|8:14 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By MARIA SANTOS
New surveys: Obamacare signs up few uninsured.
Russian opposition condemns Putin's actions in Crimea.
How the left is anti-science.
Russian state TV denounces reporter who resigned on-air over coverage of Putin.
The Pentagon is researching Putin’s body language.
Chipotle guacamole is safe from climate change, after all.
Did the 'bridgegate' scandal encourage the New Jersey governor to tack right?6:35 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has had a fraught relationship with the conservative movement, sought to win back friends on the right Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. In a 15-minute speech, Christie recounted his battle with public sector unions, defended the Koch brothers from Harry Reid's vicious attacks, cursed at the president, blasted the media, and touted his pro-life views.
Speaking of the congressional "super committee" that failed to produce a plan to cut the deficit, Christie said, "The president never met with the super committee or got involved with them because he knew they were doomed to failure. Man, that's leadership, isn't it? You're the leader of the government, you see something getting ready to go off the rails, and what you decide to do is stay as far away from it as possible? Well, my question now is the same question I had then, if that's your attitude, Mr. President, what the hell are we paying you for?"
Later, Christie lambasted Democrats for being intolerant on social issues. "They said it could never be done. Now twice--twice--for the first time since Roe v. Wade, New Jersey has elected a pro-life governor," he said to applause. "This is what I mean about the media. I got asked the question last year, 'Governor, you're very popular in a blue state. How can you export that to the rest of the country, given the intolerance on social issues in your party? And I said, 'Well, let me ask you a question. You said the Republicans are intolerant. I'll just tell you this. At our national convention, we've had people like Tom Ridge and Colin Powell and Condi Rice speak at our national conventions even though our party platform and I don't agree with their position on abortion. Tell me, sir, the last pro-life Democrat who was allowed to speak at a Democratic convention.' I said, 'By the way, don't strain yourself, because there's never been one.' They're the party of intolerance, not us."
It was a good speech--the kind of red-meat speech Christie has always needed to give if he ever hoped to win over enough conservatives to win the Republican presidential nomination. But is it a speech he would have given if the "bridgegate" scandal had not occurred in January?
Prior to the news that his aides had caused a traffic jam in order to exact revenge against a mayor who didn't endorse Christie, the New Jersey governor seemed to treat the Republican nomination as an afterthought. Riding high off his reelection victory, most of Christie's speeches focused on his ability to win elections, work across the aisle, and get things done. Christie was acting as if he were already running in the general election and focused on winning over moderates and Democrats.
5:02 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Marco Rubio made the case for American power around the world in a speech today at CPAC:
As Noah Rothman of Mediate summarizes:
He pivoted to foreign policy, defining the threats faced by the United States. He said that China is threatening to take parts of the South China Sea which would limit trade and threaten America’s allies, a nuclear North Korea is testing missiles, Venezuela is slaughtering protesters, and Cuba remains an oppressive dictatorship. He added that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons and regional hegemony and Russia is attempting to “reconstitute” the former Soviet Union.
“And by the way, what do all these countries have in common?” he asked. “These are totalitarian governments.”
“There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism,” Rubio said. “The United Nations cannot do this. In fact, they cannot do anything.”
“We cannot ignore that the flawed foreign policy of the last few years has brought us to this stage, because we have a president who believed but by the sheer force of his personality he would be able to shape global events,” Rubio asserted. “We do not have the luxury of seeing the world the way we hope it would be. We have to see the world the way it is. And we have to address these issues before they grow unmanageable, and they threaten, not just our freedoms, but our economy.”
“[Ronald] Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union because they had nuclear weapons and he wanted peace, but he never accepted the Soviet Union,” he declared. He said went on to outline how the behavior of the Iranian government should be unacceptable to the American public and regarded as illegitimate.
“If you think high taxes and regulations are bad for our economy, so is global instability and the spread of totalitarianism,” Rubio added. “What we have in America is the exception, not the rule, in human history. Almost everyone who has ever lived on this planet didn’t’ get to choose their leaders, and they didn’t get to choose their life either.”
