At this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Obama’s comic routine seemed to have some nasty implications about his political opponents. After reviewing the speech in depth, Byron York reads this between the lines:
Criticism directed at Obama about seemingly non-racial issues, from Ebola to the BP oil spill to climate change, is more severe for Obama than it would be for a white president because it is rooted in racial animus. That animus showed its face in more obvious ways in the birther and Obama-is-a-Muslim memes, but it's always there. Now, in his second term, Obama is finally free to air his resentments.
Obama does not come out and say this, but I think York’s interpretation here is fair. Since 2007, there have been attempts by the left to tie any disagreement with Obama to what York calls “racial animus.” It really seemed like a subtext running through Obama’s routine this weekend.
There is no doubt that the claims about Obama’s birth certificate and religion are ridiculous falsehoods that have emanated from the fringe. (As well as Hillary Clinton supporters.) In the heat of the 2008 primary campaign, Clinton herself even left the door ajar at one point on the question of Obama’s religion.
Even so, the general complaint is without merit. By any historical standard, Obama has not been treated worse than his predecessors. Consider:
-The Hamilton-Reynolds Affair. In the 1790s, Thomas Jefferson and/or James Monroe probably leaked information that tied Alexander Hamilton to a sex scandal after Hamilton had already left office. Hamilton’s wife Eliza was so offended by their behavior that she refused to see Monroe when he called on her in 1825, at the end of his presidency.
-The Election of 1800. Representatives of Thomas Jefferson accused John Adams of being a crypto-monarchist. And Adams’s associates accused Jefferson of being a radical atheist. And these two men had worked together to write the Declaration of Independence!
-Opposition to Andrew Jackson. The Whig party eventually took to comparing Jackson to a monarch. The Whig-controlled Senate actually censured him for removing bank deposits from the Second Bank of the United States.
-Abraham Lincoln. He was roundly and viciously criticized during his tenure, including by his own allies.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska reports on the four central questions he's been getting from constituents on Iran:
The questions are:
1) Didn’t we decide we wouldn’t tolerate state sponsors of terrorism?
2) Why change 36 years of bipartisan policy consensus that prohibited Iran’s nuclear weapons?
3) What is the administration’s best case scenario for a nuclear Iran?
4) What really happens if we lift the sanctions and Iran cheats?
Sasse concedes the questions are hard to answer. “The one topic that came up every single place we went was the President’s attempted Iranian nuclear deal. . . Not one time did we hear anybody who thinks the administration’s plans with regard to Iran are in the U.S.’s long-term interests. It seems like every conversation could be summarized in four questions people had.”
“Frankly, it’s really hard to answer any of these four questions that folks were asking. So we thought we’d just throw them out there for President Obama’s consideration.”
“Isn’t Iran still the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and, if so, what are we doing? Wasn’t the fundamental lesson of 9-11 that we would never just turn a blind-eye toward rogue regimes that sponsor terrorism and try to breed instability, try to support and fund those that would attack the U.S. homeland and try to destabilize our main allies around the world? Nebraskans believe that’s the main thing we learned about 9-11 and somehow the administration appears to be deciding to forget it.”
“Why has the administration decided to change not only its position but 36 years of U.S. foreign policy about not allowing Iran to become a nuclear state? It’s been a bipartisan policy consensus—not just Republicans but all Republicans and all Democrats—going back to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1980 that we never wanted Iran to become a nuclear threshold power. And even this administration, a year and a half ago, said the same thing—that they were not going to allow the Iranians to be enriching uranium. Now, they seem to have pivoted to a place where they’re willing to allow Iran to have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium. The people of my state want to know: why this change?”
“Nebraskans want to know: what does the administration really believe the best case scenario is? Because folks have heard on TV the president saying he’d like to see Iran become a successful regional power. We don’t know why a regime that spews the hatred they do toward the U.S.—and says that it has as a national objective the annihilation of Israel—why we would possibly want them to become a successful regional power?”
A Vietnam veteran interviewed on CNN last night told protesters to go get "their butts at home." The veteran, who identified himself as Robert Valentine, said, "I'm very pissed." Watch here:
"I'm just a soldier," he told the CNN reporter who asked who he was. "I did 30 years, okay? I came out a master sergeant. I’ve seen more than all of this. I’ve been through the riots already. This right here is not relevant. They need to have their butts at home. They need to be in their home units with their families studying and doing something with their life, not out here protesting about something that’s not really about nothing. They do not respect this young man’s death.
"Now, momma and daddy they've lost a child — that could be them. So I’m very pissed."
Valentine continued, "I love my country. I love my charmed city. And I’m an American. I’m not black, white, red or yellow, nothing. I am an American."
CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill advised that "we should be strategic in how we riot."
"I'm not saying we should see the destruction of black communities as positive. I'm saying that we can't have too narrow a conception of what the destruction of black communities mean," said Hill. "I think we should strategic in how we riot."
Elsewhere in the program, the commenter blamed "state violence and extrajudicial killing" for the violence.
