The Lynch Mob and the Rule of Law

Nearly every calamity that has ever occurred in the history of western civilization was foretold in the confirmation hearings for the officials involved, where some prescient interrogator or another almost always futilely exposed the candidate’s utter lack of qualifications. The Senate’s recent confirmation hearings regarding potential Attorney General Loretta Lynch, alas, seem especially foreboding.
Those sharp-eyed fellows over at the Powerline web site noticed one especially revealing exchange between Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions and the nominee regarding immigration law. Sessions is one of our very favorite public figures, and we believe he’d even be a front-runner for the next presidential election if he didn’t sound so much like a Saturday Night Live caricature of a Senator from Alabama, and as always he posed some very pointed questions. He went right to the very important issue of the federal government’s enforcement of its duly passed-and-signed immigration laws, asking if Lynch agreed with Holder’s statement that “creating a pathway to earn citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in our country” is “a matter of civil and human rights,” and she stammeringly declined to answer because she was “not familiar with the context of those comments” and had not “studied the issue enough to come to a legal conclusion on that.” Pressing the matter further with admirable fortitude, that Alabama twang adding to the acidity, Sessions asked if a person who has entered the country illegally has a right under the executive order of the president to employment, prompting the memorable reply from Lynch that “So I don’t think — I think that citizenship is a privilege. I think it’s a privilege that has to be earned. And within the panoply of rights that are recognized by our jurisprudence now, I don’t see one that you — as such that you are describing.”
Such un-parsable balderdash is pretty much par for the conformation hearing course, and even Sessions had to agree with the inferred meaning of her ultimate conclusion even as he drawled in that Alabama accent that “I’m a little surprised it took you that long,” but the testimony then took an even more ominous tone. With his usual flair for the obvious Sessions noted the high number of Americans currently out of the labor force and its depressing effect on household wages, and asked Lynch’s views regarding the comparative employment rights of citizens and illegal immigrants. She replied that “I believe the right and obligation to work is one that’s shared by everybody regardless of how they came here. And certainly, if someone here, regardless of status, I would prefer that they be participating in the workforce than not participating in the workforce.” Having established that Lynch believes an illegal immigrant has a legal right to a job despite the fact that federal law prohibits any employer from hiring from him, Sessions asked what sort of legal jeopardy this might cause every employer in the country. Specifically, he asked “Would you take action against any employer who says, ‘No, I prefer to hire someone who came to the country lawfully rather than someone given amnesty by the president?'” Her answer is worth consideration:
“With respect to the — the provision about temporary amnesty deferral, I did not read as providing a legal amnesty, that is, that permanent status there, but a temporary deferral. With respect to whether or not those individuals would be able to seek redress for employment discrimination, if — if that is the purpose of your question, again, I haven’t studied that legal issue. I certainly think you raised an interesting point and would look forward to discussing it with you and using — relying upon your thoughts and experience as we consider that point.”
This is precisely the sort of expertly jargon-laden hemming and hawing and insincere flattery that has won confirmation for countless unqualified candidates for high office over the many years of representative democracy and throughout its many calamities, but this is even more glaringly ominous than usual. A nominee for the office of Attorney General of the United States will not scoff at the notion that the Justice Department wouldn’t sue an employer for discrimination because he declines to violate federal law by not hiring an illegal immigrant, the equivocation raises further questions about the wisdom our immigration policies, as well as the legality of executive orders that not only override by conflict with existing law, and it all seems unlikely to end well. At least you can’t say you weren’t warned, even if it was in an easily mocked Alabama accent.