“Every time I talk about how special America is, some commentator or whoever it may be will roll their eyes and say, ‘Well, that’s just something Americans tell each other to make themselves feel good,’” Rubio said. “You have the right to believe that. I don’t have that option, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
Hosted by Michael Graham4:25 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with executive editor Fred Barnes on President Obama's Ukraine statement and why it's his job to stop Vladimir Putin.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
4:04 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By SYDNEY LEACH
Gimme Shelter, the movie starring Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, and Anne Dowd, is a straightforward and unpretentious film about an unmarried pregnant teenage girl who chooses to have her baby rather than an abortion. Written and directed by Ronald Krauss, the film is both uplifting and instructive. In telling the story of Agnes Bailey, played by Vanessa Hudgens (the character actually prefers “Apple” for reasons that become clear later), and those who try to help and support her, the film implicitly underscores that pro-life commitment and advocacy is far more personal and individual than it is political. Thus, her story helps to cast into relief three critical themes: the meaning and exercise of “choice” in the abortion context, the importance of private entities that are able to mediate, and the need for fathers.
Agnes Bailey is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a drug-addicted prostitute. Rosario Dawson plays Agnes’s mother and gives the best performance in the film as a woman who is cruel and manipulative, but also fragile and despairing. Desperate to escape, Agnes makes a rather harrowing journey to the home of the father she never knew—played by Brenden Fraser. He is now married with two young children and works on Wall Street. We later learn he was on the verge of entering college when she was born. He left a letter for her, expressing his regret and sorrow that he would never know her; it is through this letter that she ultimately finds him. Rather uneasily, her father and his wife welcome her into their home. When she soon discovers she is pregnant, they insist on an abortion.
But Agnes has seen the sonogram—and she bolts. Running from the clinic where her stepmother has taken her for the abortion, she undertakes another hazardous journey. After crashing a car in her panic to get away, she is injured and hospitalized. The hospital chaplain happens to be a Fr. McCarthy, played by James Earl Jones, who introduces Agnes to Kathy DiFiore, the real-life inspiration for the movie, played by Ann Dowd. Kathy DiFiore runs a home for young, pregnant girls and single mothers, and Agnes finds her place, her own home, among them.
Agnes is stubborn, willful, and independent. These are critical character traits the film highlights—because it underscores that the pro-life position is still counter-cultural and coercion is still a strong element in the decision to abort. Indeed, the narrative helpfully reveals the modern contours of “choice” in the context of abortion: when ideological and cultural assumptions favor abortion and one is young and poor, how freely does one choose? So, Agnes’s willful rebel streak serves her well. She keeps her baby because she keeps her own counsel; she is alone when she looks at the sonogram results and the viewer understands from her expression that she has instinctively recognized that this is her baby. Her father and stepmother’s arguments that she will be unable to care for a child at this point in her life are ultimately unpersuasive, but one can imagine how powerful such arguments might be to someone alone and vulnerable.
3:05 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Mobile World Congress (MWC to the cognoscenti) took place in Barcelona during the last week of February. It was a four-day exhibition of the digital world’s latest and coolest. Phones, tablets, “wearables.” All of it very cutting edge. One of the big winners was the Yota, a dual-screen telephone from … Russia. Not the first place you think of when your mind turns to smart phones. But the Yota is a hot ticket, according to press reports. Not yet available in the U.S. but, maybe, soon.
And, then, there were the Olympics, also in February. The Sochi games were a $50 billion festival celebrating the 21st century Russia. The host country put on an extravagant, show for all the world to see and came in first in the medal count, as well.
It was a good month, then, for modern Russia.
But in March, the old Russia reappeared and reasserted itself. This is the Russia not of the Yota but the Kalashnikov. This time the world sees not bobsleds, but tanks. Russia has a history with tanks. They are part of modern Russia’s genetic makeup. Long before they began to compete in the smart phone marketplace, the Russians made the world’s most fearsome tank, the T-34.
Russia and tanks seem, somehow, to go together. The T-34 made it all the way to Berlin while Hitler’s Panzers stalled 30 miles from Moscow. During the Cold War, the Russians went into Budapest with tanks to keep the Hungarians in line. They went into Prague with tanks to keep the Czechs in line. They tried it in Afghanistan where it didn’t work and, now, they are going into the Ukraine with tanks where, most likely, it will. The Russians may not have a perfect record in these things but they come close. It is what they do, and they do it well.
Which is why it is so surprising that so many in the West seem so … well, surprised. Did they think that Russia had changed that much? That smart phones had made tanks somehow obsolete. That there really is such a thing as “smart power” in the affairs of nations? And that they knew how to wield it skillfully enough to stop tanks?
