The latest episode of Conversations With Bill Kristol, featuring University of Virginia professor and TWS contributor James Ceaser:
"A professor of politics at the University of Virginia, James Ceaser is one of the leading authorities on American Constitutionalism. In this conversation, Ceaser explains why the Constitution should play a greater role in our politics rather than simply in our courts. Kristol and Ceaser also discuss the character of party government and assess the presidency of Barack Obama," writes the Foundation for Constitutional Government, the sponsor of the series.
Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a portion of his AIPAC speech today to list the times when Israel has defied U.S. warnings to act in its self defense.
"America and Israel have had some serious disagreements over the course of our nearly 70-year-old friendship," said Netanyahu from the annual AIPAC policy conference. "That started with the beginning.
"In 1948, Secretary of State George Marshall opposed David Ben-Gurion's intention to declare statehood. That's an understatement -- he vehemently opposed it. But, Ben-Gurion, understanding what was at stake, went ahead and declared Israel's independence. In 1967, as an Arab noose was tightening around Israel's neck, the United States warned [the prime minister] that if Israel acted alone, it would be alone. But Israel did act --acted alone -- to defend itself. In 1981, under the leadership of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor at Osirak. The United States criticized Israel and suspended arms-transfers for three months. And in 2002, after the worst wave of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel's history, Prime Minister Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield. The United States demanded that Israel withdraw its troops immediately but Sharon continued until the operation was completed.
"There's a reason I mention all of these. I mention them to make a point. Despite occasional disagreements, the friendship between America and Israel grew stronger and stronger, decade after decade. And our friendship will weather the current disagreements as well to grow even stronger in the future."
Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress tomorrow.
Roger Williams, a two-term congressman from the Dallas suburbs and longtime GOP fundraiser, will be the new chair of the House Conservatives Fund, a federal political action committee that’s been practically dormant for several cycles. The 65-year-old Williams, who cut his political teeth as a fundraiser for George W. Bush’s gubernatorial and presidential runs, says he plans to be a major fundraising force in the 2016 House races.
Williams will inherit the post from Republican congressman Bill Flores, who led the HCF through an underwhelming 2014 cycle. The PAC raised just over $820,000 for 2014. By comparison, the National Republican Congressional Committee raised more than $150 million in the same cycle. Williams says he wants to raise at least a million dollars by the end of 2015.
He’s got plenty of experience. In 1994 and 1998, Williams raised money as a regional finance chairman for George W. Bush’s gubernatorial races, and served in a similar role for the North Texas region (which includes Dallas) for Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential runs. He’s also raised money for Texas senator John Cornyn and the Texas Republican party. Williams has a competitive streak, too: At Texas Christian University, he was an ace ballplayer and even briefly played in the farm system for the Atlanta Braves.
In what sort of races would a newly robust HCF get involved? Williams cites the Florida Republican Steve Southerland’s loss, by less than a point, to Democrat Gwen Graham. In Williams’s estimation, a little more money from an outside group committed to helping conservative House members and candidates might have made a difference.
Williams says he sees the House Conservatives Fund taking on a similar profile to its namesake on the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Conservatives Fund. The SCF began in 2008 under the leadership of South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, raising millions of dollars for conservative Senate candidates. In 2010, the group’s first full cycle, DeMint and company raised nearly $10 million and supported plenty of successful candidates (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson) along with some unsuccessful ones (like Christine O’Donnell). The SCF also earned the wrath of more establishment Republican groups like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who saw DeMint’s gang as rivals who interfered in primaries that cost the GOP Senate seats.
For the House Conservatives Fund, Williams says he envisions a better working relationship with the established and powerful National Republican Congressional Committee. In our interview, Williams did not rule out getting involved in House GOP primaries, but he says he wants to emulate DeMint’s fundraising success and not the intraparty drama.
Seventy years ago, on March 1, 1945, Franklin Roosevelt assured a war-weary nation that a new era of international peace and democratic government was at hand. The accords signed just weeks earlier at the Yalta Conference, he told Congress, laid the foundation for postwar cooperation between the Soviet Union and the democratic West.
“Never before have the major Allies been more closely united—not only in their war aims but also in their peace aims,” Roosevelt said. He went on to predict “the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries—and have always failed.”
