Hillary’s Real Benghazi Problem

Yesterday the State Department released a handful of Hillary Clinton’s emails relating to Benghazi. They have been selected at least twice for release to the public, once by Hillary’s minions and once by the Department, so no one expected any bombshells. Nevertheless, I find them surprisingly interesting. This post addresses what I think is the most important point. I will cover a few smaller matters in a future post. This batch of emails, in their entirety, are at the bottom of this post, so you can read them for yourself.

In my opinion, Hillary’s biggest problem isn’t Benghazi per se, it is the broader issue of Libya. Why were Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans murdered? Because by September 2012, Libya was a terrorist playground. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Libya has become a failed state, a 21st century source of boat people, as refugees from ubiquitous violence stream across the Mediterranean. Libya is now a haven for ISIS and other terrorist groups; it was on the Libyan coast that ISIS beheaded 30 Christians. Some of the “refugees” now making their way into Europe are, in fact, ISIS agents. In short, Libya is a disaster.

Whose disaster? Hillary Clinton’s. It was Hillary who, more than anyone else, pushed to overthrow Moammar Qaddafi. Why? No compelling reason. Qaddafi had been tame ever since the Iraq war, which he interpreted as a threat to his rule. Almost incredibly, Clinton and her cohorts in NATO overthrew Qaddafi (who was subsequently murdered by a mob) without having a plan for what would come next.

Who says Hillary Clinton is responsible for the Libya fiasco? She does. In fact, at one point she was poised to claim Libya as the notable accomplishment of her term as Secretary of State. In August 2011, Jake Sullivan, Hillary’s deputy chief of staff, wrote an email in which he summarized “Secretary Clinton’s leadership on Libya.” He sent to it henchwoman Cheryl Mills and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who passed it on to Hillary. Sullivan’s email begins:

this is basically off the top of my head, with a few consultations of my notes. but it shows S’ [Secretary Clinton's] leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s libya policy from start to finish. let me know what you think.

The email continues, with bold print in the original:

Secretary Clinton’s leadership on Libya

HRC has been a critical voice on Libya in administration deliberations, at NATO, and in contact group meetings–as well as the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya. She was instrumental in securing the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime.

Sullivan goes on to itemize, day by day, how Clinton drove the Libya policy not just in the U.S., but in NATO as well. This is a screen shot of the first page of the email; it goes on and on thereafter, showing how Hillary “owned” and was “the public face of,” our Libya policy, “from start to finish.” Click to enlarge:

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Hillary’s problem is not primarily the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, outrageous as those murders were. Rather, her real problem is that she bears primary responsibility for a policy that was not just a failure, but a disaster. Further, it was a policy that, as you can see from Sullivan’s email, she intended to be a crown jewel of her years as Secretary of State and, no doubt, a chief credential in her run for the presidency. Instead, it blew up in her face–worse, in ours–like an exploding cigar.

The Benghazi murders are of course important. But it is critical to recognize that they resulted not just from a lack of adequate security or other misjudgments that may have been made at the time. Rather, the fact that terrorists were largely in control of Benghazi by September 2012 was the direct result of Hillary’s bad judgment in leading the overthrow of Qaddafi while having no plan for what would come after, and no ability to influence events on the ground. It is that poor judgment that disqualifies her as a candidate for the presidency.

266273670 Hillary Clinton s Libya Emails

Chris Pratt’s Pre-Emptive Apology

I haven’t really followed the acting career of Chris Pratt very closely, though I did enjoy him as the lead in the surprisingly effective Guardians of the Galaxy last year. He’s in the upcoming Jurassic World, and he’s posted on Facebook a “pre-emptive” apology that suggests he might be a Common Sense Fellow Traveler. This is a work of considerable literary skill:

I want to make a heartfelt apology for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying during the forthcoming ‪#‎JurassicWorld‬ press tour. I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I’m the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said in (the upcoming foreign and domestic) interview(s).

