The Democratic Plot Thickens

There’s serious talk going on about Vice President Joe Biden running for president, and it goes to show how very panicked the Democratic Party is about having former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as its nominee.
Given the ongoing e-mail scandal and all the other equally damning scandals of the past 25 years or so and how very few accomplishments were associated with all those highfalutin titles and how very horrible a candidate she is, we’re not at all surprised that Democrats would be looking around for someone other than Clinton. That they’re considering Biden, though, suggests a party even more desperate than we would have thought. Biden is a two-time loser of the nomination, an inconsequential Vice President even by the low standards of that office, and a gaffe-prone buffoon who malapropisms have been ridiculous to even the such liberal ridiculers as the writers of “Saturday Night Live.” More surprising and scarier yet, if you’re a Democrat who happened upon this site, is that Biden will likely make a formidable contender.
Clinton is already losing ground to self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the current darling of the party’s far-left faction, and a long-time senator and Vice President would likely take more votes away from her than from the the Sanders and his base of people looking for an outsider option. He’d likely enjoy the implied endorsement of President Barack Obama, too, who has lately been deafeningly silent about all the federal investigations into Clinton’s e-mail, and without the black support that entails Clinton’s candidacy will be further eviscerated.
Biden has also been reportedly meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and discussing the possibility of a couple of one-term presidencies between the two, and that further thickens the plot. Warren, a fake-Injun-Harvard-professor-turned-far-left-populist-Senator, is the most avidly longed-for choice of the Democratic Party’s far-left base, even if she has thus far stood by her refusal to enter the race. The media speculation is that Biden might run with Warren as his pre-announced running mate, on a promise that he would serve only one term due to his seasoned age, allowing Warren to succeed him as president, fulfilling the Democrats’ destiny of electing both a black man and white woman to the presidency, and we can see such a promise beating out even the self-described socialist and any of the more scandal-ridden insider opponents.
At this point it’s all purely speculative, of course, but the inevitability of Clinton’s nomination does seem very much in doubt. If she does wind up with the nomination she’ll be likely be brushed and battered by the the fight for it, and without the enthusiastic support of the coalition that has won the last two presidential elections for her party, and as someone who had to fend of the buffoonish likes of Joe Biden.

— Bud Norman

Palace Intrigue in the Age of E-Mails

The stock market is swooning, new revelations about awful side deals to that awful Iranian nuke deal that would allow the Iranians to choose their own inspectors make it look it all look even more awful, the illegal immigration debate continues to simmer, and other significant news is plentiful, but nothing seemed of particular interest and yesterday was a birthday, so we decided to simply engage in some idle speculation about this e-mail controversy that has been so entertainingly disruptive to Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations.
We love a good tale of palace intrigue, even if we’ve never watched an episode of “Game of Thrones,” which we understand has the added enticement of copious nudity, so the e-mail imbroglio offers a peculiar fascination. By now we’re familiar enough with the conventions of the genre to know that there’s always some unseen character pulling all the strings, and in this particular episodic series of putatively reality television we have anticipated that it will turn out to be President Barack Obama. Thus far his name has been almost entirely left out of the press plot line, but being the binge-watchers we are anticipating his eventual appearance.
The understandably disgruntled conservative press seems resigned to the sad realization that Clinton will never face any legal consequences for her use of a private and dubiously secured e-mail server for public use, and following the president’s Justice Department’s lack of interest in the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups and the Inspectors Generals’ reports on the pork in the stimulus bill and the murder of an ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi and the Fast and Furious scandal that resulted in all those dead Mexicans and all of the rest of the current administration’s record on such things we can’t scoff at their skepticism, but we still see that surprise plot twist coming.
The headlines are already mentioning the FBI and DOJ and vague mention of criminal charges, even if they are attributed to Clinton’s e-mail server and not herself, and the plot seems to have moved too far along to any longer believe that those unseen characters are intervening in Clinton’s behalf. Obama doesn’t seem to like Clinton any better than he did back in that famous moment of the ’08 primary when he sneered “You’re likable enough,” so we’re guessing that he’d prefer someone else to provide him with the third that he’s publicly bragged he would surely win. This introduces the character of Vice President Joe Biden, who is purely comic relief, but who also wins the Black Lives and Black Lives Only Matter vote by virtue of Obama’s implicit endorsement and is suddenly a front-runner over Clinton, whose support among non-black Democrats has lately gone on a white flight to self-described Scandinavian socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Obama could well end up with his chosen successor. It might not end up with Clinton wearing the sort of orange jumpsuit that we’ve been binge-watching on Netflix’ “Orange is the New Black,” but judging by the latest polls and a Democratic panic that has led to the utterance of such names as Gore and Kerry and Warren, it’s enough to suggest that that someone in the executive branch has taken a newfound interest in the possible legal violations of a formerly high-ranking executive official.
There are reports of the Obamas and Clintons recently sharing drinks and convivial conservation at Martha’s Vineyard, and then there’s the matter of whether he would throw the first four years of his administration’s foreign policy under the bus, but we’ve seen all of the “Godfather” flicks and know that the smart players keep their friends close and their enemies closer, and we’ve read enough mainstream news to note that Obama gets away with all sorts of these shell games. He’s not up for reelection, anyway, and he knows that given the current state of academic historians he knows he’ll be treated well by history at least until his death at an old age, so he might as well go with someone less embittered toward him and some that he was less embittered toward, such as the comic relief character of  buffoonish but ever-faithful sidekick Vice President Joe Biden, and to us this seems the most plausible plot line at this point.
We’ve been wrong about these shows before, but but we’re expectant that another Clinton versus feud is a-brewin’. The ratings should be strong, almost as good as that compellingly repellent Donald Trump show over on the Republican side, and at the very least is should prove a fascinating show.