Whatever the president’s political objectives, he knew this statement to be false. For 11 days during their meetings at Yalta in the Crimea, the “Big Three”—Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin—had argued intensely about their spheres of influence in the postwar world. Their aims were hopelessly at odds. The ideological divisions that would characterize the Cold War were already painfully apparent.
The debate over the fate of Poland—raised in seven of the eight plenary meetings—laid bare the political and moral gulf separating the democracies from Stalin’s Russia. “Poland had indeed been the most urgent reason for the Yalta Conference,” wrote Churchill in Triumph and Tragedy, “and was to prove the first of the great causes which led to the breakdown of the Grand Alliance.” Within days after Yalta, promises of a free, independent, and democratic Poland were betrayed, as the Soviet Union tightened its grip on Eastern Europe.
FDR’s role in the political debacle following Yalta continues to be debated. The presence of the Soviet Army in Eastern Europe, the perceived need for Stalin’s help in the war against the Japanese, the desire to tether the Soviet Union to a newly created United Nations, the massive casualties sustained by the Russians throughout the war—all of these, his defenders argue, limited the president’s choices.
That may be so, but these claims evade a deeper problem—a deficit of political and moral courage. In the years leading up to the Second World War, Roosevelt had kept America militarily enfeebled and morally indifferent: an isolationist democracy unprepared to fight a major conflict without grasping for help from an aggressive, totalitarian state.
Once the United States forged a formal alliance with the Soviet Union in the war against Germany, it was inevitable that Stalin would demand the “fruits” of his victories in Eastern Europe. “It is permitted in time of grave danger,” FDR opined, “to walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge.” He would have done better to recall another old maxim: “He who dines with the devil had better have a long spoon.”
Instead, Roosevelt’s performance at Yalta assured Poland’s Communist enslavement.
Legendary investor Warren Buffett was asked this morning in an interview whether he'd still bet money on Hillary Clinton being the next president of the United States. Yes, he said, he still think it's "very likely" she'll be the next president. But he warned in the CNBC interview: "things could always happen in politics, including illnesses or something of the sort."
"Yeah, I'd bet money on both of those," said Buffett. "And I don't know whether Intrade has started their calculations yet, but maybe as time goes along you'll be able to actually bet money. The odds may be up on that. But sure she's a -- things could always happen in politics, including illnesses or something of the sort. But she's extremely likely to be the Democratic nominee, and I think she's very likely to be the president of the United States."
In spite of the Friday night passage of an eleventh hour, one-week stopgap spending bill to continue funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the department posted a lapse-of-funding notice and shut-down procedures on its website apparently intended if the last minute efforts failed. While the notice is not listed on the home page, the blog, or the list of DHS publications, it was originally posted around nine o'clock Friday night and remained at this link as of the time of publication of this article:
The text of the notice reads as follows:
Due to a lapse in funding, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may only continue “exempt” activities such as law enforcement and maritime protection. The Department’s contingency plan outlines procedures for an orderly shutdown of non-exempt functions during a lapse in funding or appropriations.
The notice includes a link to a publication entitled Procedures Relating to a Lapse in Appropriations dated Friday, February 27, that spells out detailed procedures on how a funding lapse would handled throughout the department. The forty-seven page document instructs various DHS agencies how to determine which employees would be exempt from furlough, how a cessation of activities should be phased in, what incidents would trigger an employee recalls, and how regular activities would be resumes upon the conclusion of any hiatus. For instance, of the 59,546 employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 53,288 employees (89.5 percent) would be classified as exempt from furlough.
Since the stopgap funding measure only covers one week, the posted procedures may be needed as early as next Friday at midnight. DHS has not responded to an inquiry regarding the early posting of the notice.
Secretary of State John Kerry contradicted National Security Adviser Susan Rice by saying that Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "welcome to speak in the United States" and by saying that the U.S.-Israel relationship is at an historic high. Kerry made the comments this morning on ABC:
"Let's move back then to Israel and Iran," said the ABC host. "You're headed over for further negotiations. While you're gone, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be addressing Congress. Susan Rice said it was destrictive to U.S.-Israeli relations. Do you agree?"