I am not in the business of making excuses. I am just dumb. Plain and simple. I try. I REALLY try! When I do (potentially) commit the offensive act for which I am now (pre) apologizing you must understand I (will likely have been) tired and exhausted when I (potentially) said that thing I (will have had) said that (will have had) crossed the line. Those rooms can get stuffy and the hardworking crews putting these junkets together need some entertainment! (Likely) that is who I was trying to crack up when I (will have had) made that tasteless and unprofessional comment. Trust me. I know you can’t say that anymore. In fact in my opinion it was never right to say the thing I definitely don’t want to but probably will have said. To those I (will have) offended please understand how truly sorry I already am. I am fully aware that the subject matter of my imminent forthcoming mistake, a blunder (possibly to be) dubbed “JurassicGate” is (most likely) in no way a laughing matter. To those I (will likely have had) offended rest assured I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen (again).

I’ve never been a fan of any of the Jurassic Park movies, but I might just have to take this one in.

Obama’s big shtick

President Theodore Roosevelt’s preferred diplomatic approach was to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” President Obama, by contrast, speaks falsely and carries a big shtick. Yesterday he carried his shtick to the Adas Israel congregation in Washington, DC. Obama held himself out as a friend of Israel. He likened his attitude to Israel to his attitude to the United States. He has “high expectations” of both. I take no comfort from that, but it goes over well before a liberal Jewish crowd.

Obama also repeated his false talking points in defense of his pending arrangement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. He assured the crowd that he would not accept a bad deal, that Iran would be unable to cheat and that “every single path” to a nuclear weapon would be blocked. One wonders why “every single” country most directly affected by the deal opposes it. Obama didn’t address that question. Speaking from the pulpit and paying tribute to the Ten Commandments, Obama nevertheless reiterated the usual falsehoods.

Israel is not to worry — the congregants of Adas Israel are not to worry — because the deal will have Obama’s name on it. He is personally vested in its success. If the mullahs proceed to develop nuclear weapons and use them against Israel or the United States, why, it would tarnish his reputation. The Israeli stake in the outcome is life and death rather than reputational, but what the heck. Obama guarantees it.

“The people of Israel must know that America has its back,” Obama said yet again. That’s a metaphor that has lost its power to persuade. The Israelis know he has Israel’s back in order to stab them in it. They have seen him do it before and they see him doing it again. The shtick nevertheless goes on.

I have lifted the video below from C-SPAN. The White House transcript of the speech is here. Juliet Eilperin’s Washington Post story on the speech is here.

The Week in Pictures: Tactical Setback Edition

ISIS rolls over Ramadi and Palmyra, and Obama calls it a “tactical setback.” Hillary’s missing emails are a “tactical setback.” Riots in Baltimore and Ferguson? A “tactical sectback.” If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare subsidies next month in King v. Burwell? A “tactical setback,” I’m sure. Iran getting a nuclear weapon? Well it won’t happen on Obama’s watch, so it will be a “tactical setback” for someone else.

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Look closely at the roof. It’s started.

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And finally. . .

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Is ISIS crazy?

ISIS’s capture of Palmyra has aroused fears that the terrorists will smash the archaeological treasures of this ancient Semitic city. The fears are justified, given ISIS’s conduct in places like Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Mosul.

But according to Nicolas Pelham, writing in the New York Review of Books, even as ISIS forces made a great show of destroying some antiquities on display in the museum in Mosul, the leadership was planning to sell others:

The video that ISIS circulated of its demolition job on Mosul’s antiquities museum in February 2015 was designed to market what it did not destroy. Of the thirty original pieces in the museum’s Hatra hall, according to al-Jumaili [an antiquities professor at Mosul University], the ISIS jihadis had hacked at ten.

They had not filmed the prehistoric, Islamic, and priceless Assyrian halls, because those artifacts were for sale. Their rampage through the Hatra hall, al-Jumaili surmised, was designed to boost demand and hike prices on the black market.