— Bud Norman

A Clinton Scandal That Somehow Matters

After all the scandals the Clintons have survived, it’s been interesting to see that the latest mess regarding Hillary Clinton’s e-mails seems to be doing real damage to her presidential campaign. The press has been brutal, even if it is still polite enough to describe the scandal as being about her e-mail server rather than her, and ever since the story broke her poll numbers have been plummeting. Which leads one to wonder why this particular scandal is so much more damaging than all the others.
It is a serious matter, of course, with her use of a private rather than government e-mail system being apparently in violation of law, likely jeopardizing national security by allowing top-secret information to be easily obtained by hostile foreign governments, and the only plausible explanation being her desire to keep her public acts from public scrutiny, but all those other scandals that the Clintons somehow survived were also serious matters. Going all the way back to her early days in the public eye there was the suspicious killing she made in the cattle futures market, the White House travel office scandal, where Hillary Clinton trumped up criminal charges against an obviously innocent public servant in order to enrich some Hollywood pals, those subpoenaed Rose Law Firm records that ultimately turned up in her closet, her delusional claim that the rumors of her husband’s infidelity were a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and her war on the women who insisted otherwise. Her brief time as a Senator was largely untainted by scandal but not marked by any significant accomplishments, and her inglorious tenure as Secretary of State involved suspicious donations to her family’s suspicious charity by suspicious foreign governments and a disastrous Libyan war that wound up with four Americans dead in a terror attack that she falsely blamed on an obscure filmmaker who wound in prison for exercising his First Amendment rights. Why a hard-to-follow story about her e-mail accounts should be more damaging is hard to explain.
Our guess is that it’s the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back, the story that at long last confirmed all the suspicions that had accumulated over the past 25 years of previously underplayed scandals, and an excuse for anxious Democrats to start seeking more electable alternatives. So far the best they can come up with is Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Al Gore, present Vice President Joe Biden, and there’s even talk of past failed nominee and current Secretary of State John Kerry, who is responsible for that Iran nuclear bomb deal that ever sensible American hates, but that only demonstrates how very damaged the Clinton candidacy is. The press might relent once it realizes that the Clinton campaign is still well positioned to win the Democratic nomination, but until then we expect they’ll continue to pile on an Clinton’s poll numbers will continue to plummet.

