Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 18, 2012

Arbitary Misuse of Government Power Struck Out in Clemens Case

The ability of the federal government to put an individual in peril of the law is virtually unlimited. Congress can force a celebrity to testify on matters that are of no material interest to the nation’s legislature. If the individual refuses to play along with the morality play narrative desired by the politicians who seize the spotlight, they can be charged with obstruction of justice or perjury and then paraded before a federal court and jailed. But sometimes the egregious nature of this charade is so great that the process is exposed as a sham. That is what happened on Monday when the Justice Department’s second attempt to imprison former baseball great Roger Clemens collapsed as he was acquitted on all six counts relating to his testimony before Congress on steroid use.

The Clemens farce was perhaps the worst example of a series of recent federal prosecutions of celebrities, including a few relating to steroids. As was the case with Martha Stewart, Barry Bonds and John Edwards, the only reason Clemens found himself in the crosshairs of the government was because he was rich and personally unpopular, a formula that has always presented an irresistible target to prosecutors. The case against Clemens was particularly flimsy, a point that was amply demonstrated last summer when the first attempt to try him ended in a mistrial. It was obvious then that the only sensible course was to abandon the prosecution, but instead, the Justice Department doubled down on the insanity, and the result was another go round that took nine full weeks and wasted millions more of the people’s money. But the problem here isn’t just that they failed, but that there was no real underlying crime in question, rendering the entire exercise an embarrassment.

Read More

The ability of the federal government to put an individual in peril of the law is virtually unlimited. Congress can force a celebrity to testify on matters that are of no material interest to the nation’s legislature. If the individual refuses to play along with the morality play narrative desired by the politicians who seize the spotlight, they can be charged with obstruction of justice or perjury and then paraded before a federal court and jailed. But sometimes the egregious nature of this charade is so great that the process is exposed as a sham. That is what happened on Monday when the Justice Department’s second attempt to imprison former baseball great Roger Clemens collapsed as he was acquitted on all six counts relating to his testimony before Congress on steroid use.

The Clemens farce was perhaps the worst example of a series of recent federal prosecutions of celebrities, including a few relating to steroids. As was the case with Martha Stewart, Barry Bonds and John Edwards, the only reason Clemens found himself in the crosshairs of the government was because he was rich and personally unpopular, a formula that has always presented an irresistible target to prosecutors. The case against Clemens was particularly flimsy, a point that was amply demonstrated last summer when the first attempt to try him ended in a mistrial. It was obvious then that the only sensible course was to abandon the prosecution, but instead, the Justice Department doubled down on the insanity, and the result was another go round that took nine full weeks and wasted millions more of the people’s money. But the problem here isn’t just that they failed, but that there was no real underlying crime in question, rendering the entire exercise an embarrassment.

Let us specify once again that if Clemens did indeed use performance-enhancing drugs while playing ball that is not a good thing. Steroid use was illegal without a prescription though not necessarily against the rules during most of his career. Clemens was the most prominent figure named when former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell issued a report on the matter. The evidence against Clemens was hardly conclusive as it depended on the willingness of his former trainer Brian McNamee to give him up in exchange for having various criminal charges dropped. Nevertheless, most people assumed that Clemens, like many players of the era, both stars and mediocrities, used the drugs. But when Congress decided to hold a hearing on the issue, Clemens was called and subjected to what was an obvious perjury trap. His refusal to admit his guilt is what triggered the decision of the vindictive congressional grandstanders to ask that he be indicted.

While the question before the jury was the narrow one of whether he lied, it is worth restating that the notion that preventing professional baseball players from taking steroids is something the government should get involved in is absurd. The majority of those nabbed by drug tests were lousy ballplayers whose abuse did not magically transform them into stars–much less hall-of-famers. The idea, promoted by Congress, that there is some sort of national epidemic of steroid use is a myth. The threat posed to teenaged athletes from steroids is miniscule when compared to hundreds of other dangers to young adults in this country.

Though he was just one of probably hundreds of major leaguers against whom the allegation of steroid use could credibly be made, it was only the arrogant, obnoxious Clemens who was hauled into court. This was doubly bizarre because as I have noted previously, in drug cases it is always the sellers who are considered targets for prosecution, not the users. But because Clemens was a celebrity with a bad reputation, the full power of the U.S. Attorney’s office was arrayed against him in what turned out to be a futile effort to cash in on his notoriety and to collect a famous scalp.

Perhaps the most interesting result of this massive waste of scarce federal resources is that when subjected to the intense scrutiny of a trial, the case against Clemens was revealed to be a thin tissue of unsubstantiated allegations. McNamee wasn’t credible and the other witnesses against Clemens, including former teammates, helped the defense more than the prosecution. It is unlikely that after all the mud that has been thrown at him that Clemens will get back his reputation or gain election to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, something that was certain prior to the Mitchell Report. The prejudice against anyone suspected of being a steroid user on the part of the writers who can vote to send a player to Cooperstown is so great that Clemens will likely not gain admittance to baseball’s shrine. If so, few will mourn the unpopular Clemens’ fate.

But that is a separate issue from the question of whether it was right for Congress and the Justice Department to embark on a vendetta against Clemens. The government had no business involving itself in what was essentially an internal industry issue.

Even worse than that, the Clemens case illustrated as well as any of the recent celebrity prosecutions the perils of the arbitrary use of federal power against an individual citizen. Though it is difficult for most of us to identify with a snarling millionaire whose arrogance made him tough to root for even as he won 354 games and struck out 4,672 batters during his career, Clemens was the victim here, not the villain. The point is not whether he took certain drugs but that if the government can single out a Roger Clemens and devote its efforts to finding a pretext to putting him in jail simply because he is famous and unpopular, then it can do the same to anyone, including those without the ability to hire high-priced legal help. Let’s hope the government learns its lesson from this circus and never repeats this egregious misuse of prosecutorial power.

Read Less

The Responsibility of Government

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a new report measuring the values and basic beliefs of the American people. There are a lot of fascinating findings in the report, but there’s one in particular I want to focus on. The Pew survey found that just 40 percent of Republicans agree that “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.” In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, fully 62 percent expressed this view. For independents, the figure has dropped from 70 percent in 1987 to 59 percent today.

Taken literally, this question means a solid majority of Republicans (60 percent) – as well as 41 percent of independents — don’t believe government should care for people who are suffering from dementia, Down syndrome, crippling disease, or debilitating war wounds. It would mean government has no role to play in unemployment insurance or medical coverage to low-income children. Government has no affirmative duty to care for those who are defenseless, vulnerable, handicapped, and have hit hard times through no fault of their own.

As a friend put it to me, if he were asked the question he would be inclined to think that it offered a careless way to put a point that he agrees with: that we have a responsibility to care for the needy among us and that government can be one very important means of meeting that responsibility. To say it is the responsibility of government to care for those who can’t take care of themselves, however, definitely rubs him the wrong way, though upon even modest reflection he would say he agrees with the idea being conveyed as opposed to its libertarian opposite.

Read More

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a new report measuring the values and basic beliefs of the American people. There are a lot of fascinating findings in the report, but there’s one in particular I want to focus on. The Pew survey found that just 40 percent of Republicans agree that “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.” In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, fully 62 percent expressed this view. For independents, the figure has dropped from 70 percent in 1987 to 59 percent today.

Taken literally, this question means a solid majority of Republicans (60 percent) – as well as 41 percent of independents — don’t believe government should care for people who are suffering from dementia, Down syndrome, crippling disease, or debilitating war wounds. It would mean government has no role to play in unemployment insurance or medical coverage to low-income children. Government has no affirmative duty to care for those who are defenseless, vulnerable, handicapped, and have hit hard times through no fault of their own.

