Reid rage

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s diatribes against the Koch brothers on the floor of the Senate might be evidence of certifiable insanity if anyone took them seriously. But the attitude of the mainstream media, to the extent one can be detected, is ho-hum. The fact that no moderately well informed citizen of sound mind takes Reid’s diatribes seriously should be news all by itself.

Reid renders his diatribes on the floor of the United States Senate where he is cloaked in the immunity afforded representatives “in either house” under the speech or debate clause of Article I of the Constitution. He is a bully and a coward who has done great damage to the institution that he leads. It is simply impossible to imagine how he would be treated by an impartial press in an alternative universe. Reid represents a dramatic example of the powerful advantage Democrats hold by virtue of their media adjunct.

The failure of Congress to act is one of Barack Obama’s talking points whenever he threatens or undertakes lawless executive action. The Senate having failed even to entertain many of the bills that have passed the House, Reid himself has been instrumental to Congress’s failure to act. Like Reid’s diatribes, Obama’s talking points seek to exploit the ignorance of the Democrats’ core voters. The powerful advantage Democrats hold by virtue of their media adjunct again asserts itself.

Today Byron York reports on Reid’s latest scheme to consume Senate time debating a profoundly tyrannical constitutional amendment that has no chance of passage. York anticipates the following scenario:

The first action Reid has scheduled for next week is a cloture vote on whether to even begin considering the amendment. Republicans could filibuster the measure, which would stop it and allow the Senate to move on to move meaningful matters. But that would allow Democrats to accuse the GOP of obstructionism. So Republicans will likely allow the amendment to go forward.

A long debate will then ensue in which Democrats denounce the Kochs and “corporate money” and Republicans argue the amendment would abridge First Amendment rights. After an extended back-and-forth, there will be another vote, this time on whether to end debate. Again, Republicans don’t need to use the filibuster to stop the measure, because they know it will fail in the final vote.

After more pointless debate, there will be yet another vote to move toward a final vote on the matter. If the amendment goes on to that final vote, and even if all 55 Democrats ultimately support it, it will fall a dozen votes short of passage.

York asks what will have been accomplished and answers: “Reid and fellow Democrats will have gotten a few more days to denounce the Kochs.” He notes the cost cost: “[T]he issues the Senate might have addressed — not just government funding, but the urgent crises in Iraq and Syria, not to mention continuing problems along the U.S. southwestern border — will be squeezed into a mad, and probably unproductive, final rush.”

He also comments: “It’s rare for a Majority Leader to propose a measure he knows has zero chance of passing; that alone suggests the fundamentally political nature of Reid’s strategy.” Byron says it’s rare, but I’m guessing that if his research disclosed another example, he would have cited it. And the diatribes against the Kochs are little more than lies intended to exploit the ignorant for purely partisan purposes in the service of an unforgivably bad cause.

CRB: Déjà Two

The Summer 2014 issue of the Claremont Review of Books has arrived just in time for Fall, and our friends at the Claremont Institute have once again dropped the paywall to allow us to preview some of the issue’s best pieces. We will be rolling out four that I have selected with a bias toward deepening of our understanding of the challenges before us. Subscribe here for the ridiculously low price of $19.95 and get immediate online access to the whole shebang.

We kick off our preview of the Summer issue with the cover essay on a possible Clinton co-presidency — “Déjà Two,” by Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz. In 1992 the Clintons touted themselves as a package deal: “Buy one, get one free!” It remains to be seen whether Clinton Inc. will once again offer Americans their package deal in fall 2016. If Americans heed Kurtz, they will shop elsewhere.

Eschewing the typical examination of Hillary’s particular strengths and weaknesses as a potential candidate — notably, her various political failures and policy blunders — Kurtz raises instead what he calls the “deepest political problem” facing a Hillary presidency: the fundamental “structural defect” of “Bill and Hillary’s still poorly-understood power-sharing arrangement.”

