Campaign Notes

So with the entry today of Gov. Chris Christie into the GOP presidential sweepstakes, the field is now complete from the diversity standpoint. Christie means we Hefto-Americans have a candidate, to go along with Cuban-Americans (Cruz, Rubio), Indian-Americans (Jindal), Uterine-Americans and Italian-Americans (Fiorina), Slavic-Americans (Kasich, eventually), Arko-Americans (Huckabee), folically-challenged Americans—or are we “Toupee-Americans?”—(Trump), Phamacolocigal-Americans (Paul), Cheesy-Americans (Walker), and the plain vanilla middle class—better known to academics as the “Bushoisie”—has a candidate, too.

If the polls are right, Trump is actually in the hunt. I think there’s a way to end that quickly, by using Trump’s own popular culture status against him. I recall a pivotal moment in the 1984 Democratic primaries, when Walter Mondale dispatched the pesky Gary Hart with a single question. Hart had been rolling with a vague theme of “new ideas,” though his only new ideas seemed to be his name and his age. So in one of the debates, Mondale wheeled on Hart and said, “You remind me of that hamburger commercial—‘Where’s the beef?’”  Mondale was referring to the famous Wendy’s commercial that was a huge sensation at the time.  Mondale had in fact never seen the commercial, but he was well briefed on how to use it, and reporters dutifully starting writing stories on how thin Hart’s “ideas” really were.

So here’s a suggestion for one of Trump’s GOP rivals (probably Christie) in the first debate. Just wheel around and say, “Trump—we don’t even need to say ‘You’re fired,’ because your skills don’t even rise to ‘apprentice’ level.” Then sit back and watch Trump lose his cool. What cool?, you say? Yes indeed.

New York Times: The Ultimate in Hypocrisy

This is from yesterday’s Twitchy, but, assuming that most of our readers don’t haunt Twitter, it bears repeating here. Following the Charlie Hebdo murders, the New York Times covered the terrorist attack, but declined to print any of Charlie Hebdo’s mocking images of Muhammad. The paper self-righteously declared a policy against showing religious images that may be deemed offensive:

“Out of respect to our readers we have avoided those we felt were offensive,” New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told The Huffington Post on Monday night….

But that was then and this is now. Or, put another way, no one is afraid of being slaughtered by Catholics. So yesterday’s ArtsBeat section featured this portrait of Pope Benedict XVI made from 17,000 condoms:


The “artist” made no bones about the piece’s political intent–with which, of course, the Times agrees:

Niki Johnson of Milwaukee, the artist who created the work, said in an interview that she disagreed with Benedict’s conservative social positions, including a statement that condoms could contribute to the spread of AIDS in Africa. The portrait, she said, is “not hate-based,” but rather a way to critique Benedict’s views while raising awareness about public health.

“What I want to do is really destigmatize the condom, normalize it,” Ms. Johnson said.

Another profile in courage at the Times. So far, no beheadings have been reported in Milwaukee.

Marilyn Mosby Goes Vogue

We have been watching, with a skeptical eye, the doings of Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore States Attorney. Young, inexperienced and politically ambitious, Mosby may have sown the seeds of an unsuccessful–or worse, unjust–criminal prosecution by overcharging six police officers who were involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. On the other hand, Ms. Mosby is undeniably attractive, a quality that could take her far.

Mosby is the subject of an adoring profile in this month’s Vogue, a venue not usually associated with district attorneys. This photo is by Annie Leibowitz:


The relentlessly left-wing Vogue knows what it is doing, of course. Its endorsement of Mosby’s rise is political:

A stunned cheer rose from the crowd as 35-year-old Mosby made her statement. The six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, who had died in April from spinal injuries sustained in custody, would face 28 counts, ranging from false imprisonment to second-degree murder. In forceful language, Mosby described her department’s investigation and how the state’s medical examiner had ruled Gray’s death a homicide. She acknowledged the unrest in Baltimore, coming on the heels of police killings in other cities of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. “I have heard your calls for ‘No justice, no peace,’” she said. “However, your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray.”

But it is camouflaged by the magazine’s usual chatter about fashion:

Dressed in a simple pantsuit, sleeveless blouse, and not a trace of makeup, Mosby is warm and willing to accept hugs from fellow diners who thank her “for giving us justice.” Otherwise, she is every inch the prosecutor: straight-backed, concise, a portrait of self-control. …

The day after our dinner is a busy one. Mosby is meeting with her external-affairs team to plan the announcement of a program that puts first-time, nonviolent offenders in a work-training program. Dressed in a beige pin-striped skirt suit and Tory Burch heels, she scrutinizes every detail of the presentation, down to how many minutes she wants to spend shaking hands and who will be standing behind her when she speaks.