As a friend put it to me, if he were asked the question he would be inclined to think that it offered a careless way to put a point that he agrees with: that we have a responsibility to care for the needy among us and that government can be one very important means of meeting that responsibility. To say it is the responsibility of government to care for those who can’t take care of themselves, however, definitely rubs him the wrong way, though upon even modest reflection he would say he agrees with the idea being conveyed as opposed to its libertarian opposite.

I would add that if the question was disaggregated and Republicans were asked whether they believed government had a role in helping, say, wounded veterans or those suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, there’s no question that the numbers would be hugely supportive. The survey question is probably a measure of people’s general attitudes toward government as opposed to particular government programs.

The question is probably still influenced as well by the public’s (proper) view that the federal government’s effort to aid the poor, especially in the form of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), did genuine harm to the underclass. (AFDC was eventually replaced by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF program.)

In addition, my hunch is that we’re seeing the effects of the progressive overreach. When government combines unprecedented intrusiveness with incompetence, it leads to a deep distrust of our public institutions, including government itself. The view of the public, with all the proper caveats in place, is that government should do relatively few things well. In many respects, we have inverted this, with government doing far too many things poorly. The effect of this has been the near-complete discrediting of government itself.

In thinking through the large, complicated topic of the role and purpose of the state, then, a caution is in order. Skepticism toward government is often warranted and legitimate; contempt and outright hostility are not. It was Burke who averred that God instituted government as a means to human improvement. Government is not simply a necessary evil; so long as it acts within its proper boundaries and in a responsible fashion, it has a positive and constructive role to play in human affairs.

The end of government, we’re told in Federalist #51, is justice. Justice is defined as the quality of being impartial and fair and bestowing equal treatment. But it also means caring for the defenseless, the disadvantaged, and the oppressed. This is a public as well as a private concern. A society ought to be judged on whether the weak and disadvantaged are cared for or exploited. And a just society is incompatible with one where government doesn’t care for people who can’t care for themselves.

Conservatives should be in the business of restoring confidence in the legitimacy of government by reminding people of its prescribed, limited and proper role in human society. And among those responsibilities is to care for those who can’t care for themselves. That understanding of the proper and humane use of the state has largely been lost; and it is the duty of responsible political leaders to reclaim it.

Read Less

Mandel Rising on His Merits, Not Just Cash

For those who assume the post-Citizens United world of campaign spending means elections can be bought, the Ohio Senate race is a classic example of a bad candidate being kept afloat by cash. That’s the conceit of a Politico feature today about Josh Mandel, the Ohio Republican who is confounding his critics by staying within striking range of Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. According to the piece, Mandel ought to have been run out of the race due to a string of bad headlines. However, he has not only saved his candidacy but actually has a shot at winning  due, as Politico tells it, to the infusion of out-of-state contributions and ad buys by super PACs that have duped the state’s voters into considering voting for him. But while there is no question that the efforts of the pro-GOP Crossroads America PAC and others like it have helped Mandel, Politico is exaggerating both the impact of money and Mandel’s supposed weakness.

As Politico notes, even Mandel has acknowledged that the support from national conservatives groups is a shot in the arm to his candidacy. Money can buy visibility and get a candidate’s message out to the public, especially when a politician has been pigeonholed as not ready for prime time–a problem the youthful Mandel has encountered. But campaign contributions and television ads can’t buy credibility. All the money in the world couldn’t have won a Christine O’Donnell a Senate seat or put Newt Gingrich in the White House. Though Mandel has had his share of negative stories during his short tenure as Ohio State Treasurer (he was first elected in 2010), the baby-faced Iraq War veteran has demonstrated the sort of intelligence and character that would give any politician a chance, especially against a liberal like Brown in a moderate/conservative state.

Read More

For those who assume the post-Citizens United world of campaign spending means elections can be bought, the Ohio Senate race is a classic example of a bad candidate being kept afloat by cash. That’s the conceit of a Politico feature today about Josh Mandel, the Ohio Republican who is confounding his critics by staying within striking range of Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. According to the piece, Mandel ought to have been run out of the race due to a string of bad headlines. However, he has not only saved his candidacy but actually has a shot at winning  due, as Politico tells it, to the infusion of out-of-state contributions and ad buys by super PACs that have duped the state’s voters into considering voting for him. But while there is no question that the efforts of the pro-GOP Crossroads America PAC and others like it have helped Mandel, Politico is exaggerating both the impact of money and Mandel’s supposed weakness.

As Politico notes, even Mandel has acknowledged that the support from national conservatives groups is a shot in the arm to his candidacy. Money can buy visibility and get a candidate’s message out to the public, especially when a politician has been pigeonholed as not ready for prime time–a problem the youthful Mandel has encountered. But campaign contributions and television ads can’t buy credibility. All the money in the world couldn’t have won a Christine O’Donnell a Senate seat or put Newt Gingrich in the White House. Though Mandel has had his share of negative stories during his short tenure as Ohio State Treasurer (he was first elected in 2010), the baby-faced Iraq War veteran has demonstrated the sort of intelligence and character that would give any politician a chance, especially against a liberal like Brown in a moderate/conservative state.

It could have been argued that Mandel was too young and inexperienced to jump so quickly into the Senate race, especially as he had only come from out of nowhere to win state office for the first time less than two years ago. Politico assumes the missteps he has made in office would have sunk a candidate prior to Citizens United. But it should be understood that none of the string of damaging stories rise to the level of a scandal or the sort of egregious error that would normally end a career or a candidacy. However, the fact that he has risen above them, albeit with the help of a well-funded campaign, also shows he has enough on the ball and has made enough of a connection with the voters to allow them to either forgive or overlook them.

Just as important is that the “carpet bombing” of Brown by the super PACs wouldn’t be having an effect on the race if Mandel was really regarded by the public as a fool or if Brown was not the one many in the state consider out of touch with their opinions. Moreover, because Democratic PACs have been spending heavily on ads trashing Mandel, it’s not as if there isn’t a competing narrative available to the public. If Mandel is holding his own in the race — the last poll taken at the end of May by Rasmussen shows Brown leading by only five points — it is because he has convinced a critical mass of voters that he is credible.

Brown must still be considered the clear favorite in Ohio and can count on favorable coverage from mainstream media around the state. Though Mandel has shown enough promise to merit the investment from Republicans around the country, he must overcome being labeled as an upstart who has gotten ahead of himself. But Mandel is a bright young political talent who has already exceeded the expectations of his party and the media more than once. If this race stays close heading into the fall it will be because the voters like what they see in him, not because of the super PAC support.

Read Less

Rubio: Obama Derailed DREAM Act

No surprise here, as killing Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposed DREAM Act was exactly the point of Obama’s announcement on Friday. But it certainly is interesting that the same guy who took to the pages of Time today to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform is the same guy who has been frantically working behind the scenes to spike Rubio’s legislation. Mission accomplished:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday that President Barack Obama’s move last week to block deportations for some young illegal immigrants in the U.S. has likely derailed his own similar efforts, at least until after the election.

“People are going to say to me, ‘Why are we going to need to do anything on this now. It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election,’” Sen. Rubio said in an interview. “And it is going to be hard to argue against that.”

Read More

No surprise here, as killing Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposed DREAM Act was exactly the point of Obama’s announcement on Friday. But it certainly is interesting that the same guy who took to the pages of Time today to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform is the same guy who has been frantically working behind the scenes to spike Rubio’s legislation. Mission accomplished:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday that President Barack Obama’s move last week to block deportations for some young illegal immigrants in the U.S. has likely derailed his own similar efforts, at least until after the election.

“People are going to say to me, ‘Why are we going to need to do anything on this now. It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election,’” Sen. Rubio said in an interview. “And it is going to be hard to argue against that.”

The conventional wisdom is that Obama pulled some brilliant political footwork, knocking the GOP off message and locking up the Hispanic vote for November. In fact, Obama seems to be the one who was played here, though he may not even realize it. One immigration advocate tells the National Journal that pro-DREAM groups bounced Obama and Rubio off each other, knowing it was going to take some significant political pressure to get the White House to cave on the issue:

“The game changer here was Marco Rubio,’’ said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, one of a number of groups that has been pushing the White House on reform. “He was a legitimate conservative trying to find a solution to the broken immigration system … and the administration realized they had to do something.’’

