Deep Behind Enemy Lines Again

While John was off visiting his home town in South Dakota, an inter-dimensional crossrip in the space-time continuum found me today, April 20th—better known to potheads as 420—back in Boulder:

Boulder 1However, there was no second-hand smoke of any kind (no 420 on 4/20!), because the university has cracked down on the large smoke-ins of previous years, with the simple expedient of police tape—plus a whole lot of police on hand in case anyone didn’t get the memo.

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So lots of mellows were harshed today.

But this is only a warmup.  For any Power Line readers in the Bay Area, next Monday evening, April 27, I’ll be speaking at . . . Berkeley.*  I’ll be part of a panel sponsored by Berkeley’s Institute of Government Affairs’ “Annual Review of the Presidency.”  The topic of this year’s review is: “Obama Unleashed? Or Obama Rejected?: The President in his Second Term.”  What, oh what, could I possibly have to say?  Well come and find out if you are nearby and are willing to brave Berkeley’s scarce parking, not to mention the grad students.  The event goes off at 7:30 pm in the Banatao Auditorium in Sutardja Dai Hall.  I don’t know where that it either, but I’ll find it on a map.

*(Not to worry; John Yoo is going to take me out for drinks afterward to restore the tissues.)

Rubio surges but tough questions about immigration linger

Things keep looking brighter and brighter for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. Last week, I noted that Rubio is running essentially even with Jeb Bush among Florida Republicans, a huge improvement in his standing.

Now, CNN finds that Rubio has broken into double-figure support among Republicans nationally. He’s at 11 percent, according to CNN, basically tied with Scott Walker, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee. Only Bush does appreciably better 17 percent, not a hugely impressive number given his name.

Moreover, among self-identified Tea Party Republicans, Rubio has 14 percent support. This is just one point behind Walker and Ted Cruz, who share the lead with this cohort.

But the question of immigration reform lurks for Rubio. Mickey Kaus notes that on Sunday, Bob Scheiffer asked the Florida Senator whether as president he’d sign his own “Gang of 8″ immigration bill. Rubio ducked, telling Scheiffer that the question is “a hypothetical.”

Kaus speculates that Rubio declined to declare he wouldn’t sign the legislation because he doesn’t want to alienate potential big-money supporters like Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer. It’s certainly possible that this consideration has entered Rubio’s thinking. But there are other reasons for Rubio not to state categorically that he wouldn’t sign the Schumer-Rubio legislation.

Rubio didn’t just sponsor this bill, he devoted months to pushing for passage, arguing in its favor to anyone who would listen. For Rubio now to say he wouldn’t sign his own legislation would raise as many questions as it would put to bed.

Foremost among the questions would be this one: Why should America elect as its president a man erratic enough to pour his heart into enacting legislation that, if presented to him now on a silver platter, he would veto?

It would be one thing for Rubio to say that he wouldn’t now push for Schumer-Rubio because it would be a distraction from more urgent priorities, or whatever. It would be quite another to confess to having been nisguided just two years ago as to push for legislation he would now refuse to sign.

There is also Rubio’s need to appeal to Hispanic voters in the general election. Kaus dismisses this concern, saying that if Rubio gets the nomination “there will be plenty of ways to backslide and re-suck-up to Latino ethnocentrists.”

I doubt that Rubio is this sanguine, and he’s right not to be. Rubio has flip-flopped on this issue too often to assume that he can comfortably “backslide” again.

It will be hard for Rubio to get away indefinitely with dodging Scheiffer’s question on the grounds that it is hypothetical. But he’s wise to keep his options for answering open for as long as he can.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

I haven’t been posting much the last couple of days because I have been in my home town, Watertown, South Dakota. BISCO (the Business Industry School Coalition), a local organization that promotes a “progressive and meaningful relationship among business, industry and schools,” invited me to speak at their annual lunch meeting. They thought it would be fun to hear about Power Line and related subjects. I said sure. Before that lunch speech, I spent an hour and a half with an AP American history class at my old high school, which looked remarkably like what I remembered from the mid-1960s. Here I am teaching the high school class:

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When we got to town on Saturday, I was amazed to see that BISCO had put up a billboard advertising the event. Here I am standing in front of it:

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The speech was today, before an audience of 300 to 400. I talked about how we founded the web site, recapped Rathergate, reviewed some of the fun controversies of the last few years, and more.