No matter how much you know about Bill and Hillary, I think you are likely to learn something about them from Kurtz’s essay. Amassing evidence from the major biographies of the Clintons, Kurtz shows just how fully the couple has embraced the notion of shared, or plural, executive power, from Bill’s early forays into electoral politics in Arkansas, to Hilary’s 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Over and over again Kurtz demonstrates the failure of the Clintons to either resist the lure of their power-sharing arrangement, or to learn the lessons past failures might teach. What could be learnt? Mostly, argues Kurtz, the lesson that the Founders had already discovered: that the division of executive authority leads inexorably to a weakened, conflict-plagued, and irresponsible executive: ” From ancient Rome to contemporary Latin America, history shows that in the absence of clear, hierarchical lines of authority, joint executive power tends to produce debilitating confusion and weakness.”

The scandals, hesitancies, and failures of the Clinton years were exacerbated by their “co-consular” arrangement. Far from being a feature of a Hilary presidency, the presence of Bill ensures that another Clinton Administration will be structurally compromised from the get-go. Read the entire essay to see a case study of the dangers and debilitations of the plural executive. As Kurtz puts concludes: “Buy one, get two—but at far too high a price.”

“Immigration Rights”–What Are They?

While Joe Biden was exhorting Detroiters to “take back America,” presumably from Barack Obama and himself, the president also expounded on the meaning of Labor Day. His themes were tiresomely familiar–we are the good guys, Republicans are the bad guys–but one interesting feature was his reference to “immigration rights.” This passage laid the groundwork:

When unions and CEOs, when law enforcement and the evangelical community, when folks who usually don’t agree on anything agree that we should be fixing our broken immigration system, but the Republicans in the House of Representatives have been sitting on a bill for more than a year, it ain’t [sic] right.

Actually, our immigration system is “broken” only in that the Obama administration refuses to enforce the laws. If the administration similarly refused to enforce federal laws against forgery, you could equally say that our currency system is “broken.” And the legislation that the Republican House refuses to pass is opposed by a large majority of Americans, notwithstanding its support from CEOs and union bosses.

Obama went on to liken “immigration rights” to other rights in the liberal pantheon:

Cynicism is a bad choice. Hope is the better choice. Hope is what gives us courage. Hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach. Hope is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights, and worker’s rights, and civil rights, and voting rights, and gay rights, and immigration rights.

What are those “immigration rights”? Legally, of course, no one has a right to violate our immigration laws, whether the Obama administration enforces them or not. So what does the president have in mind here? It seems clear that Obama isn’t suggesting that immigrants are somehow being denied their actual rights under American law. Certainly he made no such explicit claim. Rather, his point appears to be that some people–not everyone in the world presumably, but some unspecified group of people–have a “right” to enter the United States, or stay here, even though it is illegal to do so under U.S. law, as long as Barack Obama opposes the law in question.

No coherent theory of law or justice supports such a proposition, but when has that ever stopped Barack Obama? “Immigration rights,” implying the right to violate others’ actual, legal rights, has now become liberal dogma. Who in the Democratic Party news media will point out the absurdity of the president’s position? No one, I suspect.

Joe Biden: Take Back America–From Me! [Updated]

Today, giving a Labor Day speech in Detroit, Joe Biden went full Democrat, unleashing a rant about the middle class. His theme was that America’s middle class is getting a raw deal, and at one point he yelled, “So folks, it’s time to take back America!”

I agree that the middle class is, in important respects, getting a bad deal. But then, I haven’t been the vice-president for the last five and a half years. It is extremely odd for a sitting vice-president (and a career politician who was a Senator for 36 years) to bemoan the condition of the country and call for the overthrow of the powers that be. From whom are we to take America back, if not from career politicians in Washington, in particular the administration that has made a mess of both domestic and foreign policy for nearly six years?

Then, too, consider that Biden delivered his stemwinder in Detroit. Middle class Detroit has suffered more than almost anyone. As has often been noted, as of 1960 Detroit had the highest median income of any American city; now, it is a ruin of abandoned homes and businesses. But from whom should Detroiters take back their city? They have been ruled exclusively by Democrats–quite a few of whom have been jailed–for decades.

So I have considerable sympathy with Biden’s call for those who are not on the government payroll; who are not cronies of the Obama administration; who aren’t getting special favors from Congress; who can’t find full-time jobs because of Obama’s slow-growth economy, compounded by Obamacare; and who don’t work for Goldman Sachs, to take back America. I just think it very odd to find the vice-president on my side of the barricades.