– Bud Norman

Our First Kind Words for the First Lady

Unaccustomed as we are to saying nice things about the First Lady, we have to offer her our kudos for the fashion statement she made Tuesday in Saudi Arabia. She was wearing another one of those garish garments that all the fashion critics swoon over, but it conspicuously did not include the submissive sort of head cover that women are expected to don in deference to the Islamic kingdom. One can only hope that the rest of the diplomatic entourage will be just as bold in asserting western values over foreign custom.
The Saudis are already miffed about America’s recent lack of assertiveness in the region, with the recently deceased king making no secret of his disdain for the administration’s disappearing “red line” in Syria, its solicitous courtship of Shiite and Persian Iran during that country’s ongoing attempt to build nuclear weapons that will threaten Sunni and Arab countries, and its general lack of reliability to longstanding allies. Which is why the president and his wife were flying into Saudi Arabia for some placating words with the new king. The visit will no doubt include assurances that America continues to overlook the country’s horrible human rights record and support for terrorism and world-wide funding of a radical Wahhabi strain of Islamism, and probably some talk about the president’s Islamic parentage and education and his instinctive empathy for the victims of western colonialism and all that, but the reputed Obama charm will have to be more effective than usual. The troublesome Islamic State continues its rampage in Syria, where the troublesome dictator is still in power, American allies in neighboring Yemen have recently had to head for the hills, no one in the Middle East can help noticing that even America’s friendship with Israel has been severely strained, and it will take some rather silver-tongued oratory to teach the Saudis to stop worrying and learn to love the Iranian bomb. There’s a new king in Saudi Arabia, but the view from the throne remains the same.
At this point we can’t think of much more the president might have to offer except an I-Pod full of speeches about the Islamic world’s glorious contributions to world civilization and the Republicans’ diabolical desire for dirty air and dirty water. Retreat and apologia haven’t had the intended pacifying effect on the Middle East, the spats with Israel have not only failed to ingratiate us with the Sunni and Arab countries that suddenly find themselves threatened by the same Shiite and Persian Iran but have also reinforced an American reputation for fecklessness, and resuming our former role as a deterring power in the region is of course impossible for ideological reasons. In the post-FDR and pre-Obama era all the talk on a trip to Saudi Arabia would have been oil prices, which have lately been low due hydraulic fracturing and the Saudi’s efforts to undercut America’s domestic industry as well as the Iranian government into submission, but this issue attracted little attention in the news coverage. Given Obama’s ideological opposition to fossil fuels and his political desire to take credit for the oil boom, we would have been interested to hear what he said if the subject ever did come up.
So, we figure the First Lady might as well keep her head uncovered while visiting Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it was just a fashion statement, or just a manifestation of that sense of entitlement that is so frequently annoying in a domestic context, or even some signal that the administration is about to sign off on Persian and Shiite hegemony in the Middle East, but we’d like to think she was making a small gesture on behalf of the right of women everywhere to freely choose what they wear. This would imply a broader criticism of the treatment of women in much of the Islamic world, and call into question the validity of the cultural relativism that has become an unassailable tenet of the western left, and although we doubt she intended to go quite that far we credit her with taking a small step.

