The Krone connection

Jason Horowits writes political features and profiles for the New York Times. Yesterday the Times published Horowitz’s feature/profile on Harry Reid chief of staff David Krone. I don’t think Horowitz’s report rises to the level of what Steve Hayward has been following as “civil war on the left,” but it is hard not to enjoy the discord Horowitz traces among these unsavory players. Here is the opening of his article:

WASHINGTON — President Obama called Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, to broach a particularly delicate subject. It was during last year’s government shutdown and standoff with Republicans, but Mr. Obama’s frustration focused on one of their own. The president said he suspected David Krone, Mr. Reid’s intensely loyal and influential top aide, of leaking to the news media, and requested that he stay away from future meetings.

It did not take much time for the president’s comments to reach Mr. Reid’s right-hand man. To Mr. Obama’s surprise, Mr. Krone was listening in on the call. Suddenly, the aide piped up and made it clear to the president that he did not appreciate the accusation.

Quotable quote: “Mr. Reid fought back tears as he recalled the time he visited his wife, who had been injured in a car accident, and saw Mr. Krone at her hospital bedside. ‘David is someone I can say, and it doesn’t affect my manhood at all,’ Mr. Reid said, ‘I love David Krone.’”

What a crew!

Whole thing here.

UPDATE: Before she shares her usual stream of consciousness, Peggy Noonan explicates the text here.

When you’re strange

I cannot find the text of the memos/orders signed yesterday by President Obama to implement the actions announced in his immigration speech this past Thursday evening. (I have looked under Presidential Actions at the White House website.) I have therefore been unable to check the details of Obama’s action against the comments below, which are offered by an immigration attorney who works with existing law:

The proposed executive action on immigration (or whatever name you want to give it) will allow [illegal aliens] who have US citizen or green-card children and who have been here for five years to apply for some kind of quasi-status and open market work authorization. That would allow them to work for a period of time at any employer, the authorization presumably renewable until they decide to leave or have an option for US permanent resident status (green card status). This, the administration tells us, is fair and just and Biblical – yada/yada.

But this option is explicitly NOT available to those in the US in a valid legal status. There are millions of people in the US who have temporary status – as students or temporary workers or researchers or as investors (lots of Koreans own businesses with E-2 investor visas, for example). These people – many of them have US citizen children and have been here five years. These people who have been here legally and not violated their immigration status – these people are explicitly NOT eligible for open market work authorization, renewable indefinitely.

You must be in violation of the law to benefit from this provision.

If Republicans want to begin to push back on this issue, to turn the tables, I believe this is the question that needs to be raised again and again – why is the administration offering something to lawbreakers that is specifically prohibited for those who comply with the law?

There is no answer – I guarantee it. And when this point is circulated broadly, including broadly among immigrant and naturalized citizens, there will be resentment.

I realize there are a lot of angles to this issue but I haven’t seen anyone cover the above and I think it is one of the strongest points. Obama can fool people on the legal analysis and role of the executive but people know on a basic fundamental level that you should not be offering something to lawbreakers that is not available to the law-abiding.

We will revisit this issue when we have found the relevant White House action.

UPDATE: DHS has posted links to the executive actions here.

A Jim Webb presidential run? Spare us

Steve has commented on Jim Webb’s decision to launch an “exploratory committee” for a possible presidential campaign. But what is the case for a Webb presidency?

According to the Washington Post, Webb is pitching himself as someone who can shake up Washington’s partisan gridlock. Webb argues that, through him, America can “return to a leadership environment where people from both political parties and from all philosophical points of view would feel compelled to work the common good.” In this scenario people would “sort out their disagreements in a way that moves our country forward rather than tearing the fabric of the nation apart.”

Unfortunately, Jim Webb is as unlikely as almost any public figure in America to build consensus among those with differing points of views. Stated differently, he is a nasty piece of work.

In November 2006, the Washington Post reported:

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia’s newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn’t long before Bush found him.

“How’s your boy?” Bush asked, referring to Webb’s son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

“That’s not what I asked you,” Bush said. “How’s your boy?”

“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

Henry Clay strongly opposed going to war with Mexico. James Polk defeated him for president in 1844 and the U.S. went to war. Clay became a leading anti-war critic. His favorite son was killed in action.