Beyond that, one good thing about Biden’s outburst shouldn’t go unnoticed: it is nice to see that “take back our country” is no longer racist.

UPDATE: Reader Sean Giordano put together this entertaining video. “Take our country back” may or may not be a “racist” sentiment…it just depends!

Which raises, once again, the question why anyone would mind being labeled a “racist” by the Left, since the word has lost all meaning, and is usually applied in situations that have nothing whatever to do with race.

Dems Say: Only “Hillbillies” Want a Strategy

Donna Brazile, Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, sometimes appears to be one of the more responsible leaders of the Democratic Party. But look what she retweeted this morning:

That’s dumb, obviously, an expression of the mindless hate that is pretty much all that is left of modern liberalism. But it also reflects, I think, the frustration that Democrats feel at having to defend the indefensible Obama administration.

Cheap Grace, Expensive Suits

There are certain TV preachers who shall go unnamed who peddle an updated version of the “prosperity gospel” in which faith leads to riches and happiness—just like that! To be fair, there’s a secular version of this coming from the academic pulpit as well, in the guise of “happiness research.” But in both cases, I wonder why the preachers need such expensive suits to promote what Bonhoeffer rightly called “cheap grace,” or maybe they’re just trying to prove that even an expensive suit can still be empty.

It’s as though the Book of Job went missing from their copy of the Old Testament. The great G.K. Chesterton wrote a short essay about the Book of Job that gets to the heart of the matter better than most of the long commentaries of learned Biblical scholars. Like this:

Here in this Book the question is really asked whether God invariably punishes vice with terrestrial punishment and rewards virtue with terrestrial prosperity. If the Jews had answered that question wrongly they might have lost all their after influence in history. They might have sunk even down to the level of modern well educated society. For when once people have begun to believe that prosperity is the reward of virtue their next calamity will be obvious. If prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue. Men will leave off the task of making good men successful. They will adopt the easier task of making out successful men good.

I may just have to start doing regular Chesterton installments here.

The situation “remains very fluid”

FOX News is touting the video below this morning as “jihadis gone wild.” They assert that it depicts Libyan jihadis disporting themselves at what is described as the CIA annex to our embassy in Tripoli. If this is the CIA annex, this must be the double secret pool outside it.

CNN reports on the video in “Libyan militia uses vacated U.S. embassy in Libya as swim club.” In the CNN report, the (vacated) US Ambassador to Libya sounds a little like Baghdad Bob. She conforms that the video depicts an annex to the embassy compound but assures us that all is well. An unnamed State Department official, however, concedes that the situation “remains very fluid” (I’m guessing no pun intended):

Ambassador Deborah Jones, who is not currently in Libya, tweeted that the images appear to show a residential annex in the U.S. Embassy compound. But Jones said “the U.S. Embassy Tripoli chancery & compound is now being safeguarded and has not been ransacked,” and “those who have actually visited the embassy know the truth.”

A spokesman for the General National Congress says the militias securing the U.S. Embassy compound are still there safeguarding it.

“The militias are under the command of the Libyan General Staff, and what happened was not an attack on the embassy grounds, nor was it an attempt to ransack its offices,” Omar Hmaidan said.

“What happened (the frolicking at the pool) was an isolated behavior by some of those who were in charge of protecting the compound. We don’t condone it and we don’t accept it,” he said.

A senior State Department official said the United States is “seeking additional details” about the incident.

“At this point, we believe the Embassy compound itself remains secure but we continue to monitor the situation on the ground, which remains very fluid,” the official said.

The video seems to carry a humiliating message to us in the United States, whose efforts were indispensable to the enjoyment of the jihadis. We are left with the nagging question whether the pool supplies were secured when we abandoned the embassy. As Drudge would say, developing…

UPDATE: David Kirpatrick covers the story here for the Times and also reports that the scene is “a residential compound.” Kirkpatrick goes along with minimizing the significance of the takeover, but he also weirdly reports that the scene results from a “nonviolent invasion” of the compound. He seems to be operating as much in the realm of public relations as journalism.