Jen Psaki explains

The president and his flacks are talking as fast as they can to explain that the visible deterioration of our interests around the world has nothing to do do with the actions of the administration itself. This past Sunday on 60 Minutes Obama passed the buck to his intelligence functionaries for failing to foresee the swift rise of ISIS over the past two year. Now his flacks have had to dial the exculpatory sound level up to 11. We took a look at State Department spokesman Marie Harf in action here on Monday.

Harf’s State Department colleague Jen Psaki took a turn with the spin on Tuesday. Reuters State Department reporter Arshad Mohammed asked Psaki: “Is the basic point you’re trying to make that you–that the administration fully grasped the threat posed by ISIL and took aggressive and effective action to confront that threat from the beginning of the year? Is that what you’re trying to argue?”

But of course!

Mohammed asked: “If that’s the case, if your actions were so effective and so aggressive, how is it that since the beginning of the year they’ve been able to seize very large swaths of territory, by some estimates a third of Iraq and Syria?”

The answer appears was conveniently located in Psaki’s briefing book. She was prepared! Psaki repeated the administration line that U.S. “overestimated” the Iraqi army’s ability to fight ISIS, the line also peddled yesterday by White House flack Josh Earnest.

Mohammed followed up with another pointed question: “I mean, the U.S. government trained the Iraqi forces for the better part of a decade. Was that not a failure to not understand that this armed force that the U.S. government had trained at enormous taxpayer cost was not in fact capable of defending its own territory? And wasn’t that something you missed then?”

That is indeed a good question.

At the Daily Caller, a pseudonymous Defense Department official responds to this line under the name “Joseph Miller.” Miller is described as a ranking Defense Department official with a background in special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Miller writes in response to the same line peddled yesterday by Earnest:

In 2010, General Lloyd Austin, then-commander of United State Forces in Iraq, directly informed the president that over 20,000 U.S. troops would be required to maintain the gains made by U.S. forces against al-Qaida and its affiliates, and to mentor the fledgling Iraqi security forces– because he knew they were not ready to go out on their own.

But in order for Austin’s plan to work, the United States would have to negotiate and sign a security agreement with the government of Iraq to give the U.S. legal authority to keep U.S. military forces in that country beyond December 2010. The White House claims they were forced to withdraw because then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to grant U.S. force serving in Iraq post 2010 immunity from Iraqi prosecution– a prerequisite for the presence of U.S. forces anywhere else in the world.

But the administration made no attempt to seriously negotiate an agreement with the Iraqis, and cited our withdrawal from Iraq as a major achievement during the 2012 elections, giving the American intelligence community the distinct feeling that the move was politically motivated. (MILLER: Obama’s Current StrategyIs Doomed To Fail)

Instead of investing any time in negotiating the agreement, the Obama administration used the Maliki regime[']s refusal to grant immunity as a political out for withdrawing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by the end of 2010. That saw the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces and the end of Operation New Dawn, the successor to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It also saw the rise of ISIS, and brings us to where we are today.

With ISIS on the outskirts of Baghdad today, this is not solely of historical interest. Obama is compounding the mistakes of past years with his half-hearted bombing campaign:

Today, Gen. Lloyd Austin is in command of U.S. Central Command– the U.S. combatant command in charge of fighting all wars in the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of North and East Africa. From that post, he once again recommended to the president that ground forces would be required in order to achieve the White House’s goals, this time against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Once again, the president overruled his commanding general and has chosen to use air strikes alone to “destroy” a terrorist army of 30,000.

The president clearly does not think the mission is worth the cost necessary to complete it; but by pursuing his ends without authorizing the necessary means, he is dooming that mission to failure.

Miller winds up his critique with this judgment of the commander-in-chief:

The United States military and intelligence community have learned a lot over the past decade of conflict. Our commander in chief, unfortunately, has not. Since the start of his administration, President Barack Obama has ignored his generals and the intelligence community. Over the past few weeks, he has half-heartedly pursued a strategy that destines us to fail in our mission, and over the past three days, he and his White House have lied to prove otherwise. To those who wear our nation’s uniform, or serve in her intelligence community, that’s insult — and injury.

Via Washington Free Beacon.

Please Give! Please! We’re Begging You!

Today is the last day of the quarter, the final FEC deadline before November’s election. So every candidate on both sides of the aisle is bombarding potential donors with emails. I have gotten several hundred today, from both Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats are following their invariable playbook: pessimism bordering on the suicidal, until–miracle of miracles!–it turns out that they have out-raised the Republicans by $40 or $50 million, again. Which, of course, they knew would happen all along.

Today I got emails from the Democratic Party with these subject lines, among many others:

Terrible News (JUST NOW) [from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee]

we.will.fail. [from Nancy Pelosi]

no time. just read.

BEGGING [from James Carville]

URGENT BEGGING [from the DCCC]

Final Notice [DCCC]

[TRIPLE-MATCH] **Do Not Delete*

just talked to the team (bad news) [from my close personal friend Nancy Pelosi]

ALERT: ALL GIFTS MATCHED!!!