White House sources dismissed the idea that the president acted under pressure from Rubio, saying that the fate of the yet-to-be-filed legislation was unclear. Still, the White House clearly seized the chance to gain the upper hand on the DREAM Act while Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney dithered on whether to back Rubio’s proposal and the senator scrambled to file the legislation.

“The big takeaway from this is that it doesn’t pay to be a friend of Democrats, and it doesn’t pay to be a friend of Republicans,’’ Noorani added. “We were able to ping-pong back and forth between Rubio and the White House.’’

That last paragraph is why Obama’s move may not move the dial with the Hispanic community as much as the White House hopes. Hispanic voters are an increasingly influential voting bloc, but they have often failed to wield this power effectively on a national stage once the elections are over. As a candidate, President Obama promised them the extensive reform, but immediately put immigration issues on the back burner once he took office. It was only when Rubio’s DREAM Act became a threat that Obama jumped into action — but, again, during an election season.

That’s the problem with groups whose votes are taken for granted by one party. Their concerns are often seen as less urgent by the favored party, and the disfavored party has little incentive to act because it won’t get the votes anyway. Immigration advocates seem to realize their agenda won’t progress quickly on a national level unless they have influence with both Republicans and Democrats, and that means they can’t have one party taking Hispanic votes for granted.

Read Less

Jewish Democrats Face a Curious Dilemma

Josh Nathan-Kazis of the Forward brings to our attention a Siena College poll of New York voters that adds a little more fuel to the fire about whether President Obama is losing ground among Jewish voters. The poll, which provides a breakdown by religion, shows the president is only leading Republican Mitt Romney by a 51-43 percent margin among New York Jews. Considering that Obama has a lopsided 59-35 percent edge among all voters, the poll seems to confirm the much discussed results of the new demographic survey of Jewish life in Greater New York which shows the traditional stereotype of Jews as secular liberals is heading for the dustbin of history.

This does illustrate how solidly blue New York is, as the decline in support for Obama in a group that has traditionally been among the most loyal to the Democrats is having no effect on the president’s chances of winning the state. But it does tell us that, despite the Democrats’ claim the GOP is blowing smoke about making gains in the Jewish vote this year, Obama is in serious trouble among Jews. The question the president’s supporters have to be asking themselves after reading this poll is how different New York Jews are from those in the rest of the country, especially swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania, where the Jewish vote could be crucial in a tight election.

Read More

Josh Nathan-Kazis of the Forward brings to our attention a Siena College poll of New York voters that adds a little more fuel to the fire about whether President Obama is losing ground among Jewish voters. The poll, which provides a breakdown by religion, shows the president is only leading Republican Mitt Romney by a 51-43 percent margin among New York Jews. Considering that Obama has a lopsided 59-35 percent edge among all voters, the poll seems to confirm the much discussed results of the new demographic survey of Jewish life in Greater New York which shows the traditional stereotype of Jews as secular liberals is heading for the dustbin of history.

This does illustrate how solidly blue New York is, as the decline in support for Obama in a group that has traditionally been among the most loyal to the Democrats is having no effect on the president’s chances of winning the state. But it does tell us that, despite the Democrats’ claim the GOP is blowing smoke about making gains in the Jewish vote this year, Obama is in serious trouble among Jews. The question the president’s supporters have to be asking themselves after reading this poll is how different New York Jews are from those in the rest of the country, especially swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania, where the Jewish vote could be crucial in a tight election.

Democrats can comfort themselves by pointing out that if, as the population study showed, 40 percent of all Jews in New York City are Orthodox, then that is bound to produce a result that will not be replicated elsewhere. Orthodox Jews, a group far more conservative and more likely to vote Republican than the non-Orthodox, make up a much smaller percentage of the community in most other places in the country. Therefore, it can be argued that the New York results don’t indicate a general shift among Jews away from Obama or to the right.

Even if we were to assume these numbers are isolated to New York, it confirms the conclusions we drew last week that the demographic changes wrought both by assimilation and intermarriage among the non-Orthodox and the Orthodox population growth represents the beginning of the end for liberal Jewry as a dominant political force both in New York and nationally.

Nevertheless, even though the Orthodox are not as numerous in Florida or Pennsylvania, they are growing there too, which means the assumption that Obama will romp among Jews with margins anywhere close to the 78 percent he won nationally in 2008 is probably mistaken.

Even if we discount for the Orthodox effect (who even in New York City, let alone the rest of the state, make up less than half of the Jewish population), this shows Obama is bleeding Jewish support. Nathan-Kazis believes it shows Jews are just following the same trend among the general population, because the uptick for Romney is mirrored there. Maybe. But if Jews are no longer liberal outliers, that in of itself is news. And that is something that could lead to Obama having a historically poor showing among Jewish voters that could rival that of Jimmy Carter in 1980.

What all this means is the Jewish Democrats will have a choice after November. They can blame the president’s poor showing among Jews on demography and thereby concede it is only a matter of time before the GOP will compete on even terms for Jewish votes. Or they can blame it on the president’s attitude toward Israel — a factor about which they have been in denial for the past four years — and claim Democrats with better records on the issue will not have the same problem in the future. It’s an interesting dilemma, and I look forward to learning how they will answer it.

Read Less

Taliban Consign Children to Polio Risk

“Taliban to Kids: Drop Dead.” That would be the headline in the NY Daily News or some other tabloid. The New York Times has a more staid approach: “Taliban Block Vaccinations in Pakistan.” But the news contained therein is no less shocking and contemptible: the Pakistani Taliban are going to block UNICEF-administered polo vaccinations in North Waziristan until the U.S. stops its drone attacks in Pakistan which have been heavily focused on North Waziristan.

The Taliban have some small shred of cover for this move due to the fact that the CIA recruited a doctor undertaking vaccinations to try to locate Osama bin Laden’s hideout. (That doctor, Shakil Afridi, is now languishing in a Pakistani jail for the “crime” of helping to uncover a mass murderer.) This fact, along with many others, underlines how deeply intertwined al-Qaeda is with other Pakistan-based radical groups, from the Pakistani Taliban to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. And it also shows how heartless these groups are.

Read More

“Taliban to Kids: Drop Dead.” That would be the headline in the NY Daily News or some other tabloid. The New York Times has a more staid approach: “Taliban Block Vaccinations in Pakistan.” But the news contained therein is no less shocking and contemptible: the Pakistani Taliban are going to block UNICEF-administered polo vaccinations in North Waziristan until the U.S. stops its drone attacks in Pakistan which have been heavily focused on North Waziristan.

The Taliban have some small shred of cover for this move due to the fact that the CIA recruited a doctor undertaking vaccinations to try to locate Osama bin Laden’s hideout. (That doctor, Shakil Afridi, is now languishing in a Pakistani jail for the “crime” of helping to uncover a mass murderer.) This fact, along with many others, underlines how deeply intertwined al-Qaeda is with other Pakistan-based radical groups, from the Pakistani Taliban to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. And it also shows how heartless these groups are.

The Pakistani Taliban are, in effect, consigning 160,000 children to the risk of getting polio because of their war with the United States. Nothing could make more clear the barbarous nature of such groups–and the need for them to be defeated. Pakistan’s generals should, at the very least, toss and turn a little at night as they think about their own role in fostering and promoting these monsters.

Read Less

Cherokees Head to MA to Confront Warren

The Boston Herald reports on the looming showdown between angry Cherokee activists and Elizabeth Warren (h/t Legal Insurrection):

Four outraged Cherokee activists who say Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has ignored their emails and phone calls will trek to Boston this week in hopes they can force a meeting with the Democratic Senate candidate over her “offensive” Native American heritage claims.

