Incapable in Kansas

The race for the Kansas Senate seat held by Republican incumbent Pat Roberts has been essentially a three-way affair among Roberts, Democrat Chad Taylor and Independent (Democrat) Greg Orman. When Taylor purported to withdraw as the Democratic nominee earlier this month, he did so in a terse letter to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach:

I, Chadwick J. Taylor, Democratic nominee for the United States Senate race, do hereby withdraw my nomination for election effective immediately and request my name be withdrawn from the ballot, pursuant to K.S.A. 25-306b(b).

The cited statute provides:

Any person who has been nominated by any means for any national, state, county or township office who declares that they [sic] are incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected may cause such person’s name to be withdrawn from nomination by a request in writing, signed by the person and acknowledged before an officer qualified to take acknowledgments of deeds.

Taylor having made no acknowledgment of incapability to serve, Kobach ruled that Taylor would stay on the ballot as the Democratic nominee this November. This point of the whole Democratic charade being to get Taylor off the ballot and get Democrats behind Orman, Taylor followed up with an appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court. Having made his withdrawal “pursuant to” the statute, Taylor argued that he incorporated the statutory requirement of incapability by reference. This week the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously agreed:

We conclude the plain meaning of “pursuant to K.S.A. 25-306b(b)” contained in Taylor’s letter effectively declares he is incapable of fulfilling the duties of office if elected. Simply put, the phrase operates as an incorporation by reference of this particular requirement.

The Kansas Supreme Court opinion is posted online here. It therefore ordered Kobach to remove Taylor’s name from the ballot this November. My reaction is of the you’ve got to be kidding me variety. Why didn’t Taylor say directly that he was incapable of serving? I think the answer is obvious: because he is capable of serving.

Chad Taylor in the Kansas  Supreme Court: He is "capable" of following orders.

Chad Taylor in the Kansas
Supreme Court: He is “capable” of following orders.

The photo at the left depicts Taylor as he stares meaningfully into space, listening to the argument of his case in the Kansas Supreme Court. He looks capable. Indeed, he continues to serve as the Shawnee County District Attorney.

The Wichita Eagle covers the story here. Byron York follows up in the Washington Examiner here. Byron asks a series of questions reflecting the view that Taylor’s argument is not to be taken at face value.

Taylor’s withdrawal was obviously orchestrated by Democrats to maximize their chances of knocking off Roberts. Taylor is equally obviously capable of serving. He is lying for the greater good. The whole thing is a charade.

Taylor having succeeded in making the case that he has declared himself incapable of serving “pursuant to” the Kansas withdrawal statute, will anybody who covers Kansas politics bother to ask Taylor why he is incapable of serving and when he became incapable? It would take Kansas voters somewhat nearer to the heart of the story than they are now.

UPDATE: I meant to note that Legal Insurrection’s William Jacobson takes a look at the current state of the race here.

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 he likes. 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 a president other than Jimmy Carter paying attention to Iran in 1977 and 1978. Nah—that would give him a headache.