Pipe Bombs and Pipe Dreams

For now we suppose there’s an outside chance, as some of the right-wing talk radio hosts and their callers are already speculating, that whoever mailed five crude pipe bombs to prominent Democratic politicians and a rich donor to liberal causes and a major media company frequently critical of the current Republican government is some crazed leftist trying to make the right look bad. There’s a better chance it was some crazed person on the right, as we figure it, but in either case it’s a sad state of affairs.
The first of the pipe bombs arrived at the home of billionaire activist and generous bankroller of liberal causes George Soros. On Wednesday another arrived at the office of former President Barack Obama, and another at the residence of former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A fourth was addressed to former Obama administration Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan at the Cable News Network, although Brennan is currently employed as an analyst by the National Broadcasting and MSNBC networks. The fifth was sent to an incorrect address for Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder, but was sent to former Democratic national committee chairwoman and current Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose misspelled name was listed on each package’s return arrest. Another suspicious package was reportedly mailed to California Rep. Maxine Waters and intercepted in the congressional mail-room, but Federal Bureau of Investigation is not yet listing it among the incidents under investigation.
Perhaps it’s possible that some crazed leftist figured that any of these people would be acceptable collateral damage in a successful false flag operation to discredit the right, but we note there are also plenty of crazed people on the right who have an intense animus toward all of the intended victims.
President Donald Trump has recently accused Soros of financing an invasion of Latin-American and Middle Eastern terrorists currently walking their way across Mexico to America’s southern border. He spent years peddling the story that Obama was a Kenyan-born imposter who unconstitutionally became an America-hating president, and continues to lead chants at his rallies to have “Crooked Hillary” locked up for various thus-far unproved-in-court crimes. Trump revoked Brennan’s top-secret security clearance in retaliation for on air-criticism, and has criticized the career civil servant as a “political hack” and “very bad guy.” Trump has openly wished he had an Attorney General who would be as much a political hack on his behalf as he believes Holder was on Obama’s behalf, but that’s a rather back-handed compliment. As for Waters, a leading advocate of impeaching Trump, the president never fails to refer to her as “a very low-IQ individual.”
None of which is an incitement to murder, but Trump has urged rally crowds to rough up protestors, recently praised a Republican congressman for committing criminal assault against a reporter, continues to lead the “lock ’em up cheers” about a growing list of political adversaries, accuses such media as CNN and MSNBC of being “enemies of the people,” and often expresses a belief that his critics hate America, so it’s within the realm of possibility that some die-hard fan got a bit too riled up by the rhetoric.
The vast majority of law-abiding Trump supporters can rightly ask what about the harsh rhetoric heard on the left. Obama won the presidency telling his supporters to “bring a gun to a knife fight,” Clinton has recently told an adoring crowd of Democrats that civility toward Republicans is no longer possible, and Holder was widely quoted advising his party that “When they go low, we kick them.” Brennan did once say that Trump’s Russia policy was treasonous, Waters has urged on the harassment that Trump administration officials now routinely endure when they try to eat in a restaurant or shop in a store. and Soros has supported some unsavory causes. The left is just as paranoid about deep-pocketed conservatives activist Charles Koch as the right is about that Soros fellow, and now both men have survived assassination attempts. When a crazed leftist shot up a Republican congressional softball team’s practice back in ’17, seriously wounding Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and others, the right alleged that left’s rhetoric was a contributing cause, and they made a strong case.
But to venture an answer to the right’s favorite rhetorical question of what about the left’s language and behavior, we ask what about it? The left’s abominable language and behavior is no excuse for equally abominable language and behavior on the right, the current escalation of the war of words on both sides is likely to further escalate the alarming physical violence that gangs of young toughs on both sides have lately engaged in around the country. As lifelong Republicans who used to be considered conservative, we’d like to see our side once bring about a return to normalcy with malice toward none and charity to toward all, to borrow a couple of by now very outdated slogans of the Grand Old Party.
Trump has condemned the attempted bombings as “despicable acts” and said that “In these times we have to unify, we have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.” That uncharacteristically presidential statement got a big laugh later the same day when it was quoted at a symposium where Brennan was being interviewed, Brennan got another big laugh when he reacted by asking “That was said by Donald who?,” and for now we can’t begrudge the left’s giggles about it. The laughter might stop if Trump recants his praise of a criminal assault on a reporter, restrains himself from whipping up the rally crowds against the other “enemies of the people” in the press cages, withdraws his promise to pay the legal bills for anyone who punches a protestor, stops pressing for the imprisonment of his political opponents, and generally tones down the insult comic shtick, but until then his unifying message rings undeniably hollow.
Here’s holding out faint hope those damned Democrats dial it down a few notches as well, as there’s no denying they’ve also got some quite crazed and easily incited characters on their side, but these days they’re largely an undeniably nasty bunch who also seem eager to win by any means necessary and at any cost to the national comity.
Most of the Democrats and Republicans we know around here are reasonable sorts of people disinclined to mail pipe bombs, however, and seem willing to settle their differences at the ballot box. So for now we’ll hold out a slightly stronger hope that what’s left of the center will somehow hold.