“It’s almost becoming extremely offensive to us,” said Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist who has researched Warren’s family tree. “We’re trying to get in contact and explain why her behavior hurts us and is offensive, and she totally ignores that. Like we don’t exist.”

Late last night, a Warren campaign official told the Herald that staffers will “connect” and “offer to have staff meet with them.”

Read More

The Boston Herald reports on the looming showdown between angry Cherokee activists and Elizabeth Warren (h/t Legal Insurrection):

Four outraged Cherokee activists who say Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has ignored their emails and phone calls will trek to Boston this week in hopes they can force a meeting with the Democratic Senate candidate over her “offensive” Native American heritage claims.

“It’s almost becoming extremely offensive to us,” said Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist who has researched Warren’s family tree. “We’re trying to get in contact and explain why her behavior hurts us and is offensive, and she totally ignores that. Like we don’t exist.”

Late last night, a Warren campaign official told the Herald that staffers will “connect” and “offer to have staff meet with them.”

Warren isn’t doing herself any favors by playing aloof and refusing to meet with them, though she might feel she has no other choice. These are actual tribe members with experience researching genealogy. How can she look them in the eye and claim to have a family ancestry that is not backed up by the facts?

You might be wondering whether the Cherokee activists in this showdown are politically motivated, as this seems like too much of a gift to Sen. Brown’s campaign to be a coincidence. But it actually looks like the woman leading the group, amateur genealogist Twila Barnes, has been an active critic of false Cherokee ancestry claims for years. Her blog, “Thoughts From Polly’s Granddaughter,” has focused on the issue of “wannabe” Cherokees since 2009. One post from December 2010 explains the fake Cherokee phenomenon, and it sounds remarkably familiar if you’ve been following the Elizabeth Warren controversy:

These are the people who refuse to accept evidence that flies in the face of their family story. You can show them documentation from where their “Cherokee ancestor” arrived on the boat from England, yet they still insist this ancestor was Cherokee. You can show them that their ancestors were always listed as white in the records, but they insist the records were wrong, citing they were “whitewashed” or their full blood ancestor “passed for white”. …

Hopefully you are getting the point. A wannabe is someone who just won’t give up the family story, no matter how absurd. They claim to be Cherokee no matter what and no one will ever be able to convince them otherwise because they so desperately “wannabe” Cherokee.

Please don’t be a wannabe. Adhere to the Standards for Sound Genealogical Practices and only claim the things you can verify with supporting evidence.

That’s good advice for anyone, particularly wannabe senators.

Read Less

Let the Brotherhood Rule in Egypt

Egypt has had quite a wild ride since the Tahrir Square protests ousted longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Ever since, the carousel of Egyptian politics has gyrated wildly, but it seems it was spinning in a circle the whole time. Far from seeing the inauguration of a new democracy, we appear to be witnessing the transition from rule by one former general to collective rule by a bunch of active-duty generals. Egypt seems to be moving in the direction of pre-reform Burma–even the names of the two ruling juntas are remarkably similar and sinister: SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) in Egypt; SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) in Burma.

In both cases, the generals are claiming to save the people from the messy untidiness of democracy. In Egypt, that case has been somewhat strengthened by the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and hard-line Salafists won the vast majority of parliamentary seats and that a Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won this weekend’s presidential election. Even before the presidential results had been announced, the SCAF had dissolved parliament and instituted decrees that limit the new president’s power to largely ceremonial functions. All that remains to be seen is how the Brotherhood–the largest and most powerful non-governmental organization in Egypt–will react. Will the generals’ actions be quietly accepted, as they were in Turkey in 1980, or will they spark a bloody civil war, as they did in Algeria in 1992? Regardless, it is a tragedy that the will of the Egyptian people, who plainly long for Western-style democracy and not an Iranian-style theocracy or a sclerotic police state, is being thwarted.

Read More

Egypt has had quite a wild ride since the Tahrir Square protests ousted longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Ever since, the carousel of Egyptian politics has gyrated wildly, but it seems it was spinning in a circle the whole time. Far from seeing the inauguration of a new democracy, we appear to be witnessing the transition from rule by one former general to collective rule by a bunch of active-duty generals. Egypt seems to be moving in the direction of pre-reform Burma–even the names of the two ruling juntas are remarkably similar and sinister: SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) in Egypt; SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) in Burma.

In both cases, the generals are claiming to save the people from the messy untidiness of democracy. In Egypt, that case has been somewhat strengthened by the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and hard-line Salafists won the vast majority of parliamentary seats and that a Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won this weekend’s presidential election. Even before the presidential results had been announced, the SCAF had dissolved parliament and instituted decrees that limit the new president’s power to largely ceremonial functions. All that remains to be seen is how the Brotherhood–the largest and most powerful non-governmental organization in Egypt–will react. Will the generals’ actions be quietly accepted, as they were in Turkey in 1980, or will they spark a bloody civil war, as they did in Algeria in 1992? Regardless, it is a tragedy that the will of the Egyptian people, who plainly long for Western-style democracy and not an Iranian-style theocracy or a sclerotic police state, is being thwarted.

I do not envy President Obama having to figure out how to respond. The American interest in democracy appears, in this case, to be at odds with our strategic interest, which is working with the Egyptian military, as we have since the 1970s, rather than trying to deal with the anti-Western, anti-Israel Brotherhood. The U.S. has considerable leverage over the process, thanks to the $1.3 billion in military aid that we provide to Egypt every year. How the U.S. uses that leverage can help to shape the outcome.

Tempting as it is for the U.S. to acquiesce in the military’s latest power grab, it is a mistake. The military is either ushering in the day of reckoning (if civil war breaks out) or delaying it (if it doesn’t). Either way, Egypt’s long-term prospects are not served by this decision, because it will allow the Brotherhood to claim the cloak of martyrdom. The best bet in the long run for weakening Brotherhood authority would be to allow it to rule. Already, the Brotherhood’s appeal seems to have declined since the parliamentary elections which ended in January. Undoubtedly, if the Brotherhood were granted full authority over Egypt’s dysfunctional state and anemic economy, its popularity would decline some more–unless it were able to moderate its wilder instincts and deliver real results. By keeping the Brotherhood out of power, the SCAF is taking upon itself all the blame for Egypt’s dire condition–not a wise long-term bet.

The U.S. will share that popular opprobrium if it appears to connive in this military coup. Obama would be better advised to tell the generals, in no uncertain terms, that they need to take a step back from the political arena. The military should still have a role to play but only as a guarantor of the election process. As long as a Brotherhood government must face voters in the future, popular sentiment will act as a check on its illiberal tendencies. The days of military rule have long passed in Egypt. The military just doesn’t know it yet.

Read Less

Who’s Holding the Cards in Iran Talks?

The P5+1 talks resumed today in Moscow, and the only news filtering out of the negotiations is that Iran has been even more insistent than in past meetings about getting the West to drop the economic sanctions that have been imposed on the Islamist regime. The general assumption is that this is a sign of weakness that shows the Iranians are wearying of the pain the sanctions have imposed and are liable to abandon their nuclear ambitions. But despite the hardships the sanctions have caused the Iranian people, Tehran’s bargaining position may be stronger than some Western optimists have assumed.

Iran has not budged from its demand for recognition of its right to right refine uranium while also continuing to increase the ongoing rate of production and stonewalling inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. So there is little doubt Iran is playing the same game in Moscow as it did in earlier negotiating sessions in Ankara and Baghdad. Far from displaying weakness, the Iranians may still be operating on the belief that both President Obama and his European partners are more desperate for a deal — any deal — that will allow them to walk away from a confrontation on the nuclear issue.

Read More

The P5+1 talks resumed today in Moscow, and the only news filtering out of the negotiations is that Iran has been even more insistent than in past meetings about getting the West to drop the economic sanctions that have been imposed on the Islamist regime. The general assumption is that this is a sign of weakness that shows the Iranians are wearying of the pain the sanctions have imposed and are liable to abandon their nuclear ambitions. But despite the hardships the sanctions have caused the Iranian people, Tehran’s bargaining position may be stronger than some Western optimists have assumed.

