Obama’s Real ISIL Strategy

I think President Obama sold himself short when he said, repeatedly, that he didn’t have a strategy to deal with ISIL. I think he has an objective, in support of which he has a clear strategy. His objective is to get past the midterm elections without paying a price for the chaos in the Middle East that his fecklessness has produced. His strategy is to “do something” in the form of a modest bombing campaign, combined with arming selected Syrian moderates (if there are any left).

Obama doesn’t expect this strategy to succeed, if by “succeed” you mean stopping the threat from ISIL. But he does think that its failure won’t be undeniable between now and November. Thus, his strategy will help stem the only threat he cares much about, the one posed by Republicans.

Michael Ramirez makes the point visually; click to enlarge:


Why the NFL should lighten up

In writing about the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice matter, my position has been that the commissioner should not be meting out discipline to players for personal misconduct. Non-football related misbehavior should be an issue for the player’s employer (his team) and, in appropriate cases, law enforcement.

It also seems to me that if the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hadn’t taken to issuing discipline for personal conduct, he would have avoided much of the criticism he now faces for initially not coming down hard enough on Rice. Goodell’s assumption of the power to judge carried with it the responsibility to judge wisely.

Judging wisely isn’t as easy as it sounds, and judging in a way that will seem wise across the range of modern interest groups is impossible.

I’m pleased that Sally Jenkins, an outstanding writer and an independent thinker in the knee-jerk-liberal world of sports-writing, views these matters the same way. She writes:

The scandals now engulfing the league can be traced to a single source: the superciliousness of a commissioner who thought the deepest societal ills — domestic abuse, sexual violence, drug use — could be handled with a morals clause.

I wish I had put it that way.

Jenkins continues:

It’s possible to be frustrated by Goodell’s handling of the slug-fisted Ray Rice, and the whip-handed Adrian Peterson, yet have an uneasy sense that the last thing the NFL needs is a more discipline-minded commissioner.

I would have said that the more frustrated we are by Goodell’s decisions, the less we should want a more discipline-minded commissioner.

Goodell has assumed the rule of uber-disciplinary on the theory that the NFL needs to protect its “brand” from miscreant players and opportunistic teams that employ them. I maintain that this argument misunderstands the NFL’s appeal. Jenkins seems to agree:

Andrew Brandt, who spent a decade in the front office of the Green Bay Packers, remembers an occasion when the team considered signing a player with a rap sheet as long as a street block. Brandt said, “I just don’t feel good about bringing this guy in.” To which another team official replied: “What do you think we’re asking these guys to do? We want this guy to get into 75 street fights every game, and win ’em. We’re not asking him to lead a boys choir.”

The conversation, Brandt says, “always struck me.” The underlying assumption was that a certain amount of uncurbed, foaming brutality was not just tolerable, but desirable and worth the exchange. You can’t expect a T-Rex to have table manners.

The NFL network uses “T-Rex’s” like Warren Sapp and Michael Irvin as on-air personalities.

There’s plenty more wisdom on Jenkins’ column, but I’ll wrap it up with this:

[The Rice incident and others like it] have utterly exposed Goodell’s paternal “higher standard” talk, his “protect the shield and the integrity of the game” nonsense as the archaic fantasy-peddling it is. America quit asking actors, musicians and politicians to live up to morals clauses a long time ago, for the simple reason that reality overtook naive hero-worshipping. The audience came to a more human, if disappointed, understanding. . . .

Goodell’s policy is a failure because it stigmatizes players while failing to address the fundamental, profound reality that there are some ills that get the best of people.

Blaming Blabbermouth

The lead story at Politico is Edward-Isaac Dovere’s “Democrats turn on Debbie Wasserman Schultz.” Better known among listeners to Rush Limbaugh as Debbie Blabbermouth Schultz, the lady is Obama’s handpicked chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Ann Althouse asks: “[W]hat is going on here?”

Good question. Ann has her own thoughts, always worth taking into account. The story reads like a catfight on the left. If only for that, I would find it a source of unalloyed pleasure at a worrisome time. But I think it signifies something important, something beyond the Democrats’ continuing war on low-information women voters.

According to Dovere, “[t]he White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders” — that’s a broad group of Democratic potentates — “have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most.” You can talk about polls and patterns and tea leaves all you want. This story gives us an insight into the concerns of Democrats with access to far better information than is available to the public. I read this story as an attempt by well-informed Democratic party powers to allocate blame for what they must perceive to be a looming electoral disaster. To me, this story represents the most persuasive good news I have read in this election season.

The Idiot’s Guide to Smart People: Malcom Gladwell Edition

If I have made any contribution to following Orwell’s advice to banish all clichés from our writing (because clichés usually represent sloppy thinking) it is my occasional use of “a perfect storm of tipping points!”  (Usually in reference to climate hysterics, since they are awash in “tipping points” and “perfect storms.”)  This two-minute video cutting Malcolm Gladwell, whose genius lies in inventing one-word clichés, down to size is so awesome I nearly had to replace my computer keyboard because I was drinking my morning coffee at the time:

(Hat tip to Charles Murray for flagging this for us.)

Ball’s bombshell: Tom Cotton digs Publius!