— Bud Norman

When Silence Would Have Been Golden

President Donald Trump mostly spent his extended holiday vacation on the golf course or at fancy dinner parties, but he couldn’t keep from making some news. He had the usual number of insulting “tweets,” several insulting sound bites, and sat down for an impromptu interview with The New York Times that still worth noting after several days.
The interview is so full of eyebrow-raising quotes that one hardly knows where to begin, but we might has well start with the one that got the most attention from the media during a slow and little-watched news cycle. Asked an inevitable question about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the last presidential election, Trump surprised many by saying that “It doesn’t bother me, because I hope he’s going to be fair. I think that he’s going to be fair. There’s been no collusion. But I think he’s going to be fair.”
Which is surprising because Trump has frequently characterized the investigation as a “witch hunt,” and “witch hunts” are by definition unfair, while his most loyal allies in Congress and the conservative media have lately maintained that the investigators are biased and out to get the president. Perhaps it was a holiday spirit that had Trump so hopeful about Mueller’s fairness, perhaps he was taking the high road with confidence his surrogates would take the low, and he perhaps he believes that Mueller might as susceptible to flattery as himself, but in any case it provided fodder for speculation.
When asked about the possibility of re-re-opening an investigation former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s e-mail practices Trump replied that “I have absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department, but for purposes of hopefully thinking I will be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved in this particular matter.” Which is worrisome on a number of levels.
Aside from the fact that a President of the United States speaks such un-parseable English, there’s something chillingly Nixonian about Trump’s insistence that he can use federal law enforcement to persecute his political enemies, and something more chilling yet about his apparent confession that isn’t do so only in hopes of currying favor with the special counsel. Just in case a reader might reach a more generous interpretation, Trump also had some strange praise for former Attorney General Eric Holder that made his rather authoritarian views of presidential power explicitly clear.
“I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that — I will say this: Eric Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the IRS scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had — not made up problems like Russia collusion, these were real problems — when you look at the things they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that. I’ll be honest, I have great respect for that.”
Aside from mangled syntax and the failure to recall the name of the “Fast and Furious” scandals or come up with any other of the many Obama scandals, Trump is saying that his predecessor committed serious crimes and was allowed to do so by an Attorney General who put personal loyalty ahead of loyalty to the rule of law, and that he wishes his own Attorney General were just as unethical. All of Trump’s allies in Congress and the conservative media used to loathe Holder for doing what Trump respects, and when they get back to work today it will be interesting to see if they recant their past criticisms. We’re sure they’ll come up with something to say, and fully expect that their ongoing attacks on Mueller’s character will continued despite Trump’s hopefulness for fair treatment.
There was plenty of Trump’s widely-ridiculed braggadocio, too, as he claimed Chinese President Xi Jiping treated him “better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China,” that he understands tax law “better than the greatest CPA” and the details of health care policy “better than most.” He also claimed to have vaulted candidate Luther Strange from fifth place to second after endorsing in his Alabama’s Republican primary for a Senate race, even though there were only three major candidates in the race, and the numbers he claimed in Strange’s surge were simply made-up. As usual he could not get through an interview with about bragging about his electoral college victory, which as usual he claims is much harder for a Republican to win than the popular vote, even the Republicans are three-and-two  in the past five electoral votes but only one-for-five in the popular vote.
Trump also used a barnyard epithet to describe the Democrats’ opposition to the tax bill, while unnecessarily insulting potential Democratic ally Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state that Trump claims to have single-handedly restored to economic greatness.
The weirdest part, though, was Trump’s prediction that the mainstream media — those “very bad people” and purveyors of “Fake News” who have been Trump’s favorite target since he launched his campaign — are going to carry him to an easy reelection victory in 2020. “Because without me, their ratings are going down the tube. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times but the failed New York Times. So basically they have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please don’t lose Donald Trump.'”
Which is to say that the American public only reads or watches the news to hear about Trump, and will lose interest in public affairs all together if he’s not around, and that’s pretty arrogant even by Trumpian standards. He also expects that the news outlets that have seen their readerships and viewerships rise with the constant criticisms of Trump will commence six months of unrelenting praise so that they can go back to luring readers and viewers once he’s safely re-installed in office, which strikes us as worrisomely crazy even by Trumpian standards.
Trump is probably lucky the interview was published when people had better things to do than read or watch the news, but today the holidays are over and the government is back to work and people will once again be paying attention. Our advice is that he avoid impromptu interviews for a while.

