The “prebranding” of Hillary Clinton

The New York Times reports that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account — and only a personal email account — to send emails in connection with government business while she was Secretary of State. According to the Times:

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Clinton therefore appears to have violated federal regulations. Says the Times:

Regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration at the time required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records. But Mrs. Clinton and her aides failed to do so.

It was not until two months ago, nearly two years after Clinton had resigned from the State Department that her aides, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. They eventually turned over 55,000 pages of emails.

Only the Clinton aides know how many emails involving official business they did not turn over. And even these aides probably don’t know whether or to what extent Clinton’s emails previously were purged.

There are good reasons why, except in special circumstances, the Secretary of State shouldn’t conduct public business on a private email account. One reason is to ensure the preservation of records.

Such records are of general historical interest. In addition, they may be of interest in connection with specific investigations such as, say, the Benghazi investigation. In fact, the existence of Clinton’s personal email account was discovered by the House committee that, under the leadership of Trey Gowdy, is investigating this matter.

State Department business shouldn’t be conducted by personal email for the additional reason that personal emails are not secure. But Hillary Clinton, who always saw her job at State as a stepping stone to the White House, placed her political ambition above considerations of national security.

Will this story hurt Clinton? Michael Schmidt, who broke it for The Times, seems to think so:

The revelation about the private email account echoes longstanding criticisms directed at both the former secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for a lack of transparency and inclination toward secrecy.

Schmidt contrasts Clinton’s secrecy to the transparency of one of her rivals for the presidency:

Others who, like Mrs. Clinton, are eyeing a candidacy for the White House are stressing a very different approach. Jeb Bush, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, released a trove of emails in December from his eight years as governor of Florida.

These aren’t wonderful times for Hillary Clinton, what with Schmidt’s private email account story and revelations about about the dealings of the Clinton Foundation. While Hillary Clinton’s marketers strain to “rebrand” her, reality seems intent on “prebranding” her.

Barack Obama, the answer to Ayatollah Khamenei’s prayers

Ray Takeyh, who served in the Obama administration focusing on Iran, has an illuminating piece on how Iran’s “Supreme Leader” is “patiently negotiating his way to a bomb.” Absent military intervention, Ayatollah Khamenei was always going to pursue his nuclear bomb. But it now looks like he will be able to pursue it in the most advantageous manner possible — with American cooperation.

Takeyh explains:

After years of defiance, Khamenei seems to appreciate that his most advantageous path to nuclear arms is through an agreement. To continue to build up his atomic infrastructure without the protective umbrella of an agreement exposes Iran to economic sanctions and the possibility of military retribution. . . .

Unlike many of his Western interlocutors, Khamenei appreciates that his regime rests on shaky foundations and that the legitimacy of the Islamic revolution has long been forfeited. The task at hand was to find a way to forge ahead with a nuclear program while safeguarding the regime and its ideological verities.

It was a daunting task as long as the West viewed Khamenei’s negotiating position — an agreement of limited duration during which Iran could construct a vast nuclear infrastructure in exchange for a leaky inspection regime — with great skepticism. But then, along came President Obama, and the Ayatollah’s prayers were answered:

Washington conceded to Iran’s enrichment at home and agreed that eventually that enrichment capacity could be industrialized. The marathon negotiations since have seen Iran attempt to whittle down the remaining restrictions, while the United States tries to reclaim its battered red lines.

For Khamenei, the most important concession that his negotiators have won is the idea of a sunset clause. Upon the expiration of that clause, there would be no legal limits on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. If the Islamic Republic wants to construct hundreds of thousands of sophisticated centrifuges, build numerous heavy-water reactors and sprinkle its mountains with enrichment installations, the Western powers will have no recourse.

What happens then?

Once Iran achieves that threshold nuclear status, there is no verification regime that is guaranteed to detect a sprint to a bomb. An industrial-size nuclear state has too many atomic resources, too many plants and too many scientists to be reliably restrained.

Khamenei. . .can also be assured that technical violations of his commitments would not be firmly opposed. Once a deal is transacted, the most essential sanctions against Iran will evaporate. . .And as far as the use of force is concerned, the United States has negotiated arms-control compacts for at least five decades and has never used force to punish a state that has incrementally violated its treaty obligations.