Iran has not budged from its demand for recognition of its right to right refine uranium while also continuing to increase the ongoing rate of production and stonewalling inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. So there is little doubt Iran is playing the same game in Moscow as it did in earlier negotiating sessions in Ankara and Baghdad. Far from displaying weakness, the Iranians may still be operating on the belief that both President Obama and his European partners are more desperate for a deal — any deal — that will allow them to walk away from a confrontation on the nuclear issue.

As William J. Broad wrote yesterday in the New York Times, “The Iranians have managed to steadily increase their enrichment of uranium and are now raising their production of a concentrated form close to bomb grade.” That they have managed to do this while surviving cyberattacks and sanctions is a notable achievement and is important to understanding their approach to the talks. Rather than the vaunted Western cyberwarfare and the possibility of an oil embargo having disabused them of the idea that they can prevail in this struggle, the failure of either approach to halt their progress may have only reinforced their sense that they are in a very strong position.

Thus, rather than a plea for help, the demand for an end to sanctions is really just more Iranian maneuvering to get the West to agree to a deal that can be easily violated. As Ray Takeyh noted in the Washington Post on Friday, the Iranians also know that even if the West was able to get Iran to agree to a compromise that would force them to export the refined fuel that could be used to make a weapon, there is no reason to suppose they couldn’t violate any accord with impunity. Once a treaty is in place, the instinct of both the Obama administration and the Europeans will be to defend the agreement, not to junk it once it has been proved to be worthless.

As Takeyh writes:

As Iran’s nuclear facilities grow in scope and sophistication, the possibility of diverting material from them increases regardless of the parameters of an inspection regime. Any large-scale nuclear facility involves moving hundreds of containers of uranium from various stations every day. No monitoring measure can account for every container. Moreover, under the auspices of an agreement Iran will have access to nuclear technologies such as advanced centrifuge models. Should Iran perfect centrifuges that operate with efficiency at high velocity, then it will require only a limited number of such machines to quickly enrich weapon-grade uranium. Such cascades can easily be concealed in small-scale, surreptitious installations that may avoid detection.

That makes even compromise proposals such as Dennis Ross’s idea that the U.S. should offer Iran the right to a civil nuclear program a pathway to failure rather than an end to the crisis. Moreover, at every step of this process, the Iranians have seen Western positions eroded and weakened as they moved ever closer to the day when their program can achieve its goal of a weapon.

The Iranians know the only reason the P5+1 talks were ever started was to create a diplomatic process aimed more at stopping Israel from acting on its own against Iran. What they have been waiting for is an indication that the West means what it says about getting tough on them rather than an excuse to keep talking. Right now, they believe their nuclear advances coupled with the West’s unwillingness to use force are all they need to guarantee their march to nuclear capability will be unhindered. Unless President Obama or EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton does something this week to change their minds, the Iranians will leave Moscow still thinking they are winning.

Read Less

Iranian Nukes? Don’t Worry, Says Prof

An op-ed piece in USA Today appears under the almost satirical headline “Iranian nukes? No worries.”

It advises, “A nuclear-armed Iran would probably be the best possible result of the standoff and the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East.” A nuclear Iran, the author of the piece writes, would counter “Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly,” which “has long fueled instability in the Middle East.”

I’m all for counterintuitive op-ed pieces that re-examine widely held assumptions, and it’s tempting to dismiss this one as so silly as to be unworthy of a serious response. But USA Today says the article is a condensed version of a longer piece that will appear in the July-August issue of Foreign Affairs, the flagship journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. Its author, Kenneth Waltz, is an adjunct professor in the department of political science at Columbia University. His biography says he has also taught at Brandeis and at the United States Air Force Academy.

So it’s worth taking a moment or two to point out the problems with Professor Waltz’s argument. First, there’s that word “probably.” Waltz writes, “It is impossible to be certain of Iranian intentions, it is far more likely that if Iran desires nuclear weapons, it is for the purpose of enhancing its own security, not to improve its offensive capabilities.”

Read More

An op-ed piece in USA Today appears under the almost satirical headline “Iranian nukes? No worries.”

It advises, “A nuclear-armed Iran would probably be the best possible result of the standoff and the one most likely to restore stability to the Middle East.” A nuclear Iran, the author of the piece writes, would counter “Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly,” which “has long fueled instability in the Middle East.”

I’m all for counterintuitive op-ed pieces that re-examine widely held assumptions, and it’s tempting to dismiss this one as so silly as to be unworthy of a serious response. But USA Today says the article is a condensed version of a longer piece that will appear in the July-August issue of Foreign Affairs, the flagship journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. Its author, Kenneth Waltz, is an adjunct professor in the department of political science at Columbia University. His biography says he has also taught at Brandeis and at the United States Air Force Academy.

So it’s worth taking a moment or two to point out the problems with Professor Waltz’s argument. First, there’s that word “probably.” Waltz writes, “It is impossible to be certain of Iranian intentions, it is far more likely that if Iran desires nuclear weapons, it is for the purpose of enhancing its own security, not to improve its offensive capabilities.”

“Probably” and “likely” aren’t all that reassuring. If Waltz is wrong and the Iranians do launch a nuclear attack aimed at Tel Aviv, Washington, or New York, the consequences would be catastrophic.

Second, there’s a double standard when it comes to the Israeli A-bomb and an Iranian one. Waltz writes that “by reducing imbalances in military power, new nuclear states generally produce more regional and international stability, not less.” But he blames Israel’s nukes for fueling instability. (Never mind the question of whether “stability” is something that should be desired in the case of some of the Middle East’s more tyrannical or otherwise backward regimes.)

Third, Waltz writes:

Another oft-touted worry is that if Iran obtains the bomb, other states in the region will follow suit, leading to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. But the nuclear age is now almost 70 years old, and fears of proliferation have proved to be unfounded. When Israel acquired the bomb in the 1960s, it was at war with many of its neighbors. If an atomic Israel did not trigger an arms race then, there is no reason a nuclear Iran should now.

The lack of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East hasn’t been for lack of trying by Israel’s neighbors. Rather, Iraq’s Osirak reactor was bombed by Israel in 1981, and a Syrian nuclear site was flattened in 2007 in an action that is widely attributed to Israel.

Anyway, consider the USA Today article the latest proof that some ideas are so far out there that only Columbia professors believe them. Let’s hope it stays that way, because if Europe or the United Nations or the Obama administration are looking for an argument to justify standing by while Iran gets the bomb, the Waltz argument may prove too readily available to resist.

Read Less

Reading Tea Leaves on ObamaCare

We’ll probably have to wait at least another week to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling on ObamaCare and the individual mandate, but there’s always more room for speculation. At Forbes, the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy has a Talmudic reading on some recent comments from Justice Ginsburg and Justice Scalia. On Justice Ginsburg, who actually addressed the case last week at a liberal legal conference, Roy writes:

Ginsburg wittily put it this way: “If the individual mandate, requiring the purchase of insurance or the payment of a penalty, if that is unconstitutional, must the entire act fall? Or, may the mandate be chopped, like a head of broccoli, from the rest of the act?”

My understanding—again, from third-hand sources—is that this question of severability is the subject of intense debate among the justices, even now. It’s entirely unclear whether the Court will strike down the mandate and two related provisions—what I’ve called the “strike three” scenario; or take down the entirety of Title I, where the law’s restructuring of the private insurance market resides; or overturn the whole law. Indeed, it is probable that the Court has not yet decided how it will rule on this question.