"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text," says Secretary of State, John Kerry.
Well … if you are Russia, yes you do. And if you are Vladimir Putin, you don’t much care if John Kerry or Tom Friedman or any other 21st century savant considers such an invasion gauche and retrograde. The 19th century wasn’t so bad, to his way of thinking. In a lot of ways, those were the good times.
Mr. Kerry tells us his boss takes the situation in the Ukraine seriously.
Everything is on the table, Mr. Kerry says.
1:59 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
This afternoon, the Senate will vote on an amendment offered by Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York that would take the prosecution of certain serious crimes in the military, including sexual assault, outside the chain of command. Although all-star Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky have signed on to Gillibrand's amendment, Heritage Action is urging conservatives to vote "no" on the measure.
The political arm of the Heritage Foundation sent the following memo to Senate offices today:
Heritage Action Recommends Senators Vote "NO" on Gillibrand
Taking that power away from commanding officers eliminates an indispensable authority that cannot be delegated or transferred to another if we are to demand accountability from commanders for prosecuting and preventing sexual assaults and other serious crimes. This notion of accountability to one’s commanding officer may seem mysterious to civilians who have never served in the armed forces. But chain of command, and accountability up and down the chain of command, is essential to carrying out the missions as ordered by the President, whose authority as Commander in Chief owes accountability to the people via elections and assures a military that will not threaten a constitutional democracy—whether our country is engaged in an armed conflict or not.” As Senator Claire McCaskill (D–MO) said, “the best way to protect victims and realize more aggressive and successful prosecutions is by keeping the … chain of command in the process at the beginning of a criminal proceeding … there’s no substitute for a commander who does it right.”
The last time Congress attempted a legislative “fix” to the issue of sexual assault in the military, the legislation made matters worse. Against the advice of subject matter experts, Congress rewrote the military rape statute in order to make it easier for the government to get convictions and harder for those accused of rape to mount a proper defense. These efforts resulted in years of unnecessary litigation and ultimately in a fedkriseral appeals court declaring the scheme unconstitutional. This time, Senator Gillibrand is pushing an even more radical idea: stripping commanders of the ability to enforce good order and discipline in their units by removing their authority to refer cases to a court-martial. As with last time, subject matter experts the military and Heritage Action strongly advise against this scheme.
The Gillibrand amendment is strongly opposed by military leaders. “Conveyance of a message that commanders cannot be trusted will only serve to undermine good order and discipline,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2013. Military leaders have rallied support behind an alternative amendment sponsored by Democratic senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
1:42 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
In Vermont, where he has been running for something for as long as anyone can remember, the senator is known, simply, as “Bernie.” His national profile is not quite so well established but there are people who have floated the possibility that he might run for president representing the left flank of the Democratic party. He, in fact, among them. So Time magazine interviewed him, raising the prospect, and he made the usual coy noises. However, on the question of Hillary Clinton’s suitability for the job, he was more emphatic.
I like Hillary. I knew her when I was in the House and she was First Lady, and obviously I knew her when she and I served together in the Senate. So I like her. She’s a very, very intelligent person, no question about it. But, you know, I don’t know what her political future is, whether she’s going to run. I don’t know what she’s going to say. But I think, you know, if you talk about the need for a political revolution in America, I think it’s fair to say that Secretary Clinton probably will not be one of the more active people.
Likable enough, then, as another political rival once said. But not right for times when:
… we need a tax system which in fact makes it very clear that the wealthy and large corporations are going to start paying their fare share of taxes, that we’re going to have real campaign finance reform so that the Koch brothers and other billionaires cannot buy elections, that we’re going to overturn Citizens United.’ Do you think that’s Hillary Clinton’s agenda? I don’t think so.
A likable, intelligent tool of the rich, then?
That’s a message that ought to put some spice in the primaries.
Admits "prosecutorial discretion" on immigration has already stretched his "administrative capacity very far." 12:34 PM, Mar 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a joint town hall with Telemundo and Univision, President Obama made a pledge that his administration will not use Obamacare sign up data to deport illegal aliens:
"Will we hear from you a pledge, a personal promise, that the information provided in the registration process will not be used for deportation purposes in this country?"
