As for “connecting the dots,” Kelly added:

This program, this is what the critics outline– you get no names, no addresses, no personal identifying information, that the NSA doesn’t know you exist. They just have phone numbers and only look further if the terrorist calls the number.

Instead of defending his statements of alleged fact, Paul invoked the Constitution:

The Founding Fathers didn’t like the idea of general warrants: warrants that didn’t have specific names on them, that were not individualized, that didn’t have any suggestion of suspicion, and that weren’t signed by an independent judge. That’s what the Fourth Amendment is about.

Paul’s constitutional analysis is shaky, as Andy McCarthy argues. But the point I want to stress is that Paul had to back away from his claims about the nature of what NSA is doing under the Patriot Act because these claims are false.

Nearly all major politicians at times exaggerate and/or misstate things. But the Patriot Act is a bulwark against terrorist attacks on our homeland. Thus, it is hugely irresponsible to attempt conjure up claims about invasions of privacy that aren’t occurring in order to scare Americans into supporting restrictions on the government’s ability to collect information on terrorists.

Concern over privacy in the context of the Patriot Act has become Paul’s signature issue, particularly since he is now reluctant to show his full isolationist colors. The issue is worthy of legitimate debate.

But the debate isn’t legitimate when the main debater willfully disregards the facts. Rand Paul’s irresponsibility in the realm of national security should disqualify him for consideration for the presidency.

Below is Kelly’s interview of Sen. Paul.

The FIFA Scandal: As Usual, The Simpsons Was There First

I’ll defer to Paul at Power Line’s sports desk for the definitive understanding of the FIFA scandal, but it is worth noting that “The Simpsons” was on to the matter a while ago (just over 1 minute): (more…)

Breaking: Hastert Indicted

This one is a stunner out of nowhere. News is breaking this afternoon of a federal indictment of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), for the crime of making “structured withdrawals” to avoid banking laws requiring reporting of transactions over $10,000—a law chiefly intended to hinder narcotics and other illegal activities.

The seven-page indictment (PDF file) suggests a significant personal scandal, involving Hastert agreeing to make regular $50,000 payments to someone identified only as “Individual A” after meeting with “Individual A” in 2010 over “past misconduct by defendant [Hastert] against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.” Total payments were to be $3.5 million. Hastert had paid out about half this sum between 2010 and 2014 before the FBI and bank regulators got wind of the pattern of withdrawals. Hastert lied to the FBI, telling them that he was keeping the cash because he didn’t trust banks.

This sounds like either blackmail, or a private settlement to avoid a public lawsuit or public exposure over some kind of indiscretion on Hastert’s part long before he became a public figure. I’m not aware of any hint of scandal or bad behavior associated with Hastert prior to this. One of the curious details of this story is that Hastert left Congress after the 2008 election, yet this meeting with “Individual A” that began the payments is said to have occurred in 2010.

“Structured withdrawals” are what raised suspicions in New York a few years ago about “Client 9″ that turned out to be Gov. Elliot Spitzer.

Behind Science Fraud, Chapter 5

We began this new occasional series with the story of the Science magazine study about how people changed their mind on gay marriage based on a short conversations with a real live gay people, but in which the data was faked by the graduate student co-author, Michael LaCour.

It now appears that LaCour, whose pending appointment at Princeton based on his work is in doubt, made up more than just his data. He appears to have claimed on his CV a UCLA teaching award that doesn’t exist. I’ll let New York magazine pick up the climax of the story from here:

I emailed LaCour for comment, and he asked if I’d hold off on publishing this until he released a planned statement about the whole affair. I told him I couldn’t unless the statement contained information pertinent to the nonexistent teaching award. Shortly thereafter, a browser extension I installed to notify me when his website changed pinged me. His website’s link to his CV, which he’d taken down down recently, is now back up. This version no longer lists the Emerging Instructor Award, and the entire “Original Grants & Data” section has been cut.

LaCour then emailed me again: “I’m not sure which CV you are referring to, but the CV posted on my website has not had that information or the grants listed for at least a year.” As of 6:20 p.m., the CV with the false information can still be viewed on the UCLA website.

I think it was the British politician Denis Healey who is credited with the First Law of Holes, which goes: If you’re in one, stop digging. LaCour apparently didn’t learn the First Law of Holes in his social science methodology classes.

The Washington Post and Rand Paul: Who Is More Wrong About ISIS?

The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, undertook yesterday to assess the truth or falsity of these remarks by Jeb Bush about ISIS:

ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president.

Those statements are, by any normal standard, true. But this is what Kessler had to say:

Islamic State, also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), certainly has become an important player in the Middle East, taking advantage of the civil war in Syria and the disarray in the Iraqi government to claim vast areas of both countries. In the past couple of years, the group’s activities have gathered attention in the United States; it was only a year and half ago that President Obama dismissed Islamic State as a “JV team.”

But that doesn’t mean it “didn’t exist,” as Bush put it, during President George W. Bush’s presidency. A quick check of Thomas A. Ricks’ 2009 book “The Gamble” finds a reference to a statement by Islamic State during a 2007 battle. Ricks described it as “a group affiliated with al-Qaeda.”

This is ridiculous. Today, there actually is an Islamic State, a self-declared caliphate, in the Middle East: ISIS controls territory approximately the size of Great Britain. When George Bush was president, there was no Islamic State in the Middle East. The fact that a splinter group issued a statement in 2007 does not obscure the blindingly obvious difference between the state of affairs then and now. More:

Indeed, to a large extent, the Islamic State of today is simply an outgrowth of al-Qaeda of Iraq. In 2007, the Times of London, quoting U.S. intelligence officials, described “a radical plan by Al-Qaeda to take over the Sunni heartland of Iraq and turn it into a militant Islamic state once American troops have withdrawn.”