– Bud Norman

The Race Is On

We’re still habitually writing 2014 on checks, but already the 2016 presidential race is underway. The Democrats still haven’t decided whether they’ll have a race or just hand a crown to Hillary Clinton, but there’s more than enough going on with the Republicans to keep the press happy.
There was a big confab of conservatives in inordinately influential Iowa that attracted many of the likely candidates, a few more likely candidates were conspicuous by their absence, a pair of very famous people have indicated an interest in joining the fray, and there seems to be a very wide and diverse field forming. All of it neatly serves one or another of the preferred press narratives, and while the potential Democratic candidates are dithering all the respectable media attention can be paid to those crazy Republicans and their traveling freak show.
The spectacle of Republican hopefuls seeking the support of conservatives, of all people, was almost too much for The Washington Post to bear. That oh-so-respectable publication’s report from Des Moines frets that the gathering of conservatives there “highlighted anew the thorny patch ahead for candidates as they try to attract support from the party’s conservative base without compromising their hopes for a general election.” They note that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was being lauded elsewhere in the paper for promising “adult conversations on big issues,” and former Massachusetts Governor and past presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is ruefully described as a past casualty of conservatism, declined invitations to the event, and one can’t help noticing the “tsk-tsk” between the lines as they contemplate the notion that such pillars of the party establishment did not feel welcome among such rabid Republicans as one finds in places such as Iowa.
As much as we appreciate The Washington Post’s deep, deep concern that the Republicans might be endangering their prospects of winning a presidential race, we think their worries are unwarranted. The conservatives’ insistence of stricter enforcement of immigration law and preference for lower taxes, the two issues the paper cites as reasons for Mitt Romney’s defeat in ’12 election, will likely prove a benefit to any Republican candidate after Romney’s resulted in tax hikes and amnesty for trainloads of unaccompanied minors from Central America. The reporters can’t seem to think of anything else on the conservative agenda that would compromise their hopes for a general election, and neither can we. A greater worry would result from nominating a candidate that fails to bring out the conservative base, as happened with Romney.
There’s still abortion, same-sex marriage, and a host of other social issues, including almost daily new ones involving acronyms and neologisms and exceedingly rare behaviors that are still unfamiliar to most Americans, so the quadrennial stories about the Titanic of the Republican party ramming into the iceberg of conservatism can always make do with that. In yet another Washington Post dispatch we learn that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal skipped the Iowa event not because he was insufficiently conservative but in order to accept an invitation to speak at a “controversial” prayer rally in his home state, where he “called for a national spiritual revival and urged event attendees to proselytize on behalf of their Christian beliefs.” This particular prayer rally is apparently controversial because it was organized by the American Family Association, which hews to traditional Christian beliefs about sexual morality, but the paper doesn’t go so far as to find anything controversial Christians retaining a freedom of speech. Once again there’s that deep, deep concern that the Republicans might be making a mistake, but if opposition to abortion was such a challenge to general election chances the party wouldn’t have won anything in the last 43 years, and while same-sex marriage is polling a bit better than even these days we don’t sense that the public wants to start enforcing proper opinions on the matter, and by 2016 the Democratic party’s association with all the craziness that’s going on in the cultural left won’t do it any benefit. Jindal has also lately been outspoken about the Islamic roots of Islamic terrorism, and we can’t expect that the press will also find that controversial, but it shouldn’t prove a general election problem.
For the benefit of the press caricaturists who wish to to portray the craziness of the Republicans, however, we might see the entrance of former Alaska Governor and past vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin as well as real estate mogul and television reality show star Donald Trump. We rather like Palin, and delight in the way she drives all the right people insane, but after too few years in office and too many years of relentless ridicule by the late night comics of the left she’s unlikely to win the nomination and all too likely to distract from the more accomplished candidate who does. We don’t particularly like Trump, and find no reason whatsoever he should be president and see no plausible argument that he ever could be president, but he does have an undeniable ability to attraction attention to himself. Between the two the press could easily pay diminished attention to an otherwise impressive slate of candidates, and those late night comics of the left will surely do so.
Among the candidates that have impressed us is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose bold reforms have so enraged the public sector unions that he was forced to survive a recall election that featured state legislators fleeing to other states as rowdy mobs rampaged through the state capitol, as well as a bruising but successful re-election campaign, and we note from the oh-so-respectable but frequently reliable The Hill that Walker a big hit at the Iowa gathering. The paper went so far as to say he “shows fire,” a significant compliment given the governor’s reputation in the press as a rather blandly polite midwestern sort of fellow, although we think blandly polite might play well after eight years of the world’s greatest orator and most petulant president, and it further noted that he stressed his own conservatism, which we sense they did not intend as a compliment. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in Walker’s home state reported that he told the Iowans to “go big and go bold,” but over at the National Review they note that Wisconsin’s legislative agenda includes a right-to-work law and a gambling casino, and worry that the governor’s presidential ambitions might prevent him from going big and bold on either issue. We’ll be watching to see how the governor responds, and will be disappointed if he doesn’t back the right-to-work bill in order to prevent a round of drum circles and hippie sleep-ins at the capitol building. Right-to-work is good economics and, well, a right, and even in Wisconsin it’s good politics these days, and nightly newscasts full of dirty hippies protesting your policies isn’t going to hurt a bit. The gambling thing is trickier, as even conservatives are split on the advisability of the government getting into the monopolized gambling business, but after all Walker’s been through he should survive any outcome on the issue.
Walker’s just one of several Republican governors who have brought greater prosperity to their states with conservative reforms, however, and at least three senators who have an expressed an interest in the presidency also warrant consideration. We can’t see the party giving Romney another chance, and we expect that Bush’s stands on immigration and common core and a general sort of big government-run compassionate conservatism associated with his family will be more than money and organization can overcome, but even those men have real accomplishments they can point to. Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and former high-tech businesswoman Carly Fiorina have never held public office, and Fiorina lost a senatorial bid in heavily Democratic California, but both bring impressive resumes and appealing personalities and common sense conservatism as well the ethnic and sexual identities that Democrats like to claim. They represent a wide range of views being passionately debated in the party, which could be considered a sign of Republican vigor, but the stories will tell of petty infighting between the crazies and the moderately crazy. Should the moderately crazy prevail, once again, the press will then begin to describe them as merely crazy.
Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side, the few stories we find about potential challengers usually mention Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who isn’t so frank about her political ideology. We’ll be on the lookout for any stories fretting that any Democratic nomination race that might break out would drag Hillary Clinton too far to the left, but given that socialism isn’t so controversial as Christianity and the press isn’t nearly so concerned about the political fortunes of the Democrats it might take a while.

