AIPAC enters the fray

Until now the Obama administration seemed to have domesticated and neutered AIPAC, the proudly pro-Israel lobbying group. Michael Oren’s memoir Ally, published this past Tuesday, confirms this impression.

Attending the annual AIPAC Minnesota dinner in Minneapolis last month, however, I was struck by the strong position taken on the imminent Iran deal. AIPAC set forth five criteria for an acceptable deal that would obviously obligate the organization to oppose the deal. I wondered: would AIPAC follow through? and if not now, when?

Last week AIPAC posted its five minimum criteria for an acceptable agreement. Eli Lake reports here, adding details and context to the story.

AIPAC articulates the five criteria as follows:

1. Inspections and Verification
Inspectors must be granted unimpeded access to suspect sites for “anytime, anywhere” inspections, including all military facilities.

2. Possible Military Dimensions
Iran must completely explain its prior weaponization efforts. Otherwise, it will be impossible to establish a baseline to measure Iran’s true capabilities and future actions.

3. Sanctions
Sanctions relief must only begin after the International Atomic Energy Agency certifies that Iran has complied with its commitments under the agreement.

4. Duration
A deal must last for decades to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear threshold state with a virtually instant breakout time after 12 or 13 years.

5. Dismantlement
Iran must dismantle its nuclear infrastructure such that it has no path to a nuclear weapon.

These five are, to repeat, minimum criteria. Taking what is said here at face value, each of the five is essential from AIPAC”s perspective.

I think that Obama is about to go 0 for 5. AIPAC is about to go into opposition. Perhaps its opposition can be dismissed as parochial, yet its minimum criteria obviously make sense from the perspective of the United States as well as Israel.

Report: U.S. Gives In On Iran Inspections [Updated]

Israeli news sources report that the U.S. and its negotiating partners have given in to Iran’s insistence that it will not allow inspections of its nuclear weapons facilities:

The P5+1 countries led by the United States under Barack Obama have caved in to Iranian demands and will not insist on inspections of nuclear installations as part of a deal on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Channel 1 reported Sunday.

Of course they have. Iran has consistently declared that it will not allow inspections, and Barack Obama wants a deal at any cost, either because he actually wants to help Iran to obtain nuclear weapons–circumstantial evidence supports that conclusion–or because he is so desperate for some kind of foreign affairs legacy that he is willing to go along with anything. From the beginning of this process, Iran’s government has issued more truthful updates on the status of the negotiations than has our own. In some parallel universe, this would be an embarrassment to an American administration.

Events are moving rapidly toward the desired conclusion, i.e., an agreement that will cause billions of dollars to flow to Iran to enable the mullahs to accelerate their nuclear weapons and ICBM programs:

The channel’s Arab affairs correspondent reported that the June 30 – Tuesday night – deadline for the talks has been set back to an unspecified date but that the negotiations are good natured and the feeling is that the deal is nearly done.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was expected to fly to Tehran Sunday night for consultations on a final bargaining position.

Was there ever any doubt? I don’t think so. More important, neither did the Iranians. They knew they could dictate the terms of the agreement because they were dealing with Barack Obama, and they have done so. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., we are busy posting rainbows on our Facebook pages. It is hard to escape the conclusion that we deserve what we are going to get.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

It means they already have nukes, i.e., sufficient highly enriched uranium for, at a minimum, 1 – 5 Hiroshima type bombs. Therefore, there is nothing Obama can do: once the kooks have nukes it’s game over; we can never directly attack them without huge risk. See Korea, North.

The real travesty is that — of course! — Obama never had any intention of making sure that Iran would “not be permitted to have nuclear weapons.” As usual, the threats of preëmption, “all options on the table,” were always lies which is why the left let him get away with an explicit invocation of the Bush Doctrine.

For Iran, having the capability of enriching uranium and, eventually, plutonium and being rumored to have enriched HEU cores is sufficient for their military purposes. They want insulation from attack by the west and the ability to intimidate regionally.

There was a window from the middle of the Bush administration to about 6-12 months ago, but it required preëmption. Obama simply could not take any military action against a non-imminent threat from Iran without destroying his coalition and ripping apart the left. And he never meant to! He just needed the words to get by elections and be able to claim with enough plausibility that the MSM will cover for him that on his watch Iran had no “nuclear weapons.” Of course, it does all depend on what the meaning of “have” is…and “nuclear weapon.”

