About those new Lois Lerner emails

It didn’t require nasty emails from Lois Lerner to establish that the IRS targeted conservative groups for harassment. The numerical disparity in the IRS’s treatment of conservative vs. liberal groups makes the case.

107 conservative groups were scrutinized. They were asked an average of 15 questions and approved at a rate of 46 percent. Only seven liberal groups were scrutinized. They were asked an average of less than five questions. All seven were approved.

Nonetheless, we now have the nasty emails and they confirm what the numbers proved.

Most of the attention will be on Lerner’s use of an obscenity to describe conservative talk show hosts and their callers. But more telling is her claim that such conservative activists will do the work of “alien terrorists” and take America down, and that because of them America may be “through.”

An IRS bigwig might well view a group’s members as []holes yet still choose not to harass the group. But if she believes is going to take America down, she will likely consider it her duty to get in its way.

And, again, the numbers show that conservative groups were singled out for particular harassment.

Democrats tilt towards Hamas, blame Republicans

Caroline Glick makes a persuasive case that under President Obama, America has switched sides in the Middle East. It has switched, that is, from Israel’s side to that of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

You could argue that Obama has switched sides twice. First, during the failed peace process, from Israel to the Palestinian Authority; now, in the Gaza war, from the PA to Hamas. After all, Obama undercut the PA by rejecting the ceasefire proposal (Egypt’s) that it favored and instead pushing Qatar’s pro-Hamas concept.

Deep down, though, I suspect that Obama has been partial to the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore to Hamas, all along.

But it isn’t just Obama that has switched sides in the Middle East. Democrats have too, albeit not to the same extent.

This is clear from recent polling. Seth Mandel points to a Gallup Poll showing that, by a 47-31 percent margin, Democrats do not think Israel’s actions in Gaza are justified. In addition, according to a Pew survey, Democrats are about evenly divided over whether Israel or Hamas is more responsible for the current violence.

Republicans, meanwhile, overwhelmingly side with Israel in both polls.

What explains the fact that Democrats now see Israel as no better than Hamas in a war precipitated by Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel and its refusal to accept a cease fire.

Pro-Israel liberals have come up with an odd but not unexpected excuse: it’s the Republicans’ fault.

This, as Mandel notes, was the thesis of the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg back in 2012. He argued that by criticizing President Obama for his policy towards Israel, Republicans make “supporting Israel distasteful to many Democrats.” Worse, they cause Democrats to “lump supporters of Israel in the same category they reserve for climate-change-denying anti-choice Obamacare haters.”

Lefty blogger Josh Marshall recently expressed a milder version of this theme. Israel, he argued, plays a “dangerous game” when it causes its alliance with the U.S. to be heavily identified with the Republican party.

As question-begging arguments go, this one belongs in the Hall of Fame. Why is there enough distance, when it comes to Israel, between Obama and Republicans that the GOP finds itself able to criticize Obama on this issue? Why has Israel’s alliance with the U.S. come to be closely identified with only the GOP? And how can Democrats even contemplate equating supporters of Israel with the conservative political activists they despise the most?

The obvious answer is that ideology drives contemporary Democrats to view Israel far less favorably than Republicans view Israel. The political fallout — criticism by Republicans of Obama’s Israel policy and the identification of the Israel-U.S. alliance with the GOP rather with both parties — is a symptom of the difference in the way the two parties view Israel, not its cause.

What accounts for the underlying ideological difference between the two parties when it comes to Israel? The answer, I think, is this: Israel is a U.S. ally with strong Western values and a willingness to use military force when necessary to protect itself.

Most Republicans are quite comfortable with these attributes. Indeed, we find them refreshing.

Many Democrats are uncomfortable with one or more of these attributes. Their ambivalence towards the U.S. and its values causes them view a hardcore U.S. ally skeptically (or worse). Their knee-jerk tendency to sympathize with what we used to call Third World nations engenders ambivalence (or worse) towards a bastion of Western values in the midst of the Third World. Their loathing of the use of force to further merely national interests makes them hostile to a strong nation that uses force effectively.

And it’s only going to get worse as old-time Democrats fade away.

Global Warming Hoax: The Basics

This video is a nice, four-minute summary of some of the basics of the global warming debate. It was shot at the Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change, between July 7 and July 9. If you have followed the science closely, you won’t learn anything you didn’t already know. But it is a good introduction for those who are new to the science, and an enjoyable overview for anyone. I recommend it. It is also a good resource to share with your less well-informed friends, to give them a taste of climate realism:

House Republicans Vote to Take Obama to Court

Today, the House voted 225-201, nearly along party lines, to authorize litigation against President Obama. This is the long-awaited challenge to Obama’s usurpation of power via executive decree. The vote was on House Resolution 676. Here is the text of the resolution:

Bills 113hres676rh

House leadership decided to focus the resolution only on Obama’s actions with respect to Obamacare. This seems counter-intuitive; I would think it would be helpful to show a pattern of disregard for the law. In the case of this administration, that would be easy to do. But the Washington Examiner reports Congressman Pete Sessions’ rationale for the resolution’s narrow focus:

“We have chosen to bring this legislation to sue the president over his selective implementation of the Affordable Care Act because it is the option most likely to clear the legal hurdlers necessary to restore the balance of power,” Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said.