An Iraqi government adviser estimated that the caliphate might have already earned hundreds of millions of dollars from its sales of Assyrian remains. ISIS, the adviser told me, is the world’s best-financed terrorist organization, worth an estimated $8 billion. But with America bombing its oil installations, it was anxious to diversify revenues. (These figures for ISIS finances can’t be confirmed but are widely believed by the informed Iraqis I talked to.)

I’m skeptical of the claim that ISIS has made hundreds of millions of dollars from selling antiquities, and it’s unclear that it will come out ahead by smashing one-third of its Mosul museum inventory. However, I don’t doubt that ISIS is making good money from trafficking in captured antiquities.

Which brings us back to questions we discussed during our most recent Power Line podcast: Is ISIS crazed and, if so, how long can it flourish?

Smashing antiquities seems like a crazed act, but not, perhaps, if it’s a method of driving up prices. Mass beheadings seem crazed, but not, perhaps, if they are a method of terrorizing populations into submission and scaring out wealthy citizens whose property will then be confiscated.

In an article in the Atlantic, Graeme Wood argued that ISIS is no mere collection of psychopaths, but rather a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. According to Wood, ISIS expects the apocalypse to follow its defeat of the army of “Rome” at Dabiq, Syria.

If Wood is right, ISIS is, in the final analysis, crazy. But in many subsidiary ways, it is crazy like a fox. As such, it may be able to flourish for quite some time.

Democrats Say: We Fear Marco!

The New York Times headlines: “Prospect of Hillary Clinton-Marco Rubio Matchup Unnerves Democrats.” As well it should:

They use words like “historic” and “charismatic,” phrases like “great potential” and “million-dollar smile.” They notice audience members moved to tears by an American-dream-come-true success story. When they look at the cold, hard political math, they get uneasy.

An incipient sense of anxiety is tugging at some Democrats — a feeling tersely captured in four words from a blog post written recently by a seasoned party strategist in Florida: “Marco Rubio scares me.”

The one who should really scare them is Hillary Clinton, as her ineptitude as a candidate becomes more palpable with every passing day. But the strategists quoted by the Times have a point: at this stage, the Republican who poses the starkest and most favorable contrast with Hillary is Rubio:

Democrats express concerns not only about whether Mr. Rubio, 43, a son of Cuban immigrants, will win over Hispanic voters, a growing and increasingly important slice of the electorate. They also worry that he would offer a sharp generational contrast to Mrs. Clinton, a fixture in American politics for nearly a quarter-century who will turn 69 less than two weeks before the election.

Do you think? Are Democrats really figuring this out just now?

Characteristically, even as they acknowledge his potential strength as a candidate, the Democrats can’t resist ripping him. Note the silly stereotypes they engage in while doing so:

“I think they do underestimate him,” [John] Morgan added. “He’s energetic, he’s photogenic, and he will say whatever you want him to say.”

What is that supposed to mean? Marco has always been his own man. He got his start taking on the establishment, in the form of incumbent Republican Governor Charlie Crist. And he has been remarkably consistent on the issues.

This one is equally oblivious:

Mr. Gelber praised Mr. Rubio’s ability to use his family’s story to convey compassion for people marginalized by society, but he said he believed, as many Democrats do, that this was disingenuous.

“It’s a little maddening when his policies are so inconsistent with that,” Mr. Gelber said. “My head would explode.”

The Democrats have been in power for six years, while wages have fallen, unemployment and underemployment have persisted, poverty has increased, food stamp usage has reached unprecedented heights, and economic inequality has widened. Yet they are so thick-skulled that they think it is tautological that their policies favor the poor and the downtrodden. They apparently are unable to comprehend that conservatives like Rubio (and us) actually believe that conservative policies work best, especially for those who are trying to climb the ladder of opportunity.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why Democrats tend to underestimate not just a politician like Marco Rubio, but Republicans in general.