— Bud Norman

The Veep Is a Creep

One of the questions those snide man-on-the-street interviewers always ask to demonstrate the public’s appalling political ignorance is the name of the Vice President of the United States. It’s the sort of general knowledge that any enfranchised citizen should possess, and we always wince when watching the videotapes of all those public school graduates who aren’t even embarrassed to admit their ignorance, but these days we can hardly blame anyone who does not share our obsessive interest in politics for not knowing the answer. Vice President Joe Biden — which is the correct answer to that trick question, in case you were wondering — is such an inconsequential public figure, and so assiduously ignored by the media, that he’s not a household name.
The man is an utter boob and a heartbeat away from the presidency, however, and sometimes even the most deliberately unseeing media are obliged to take notice. On Tuesday the vice president had to deal with such routine chores as reading some tele-promptered compliments at a swearing-in ceremony and saying some anodyne remarks during a White House summit on carefully unspecified forms of “violent extremism,” and on both occasions he managed to provoke unfriendly coverage from even the friendliest media.
The swearing-in ceremony for new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter should have been a deeply-buried brief in most newspapers, but the lowly scribes assigned to the affair wound up with some prominenst placement after Biden spent an uncomfortable amount of the proceedings rubbing the shoulders, whispering in the ear, and seemingly smelling the hair of the wife of the man being charged with the nation’s defense. No less an administration stenographer than the Associated Press found that “VP’s Odd Move Gives Pause,” the cheekier New York Post described it as “snuggling,” and the unabashedly conservative PJ Tatler was frank enough to call it “creepy.” The New York Post recalled that Biden elicited a similar discomfort among the object of his interest and all onlookers at the swearing-in for Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, whose young daughter is shown in a photograph in an apparent state of discomfort during the Vice President’s kiss on the cheek, and quotes one of innumerable “tweeters” using the term “creepy.
At the White House summit Biden provoked an even pricklier discomfort by attempting to endear himself to a largely Muslim and African crowd with some talk about how about how some of his best friends back in hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, are Somali. He told the crowd that “if you ever come to the train station you may notice that I have great relations with them, because an awful lot of them are driving cabs, and are friends of mine,” and even the Associated Press couldn’t help but admit that the audience “responded with muted, uncomfortable chuckles.” This obligated a recollection of Biden’s famous gaffe from his 2006 senatorial campaign about the Indian-American ownership of convenience stores and donut shops, although they were kind enough to neglect mention of his 2008 observations on rival presidential candidate being a “clean, articulate” African-American. or numerous other similar embarrassments.
The long history of Biden’s boobish behavior was too much for even such an impeccably liberal publications as Talking Points Memo, where a young writer from the sisterhood was allowed space to wonder “Why Does Creepy Uncle Joe Biden Get a Pass From Liberals?” The author admits she feels badly about giving succor to her conservative opponents who have long complained a media double-standard that protects Democrats from public scorn, and worries that she might be a “bad feminist,” but to her credit can no longer hide her dismay that Biden is not such a national laughingstock that even those man-on-the-street interviewees know his name. She notes some other little-noted instances of Biden’s creepiness toward women, rightly calls him out on his foul language to mark to the occasion of Obamacare being signed into law, although she probably thinks it diminished an otherwise august event, and generously concedes that a Republican guilty of the same offenses probably would have drawn more scorn.
We have no doubt that Spiro Agnew, Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney, and even a vice presidential contender such as Sarah Palin would all agree. Agnew did what Maryland politicians, usually Democrats, have always done, but was brought done mostly by the class resentments of those “nattering nabobs of negativism” that he railed against. Quayle once misspelled the word “potato,” and was scolded by an older man that he was no Jack Kennedy, and his reputation as a fool never recovered. Cheney was too obviously smart to be caricatured as dumb, so he was instead portrayed as the evil genius behind the dumb president. We’re still not sure how Palin’s reputation for saying stupid things came about, although Tina Fey did do a very convincing impersonation of her saying very stupid things. None of them were nearly so boobish as Biden, and even the Darth Vader-ish public image that the press managed to hang on Cheney is quite so creepy, and yet all would have been easy answer to those man-on-the-street interviewers.