"Well, look," Kerry said, "the prime minister of Israel is welcome to speak in the United States, obviously, and we have a closer relationship with Israel right now in terms of security than at any time in history. I was reviewing the record the other day: we have intervened on Israel's behalf in the last two years more than a couple of hundred times in over 75 different fora in order to protect israel. I talked to the prime minister regularly, including yesterday. We don't want to see this turned into some great political football. Obviously, it was odd if not unique that we learned of it from the speaker of the House and that the administration was not included in the process. But the administration is not seeking to politicize this."
We've just finished tabulating the results an online poll conducted during the last week of WEEKLY STANDARD readers. They were given a chance to let us know who would be, as of now, their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices for the GOP presidential nomination. We want to thank the 3,700 readers who participated.
The big news is that Scott Walker was the convincing winner among TWS readers. He captured 47 percent of the first choices, and featured as a first, second, or third choice on no less than 78 percent of the ballots. No one else made into double digits as a first choice, or made it onto as many as a third of the ballots in any position.
Here are the results—the first number is the percentage of 1st place choices, the second is the percentage of the ballots the candidate makes it onto as a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place choice:
All the other candidates had one percent of first place choices or less, and were mentioned on nine percent or fewer of the ballots in any of the first three places.
Obviously, this was not a scientific survey but rather a poll of those who chose to participate. Equally obvious, the race is early and seems very fluid. But it's well known that WEEKLY STANDARD readers are an unusually perceptive, predictive, and prescient bunch! So make of these numbers what you will...but ignore WEEKLY STANDARD readers' judgments—even if they are early and tentative ones—at your own peril.
Lost in much of the reporting about CPAC is that almost all of the likely presidential candidates—really, all of them, with the exception of Rand Paul—seemed to place themselves at the Reaganite hawkish-internationalist end of the foreign policy spectrum. The much-heralded return of Republican isolationism or anti-interventionism wasn’t much in evidence, except during Rand Paul's half hour on the stage. The other candidates all criticized President Obama for his foreign policy weakness and timidity, and made the case for greater American strength and resolve.
Of course, most of the speakers didn't go into great detail, especially on the question of the defense budget and rebuilding the military. One could even get the mistaken impression from them that a simple change of attitude in the White House would solve almost all our problems. It's true that such a change in attitude would help a lot, but the fact is that additional resources for defense are needed to undergird any policy of peace through strength. Some of the candidates tended to gloss over that fact.
One speaker who addressed this in a more head-on way than most is, ironically, a governor who (so far, at least) isn't running for president. It was Indiana governor Mike Pence who forthrightly said, "I believe the time has come for dramatically increased defense spending to confront the knowable and unknowable threats facing the United States and our allies in this still new century." Pence had a strong involvement in national security matters in his twelve years in Congress, and perhaps he simply believed it important to say what he thought about foreign and defense policy in his speech. But what he said wouldn't be a bad starting point for all the presidential candidates. Here's the section of his speech (the whole thing is very much worth reading) on foreign and defense policy:
First, let’s recognize that 2016 could be the first foreign policy national election since 1980. The world seems to become more dangerous by the day.
Sadly, the administration has reduced our Army to its smallest size since 1940. The Navy has fewer ships than at any time since 1916, and our Air Force has its smallest tactical fighter force in history.
History teaches that you cannot reduce our military strength without provoking our enemies.
Weakness arouses evil.
As we speak, ISIS is setting up franchises across the Middle East and is on the offensive across the Arab world.
The president says jobs are the answer to violent jihad.
Mr. President, “Jihadi John” doesn’t want a job.
He wants to see paradise and I think we should help him get there as quickly as possible.
With the growing threat of homegrown terror, it’s important to remember that our first line of defense is the right to self-defense. Now more than ever, the right to keep and bear arms must not be infringed!
The Democratic National Committee is already asking its supporters to "Stop Scott Walker." That's the subject of an email sent along this afternoon to supporters.
And here's the body of the email message
The call to action is in reference to remarks Walker made at the Conversative Political Action Conference days ago outside Washington, D.C.
"I want a commander in chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists does not wash up on American soil," Walker told the crowd. "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."
These words alone apparently reason enough for the Democrats to try to "Stop Him" from becoming president of the United States.
Over the past few days at CPAC, Sean Hannity has asked various prospective Republican presidential candidates to list their “top five agenda items.” Former governor Jeb Bush’s list did not include repealing Obamacare.