— Bud Norman

Taking a Kick at Soccer

We know little about soccer, having grown up on wholesome American games that allow the use of hands, as God and Abner Doubleday intended, but even we knew that the sport’s international governing body is corrupt. It was therefor no surprise to hear that legal action is being taken against them, but we were a bit startled that it was America’s Department of Justice that is doing it.
The Federation Internationale de Football is not based in America, as the foreign name and its galling misuse of “football” would suggest, and so far as we can gather from numerous press reports none of its alleged crimes took place here. Authorities in Switzerland, where the organization is based, and where the alleged crimes seem to have allegedly occurred, and where the populace presumably cares more about soccer than do Americans, are also taking action, so it’s hard to see why America’s legal system should be bothered. All of the 14 FIFA official indicted on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy are from other other countries, there’s going to be a lot of fuss over extradition, it complicates foreign relations with the numerous countries involved to the point that we have to admit Vladimir Putin has a point when he calls it “another case of illegal extra-territorial implementation of American law,” and none of the bribes they’re said to have accepted for awarding international tournaments seem to have been paid by Americans, who won’t be hosting any FIFA tournaments in the near future in any case, so the only point seems to be cleaning up a sport that few Americans bother to watch.
The smart fellows over at the Powerline web site are avid soccer fans, which strikes us as odd given their usually sound political opinions and excellent taste in music, and they contend that the Department of Justice is still sore that FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar despite the long trip to Zurich and personal lobbying of former Attorney General Eric Holder. It won’t be the least bit surprising if it is eventually proved in court that the Qataris prevailed by means of millions of dollars of illegal bribes, as such things are a feature of Arab culture and there is no other plausible explanation for awarding the world’s most-watched sporting event to such a remote and backwards desert hellhole as Qatar. The country’s pledge to air-conditioned stadia large enough to accommodate a soccer field and many thousands of spectators in the 100-plus degree summers has already been reneged on, the tournament has thus been moved to winter during the middle of the seasons of the professional leagues that supply the players, and the Indian, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi laborers who have been imported to build the vast infrastructure that FIFA absurdly requires have died at the rate of one per day. Nor would we be surprised if this is all about Holder holding a grudge, as he always struck as that sort of guy.
Besides, the Obama administration was still smarting from its snub by the International Olympic Committee way back in ’09 when it award its games to Rio de Janeiro over of Chicago. Obama personally flew to Denmark to make the pitch, bringing along Oprah Winfrey, who might or might not be a big deal in Denmark, and giving a speech about how Chicago was his kind of town and recalling how “Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of the presidential election,” and basically suggested that having the Olympics culminate his eight years in office and welcome the world to his transformed America would give the games new meaning. All the press speculated that of course the deal was already done or no president would put his prestige on the line by making the trip, so when the Olympics went to an even more crime-ridden kleptocracy than Chicago it was the first bad press that the administration got after all the messianic treatment in ’08, and although the loss of the 2022 World Cup went entirely unnoticed we’re sure it still stung.
The blow to Obama’s and Holder’s egos notwithstanding, and despite the lucrative deals that Valerie Jarret’s Chicago buddies would have made preparing for the Olympics, and whatever deals might have been made for a World Cup, these are two games we’re glad America lost. These big international sporting events are lucrative to whatever network makes the sufficient bribes, and they transfix much of the world for a brief time, but they’re usually a severe burden on the communities that get stuck with them and the useless stadia they paid for. Even in soccer-mad Brazil there were riots in response to lavish sums that poverty-stricken country doled out to host the most recent World Cup, and the police are gearing up for more of the same during those ’16 Olympics that Chicago wanted. The only Olympics that we can recall proving profitable for a host was the ’02 winter games in Salt Lake City, and that was due to the organizational skills of Mitt Romney, which the public apparently found less impressive than that soaring “on a clear November night” rhetoric of Obama. The Olympics have lost much of their appeal since the end of the Cold War, not to mention all believable rumors about the IOC’s shenanigans, but they’re still a bigger deal to the real American sports fan than some FIFA contest with a bunch of foreigners kicking a ball around a “pitch” — we know that, too, along with with the corruption of the governing body — to a 1-0 score after some incalculable amount of time.
A country such as Qatar might decide that the millions in bribes and billions in soon-to-be-useless stadia and the daily deaths of Indians, Sri Lankans, and Bangladeshi is well worth the prestige of hosting a highly-rated sports event, along with all the hooligans that soccer somehow always attracts, no matter how remote the backwards hellhole, but we’d like to think the United States of America can still earn its international prestige elsewhere.