"There shouldn't be calm tonight. Black people are dying in the streets. We've been dying in the streets for months, years, decades, centuries. I think there can be resistance to oppression. And when resistance occurs, you can't circumscribe resistance, you can't schedule a planned resistance. You can't tell me where to die in, where to resist, how to resist, and how to protest.
"Now I do think that there should be an ethics attached to this. But we have to watch out own ethics and be careful not to get more upset about the destruction of property than the destruction of black bodies and that seems to me what's happening over the last few hours. And that's very troublesome to me.
"We also, I think, have to be very careful about the language that we use to talk about this. I'm not calling these people rioters. I'm calling these uprisings. And I think it's an important distinction to make.
"This is not a riot. There have been uprisings in major cities and smaller cities around this country for the last year because of the state violence that's been waged against black female and male bodies forever. And I think that's what's important here. I agree with you, Don, we can't ignore the fact that the city is burning, but we need to be talking about why it's burning and not romanticize peace and not romanticize marching as the only way to function. I'm not saying we should be hurting, I'm not saying we should be killing people, but we do have to understand that resistance looks different ways to different people. and part of what it means to say black lives matter, is to assert our right to have rage and righteous rage and righteous indignation in the face of state violence and extrajudicial killing. Freddie Gray is dead. That's why the city is burning. And let's make that clear: The city is not burning because of protesters. the city is burning because the police killed Freddie Gray."
Although neither the White House nor the State Department released statements or posted greetings on the 67th Independence Day of the nation of Israel last Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden did attend the annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington and delivered remarks. The speech was vintage Joe Biden, beginning with his opening line:
Ron, Mr. Ambassador, my name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel.
He then plunged into a recounting of his own family's blend of Catholicism and Judaism, telling the crowd that "the dream of every Irish-Catholic father is for his daughter to marry a Jewish surgeon."
I was thinking as Ron was saying that he doesn't know what it’s like in Catholic families -- whether we argue as much as allegedly occurs in Jewish families. Well, I settled all that. Two of my three children married Jews. (Laughter.) And you want to see what happens then. (Laughter.)
As a matter of fact, my daughter -- I -- the dream of every Irish-Catholic father is for his daughter to marry a Jewish surgeon. (Laughter.) And she did.
As the vice president turned to the subject at hand, Israel's Independence Day, he immediately landed in gaffe territory, misstating the country's age by a decade:
Look, the fact of the matter is that 77 years [sic] ago, at midnight on May 14, 1948, against all odds, in the wake of searing tragedy, defiant in the face of overwhelming military numbers massed on its borders, the modern State of Israel was born.
Biden then likened the relationship between the United States and Israel to family, alluding to the recent disagreements between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Obama administration:
[W]e’re like family. We have a lot to say to one another. Sometimes we drive each other crazy. But we love each other. And we protect each other.
The vice president spent much of his speech recounting the Obama administration's support of Israel ("No president has ever done more to support Israel’s security than President Barack Obama") and detailing why the current negotiations with Iran and the pending deal over nuclear development is in Israel's and the world's best interests ("[I]f the final deal on the table that doesn’t meet the President’s requirements, we simply will not sign it.")
Biden drew his remarks to a close by retelling the story, which he acknowledged he often repeats, of his meeting with the legendary Israeli prime minister Golda Meir:
I’ll conclude -- and my friends kid me and I imagine Ron may, as well -- telling you the story about my meeting with Golda Meir. The reason I do it had a profound impact on me, one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life. I think I’ve met every major world leader in the last 36 or 37 years in the world, in a literal sense.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch reponds to the violence in Baltimore:
“I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore. Those who commit violent actions, ostensibly in protest of the death of Freddie Gray, do a disservice to his family, to his loved ones, and to legitimate peaceful protestors who are working to improve their community for all its residents.
“The Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful. The Civil Rights Division and the FBI have an ongoing, independent criminal civil rights investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Gray. We will continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks. The department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has also been fully engaged in a collaborative review of the Baltimore City Police Department. The department’s Community Relations Service has already been on the ground, and they are sending additional resources as they continue to work with all parties to reduce tensions and promote the safety of the community. And in the coming days, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and Ronald Davis, Director of Community Oriented Policing Services, will be traveling to Baltimore to meet with faith and community leaders, as well as city officials.
“As our investigative process continues, I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. In the days ahead, I intend to work with leaders throughout Baltimore to ensure that we can protect the security and civil rights of all residents. And I will bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence.”
Every true conservative, or at least every Republican conservative, knows that our freedoms are under continuing threat from the Obama administration, which has already seized control of the health care and energy sectors, and is circling the education sector with the threat of a core curriculum. Worry not. Our Republican guardians are on the alert. At least in Wisconsin.
To avoid having voters strong-armed by presidential executive actions into taking all sorts of steps to prevent the climate change he argues is about to unleash droughts (or is it floods, or is it both), Republican members of an obscure state commission charged with managing hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land have ordered workers not to discuss the issue of climate change while at work. The state treasurer says chat “by the water cooler,” in the manner in which Wisconsin teams’ victories and losses (in the case of the NCAA finals it is a loss) are fine, but anything beyond that is simply inappropriate. To protect your freedom to burn coal and drive big SUVs, Republicans in Wisconsin feel they must impinge on your freedom of speech lest you come to an agreement that the climate is indeed changing. So far, not a word of indignation from libertarian Rand Paul, defender of all sorts of freedoms nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, which sports as its very First Amendment a guarantee that surely covers a workers’ right to have his say, even if at greater length than his views on some basketball game. And not necessarily only when a water cooler is handy.