No doubt a lot of thought went into that choice. I assume the House leadership also has a plan to get a decision in their lawsuit before Obama leaves office, but that won’t be easy.

Lost in the Democrats’ yammering about politics and the appalling cost of the lawsuit–the first time in some years the Democrats have worried about the cost of anything, which in this case is de minimis–is that Obama’s violation of the Constitution is undeniable. Article II does not authorize the President to rule by decree, or to nullify federal laws that displease him. Obama has obviously acted unconstitutionally by changing the Obamacare statute by decree–repeatedly–and, even more seriously, by gutting the nation’s immigration laws. Rather than “tak[ing] care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as is his constitutional duty, Obama has repeatedly undermined and even nullified the country’s laws. We have never had a president like him before; let’s hope we never have one again.

The Democrats have been raising money for some time on the threat of a lawsuit against Obama, but that is rather small beer. What they really want is impeachment. So they slyly characterize the lawsuit as a step toward impeachment, without any explanation of why that should be the case. I get three or four fundraising emails from the Democrats every day, talking about the imminent threat of impeachment. I have reproduced a few of them here. In fact, no serious Republican is talking about impeaching Obama, and there is zero chance of any such move in the House. (Unless, of course, Obama does something really bizarre.) But for the Democrats, money is pretty much everything, and impeachment is catnip to their base. So every day, they try to keep the idea of impeachment alive.

Grabien compiled this amusing montage of Democrats desperately trying to promote the impeachment of President Obama as a political threat. Grabien titles the clip: “Democrats not letting impeachment dream die.”

I don’t know. The Democrats understand their base better than I do. But can it possibly be a good idea to tell your party’s members–three times a day!–that the leader of their party is in danger of being impeached? That doesn’t seem like good publicity to me, but maybe I’m just behind the times. At least when it comes to fundraising.

Breaking: The (Leftist) Billionaire Boys Club

This afternoon there’s an important update on the story of the epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer, the billionaire promising to spend $100 million on behalf of Democrats, and John’s long analysis of the Democracy Alliance.

Senate Report copyThe Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have released a new report entitled The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA (PDF link).  The report gives the lie to the frequent hysteria over the Koch brothers, as it shows the extent of deeply politicized left-wing philanthropy dwarfs in amount and reach anything the Kochs and their friends carry on—often skirting the edge of the law regulating charitable activity.  The money flowing into the environmental establishment is massive and centrally coordinated.

One of the more striking findings of the report is not so much that billionaires like Steyer provide lavish funding, but how rich so many environmental organizations are.  Check out the assets values displayed in this table:

Green Assets copy

Just one organization on that list—the Natural Resources Defense Council—has a larger annual budget than all of the major conservatives think tanks combined, for all purposes.  This is what makes the constant whining about “climate skeptics” so incredible.

More significant than the dollars involved (I’m not sure I’d lump in funding of the Nature Conservancy, for example, with the climatistas on the list) is the details of how leftist foundations work hand in glove with the Obama Administration.

In one shocking example, the Committee learned of an arrangement between the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) and EPA where RFF agreed to pay the salary of Shalini Vajjhala, then an employee at the nonprofit organization Resources for the Future, to work at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). According to internal EPA documents, this arrangement benefited EPA as Vajjhala would have the opportunity to, “stake our claim there” – where “our” is the EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs and “there” refers to the White House. . .

In another outrageous email exchange, former Assistant Administrator for the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, Michelle DePass, and “Richard Windsor,” former Administrator Jackson’s alias, strategize over how best to leverage a public appearance before the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA). Reproduced in full, the email exchange states:

EPA email copy

The report goes on to detail the revolving door between activists and government agencies.  There’s lots more, especially about the growing effort by leftist foundations to strangle hydraulic fracturing that is key to natural gas production—the single best energy story of the last decade that has done more to reduce carbon emissions than all the windmills and solar panels the greens worship.  No good deed goes unpunished.

The Evil Empire Is Back

So Obama, ever the bright and prompt one when it comes to foreign affairs, has declared the Soviet Union Russia to be in violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty—Ronald Reagan’s famous “zero option.”  The violation occurred in 2009.  Guess it would have got in the way of that whole “reset” thing to have brought it up at the time.

Adelman Cover copyAs it happens, I’m working on a new essay for a forthcoming academic book on the latest scholarship about the end of the Cold War, and along the way I’m reading Ken Adelman’s Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War.  I quite agree with Ken on the thesis of his subtitle, and even though he was in Reykjavik as Reagan’s director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the State Department, I think he misses a couple of the fine points that occurred during the one-on-one sessions Reagan and Gorbachev had, and which appear more clearly in the more complete Russian transcript of those remarkable sessions.  But that’s a minor point; Ken is an excellent writer with keen perceptions of things.  When I delved through the oral histories of the Reagan Administration at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, I found Ken’s to be one of the most interesting ones.