It’s a disaster and Obama and his pals are snakes.

See also this: The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw. They already have the HEU cores. They could do a Hiroshima bomb as a terrorist device in a ground burst easily. Obama let it happen and now it’s too late. It’s North Korea and Pakistan all over again.

Two or three years ago the breakout time was over a year, as IAEA studies showed.

To be fair to Obama, he didn’t just let it happen, he wanted it to happen, since an alliance with the mullahs was his one grand foreign policy vision.

Media Alert

I will be guest hosting Laura Ingraham’s radio show tomorrow; it airs live from 9 to 12 Eastern. You can go here find a station in your area. We have an excellent lineup of guests and it should be a fun show, even though the news we will be discussing is mostly bad. If you miss the show live, you can get highlights via podcast on iTunes. If you are able to listen to the show live, I encourage you to call in at 855-40-LAURA–I would love to hear from some Power Line readers.

Aging and sentimentality in judges

Before I head to Europe, let me expand, using thoughts Bill Otis presented to me, on why I think older judges are more likely than younger ones to decide cases based on sentiment.

Resisting sentimentality requires discipline and energy. Discipline can subside with the onset of old age. As Bill puts it:

By the time they get to their sixties, most talented lawyers have essentially made it in life, and the discipline required to climb the ladder subsides; the ladder has already been climbed. Loss of discipline is the catalyst for flabby self-indulgence, sometimes spelled “A-N-T-H-O-N-Y K-E-N-N-E-D-Y).

In other words, you go soft, or at least become more likely to give in to a softness that was already there. This does not universally happen to men, but you see often it.

Energy also diminishes, and it takes energy to resist prevailing cultural trends. Bill writes:

For virtually all my lifetime, liberalism has ruled the culture (including and importantly academia), and being a conservative just takes a lot of energy. For example, it is not only anti-male and anti-white bias that accounts for the fact that so many leftist airheads get jobs as professors; it’s that when you’re on board with the received liberal wisdom, you swim with the tide rather than against it.

Swimming against it produces harder thinking (which is one important reason conservatives like debates and more often than not win them), but it also requires a lot of energy. Sooner of later, for most people, it starts to run out.

I don’t see lack of discipline or energy (or sentimentality in general) in John Roberts’ jurisprudence. I think caution was the driver in the Obamacare cases. Anthony Kennedy, as Bill says, is another matter.

Particular Justices aside, it will be difficult for conservatives to ensure that Republican appointees remain solidly conservative as they reach old age.

Off to Europe

I will be in Europe for the next two weeks. In Paris, where I’ll be for a large portion of the trip, the Eiffel Tower will be illuminated, but presumably not in rainbow colors to celebrate gay marriage.

Sad to say, the governments of the countries I’ll be visiting all have a better understanding of Iran, and world as a whole, than President Obama does. What a sad commentary.

If, as expected, Obama reaches a deal with Iran, I’ll try to discern the reaction in Europe. However, I will do little, if any, blogging.

The Wages of Bork

Increasingly it appears that the failure of the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork in 1987 was a watershed moment for the history of jurisprudence over the last generation, as Anthony Kennedy has been so central to so many bad rulings (and, fairness demands, a handful of good ones, like Citizens United).

While Chief Justice Roberts’s jurisprudence may remain inscrutable, nothing about Kennedy should surprise us, though. It was known at the time that he would be a wild card on the Court. Here’s the relevant passage from my Age of Reagan book describing the aftermath of the Bork defeat and the withdrawal of the Doug Ginsberg nomination:

The White House was left with a remarkably short list of prospective nominees.  They settled on a name that had survived previous screenings: Judge Anthony Kennedy of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Kennedy’s name came up immediately after Bork, but was rejected in favor of Ginsburg.  The judicial selection committee at the Justice Department was opposed to naming Kennedy.  Former Attorney general William French Smith told Reagan: “I know Anthony Kennedy, and he won’t be there in the trenches.”  Ed Meese felt the same way, telling Reagan: “I can’t look you in the eye and say he’s the kind of justice you want on the Supreme Court.”

The quest for ideological purity in Supreme Court Justices

In our podcast last week, we tried to explain why Democratic-appointed Supreme Court Justices march in lockstep in the big, closely divided Supreme Court cases, while one Republican-appointed Justice (Anthony Kennedy) cannot be counted on at all to vote with his more reliably conservative brethren and a second (John Roberts) has parted company in two of most important cases decided in his tenure.