— Bud Norman

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

A Bittersweet Departure

Attorney General Eric Holder has announced his resignation, yet we feel no glee. Holder was by far the worst Attorney General of our lifetime, which stretches back to the days of John Mitchell, but his departure provides no vindication and little hope.
The man’s execrable record began long before he assumed the office of Attorney General, from his days taking over campus buildings as a college radical to his role in the Clinton administration’s final days pardons of a Democrat-contributing expatriate scammer and some bomb-throwing Puerto Rican terrorists, and continued into his private sector work at a law firm that provided pro bono defense for Islamist terrorists. In the euphoria that followed the hope and change election of ’08 this record was insufficient to prevent the appointment of the first black Attorney General, however, and his outrages as Attorney General began immediately with his decision to drop charges against the paramilitary-garbed and club-weilding New Black Panther members who had already been convicted of intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling station and an address that branded America a “nation of cowards” for declining to talk about race on his resentful terms, then continued with a disinclination to pursue hate crime charges on behalf of white victims, his insistence that school discipline be administered by racial quotas, his apparent approval of the “Fast and Furious” program that allowed gun sales to Mexican gangsters who wound up committing hundreds of murders that included the death of American law enforcement agents, his subsequent stonewalling of congressional investigations that led to a contempt charge, his refusal to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of his party’s political opponents, his resistance to reasonable rules regarding eligibility for voting, his prejudicial statements concerning various racial contretemps playing out in the local justice systems, and other offenses so numerous that we can’t off the top of our head recall them all.
None of this was sufficient to remove the first black Attorney General from office, however, and so far as we can tell he is rather smugly leaving for a lucrative career in the private sector of his own accord. There is speculation in the conservative press that Holder is departing under duress of those still-lingering contempt of Congress charges stemming from the “Fast and Furious” scandal, but this seems wishful thinking. All those dead Mexicans and American law enforcement officers weren’t an issue in the re-election of Holder’s boss, and are now rarely mentioned in the public discourse, so we can’t imagine that Holder or his boss feel at all concerned by it now. Disturbingly enough the more plausible explanation is Holder’s statement that six years of bedeviling American justice is enough and that he’s ready to follow his wife’s advice and take on the less stressful and more remunerative life of a very well-connected private sector lawyer. He announced his resignation with a lachrymose farewell from the President of the United States and such polite press as the Politico web site admitting that his resignation is perfectly timed to allow a replacement to be confirmed by a lame duck Democratic Senate but still gushing that he is “leaving on arguably the highest point of his personal career, after a year of progress on his plan to reform sentencing laws and just after his well-received, calming-the-waters trip to Ferguson, Missouri, during the riots in August.”
That Holder is leaving as the least popular person in the Obama administration went unremarked, as was that his trip to Ferguson calmed the waters by promising the mob its preferred decision on the police shooting that prompted the riots and it wasn’t at all well-received by the vast majority of Americans who don’t write for Politico, but otherwise the article seems credible in its assertion that Holder is leaving on his own. The publication’s posterior-kissing approach to journalism has probably given it credible sources within the administration, too, so we take seriously their list of the equally-radical and racialist candidates being considered to replace Holder. One can hope that a more Republican Senate will refuse to confirm the first few put forth, but they’ll eventually have to agree to one of them and in the meantime Holder will stay on the job. We’ll be glad to be rid of Holder, but don’t expect that anything will soon get better.