– Bud Norman

The Quarterback Scores

At the risk of sounding un-American, we will confess we’ve paid virtually no attention to football this past season. That’s partly because all the domestic abuse scandals and head injury lawsuits and offensive team name controversies and all the resulting litigation and moralizing grew so tedious, and partly because the Wichita Heights High School Falcons and the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the Kansas City Chiefs were all knocked out of championship contention way back when the early autumn weather was still warm. So complete is our indifference at this point that we’ve barely even noticed the pre-Super Bowl brouhaha about deflated balls, but we were heartened to hear the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady tell a massive throng of reporters that “This isn’t ISIS.”
The excessively handsome quarterback was widely criticized for the comment, but we’ve yet to hear any of his critics explain why a wee bit of air pressure that might or might not have been removed from the game balls in last weekend’s conference championship is as newsworthy as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Some explanation is called for, given that ISIS continues its head-chopping, crucifying, genocidal romp across an Indiana-sized swathe of the Middle East, and that a slightly softer football could hardly account for the game’s lopsided result in any case. We’re also grateful to Brady for getting ISIS back in the news, as it’s lately been edged out by such fare as sports scores and the surfeit of white folks honored with Academy Award nominations.
So little attention has been paid to ISIS lately that President Barack Obama was able to boast in his State of the Union address that an American-led coalition has stopped the terror gang’s advances without drawing a derisive laugh from his audience. That claim is not corroborated by any press reports we’ve been able to hunt down, and will surely come as a surprise to the unfortunate residents of Mosul and Fallujah and numerous other cities that once enjoyed the protection of American troops but are now beleaguered by ISIS’ murderous gangs, and is acknowledged as a falsehood by Pentagon officials, but that’s easily overlooked when there’s a charge afoot that a professional football team might have deflated a ball. The president further claimed that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has been halted, that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program in gratitude for the president’s protection from economic sanctions, and that he somehow deserves credit for America’s recent oil boom, but until some photogenic sports star draws attention to such balderdash it will also go largely unnoticed.
At least the president didn’t repeat last year’s boasts about his successes in Yemen, where another terror gang has lately taken high government officials hostage and American warships are readying to evacuate America’s diplomatic personnel, but he probably could have gotten away with that as well. There’s a Super Bowl coming up, and a too-white Academy Awards ceremony after that, some celebrity or another is bound to be getting a divorce a sex-change operation, sooner or later someone will get around to grousing about such a jingoistic team name as “Patriots,” and America has its priorities.