Nowhere is Vogue’s upbeat profile is there any reference to Baltimore’s soaring crime rate following Mosby’s attack on the police department. Mosby’s own comments on crime betray a deep lack of understanding:

“There have been decades of failed policies: zero tolerance and harassment and people being locked up for small crimes,” she says, “policies that drive a divide between communities and law enforcement. So many people feel like they are voiceless, that they’ve been dehumanized. What we saw in the riots is a result of that.”

Those “failed policies” are the proactive, broken windows policing policies that caused crime rates to plummet across the United States. It the lax policing apparently favored by Mosby that gave rise to the unlivable, crime-ridden cities of the 1970s. Those who are ignorant of the past are doomed to repeat it, as Baltimore is now seeing.

Marilyn Mosby has risen above such mundane concerns. She is now a political star, as we can see from the final credits in Vogue’s panegyric:

Sittings Editor: Kathryn Neale.
Hair: Tomo Jidai; Makeup: Rebecca Restrepo for Elizabeth Arden

Goodnight Vienna

The parties have returned to Vienna to wrap up the imminent nuclear deal with Iran. Why not Munich? It would be more fitting, but Vienna signifies in its own way.

John Lennon contributed the title song to Ringo Starr for Ringo’s 1974 album Goodnight Vienna. As a result, I have come to understand that the phrase Goodnight Vienna is English slang for “it’s all over.” So “Goodnight Vienna” it is.

Drawing on Jay Solomon’s page-one Wall Street Journal story “Secret dealings with Iran led to nuclear talks” (June 29, accessible here via Google) and the Klapper/Lee AP story “Once unheard of, US-Iran talks are the new normal” (June 27), Omni Ceren (on Twitter @cerenomri) reports from the scene by email:

Good morning from Vienna, where Zarif is back and talks have resumed. He either has the Supreme Leader’s permission to sign a deal or he doesn’t, and there’s not much left in between. The Americans have publicly collapsed on most of what was left vague at Lausanne – immediate cash windfalls, a robust inspection regime including military sites, full Iranian disclosure of its nuclear program – and are willing to shred the sanctions regime by redefining non-nuclear sanctions as nuclear so they can be lifted. The rest should be just details.

That said, morning meetings just began a couple hours ago, so news won’t begin to trickle out for a while.

In the meantime, [Jay Solomon's] scoop-filled WSJ story [linked above] is the second huge article from the last few days outlining how the Obama administration very, very quietly sought to secure rapprochement with Iran. A few days ago the AP assessed that cozy US-Iran talks have become the “new normal” despite White House assurances that it distrusts the Iranians. Now this WSJ story reveals that the administration began making concessions to Tehran – aimed at achieving exactly that result – from day 1. The President’s outreach included releasing Iranian arms dealers and blacklisting organizations that the Iranians considered hostile:

Iran secretly passed to the White House beginning in late 2009 the names of prisoners it wanted released from U.S. custody, part of a wish list to test President Barack Obama’s commitment to improving ties and a move that set off years of clandestine dispatches that helped open the door to nuclear negotiations. The secret messages… included a request to blacklist opposition groups hostile to Iran and increase U.S. visas for Iranian students, according to officials familiar with the matter. The U.S. eventually acceded to some of the requests… With a deal in sight, some worry the U.S. will give up too much without getting significant concessions in return. The Obama administration initially called for an end to Tehran’s nuclear fuel production, a dismantling of many of its facilities and a rollback of its missile program—goals that have been dropped…Over the past six years, U.S. allies in the Mideast say, Iran has expanded its influence in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Now, they say, Tehran is set to maintain much of its nuclear infrastructure, while scoring an economic windfall.

The story will be get added to the list of things the administration has been willing to sacrifice in pursuit of its nuclear deal with Iran. That list already included:

China expansionism: Last week the NYT reported that the Obama administration has been loath to pressure China on a range of issues because they need the Chinese on Iran.
Russia expansionism: Articles have been circulating since 2014 suggesting the same thing is going on with Russia, and that Obama has taken a soft line on Ukraine because he needs the Russians on Iran (even Roger Cohen (!) rushed last November to editorialize against what he called the Iran-Ukraine tradeoff).
Middle East alliances: Differences over the Iran deal have badly undermined Washington’s traditional alliances with Jerusalem and Riyadh.
Syria/U.S. WMD credibility: The President declined to enforce his Syria red line against the reintroduction of weapons of mass destruction to modern battlefields, shredding the U.S.’s nonproliferation credibility and leaving the French seething in the process. Administration spokespeople have been left trying to convince reporters that chlorine bombs don’t count.
IAEA credibility: The IAEA has been kneecapped as the P5+1 global powers moved to conclude a deal with Iran, a country that still owes the agency answers on a dozen unresolved questions.
UN sanctions credibility: The U.S. has looked the other way while the Iranians busted through binding U.N. sanctions and has ceased providing information to a U.N. panel charged with monitoring the integrity of the U.N.’s sanction regime.
Iranian human rights: Obama administration officials kept the Green Revolution at arm’s length so as not to inflame Tehran’s paranoia about regime change.
Congress/Democrats: The President and his allies have repeatedly clashed with Congress, including with Congressional Democrats, over Iran diplomacy. There have been two full-blown media campaigns, each lasting several weeks, in which sitting Democratic lawmakers were accused of being warmongers beholden to Jewish money. Versions of those accusations came from administration spokespeople talking to reporters from White House and State Department podiums.