— Bud Norman

The Riot This Time Around

Yet another riot is raging after yet another fatal police shooting of a young black man, and in most respects it seems all too familiar. Al Sharpton and the New Black Panther Party and Eric Holder’s Justice Department and the national press and all the other usual rabble-rousers are once again on the scene, once again the facts of the shooting are infuriatingly unclear, and once again individuals and businesses and public institutions that obviously had nothing to with it are among the victims. What’s different this time around, in the previously unheard of town of Ferguson, Missouri, is the reaction from the right and left ends of the political spectrum.
On the right there have been the usual denunciations of the pathological lawlessness that pervades too many majority African-American communities, the same wondering why the death of a young black man at the hands of the police warrants so much more outrage than the vastly more numerous deaths of young black men at the hands of other young black men, and the routine insistence that a police officer deserves the same presumption of innocence that would be afford to any person accused of a crime. Such obvious truths must be stated, and if not for right-wing bastards such as ourselves as they would go unsaid, so the points are by now almost obligatory. This time, though, there’s been a different emphasis from the conservative side. From the most robustly right-wing talk radio ranters to the more reserved columns of the venerable National Review, there’s been a painstakingly made acknowledgement that the most damning version of  the police officer’s actions might well be true and that the response to the predictable demonstrations might be dangerously heavy-handed. The heavily militarized police forces that many conservatives have lately decried has been on full display in Ferguson, where armored vehicles and the sorts of machine guns once trained on Iraqi terrorists have been on the streets of a little-known midwestern town, and those critics have stubbornly refused to recant their views even when such military might is deployed against opportunistic looters and the more criminally inclined sorts of Fergusonians that would not ordinarily inspire a conservative’s sympathy.
Some on the left will go ahead and charge those critics with hypocrisy for a failure to speak out about the issue now, lacking any sufficiently incendiary soundbites from any prominent Republicans, but this is easily refuted. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was singled out for his silence on the armored response to the riots, but that was only because he was busily composing an updated diatribe against such law enforcement for Time Magazine. Those eminently respectable scribes at The National Review have remained consistent, too, as has the brilliantly pugnacious Canuck conservative Mark Steyn. Throw in Texas Sen. Mark Cruz and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash and our own misgivings about all that armor on the streets of Ferguson, and its fair to say that conservatism has been quite intellectually consistent. The only hypocrisy is on the part of the left, which is suddenly scandalized by a police force that was militarized by its beloved Obama administration. Even the Obama is administration is scandalized by inevitable results of its policies, it seems, and is apparently confident that it won’t be forcefully confronted with the contradiction.
No one on the right is abandoning conservatism’s inherent preference for law and order, of course, but as National Review’s headline writers put it, “More bobby sticks, fewer M-16s, please. The sort of rioting that has lately occurred in Ferguson is unfortunately routine in American history, and has traditionally been quelled with more low-tech methods, so traditionalists have good cause for continuing this policy. Almost all of those meddlesome bureaucracies now have their own armies to enforce their ever-expanding array of regulations, most of which aren’t so commonsensical as “don’t burn down the neighborhood convenience store,” and it no longer seems mere paranoia to wonder what sort of popular uprisings all that military power might yet be unleashed upon. The Department of Homeland Security has identified veterans and advocates of low taxes and limited government as national security threats, the “tea party” is routinely vilified as a brewing violent revolution, strict adherence to government’s wise mandates is the stated goal of modern liberalism, and no can seriously believe that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder intended all that military might at your local police force to intimidate some black youths angered by the plausible but yet unproved claim that a policeman in a previously unheard of Missouri town unnecessarily caused a young black man’s death.
On the left there is the usual talk of income inequality and racial prejudice and economic deprivation and all the usual rationalizations for burning down the neighborhood convenience store, but without the usual enthusiasm. This comes more than six years into the post-racial era of hope and change, after all, and by now even the thugs burning down the neighborhood convenience store have noticed that the current administration has done nothing to improve their lot in life. They might never notice that the right is demanding a thorough and unbiased investigation of their grievances, or protesting the harsh methods used to put down even their most peaceable protests, or advocating policies on issues ranging from immigration to entrepreneurship to gun rights that would improve their economic fortunesErick, or that Republicans aren’t the racist rednecks they’ve been led to believe, but it seems unlikely that the left will derive any benefit from the latest riot. That’s something different about this time around, and something hopeful.

