The Eisenhower Memorial farce

We have sporadically followed the long, sad saga of the proposed Eisenhower Memorial. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission has now survived 15 years. We have no Eisenhower Memorial, but the commission has a plan (a bad one) and a promotional website. For good and sufficient reason the National Capital Planning Commission rejected the proposed memorial plan earlier this year. The Washington Examiner reported on the NCPC’s rejection
in a long article by Luke Rosiak, but the memorial plan is not dead yet.

The commission is chaired by one Rocco Siciliano, a nonagenarian resident of Beverly Hills, and his loyal staff of nine full-time employees occupying K Street offices. The commission clings to Frank Gehry’s failed plan for a four-acre monument including eight eight-story columns.

I think of it as a monument to bad taste. In her column this week Mona Charen declares it “A monument to waste.”

The monument is also tougher to kill than Frankenstein’s monster, and just as ugly. Mona devotes her latest column to the story, recalling Eisenhower’s virtues while declaring the monument saga “a textbook case of corruption.” It is that too.

Indeed, the monument saga is a case study of several kinds. This is ugly — and I don’t mean only the proposed memorial. Wikipedia provides a lot of useful background here.

Mona begins with the establishment of the commission by Congress in 1999 and the commission’s original funding $64 million:

Without a design competition, the commission chose a design by Frank Gehry that critics, including the Eisenhower family, regard as insulting to Eisenhower’s memory. Featuring enormous metal “tapestries” eight stories tall that would depict the Kansas prairie, the block-long memorial park with its enormous metal curtains would dwarf the statuary in the center. The original design called for Ike to be portrayed as a barefoot boy. Thus is a key figure in the history of the 20th century reduced to insignificance. Historians sometimes do that to people — memorials are meant to do the reverse.

The boy Ike has since been replaced, after protests, with a proposed statue of Ike as a cadet. Not much better. West Point has produced many cadets but only one Eisenhower. Gehry now proposes to eliminate the tapestries, but keep the pillars. Commission member Bruce Cole, who believes a simple statue of the man would have been best (and most consistent with Ike’s wishes), says the pillars standing alone “look for all the world like industrial smokestacks.”

Opponents including the Eisenhower family have succeeded in keeping the Gehry plan for the memorial from being built. Mona looks back:

After 15 years, the commission has spent $41 million, including paying Gehry 95 percent of the price of construction drawings before the design was approved. According to the…Washington Examiner [in Rosiak's article linked above] Gehry used some of the $15 million he received to hire former Clinton counsel Gregory Craig to help secure approval of the design. That’s how it goes when you’re well-connected in Washington.

Mona observes that congressional Republicans have declined the commission’s request for $50 million more: “They appropriated just $1 million last year, which still leaves the corrupt commission in business.” The story has not yet reached its end. Mona fittingly concludes with an open-ended question: “Is this farce to be the only memorial to one of our greatest leaders?”

We all live in a ruling class machine

Angelo Codevilla has written a piece called “Washington’s Ruling Class Is Fooling Itself About The Islamic State.” Codevilla points to some of the fallacies inherent in President Obama’s approach to dealing with ISIS.

I’d like the article more if Codevilla didn’t use the term “ruling class” in nearly every other sentence. I get it: he thinks that Washington Democrats and Republicans are all part of the same ruling class.

In a sense, perhaps they are. However, since their views diverge on almost every discrete issue, it’s not very useful, except perhaps for polemical purposes, to treat them as a single entity when discussing a particular issue. Typing “ruling class” repeatedly doesn’t overcome the problem.

I haven’t heard “ruling class” bandied about this much since I attended my last SDS meeting in 1969. All that’s missing is the long hair and the obscenities. The latter seem to be implied.

The politics of the vote on arming and training syrian rebels

This week, the Senate voted 78-22 in favor of arming and training Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. Noah Rothman points out that four possible 2016 presidential contenders were among the “no” votes. They are Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Kristen Gillibrand and Republicans Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. A fifth potential contender, Marco Rubio voted “yes.”

Rothman suggests that the contenders who voted against arming and training the rebels “calculat[e] that this war will not be as popular in 18 months as it is today.” Accordingly, repudiation of Obama’s approach to the war will be a central theme for presidential candidates of both parties. A “no” vote this week sets up that repudiation.

As I see it, the politics of this vote are straightforward for any Democratic presidential contender. Hillary Clinton, or Joe Biden if Clinton doesn’t run, can only be defeated from the left of her Party, just as she was in 2008. So regardless of whether Warren and Gillibrand believe that the war against ISIS will lose popularity, the smart vote politically was “no.” (I don’t mean to say that the vote of either was based on politics, though. Indeed, for Warren, at least, the “no” vote must have come very naturally).