Every liberal knows that poverty breeds crime, although data are unable to show such a correlation, much less causation. This understanding of what is called the root cause of crime was best expressed in one of those Woody Allen flashbacks in which his father is defending the family maid against his mother’s charges that she is a thief, “Of course she steals, she’s poor,” a truism and in this case a call to ignore the maid’s appropriation of the property of a family struggling to remain above the poverty line.
So when six men worked through two nights to drill into safe-deposit boxes in London, each putting in some 20 hours of hard labor, we can only conclude they were reacting to the lack of honest work at decent wages. And, even if such work were available, the minimum wage of about £7 per hour, or about $10, would have given each of them about $200, hardly a living wage with which to support a family in the coming week, unless more opportunities to appropriate other people’s property presented themselves. And grueling work it was -- drilling, throwing up all that dust because the work place was unregulated by the UK equivalent of OSHA, working night shifts and on a holiday Sunday to haul away tens of millions of pounds worth of cash and jewelry. Even if the haul came to only £30 million, the low estimate, or $50 million, each worker would net hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour, far above both the statutory minimum and what the average guy on the shop floor makes. Now no sensible policy wonk would propose that the minimum wage be raised to that level. But surely something well in excess of the current minimum, or even the $10 per hour that Walmart, McDonald’s and other firms are offering to some of their workers, is warranted if we are to prevent other members of the poor from being tempted into lives of crime.
Over the weekend, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins appeared on CBS's Face the Nation. Here's one of the questions that outgoing host Bob Schieffer asked him:
SCHIEFFER: I'm going to start with probably the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and that is Tony Perkins. He is the president of the Family Research Council. And, Mr. Perkins, I'm going to say this to you upfront. You and your group have been so strong in coming out against this-- and against gay marriage that the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group. We have been inundated by people who say we should not even let you appear because they, in their view, quote, "You don't speak for Christians." Do you think you have taken this too far?
Now a quick refresher on the background between the Family Research Council and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In recent years, the SPLC has been fairly loose in its designation of "hate groups," and has applied the label to groups in ways that are baffling (e.g. Catholics who go to Latin mass). It has also appled the label to groups that are distasteful but perhaps not what one thinks of when they think of "hate groups" (e.g. pick-up artists). One may not like what the Family Research Council stands for, but there is no serious argument that it is a "hate group," let alone an organization that does not represent the views of very significant number of Americans.
That CBS News would lend credence to the accusations of the Southern Poverty Law Center -- a once noble organization that has destroyed its credibility in all sorts of ways in recent years -- is questionable enough. But let's recall this notable episode:
On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity.
But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable.
About 7,500 votes were cast in The Weekly Standard's third presidential poll of the year, twice as many as in the poll a couple of months ago. In that straw poll (and, to repeat, these are obviously not scientific surveys, but rather polls of those who chose to participate), Scott Walker, was far ahead, with almost half the first place votes. He still leads, but has come back to the field some. He's got 30% of the first place ballots, and appears on an impressive 69% of all ballots as a first, second or third choice. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have surged to second and third place, with 24% and 18% first place choices respectively; Rubio appears on 51% of ballots, Cruz on 45%. These are the big three on this week's survey: No one else gets more than 5% of first place votes, or appears on more than 18% of ballots overall.
So: We have (for now!) a three-way race among TWS voters, with Walker holding a modest lead over Cruz and Rubio, and everyone else far behind. The second tier is mostly unchanged, except that Ben Carson has faded, and Carly Fiorina has surged, especially as a second or third choice. (Come see her in conversation at the Broadmoor next month-- a few slots are still left!)
The latest of episode of Conversations With Bill Kristol, featuring Gary Bauer:
"A conservative and pro-family activist and former policy advisor to Ronald Reagan, Gary Bauer has been at the center of conservative policy battles for over three decades. In this conversation, Bauer recalls how he first became interested in politics as a teenager fighting corruption in Northern Kentucky. Kristol and Bauer also discuss Bauer’s advocacy of conservative principles in domestic and foreign affairs from the Reagan era until today. Considering contemporary American politics, Bauer argues for a reinvigorated, pro-Main Street conservatism," writes the Foundation for Constitutional Government, the sponsor of the series.
Last year Hillary Clinton called the Russia "reset" policy "totally transactional." The comments seem to take on a new meaning after last week's news about Clinton helping to approve the sale of uranium company to the Russians.
“When the Obama administration came into office, it was only months after Russia had invaded Georgia and taken over two provinces, which they declared independent states, which are totally dependent upon Russia," said Clinton.
"And so there was a lot of anxiety about dealing with Russia because Putin was clearly still calling the shots even though he was not the president at the time.
"But at the same time, we thought we had business we needed to get done with Russia. It was totally transactional and that’s why we did the reset. And why I made a big deal out of the reset.”