I offered one possible explanation. Liberalism, I claimed, is a political movement with a voracious appetite for power. Conservatism is a part political movement and part intellectual phenomenon, and the intellectual component is quite diverse. There are libertarians, social conservatives, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, and even something called crunchy conservatives. These differences are bound to be reflected to some degree in the attitudes and judging philosophies of conservative jurists.

Now, I want to offer a second, and perhaps more powerful, explanation: age. If Supreme Court Justices were appointed directly out of law school, I strongly suspect that liberals would be complaining about Democratic-appointees growing in office. It’s commonly acknowledged that the trajectory for young men is to move to the right as they begin to assume the responsibilities of adulthood, including paying mortgages and helping to support and raise children.

But Supreme Court Justices are almost always past age 50 when they are appointed. By then, the children are, or soon will be, raised; the mortgage has, or soon will be, paid off; and the Justices are looking forward to grandchildren.

These developments shouldn’t drive anyone to the left, but I believe the aging process itself often does. Why? Because conservatism, especially conservative judging, is predicated on the absence of a certain kind of sentimentality (I say “certain kind” because there is a sense in which the main strand of conservatism is quite sentimental). It is predicated on not letting “feelings” dominate the decision-making process.

The same-sex marriage opinions illustrate the point. Justice Kennedy’s opinion overflows with sentiment. It is sappy. (Kennedy’s sentiments, by the way, are in line with those of Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater, the classic example of a conservative who moved leftward in his advanced years).

Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion (and to a lesser extent some of the other dissents) is full of reminders that the case must be judged as a matter of constitutional law, not sentiment. Roberts, though, may be showing his age by writing (excessively, in my view) about how the Court’s decision will be “celebrated.” Twenty years ago, would he have done so?

The Obamacare cases also were arguably influenced by age. Forget about what Justice Scalia calls the the Chief Justice’s “sommersaults of statutory interpretation.” In my view, Roberts’ opinions are really about caution. In the first case (on the individual mandate), he was at pains not to overrule the legislature. In the second (on subsidies), he was desperate not to upset the health insurance market.

Caution is an attribute associated with advanced age.

Sentimentality also favored the result in the subsidy case. This challenge to Obamacare called on the Court to take away subsidies from millions of relatively low income individuals. Many would have opted not to buy health insurance, thus falling back into the ranks of the uninsured. Many others might have bitten the bullet and suffered financially as a result.

Thus, rejecting this challenge to Obamacare was the sentimental move, as well as the cautious one. Given their ages, it is not surprising that only three of the five Republican-appointed Justices were willing to place the cold words of the statute ahead of sentiment and caution.

The back-to-back-to back losses in the Supreme Court last week has conservatives demanding better vetting of judicial nominees. Better vetting is, of course, better than unimproved vetting.

But if I’m right about the drivers of the less than fully satisfying performance of Republican-appointed Justices, then vetting has significant limitations.

Republicans can be more aware of the particular strand of conservatism to which a potential nominee adheres. But they can’t be prescient about how a particular strand will play out ten or twenty years down the road. Will conservatives feel better served by Justices who tend to defer to the legislature or ones who do not? The answer probably depends on which way the political winds blow in the distant future.

As for aging, there is no cure. Republicans can delay its impact in this context by nominating younger Justices, but there are limits to how young a Supreme Court Justice can, acceptably, be. Moreover, the younger the nominee, the smaller the track record, and therefore the harder he or she is to vet.

Let’s not, however, allow a terrible week to obscure the progress conservatives have made in vetting judicial nominees at all levels. Justice Alito has been everything conservatives hoped for.

And Chief Justice Roberts is no Justice O’Connor, Souter, or Kennedy — at least not yet. He voted with Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in two of the three big cases last week. His other main departure from conservative orthodoxy this term occurred in a case regarding the financing of elections for judicial office — a case that I think probably was correctly decided.

Still, there is no disputing that the Chief Justice is no longer the jurist conservatives hoped for. This development adds resonance to John’s call for conservatives to view the Supreme Court as the super-legislature it largely is.

But let’s remember that liberals will always have the advantage when it comes to selecting the super-legislators.