Things are less straightforward on the Republican side. A year ago, the GOP had taken a decidedly non-interventionist turn. Today, it is back to being pro-intervention. Next year, who knows?

But keep in mind that the Senate wasn’t voting to go to war or to authorize the use of American ground troops. Accordingly, this week’s vote was not momentous.

What would it mean for the “war,” as Obama has conceived it, to go badly? It would mean that ISIS is not degraded, much less destroyed. In Syria, it would mean that the rebels we arm don’t fight ISIS or fight ISIS and are defeated. It might mean that more U.S. equipment falls into the hands of ISIS or other jihadist fighters.

These are all bad outcomes. But in the absence of U.S. troops being killed, they shouldn’t carry serious adverse political consequences for Republicans like Rubio who voted to arm and train rebels.

Rubio could argue that arming and training the rebels was the right move, but that Obama failed to provide them with sufficient air support and intelligence, or that the training and arming were poorly executed. Very likely, that argument would be correct.

If Obama’s strategy somehow succeeds in Syria, Rubio will look better than Paul and Cruz on this vote. Moreover, the pro-intervention wing of the GOP will be ascendant with Rubio well-positioned to ride its wave. But even in this unlikely scenario, the vote on arming and training the Syrian rebels isn’t likely to be a political game-changer.

Politics aside, Rubio was a natural “yes” vote and Paul a natural “no.” Cruz was the interesting case. Did he allow political calculation to influence his vote? There’s no way to tell.

My guess is that the fecklessness of Obama’s approach to ISIS and its air of unreality protects Republicans from any serious political consequences, thus allowing them to vote their conscience even if one assumes they normally might not.

Ambassador who sided with Muslim Brotherhood spearheads State Department’s anti-ISIS effort

John Kerry has assembled a three-person team to lead the State Department’s efforts against ISIS. Two of the members — Gen. John Allen and Brett McGurk — seem unobjectionable. The third, Anne Patterson, is another matter.

In announcing her central role, Kerry praised Patterson as “one of our nation’s top diplomats deeply respected in the region.” But Patterson is not respected in Egypt, where she served as ambassador during the period when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power.

Bridget Johnson at PJ Media reminds us that Patterson stood firmly behind the Brotherhood as it persecuted opponents and attempted to consolidate its rule. Consequently, she was reviled by the Brotherhood’s opponents to the point that, according to Johnson, when she left her post Egyptians partied outside the U.S. Embassy in a “good riddance” celebration.

Some of the allegations against Patterson seem baseless. Indeed, the story by Al-Ahram newspaper accusing her of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to smuggle fighters in from Gaza to “spread chaos” in the country is surely ridiculous.

But there is little doubt that Patterson was tight with the Morsi regime. A picture of her smiling and laughing at a meeting with Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie became a staple at anti-government protests.

Patterson was only following President Obama’s pro-Brotherhood line, though. She was rewarded with a promotion to assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

Patterson has not distinguished herself in that role. According to Johnson, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concluded, based on briefings from Johnson, that she and the administration she represents had no handle on the emerging threat posed by ISIS. While she spoke in platitudes about countering ISIS using “diplomacy and development” and by “strengthening our business and people-to-people ties,” the terrorists were rampaging through Iraq and establishing their caliphate.

Patterson has been equally clueless on the subject of Libya. Johnson reports that last week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen recalled in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that in June Patterson told lawmakers she was “optimistic that the elections in Libya, which were the third in less than two years, would be an important step forward toward Libya’s stability.”

Elections, development, and people-to-people ties. All that’s missing from Patterson’s arsenal is a wet noodle.

Patterson may be a respected figure within the Obama administration circles, but Kerry’s claim that she is “deeply respected” in the Middle East doesn’t pass the straight face test. In that sense, she is the perfect point-person for Team Obama’s unserious strategy to combat ISIS.

I Knew Bob Packwood. Bob Packwood Was a Friend of Mine.

If you thought Joe Biden couldn’t top his “Shylock” performance, you were wrong. Speaking to none other than a Democratic women’s conference, Biden reminisced fondly about the good old days in the Senate, when he got to work with great guys like Bob Packwood. Yes, that Bob Packwood.

You know what this reminds me of? Trent Lott. Lott, as you probably recall, was delivering a 100th birthday tribute to Strom Thurmond when he said that if Thurmond had been elected president–he ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948–”we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years.” A dumb thing to say? Sure. But it was part of an impromptu birthday congratulation, not a considered verdict on the Dixiecrats. Nevertheless, it cost Lott his position as Senate Majority Leader.