All of this happened while administration officials assured Congress that they were committed to constraining Iran. As the WSJ article points out, they went so far as to flat out deny that prisoner swaps were taking place. And as the AP article pointed out, today they’re cozier with the Iranians on nuclear issues than they are with the U.S.’s traditional Middle East allies.

Lawmakers will have the obvious concern: given that administration officials have sacrificed so much to cobble together even a weak agreement, it seems unlikely that they would identify and respond to Iranian violations of a final deal. It’s all they have left.

Ben Wattenberg, RIP

Ben copySad news today of the passing of Ben Wattenberg at the age of 81. Wattenberg, who had been an aide to Lyndon Johnson, was one of the “liberals mugged by reality” who created “neoconservatism.” I first read Wattenberg’s late 1960s book (co-authored with Richard Scammon) The Real Majority when I was an undergraduate. The Real Majority wasn’t exactly the inspiration for Nixon’s “silent majority” of putatively conservative voters. Rather, Wattenberg recognized early on the disaster coming to Democrats for indulging the New Left and its various progeny in the 1960s—a point he deepened in the second book of his I read, In Search of the Real America which came out around 1976 if I recall correctly. (I recall in particular that he was hard on the senator from Minnesota, Walter Mondale, for embracing certain anti-American themes popular on the left). Wattenberg anticipated the waves of voters who were soon to become “Reagan Democrats.”

Wattenberg interviewed me a couple of times for his PBS show “Think Tank” (where I also first met his fresh-faced young producer named Jonah Goldberg), and in turn I interviewed Wattenberg for my first Age of Reagan books. Among other things, Wattenberg had been among a handful of Democrats who visited Jimmy Carter in January of 1980, hoping they might still be able to remain loyal Democrats despite Carter’s cluelessness, only to have Carter dash their hopes in the meeting. Wattenberg remembered it well, and contributed key details to my account of it:

“Carter’s more vigorous response to the invasion of Afghanistan had raised the hopes,” Jeane Kirkpatrick recalled, “that he had a new realism in his assessment of the Soviet Union.” Senator Moynihan wrote that Carter’s new toughness “at the very least means bringing into his administration people who share the views he now propounds. . . New policies must to some extent mean new people.” Jeane Kirkpatrick and much of the same group of like-minded conservative Democrats who had met with Carter in 1977 were invited back to the White House on January 31, 1980, at the behest of Vice President Mondale. (In addition to Kirkpatrick, the group included Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, Ben Wattenberg, Elliott Abrams, Max Kampelman, retired admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Austin Ranney, and Penn Kemble.) Perhaps, it was hoped, Carter would now include some of this group in his administration, having spurned them before. Austin Ranney, speaking for the group, told Carter that they were encouraged by the change in Carter’s view of the Soviet Union, and hoped he would now appoint officials who were in harmony with a tougher policy.

Carter cut off Ranney: “Your analysis is not true. There has been no change in my policy. I have always held a consistent view of the Soviet Union. For the record, I did not say that I have learned more about the Soviet Union since the invasion of Afghanistan, as is alleged in the press. My policy is my policy. It has not changed, and will not change.” AdmiralZumwalt told Carter that existing U.S. navy forces were incapable of defending the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean oil routes. Carter responded with what was described as “a stare that in a less democratic society would’ve meant he was destined for a firing squad.” Maybe, Carter went on to suggest when the topic moved on to human rights, this group could help with human rights in Uruguay. The meeting was the last straw for these “neoconservative” Democrats, despite Vice President Mondale’s efforts to repair the damage. Mondale knew the meeting had been a disaster, and asked the group to stay after Carter left. It was to no avail. Carter, Jeane Kirkpatrick told Morton Kondracke after the meeting, “threw cold water on whatever hopes we had that Iran and Afghanistan would have a broad effect on the president’s foreign policy orientation.”

When I interviewed Ben in 2000, he was excited about Joe Lieberman being the first Jew to be on a presidential ticket, and he thought he might even cast his vote for Gore-Lieberman for that reason alone.