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The audience was great. BISCO presented me with a lovely, framed photograph of Lake Kampeska taken by a high school kid. A reader–I will add his name when I am sure I have it right–brought over a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a favorite of mine, as I have said on this site. A couple of readers came up to me after the speech and asked whether Ammo Grrrll was in the house. It is good to be among friends!

It is also nice to be in a small town. On Sunday afternoon, my brother James, my father and I spent a couple of hours at the Terry Redlin Art Center, a beautiful museum that is worth a separate post. Redlin has been a family friend for a long time.

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When we arrived at the museum, James went in to get a wheel chair for our father. He had to give the person working behind the counter his driver’s license to hold the wheel chair. She looked at James’s North Carolina license and said, “Oh, it’s for Irving!” And then: “You must be here for the speech.” Nothing like a small town.

The art center also houses the Watertown Community Hall of Fame, of which my father is one of seven members, on account of his countless contributions to civic progress and well-being over more than 60 years. He and we posed for this photo:

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So it was a great visit. Who says you can’t go home? I have always been able to, thank God, and I hope you can too.

If you aren’t familiar with the song, by the way, you really should be. Here it is, Jennifer Nettles and Jon Bon Jovi, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”

What Mr. Luger said

I’ve written here many times about the challenges raised by Minnesota’s large and ever growing Somali population, as in “Somalis say: Show us the money” and “The Somali muddle, once more once.” Today with the arrest of six Minnesota based Somalis for conspiring to join ISIS, we witness another manifestation of a deeply embedded problem about which approximately nothing remotely reasonable is being done.

The Star Tribune story on today’s arrests is here. It includes this interesting quote from United States Attorney Andy Luger, who announced the arrests at a press conference in Minneapolis today:

“These men met regularly to plan their secretive trips,” said Andy Luger, U.S. Attorney for Minnesota. “These are focused men, intent on joining a terrorist group by any means possible.

“This problem is not a Somali problem. It’s not an immigrant problem,” Luger added. “It’s a Minnesota problem.”

That’s supposed to be an indictment of Minnesota and Minnesotans, and it passes for received wisdom in these parts, but it is exceedingly stupid. It is nevertheless also true in a sense other than the one that Luger intended.

Brennan’s bromides

The Obama administration security apparatus has to leave a knowledgeable man feeling a little queasy. You’ve got national security advisor Susan Rice, with credibility somewhere south of zero. You’ve got assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for strategic communications Ben Rhodes. What is this man doing here?

You’ve got Secretary of State John Kerry, the man whom Obama has entrusted to bring home the bacon in negotiations with his counterpart from Iran. Who will represent the United States?

You’ve got Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He seems to be in over his head as he occasionally blurts out the truth. That’s a distinction with a difference in this crowd.

You’ve got Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, an apparently serious man.

You’ve got Valerie Jarrett, the woman with her finger in every pot. What is she doing here? Even former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates found her tough to take in matters involving national security.

And you’ve got CIA Director John Brennan. In their recent Wall Street Journal column on the need for a CIA Team B on Iran, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Kevin Carroll open with a recitation of some of Brennan’s greatest hits, here denominated “gaffes”:

Many of CIA Director John Brennan’s gaffes over the years have raised eyebrows, but none has suggested the need for a legislative remedy—until the one he launched at Harvard last week.

His past indiscretions have included, in 2010 when he was a counterterrorism adviser at the White House, referring to Jerusalem by its Arabic name, “al Quds”; referring to the “moderate” elements in Hezbollah, the Iran surrogate in Lebanon and a group the U.S. designates a terrorist organization; and insisting that our enemies should not be called “jihadists” because jihad is “a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam.”

There was also the time in 2010 when he derided the notion of a war on terrorism or terror because “terrorism is but a tactic” and “terror is a state of mind.”

In the clip below, Brennan refers to Jerusalem as “al Quds.” I had forgotten about this. In this and each of the other statements cited Brennan seems to be speaking from a perspective deeply sympathetic to those from whom he is charged to keep us safe. What is he doing here?

Mukasey and Carroll use the statements above as the predicate of an examination of Brennan’s latest and perhaps greatest hit:

[I]n an interview last week at Harvard’s Institute for Politics, Mr. Brennan said that anyone who both knew the facts surrounding the Obama administration’s “framework” agreement regarding the Iranian nuclear program, and said that it “provides a pathway for Iran to a bomb,” was being “wholly disingenuous.”