— Bud Norman

The Presidential Races and the Growing Realizations

The big newspapers are already full of stories about the ’16 presidential race, and even at this all-too-early point it often makes for interesting reading. There are the inevitable second thoughts about the inevitability of Hillary Clinton’s nomination, some comic relief from Vice President Joe Biden, and even a budding realization that the Republican contest isn’t shaping up according to the conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom.
Clinton has been deafeningly silent lately, so there’s not been much to report about her except for the polls showing her trailing undeclared candidate Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in both Iowa and New Hampshire, which does not serve the favored press narrative about inevitability. Warren is a darling of the left wing activists who play an outsized role in the Democratic nominating process, just as Iowa and New Hampshire do, but is little-known outside those circles, so the results are not encouraging for the better-known and far better-funded and better-organized Clinton. The conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom that name recognition and money and organization will ultimately prevail often proves true, but when such formidable advantages can’t gain an early lead in the early elimination round states against such a fake Indian and even faker left-wing populist of a first-term Senator such as Warren it seems a harbinger of an exception to the rule. The scrutiny that would follow the announcement of a Warren candidacy might well do her in, since even the friendliest media will be obliged to explain the whole fake-Indian scam and her more extreme soak-the-rich rhetoric and her general left-wing kookiness, and the media more friendly to Clinton will be most eager to pile on, but those left-wing activists are clearly unenthused about Clinton and likely to find some other darling to rally around.
He almost certainly won’t be Vice President Joe Biden, as even the loyal scribes of the Associated Press can now see. Biden seems to have no money, no organization, and even after six years of being Vice President of the United States he has little name recognition. If not for being so unfamiliar to the public Biden would be an even more unlikely nominee, as his prolific gaffes would be the popular catchphrases of the day if he were Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin or any other Republican. Biden’s latest gift to the late night comedians was giving a shout-out during a speech to his “butt buddy,” a vulgarism usually understood as describing a homosexual partner, but he can be grateful that won’t be so widely discussed as a misspelling of “potato” or an entirely fictional remark about seeing Russia from his house. No one ever became president by having the press politely ignore him, though, and Biden is unlikely to prove an exception to that rule.
The big newspapers retain an inordinate interest in former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his inside-the-Beltway rivals, especially former protege and potential rival Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, but they’re slowly wising up to the probability that the Republican race winner will come from far outside the Beltway. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the darling of the right-wing activists who play an inordinate role in selection the Republican nominee, he’s leading the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, which play that same crucial role in the GOP’s nominating process, and he’s also the favorites of the Republicans who showed up at the party’s annual Kansas Day gathering, who are about are about as Republican as Republicans get, and he’s even got some money and a growing organization, and after three elections and six years of relentless attacks by the labor movement and the Democratic establishment and its media allies he’s even got some name recognition. His prominence in the race is such that The Washington Post felt obliged to run one of its quadrennial back-to-schooldays hit pieces.
The Post’s effort will have little effect on Walker’s chances, we suspect. There are none of the hazing stories that were attributed by the paper last time around to Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and even some quotes from loyal friends who recall that they wouldn’t even let the well-behaved Walker in on their more harmless college pranks, as well as tales of his countless kindnesses to a particularly accident-prone friend, but there is the shocking revelation that the remarkably successful two-term governor was frequently late and largely uninterested in his French classes and remains 36 credit hour short of a college degree. The paper portrays this as a great mystery, and chose to run the story at a time when Walker was overseas on a trade mission and conveniently unavailable to provide the solution, but still leaves open the possibility that he simply chose to begin what has turned out to be an exemplary career in public service rather than pay for another 36 hours of over-priced college education. This will seem a disqualifying failure to the sorts of people who are impressed by Elizabeth Warren’s former post on the Harvard University faculty, but we expect the rest of the country will not find it a matter of concern.
Ivy League credentials are not always sufficient for the presidency, as the last four administrations and numerous previous ones demonstrate, and autodidacts such as Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman have occasionally distinguished themselves in the office. The story might even further endear Walker to a country largely populated by people who do to have Ivy League diplomas, and inoculate him against the usual charges of elitism and privilege that are invariably made against the Republicans who hod tony degrees. The Post story also reveals that Walker is the son of a Baptist minister who chose to attend a Catholic university, inadvertently burnishing his ecumenical reputation with the Republican party’s religious wing, and will not convince anyone that Walker does not possess a serious intellect. We note elsewhere that Walker has proposed legislation that would permit people in the state’s higher education system to gain credits for life experience, and most people who have experienced both college and real life will agree that the benefits that Walker has brought the state after many years in public office should surely be equivalent to 36 hours of university lecturing.
This is far too early to make any predictions, of course, as the press should have figured out by now, but will venture to say that conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom should not be trusted.