Bush’s list included (1) undoing President Obama’s lawless executive actions, (2) regulatory reform, (3) tax reform, (4) encouraging economic growth, and (5) sending “a signal to the rest of the world that we’re going to be their partner for peace and security.” But it did not include repealing Obamacare or signing a conservative alternative to Obamacare into law.
Neither Governor Scott Walker nor Senator Marco Rubio listed repealing Obamacare as a stand-alone agenda item, but both did list it as a subcomponent of their first agenda item. Walker’s first agenda item was “growth,” which he said could be brought about through (in the order he listed them) tax reform, repealing Obamacare, and a pro-energy policy. Similarly, Rubio’s first agenda item was a “healthy economy,” which he said could be brought about through (again, in the order he listed them) tax reform, regulatory reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare, a pro-energy policy, and a balanced budget. (Walker listed only two other agenda items: devolving power to the states, and showing clarity and determination in our foreign policy. Rubio also listed only two others: giving “people the skills they need for the 21st century,” and ensuring a strong military.)
Senator Ted Cruz, meanwhile, listed repeal as a stand-alone agenda item, putting it first: “Number one, repeal every blasted word of Obamacare.”
If early indications are that Cruz is prioritizing repeal more than other leading candidates, it remains to be seen who will actually advance a winning conservative alternative (along these lines) that can make repeal a reality.
The latest ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel asks whether Hillary Clinton stands with the supporters of Israel, or whether she stands with the boycotters. Watch here:
The TV ad "will air on Sunday political shows, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and on Good Morning America and the Today show in the run-up to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress," according to the Emergency Committee for Israel. (The chairman of ECI is Bill Kristol, editor of this magazine.)
"The Obama Administration has launched an all-out assault against the Israeli Prime Minister," ECI executive director Noah Pollak says in a statement to the press. "Friends of the Jewish state, ranging from Joe Lieberman to Elie Wiesel to Shelley Berkley, have rallied to his defense. Hillary Clinton has remained silent. It's time for the former Secretary of State and prospective presidential candidate to come out of hiding and tell us where she stands. Does Hillary Clinton stand with the boycotters or the supporters of Israel?"
There will come a time when the survivor of the circular firing squad that is commonly known as the Republican primary debates will square off against Hillary Clinton. That survivor will have to grin and bear seeing multiple videos of his Republican opponents attacking him for one thing or another. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton will struggle to establish her new grandmotherly image as a caring person who, having arrived from her last stay at the White House in desperate financial condition, empathizes both with the struggling middle class and the Wall Street bankers who feed her campaign kitty, as well as with the oil oligarchs who, seeking nothing in return, pour tens of millions into the Clintons’ charity. The Republican candidate would do well to take a page from the Clinton playbook -- never let anything embarrass you.
The campaign will put both parties in an awkward position -- they agree that the recovery has benefitted the (in)famous 1%, and more or less left the middle class behind. But they are not certain what to do about it. Clinton has the easier task. She can rail against the glass ceilings that have kept the incomes of women lower than they would otherwise be, a complaint left over from her unsuccessful 2008 campaign before women emerged as CEOs of several Fortune 500 companies and she emerged as a candidate for the nation’s highest office. And she can soothe the disaffected left-wing core of the Democratic party by calling for more direct income redistribution.
Or can she? That would involve raising taxes on her major backers to fund new or expanded entitlement programs, attacking the special tax breaks of hedge funds and similar investors, and reviving the age of big government that one of her predecessors confidently assured voters had come to an end. Clinton is seeking advice from many economists, some of whom have much to offer, but many of whom are in the tax-and-spend school that is less attractive to voters, now more suspicious than ever of the ability of Washington’s political class to spend taxpayers’ money better than can the taxpayers themselves. Many of these economists and advisers were involved in the creation of Obama’s “middle class economics”. Len Burman, an official in what Mrs. Clinton hopes will become known as the first Clinton administration and now director of the Brookings-Urban Tax Policy Center, reckons that fully implemented that program would reduce taxes on families in the middle of the income distribution by $12 per year, since they would be paying some of the increase in the capital gains tax Obama has penciled in. The Treasury puts the figure at $150 dollars, still not enough to propel middle-earners very far up the income ladder, and low enough to make one wonder whether it is worth taking the risk that this complicated set of proposals might just have consequences not captured in Treasury models.