Steyer and the Democracy Alliance Go to Bat For Iran

We have written often about Tom Steyer, the coal magnate turned “green” energy crony who has become the largest funder of the Democratic Party, and the Democracy Alliance, an umbrella group of left-wing donors that supports a variety of liberal organizations. Steyer and the Alliance are usually associated with domestic issues, but one foreign policy organization that both support is the Truman National Security Project.

Truman’s name is intended to recall a Democrat who was strong on national defense, but in fact, the organization is a slick, apparently well-financed shill for the Obama administration. “The Truman Institute long ago stopped being a real policy shop and instead became a PR machine for the Obama administration’s foreign policy,” says a “senior foreign policy hand” quoted by the Washington Free Beacon. True to its Steyer sponsorship, Truman is known for promoting the idea that global warming is a serious national security issue. A nuclear-armed Iran? Not so much.

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The Free Beacon has obtained an email from Graham West, Truman’s writing and communications associate, to the organization’s listserv of associates and supporters. It announces a Truman campaign to support the Obama administration’s presumably forthcoming deal with Iran:

Our community absolutely must step up and not cede the public narrative to neocon hawks that would send our country to war just to screw the president.

Elegantly put.

Once again, Truman is gearing up for an all-hands-on-deck effort to support the administration’s goal of securing a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. The core message is the same: a deal is the only way to prevent an Iranian bomb and keep the U.S. out of another war.

This is reminiscent of Cold War doves: the only alternatives are war and surrender, and the other side is led by Dr. Strangelove.

But this time, with newly-emboldened congressional Republicans out to wreck the negotiations, we have a very real and public fight ahead.

It’s a good thing Truman is non-partisan, or God only knows what they might say about Republicans.

I am putting together another crack team of writers to target both local papers and national outlets. In particular, I am looking for folks who are interested in writing for papers in Illinois, New Hampshire, Georgia, Arizona, and New York.

Note that no deal with Iran has been announced. (Indeed, as Paul wrote here, it is likely that there will be no deal, at least not imminently.) But to Truman, the content of any possible agreement is irrelevant. Whatever the deal turns out to be, they are in favor of it. How do they know that an unknown agreement will “prevent an Iranian bomb”? They don’t, of course. But like Obama, they don’t care. Preventing Iran from going nuclear is not the objective.

Truman was formed to lead exactly this type of fight, so let’s get to work. Shoot me an individual reply if you’re in!

This is highly revealing: Truman was formed for “exactly” this purpose, that is, to generate an astroturf campaign in blind obedience to Obama administration foreign policies, whatever they may turn out to be. Global warming, no way; Iranian bomb, no problem. Truman parrots the Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities, however perverse they may be.

Gruber, who? Gruber, the guru

Steve Rattner was known as the Obama administration’s “car czar.” He served as the president’s chief adviser on the auto industry and he headed up the Cash for Clunkers program.

Rattner should know an Obama administration policy architect when he sees one.

Rattner saw one in Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare architect who has been caught on tape disclosing the dishonesty behind the venture, and who must therefore be relegated to the status of “some adviser who never worked on our staff” (President Obama’s words).

Rattner isn’t buying this latest Obamacare deception. He had this to say on Morning Joe today:

Jonathan Gruber was, back in the day in 2009, the guru on health care. I remember that when I was in the White House, he was certainly viewed as an important figure in helping to put Obamacare together.

I think if you go back and look at the Washington Post or the New York Times or anything from that period you will find Jonathan Gruber’s name all over it as both someone who’s the leading expert on health care quoted by everybody, and as someone who the White House was using — I don’t think we knew the dollar numbers he was paid at the time.

For the record, the dollar number appears to be around $400,000 in federal funds.

Why is the White House attempting to crop Gruber out of the Obamacare photo despite overwhelming evidence that he was an important presence? Why doesn’t the White House simply say it disagrees with Gruber’s characterizations?

Because the Obama White House is manned by liars, most notably Obama himself.

Palestinians Celebrate Jerusalem Murders

This morning, two Palestinians attacked a synagogue in Jerusalem and murdered four rabbis during their morning prayers, wounding a number of others. The rabbis reportedly included three Americans and a Briton. The murderers were armed with a gun, knives and axes or meat cleavers. Most of us wouldn’t regard this as something to celebrate:

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But then, most of us haven’t been raised from birth to hate. Muslims in both Gaza and the West Bank–not all, certainly, but a great many–found the murders a cause for celebration. That was the official position of Hamas:

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas spokesman, wrote in a Facebook post: “The new operation is heroic and a natural reaction to Zionist criminality against our people and our holy places. We have the full right to revenge for the blood of our martyrs in all possible means.”

Many Palestinians joined in:

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These Muslims pose with a gun and axes to praise the murders of Jews:

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In Gaza and the West Bank, it is traditional to celebrate successful acts of mass murder by passing out sweets:

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There is much more along the same lines here, if you can stand it.