— Bud Norman

Summer Gives Way to Campaign Season

Labor Day has come and gone, and by tradition Americans will now put away their white shoes and straw hats and start paying attention to politics. We have no idea where the white shoe rule comes from, but we haven’t owned any white shoes for the past several decades, what with the black Converse All-Stars being more dignified for our advanced age, and thus we pay it little heed. The straw hat rule was obviously concocted back in New England or some other northern clime where autumn weather arrives on a more fashion conscious schedule than it does here on the plains, so despite our ardent desire not to give offense to etiquette we’ll simply ignore that one for another couple of hot summer weeks or so. We’re the sorts who obsessively follow politics even through the summertime, so that rule also has little effect on us, but at least it makes some sense.
During the next two months there will be campaign commercials, soundbites, scandals, yard signs, billboards, fliers, barroom arguments, and all other forms of politics sufficient to sate the most unnatural appetite until the next round of elections in a couple of years or so. Our suspicion is that the adage about people not paying attention to politics until after Labor Day was coined by political professionals who didn’t want to begin the chore of campaigning until they had rested sufficiently on a full summer’s vacation, and wisely realized that an earlier start would be even more annoying to the amateurs. Besides, two months and a few days should be long enough a campaign for even the most low-information voter to figure out which candidate is the stingy poor-people-hating anti-government Tea Party fanatic and which is the God-hating Marxist tax-and-spend lunatic, and to choose according to taste, so Labor Day seems as good an arbitrary date as any to start the campaign season.
We will be interested to see what those political Rip Van Winkles who have been blissfully sleeping through this mild summer will think when they awaken to the current mess. If they were roused from that enviable slumber by the shrill sound of Vice President Joe Biden shrieking to a Labor Day union gathering that “It’s time to take our country back” they might get the impression that it’s all because those stingy poor-people-hating anti-government Tea Party fanatics have had full of control of the country, but after a couple cups of coffee and two months of non-stop television spots juxtaposing your local Democratic candidate next to an unflattering picture of President Barack Obama they might regain a hazy memory of the last desultory election cycle. The more sober and less sanguine mindset that people have when wearing dark shoes and cloth hats might even lead many voters to consider how the Democratic party’s policies have contributed to the lingering economic malaise, all those unaccompanied minors crossing over to the southern border to a school and social welfare agency near you, all those invasions and beheadings and swimming pool take-overs on the international scene, as well as an alphabet soup of scandals in the federal bureaucracy, but we expect that a certain number will be more concerned about the Republicans’ mythical War on Women and the nefarious influence of the Koch Brothers and all that income inequality that the president keeps bringing up in between $32,000-a-plate fundraisers.
Our guess is that more people will be concerned about jobs, the invasions in Ukraine and Texas and Arizona and elsewhere, and all those scandals by a government the Democrats are promising more and more of, and that it will take some ingenuity on the part of the Republicans to blow this advantage. The Republicans have proved up to the challenge in the past, though, and those people who don’t pay attention until after Labor Day can be easily lulled into another midsummer’s night dream.

— Bud Norman

The Hell of Gates

Despite his past association with the Obama administration, we’ve long had a fondness for the former Defense Secretary, Central Intelligence Agency director, and National Security Council member Robert Gates. It’s partly because he grew up here in Wichita, and partly because of his long record of distinguished service to every president since Nixon except for Bill Clinton, but now we can also appreciate him as a memoirist.
Gates’ “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” won’t be in the bookstores until for another week, but enough of it has been leaked to the press to create a fuss. Although the book reportedly contains some kind words for the current president, which seem to be the sort of thing one might expect from a man who has carefully guided his career of public service through administrations from both parties, Gates has also offered some pointed and apparently newsworthy criticisms. Currently getting the most attention are his observations that the president was not committed to the success of his “surge” strategy in Afghanistan, that both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted they had opposed a similar but more successful strategy in Iraq during the Bush administration only for political reasons, and that Vice President Joe Biden has been wrong about every major foreign policy issue of the past 40 years.
That last allegation prompted the White House to issue a statement calling Biden “one of the leading statesmen of his time,” providing the nation with a much-needed belly-laugh during this cold and bleak winter, but has otherwise the administration’s spokesmen has been cautious in their response. Gates was effusively praised for his service, vigorous debate and frequent disagreement within the administration was proudly admitted, and otherwise the spokesmen seemed content to let the press defend their president against such lese majeste.

Such a cordial reaction is probably best, as the administration has nothing to gain from further publicizing Gates’ book. Tell-all tomes by ex-administration officials are a staple of political non-fiction, and there are sure to be many more by Obama associates eager to disassociate themselves from his presidency, and in most cases they will quickly pass through the news cycle and be remaindered. In this case, though, the book raises points the president will be especially eager to ignore.