Yet Clay maintained good personal relations with Polk. In fact, their relations are said to have been warm during the latter days of Polk’s presidency.

Clay, a gentleman, rarely put a wrong foot forward in public. The the notable exception was a tirade in a bar when he learned that the Whigs had rejected him in favor of William Henry Harrison at their 1840 convention (in those days presidential aspirants didn’t attend their party’s convention).

Webb cannot be held to Clay’s standard. But one should expect minimal civility from someone seeking the presidency on the theory that he can break gridlock by getting people to “sort out their disagreements in a way” that doesn’t strain “the fabric of the nation.” That’s not a job for a jerk like Webb.

Nor is there any other rationale, beyond personal ambition, that militates in favor of a presidential run by the former Senator, who is now on his third marriage. Webb is hardly a political dynamo. His only electoral victory was against George Allen in 2006. It came in a state that has trended Democratic, and in the context of a pro-Democrat wave election.

Even so, Webb’s margin of victory was extremely small. And but for Allen’s use of the word “macaca,” Webb certainly would have lost.

Webb served six years in the Senate without distinction. His biggest contribution was his vote for Obamacare, without which the legislation would not have passed.

Webb declined to stand for reelection in 2012. Perhaps he doubted he would win. Perhaps he was bored with public policy.

Neither explanation commends him for the presidency. As former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder told the Post, “A lot of people will be asking, ‘Is this the reason you didn’t run for reelection, because you were still so concerned with the direction of the country?’”

Webb fancies himself a populist and at times has talked a pretty good game. This distinguishes him from Hillary Clinton, but not from a host of possible entrants with more credibility with the left. Bernie Sanders, Jerry Brown, and Elizabeth Warren come to mind.

Moreover, Webb can’t have it both ways. He can’t appeal as a populist to the rabid Democratic left while claiming that he will heal the partisan divide. After all, Webb is no Barack Obama. Even President Obama is no Barack Obama.

That’s why Steve is probably right in saying that Webb, although ideologically at home with the Democrats, better fits the independent/third part mold when it comes to presidential politics.

What Is DOJ Hiding About Its Targeting of Sharyl Attkisson?

I wrote last night about Judicial Watch’s bombshell revelation that Eric Holder’s office collaborated with the White House to try to force Sharyl Attkisson off the Fast and Furious investigation. (If you haven’t read that post, you should start there.) We know this because of this email thread, which was among the documents that DOJ produced to Judicial Watch. The thread is a conversation between Tracy Schmaler, Eric Holder’s press person, and Eric Schultz, a White House staffer. (Schultz, by the way, is the White House aide who screamed and swore at Attkisson over the telephone.) The bottom email, which refers to “Sharryl,” is first in time:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 6.43.59 PM

The funny thing is that the reference to “Sharryl” in the first email comes from out of the blue. It is obvious that Schmaler and Schultz had been talking about Attkisson and that the first email we see is the middle of a conversation, not the beginning. Yet, a search of the 40,000 pages produced by DOJ does not include a single additional reference to Attkisson. With the exception of the email above, her name appears only when she is referred to in a news story that is reproduced in an email. Strange.

A reader writes with a theory:

The reason that this reference to Sharyl Attkisson made it into this document dump is that her name was mis-spelled (Sharryl rather than Sharyl). There are assuredly more emails about this that were searched for and deliberately withheld. They apparently did not search for this particular mis-spelling of her name.

Bingo. I think he is right. Someone at DOJ systematically searched for references to Sharyl Attkisson and pulled out all emails where DOJ and White House personnel were talking about her and, as we now know, how to block her Fast and Furious investigation. A single email, which gave away the game, slipped through because her name was mis-spelled.

It is harder than many people realize to cheat on a document production. Judicial Watch and others should now start hounding Eric Holder to release the rest of the story–the other emails where Holder’s DOJ and Barack Obama’s White House plotted to kill the Fast and Furious investigation by, among other things, influencing senior managers at CBS News.

When Even the Climatistas Know You Are a Fool . . .

I thought by now it would be ungentlemanly to keep piling on Naomi Klein’s ridiculous climate-change-means-we-have-to-smash-capitalism book, This Changes Everything. But then I ran across Elizabeth Kolbert’s review of Klein in the latest edition of the New York Review of Books, and I can’t resist. Kolbert is one of the most distraught of the climatistas, and writes the doomiest of the gloom-and-doom climate articles in The New Yorker and elsewhere. And even she can’t stand Klein’s book, if you read between the lines carefully toward the end:

Klein goes so far as to argue that the environmental movement has itself become little more than an arm (or perhaps one should say a column) of the fossil fuel industry. . .

The need to reduce carbon emissions is, ostensibly, what This Changes Everything is all about. Yet apart from applauding the solar installations of the Northern Cheyenne, Klein avoids looking at all closely at what this would entail. She vaguely tells us that we’ll have to consume less, but not how much less, or what we’ll have to give up. At various points, she calls for a carbon tax. This is certainly a good idea, and one that’s advocated by many economists, but it hardly seems to challenge the basic logic of capitalism. Near the start of the book, Klein floats the “managed degrowth” concept, which might also be called economic contraction, but once again, how this might play out she leaves unexplored. Even more confoundingly, by end of the book she seems to have rejected the idea. “Shrinking humanity’s impact or ‘footprint,’” she writes, is “simply not an option today.”

In place of “degrowth” she offers “regeneration,” a concept so cheerfully fuzzy I won’t even attempt to explain it. Regeneration, Klein writes, “is active: we become full participants in the process of maximizing life’s creativity.”

Kolbert concludes by saying that everyone in the climatista kamp is lying about there being solutions to climate change, including Klein. So Kolbert’s real complaint in the end is that Klein gets further to the left on the matter, but is still pollyannish about the realities of the world. But isn’t that what being an anti-capitalist utopian is all about?

Obamnesty, what to do

There are as many ways to express disgust with President Obama’s unlawful amnesty as there are talented conservative pundits prepared to write about it. The real question is what, if anything, can be done to negate the amnesty.

Impeachment is not the answer. The votes don’t exist to remove Obama from office. Nor should Republicans attempt impeachment. Doing so would probably hurt Republican standing in the run-up to the crucial election of 2016.

In any event, impeachment is off the table. Republican leaders have made this clear. Jeff Sessions reiterated it at a Heritage Foundation event this morning.

A government shutdown also appears to be off the table, and rightly so. Even if Republicans mustered the will for a shutdown, they would eventually back down, as happened last time, because the public would again turn against them. As with impeachment, the likely consequence would be a loss of standing in the eyes of the electorate.

I have argued in favor of denying the funds necessary to implement Obama’s program of issuing papers to illegal immigrants. However, as Ramesh Ponnuru said at Heritage today, Obama would likely find the money necessary to carry out his amnesty. This is not to say that Republicans shouldn’t try to use the power of the purse; they just shouldn’t count on it working.

Some Republicans have advocated refusing to confirm Obama’s appointees. Depending on whom Obama nominates, this idea might have merit in its own right. But it’s not likely to force Obama to back down on amnesty. Obama doesn’t expect many of his important judicial nominees to be confirmed in any event. At most, he would try to break the logjam through some sort of deal — one that sees Republicans confirming nominees they might otherwise not and making concessions on immigration, as well.

What about legal challenges? The threshold here is a plaintiff with legal “standing” to bring the lawsuit. Obamnesty is a serious affront to our constitutional system, but who has suffered injury concrete enough to meet the standing requirement imposed on plaintiffs in a lawsuit?

There are obvious candidate: Congress whose power has been usurped; the states whose resources will be strained; unions whose members likely will have fewer employment opportunities; and others. However, during the Heritage Foundation conference two first-rate legal scholars — Prof. Jan Ting and John Malcolm of Heritage — expressed skepticism that the “standing” barrier can be overcome here. In addition, courts traditionally have been reluctant to decide “political” questions involving disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

I’m a bit more optimistic. The court created doctrine of standing is subject to manipulation. If judges are sufficiently outraged by Obama’s power grab, they can find standing for one or more of the types of plaintiffs described above.

Moreover, by executing its power of the purse aggressively, Congress can perhaps force Obama into methods of circumvention that will improve its arguments in favor of standing. That’s another reason why Congress should embrace this approach.