— Bud Norman

So Long, Kathleen

We won’t have Kathleen Sebelius to kick around anymore, and we have to admit we’ll miss the pastime. We were heaping scorn on the woman long before the rest of the country got in on the fun, ever since she was elected Governor of Kansas 12 years ago, and her probably permanent departure from public life will make it hard to break the habit.
Sebelius resigned Thursday as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and although all the send-offs from the big papers and wire services were properly respectful they didn’t seem surprised. Given her undeniably botched roll-out of the administration’s all-important Obamacare boondoggle, as well as the extra-legal delays and waivers and other administrative sleight-of-hand, along with some dubious fund-raising schemes and some past tax questions and other problems the papers were obliged to mention, one might expect any responsible organization hold such a record to account. We were stunned to see it happen in the Obama administration, though, as it is habitually disinclined to admit failure.
Eric Holder has been at least as awful an Attorney General as Sebelius was a Health and Human Services Secretary, for instance, and he spent Thursday whining about how very unfair it is that he has to hear any criticism. No other Attorney General has ever been subjected to such harsh treatment, he griped, and one couldn’t help hearing a subtle suggestion that any white Attorney General could let loose armed thugs intimidating voters or declare that only victims of certain ethnic groups be championed by the Justice Department or be held in contempt of congress for stonewalling an investigation into his gun-running operation without anyone being so rude as to raise an objection. He did his whining to an organization founded by the notorious race-baiting, rabble-rousing buffoon Al Sharpton, which was predictably sympathetic, but we suspect an audience of Ed Meese and John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez and the rest of the past Republican Attorneys General would have been more skeptical.
At least Sebelius was willing to fall on her sword, and without resort to any insinuations that sexism had anything to do with it. Maybe she’s saving that for her inevitable memoirs, but for now it’s the sort of graceful departure the country once expected of its failed public servants. We can almost whip up a wee bit of sympathy for a one-time Kansas gal who was stuck with the unenviable job of implementing something so fundamentally flawed as Obamacare. She did shell out a gazillion dollars to some crony Canadian computer company for a widely-ridiculed web site, however, and just about everything else she did was capricious and corrupt, so it’s just a wee bit. Her reportedly voluntary but much-desired resignation was obviously intended to help in the administration’s effort to convince the public that the problem isn’t the law itself but just its previously inept implementation, so come to think of we can’t even give her much credit for that.
One of the shriller right-wing was angrily wondering the other day how this woman ever got elected as governor in such a conservative state as Kansas, and we declined his invitation to callers from the state to offer an explanation. The host is rather harsh, and we were concerned he might not want to hear that it happened because a recently triumphant and thoroughly revved-up religious wing of the Republican party won the nomination for a candidate so shrill and angry that Sebelius was able to pass herself off as pragmatic and reasonable and moderate sort of Democrat. She actually governed that way for her first time, or at least we don’t remember to being too riled about anything she did, and she stayed out of the news well enough to win re-election over another fire-breather. She then took a turn to the left, however, and was clearly looking to endear herself to the Democratic party’s liberal base rather than her own state’s more conservative voters. One low point came when the once-lovely little town of Greensburg was wiped out by a tornado, and Sebelius falsely claimed that recovery efforts had been hampered by a lack of National Guard equipment due to the Iraq War. The ploy worked well enough to gain Sebelius a prominent post in the Obama during its heady early days, and she no doubt thought that it would lead to even greater things, but her career now seems to have come to a more fitting conclusion.
Sebelius will likely find some sinecure on a corporate board or in academia or at some lucrative lobbying outfit, but the past talk of her presidential or vice-presidential possibilities won’t be repeated. The Democrats will be running another candidate for governor this year, and already have another pragmatic and reasonable and moderate sort of Democrat woman lined up for Lieutenant Governor, but we’re not expecting them to invite Sebelius to any of their campaign events.