Mukasey and Carroll comment: “That was foolish, insofar as it applied to many serious-minded people in and out of government, but it was also dangerous.”

Mukasey and Carroll write with considerable tact. Obama and his national security team are clearly willing to say anything in a bad cause. In Brennan’s case, however, the man appears to harbor deep personal belief in the statements Mukasey and Carroll call “gaffes.”

The Iran deal — treaty or not?

I have criticized the positive reaction to Corker-Menendez bill, arguing that the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority to have a deal like this approved, whereas under Corker-Menendez it takes effect unless there is a two-thirds majority against. However, the estimable Jack Goldsmith argues that the Constitution does not require President Obama to muster a two-thirds majority to approve an “international agreement,” which is how he characterizes Obama’s pending deal with Iraq.

Goldsmith makes this argument in response to an article by Andrew McCarthy that took a position similar to mine. McCarthy responds to Goldsmith here.

I encourage readers to check out both sides of this argument. For what it’s worth, I continue to agree with McCarthy.

Goldsmith’s main argument is that the Iran nuclear deal will not be legally binding under international law. But the Iranians don’t concede that the deal isn’t legally binding. Their chief negotiator has said that “if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen. . .it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.” As McCarthy says, U.N. Security Council approval of the accord will enable Iran and other nations to argue that the agreement binding even if it does not have binding effect under U.S. law.

Under these circumstances, and given the significance of the deal and the reality that an effective sanctions regime cannot, as a practical matter, be reimposed once the deal takes effect, I believe that it should be considered an treaty. As such, approval by a super-majority of the Senate should be required.

I agree with Goldsmith, however, that Corker-Menendez doesn’t detract from the Senate’s limited ability to oppose the Iran deal. With or without the legislation, Obama has the power to lift the sanctions, and a super-majority would be required to override him on this. As I said in my initial post on the legislation, it “doesn’t diminish Congress’ position; I’m just not convinced that Corker-Menendez meaningfully improves it.”

It is the enthusiasm over Corker-Menendez, not the legislation itself, that I find embarrassing.

Hillary Clinton’s bane

I have referred to the Clinton Foundation as “Hillary Clinton’s Bain Capital” on the theory that it will connect her to unsympathetic figures and entities who behave badly in something like the way Bain Capital was said to connect Mitt Romney to bad corporate behavior. But now, with word of Peter Schweizer’s new book (to be released on May 5) “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” I should probably just call the Clinton Foundation “Hillary Clinton’s Bane.”

The New York Times obtained an advanced copy of Schweizer’s book. Times reporter Amy Chozick offers a sneak preview.

We have already discussed one of the three cases Chozick highlights. It involves Frank Giustra, a major donor to the Foundation. As reported by the Times, Schweizer presents Giustra’s case as an instance in which large cash donations coincided with shifts in State Department that favored the donor — namely, a free trade agreement with Colombia that benefited Giustra’s investments in that nation. Previously, Clinton had opposed such an agreement.

Another example cited by Chozick involved more than $1 million in payments to Bill Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department. The third involves development projects apparently awarded to a donor in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

To this, we can add as a potential source of even greater embarrassment the case of Victor Pinchuk, which I discussed yesterday. Pinchuk, a major donor to the Foundation, reportedly did business with Iran in violation of the sanctions regime, but was not punished by Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

The big picture also holds the potential for major embarrassment:

From 2001 to 2012, the Clintons’ income was at least $136.5 million, Mr. Schweizer writes, using a figure previously reported in The Post. “During Hillary’s years of public service, the Clintons have conducted or facilitated hundreds of large transactions” with foreign governments and individuals, he writes. “Some of these transactions have put millions in their own pockets.”

Speculating about the impact of Schweitzer’s revelations, the Times says:

There is a robust market for books critical of the Clintons. The thinly sourced “Blood Feud,” by Mr. Klein, at one point overtook Mrs. Clinton’s memoir “Hard Choices” on the best-seller list.

But whether Mr. Schweizer’s book can deliver the same sales is not clear. He writes mainly in the voice of a neutral journalist and meticulously documents his sources, including tax records and government documents, while leaving little doubt about his view of the Clintons.

Put aside the Chozick’s strange view that conservatives prefer thinly-sourced books to those that meticulously document their sources. What the Times is saying in a back-handed way is that Schweizer makes a strong case.

If so, Schweizer has probably ensured that the Clinton Foundation will indeed be Hillary Clinton’s bane.