As the reaction to North Korea’s atomic provocations shows, the international community typically deals with such infractions through endless mediation. Once an agreement is signed, too many nations become invested in its perpetuation to risk a rupture.

Takeyh concludes that “Iran’s achievements today are a tribute to the genius of an unassuming midlevel cleric” who has “routinely entered negotiations with the weakest hand and emerged in the strongest position.” But Iran’s achievements are just as much a tribute to the egomania of a pretentious U.S. president who entered negotiations with the strongest hand and refused to play his best cards because he considered himself above the game, and imagined that there is bigger contest only he is able to perceive.

Netanyahu’s moment, part 4

Obama national security adviser Susan Rice spoke at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington this evening. In the video below, Rice frankly avows the Obama administration’s support for Iran’s “domestic enrichment capacity” and pursuit of “peaceful nuclear energy.”

We are advised that we have to define deviancy down in the name of realism: “We cannot let a totally unachievable ideal stand in the way of a good deal.” Translation: Unfortunately: “a good deal” looms on the horizon. It promises peace for our time.

The sardonic response of the AIPAC crowd to Rice’s articulation of the rejected alternatives seems to me more in tune with the mood of the American people than the double talk of Ms. Rice, but we are in very bad hands. Rice’s speech sets the stage for Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress tomorrow morning, to be carried live on C-SPAN 2 and FOX News Channel.

Obama’s opposition to Iran’s nuclear program has a lot in common with Obama’s opposition to gay marriage. It is so yesterday, and yesterday it was so phony.

Via Brendan Bordelon/NR.

Is Scott Walker ready for prime time?

In my view, the big question in Republican presidential politics is how Scott Walker will perform as a candidate. As I wrote a few weeks ago, Walker has already proven that he can deliver red meat in a prepared speech. He proved it again at CPAC last week.

But can Walker impressively discuss and eventually impressively debate the broad range of issues that will present themselves during the course of a long campaign? And if he cannot yet do so, will he be able adequately to bone up while running his state?

Last week, Walker appeared at the Club for Growth’s winter conference in Florida. Eliana Johnson’s account of his performance strongly suggests that Walker isn’t ready for prime time (see also Jennifer Rubin’s write-up). Because I have high hopes for Walker, I found these reports distressing.

Parts of Eliana’s account portray Walker as unprepared to discuss important issues — Dodd-Frank, the Export-Import Bank — with any insight or even much familiarity. That’s a problem, but a fixable one.

However, one of Walker’s comments suggests a deeper problem. According to several reports, including Eliana’s, Walker stated that the “most consequential foreign-policy decision” of his lifetime was Reagan’s 1981 firing of 11,000 air-traffic controllers. He explained that through this action, Reagan sent a message not only across America, but around the world “that we wouldn’t be messed with.”

It’s obvious where Walker wants to go with this. Firing air traffic controllers clearly isn’t Reagan’s most consequential foreign policy decision. But it is the one thing Reagan did that is closely analogous to Walker’s claim to fame — facing down public employee unions. Hence, Walker’s attempt to exaggerate the importance of Reagan’s showdown with a union.

Union leaders and their Democratic allies can be unsavory, to be sure. But it’s an unfortunate reach to compare them to Putin, ISIS, or the leaders of Iran. One simply cannot infer from Walker’s political success against the public employee unions that he will succeed against America’s enemies on the world stage. After all, President Obama has successfully faced down his political opponents on occasion, and Bill Clinton ran rings around Newt Gingrich. Yet our enemies flourished during both presidencies.

Reagan’s foreign policy success was based on a profound understanding of the nature of our primary enemy, coupled with familiarity with world affairs developed over decades of engagement. Walker needs to show at least some level of such understanding, familiarity, and engagement. He cannot rely on the fact that he is a tough guy.

Nor can Walker lean too heavily on his Wisconsin successes. Governors who do so become vulnerable to ridicule. Remember Michael Dukakis? His stock answer to almost any question was to cite “the Massachusetts Miracle.” As one of his opponents said, the real miracle would be if Dukakis could answer a question without invoking “the Massachusetts miracle.”

Walker should avoid appearing like a guy who hit a home run and thinks it was a “walk off” blow. His work as governor gets him a seat at the table. Once there, he needs to show some new cards.