Read More

We’ll probably have to wait at least another week to hear the Supreme Court’s ruling on ObamaCare and the individual mandate, but there’s always more room for speculation. At Forbes, the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy has a Talmudic reading on some recent comments from Justice Ginsburg and Justice Scalia. On Justice Ginsburg, who actually addressed the case last week at a liberal legal conference, Roy writes:

Ginsburg wittily put it this way: “If the individual mandate, requiring the purchase of insurance or the payment of a penalty, if that is unconstitutional, must the entire act fall? Or, may the mandate be chopped, like a head of broccoli, from the rest of the act?”

My understanding—again, from third-hand sources—is that this question of severability is the subject of intense debate among the justices, even now. It’s entirely unclear whether the Court will strike down the mandate and two related provisions—what I’ve called the “strike three” scenario; or take down the entirety of Title I, where the law’s restructuring of the private insurance market resides; or overturn the whole law. Indeed, it is probable that the Court has not yet decided how it will rule on this question.

That’s pretty interesting, if Roy’s third-hand sources are correct. If the Court hasn’t decided how to rule on this question, we could be waiting longer than just another week or two. The consensus among journalists and others closely following this seems to be that the ruling will come next Monday, or possibly later next week if the Court needs additional time. But there’s no deadline, and the Court can pretty much do what it wants when it comes to timing.

Roy also notes an interesting development from Justice Scalia, who released a book this week clarifying his position on a decision related to the Commerce Clause:

Wickard, [Scalia] writes, “expanded the Commerce Clause beyond all reason” by opining that “a farmer’s cultivation of wheat for his own consumption affected interstate commerce and thus could be regulated under the Commerce Clause.” …

The bottom line is that if Scalia thinks Wickard was wrongly decided, he’s almost certain to vote to overturn the mandate. This isn’t a surprise based on his commentary at oral argument, but it may shed light into the thinking of Justices Alito and Roberts, who are thought to share Scalia’s precedent-oriented approach to dealing with the Commerce Clause.

After Scalia’s tough questioning during the health care arguments, it seemed highly likely that he would side against the individual mandate. But Obama administration attorneys were reportedly speculating prior to that that Scalia could be a swing vote to uphold the mandate based on his previous opinions related to the Commerce Clause. Scalia may be attempting to reconcile this in his latest book.

Read Less

Will Obama Try to Blow Up the Court?

The wait for the Supreme Court to release its decision on the constitutionality of ObamaCare is fraying the nerves of the chattering classes as they ponder its impact on the presidential election. Until the decision is announced, all both parties and the pundits can do is engage in idle speculation, but the pessimism on the left about the possibility of the president’s signature health care legislation being thrown out is leading to some interesting, if intemperate ideas. A good example comes from Juan Williams, who writes in The Hill to urge President Obama to try to make political hay out of what might otherwise be considered a disaster if the bill is junked.

Williams proposes that the president react by attempting to “blow up the system” in a manner that has not been seen since Franklin Roosevelt’s failed attempt to pack the Supreme Court in 1938. According to Williams, rather than the end of ObamaCare being seen as a humiliating failure, it would merely serve as an invitation to:

Use the bully pulpit of the White House, and the national stage of a presidential campaign, to launch a bitter attack on the current court as a corrupt tool of the Republican right wing.

It is a move that could energize Democrats and independents even as Republicans celebrate a major legal victory.

Some Democrats, sensing a political windfall, can’t wait to start the offensive.

But while an attack on the conservative majority on the High Court would be very popular with the liberal base of his party, it’s far from clear it would help him with independents or moderate Democrats. The comparison with FDR’s court spat should serve as a warning to the White House of the pitfalls of running against the separation of powers.

Read More

The wait for the Supreme Court to release its decision on the constitutionality of ObamaCare is fraying the nerves of the chattering classes as they ponder its impact on the presidential election. Until the decision is announced, all both parties and the pundits can do is engage in idle speculation, but the pessimism on the left about the possibility of the president’s signature health care legislation being thrown out is leading to some interesting, if intemperate ideas. A good example comes from Juan Williams, who writes in The Hill to urge President Obama to try to make political hay out of what might otherwise be considered a disaster if the bill is junked.

Williams proposes that the president react by attempting to “blow up the system” in a manner that has not been seen since Franklin Roosevelt’s failed attempt to pack the Supreme Court in 1938. According to Williams, rather than the end of ObamaCare being seen as a humiliating failure, it would merely serve as an invitation to:

Use the bully pulpit of the White House, and the national stage of a presidential campaign, to launch a bitter attack on the current court as a corrupt tool of the Republican right wing.

It is a move that could energize Democrats and independents even as Republicans celebrate a major legal victory.

Some Democrats, sensing a political windfall, can’t wait to start the offensive.

But while an attack on the conservative majority on the High Court would be very popular with the liberal base of his party, it’s far from clear it would help him with independents or moderate Democrats. The comparison with FDR’s court spat should serve as a warning to the White House of the pitfalls of running against the separation of powers.

Roosevelt thought he was on solid ground when he sought to change the political balance of the Court because some of the New Deal legislation that it had overturned was popular. But his Court-packing plan was defeated because even members of his own party believed he was overreaching and seeking to grab even more power for an executive branch that increased its influence on his watch.

But if FDR’s anti-Court offensive failed in spite of the popularity of the New Deal, how can Obama possibly hope to succeed when what he would be protesting would be the demise of legislation that most Americans oppose? If, as conservatives hope and liberals fear, the Court decides that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause cannot be interpreted to allow government to create commerce in order to regulate it and thereby compel citizens to make purchases, then it will be doing what the majority wants them to do.

There’s no doubt the president will seek to demagogue the issue if the health care law is invalid and try to portray the Court and the bill’s Republican opponents as seeking to snatch medicine out of the mouths of sick people, babies and the elderly. That’s a tactic that has had some success when it comes to defending entitlements against reform efforts. But a re-election campaign focused on defending the vast expansion of federal power and the budget that ObamaCare would mandate would be an invitation to a rerun of the 2010 midterms that ended in Democratic defeat.

Even more to the point, though the president might get some traction out of Court-bashing, too much attention paid to the Court would make him look like a politician seeking to overturn the traditional checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution. Instead of a conservative Court being labeled as radical, such a stance would brand the president in that fashion. That’s an unforced error that could further erode his chances of re-election.

Read Less

Mocking Conservative Victims of Violence

The cynicism of the Washington, D.C., press toward national politics has become so profound that when a politician gives a detailed speech about a serious issue with immediate ramifications, the journalists splashing around in the kiddy pool of Beltway conventional wisdom don’t know how to react. Such was the case on Friday when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a thorough indictment of the Democratic Party’s attempts to bully, punish, and silence its political opponents.

The speech, delivered at the American Enterprise Institute, was more than 4,000 words long, yet Politico’s write-up of it found the one word it wanted–Koch–and repeated it over and over as if that was the point of the speech. Yet Politico isn’t the only outlet that assumes any time a Republican defends free speech he is covering for moneyed interests. Fred Hiatt’s latest column in the Washington Post is a disturbing example of what free speech advocates are up against when it comes to a national media obsessed with smearing conservatives instead of doing its job.

Read More

The cynicism of the Washington, D.C., press toward national politics has become so profound that when a politician gives a detailed speech about a serious issue with immediate ramifications, the journalists splashing around in the kiddy pool of Beltway conventional wisdom don’t know how to react. Such was the case on Friday when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a thorough indictment of the Democratic Party’s attempts to bully, punish, and silence its political opponents.

The speech, delivered at the American Enterprise Institute, was more than 4,000 words long, yet Politico’s write-up of it found the one word it wanted–Koch–and repeated it over and over as if that was the point of the speech. Yet Politico isn’t the only outlet that assumes any time a Republican defends free speech he is covering for moneyed interests. Fred Hiatt’s latest column in the Washington Post is a disturbing example of what free speech advocates are up against when it comes to a national media obsessed with smearing conservatives instead of doing its job.