The National Counterterrorism Center puts it this way: “Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and more recently the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), was established in April 2004 by long-time Sunni extremist Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi.” The NCTC notes that Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006 and afterwards his successor announced the formation of the Islamic State.

Yes, and under President Bush and General David Petraeus, al Qaeda in Iraq was, as Jeb Bush said, wiped out. Would anyone listening to Jeb Bush understand him to mean that every single member of AQI was killed? Of course not. But al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out as an effective fighting force and as a threat to the stability of the Iraqi government, as President Obama himself later boasted.

What Jeb Bush said was correct: under President Bush, al Qaeda in Iraq was destroyed as a military and political force, and an Islamic State existed only as a dream in the minds of a few fanatics. Today, tragically, the Islamic State has come into being and its army is rampaging across the region. This is due primarily to President Obama’s deliberate reversal of President Bush’s policies, in particular his premature withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

So how did Glenn Kessler assess the accuracy of Jeb Bush’s comments? Four Pinocchios!

pinocchio_4

In the Post’s lexicon, four Pinocchios are reserved for “whoppers.” This partisan assessment can only be interpreted as part of the Democratic Party’s attempt to shift the blame for the disasters of Obama’s foreign policies to his predecessor.

Senator Rand Paul views ISIS in, if anything, a more extreme light than the Post’s partisans. On The Morning Joe show yesterday, Paul blamed the existence and growing strength of ISIS on his fellow Republicans:

I doubt that Paul really meant to say that Republicans in Congress are to blame for the rise of ISIS. That proposition is absurd on its face. But it is enough, in my view, to disqualify Paul from serious presidential consideration.

These two episodes illustrate, once again, how closely capital-L libertarians often align with the partisan Left on foreign policy. Like leftists, Paul-style libertarians tend to believe that all problems in the world are caused by the U.S.’s actions. Therefore, if we would simply do nothing, the problems would go away. That view is tempting, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, history–including the history of the last six years–demonstrates conclusively that it is false.

The rational ayatollah hypothesis

In his Wall Street Journal column this past Tuesday, Bret Stephens took up “The rational ayatollah hypothesis” (accessible via Google here). That hypothesis — asserted, I would say, as a thesis if not a fact by our Supreme Leader about Iran’s Supreme Leader — holds that economics and other such considerations constrain the anti-Semitic behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran. So about those nuclear weapons that Iran is developing on — Israel is not to worry. Neither are we. It’s the Alfred E. Newman approach writ large.

Obama articulated his thesis in response to a question posed by Jeffrey Goldberg in his recent interview of Obama. I wrote about it in “Obama expounds the limits of Iran’s anti-Semitism.” I struggled because Obama’s observations are both ignorant and obtuse. Stephens takes up Obama’s thesis somewhat more elegantly than I did:

Iran has no border, and no territorial dispute, with Israel. The two countries have a common enemy in Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups. Historically and religiously, Jews have always felt a special debt to Persia. Tehran and Jerusalem were de facto allies until 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and 100,000 Jews still lived in Iran. Today, no more than 10,000 Jews are left.

So on the basis of what self-interest does Iran arm and subsidize Hamas, probably devoting more than $1 billion of (scarce) dollars to the effort? What’s the economic rationale for hosting conferences of Holocaust deniers in Tehran, thereby gratuitously damaging ties to otherwise eager economic partners such as Germany and France? What was the political logic to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, which made it so much easier for the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions? How does the regime shore up its domestic legitimacy by preaching a state ideology that makes the country a global pariah?

Maybe all this behavior serves Tehran’s instrumental purposes by putting the regime at the vanguard of a united Shiite-Sunni “resistance” to Western imperialism and Zionism. If so, it hasn’t worked out too well, as the rise of Islamic State shows. The likelier explanation is that the regime believes what it says, practices what it preaches, and is willing to pay a steep price for doing so.

So it goes with hating Jews. There are casual bigots who may think of Jews as greedy or uncouth, but otherwise aren’t obsessed by their prejudices. But the Jew-hatred of the Iranian regime is of the cosmic variety: Jews, or Zionists, as the agents of everything that is wrong in this world, from poverty and drug addiction to conflict and genocide. If Zionism is the root of evil, then anti-Zionism is the greatest good—a cause to which one might be prepared to sacrifice a great deal, up to and including one’s own life.

This was one of the lessons of the Holocaust, which the Nazis carried out even at the expense of the overall war effort. In 1944, with Russia advancing on a broad front and the Allies landing in Normandy, Adolf Eichmann pulled out all stops to deport more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in just two months. The Nazis didn’t even bother to make slaves of most of their prisoners to feed their war machine. Annihilation of the Jews was the higher goal.

Modern Iran is not Nazi Germany, or so Iran’s apologists like to remind us. Then again, how different is the thinking of an Eichmann from that of a Khamenei, who in 2012 told a Friday prayer meeting that Israel was a “cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut”?”

Walter Russell Mead has more here, all of it worth reading. I thought readers who have been tracking the deep thoughts of our Supreme Leader, as we all should, might find Mead’s thoughts and Stephens’s column of interest.

Sanders Save the Children Fund

I’m starting to think Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign is going to supply a great deal of high quality entertainment in this presidential cycle. His economic ignorance—too many choices of deodorant!—is right out of the 1950s (but then, as Glenn Reynolds noted his morning, the whole Democratic field has a Lawrence Welk feel to it). Leave it to Remy to offer Bernie some fundraising help:

Of course, Sanders is known to proclaim his socialism openly, unlike other Democrats. As Tom Bethell asked years ago when Sanders first went to Congress, how can you tell the difference between Sanders and any other Democrat? It would be nice to see a reporter ask some questions along these lines during the campaign, or during a debate with Hillary (if there are any).