– Bud Norman

Guess Who’s Coming For a Speech

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted an invitation to address a joint session of Congress, and it’s already proving more controversial than one might expect. The invitation was extended by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and was accepted by Netanyahu without consulting Democratic President Barack Obama, and although parties claim to be loyal friends of Israel this seems to be a problem.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest complained to reporters on Wednesday that “the protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there,” adding that the administration would “reserve judgment” on the matter until further consultation with the invitee, but recent history suggests that there’s more involved than just the usual diplomatic niceties. There’s a longstanding iciness between Obama and Netanyahu, after all, not to mention the even more frigid relationship between Obama and the congressional Republicans.
Vice President Joe Biden was reiterating as recently as Tuesday that America’s support for the Jewish state is “unyielding,” but in the same speech he was grousing once again that the Israelis are building 1,600 new apartments in their capital of Jerusalem. The administration has been critical of Israel building apartments for years, with a vehemence it can’t seem to muster about Iran building nuclear bombs with the stated intention of achieving a second Holocaust by wiping Israel off the map, and they’ve also been explicitly miffed about Israel’s annoying habit of deploying its military against the terrorist armies that intermittently lob rockets at Israeli civilians or sending murderers through the tunnels they’ve dug into Israeli territory. This infuriating tendency of Israel to defend its citizens against radical Islamist enemies has so annoyed the president that he has skipped long-planned dinner dates to leave Netanyahu cooling his heels in the White House, and authorized an unnamed official to describedwhich some might consider a breach of protocol, and left a distinct impression that the administration’s support of Israel is at least somewhat yielding.
The administration’s recurring explanation is that those relatively few new apartment buildings, which might soon be needed to house the flood of Jewish refugees from the increasingly Islamicized France where the administration recently declined to send any high-ranking officials to a march protesting the latest terror attacks on its soil, are interfering with the administration’s futile efforts to negotiate a peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, whose government includes a Hamas party that has openly vowed to kill every Jew in the Middle East since long before the first cement was poured, but one might suspect there’s more to it than that. Israel’s stubborn insistence on self-preservation has also interfered with the administration’s attempts to convince a broader range of Islamist terrorists that America means them no offense, and Netanyahu’s more robust resistance to Islamist terrorism provides what many Americans would regard as an embarrassing contrast to recent American policy.
Such geo-political matters aside, though, the controversy seems to have more to do with domestic politics. The mainstream media assumption seems to be that Boehner extended the invitation to emphasize that contrast between Netanyahu’s and Obama’s stands on Islamist terrorism, and although Boehner insists he didn’t mean it as a “poke in the eye” of the administration we hope that he is merely being coy. If there’s one thing the president dislikes more than the Israelis it is the Republicans, a point made all the more obvious by Tuesday’s State of the Union address that made no mention of the terrorist threat while proposing a variety of soak-the-rich and hand-out-free-stuff proposals that he clearly hopes will cost the GOP political points when they inevitably refuse to pass any of it, and giving the world’s most fearless resister to Islamist terrorism a national platform seems a rather shrewd way countering the tactic by highlighting the GOP’s more robust foreign policy preferences. The speech is planned for the anniversary of an Islamist regime’s takeover of Iran, an historical catastrophe ushered in by the Democrat Jimmy Carter’s presidential administration, a nice touch that reminds the public about the current administration’s futile negotiations over that country’s nuclear power ambitions, and will likely be an effective poke in the administration’s clouded eye whether it was intended as such as not.
Netanyahu is a remarkably persuasive orator in both Hebrew and English, and a shrewd political player in both languages in as well, and we’ll be looking forward to the speech. We’re sure the administration won’t nearly so eager to hear it, and will continue to complain about breaches of diplomatic protocol, but that will only make it all the sweeter.