— Bud Norman

An Oratorical Drone Strike

As we write this Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is still talking on the Senate floor, waging a filibuster against the confirmation of Paul Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
All the press reports have dubbed Paul’s effort an “old-fashioned” filibuster to distinguish it from the modern easy-to-use variety, which is any procedural maneuver to block a simple majority, and some could not resist a reference to the climactic scene of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The marathon speech-making was intended as a protest against the Obama administration’s drone policies, which claim broad powers to strike against Americans without due process, but the tactic might have garnered more attention than the point it was making.

Which is a shame, because the drone policy deserves careful public scrutiny. In testimony before a Senate committee on Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder offered an assurance that “the government has no intention” of carrying out drone strikes in America but nonetheless insisted it has a right to do so in an “extraordinary circumstance.” Holder cited the attack on Pearl Harbor and the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001, as examples, but questioning by Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz revealed that more ordinary circumstances also suffice. Cruz asked “If an individual sitting quietly at a café in the United States, in your legal judgment, does the Constitution allow a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil to be killed by a drone?” A discomfiting amount of hemming and hawing followed before Holder replied that he did “not think that that would be an appropriate use of lethal force.” Only when pressed further by Cruz, who noted that he had asked about the legality rather than the propriety of such an attack, did Holder concede that there might be constitutional issues involved.

Such an expansive view of government power seems odd coming from Holder, who had been an outspoken critic of the previous administration’s harsh interrogation techniques, formerly insisted on civilian trials for such terrorists at Halide Sheik Mohammad, and whose law firm had noisily represented several of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, but none of the senators bothered to question him about the consistency of his views. Many critics of the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism protocols have undergone similar conversions since Obama took office, so perhaps the senators felt it wasn’t remarkable enough to warrant comment.

Some will contend that Obama’s critics are guilty of the same hypocrisy, and there probably are a few conservatives out there who would have felt quite comfortable with the new drone policies under the old administration, but Paul comes from strictly libertarian wing of the Republican and has been opposed to the war on terror’s expansion of government powers since the beginning. Although we have our doubts about Paul’s isolationist tendencies, they serve him well in this instance.

— Bud Norman

Too Hot For Politics

It’s summertime, when the living is supposed to be easy, and this is usually the slow news season when politics and other matters of national importance are supplanted in all the papers by stories about bath salt-crazed cannibals, natural disasters, and celebrity sex scandals. Not this summer, though, as the politics continues unabated.

This hot and hazy Thursday brings two stories that would dominate the front pages at any time of year, as the Supreme Court will unveil its long-awaited ruling on Obamacare and the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on holding the Attorney General of the United States in contempt of Congress. Both stories will drag out over the rest of the summer, regardless of what news today brings, and will inspire seemingly endless arguments and analysis.