When Atlantic political reporter Molly Ball called me a couple of weeks ago to ask me about Rep. Tom Cotton, now opposing Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Pryor in the election for the Arkansas seat that is on the ballot this November, my guard was up. I think Tom is a man of great courage and conviction. I support his election. I wanted not to say anything that could be used against Tom, which is what I was quite sure Ball wanted. I may be slow, but I’m not stupid. I asked Ball to let me sleep on her question overnight and email her my response, which I posted in “A personal note on Tom Cotton.”

Ball’s article on Tom is now up at the Atlantic under the heading “The making of a conservative superstar.” It seems to me a work of almost self-parodic liberal hostility seeking to transform an admirable man into a fearful monster.

Ball leads off with her big bombshell: a look at Tom’s 92-page senior thesis on the Federalist Papers. Ball labors mightily to make something of “[t]he thesis, whose contents are revealed here for the first time[.]” She reports:

A cogent and tightly argued document, it reveals the depth and intellectual roots of his reverence for American traditions. It also reveals a contrarian devotion to some ideals that seem out of date today. Cotton insists that the Founders were wise not to put too much faith in democracy, because people are inherently selfish, narrow-minded, and impulsive. He defends the idea that the country must be led by a class of intellectually superior officeholders whose ambition sets them above other men. Though Cotton acknowledges that this might seem elitist, he derides the Federalists’ modern critics as mushy-headed and naive.

“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings,” Cotton wrote. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”

Cotton was only summarizing the views of Publius, the collective pseudonym used by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in the Papers. His reading is neither outré nor revisionist. Yet it seems significant that, out of all the ideas outlined in the Papers, these were the concepts Cotton chose to focus on and to defend forcefully against what he saw as more modish, inclusive ideas.

Ball’s bombshell: Tom concurs with Publius’s defense of the Constitution as set forth in the Federalist Papers. What next? He also loves his mother? Ball and her article roll downhill from here.

Tom has so far withstood a barrage of lies thrown at him by Harry Reid et al. in advertisements whose falsity would shame average Americans, so I trust he will withstand Ball’s unremitting hostility. As for the barrage of lies directed at Tom, they are of no interest to Ball. There are limits to the depth of her curiosity. Fred Barnes took a look at them in the Weekly Standard article “Democrats take the low road.”

You can support Tom and annoy Ball by contributing to Tom’s campaign here.

Rumors of terrorism

Have individuals with known terrorist ties been apprehended trying to cross illegally into the United States through Texas? It seems like a straightforward question to address to the Secretary of Homeland Security. Asked the question by Rep. Jason Chaffetz at a House Homeland Security hearing yesterday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson took the phlegmatic approach and vaguely denied awareness of such a case.

Asked directly if he was aware of four such individuals who were apprehended trying to cross into Texas on 9/10 last week, Johnson gave the question the full Obama kissoff, scratching his nose with his middle finger while conceding he has “heard reports to that effect.” However, according to Johnson, he doesn’t know the accuracy of the reports or how much credence to give them. Observing his demeanor and affect, one might conclude that the whole business is somebody else’s job. Why bother him?

But, alas, the man is Secretary of Homeland Security. We want to know, whom did you hear the reports from, Secretary Johnson, and what would it take to have you get on top of them? Why do you give the appearance of evasion and deceit? What is going on here?

Megyn Kelly explored the questions with Chaffetz yesterday on her FOX News Kelly File show (video below).

According to Chaffetz, 466,000 people have been captured crossing the border over the past 351 days, and Homeland Security says (according to the FOX News Insider report linked below) 157,000 got away. Those apprehended, however, represent a beautifully diverse rainbow of illegals from 143 different countries including Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Via Fox News Insider.

UPDATE: At NRO, Peter Kirsanow comments on the meaning of Johnson’s testimony here.

Hamas’ famous victory

Hamas claims that it won a famous victory over Israel in the recent war in Gaza. But what are the fruits of that “victory”?

According to the U.N., as reported in the Washington Post, they are: (1) approximately 108,000 residents of Gaza left homeless, (2) more than 60,000 displaced residents living at schools run by the U.N., and (3) almost half a million residents without access to municipal water.

Even before the war, there was a significant housing shortage in Gaza. With the destruction of an estimated of 18,000 housing units, that shortage has become all the more acute. Rents, accordingly, have doubled, according to the Post.

This, then, is a typical Palestinian victory. As Edward Luttwak shows, “great Palestinian victories” have always been “worse than defeats.”

Will the misery Gaza residents must now endure thanks to Hamas’ victory finally topple this terrorist outfit or, alternatively, cause it to choose a more peaceful path? The answer to the first question is, probably not. Hamas can count on foreign support to make sure it has the force needed to maintain power.

As to the second question, I’ll defer to Luttwak who concludes:

[J]ust as Arafat kept sacrificing the living Palestinians for the sake of his own idea of Palestine as he jetted around the world, Hamas leaders will ruthlessly sacrifice the people of Gaza for Islam, not without rewards for themselves (Gulf money is pouring in) to assuage the pain.

Thus, Gazans can look forward to more victories, and the steady dose of death, destruction, and misery that accompanies them.