We have seen the same pattern many times before. It is not hard to understand why Israelis lack confidence that they can live in peace with a Palestinian state.

Will Hillary Clinton get the moonbeam treatment?

Will Hillary Clinton face a serious challenge from the left if (as seems almost certain) she seeks the Democratic nomination for president? I assume she will face a challenge. The hard left represents a major component of her party, and is unlikely to be without a champion during the primary season.

But a serious challenge requires a serious challenger. Who fits that description? Not Socialist Bernie Sanders. Not former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley. Outside of Maryland he’s “Martin Who?” In-state, he’s the guy whose performance met with insufficient approval to keep Republicans — normally a non-factor — from defeating his would-be Democratic successor.

Elizabeth Warren isn’t entirely unserious. But in her one bid for political office she wasn’t a very effective campaigner/debater. In a good year for Democrats and in a very Blue state, she struggled to pull away from Scott Brown.

Moreover, it’s not clear that Warren has the guts to take on Hillary Clinton. Early polls inevitably will show Clinton far ahead of the field, as they did in 2007. In this context, it will require something approaching the brashness of a Barack Obama for a politician with something to lose to enter the Democratic fray.

That’s why John Fund’s suggestion that Jerry Brown will run for president rings so plausible. Brown has never lacked for brashness; indeed, he is a walking embodiment of the trait.

His campaign against Bill Clinton during the 1992 cycle could not have seemed more quixotic when Brown launched it. But Brown proceeded to defeat Clinton in Maine, Colorado, Nevada, Alaska, Vermont, and Connecticut.

More than that, “Governor Moonbeam,” as Brown was then called, nearly drove Clinton crazy. Their clash reminded me of an all-night college BS session in which the smartest guy in the room, try as he might, fails to outdebate the agile flake.

24 years later, Brown would bring more to the table than brashness and mental agility. As Fund says:

If he challenges Hillary Clinton, Brown can claim solid credentials as a liberal leader. He has raised taxes on the rich, been an avid backer of climate-change regulation, and was one of the few Democrats in the country to win white males this past election. “He convinced California voters to support a water bond, a rainy day fund, a reduction in prison sentences, and more,” notes Joel Pollak of Breitbart News. “He is Elizabeth Warren with real executive experience and without the fake heritage.”

Moreover, he just won re-election by 20 points.

Brown, though, will reach the age of 78 in 2016. Though there probably wouldn’t be a “vigor gap” between Brown and Hillary (at least not one that disfavors Brown), his age still would likely be a drawback in the minds of Democratic voters. And although Brown should be able to raise plenty of money and attract quality staff, he still would be significantly outgunned by the Clinton machine.

But even if he didn’t prevail, Brown could still give Clinton something she surely dreads — serious competition. In addition to draining energy and resources, such competition would produce party discord, drive Clinton to the left, and generate more than a few Hillary gaffes. And, at a minimum, a Brown-Clinton matchup would be wildly entertaining.

#Grubergate for dummies

What is Grubergate all about? It’s about more than Gruber’s obnoxious account of the passage of Obamacare, an account that exposes the illegitimacy of the law’s enactment. It is about more than the corruption through which he has profited handsomely in selling the law. It is about more than the sewage intended for the consumption of the American public that he pumped out for distribution by the White House, by Democratic leaders and officeholders, and by their adjunct in the mainstream media.

Grubergate is about all of these things and more. I haven’t seen anything that captures the phenomenon better than this six-minute video produced by the team at Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier (below). The video names names and cites sources. It is a superb piece of work and a genuine contribution to understanding.

RealClearPolitics has also posted the video along with a transcript here. Investor’s Business Daily lays it out in an editorial today here.

CRB: I feel your pain

If I were to name three books of the year for conservatives, one of them would surely be The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion, by William Voegeli. I contributed a blurb with my assessment of the book that I posted in “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Compassion?” I posted Bill’s account of the book in “A word from the author.”

Bill’s previous book was Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State. That book explains why the cavernous maw of welfare state liberalism can never be filled. It is, in short, one of the keys to the Age of Obama. Pity Party now subjects the “idea” of kindness and compassion that represents the left’s self-understanding to serious if merciless analysis.

Bill is a senior editor of the Claremont Review of Books; in the new issue of the CRB, National Review editor Rich Lowry answers the call to assess The Pity Party. Rich’s appreciative review is “I feel your pain.”

Voegeli’s critique of liberal compassion, Rich argues, gets at liberalism root-and-branch: “Since compassion is so central to contemporary liberalism, The Pity Party is less a critique of an aspect of liberalism than of liberalism itself.” Voegeli begins by tracing the genesis of a government that “feels our pain.” The guiding principle of compassion rushed to fill the void left by modernity’s destruction of shared standards of virtue and vice, flourishing and debasement.

Compassion is the liberal’s answer to the question of the best life and the best society. Compassion is the last pillar on which liberals can build a political community, because it doesn’t require any shared notions or beliefs: “They rely on what they take to be our natural empathy to forge a togetherness. This dispensation doesn’t depend on any grand theory, and liberals reject both premodern and totalitarian versions of philosophical unity. They notionally reject certainty itself,” though do so with an alarmingly high degree of certitude.