McConnell said he favors donor disclosure for those who give to candidates and parties–a position he has held consistently. He also said everyone should have to play by the same rules with regard to disclosure, rather than allow those in power to exempt their donors while singling out those of their opponents. But Hiatt, attempting to peer into the dark Republican soul of his imagined adversaries, has divined what McConnell and the Republicans really want:

They want unlimited contributions, in secret.

“Republicans are in favor of disclosure,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in 2000 on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” making clear he was including issue advocacy — campaign ads with a thin veil of policy — as well as candidate spending. “Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?”

That first sentence is undone by McConnell’s own speech. But what about that second part–is that the Beltway’s favorite piece of evidence, the smoking gun of hypocrisy?

No, of course not. Hiatt wants Republicans to drop their opposition to the DISCLOSE Act, which would protect liberal interest groups while removing protections from conservative groups. Here’s McConnell in his own words:

This is the Democrats’ legislative response to Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court correctly ruled that Congress may not ban political speech based on the identity of the speaker. The DISCLOSE Act aims to get around this ruling by compelling certain targeted groups to disclose the names of their donors, while excluding others, such as unions, from doing the same….

Because if disclosure is forced upon some but not all, it’s not an act of good government, it’s a political weapon. And that’s precisely what those who are pushing this legislation have in mind. This is nothing less than an effort by the government itself to expose its critics to harassment and intimidation, either by government authorities or through third-party allies. And that should concern every one of us.

Hiatt says nothing has changed except an influx of money to the GOP, suggesting that McConnell has been bought off by, I don’t know, the infamous Free Speech Lobby? But then Hiatt moves on to defending the indefensible. Part of McConnell’s speech was calling attention to the strategy of liberal groups, sometimes aided by government agencies such as the IRS, of intimidating donors to conservative grassroots causes.

Hiatt, in the most shameful sentence of a shameful column, writes off these intimidation tactics as conservatives merely “being called mean names by liberals.” But McConnell reminded his audience that conservatives have received death threats (I know private citizens personally who have been subjected to this), had their private information made public, had their children harassed by liberal bloggers, and have been the victims of a new liberal tactic called SWATting, in which a liberal blogger or activist will make a fake 9-1-1 call reporting a murder at the house of his target, to which law enforcement (often SWAT teams) will show up with guns out ready for a firefight.

Hiatt presumably does not need the danger of this explained to him, nor would he need a primer on why death threats are not merely “mean things” people say. He just doesn’t care. But he should at least stop dismissing acts of violence and mocking the victims.

Read Less

A Saner Approach Toward Immigrants

I will grant you that President Obama has brazenly political motives for announcing on Friday that immigration agents would no longer deport roughly 800,000 young, illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria (e.g., no criminal record and either military service or school attendance). This is an obvious play for Latino votes and an attempt to preempt Sen. Marco Rubio’s plan along similar lines. I will also agree with critics who question whether the president has the right to enact this sweeping change by fiat when legislation to accomplish this goal–the DREAM Act–has been stalled in Congress. But all that aside,  I believe Obama’s move is right on the merits.

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. For all the tough talk on the right about deportations, there is no realistic prospect that any but a tiny minority will ever be deported. That leaves a vast number of people living in a shadow economy where they are not allowed to work legally, subject to exploitation, and are, in effect, exempt from the protections of the law. This is not a tenable, long-term status quo. The sooner those who are here can be moved into a more legal status where they can work legally and pay taxes, the better.

Read More

I will grant you that President Obama has brazenly political motives for announcing on Friday that immigration agents would no longer deport roughly 800,000 young, illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria (e.g., no criminal record and either military service or school attendance). This is an obvious play for Latino votes and an attempt to preempt Sen. Marco Rubio’s plan along similar lines. I will also agree with critics who question whether the president has the right to enact this sweeping change by fiat when legislation to accomplish this goal–the DREAM Act–has been stalled in Congress. But all that aside,  I believe Obama’s move is right on the merits.

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. For all the tough talk on the right about deportations, there is no realistic prospect that any but a tiny minority will ever be deported. That leaves a vast number of people living in a shadow economy where they are not allowed to work legally, subject to exploitation, and are, in effect, exempt from the protections of the law. This is not a tenable, long-term status quo. The sooner those who are here can be moved into a more legal status where they can work legally and pay taxes, the better.

Fears that this is an “amnesty” that will encourage further illegal immigration seem overblown. The latest figures show a rapid decline in illegal immigration from Mexico–by some estimates, more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than entering it, the Mexican economy has picked up while ours has slowed down. Undoubtedly economic necessity will dictate the extent of migration into the U.S. in the future, as it has in the past.

In any case, there is nothing incompatible between tough border enforcement and steps to legalize immigrants already here: They are simply two sides of the same coin, two complementary approaches designed to address the issue of illegal immigration and its consequences.

I have long thought that the DREAM Act was an excellent starting point for a saner approach to immigration law–one that would allow young people who have lived upright lives to become normal Americans, just like countless generations of immigrants before them, rather than being trapped in a legal netherworld where they must always fear a knock on the door from immigration agents.

Assuming that President Obama’s executive order on Friday passes legal challenges, it is a step forward toward a more realistic approach toward immigrants–one that thoughtful Republicans such as Marco Rubio have also championed and that other Republicans should give serious consideration to rather than engaging in histrionic attacks that will only cost the GOP badly needed Latino votes.

Read Less

Catholics Reject Contraception Compromise

Via Ed Morrissey, this is a significant blow to the Obama administration’s so-called compromise on the birth control mandate. The Catholic Health Association was a key supporter of Obamacare, and provided the administration with Catholic cover by initially supporting the mandate compromise. But after a long review, the CHA has decided that the administration’s accommodations don’t go far enough. USA Today reports:

President Obama’s support for his signature health care act took a fresh hit Friday. The Catholic Health Association, the nation’s largest private health care provider, has rebuffed the latest White House moves to make its contraception coverage mandate more acceptable to Catholics and conservative evangelicals, according to Religion News Service.

The CHA was a critical voice in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2009. Sister Carol Keehan, head of CHA, drew standing ovations from progressive Catholics.

The CHA expressed lingering concerns about aspects of the mandate in a letter to HHS on Friday.

Read More

Via Ed Morrissey, this is a significant blow to the Obama administration’s so-called compromise on the birth control mandate. The Catholic Health Association was a key supporter of Obamacare, and provided the administration with Catholic cover by initially supporting the mandate compromise. But after a long review, the CHA has decided that the administration’s accommodations don’t go far enough. USA Today reports:

President Obama’s support for his signature health care act took a fresh hit Friday. The Catholic Health Association, the nation’s largest private health care provider, has rebuffed the latest White House moves to make its contraception coverage mandate more acceptable to Catholics and conservative evangelicals, according to Religion News Service.

The CHA was a critical voice in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2009. Sister Carol Keehan, head of CHA, drew standing ovations from progressive Catholics.

The CHA expressed lingering concerns about aspects of the mandate in a letter to HHS on Friday.

The announcement comes at a terrible time for the Obama administration. Obama has already lost some ground with Catholic voters, and Thursday marks the beginning of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom protest, which will highlight the mandate as an example of government persecution. It will bring the issue into pulpits around the country through lectures, prayer vigils and public action campaigns for two weeks (that is, if Obamacare is still around for that long).

Read Less

Obama’s Deportation Deja Vu

It’s a wonder why President Obama’s newest deportation guidelines would even be necessary, as the administration has long insisted it doesn’t focus deportation efforts on young, non-criminal illegal immigrants who would otherwise be covered under the DREAM Act. As the always enlightening Ruben Navarrette points out:

Then there is the inconvenient fact that we’re not supposed to even need this kind of policy change because, according to Obama, his administration isn’t deporting DREAM’ers at all; instead, it’s concentrating its enforcement efforts on criminals. That’s exactly what Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos during a March 2011 trip to El Salvador. A couple of weeks later, Obama had to swallow those words when — during an education town hall meeting in Washington, sponsored by Univision — he was confronted by a DREAM’er holding deportation papers. So now we’re supposed to applaud the administration for not deporting people the president had claimed weren’t being deported in the first place.