Gates’ book may soon be forgotten, but the failures of Obama’s foreign policy will be long remembered. There is nothing surprising about Gates’ revelation that Obama was not committed to success in Afghanistan, as the president has publicly ridiculed the very notion of victory, nor did any objective observer ever doubt that Senator Obama’s insistence on a premature surrender in Iraq was motivated by anything other than political ambition. We would have preferred that Gates had been similarly critical of Obama’s abandonment of allies in eastern Europe and South America and the Middle East, his groveling appeasement of the some of the world’s worst actors, and the general incoherence of his foreign policy, but perhaps he felt that was outside his duties as Secretary of Defense.
Whatever the literary and historical value of Gates’ book, he has done a public service even before its publication by forcing the media to at least briefly allude to foreign affairs. Obama put the lives of brave American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines at risk in Afghanistan without confidence that it would achieve anything in the country’s interests, and a war-weary public seems too satisfied to be getting out to be properly outraged about it, so it is good that the issue has at least been forced into the national conversation. The fledgling democracy that American forces gave birth to in Iraq might yet survive the latest onslaught by Islamist terrorists, but Gates deserves gratitude for pointing out that our erstwhile allies have to do it on their own for political rather than strategic reasons.
The debate should continue through the next presidential election, and much of the press already seems worried that Gates’ views will harm the chances of potential Democratic contenders Biden and Clinton. Even the sympathetic scribes at the McClatchy news chain had a hard time finding anything that Biden has been right about in the past 40 years, and it will take a most creative memoir by Clinton to disentangle from the messes created during her four years as Secretary of State. One book won’t win the debate, but this one seems to have started it well.

— Bud Norman

A Poor Excuse for an IRS

The Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of numerous conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status was quite the scandal a while back, so bad that even the media took notice, the president was obliged to express his outrage, and the government’s more dogged apologists were forced to come up with some sort of explanation. Those bold enough insist there was no scandal at all thought they’d finally come up with the proof, a document indicating that the IRS was also ordered to “Be On the Look Out” for liberal groups, but it now looks as if they’ll have to find another excuse.
Claiming that the agency was mistreating citizens equally was an odd enough defense to begin with, but more information from the Treasury Department’s Inspector General who originally exposed the scandal indicate that it also has the disadvantage of being untrue. In a letter to Rep. Sander Levin, the Michigan Democrat who has been making much of the document, Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George notes that the “BOLO” — in the IRS acronym — did not apply during the years being investigated, and that agency’s treatment of various groups was not equal in any case. In his politely worded slap-down of a letter George further noted that only six groups with “progressive” or “progress” in their names were cited as potential political cases between May 2010 and Mary 2012, while 292 groups with names suggesting a conservative leaning were listed, with 100 percent of the conservative groups subjected to review while only 30 percent of the liberal groups received the same treatment.
As much as some people would hate to believe that anyone in the government might want to punish its law-abiding critics for their exercise of free speech, George’s revelations are hardly surprising. The IRS’ unequal treatment of “tea party” groups followed the President’s expressed opinion that the groups were racist, the Vice President’s likening the groups to terrorists, the Mayor of New York City’s speculation that they were involved in a plot to bomb Times Square which predictably enough turned out to be the work of an Islamist extremist, and vulgar efforts to vilify the anti-tax-and-spend movement by journalists, celebrities, activists, and partisans too numerous to mention. When “tea party” groups are receiving unequal treatment from the IRS in such an atmosphere, it will take more than one document to suggest that it’s mere coincidence.
The latest excuse was better than the previous efforts to blame Republican budget cuts, which became all the more laughable in light of subsequent scandals about the IRS spending habits, but in the end it will only have the effect of getting the scandal briefly back in the news. With so many people willing to overlook this outrageous abuse of government power, the better strategy might be a shrug and hopes that yet another scandal will crowd it out of the news.