In the name of compassion Liberals reject a vengeful God who might not take too kindly to disbelief, but still they long for the brotherhood a shared father brings: “Liberals, according to Voegeli, ‘want the modern bargain of agreeing to disagree, but also keep trying to graft a moral and teleological unity onto it.’ They envy the universality of the great religious faiths, and seek their own vague, secular version. ‘The marriage of liberal universalism and liberal skepticism,’ he writes, ‘proclaims the brotherhood of man while rejecting the fatherhood of God.’”

To explicate the inconsistencies and contradictions that permeate the “philosophy” of compassion, Voegeli invokes the concept of “bullshit.” Rich explains:

[T]he core of liberal bullshit is the fact that the same people who care so much about social programs—don’t seem to care whether they work or not. Social programs never end, and only extremely rarely are they significantly reformed. Even if programs like Head Start are proven to be ineffectual, they are still defended as totems of compassion. The answer is always more spending, and more programs, regardless of how much government has already grown. This gets to the central dynamic of liberal compassion. To wit, “the liberals who create, perpetuate, defend, and expand social welfare programs are devoted to them less because they care about helping than because they care about caring,” as Voegeli puts it. It is this flaw, he writes, that “connects the theory of liberalism to the malpractice of liberalism,” to its toleration of waste and failure.”

Caring about caring is both “corrosive of our constitutional system,” and “inherent to democracy,” writes Lowry. Inherent—but deeply harmful: “The pity party’s impatience for action and willingness to trample procedural constraints to get it are corrosive of our constitutional system. Its programs erode the mores upon which self-government depends. Compassion, in short, can’t be the basis of a worthy democratic politics.”

Voegeli concludes: “Much more than their empathy we require [of those who govern us] their respect—for us; our rights; our capacity and responsibility to feel and heal our own damn pains without their ministrations; and for America’s constitutional checks and limitations, which err on the side of caution and republicanism by denying even the most compassionate elected official a monarch’s plenary powers.”

Whole thing here, saluting a “brilliant intellectual dissection that bristles with insight and arresting formulations.”

Midnight Sun

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Johnny Mercer. With the publication of The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer during the centennial of his birth in 2009, Mercer’s place in the pantheon of artists responsible for the great American songbook was newly secured.

Mercer was an utterly brilliant lyricist. Among the more than 1,000 songs for which Mercer is known to have written the lyrics are “That Old Black Magic,” “How Little We Know,” “Hit the Road to Dreamland,” “One For My Baby (And One More For the Road),” “Accentuate the Positive,” “P.S. I Love You” (not the Beatles song), “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Blues In the Night,” “Day In–Day Out,” “Moon River,” “I Thought About You,” “I Remember You,” “I Wanna Be Around,” “This Time the Dream’s On Me,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” and “Satin Doll.” Among the many composers to whose work he contributed the lyrics are Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Jimmy Van Heusen, Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn, Jerome Kern, Gordon Jenkins and Henry Mancini.

My estimate of the number of Mercer songs Mercer wrote derives from biographer Philip Furia in Skylark. Furia’s calculation of the popularity of Mercer’s songs is also striking. Between the mid-’30s and the mid-50s, he had at least one or more songs in the pop music top 10 for 221 weeks.

Yet by far the most striking aspect of Mercer’s work is neither its volume nor its success, but rather its consummate artistry. His “One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)” surely stands as one of the peaks of the great American songbook. Harold Arlen composed the music and Frank Sinatra contributed the definitive performance (on Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, 1958). Terry Teachout provided an eloquent tribute to Mercer in general and “One For My Baby” in particular in his 2004 Commentary essay “Too Marvelous for Words” (subscribers only).

Mercer wrote so many great songs that it’s hard to pick a favorite. My favorite, I think, is “Midnight Sun,” originally an instrumental by Lionel Hampton and Sonny Burke. Driving along the freeway from Newport Beach to Hollywood and back in 1955, Mercer heard the song on his car radio. He promptly pulled off the road to call the station and ask for the song to be played again. Back on the road, he memorized the melody and wrote the lyrics in his head as he drove. Ella Fitzgerald performs the song in the video above. The first time I heard the song was in Sarah Vaughan’s 1978 recording with Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, and Louis Bellson (video below). This is special.

In The Poets of Tin Pan Alley, Furia observes that in “Midnight Sun” Mercer pushed the oldest clichés of Tin Pan Alley to baroque extremes precisely as the Tin Pan Alley tradition was expiring:

Your lips were like a red and ruby chalice,
Warmer than the summer night.
The clouds were like an alabaster palace
Rising to a snowy height.
Each star its own aurora borealis,
Suddenly you held me tight –
I could see the Midnight Sun.

Furia writes: “It’s as if the lyric itself is a midnight sun, a last blaze of an Alley style extinguishing itself…”