Today’s Energy Unicorn: The Scent of Musk

What is it about Elon Musk? People must think his name is “Steve Jobs” in some obscure Slavic language. Sure, I think the Tesla is cool, and think they might lead to something useful some day, but right now they’re a boutique toy for affluent people. (A friend who drives a Tesla in a Midwestern state has a custom bumper sticker: “How do you like my coal-powered car?”) And I like Musk’s enthusiasm for private space travel, since NASA has gone the way of all government monopoly bureaucracies. Not much hope for the “final frontier” when the agency head says, as NASA’s new chief did in 2010, that NASA’s “foremost” mission was “reaching out to the Muslim world.” I don’t even think that wimp Jean-Luc Picard would go for that.

Anyway, Musk’s latest invention that has everyone thinking he’s saved the world is a battery for your house, called the Powerwall. It is being represented as a breakthrough in “distributed energy,” as it suggests you could charge up your battery on solar panels or windmills during the day, and use it to run your house overnight, or provide backup power in the event of a regular grid power outage. Cost for a 7 kilowatt battery: a bit north of $7,000. Based on the expected lifecycle of the Powerwall, it is still more expensive to use than getting electricity from the grid, except possibly in places like Hawaii with extremely high electric utility rates. Maybe it will get better and cheaper—though there is no “Moore’s Law” for batteries, or any other energy technology for that matter, despite Al Gore’s fondest whimseys. But for now, as Bloomberg reports:

“It’s a luxury good—really cool to have—but I don’t see an economic argument,” said Brian Warshay, an energy-smart-technologies analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In addition, even the 10-kilowatt version of the Powerwall will only power the average house for about five hours, and is not powerful enough to run your central air conditioning. Seeking Alpha reports:

To put the inadequacy of this product into perspective, here’s a great summary of the power requirements of many household items. It’s pretty clear that without “going crazy”, your house can easily draw 3kw of electricity; and yet, Tesla’s 10kWh back-up battery has continuous output of only 2kw, and thus is inadequate to run even a medium-sized house, and would be completely dead in five hours anyway, with no capacity to run central air conditioning or charge an electric car. (For a medium-sized house, a central air conditioner alone draws nearly 5kw.) Sure, to make that battery last longer than five hours, everyone could huddle into one broiling hot room and shut off everything but the refrigerator and a few light bulbs, but why would you do that when a comparably priced 16kw natural gas-fired generator can run your entire house (including the air-conditioning) for as many hours as needed, at a cost of less than $2/hour (assuming 195 cubic feet/hour consumption at full draw and a New York State gas price of less than $10 per 1000 cubic feet of gas)? (Okay, I concede that in a major earthquake, your gas service could suffer an outage, but for that situation, you can run a gas-fired generator off a propane tank.)

But the most devastating critique of the Musk hype comes from Will Boisvert of the Breakthrough Institute, the center-left think tank that takes energy seriously. In “The Grid Will Not Be Disrupted,” Boisvert writes:

But does all the messianic talk of battery-powered “disruption” and solar triumphalism stack up? Hardly. For all their ballyhooed price reductions, Tesla batteries are still way too feeble and expensive to come even within hyping distance of neither a reliable power supply, nor an off-grid revolution.

On cost, the average residential retail electricity prices in the US are $0.12 per-kWh, while electricity from Tesla’s Powerwall on paired rooftop solar would cost 30 c/kWh or more. Given that 80 percent of pre-orders for Tesla’s batteries are for the utility-scale Powerpack, not the residential Powerwall, battery storage will likely benefit big baseload power plants (the grid) more than solar homeowners. And no matter the staggering cost, battery storage cannot solve the problems of integrating unreliable wind and solar power into the electricity system. In fact, Tesla’s batteries spotlight just how deep and intractable those problems remain.

Do read the whole thing if you have time, as it’s a real tour de force. Be sure to take in this handy chart:

Tesla Powerwall copyAnd yes, we’re going to start giving out the Power Line Energy Unicorn Award, which is nearly as prestigious and easy to get as a Green Weenie. Here’s what it looks like:

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