Much of the analysis will concern how the developments affect the ongoing presidential race, which has been constantly intruding into the news. Presidential campaigns once took time off after the primaries and didn’t begin in earnest until the conventions, but like so many other worthy traditions that schedule has fallen by the wayside. One can also expect any number of unforeseen developments to command the attention of the civic-minded throughout the summer, too, including foreign crises, economic calamities, and assorted scandals.

The relentlessness of the political news is wearying, even for those of us who find it fascinating, and offers yet another argument for conservatism. A properly limited government wouldn’t require the constant attention of its citizens, and would allow time for such happier pursuits as baseball, lawn work, and addressing all of the problems that government hopes to solve but usually winds up exacerbating. Politics has insinuated itself into almost everything, but it should at least take the summers off.

— Bud Norman

Fast, Furious, Fercockta

An upcoming House vote on holding Attorney General Eric in contempt of Congress has forced reluctant news media to belatedly explain the Fast and Furious scandal, but so far no one has offered a satisfactory explanation of what the heck those government agents were thinking when they launched the now-infamous “botched law enforcement operation.” We don’t know, either, but offer the following scenario, an entirely fictitious account first presented as a skit at the annual Gridiron show, as one possibility.

(Scene opens at a hearing of a Senate investigating committee, with Senators Forehead, Cheeks, Chin and Lips seated at a table. Across from them is Chip Wilson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.)

SEN. FOREHEAD: This session of the Senate’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious will now come to order. Our first witness is Mr. Chip Wilson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the man who devised this program. Mr. Wilson, could you please tell us what Operation Fast and Furious was all about?

WILSON: Certainly, Senator. Operation Fast and Furious was a program carried out by the BATF under the auspices of our supervisory agency, the Department of Justice. Basically, the program involved our facilitating the sale of more than 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to various Mexican drug gangs.

SEN. FOREHEAD: You purposely helped in the sale of 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to Mexican drug gangs?

SEN. CHEEKS: I’m sorry, Mr. Wilson, but I have to ask you this. Why on earth would you ever facilitate the sale of more than 2,000 guns, grenades, and other weapons to Mexican drug gangs?

WILSON: We wanted to see if anything bad would happen.

SEN. CHIN: Good lord, man, those guns have been linked to more than 200 murders. I think it’s fair to say that something bad did happen.

WILSON: Yes, and now we know. In that regard, at least, I think the operation has to be considered an unqualified success.

SEN. CHIN: Mr. Wilson, one of the murder victims was an American immigration agent. Several Mexican policemen and government officials were also killed.

WILSON: With all due respect, Senator, I don’t think it’s productive to quibble over who’s responsible for whose bloody murder. The important thing is that we now have definitive proof that Mexican drug gangs are not the kind of people you want to be selling heavy weaponry to. If you don’t think that’s important, Senator, well, frankly, I’m disappointed by how very incurious you are.

SEN. LIPS: Mr. Wilson, I am shocked that this cockamamie operation of yours ever won approval from the Department of Justice. When did Attorney General Holder learn of this?

WILSON: I recall that Attorney General Holder testified before this very committee that he learned of it in May of 2011, so I’ll go with that.

SEN. LIPS: We have e-mails from you and other officials discussing this matter with him that are dated well before that.


SEN. FOREHEAD: What I’d like to know, Mr. Wilson, is how a person such as yourself ever wound up an employee of a federal agency.

WILSON: Well, Senator, ever since I was a kid there was nothing I loved more than drinkin’, smokin’ and shootin’ off guns. So when I heard that there was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, well, it seemed a good fit. I soon discovered that I had been somewhat misled by the name about the kind of work they do there, but by then I was a government employee, and as you know, there was no getting rid of me at that point.

SEN. CHEEKS: Mr. Wilson, do you have any professional or academic credentials for your job?

WILSON: Well … KU. Senator, if it makes you feel any better, I have recently accepted a reassignment and will be leaving my current post.

SEN. FOREHEAD: Well, I’m sure we can all be grateful for that.

WILSON: Yes, I’m taking over the administration of the new health care program. It should be very interesting to see what might go wrong there.

— Bud Norman