If a Republican praised Bob Packwood as the kind of senator we need more of today, as Biden did, it is hard to imagine the hysteria that would result. War on women? It would be Armageddon! Some marvel at how Joe Biden can get away with one offensive or idiotic remark after another. There is at least one in almost every speech, it seems. Supposedly Biden gets a pass because everyone knows he is gaffe-prone and finds it lovable.

But I don’t think that is the explanation. I think that many, many Democrats say stupid and offensive things all the time. I think that they almost always get a pass, just like Joe Biden. As a Democrat, he is the rule, not the exception. Heck, Ted Kennedy got a pass for drowning a young woman; why would the Democratic Party press give Biden (or any other contemporary Democrat) a hard time for saying something offensive or dumb?

The Eternal Presumption of the Liberal Mind

At the very end of Matt Bai’s New York Times Magazine feature about Gary Hart that could be titled “Hart-less: The Original Bimbo Eruption,” there’s a short passage that puts on full display the irrepressible presumption of liberalism—or perhaps it’s another example of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Here’s how the piece ends:

“It’s what he could have done for this country that I think bothers him to this very day,” Lee [Hart] said.

“Well, at the very least, George W. Bush wouldn’t have been president,” [Gary] Hart said ruefully. This sounded a little narcissistic, but it was, in fact, a hard premise to refute. Had Hart bested George H. W. Bush in 1988, as he was well on his way to doing, it’s difficult to imagine that Bush’s aimless eldest son would have somehow ascended from nowhere to become governor of Texas and then president within 12 years’ time.

“And we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq,” Hart went on. “And a lot of people would be alive who are dead.” A brief silence surrounded us. Hart sighed loudly, as if literally deflating. “You have to live with that, you know?”

Fun times, fun times!

Fun times, fun times!

Note first that Bai thinks is it virtually incontestable that Hart would have beaten George H.W. Bush in 1988—a nice additional kick to the backside of the hapless Michael Dukakis. Yes, Dukakis was a dismal candidate, but it is far from certain that Bush wouldn’t have beaten Gary Hart just as soundly. Most academic political scientists, and just about every election model, will point to the overwhelming structural advantages (especially a good economy and a popular incumbent) that Bush had on his side. And that’s before you get to Hart’s essential goofiness that Mondale used to trip him up in 1984. It is not clear to me that Dukakis was in fact actually inferior as a candidate to a prospective Hart the Chaste.

Second, notice the presumption that any other president other than George W. Bush would not have gone to war against Iraq after 9/11. Easy to say after the fact, just as the JFK Industrial Complex has labored mightily without a shred of credible evidence to say JFK would have avoided Vietnam had he lived. Al Gore was known as one of the Iraq hawks in the Clinton White House, and it is easily conceivable that he would have been just as aggressive as Bush after 9/11. But for liberals with perfect hindsight, their guys simply can’t make any mistakes.

Bai is right that had the first Bush not been elected, George W. would not have been elected in 2000. But ponder what Bai had to skip over to get to this precious chain of causation that kept us out of Iraq. What about the first Gulf War (the one Gore voted for, remember)? Would a President Hart have led the U.S. into that conflict in 1991, as H.W. Bush did?  Or would he have wrung his hands ineffectually like Obama today?  A rather important question in this two-link chain of contingency Hart and Bai have constructed to feel good about themselves. Without Gulf War I, perhaps Gulf War II (and maybe 9/11) don’t happen. Bai didn’t think to ask any of this, because he is a high octane liberal for whom serious thinking is unnecessary.

This is a game anyone can play out as they like. I rather like suggesting that Hart should feel guilty in just this way: For want of self-control, thousands died! Hot bodies for Hart; body bags for you! Hart lied, people died!

Or perhaps Bai might be invited to go down the road of wondering how different the Middle East might be today—and how many millions might be alive—if we’d had president other than Jimmy Carter paying attention to Iran in 1977 and 1978. Nah—that would give him a headache.

Dems Plead For Money For Their War On Women

In Mick Jagger’s immortal words, they don’t embarrass easy. Last night the Democrats were begging me for money. First from Nancy Pelosi:

From: Nancy Pelosi [mailto:dccc@dccc.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2014 6:27 PM
To: Hinderaker, John H.
Subject: John, I’m pleading

Today, you should have received an email from:

– The President of the United States
– The Vice President of the United States

That’s how important this is — Barack Obama is asking, Joe Biden is asking, and I’m asking.