John, we’ve tried everything

I’m sorry, John [Nancy again]

begging…BEGGING

FW: D-I-R-E [Pryor for Senate]

I’m pleading (again) [Nancy (again)]

Hey [from Barack Obama, reprising the most successful email subject line of the 2012 campaign]

There were many more, but that gives you the flavor. If you didn’t know better–and most Democrats don’t–you would think the Democrats were eking out small donations and the Republicans were rolling in cash.

Republican emails don’t beg. That’s one thing in their favor. Also, they occasionally mention an actual issue, as opposed to the Koch brothers. Mostly, though, they just ask for money. I got 100 or 200 emails from Republican candidates today, but my favorite came from the fetching Elise Stefanik, one of our Picks. The genius of the email is that it comes from elise (personal). Plus, it incorporates Obama’s trademark “Hey.” How personal can you get?

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 8.34.09 PM

Miss Stefanik is indeed a worthy candidate; we encourage you to go here to make a contribution. Beyond that, all I can say is: wake me when it’s over!

In Minnesota’s 7th, Torrey Westrom

While not one of our official Picks, Torrey Westrom, the Republican candidate for the House in Minnesota’s 7th District, is more than worthy of your support. Torrey is challenging Collin Peterson, one of the most senior Democrats in Congress. Peterson has long been entrenched, but this year, he can be had. The 7th is a GOP-leaning district that consistently votes for Republican presidential candidates. Peterson has survived by posing as a conservative, but every two years he votes for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, which tells you all you need to know.

The national Republican Party is impressed with Torrey and has named him one of the party’s Young Guns. Torrey already represents around one-third of the district in Minnesota’s Senate, so he is a known commodity. He is also a very solid conservative. I caught up with him not along ago and filmed this interview, directed specifically to Power Line readers:

Westrom is a worthy candidate, who may finally give the 7th District the representation it deserves in Congress. I encourage you to give him your support by going here to donate to his campaign.

This day in baseball history — Cards move into first place

On September 30, 1964, the St. Louis Cardinals completed a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. By doing so, they moved into sole possession of first place, as the Cincinnati Reds lost 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 16 innings.

The Reds-Pirates game was a classic. Jim Maloney pitched 11 innings of three-hit, shutout ball for Cincinnati. Bob Veale held the Reds in check for twelve and a third. Alvin McBean pitched out of a bases loaded one-out jam he inherited from Veale in the 13th and shut out the Reds for three more innings.

The Pirates won the game in the 16th on a Donn Clendenon double and an RBI single by Jerry May. Having been blanked by Bob Friend the previous day, Cincinnati had now failed to score against Pittsburgh in 25 innings. Prior to this series, they had won nine straight games.

While Cincinnati stumbled, St. Louis continued to fly high. They came into the series against Philadelphia riding an eight game winning streak. The Phillies had lost their last seven.

To make matters worse for the Phils, St. Louis had its starting rotation perfectly aligned. Bob Gibson (17-11), Ray Sadecki (19-10), and former Phillie Curt Simmons (17-9) all were scheduled to pitch on normal rest.

Philadelphia countered with Chris Short (17-8), Dennis Bennett (12-13), and Jim Bunning (18-7). Short and Bunning would work on only two days rest, as they had on multiple occasions down the stretch.

Gibson easily bested Short, 5-1, in the first game. This was Short’s third start in seven days. Continuing a trend that plagued them throughout their September losing streak, the Phillies went 0-7 with runners in scoring position

In the second game, Bennett, who was fighting shoulder problems, failed to make it through the second inning. Excellent relief pitching from Ed Roebuck, Art Mahaffey, John Boozer, Bobby Shantz, and Jack Baldschun kept the game close. But once again Phillies hitters couldn’t deliver in the clutch, going 1-9 on this day. 38 year-old reliever Barney Schultz slammed the door on the Phillies, as the Cards prevailed 4-2.

In the third game, Mauch turned to the drastically overworked Bunning. Art Mahaffey, coming off of back-to-back strong starts, would have been a better choice, but for the fact that Mauch had used him for one inning of relief the day before. Mauch, though, must have intended to start Bunning over Mahaffey all along. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have wasted Mahaffey the previous day.

Bunning had nothing left to give. The Cards rocked him for two runs in the second inning, two in the third, and two more in the fourth. They added two in the fourth against reliever Bobby Locke.

The Philadelphia bats didn’t come alive until the seventh inning. By then it was too late. The final score: St. Louis 8, Philadelphia 5.

The Cardinals’ sweep didn’t mathematically eliminate the Phillies. If they could win their remaining two games with Cincinnati, they would edge past the Reds. But the best they could do was tie St. Louis, and that would require the last place New York Mets to sweep the Cards.

As a practical matter, then, the race was now between St. Louis and Cincinnati. Philadelphia, seemingly shoo-ins for the pennant only ten days earlier, were reduced to the role of potential spoiler.

Federal district court rules against Obamacare subsidies on federal exchange

A federal district court in Oklahoma has ruled that the Obamacare statute means what it says: subsidies may not granted to people obtaining their health insurance through the federal exchange. In Pruitt v. Burwell, Judge Ronald White of the Eastern District of Oklahoma followed the reasoning of the panel in Halbig v. Sebelius, a ruling that the full D.C. Circuit, having been packed by the Democrats, recently vacated.