"Absolutely," Obama said, putting his hand down for emphasis.
"It's true that the undocumented are not eligible [for Obamacare], that's how the law was written, but if you are a U.S. citizen or you have a legal presence in this country, you are eligible," he said. "And none of the information that is provided in order for you to obtain health insurance is in any way transferred to immigration services. So that's something we've been very clear about. If you live in a mixed status family, then the son who could potentially be eligible for the children's health insurance program or some other mechanism to get health insurance, he needs to be signed up. And the mother should not be fearful that in any way that's going to affect -- of course I understand the fear."
Obama blamed Congress for deportations. And he said he has already stretched his "administrative capacity very far" by taking immigration actions using "prosecutorial discretion," but that he was "very confident that was the right thing to do."
The president finished answering this question by saying, "So, for everybody out there who's in a mixed family, there is no sharing of the data from the health care plan in to immigration services. You should feel confident that if somebody in your family is eligible, you should sign them up."
The questions were asked of Obama in Spanish and translated by an onsite translator.
10:08 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
At the Conservative Political Action Conference today, House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan dismissed reports of a GOP "civil war" and heaped praise on both Tea Party and establishment members of Congress.
The way the Left tells it, the Republican Party is in a civil war. It’s Tea Party versus establishment—libertarians versus social conservatives. There’s infighting, conflict, backbiting, discord," Ryan said, according to prepared remarks. "What I see is a vibrant debate. We’re figuring out the best way to apply our principles to the challenges of the day. Sure, we have our disagreements. And yes, they can get a little passionate. I like to think of it as 'creative tension.'"
Ryan, who faced some criticism from the right for cutting a deal with Democrats to fund the government, said that most of the disagreements within the party are over tactics, not principles or policies. He went on to credit the Tea Party with the passage of his budget that reforms Medicare."When I introduced it in 2008, I had just eight co-sponsors. The political pros told everyone to stay away. Then the Tea Party members got elected, and now the House has passed it three years in a row. That’s how it always is: You fight it out. You figure out what works. You come together," Ryan said.
Ryan touted the GOP as the party of ideas and praised the policy initiatives of a number of his colleagues: Representatives Cantor, Camp, Graves, Price, Roby and Roe, as well as Senators Rubio, Coburn, Lee, and Scott. You can read Ryan's full remarks, as prepared for delivery, here:
Thanks. You know, when Al asked me to speak this year, he said, “Paul, I like to save the best for last . . . so you’re up first thing Thursday morning.” Well, all I can say is it’s great to be back. Thanks again, everybody.
So, 2012 didn’t go as planned. And last year, it was pretty tough to be optimistic after a loss like that. But now—a year later—I think there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. I think the Left is exhausted. Our side is energized. And on Election Day, we’re going to win.
Take the President. He released his budget this week. And from the looks of it, I’d say he’s doubling down—he’s going even further to the left. His teammates aren’t much better. You notice they all sound alike? All they talk about these days is income inequality. They say it shows party unity. But what it really shows is they’re out of ideas.
The reason they keep talking about income inequality is because they can’t talk about economic growth. They have spent five, long years in power, and all they have to show for it is this lousy website.
The President was remarkably candid when he said he was going to fundamentally transform the country. He’s done his best to keep that pledge. In the end, I think he’s going to fail. You see, now that the President is implementing his agenda, it is a total fiasco. Big government sounds good in theory—but it looks a lot different in practice. And we’re learning this the hard way.
9:46 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Dalai Lama opened today's Senate session with a prayer:
"Firstly, as usual, I am Buddhist monk ... so pray to Buddha and all other Gods," he started before slipping into his native tongue.
"The first sentence I'll read--now my broken English--the pronunciation may not be correct, at least not American pronunciation," he said with a laugh. "With our thoughts, we make our world, our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind, and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves."
He added, "May there be joy in the world with harvest and spiritual rest. May every good fortune come to be and may all our wishes be fulfilled. ... This is my favorite prayer. Daily I pray this. That gives me inner strength. So I am asking to serve humanity. As long as space remains and as long as beings remain, until then may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world. Thank you."