It was a great delight to become Ben’s colleague at AEI a little later on, where I finally got to the bottom of a question I had pondered from afar—whether his eyeglasses were permanently attached to his forehead, which was his trademark look. (They weren’t.) We enjoyed reinforcing each other’s anti-Malthusianism—much of which, I hasten to add, I learned from him in the first place. He was a great demographer, and an optimist. Another of my favorite titles of his was The Good News Is The Bad News Is Wrong.

Karlyn Bowman recalls today:

In 1975 he wrote an article for The New Republic, calling worries about a population explosion nonsense. He argued that the problem facing many societies going forward would be a birth dearth. At the time, the New Republic received more letters than the magazine had ever received about a single article, and most of them were hostile. But Wattenberg’s analysis was correct, and declining fertility is one of the most important demographic stories of our time.

They don’t make ‘em like Ben any more. And I never thought to ask him whether he indeed cast his vote in 2000 for Gore-Lieberman.

Jury Rejects Conservative Law Professor’s Discrimination Claim

We have written several times–here, here and here–about the case of Teresa Wagner (now Teresa Manning), an “out” conservative law professor who sued the University of Iowa law school for discrimination based on her political beliefs. The facts of the case seemed powerful:

The underlying facts of the case are outrageous. They are what made the case important and newsworthy. Professor Wagner sought a full-time legal writing position at the University of Iowa College of Law after working there on a part-time basis. She was well known as a stalwart social conservative among the school’s faculty, which at the time numbered 49 Democrats and one Republican. The law school is overwhelmingly liberal. When she didn’t get the job and an inferior candidate did, she brought her lawsuit in federal court under section 1983, the statute that allows civil rights claims against state actors to be litigated in federal court.

An initial trial resulted in a hung jury. Ms. Wagner appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals; Scott attended the oral argument and reported on it in this post. The appeals court decided the case in Ms. Wagner’s favor, on procedural issues, and remanded it for a new trial. That trial concluded today. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the law school:

The former dean of the University of Iowa law school didn’t commit illegal political discrimination when she passed over a conservative lawyer for teaching jobs, a jury ruled Monday.

After a six-day trial, a federal jury in Davenport rejected Teresa Manning’s assertion that then-Dean Carolyn Jones rejected her for the faculty because of Manning’s political beliefs and associations.

The verdict is a victory for the university in a long-running case that has been closely watched in higher education and by social conservatives. It came after about 90 minutes of deliberations in the second trial in the case, after the first in 2012 ended in an unusual mistrial.

So the jury didn’t buy Wagner/Manning’s case at all. Ninety minutes isn’t much longer than it often takes to elect a foreperson. The jury rejected what seems like provocative evidence in Manning’s favor:

Jones went along with those recommendations even though an associate dean had warned her in an email that he worried professors were blocking Manning “because they so despise her politics (and especially her activism about it).”

But unless you actually attend a trial and see all the evidence, it is hard to draw conclusions.

There are, perhaps, a couple of silver linings. Prof. Manning has a book contract with Encounter Books, and the publicity that accompanied the case may have prompted the University of Iowa to hire a Republican or two:

At the time, the 50-member faculty included 46 registered Democrats. Since then, the faculty has become at least slightly more politically diverse.

We should be grateful, I suppose, for small blessings.

Puerto Rico Goes Broke

Most eyes have been on Greece, where events are coming to a climax. Meanwhile, a less-noticed financial collapse has overtaken Puerto Rico. That commonwealth has racked up debts of $72 billion, which seems astonishing for an island with a population of 3.6 million, not much more than Iowa. Puerto Rico’s governor now says that “the debt is not payable.” That seems to be true of a lot of sovereign debt these days. Consequently, he is trying to put together a “broad restructuring” in which bondholders would take a substantial loss.

Puerto Rico’s debt works out to around $20,000 for every man, woman and child on the island. The governor says he is trying to avoid a death spiral:

[H]e saw that the island was caught in a vicious circle where it borrowed to balance the budget, raised the debt and had an even bigger budget deficit the next year.

The New York Times reports that many Puerto Ricans, seeing the handwriting on the wall, have walked away from the problem by “leaving for the mainland in droves.” “The mainland” would be here.

If $20,000 in debt for every inhabitant of Puerto Rico sounds ridiculously irresponsible, don’t feel superior: currently, every citizen of the United States is more than $50,000 in debt. That’s over $200,000 for your family of four. The United States is not in a death spiral; I hope that is not only because our government, unlike Puerto Rico, can print dollars. While the future can be foreseen only with hindsight, it seems reasonable to fear that sovereign debt that can’t be paid will be the world’s next financial debacle.