The Oklahoma district court decision does not, of course, create a split in the Circuits. No federal court of appeals ruling exists that finds subsidies on the federal exchange illegal. It’s possible that the Supreme Court will take up this issue even absent a circuit split. If not, an appeal of the Oklahoma case might create a split.

If the Supreme Court does take up the issue, it may be tempted to engage in gymnastics to uphold Obamacare, as some say it did with the issue of the individual mandate. But Judge White’s Pruitt opinion argues persuasively against such judicial maneuvering:

The court is aware that the stakes are higher in the case at bar than they might be in another case. The issue of consequences has been touched upon in the previous decisions discussed. Speaking of its decision to vacate the IRS Rule, the majority in Halbig stated “[w]e reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance.”

Other judges in similar litigation have cast the plaintiffs’ argument in apocalyptic language. The first sentence of Judge Edwards’ dissent in Halbig is as follows: “This case is about Appellants’ not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘ACA’).” Concurring in King, Judge Davis states that “[a]ppellants’ approach would effectively destroy the statute . . . .” Further, “[w]hat [appellants] may not do is rely on our help to deny to millions of Americans desperately-needed health insurance. . . ..”

Of course, a proper legal decision is not a matter of the court “helping” one side or the other. A lawsuit challenging a federal regulation is a commonplace occurrence in this country, not an affront to judicial dignity. A higher-profile case results in greater scrutiny of the decision, which is understandable and appropriate. . . .

This is a case of statutory interpretation. “The text is what it is, no matter which side benefits.” Such a case (even if affirmed on the inevitable appeal) does not “gut” or “destroy” anything. On the contrary, the court is upholding the Act as written.

Congress is free to amend the ACA to provide for tax credits in both state and federal exchanges, if that is the legislative will. As the Act presently stands, “vague notions of a statute’s ‘basic purpose’ are nonetheless inadequate to overcome the words of its text regarding the specific issue under consideration.”

It is a “core administrative-law principle that an agency may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate.” “But in the last analysis, these always-fascinating policy discussions are beside the point. The role of this Court is to apply the statute as it is written – even if we think some other approach might ‘accor[d] with good policy.’” (Emphasis added)

In short, just do your job.

Secret Service Follies

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the security breach that allowed an intruder to enter the White House. The episode was a fiasco on multiple levels, and Ms. Pierson endured a sustained grilling that was somewhat bipartisan. One fact that has emerged is that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, got much deeper into the White House than the Secret Service originally reported. This map, from the Washington Post, shows where he was finally apprehended. Click to enlarge:

w-secretservice768-v2

Moreover, the agent who finally tackled Gonzalez was off duty and was leaving the White House. If he hadn’t happened to be there, on his way out, there is no telling what would have happened.

Much could be said about today’s hearing, but I want to focus on just one element, that is, the Democrats’ reflexive desire to blame everything that goes wrong on the sequester. Eleanor Holmes Norton played the sequester card today:

Norton’s suggestion that this incident had anything to do with the Secret Service being “understaffed” is ludicrous. When Gonzales climbed the fence and ran across the lawn, the place was swarming with agents and dogs, but nothing worked as intended. The dogs weren’t released for fear they would attack the agents who were chasing Gonzalez, something that apparently had not previously occurred to the Service’s guard detail. An alarm should have sounded to warn the agent at the front door to lock it, but it reportedly had been turned down or off at the request of White House ushers. The agent at the front door–I believe it was a woman–was “overpowered,” and apparently couldn’t slow Gonzalez down enough for his pursuers to catch up.

After Pierson went along with Norton’s suggestion that the sequester had caused the Service to be understaffed, Congressman Ron DeSantis followed up. He asked, How many Secret Service agents came along with you to the hearing today? Twelve, she answered. Which would seem to be more than ample staffing, even by government bureaucracy standards.

Invasion of the Body Politic Snatchers

Forget the pod people of Invasion of the Body Snatchers: it seems the plastic people have taken over California government.  Think of it as Invasion of the Body Politic Snatchers.  Today Gov. Jerry Brown, who never found a goofy environmental idea he didn’t like, signed the bill to outlaw “single-use” plastic bags in California.  Which prompts the following 45-second video rant from me about how it is going to reduce recycling (at least in my household):

Which put me in the frame of mind to recall this Audi ad about the “green police” from the 2011 Super Bowl (hat tip: CR):

Now if you think the idea of the “green police” is far-fetched, check out this story out of Seattle last week:

Seattle Fines copy

Seattle Fines 2 copy

For more on why plastic bag bans are stupid (including environmentally stupid), see my old writing partner Ken Green’s study of the issue from two years ago.

P.S. By the way, isn’t having garbage workers inspecting your trash can and reporting you a potential 4th Amendment violation?  Isn’t there an “expectation of privacy” for your trash?  Where is the Seattle chapter of the ACLU on this?  I’ll bet they show up if a garbage worker finds a gun or drug paraphernalia.