Here is what Obama claimed during his Univision interview in March 2011:

President [Obama] said,“we have refocused our efforts on those who have engaged in criminal activity.” Furthermore, he said, “We aren’t going around rounding up students,” the president told Ramos last Wednesday, “that is completely false.”

As Navarrette writes, this was debunked just weeks later when a student confronted Obama with her deportation papers at a Q&A session.

Read More

It’s a wonder why President Obama’s newest deportation guidelines would even be necessary, as the administration has long insisted it doesn’t focus deportation efforts on young, non-criminal illegal immigrants who would otherwise be covered under the DREAM Act. As the always enlightening Ruben Navarrette points out:

Then there is the inconvenient fact that we’re not supposed to even need this kind of policy change because, according to Obama, his administration isn’t deporting DREAM’ers at all; instead, it’s concentrating its enforcement efforts on criminals. That’s exactly what Obama told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos during a March 2011 trip to El Salvador. A couple of weeks later, Obama had to swallow those words when — during an education town hall meeting in Washington, sponsored by Univision — he was confronted by a DREAM’er holding deportation papers. So now we’re supposed to applaud the administration for not deporting people the president had claimed weren’t being deported in the first place.

Here is what Obama claimed during his Univision interview in March 2011:

President [Obama] said,“we have refocused our efforts on those who have engaged in criminal activity.” Furthermore, he said, “We aren’t going around rounding up students,” the president told Ramos last Wednesday, “that is completely false.”

As Navarrette writes, this was debunked just weeks later when a student confronted Obama with her deportation papers at a Q&A session.

That’s not all. Remember less than a year ago, when the left was heralding (and conservatives were decrying) President Obama’s decision to supposedly “enforce the Dream Act” by “executive fiat”?

In August of 2011, President Obama was under pressure from Democratic lawmakers to do something about the spike in deportations. So the Department of Homeland Security issued new illegal immigration enforcement guidelines, saying that it would curb deportations of non-criminals, people who had been in the U.S. for an extended time, veterans, young people, and other groups.

“If fully implemented, the new process should stop virtually all DREAM Act deportations,” read a press release from DREAM advocate Sen. Dick Durbin’s office.

At the time, Obama himself likened the rules to the DREAM Act in a speech to Hispanic political leaders. “[T]he Department of Homeland Security is applying common-sense standards for immigration enforcement,” he said. “And we’ve made progress so that our enforcement policies prioritize criminals who endanger our communities, not students trying to achieve the American Dream.”

If these students were already supposed to be protected, per Obama’s “common-sense” policy, why would this latest move even be necessary?

Sure, there are some provisions that seem to expand the August 2011 memo. The previous guidelines only impacted illegal immigrants who were presently involved in deportation proceedings, but, under the new guidelines, it appears that any illegal immigrant who meets the qualifications can apply for a work permit and two-year reprieve from deportation.

However — that also means they’ll have to intentionally make themselves known to the deportation authorities, with no guarantee that they’ll be approved.

And the newer guidelines do not exempt whole groups from deportation. The DHS says it will still consider illegal immigrants on a case-by-case basis, even if they meet all of the requirements.

In many ways, the new guidelines actually appear to be narrower than the guidelines issued in 2011. The new ones focus on specific ages (i.e. prioritizing those who came to the U.S. under the age of 15, and those who are currently under the age of 30). The specifics hew closely to the details in Sen. Marco Rubio’s version of the DREAM Act — which Obama has set back with this announcement — but they actually ignore many of the people who were already supposed to be protected under DHS’s 2011 guidelines.

The substance of Obama’s policy is laudable. Young, noncriminal illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. through not fault of their own should not be a deportation priority — not just because we don’t have the resources to round them up, but because it’s the right thing to do. These illegal immigrants are blameless, and many of them know no other home than America. The question is whether Obama’s new guidelines will have much of an effect. Despite DHS’s decision to focus mainly on criminal deportations last summer, the proportion of criminal to noncriminal illegal immigrants undergoing deportation proceedings has actually declined, according to Syracuse University. At the end of the day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement still has the discretion to decide each case on an individual basis, as there has been no law passed by Congress.

Read Less

Living With Routine Terror

It appears that what amounts to a military coup has removed the threat of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. That’s a great relief to many who feared that such an Islamist state abutting Hamas-ruled Gaza would overturn the situation that had simplified Israel’s strategic equation for more than 30 years. Whether the new military dictators in Cairo will help maintain the relative stability that existed under Hosni Mubarak is yet to be seen. Another question is whether the rage of frustrated Islamists and the others who fueled the country’s Arab Spring protests will bubble over into a bloody civil war that would also impact Israel.

But while the prospects of such spectacular disasters move to the back burner, Israelis must continue to cope with more routine horrors. This morning, a Gaza-based terror squad crossed Egyptian territory to launch an attack on Israel. They ambushed cars carrying civilian workers with rifle fire, anti-tank weapons and explosives. One Israeli, an Arab from Haifa, was killed. Israeli forces quickly pursued and killed two of the terrorists. The attack was reminiscent of a similar terrorist operation carried out further south near Eilat last year.

Today’s incident is an indication of how dangerous Egyptian Sinai has become in the last year as the regime in Cairo tottered and Mubarak’s successors loosened the blockade of Gaza. But it also shows how perilous Israel’s southern border remains. Since the beginning of the year, 280 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel despite the cease-fire that is supposed to prevail between the Hamas terrorists who run the strip and the Jewish state. Despite this, we are told by apologists for the Palestinians that Hamas has abandoned violence and that it is once again time for Israel to start making more concessions.

Read More

It appears that what amounts to a military coup has removed the threat of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. That’s a great relief to many who feared that such an Islamist state abutting Hamas-ruled Gaza would overturn the situation that had simplified Israel’s strategic equation for more than 30 years. Whether the new military dictators in Cairo will help maintain the relative stability that existed under Hosni Mubarak is yet to be seen. Another question is whether the rage of frustrated Islamists and the others who fueled the country’s Arab Spring protests will bubble over into a bloody civil war that would also impact Israel.

But while the prospects of such spectacular disasters move to the back burner, Israelis must continue to cope with more routine horrors. This morning, a Gaza-based terror squad crossed Egyptian territory to launch an attack on Israel. They ambushed cars carrying civilian workers with rifle fire, anti-tank weapons and explosives. One Israeli, an Arab from Haifa, was killed. Israeli forces quickly pursued and killed two of the terrorists. The attack was reminiscent of a similar terrorist operation carried out further south near Eilat last year.

Today’s incident is an indication of how dangerous Egyptian Sinai has become in the last year as the regime in Cairo tottered and Mubarak’s successors loosened the blockade of Gaza. But it also shows how perilous Israel’s southern border remains. Since the beginning of the year, 280 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel despite the cease-fire that is supposed to prevail between the Hamas terrorists who run the strip and the Jewish state. Despite this, we are told by apologists for the Palestinians that Hamas has abandoned violence and that it is once again time for Israel to start making more concessions.

The problem is not just that the terrorist attacks from Gaza via Egypt and the rocket fire have continued. It is that the West’s attitude is Israel must simply endure them in the way residents of big cities are supposed to get used to high crime rates. Indeed, that is pretty much the way most Israelis regard their southern border. But these pinpricks are a reminder of what would happen if the West Bank were to come under the influence of Hamas following an Israeli withdrawal that those hoping to revive the peace process envision. Only then, it would not be the open spaces of the Negev that would fall under terrorist fire but metropolitan Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

As the Egyptian crisis grows more worrisome, the latest violence in the south is just one more reason why the overwhelming majority of Israelis believe that such a withdrawal–in the absence of a sea change in Palestinian attitudes about peace–would be madness.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.