This is particularly true now that Walker, as I expected, has emerged as a top tier candidate and, arguably, the front-runner. If he continues to hold that status, much will be expected of him during the debates and he will become the target of some pretty fearsome debaters.

Moreover, with foreign policy looming as a big, and potentially winning, issue for Republicans, GOP voters will likely demand a candidate who can successfully debate foreign policy with Hillary Clinton. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush probably can. Can Walker?

If Walker doesn’t step up his game, he might become the Rick Perry of this cycle — a highly successful governor who fizzled badly under fire.

Keep the Internet Free, Part 3

“Net neutrality” is one of those technical-seeming issues about which it isn’t hard to make up one’s mind. Four good reasons to oppose it: 1) It is a solution to no known problem. 2) Why would we want the federal government to control the internet? 3) MoveOn.org and the Daily Kos are for it. 3) In Glenn Reynolds’ words, “Nothing says forward looking for the 21st century like a regulated utility.”

A group called Protect Internet Freedom has made a series of videos about net neutrality. We posted one here and another one here. The group has just released another anti-net neut video; here it is:

Taken to the Cleaners

Michael Ramirez satirizes President Obama’s impending nuclear deal with Iran. Click to enlarge:

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Actually, Ramirez gives Obama the benefit of the doubt by assuming that his facilitation of Iran’s nuclear program is inadvertent. It seems at least as likely that Obama shares the mullahs’ goal of Iran as a regional hegemon.

Climate Haters Gotta Hate

I’ve had on my spindle for a month now this article by the WaPo’s Chris Mooney (author of the egregious Republican War on Science) about how the climate change debate is . . . polarized! Apparently Mooney discovered that climate change alarmists and climate “skeptics” really don’t like each other. Stop the presses! Clearly with Mooney we are in the presence of no ordinary mind.

On the surface the story seems to suggest a rough equivalence between the two sides, as most such “polarization” narratives go these days. But read carefully even Mooney can’t conceal one damning result of the survey on which the story is based—namely that the climate alarmists are a much more cohesive “in-group” and angrier at their opponents:

Based upon these questions, the research found that those whom the study calls “believers” — a label they won’t like — actually showed higher levels of group cohesion, self identification, sense of collective effectiveness, and “especially anger toward the opposing group and commitment to socio-political action.”

“Anger” and “commitment to socio-political action” sounds like the job description of liberalism, and reason enough to be a climate skeptic.   Anyway, if you check out the underlying NatureClimateChange article on which this is based, be sure to scroll down in Table 1 and notice that “believers” (the 4.10 score in the right-hand column) score as significantly more angry toward skeptics than skeptics are toward alarmist “believers.” (Isn’t “believers” an ironically accurate term?  Nice to see it used in a “mainstream” science journal.)  Since the complete article is behind a paywall, here’s a screen cap of the relevant portion of Table 1:

Anger copyThis probably helps explain the witch-hunting fervor of people like Rep. Grijalva. Climate haters gotta hate.

Maybe climate skeptics are just happier people? I suspect that’s true. But it also may be the case that climate skeptics are also better informed about climate science:

Are global warming skeptics simply ignorant about climate science?

Not so, says a forthcoming paper in the journal Advances in Political Psychologyby Yale Professor Dan Kahan. He finds that skeptics score about the same (in fact slightly better) on climate science questions.

The study asked 2,000 respondents nine questions about where they thought scientists stand on climate science.

On average, skeptics got about 4.5 questions correct, whereas manmade warming believers got about 4 questions right.

One question, for instance, asked if scientists believe that warming would “increase the risk of skin cancer.” Skeptics were more likely than believers to know that is false.

Skeptics were also more likely to correctly say that if the North Pole icecap melted, global sea levels would not rise. One can test this with a glass of water and an ice cube – the water level will not change after the ice melts. Antarctic ice melting, however, would increase sea levels because much of it rests on land.

Liberals were more likely to correctly answer questions like: “What gas do most scientists believe causes temperatures to rise?” The correct answer is carbon dioxide.

The study comes on the heels of a 2012 study that found that global warming skeptics know just as much about science; the new study specifically quizzed people on climate science.

Heh.