– Bud Norman

Another State of the Union

State of the Union messages are supposed to be solemn affairs, full of pomp and circumstance and high-blown rhetoric about the future of the nation, but Tuesday’s affair was basically political gamesmanship.
President Barack Obama opened with a rather pointed plea for civility from the Republicans that he has previously accused of wanting dirty water and dirty air and told to sit in the back seat of the governmental automobile, and when he implied that he was above any partisan pettiness because he wouldn’t be running for office again they couldn’t resist some boisterous applause. This led to his apparently improvised boast that he’d already won two elections, which earned some boisterous applause from the Democrats, and the rest of the speech was intended to cause the Republicans further embarrassment in future races.
After some gloating about the booming economy, which continues to have the lowest labor participation labor force participation rates in decades and stagnant wages and job gains that have gone mostly to the illegal immigrants that Obama wants to keep in the country, and is booming only in the places where the oil industry is pumping out cheap energy despite his best efforts to stop them and because of the resiliency of the capitalism system that he wants to replace with European-style socialism, the rest of the speech was the usual agenda of soaking the rich and handing out free stuff to everyone else. None of it has any chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress, but the plan is that whatever identity group candidates Democrats come up with in the presidential election will be able to once again portray the Republicans as rich-people-loving meanies who won’t let the kindly Democrats give you free stuff.
The ancient ploy has worked well enough for Obama to be gloating over his two presidential elections, but not well enough to keep him from making it to a Republican-controlled Congress, and it remains to be seen how well it works this time. The free stuff includes government-paid tuition to your local community college, but given how few people currently bother to complete a community college education and how little it is likely to do ensure future success that’s probably less enticing than the free stuff Oprah Winfrey used to put under her audience’s seats. He wants a tax credit for middle class families that would amount to about $500, but given that the sum wouldn’t cover the restaurant tab during one of Obama’s frequent Hawaii vacations he’ll be hard-pressed to parlay that into a reputation as a common man. There are promises to make housing more affordable, reminiscent of the “affordable housing” policies of the Clinton era that created the housing bubble, and higher-speed internet, which of course will be thoroughly regulated by the government, along with a laundry list of other goodies that most press reports didn’t bother to mention. None are likely to be remembered by the time the ’16 election rolls around, while the massive debt that has already piled up from the putatively free stuff that’s been doled out the Obama will still be an issue.
Still, people do hate rich folks and love free stuff, and at this point there doesn’t seem to much else for the Democrats to run on. At last year’s State of the Union the president opened with a boast that all the troops had been pulled out of Iraq, and this year’s speech made no mention of the 2,000 troops who have since returned to deal with the consequences of America’s premature withdrawal from that country. If the economy continues to improve and the deficits continue to decline the Republicans will have a strong case that their obstructionism deserves more credit than the president’s spending and regulating and bloating, and if the Democrats try to take credit for lower gas prices they’ll annoy their environmentalist donors. Free stuff and slandering the mean old Republicans will be the Democrats’ platform, and we can’t blame Obama for trotting it out now.

– Bud Norman

Deflated Balls

The big story on Monday was about deflated balls. We assumed it had something to do with with Secretary of State John Kerry and his folk-rocking hippie pal James Taylor apologizing to the French for snubbing their big march against Islamist terrorism, or perhaps the Republican Senators’ apparent capitulation to the president on the the illegal immigration issue, but it turned out to be just another of those annual allegations of cheating leveled against the New England Patriots professional football team.
Even so, the deflated balls theme seemed to recur throughout the news. There was much speculation about today’s State of The Union address, which will reportedly call for massive tax hikes and vast redistributive spending that the Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress will never pass, and the press was giddy with anticipation that at least they will once again be able to caricature the Grand Old Party as lapdogs of the top-hatted, mustache-twirling rich who are always tying the downtrodden middle class to the metaphorical railroad tracks. The Republicans have always endured this reputation, and it lately hasn’t stopped them from acquiring majorities in both chambers of Congress, but the renewed slander might yet force them into some sorry compromise on the ridiculous proposals.
Another popular topic was the opening of the annual confab in Davos, Switzerland, where the world’s most well-heeled wheelers and dealers gather to drink, dine, and discuss the world’s problems. The United Kingdom’s left-wing Guardian took the occasion to anxiously note that the world’s richest one percent now control half the world’s wealth, but they should find some solace in noting that the plutocrats hobnobbing in Davos seem every bit as socialistic and authoritarian as the most welfare-dependent Guardian reader. USA Today preferred the angle that Davos will confront a “World on verge of nervous breakdown,” citing everything from such real problems as increasing Islamist terrorism to such non-problems as anthropogenic global warming to such happy phenomena as falling oil prices, and seems to hold out hope that the super-rich socialists at the gathering mike come up with a solution for it all. We’ve not been invited to Davos, and couldn’t muster the airfare or lodging expenses even if we were, but we’ll keep a skeptical eye on the proceedings nonetheless.
The rest of the news seemed to be about “American Sniper,” a big Hollywood flick that has been setting box office records that the previous slew of anti-war flicks never approached and is sending the mainstream media’s last surviving movie clinics into rage. Apparently the movie regards Islamist terrorists as bad guys and the American soldiers who have been fighting them as good guys, albeit with the some of the requisite Hollywood moral ambivalence, so the outrage isn’t at all surprising. The protagonist is apparently a white guy, which is also controversial these days, so the criticism will likely mount leading up to the Academy Awards voting. We haven’t seen the picture yet, and probably won’t until it shows up on Netflix, what with movie and popcorn prices being akin to a trip to Davos these days, so we’re withholding out own our judgment on the film’s artistic merits, but we’ll keep an eye on these developments as well.
Perhaps the desultory nature of the news can be attributed to “Blue Monday,” that post-holiday point in the dead of the winter that is said to be the most depressing day of the year. Around here the weather was unusually tolerable, although not nearly to our warm-blooded liking, but it still seemed rather a glum slog through the news.