There’s one passage in Ken’s book that is worth noting in light of the news of the current Russian treaty violation, describing a last-minute hitch in the INF Treaty that I’d never heard before:

Like many things after Reykjavik—including Reagan’s exhortation to “tear down this Wall” and the completion of the treaty itself—this East Room [signing] ceremony nearly didn’t happen.  A glitch had suddenly arisen earlier that day.

Under the treaty terms, each side had to furnish a photograph of its missile, so the other could know what to identify during its monitoring.  Someone noticed that the Soviets had presented us with a photo of the canister in which the missile is stored—which looks like any missile canister—and not the missile itself, which has distinctive features.  When [George] Shultz raised the matter, [Soviet Foreign Minister] Shevardnadze claimed that there was no photo of the missile anywhere, only of its canister.

Even with so much at stake—the East Room ceremony having already been prepared, the guests about to arrive—Reagan decided to hold firm.  He felt if they welshed on this peripheral provision, they would welsh later on more major matters.

We all held our breaths, waiting to see whether everything we had worked so hard to accomplish over the past fourteen months would be torpedoed at the last minute for want of a snapshot.  But within the hour, the Soviets found that there was a photo of the missile after all.  A faxed version was presented to us mid-morning—some three hours before the ceremony was to begin—with the actual photo arriving the next day.  Once that crisis was resolved, the signing ceremony was good to go.

No doubt you spotted the key phrase here: “Reagan decided to hold firm.”  When you are able to hold firm, you get photos like this:

Reagan Gorbachev copy

But when you’re Obama, and you don’t hold firm on anything (his “red line” marker must be filled with invisible ink) you get photos like this:

Obama Putin copy

Hillary Clinton and the decision to intervene in Libya

Hillary Clinton has been working full-time to control the story of her time as Secretary of State. That was the point of her clunky, largely unread book, and the point of her awkward, gaffe-laden book tour.

Clinton argues (plausibly) that she wanted a more activist approach to Syria than that served up by her boss. She argues (implausibly) that she wasn’t really sold on the “reset” with Russia.

As to Libya, Clinton’s priority must be to duck, to the extent possible, the political fallout from the killing of our ambassador and three other Americans by terrorists in Benghazi.

But what about the larger policy that led to Benghazi — our decision to engage militarily on behalf of the rebels in Libya? Juxtaposed not only with the Benghazi killings but also our embarrassing evacuation and abandonment of the United States Embassy in Tripoli, that decision raises key questions for Clinton.

The main questions are: (1) where did she stand on the question of intervening in Libya’s civil war and (2) what was her larger strategic vision for Libya.

Joseph Miller — the pen name for a high ranking Defense Department official — provides answers. According to Miller, writing in the Daily Caller, Clinton led the charge to intervene in Libya, but lacked any strategic plan beyond making sure that no bloodbath occurred for which she could be blamed.

As to the decision to intervene, Miller writes:

From the onset of the Libyan civil war, both the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency determined that there was no discernible U.S. national security interest in Libya. Accordingly, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and then-Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta advised against U.S. military intervention in Libya. . . .

At the time, their collective advice did not fall on deaf ears as, by all accounts, Obama was also not keen to take military action. However, it has been well documented that the president was swayed by then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-Special Assistant to the President Samantha Power to do just that.

Clinton argued passionately in favor of military intervention to prevent additional civilian casualties at the hands of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, describes his failure to intervene in the Rwanda genocide as the lowest moment of his presidency.

Bearing that in mind, Secretary Clinton did not want a similar event to occur on her watch as secretary of state, because she intended to run for the presidency in 2016 and didn’t want to give her challengers any ammunition to use against her. So, she decided to push for action despite the advice against doing so by her colleagues at CIA and the Pentagon.

Intervening in Libya might have been a defensible course of action if the U.S. had a sound plan for what would happen after the rebels succeeded. Having pushed for intervention, Clinton had a duty to formulate such a plan. According to Miller, she presented none:

Clinton’s State Department lacked a plan, and remained woefully underprepared and under-resourced, to assist the post-Gadhafi government in Libya with either nation- or state-building.

This is incredible, as Democrats have spent the last 10 years lambasting the former Bush administration for failing to have a post-invasion plan for Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Only in this case, it is even more [incredible] because both Obama and Clinton had the hindsight of the failures of Iraq. . . .

Why did Clinton insist on intervening, yet fail to offer a follow-up plan? Miller explains:

So long as the U.S. military prevented further civilian casualties, the failure of the overall U.S. policy in Libya would be someone else’s fault, as she knew her time in the administration was rapidly coming to a close as she prepared for her almost-certain presidential run.

This is speculation, of course. But it’s difficult to discern a better explanation.

Clinton’s gambit would have worked for her politically had it not been for the Benghazi attacks. I can’t think of a clearer case of chickens coming home to roost.