As for the “political question” doctrine, it seems increasingly like an anachronism these days. Indeed, it is almost perverse, in this age of aggressive assertions of executive power by both presidents of both parties, for courts to bow out of cases challenging highly controversial efforts to bypass the legislature. In a sense, these cases (as opposed to ones where the president and Congress together enact a law) seem like precisely the ones in which judicial intervention is warranted.

To be sure, the Constitution provides Congress with the impeachment remedy. But given the vote threshold for removal and the near certainty that the president’s party will block impeachment when the issue is a president’s assertion of power to implement a policy favored by his party, impeachment is not a practical remedy in this context. Thus, apart from “modesty,” there is no non-technical reason why courts should duck cases like the one Obama has provoked. And in view of the immodesty of the modern judiciary, modesty is a dubious barrier.

I don’t mean to say that litigation will likely negate Obama’s amnesty, only that it may provide a better shot than is generally thought.

Congress should not, of course, confine its response to litigation. In addition to litigating, Congress should use the power of the purse to gum up the works and perhaps increase the prospects of succeeding in court and the power to block nominees as a means of registering protest and exacting a price.

Energy Flotsam and Jetsam

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal story about the production difficulties of the Arizona supplier that Apple selected to make sapphire screens for the iPhone 6 was fascinating in its own right, but there was one little detail in the story that zipped by too quickly:

Mr. Squiller, the GT operations chief, told the bankruptcy court that GT lost three months of production to power outages and delays building the facility.

Whoa, show down there a moment: what’s this about power outages? I’d sure like to know more of the full story here. Was this simply bad engineering on site, or was there a problem with the local grid or the energy sources supplying the grid in that area? Grid stability is going to be a more serious issue going forward as we compel more and more “renewable” (meaning “less stable”) energy as part of the EPA’s mania to restructure the electricity sector through the Clean Air Act.

Meanwhile, two Googlers have written a worthy article for the IEEE Spectrum website (IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) on “What Would It Really Take to Reverse Climate Change?”. The subtitle tells the story: “Today’s Renewable Technologies Won’t Save Us.”

I know one of the authors, Ross Koningstein, slightly, and kudos to him and his co-author David Fork for admitting forthrightly that Google’s RE<C (“renewable energy cheaper than coal”) initiative was largely a bust. I’m pretty sure we noted here at the time that Google had pulled the plug on this much-hyped project a couple years ago.  As Koningstein and Fork admit:

At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope . . . even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions. Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach. 

As I’ve been pointing out for more than six years, the mathematics of climate orthodoxy, which call for an 80 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 so at to stabilize CO2 levels at no more than 450 parts per million, essentially requires replacing the world’s entire hydrocarbon energy systems with zero-emission sources. In practical terms, it means the United States would have to roll back its oil, coal, and gas use to the amount last seen in 1910. This is looney tunes.  I’ve still not seen any credible plan to do this in the space of 40 years. (One narrow example: Roger Piekle Jr. has calculated that if you set out to replace the world’s existing coal fired power plants with nuclear power, you’d need to build one 800 MW nuclear plant per week, every week, for the next 40 years. And this would only displace coal, and not touch oil and natural gas. Ts is looney tunes. Anyone think the U.S. is going to build 400 new nuclear power plants—we have about 100 now—to replace our 500 coal-fired power plants?)

To their credit Koningstein and Fork reach much the same conclusion, though with different arithmetic than me:

Even if every renewable energy technology advanced as quickly as imagined and they were all applied globally, atmospheric CO2 levels wouldn’t just remain above 350 ppm; they would continue to rise exponentially due to continued fossil fuel use. So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require both radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.

Koningstein and Fork are equally realistic about the limitations of today’s renewable technologies:

Unfortunately, most of today’s clean generation sources can’t provide power that is both distributed and dispatchable. . . Across the board, we need solutions that don’t require subsidies or government regulations that penalize fossil fuel usage.

Even though Koningstein and Fork are writing from within the framework of climate orthodoxy, their call for the development of market-oriented disruptive energy technologies that don’t need government diktats is a refreshing departure from the totally unserious happy talk about wind and solar and banana peels and unicorn flop sweat we get from most of the climatistas. What I think they fail to appreciate, however, is that if such technologies do come about (say, cheap fusion), the bulk of the environmental establishment will oppose it, because it would be another triumph of capitalism. (See: Naomi Klein.)