– Bud Norman

With Friends Like This

Much ridicule has already been heaped on Secretary of State John Kerry for having James Taylor sing “You’ve Got a Friend” to the French last week, but we feel obliged to add a bit more. Not since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered that apologetic misspelled “reset” button to the rapacious Russkies has American foreign policy been so embarrassing.
It’s not just that Taylor’s folky schtick was sappy even when it was popular way back in the ’70s, or that “You’ve Got a Friend” was just about the sappiest of it, but that the gesture was intended as an apology for the United States’ even more embarrassing failure to send a high-ranking figure to France’s march on behalf of freedom of speech in the wake of a murderous attack by radical Islamist terrorists against a satirical magazine that had published cartoons critical of radical Islamism. While the heads of state of every other significant country felt obliged to make the trip, America was represented at the march by its ambassador the country, a former campaign bundler for the Obama presidential campaigns, despite the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder was conveniently in Paris at the time, Vice President Joe Biden’s schedule was of course open, and the security concerns that were cited to explain the president’s absence didn’t keep Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a spot at the lead of the march. The international and domestic criticism was so withering that the White House spokesman acknowledged the mistake, and Kerry and his guitar-strumming buddy from Martha’s Vineyard were dispatched to make amends.
Compounding the embarrassment even further was the obvious insincerity of the performance. The same president that declared to the United Nations in the aftermath of a terror attack on an American consulate in Benghazi that was falsely blamed on an obscure YouTube video critical of Islamism that “The future must not belong to those who slander that prophet of Islam” was never to going to march on behalf of the right to freely express opinions regarding religion. As France musters some uncharacteristic courage to confront the Islamist threat it has unwisely welcomed, it will take more than a washed-up folk-rocker to convince them they have a friend in the United States for at least the next two years.
Even James Taylor and John Kerry aren’t as embarrassing as that sad fact.

– Bud Norman

The Parties in Retreat

The Republicans and the Democrats are both in retreat, at least in the sense that they have adjourned to separate locations to discuss their strategies for the current legislative session. At the Democratic gathering President Barack Obama was vowing to “play¬†offense,” while the reports from the Republican meeting suggest they’re in retreat in every sense of the word.
It remains to be seen how offensive Obama can be, even after all these years, but there’s no doubting that his boast to the Democratic congressional caucus’s confab at a Baltimore Hilton is more than just bluster. Leaks from the closed-door session indicate the president plans to veto an inevitable bill that would at long last allow construction of the XL Keystone Pipeline, as well as expected legislation imposing new economic sanctions on Iran to protest its continued efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, and both threats further confirm that Obama is in the “what the heck” stage of his presidency. Nixing the pipeline eliminates jobs, inhibits the oil boom that Obama has long resisted but now claims credit for, further annoys a Canadian government that will eventually wind up selling its oil to China, and will only compound any environmental damage to the earth when that carbon-emitting communist country gets its hands on the stuff. Obama would clearly prefer to continue the endless negotiations with Iran on a friendly basis while it builds a nuclear arsenal, and would reportedly rather impose sanctions on Israel on for building apartments to accommodate all the new arrivals from France and other increasingly Islamist countries, but the previous round of economic penalties was the only reason Iran even bothered to indulge the administration in its fanciful notions of a negotiated settlement of the issue. Both positions are so obviously wrong that even the general public can see it, which will matter more to the Democrats running for re-election or higher office in ’16 than it does to Obama, but we expect that the party’s usual discipline will prevail.