Right now, we’re facing millions of dollars of attacks from the Republicans. And we’re fighting desperately to turn it around. We need 33OO more donations in the next 5 hours if we want any shot at giving President Obama a Democratic House for his final two years.

John, I’m pleading. Can you answer the President’s call-to-action today?

ALL GIFTS TODAY TRIPLE-MATCHED!

As always, one wonders: why do they have to plead with small donors when they have rich donors standing by to triple match?

A couple hours after that missive from my good friend Nancy came this one from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

From: Democrats 2014 [mailto:dccc@dccc.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2014 8:04 PM
To: Hinderaker, John H.
Subject: we’re IMPLORING you JOHN

One thing about Democrats, they never let pride get in the way of fundraising.

Frankly, this is frightening:

The Huffington Post is reporting that a single right-wing mega donor cut a $1O,OOO,OOO.OO check to Karl Rove’s group.

We’re already facing millions in attacks. Control of Congress is at stake. And now, we could lose it all.

John — That’s why we keep asking for your help. We got President Obama, Vice President Biden AND Nancy Pelosi to reach out to you. A group of donors is even TRIPLE-MATCHING all donations today.

Please — we’re imploring you — can you chip in something to President Obama’s call-to-action today?

ALL GIFTS TODAY TRIPLE-MATCHED!

This morning the fundraising barrage continued. This one is from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

From: Democrats 2014 [mailto:dccc@dccc.org]
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2014 11:42 AM
To: Hinderaker, John H.
Subject: NY Times just announced…

If you missed this week’s New York Times poll, here’s what you need to know:

We’re losing.

Republicans’ $12 million Obama-bashing ad blitz is crushing us. And yesterday, NPR reported a right-wing mega-donor gave $10 million more to fund Karl Rove attack ads.

That’s why President Obama emailed you yesterday. And that’s why we’re emailing you right now.

We still have time to turn this thing around — but if we can’t repair the damage now, you can kiss all hope of a Democratic victory goodbye.

Control of Congress is at stake. Can you respond to President Obama’s call-to-action today?

ALL GIFTS TODAY TRIPLE-MATCHED!

In the Democrats’ world, Republicans are always running attack ads, and the Democrats are always behind. In the real world, it is Democrats who run ads they can’t support, and who always have more money to spend.

This one came in from the DCCC a few hours later. Now, they are about ready to give up:

From: members@dccc.org [mailto:dccc@dccc.org]
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2014 3:30 PM
To: Hinderaker, John H.
Subject: we’re going home

We’re drowning, and we just don’t know what else to do.

Is this some kind of joke? Are there really people dumb enough to fall for these appeals?

President Obama, Vice President Biden and Nancy Pelosi all emailed you asking for your help. And we were well on our way to our goal.

But then NPR reported that a single right-wing megadonor gave $10 MILLION to Karl Rove’s group.

Here’s what that means: our goals just skyrocketed. And now we need 1O,OOO more donations tonight to keep pace with Rove’s Obama-bashing ads.

If we don’t hit this goal, we might as well just pack up and go home. We hate to ask you again — but can you answer the President’s call-to-action today?

ALL GIFTS TODAY TRIPLE-MATCHED!

Some things about the Democrats’ communications with their faithful never change. They never mention any public policy issue. Never. If you didn’t already know why it would be a good thing for Democrats to win elections, you could be on the party’s email list for years and be none the wiser. Likewise, they often say that Republicans are lying about Democratic candidates, but they never identify any of those supposed lies. Nor do they mention any Republicans, other than the handful whose names are constantly invoked: John Boehner, Karl Rove and Paul Ryan. And, of course, Charles and David Koch. One gets the feeling that references to any other political figures would be lost on the Democrats’ rank and file.

What will the Democrats do with the millions they raise with these hysterical communications? In large part, they will place ads telling voters that Republicans are waging a war on women. This is an incredibly stupid claim, but perhaps to dumber than what the Democratic Party says, every day, to its members. They have worked hard to build a movement of and by the uninformed.

Still, there may be limits tested voters’ reactions to the Democrats’ “war on women” theme. The results are mildly reassuring:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% of Likely U.S. Voters believe there is really a political “war on women” going on. Fifty-nine percent (59%) say the “war on women” is primarily a slogan used for political purposes instead. But 19% are not sure.

Those 22% are the Democrats’ hard core, who will believe anything.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of men say it’s political sloganeering, but only 52% of women agree. Women aren’t much more likely than men to think there is a political war on women, but one-in-four female voters (24%) are undecided.

The idea that anyone could fall for the “war on women” slogan is appalling, but these numbers suggest that it may be approaching its sell-by date. By 2016, the Democrats may have to come up with a new hoax.