— Bud Norman

Rock On, Joe

Times are tough for the humble civil servant, what with that “sequester” cutting a full $44 billion out of the scheduled growth in the federal government’s $3.8 trillion budget, but at least Vice President Joe Biden is sleeping well.
One would hope so, at least, given The Weekly Standard’s recent revelation that the veep racked up a $585,000.50 hotel tab for one night in Paris, as well as a relatively economical $459,388.65 bill for lodging on a slightly longer stay in London. The totals include accommodations for Biden’s sizeable entourage, to be fair, but throw in a $321,655 bill for Biden’s limousine service that the dogged reporters of The Weekly Standard also uncovered and it’s still the sort of expense account that would have raised eyebrows even at The Who’s record company.
Such rock-star extravagance is characteristic of the Obama administration — . to say that the First Family lives like royalty would understate the matter by many millions of dollars, given that no European country indulges its kings and queens with anything near the funding provided for the presidential lifestyle — but it is somewhat surprising for a second-rate opening act such as Biden. Not that we’d want such a eminent official of the United States government staying in the sort of hotel that budget-minded businessmen favor, although the bed would likely be just as soft, the courtesy bar just as well-stocked, and the pay-per-view pornography offerings just as titillating, but we would have expected someone of a mere vice presidential stature to be a bit more conscious of public relations.
The administration is still lamenting the supposedly devastating effects of the recent slight slow-down in the rate of federal spending, after all, and blaming such outrages as the end of guided White House tours for the kiddies on the psychotic stinginess of those darned congressional Republicans and their crazed fixation on fiscal solvency. They’re still clamoring for ever-higher taxes on the wealthy, too, having recently won re-election on the argument that the other guy was too rich and out-of-touch to identify with the common folks, and Biden’s “Regular Joe” shtick is a big part of the class envy campaign, so a million dollar hotel bill is not what the political professionals call “good optics.”
Biden probably figures that it will go unnoticed by everyone outside The Weekly Standard’s already-angry readership, though, and he’s almost certainly correct. Anyone old enough to remember the brouhaha that ensued when Nancy Reagan bought some pricey dinner plates for the White House with private funds be astounded at the lack of interest in Biden’s high living, but that was a different time and an administration of a different party.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

The rest of the world has been back in the news lately, reminding Americans what a dangerous place it is.
Iran’s mad mullahs continue their quest to acquire nuclear weapons, a most dire possibility given the openly apocalyptic yearnings of the regime, and are now close enough that even the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama administration has taken alarmed notice. Vice President Joe Biden offered the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee a characteristically mangled assurance that “as long as I and he are president and vice president of the United States” Obama will be committed to the security of Israel, and Secretary of State John Kerry took to the airwaves to do some uncharacteristic saber-rattling, going so far as to say that “If they keep pushing the limits and not coming with a serious set of proposals or prepared to actually resolve this, obviously the risks get higher and confrontation becomes more possible.” It is hoped that Iran’s theocratic rulers will take these statements more seriously than we do, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued far more explicit threats, which will not be doubted by anyone, and some sort of “confrontation” now seems inevitable.
Whatever the Iranian government decides to do it will have to be without the assistance of longtime friend Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator who went to his final reward on Tuesday despite the best efforts of Cuba’s vaunted medical system. One is not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but surely in Chavez’ case an exception should be made. The fat twerp impoverished his citizens and trampled on their rights, fomented socialist troublemaking and allied himself with totalitarian thugs around the world, and racked up a sizeable personal fortune as he posed as a protector of the downtrodden common man. Such a resume gave Chavez a radical chic cachet among some progressives, from movie stars to congressmen to a particularly ditzy young woman of our acquaintance, but we think it says it all that his death prompted yet another police state crackdown in his unfortunate land.
The already nuclear-armed North Korean regime, a reliable pal to Chavez and Iran’s mullahs, was also grabbing its share of headlines. Not so much for it’s recent nuclear tests or its threat to end the decades-old cease-fire in the Korean War, but rather because of a recent state visit by Dennis Rodman. For those of you fortunate enough to have forgotten, Rodman was a professional basketball player who contributed tenacious defense, strong rebounding, and few points to some championship Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls squads back in the short-shorts days, then parlayed that meager accomplishment and a penchant for cross-dressing, garish tattoos, and outrageous pronouncements into a brief career as a B-list celebrity. Although Rodman’s status has been downgraded several notches in the meantime he was treated as a sort of royalty during his visit to Pyongyang, hanging with the dictator at sporting events and soaking up more media attention than he’s received in years, and he repaid the favor by talking up the virtues of the world’s worst state. Rodman was so inarticulate in the effort that he made Biden seem eloquent by comparison, but as best as we can decipher he seemed to suggest that America’s gulags are just as bad as North Korea’s and that the dictator and Obama share a love of basketball that should serve as the basis for a lasting peace.
Suddenly the domestic news, which has lately been dominated by stories about the disastrous consequences of a $44 billion cut from the growth of a $3.8 trillion budget, seems almost reassuring. The rest of the world can be very intrusive, however, and we can’t keep it at bay with manufactured budget crises forever. We not that the rest of the world even seems to want to meddle in the marijuana laws of Americans states, and there’s no telling what other mischief it might have in mind.

— Bud Norman

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