The Republicans, who have met in the charming little chocolate-making town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, are reportedly trying to work out their well-publicized intra-party squabbles. They seem sufficiently unified on the XL Keystone and Iran, and have a shot at prying enough poll-watching Democrats away to override a veto, but even if they fall short of the needed 60 votes at least they’re willing to inflict the political damage on the opposition with these and other popular proposals. The potential to set the party up for more significant victories down the road is there, and we are heartened to see the Republicans willing to seize it, but there’s also a worrisome possibility they will squander other opportunities.
On the immigration issue, where the House of Representatives has also challenged the president’s constitutionally dubious executive order to grant temporary amnesty to five million or so illegal immigrants, the most hopeful word from the summit is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that “We’re going to try to pass it, we’ll see what happens, if we’re unable to do that, we’ll let you know what comes next.” Even by McConnell’s standards of equivocation, this is not reassuring. Allowing five million illegal immigrants to stay and inviting a few million more to try their luck is also unpopular, but shutting down the Department of Homeland Security and allowing the mainstream media explain why entails significant political risks for the Republicans, so it is a tricky proposition to win a showdown. The Republican leadership has already pledged that it won’t resort to any drastic measures such as a partial temporary shut-down of the government, however, and it’s hard to see how anything less could pose a sufficient threat to the president’s rapidly expanding power.
We note that the Republicans’ retreat will include religious services, and find no mention in any of the press reports of such activities planned at the Democrats’ retreat, so at least the Republicans have a prayer.

– Bud Norman

The Border Battle Begins

The Republicans showed some fight on the issue of illegal immigration Wednesday, with a majority of the House of Representatives voting to withhold funding for the Department of Homeland Security to enact President Barack Obama’s executive orders granting amnesty to an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants, and we were glad to see it. Their efforts might yet prove futile, given the longer terms and weaker wills in the Senate and the full fury of the open borders lobby and the way Obama usually gets away with these things, but we’re heartened by the feistiness.
House Speaker John Boehner, long derided by the more robustly conservative members of his party as too accommodating to the president, even delivered a full-throated denunciation of Obama’s extra-constitutional attempts to re-write immigration that the most rabid right-wing radio talker would be hard-pressed to top. The speech cited the 22 separate occasions when Obama clearly stated that he did not have the legal authority to issue the executive orders being contested, noting that Obama has “ignored the people, ignored the constitution, and even his own past statements.” Although 26 Republicans helped the Democrats defeat an amendment that would have blocked an executive order deferring deportations of illegal immigrants who arrived here as children, and another seven bolted on an amendment to delay “immigration priorities,” the watered-down version got unified party support. There won’t be such unity in the Senate, where several Republicans have a long history of sharing the party’s big business wing’s preference for cheaper labor, but the House vote represents an overwhelming consensus among the grassroots that could jam the congressional phone lines and mailboxes and thus force a majority to go along.
Everyone expects the bill will be further watered down in the Senate, though, and even the weakest brew is likely to result in a veto that even the most improbably unified Republican party does not have the votes to override. The Republicans could still prevail by withholding funding for the Department of Homeland Security, but that would severely test any politician’s feistiness. Already The New York Times is describing the House vote as “approving legislation that would revoke legal protections for millions of unauthorized immigrants, including children, and put them at risk of deportation,” and the National Journal was making much of those “moderates” and “centrists” among the Republicans who voted against the amendments and worrying that the majority Republican position “could imperil their re-elections in 2016.” The Times cannot explain how an executive order to negate existing law is a “legal protection” for “unauthorized immigrants,” nor can The National Journal explain why the terms “moderate” and “centrist” enjoy such a positive connotation as they intend, and they don’t want to mention those dissenting Republicans would only imperil their re-election chances because they Represent majority-Latino districts that are never supposed to vote for Republicans in the first place, but it’s an indication of how a shut-down of the Department of Homeland Security would play out in the press.
The Republicans will happily cough up some generous amount to fund all of the department’s vital anti-terrorism functions, just not the parts that would invite millions more illegal immigrants and perhaps a few terrorists to happily traipse across the southern border, and this should prove a politically advantageous position. The Third World’s unfettered access to the United States of America is not widely popular, even in those Latino-majority districts that have unaccountably elected Republican representatives, and revanchist groups such as La Raza and the owners of companies reliant on cheap unskilled labor do not constitute a majority of the voting public. That tale about racist Republicans picking on poor brown children will be oft-told, however, and the president does have a way of getting away with these things.
This will all take weeks or maybe months to sort out, and we’ll keep attuned to the latest developments. In the meantime, we’re hoping for more Republican feistiness.

– Bud Norman


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