9:08 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday afternoon to make the fine/“tax” for violating Obamacare’s individual mandate $0 for this year, and it did so by the wide margin of 90 votes (250 to 160). That’s 83 more than the 7-vote margin (219 to 212) by which Obamacare passed the House four Marches ago. Moreover, 27 Democrats voted for today’s legislation—27 more than the number of Republicans who voted for Obamacare when it passed. In all, 223 Republicans voted for today’s bill, while only one—Paul Broun of Georgia—voted against it. Here’s the member-by-member tally for the vote.
Earlier today, the Obama White House released a 3-paragraph statement on the legislation, noting that Obamacare “helps millions of Americans stay on their parents’ plans until age 26”—which, of course, has nothing to do with the individual mandate or the fine/“tax” for violating it—and saying that if President Obama were presented with the legislation, “he would veto it.”
Given the wide margin by which the legislation passed the House, along with the significant level of bipartisan support with which it passed, perhaps the Senate will actually take a vote, pass the bill, and give Obama that chance. That would provide a welcome reminder to the American people of the extent to which Obama’s centerpiece legislation relies upon coercion.
But it also relies on lawlessness—a fact that is becoming more apparent by the day. Within hours of threatening to veto this legislative change to Obamacare, Obama announced that he is again making an executive change to Obamacare, in plain defiance of the legislative text, the rule of law, and the constitutional separation of powers. No wonder left-leaning constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley says that we are at “a constitutional tipping point” and that Congress must act to stop this president’s “dangerous,” “destabilizing” “aggregation of power.”
Jeffrey H. Anderson is executive director of the 2017 Project, which is working to advance a conservative reform agenda.
8:39 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Labor Department report on first time unemployment claims came in slightly below expectations: 323,000 against an expected 336,000 and the best figure in three months.
This is the second of three important numbers released this week. Yesterday’s disappointing ADP report was the first. (Go figure.) The third, and most significant of the reports will be issued tomorrow. That would be the February jobs report about which one thing is certain. If it shows an increase in unemployment, that will be widely blamed on the weather. Watch, also, for generous use of the word “unexpectedly."
7:48 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Here's the executive order President Obama signed today on Ukraine:
BLOCKING PROPERTY OF CERTAIN PERSONS CONTRIBUTING TO THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act
(50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,
I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the actions and policies of persons -- including persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine -- that undermine democratic processes and institutions
in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability,
sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:
Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any
foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:
(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the
(A) actions or policies that undermine
democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine;
(B) actions or policies that threaten the peace,
security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial
integrity of Ukraine; or
(C) misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine
or of an economically significant entity in
(ii) to have asserted governmental authority over
any part or region of Ukraine without the
authorization of the Government of Ukraine;
(iii) to be a leader of an entity that has, or whose
members have, engaged in any activity described in
7:38 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama "has signed an Executive Order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine," according to the White House.
White House spokesman Jay Carney explains in a statement:
"As President Obama has made clear, the United States is pursuing and reviewing a wide range of options in response to Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – actions that constitute a threat to peace and security and a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and that are inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act.
"Pursuant to the President’s guidance, today the State Department is putting in place visa restrictions on a number of officials and individuals, reflecting a policy decision to deny visas to those responsible for or complicit in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. This new step stands in addition to the policy already implemented to deny visas to those involved in human rights abuses related to political oppression in Ukraine.
"In addition, the President has signed an Executive Order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine; threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; contributing to the misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine; or purporting to assert governmental authority over any part of Ukraine without authorization from the Ukrainian government in Kyiv. This E.O. is a flexible tool that will allow us to sanction those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate.
"These actions build upon the previous actions the United States has taken, including suspending bilateral discussions with Russia on trade and investment; suspending other bilateral meetings on a case-by-case basis; putting on hold U.S.-Russia military-to-military engagement, including exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits, and planning conferences; and our agreement with G-7 nations to suspend for the time being our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June. Depending on how the situation develops, the United States is prepared to consider additional steps and sanctions as necessary.
"At the same time, as the President has said, we seek to work with all parties to achieve a diplomatic solution that de-escalates the situation and restores Ukraine’s sovereignty. We call on Russia to take the opportunity before it to resolve this crisis through direct and immediate dialogue with the Government of Ukraine, the immediate pull-back of Russia’s military forces to their bases, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and support for the urgent deployment of international observers and human rights monitors who can assure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians, and who can support the Ukrainian government’s efforts to hold a free and fair election on May 25.
Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard