Commentary Magazine


Topic: commissioner

The EU’s Black-and-White World

In Wednesday’s post, I wrote that the European Union seems set to repeat its Cyprus error with the Palestinians. But perhaps that’s unsurprising. For in both cases, willful disregard of the evidence has subverted its policies.

In Cyprus, the EU effectively killed a peace plan by promising accession to Greek Cyprus regardless of the outcome of an April 2004 referendum, but to Turkish Cyprus only if both sides voted yes. Unsurprisingly, since Greeks had nothing to lose by holding out for more, 75 percent voted no, while Turks, having something to lose, voted yes. Indeed, Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos openly opposed the plan, telling his countrymen they could get a better deal; so did the largest Greek Cypriot political party.

Subsequently, then-enlargement commissioner Gunter Verheugen accused Greek Cypriot leaders of “cheating” their way into the EU: they vowed support for reunification until accession was assured, then reversed course. But why did Europe deem their promises credible enough to justify sacrificing the accession card?

After all, evidence to the contrary wasn’t lacking. For instance, the Greeks refused to sign an earlier draft of the plan in December 2002 but were nevertheless offered membership later that month. They rejected another version in February 2003, yet the EU made no effort to postpone that April’s signing of the accession treaty, which made accession unstoppable. Indeed, Greek leaders repeatedly demanded more than the plan offered, while polls showed most Greeks opposing the requisite concessions.

The answer is that Europe viewed Cyprus in black and white: since Turkish Cyprus was created by Turkey’s 1974 invasion, it deemed Turkish Cypriots the villainous “occupiers” and Greek Cypriots the victims. Never mind that Turkey invaded in response to a war Greek Cypriots started by staging a coup, with backing from Athens, to create an all-Greek government and merge the island with Greece. Or that Greek Cypriots’ history of oppressing Turkish Cypriots gave the latter good reason to fear the coup and beg Ankara’s assistance, and Ankara good reason to intervene to protect them. Or that the war made thousands on both sides refugees.

Then, having assigned its roles, the EU simply assumed that the victims would “support peace” while the villains would oppose it, regardless of actual behavior. Thus in March 2004, while Papadopoulos and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart were both denouncing the plan’s latest draft, Verheugen still blamed Turkish Cyprus alone for the failed talks.

The Israeli-Palestinian parallels are obvious. Here, too, Europe ignores the fact that Israel conquered the territories in a defensive war, or that every previous Israeli withdrawal has exacerbated anti-Israel terror. It ignores repeated polls (see here and here) showing that Palestinians oppose two states if one of them remains Jewish. It ignores “moderate” Palestinian leaders’ unrelenting insistence on relocating all Palestinian “refugees” to Israel (here and here for instance), their claims that the Western Wall isn’t Jewish, their demand for judenrein territory. It even ignores their rejection of Israeli statehood offers in 2000, 2001, and 2008. Hence its growing support for recognizing “Palestine” without an agreement, thus killing any chance for negotiations.

The EU has decided that Israelis are villainous, peace-hating “occupiers” and Palestinians are peace-loving victims. And never mind the facts.

In Wednesday’s post, I wrote that the European Union seems set to repeat its Cyprus error with the Palestinians. But perhaps that’s unsurprising. For in both cases, willful disregard of the evidence has subverted its policies.

In Cyprus, the EU effectively killed a peace plan by promising accession to Greek Cyprus regardless of the outcome of an April 2004 referendum, but to Turkish Cyprus only if both sides voted yes. Unsurprisingly, since Greeks had nothing to lose by holding out for more, 75 percent voted no, while Turks, having something to lose, voted yes. Indeed, Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos openly opposed the plan, telling his countrymen they could get a better deal; so did the largest Greek Cypriot political party.

Subsequently, then-enlargement commissioner Gunter Verheugen accused Greek Cypriot leaders of “cheating” their way into the EU: they vowed support for reunification until accession was assured, then reversed course. But why did Europe deem their promises credible enough to justify sacrificing the accession card?

After all, evidence to the contrary wasn’t lacking. For instance, the Greeks refused to sign an earlier draft of the plan in December 2002 but were nevertheless offered membership later that month. They rejected another version in February 2003, yet the EU made no effort to postpone that April’s signing of the accession treaty, which made accession unstoppable. Indeed, Greek leaders repeatedly demanded more than the plan offered, while polls showed most Greeks opposing the requisite concessions.

The answer is that Europe viewed Cyprus in black and white: since Turkish Cyprus was created by Turkey’s 1974 invasion, it deemed Turkish Cypriots the villainous “occupiers” and Greek Cypriots the victims. Never mind that Turkey invaded in response to a war Greek Cypriots started by staging a coup, with backing from Athens, to create an all-Greek government and merge the island with Greece. Or that Greek Cypriots’ history of oppressing Turkish Cypriots gave the latter good reason to fear the coup and beg Ankara’s assistance, and Ankara good reason to intervene to protect them. Or that the war made thousands on both sides refugees.

Then, having assigned its roles, the EU simply assumed that the victims would “support peace” while the villains would oppose it, regardless of actual behavior. Thus in March 2004, while Papadopoulos and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart were both denouncing the plan’s latest draft, Verheugen still blamed Turkish Cyprus alone for the failed talks.

The Israeli-Palestinian parallels are obvious. Here, too, Europe ignores the fact that Israel conquered the territories in a defensive war, or that every previous Israeli withdrawal has exacerbated anti-Israel terror. It ignores repeated polls (see here and here) showing that Palestinians oppose two states if one of them remains Jewish. It ignores “moderate” Palestinian leaders’ unrelenting insistence on relocating all Palestinian “refugees” to Israel (here and here for instance), their claims that the Western Wall isn’t Jewish, their demand for judenrein territory. It even ignores their rejection of Israeli statehood offers in 2000, 2001, and 2008. Hence its growing support for recognizing “Palestine” without an agreement, thus killing any chance for negotiations.

The EU has decided that Israelis are villainous, peace-hating “occupiers” and Palestinians are peace-loving victims. And never mind the facts.

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RE: Debt Commission Surprises

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

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Washington Post Confirms More Than a Year of Conservative Reporting

Yes, that’s right. On Saturday’s front page, in a well-documented piece, the Washington Post did a very credible job in reporting the details of the New Black Party Panther case and, in large part, vindicating the witnesses and conservative outlets which have reported that: 1) the administration concealed that political appointees influenced the decision to dismiss a blatant case of voter intimidation; 2) the Obama administration does not believe in equal enforcement of civil rights laws; and 3) this single incident is indicative of a much larger problem than one case of voter intimidation.

As to the administration’s mindset:

Civil rights officials from the Bush administration have said that enforcement should be race-neutral. But some officials from the Obama administration, which took office vowing to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement, thought the agency should focus primarily on cases filed on behalf of minorities.

“The Voting Rights Act was passed because people like Bull Connor were hitting people like John Lewis, not the other way around,” said one Justice Department official not authorized to speak publicly, referring to the white Alabama police commissioner who cracked down on civil rights protesters such as Lewis, now a Democratic congressman from Georgia.

Translation: J. Christian Adams and Chris Coates, two former trial attorneys, testified truthfully under oath on this point; civil rights chief Thomas Perez did not.

Likewise, Adams and Coates are vindicated in their version of a case filed against an African American official:

Three Justice Department lawyers, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from their supervisors, described the same tensions, among career lawyers as well as political appointees. Employees who worked on the [Ike]Brown case were harassed by colleagues, they said, and some department lawyers anonymously went on legal blogs “absolutely tearing apart anybody who was involved in that case,” said one lawyer.

“There are career people who feel strongly that it is not the voting section’s job to protect white voters,” the lawyer said. “The environment is that you better toe the line of traditional civil rights ideas or you better keep quiet about it, because you will not advance, you will not receive awards and you will be ostracized.”

Translation: Wow.

As for the involvement of higher-ups:

Asked at a civil rights commission hearing in May whether any of the department’s political leadership was “involved in” the decision to dismiss the Panthers case, assistant attorney general for civil rights Thomas E. Perez said no.

“This is a case about career people disagreeing with career people,” said Perez, who was not in the department at the time. He also said that political appointees are regularly briefed on civil rights cases and, whenever there is a potentially controversial decision, “we obviously communicate that up the chain.”

Justice Department records turned over in a lawsuit to the conservative group Judicial Watch show a flurry of e-mails between the Civil Rights Division and the office of Associate Attorney General Thomas Perelli, a political appointee who supervises the division.

Translation: Perez did not exactly say the truth under oath.

What about orders not to enforce the law in a race-neutral fashion?

In the months after the case ended, tensions persisted. A new supervisor, Julie Fernandes, arrived to oversee the voting section, and Coates testified that she told attorneys at a September 2009 lunch that the Obama administration was interested in filing cases – under a key voting rights section – only on behalf of minorities.

“Everyone in the room understood exactly what she meant,” Coates said. “No more cases like the Ike Brown or New Black Panther Party cases.”

Fernandes declined to comment through a department spokeswoman.

Translation: Perez and Fernandes will have to go.

The administration must be awfully panicky. Lots of DOJ  attorneys assisted in preparing false responses to discovery requests from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The administration repeatedly misrepresented the facts in public. The Justice Department tried to prevent percipient witnesses from testifying pursuant to subpoenas. Perez testified under oath untruthfully. The  Obama administration stonewalled both the commission and congressmen trying to uncover the facts which conservative outlets and now the Post have revealed. The DOJ tried to bully attorneys who were prepared to tell the truth. There is a term for that: obstruction of justice.

And what’s more, GOP committee chairmen with subpoena power will take over in January when the new Congress convenes. Expect hearings, some resignations, and maybe a prosecution or two. The “small potatoes” story the mainstream media pooh-poohed will be the first serious scandal of the last two years of Obama’s term. Do I hear that Eric Holder wants to spend “more time with his family”?

Two final notes. Conservatives who caught wind of this story being underway expressed concern that the Post reporters might end up pulling their punches, given this Post editorial from several weeks ago. That fear turned out to be unfounded. This is one instance in which the wall between the editorial and news sections held firm. (It often works the other way, of course. The Post’s opinion editors, for example, were on top of the Chas Freeman story, which its news reporters ignored.) And secondly, sources who spoke to the reporters tells me that the Post was under severe pressure from the DOJ not to run this sort of story. It seems as though the Post‘s reporters find the current crew at the DOJ quite “unprofessional”. One must give credit to those two reporters for withstanding the pressure — and see it as a sign that the administration’s bark isn’t scaring anyone these days.

Yes, that’s right. On Saturday’s front page, in a well-documented piece, the Washington Post did a very credible job in reporting the details of the New Black Party Panther case and, in large part, vindicating the witnesses and conservative outlets which have reported that: 1) the administration concealed that political appointees influenced the decision to dismiss a blatant case of voter intimidation; 2) the Obama administration does not believe in equal enforcement of civil rights laws; and 3) this single incident is indicative of a much larger problem than one case of voter intimidation.

As to the administration’s mindset:

Civil rights officials from the Bush administration have said that enforcement should be race-neutral. But some officials from the Obama administration, which took office vowing to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement, thought the agency should focus primarily on cases filed on behalf of minorities.

“The Voting Rights Act was passed because people like Bull Connor were hitting people like John Lewis, not the other way around,” said one Justice Department official not authorized to speak publicly, referring to the white Alabama police commissioner who cracked down on civil rights protesters such as Lewis, now a Democratic congressman from Georgia.

Translation: J. Christian Adams and Chris Coates, two former trial attorneys, testified truthfully under oath on this point; civil rights chief Thomas Perez did not.

Likewise, Adams and Coates are vindicated in their version of a case filed against an African American official:

Three Justice Department lawyers, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from their supervisors, described the same tensions, among career lawyers as well as political appointees. Employees who worked on the [Ike]Brown case were harassed by colleagues, they said, and some department lawyers anonymously went on legal blogs “absolutely tearing apart anybody who was involved in that case,” said one lawyer.

“There are career people who feel strongly that it is not the voting section’s job to protect white voters,” the lawyer said. “The environment is that you better toe the line of traditional civil rights ideas or you better keep quiet about it, because you will not advance, you will not receive awards and you will be ostracized.”

Translation: Wow.

As for the involvement of higher-ups:

Asked at a civil rights commission hearing in May whether any of the department’s political leadership was “involved in” the decision to dismiss the Panthers case, assistant attorney general for civil rights Thomas E. Perez said no.

“This is a case about career people disagreeing with career people,” said Perez, who was not in the department at the time. He also said that political appointees are regularly briefed on civil rights cases and, whenever there is a potentially controversial decision, “we obviously communicate that up the chain.”

Justice Department records turned over in a lawsuit to the conservative group Judicial Watch show a flurry of e-mails between the Civil Rights Division and the office of Associate Attorney General Thomas Perelli, a political appointee who supervises the division.

Translation: Perez did not exactly say the truth under oath.

What about orders not to enforce the law in a race-neutral fashion?

In the months after the case ended, tensions persisted. A new supervisor, Julie Fernandes, arrived to oversee the voting section, and Coates testified that she told attorneys at a September 2009 lunch that the Obama administration was interested in filing cases – under a key voting rights section – only on behalf of minorities.

“Everyone in the room understood exactly what she meant,” Coates said. “No more cases like the Ike Brown or New Black Panther Party cases.”

Fernandes declined to comment through a department spokeswoman.

Translation: Perez and Fernandes will have to go.

The administration must be awfully panicky. Lots of DOJ  attorneys assisted in preparing false responses to discovery requests from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The administration repeatedly misrepresented the facts in public. The Justice Department tried to prevent percipient witnesses from testifying pursuant to subpoenas. Perez testified under oath untruthfully. The  Obama administration stonewalled both the commission and congressmen trying to uncover the facts which conservative outlets and now the Post have revealed. The DOJ tried to bully attorneys who were prepared to tell the truth. There is a term for that: obstruction of justice.

And what’s more, GOP committee chairmen with subpoena power will take over in January when the new Congress convenes. Expect hearings, some resignations, and maybe a prosecution or two. The “small potatoes” story the mainstream media pooh-poohed will be the first serious scandal of the last two years of Obama’s term. Do I hear that Eric Holder wants to spend “more time with his family”?

Two final notes. Conservatives who caught wind of this story being underway expressed concern that the Post reporters might end up pulling their punches, given this Post editorial from several weeks ago. That fear turned out to be unfounded. This is one instance in which the wall between the editorial and news sections held firm. (It often works the other way, of course. The Post’s opinion editors, for example, were on top of the Chas Freeman story, which its news reporters ignored.) And secondly, sources who spoke to the reporters tells me that the Post was under severe pressure from the DOJ not to run this sort of story. It seems as though the Post‘s reporters find the current crew at the DOJ quite “unprofessional”. One must give credit to those two reporters for withstanding the pressure — and see it as a sign that the administration’s bark isn’t scaring anyone these days.

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Another Strategy in the War on Free Speech

The war on free speech has taken an ominous turn. It was bad enough when campaign finance “reformers” were imploring the Congress and courts to stifle core political speech. But now they’ve adopted a new tactic:

Since the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. FEC, Democrats in Congress have been trying to pass legislation to repeal the First Amendment for business, though not for unions. Having failed on that score, they’re now turning to legal and political threats. Funny how all of this outrage never surfaced when the likes of Peter Lewis of Progressive insurance and George Soros helped to make Democrats financially dominant in 2006 and 2008.

Chairman Max Baucus of the powerful Senate Finance Committee got the threats going last month when he asked Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman to investigate if certain tax exempt 501(c) groups had violated the law by engaging in too much political campaign activity. Lest there be any confusion about his targets, the Montana Democrat flagged articles focused on GOP-leaning groups, including Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads.

Not since Richard Nixon has the IRS been employed to target political enemies. Where does the IRS commissioner stand on this? Is he going to take auditing directions from politicians seeking partisan advantage? It would be appropriate when Congress convenes in January for the new GOP chairmen to conduct some hearings and make sure the IRS isn’t going to allow itself to be used in this fashion. The surest way, however, to prevent that is for Democratic pols to cease using the tax authority to intimidate and attack their political opponents.

The war on free speech has taken an ominous turn. It was bad enough when campaign finance “reformers” were imploring the Congress and courts to stifle core political speech. But now they’ve adopted a new tactic:

Since the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. FEC, Democrats in Congress have been trying to pass legislation to repeal the First Amendment for business, though not for unions. Having failed on that score, they’re now turning to legal and political threats. Funny how all of this outrage never surfaced when the likes of Peter Lewis of Progressive insurance and George Soros helped to make Democrats financially dominant in 2006 and 2008.

Chairman Max Baucus of the powerful Senate Finance Committee got the threats going last month when he asked Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman to investigate if certain tax exempt 501(c) groups had violated the law by engaging in too much political campaign activity. Lest there be any confusion about his targets, the Montana Democrat flagged articles focused on GOP-leaning groups, including Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads.

Not since Richard Nixon has the IRS been employed to target political enemies. Where does the IRS commissioner stand on this? Is he going to take auditing directions from politicians seeking partisan advantage? It would be appropriate when Congress convenes in January for the new GOP chairmen to conduct some hearings and make sure the IRS isn’t going to allow itself to be used in this fashion. The surest way, however, to prevent that is for Democratic pols to cease using the tax authority to intimidate and attack their political opponents.

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Obama Justice Department Rocked

The former head of the Justice Department’s New Black Panther trial team, Chris Coates, testified Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. See here and here and here (subscription required). Before Coates broke his silence, the commission’s critics, a minority of the commissioners, and the mainstream media insisted that the dismissal of a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case had no significance beyond the single incident on Election Day 2008. However, Coates’s account of the administration’s hostility to race-neutral enforcement of voting laws and refusal to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring that states clean up their voting rolls to prevent voter fraud) blew that assertion to smithereens.

I was in the hearing room on Friday. Nearly as riveting as Coates’s testimony was the frantic performance of the administration’s chief lackey, Commissioner Michael Yaki. He asked Coates about the civil rights division’s memo-writing procedures, Bush-era cases, and Coates’s friendship with a former department attorney but never asked any questions about the specific allegations that Obama appointees opposed equal enforcement of the voting laws. An audience member wisecracked, “When all else fails, blame George Bush.” Read More

The former head of the Justice Department’s New Black Panther trial team, Chris Coates, testified Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. See here and here and here (subscription required). Before Coates broke his silence, the commission’s critics, a minority of the commissioners, and the mainstream media insisted that the dismissal of a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case had no significance beyond the single incident on Election Day 2008. However, Coates’s account of the administration’s hostility to race-neutral enforcement of voting laws and refusal to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring that states clean up their voting rolls to prevent voter fraud) blew that assertion to smithereens.

I was in the hearing room on Friday. Nearly as riveting as Coates’s testimony was the frantic performance of the administration’s chief lackey, Commissioner Michael Yaki. He asked Coates about the civil rights division’s memo-writing procedures, Bush-era cases, and Coates’s friendship with a former department attorney but never asked any questions about the specific allegations that Obama appointees opposed equal enforcement of the voting laws. An audience member wisecracked, “When all else fails, blame George Bush.”

Try as Democrats might to ignore the blockbuster evidence, Coates’s testimony was a game changer. Granted, the testimony contained information already revealed in conservative outlets and by former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams. But Coates confirmed these facts and added a wealth of new details. An African American attorney and his mother (who also works for DOJ) were harassed for working on a voting case brought against an African American defendant. Obama’s deputy assistant general for civil rights, Julie Fernandez, repeatedly told attorneys not to enforce Section 8 or bring cases against minority defendants. Coates’s supervisor, who directly ordered the case’s dismissal, told him to stop asking applicants if they could enforce laws in a race-neutral fashion. Coates briefed civil rights chief Thomas Perez on the hostility toward race-neutral enforcement of voting laws — before Perez feigned ignorance of such sentiments in sworn testimony. In sum, Coates’s appearance was the scandal’s tipping point.

Conservative outlets have reported on the case for over a year; mainstream reporters have averted their eyes. After Coates’s performance, the Washington Post’s page-one story proclaimed that the case is “ratcheting up.” Politico had pooh-poohed the story; it now acknowledges that conservatives had it correct all along. (“Coates’ highly-charged testimony before the Civil Rights Commission echoed [conservatives’] allegations, as well as the testimony of J. Christian Adams.”) The testimony was so stunning that the New York Times might have to cover it.

Meanwhile, the DOJ’s spokesman bristled that Coates wasn’t “authorized” to testify and wasn’t an “appropriate” witness. In a transparent coordination with Yaki, DOJ’s spokesman blamed the Bush administration for politicizing the department. But it will be impossible to shrug off or smear Coates. As the Post conceded, Coates’s testimony will “carry greater weight because he worked decades ago as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, has won awards from civil rights groups and lacks the partisan GOP resume of the department’s harshest opponents.”

Moreover, Coates testimony was all the more compelling because he was so circumspect, refusing to testify about internal discussions that the department considers privileged. (He readily agreed to provide more details if the DOJ waived its privilege claim.) He declined to draw inferences unsupported by his own observations. Asked whether Obama appointees’ directive not to enforce Section 8’s anti-fraud provisions was racially motivated, he answered with a litigator’s precision: it might have not been the intent, but the result was to allow bloated voting rolls in heavily minority districts that were Democratic strongholds.

No wonder the administration tried to muzzle Coates. Nevertheless, the department’s stonewalling has failed, and those parroting the administration’s line (“much ado about nothing”) look foolish. Inevitably, more Justice Department witnesses and documents will surface. (Judicial Watch has sued the DOJ, demanding documents evidencing the involvement of the department’s No. 3 man.)

Moreover, after November, Republicans almost certainly will assume chairmanships of key congressional committees. (Staff members from the offices of Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf, who have doggedly pursued the case, listened attentively in the front row on Friday.) A spokesman for Smith released this statement:

A founding principle of this nation is equality under the law. That means it is unacceptable for the Justice Department to determine whether to enforce a law based upon the race of a defendant or victim. And yet, according to testimony by the former chief voting rights attorney for the Department, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. … The Judiciary Committee should immediately open an investigation into allegations of improper practices within the Civil Rights Division and Justice Department officials should be subpoenaed to testify before Congress. There is no excuse for racial discrimination anywhere, but within the halls of the U.S. Department of Justice, it is the height of hypocrisy.

If Obama appointees refuse to testify voluntarily, the new chairmen will issue subpoenas.

It will be interesting to hear Obama officials explain why they failed to investigate accusations of wrongdoing and instead insisted that voting-rights laws be enforced only on behalf of minorities. It will be must-see TV when Perez is grilled on his inaccurate testimony claiming ignorance of hostility to the colorblind enforcement of voting laws. Will attorneys be referred to their state bar for professional misconduct?

This has become another headache for the Obama administration, especially for Eric Holder. Maybe he will want to “spend more time with his family” before Republican chairmen grab their gavels.

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Stacking the Deck, Providing Cover

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern —

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern —

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

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Obama Deserved This One

After sneering at Sarah Palin on everything from the death panels (i.e., Medicare rationing) to nuclear policy (Obama is enthralled with START and NPT, renounces nuclear retaliation against NPT signatories if they strike with chemical or biological weapons, and has done precious little to halt Iran and now Burma as they pursue nuclear weapons), Obama got his comeuppance from the former governor, who knows a thing or two about oil spills. She writes:

[A]s a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with [BP CEO  Hayward. Demand answers. In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

Ouch. At times like this, you appreciate both her innate political smarts and the degree to which the media vastly overestimated Obama’s.

After sneering at Sarah Palin on everything from the death panels (i.e., Medicare rationing) to nuclear policy (Obama is enthralled with START and NPT, renounces nuclear retaliation against NPT signatories if they strike with chemical or biological weapons, and has done precious little to halt Iran and now Burma as they pursue nuclear weapons), Obama got his comeuppance from the former governor, who knows a thing or two about oil spills. She writes:

[A]s a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with [BP CEO  Hayward. Demand answers. In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

Ouch. At times like this, you appreciate both her innate political smarts and the degree to which the media vastly overestimated Obama’s.

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RE: Why Israel Can’t Rely on American Jewish “Leaders”

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

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Obama Civil Rights Head Defends Black Panther Dismissal

On Friday, the much anticipated testimony of Civil Rights division head Thomas Perez before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was heard. As the Washington Times reported, Perez implicitly rebuked both the trial team that filed the case and the appellate section that endorsed the work of the trial team:

Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday there was “insufficient evidence” to bring a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party who disrupted a Philadelphia polling place in the 2008 general elections.

Mr. Perez, the only Justice Department official to testify publicly before the commission about the case, said that without sufficient proof that party members or the organization’s leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz, directed or controlled unlawful activities at the poll or made speeches to incite or produce lawless action, the complaint “would have likely failed” in court.

Perez declared that, of course, the Justice Department is committed to equal enforcement of the civil rights laws regardless of the race of the defendants. But one commissioner, independent Todd Gaziano, isn’t buying it:

I wanted to believe there were all sorts of wrongheaded but NOT racist reasons for the decision to dismiss the defendants. But there are several reasons for me to believe that a racist application of the voting rights laws might have been at play. There is some evidence that is already in the public domain. Examples of that are the fact that there apparently is a culture in the civil rights division where some senior section chiefs and other supervising attorneys have expressed the view and engaged in conduct supporting that view that they don’t believe the voting rights laws should ever be enforced against blacks and other minorities. Those reports have been in the press in the past year or so and it seems to me from Perez’ response that he has done nothing to investigate whether that culture or those caustic views really are held by some of his supervising attorneys.”

And: “There is other evidence. There is the absence of a satisfactory explanation for why they did dismiss the Black Panther suit. Reasonable people know that if there is a racist reason for something and a good reason for something, and the reason has been called into question, a decent law enforcement agency when called to explain would want to provide the reasonable explanation – and they still haven’t done that. Third, [former civil rights division Voting Section chief] Chris Coates’ farewell address suggests that there still are several people in the division who do not believe in a race neutral application of the voting rights laws. And it seemed from Perez’ responses to me today that he did nothing specific to investigate why Chris Coates believed that [about his former co-workers].

So what now? The Justice Department continues to stonewall, refusing to allow witnesses with direct knowledge of the decision-making process to testify and refusing to appoint a special prosecutor to litigate the issue of the commission’s subpoenas. It’s quite a performance by an administration that promised to insulate from politics the work of its career attorneys. Well, one possibility is that one or more members of the trial team will defy the orders of their superiors not to testify and come forward to defend their work and reveal the interference they encountered. Another is that if the House flips control, congressional oversight will finally be undertaken and the appropriate witnesses subpoenaed and required to testify. One senses that after Perez’s performance and his hear-no-evil-see-no-evil approach to widespread reports that his division does have a double standard for civil rights enforcement, conscientious career lawyers must be mulling their options.

On Friday, the much anticipated testimony of Civil Rights division head Thomas Perez before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was heard. As the Washington Times reported, Perez implicitly rebuked both the trial team that filed the case and the appellate section that endorsed the work of the trial team:

Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday there was “insufficient evidence” to bring a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party who disrupted a Philadelphia polling place in the 2008 general elections.

Mr. Perez, the only Justice Department official to testify publicly before the commission about the case, said that without sufficient proof that party members or the organization’s leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz, directed or controlled unlawful activities at the poll or made speeches to incite or produce lawless action, the complaint “would have likely failed” in court.

Perez declared that, of course, the Justice Department is committed to equal enforcement of the civil rights laws regardless of the race of the defendants. But one commissioner, independent Todd Gaziano, isn’t buying it:

I wanted to believe there were all sorts of wrongheaded but NOT racist reasons for the decision to dismiss the defendants. But there are several reasons for me to believe that a racist application of the voting rights laws might have been at play. There is some evidence that is already in the public domain. Examples of that are the fact that there apparently is a culture in the civil rights division where some senior section chiefs and other supervising attorneys have expressed the view and engaged in conduct supporting that view that they don’t believe the voting rights laws should ever be enforced against blacks and other minorities. Those reports have been in the press in the past year or so and it seems to me from Perez’ response that he has done nothing to investigate whether that culture or those caustic views really are held by some of his supervising attorneys.”

And: “There is other evidence. There is the absence of a satisfactory explanation for why they did dismiss the Black Panther suit. Reasonable people know that if there is a racist reason for something and a good reason for something, and the reason has been called into question, a decent law enforcement agency when called to explain would want to provide the reasonable explanation – and they still haven’t done that. Third, [former civil rights division Voting Section chief] Chris Coates’ farewell address suggests that there still are several people in the division who do not believe in a race neutral application of the voting rights laws. And it seemed from Perez’ responses to me today that he did nothing specific to investigate why Chris Coates believed that [about his former co-workers].

So what now? The Justice Department continues to stonewall, refusing to allow witnesses with direct knowledge of the decision-making process to testify and refusing to appoint a special prosecutor to litigate the issue of the commission’s subpoenas. It’s quite a performance by an administration that promised to insulate from politics the work of its career attorneys. Well, one possibility is that one or more members of the trial team will defy the orders of their superiors not to testify and come forward to defend their work and reveal the interference they encountered. Another is that if the House flips control, congressional oversight will finally be undertaken and the appropriate witnesses subpoenaed and required to testify. One senses that after Perez’s performance and his hear-no-evil-see-no-evil approach to widespread reports that his division does have a double standard for civil rights enforcement, conscientious career lawyers must be mulling their options.

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The No-Fly List Didn’t Work, Mr. Holder

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

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Why Don’t Liberals Care About Voter Intimidation?

Hans Von Spakovsky, a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, provides a helpful summary of Friday’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on the New Black Panther case. As he notes, it seems that Democrats don’t care much for the notion that the Justice Department should vigorously pursue a case of obvious and extreme voter intimidation that occurred at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008. He writes:

The Democratic commissioners, especially Michael Yaki, a former Pelosi staffer, tried to minimize what happened in Philadelphia; he even said at one point that there may have been no more than a couple of people who were turned away. Yaki was unable to produce any evidence that would support that assertion.

Yaki’s Democratic colleague Arlan Melendez claimed the investigation was a waste of time and resources. According to him, everyone should just take the DOJ’s word that the case was meritless. Most of the other commissioners pointed out that the commission has a special mandate to protect voting rights and that not only was the Justice Department’s dismissal of this case inexplicable, but its refusal to provide information, documents, or witnesses violated the law in general and specifically its responsibility not to engage in selective enforcement.

Even after video and compelling testimony by veteran civil rights activist Bartle Bull and former deputy associate attorney general Greg Katsas left little doubt as to the egregious behavior of the New Black Panthers, the Democrats were unmoved:

The most amusing part of the hearing was watching Commissioner Yaki try to run interference for the Obama administration. Yaki was clearly unhappy to have the administration’s dirty linen dragged out into the public arena, and he did his best to try to cross up witnesses like Bull and Katsas when he was questioning them. Yaki obviously believes he’s a very smart lawyer, but Bull and Katsas both ran rings around him. Bull, who did an outstanding job of pointing out how outrageously the Panthers had acted in Philadelphia and how wrong the Justice Department was in dismissing this lawsuit. Imagine for a moment if members of a white supremacist group had shown up in paramilitary uniforms with swastikas at a polling place, and yet the Justice Department dropped a voter-intimidation lawsuit it had already won against the group. The hearing room at the commission would have been swarming with news crews, and C-SPAN would surely have covered the hearing live. However, none of that happened. C-SPAN wasn’t there, and neither was a single one of the national cable-news channels.

There really is no other explanation than the obvious one: the Obama Justice Department — aided and encouraged by their Democratic handmaidens on the commission, a compliant liberal media, and a chorus of professional civil rights activists — simply doesn’t believe that voter intimidation can be perpetrated by African-Americans. It is a “waste of time” in their minds to pursue the New Black Panthers because the “real” job of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is going after white racists. The laws are on the books to protect minorities and minorities only, they are convinced. We know from Chris Coates, a trial lawyer on the case, that this thinking is pervasive in the department. And Yaki inadvertently confirmed as much by his behavior at the hearing.

The head of the civil rights division, Thomas Perez, is due to testify before the commission in May. The commissioners should ask him about the seeming refusal of his department to fully and fairly apply the civil rights laws to all Americans. He will need to tread a careful line — too candid and he risks creating a firestorm (as average Americans don’t buy the idea that laws are there only for particular racial groups); too disingenuous and he risks offending the civil rights lobby. It will be interesting to watch.

Hans Von Spakovsky, a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, provides a helpful summary of Friday’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on the New Black Panther case. As he notes, it seems that Democrats don’t care much for the notion that the Justice Department should vigorously pursue a case of obvious and extreme voter intimidation that occurred at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008. He writes:

The Democratic commissioners, especially Michael Yaki, a former Pelosi staffer, tried to minimize what happened in Philadelphia; he even said at one point that there may have been no more than a couple of people who were turned away. Yaki was unable to produce any evidence that would support that assertion.

Yaki’s Democratic colleague Arlan Melendez claimed the investigation was a waste of time and resources. According to him, everyone should just take the DOJ’s word that the case was meritless. Most of the other commissioners pointed out that the commission has a special mandate to protect voting rights and that not only was the Justice Department’s dismissal of this case inexplicable, but its refusal to provide information, documents, or witnesses violated the law in general and specifically its responsibility not to engage in selective enforcement.

Even after video and compelling testimony by veteran civil rights activist Bartle Bull and former deputy associate attorney general Greg Katsas left little doubt as to the egregious behavior of the New Black Panthers, the Democrats were unmoved:

The most amusing part of the hearing was watching Commissioner Yaki try to run interference for the Obama administration. Yaki was clearly unhappy to have the administration’s dirty linen dragged out into the public arena, and he did his best to try to cross up witnesses like Bull and Katsas when he was questioning them. Yaki obviously believes he’s a very smart lawyer, but Bull and Katsas both ran rings around him. Bull, who did an outstanding job of pointing out how outrageously the Panthers had acted in Philadelphia and how wrong the Justice Department was in dismissing this lawsuit. Imagine for a moment if members of a white supremacist group had shown up in paramilitary uniforms with swastikas at a polling place, and yet the Justice Department dropped a voter-intimidation lawsuit it had already won against the group. The hearing room at the commission would have been swarming with news crews, and C-SPAN would surely have covered the hearing live. However, none of that happened. C-SPAN wasn’t there, and neither was a single one of the national cable-news channels.

There really is no other explanation than the obvious one: the Obama Justice Department — aided and encouraged by their Democratic handmaidens on the commission, a compliant liberal media, and a chorus of professional civil rights activists — simply doesn’t believe that voter intimidation can be perpetrated by African-Americans. It is a “waste of time” in their minds to pursue the New Black Panthers because the “real” job of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is going after white racists. The laws are on the books to protect minorities and minorities only, they are convinced. We know from Chris Coates, a trial lawyer on the case, that this thinking is pervasive in the department. And Yaki inadvertently confirmed as much by his behavior at the hearing.

The head of the civil rights division, Thomas Perez, is due to testify before the commission in May. The commissioners should ask him about the seeming refusal of his department to fully and fairly apply the civil rights laws to all Americans. He will need to tread a careful line — too candid and he risks creating a firestorm (as average Americans don’t buy the idea that laws are there only for particular racial groups); too disingenuous and he risks offending the civil rights lobby. It will be interesting to watch.

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NFL Action: Goodell on Roethlisberger

According to ESPN:

Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games on Wednesday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the NFL announced. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback also was ordered to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation. Commissioner Roger Goodell will evaluate Roethlisberger’s progress before the season and might consider reducing the suspension to four games. However, a failure to comply with the NFL’s ruling might lead to a longer suspension.

In his letter to Roethlisberger, Goodell said:

I recognize that the allegations [of sexual assault] in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.

Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare.

I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you. My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and a demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life.

In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.

Good for Roger Goodell — and good for the Steeler organization and the city of Pittsburgh, which is not standing behind Roethlisberger. The disappointment and anger directed at Roethlisberger, who has found himself in trouble before, is hard to overstate. In fact, ESPN reports that the Steelers are entertaining trade offers from other clubs (such a trade would surprise me).

Goodell has made it clear in the past, and with this latest action, that he takes the phrase “integrity of the game” seriously. He understands that athletes, whether they want to or not, are role models, and they should be held to some minimal standards of conduct. And he knows that as commissioner, he has a “brand” — the best in sports — to protect.

I have no idea whether Roethlisberger is going to finally get his life under control, but what Goodell has done will increase the possibility that he will.

What Goodell did was impressive. Ben Roethlisberger is down to his last chance. He can’t say he hasn’t been warned.

According to ESPN:

Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games on Wednesday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the NFL announced. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback also was ordered to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation. Commissioner Roger Goodell will evaluate Roethlisberger’s progress before the season and might consider reducing the suspension to four games. However, a failure to comply with the NFL’s ruling might lead to a longer suspension.

In his letter to Roethlisberger, Goodell said:

I recognize that the allegations [of sexual assault] in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.

Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare.

I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you. My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and a demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life.

In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.

Good for Roger Goodell — and good for the Steeler organization and the city of Pittsburgh, which is not standing behind Roethlisberger. The disappointment and anger directed at Roethlisberger, who has found himself in trouble before, is hard to overstate. In fact, ESPN reports that the Steelers are entertaining trade offers from other clubs (such a trade would surprise me).

Goodell has made it clear in the past, and with this latest action, that he takes the phrase “integrity of the game” seriously. He understands that athletes, whether they want to or not, are role models, and they should be held to some minimal standards of conduct. And he knows that as commissioner, he has a “brand” — the best in sports — to protect.

I have no idea whether Roethlisberger is going to finally get his life under control, but what Goodell has done will increase the possibility that he will.

What Goodell did was impressive. Ben Roethlisberger is down to his last chance. He can’t say he hasn’t been warned.

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Strange Herring

Obama limits U.S. use of nuclear weapons to one minute after our glorious republic is a steaming pile of ash, toxic waste, and rotting human flesh. So there’s a plan.

World spared another Salinger “masterpiece.” Thank you. Thank you.

Subways of the future are so cool you’ll want to live in them. Unlike some of us…

Loon’s mommy says Fox News made him threaten Nancy Pelosi. Well, MSNBC made me punch a rodeo clown, you don’t hear me whining about it…

Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights forces Steve Jobs to stop running those stupid “Buy Apple” ads.

Obama’s judicial nominee withdraws because she’s not universally acclaimed. Somebody needs a hug. Or clozapine. (I said or …)

NY Times Ethicist says stealing’s OK as long as you convince yourself it’s not really stealing. (Immanuel Kant call your office — and cancel your subscription to the Times.)

ObamaCare a definite pain in the prostate.

Do not quit your job as a nanosurgery technician to stuff envelopes from home. There’s no money in it, apparently.

No Flash a problem if you’re in the Hulu loop.

Fit pregnancy could result in scrawny offspring. O the ironies. And by “O,” I don’t mean O. Or O. Or O.

British farmers claim UFOs are attacking their sheep. Damn foreigners.

Minor-league baseball team signs girl pitcher. For the love of Joe Pepitone, where will this egalitarian madness end? Next thing you know, women will be running businesses and becoming heads of state. Miserable communists…

Prehistoric bugs discovered preserved in amber, just like socialism in the head of a Nation editor…

NYU School of Journalism names Top 10 works of journalism in past decade. Wait a minute — they have schools for journalism? They grade on a curve, yes?

The Twinkie is 80. Literally. Like the one you’re eating right now.

And Gatorade goes kosher. So now your rabbi can replenish his fluids during those really long liturgies. (H/T Abe Greenwald)

Karzai’s tirade makes perfect sense now. Hey, Hamid, don’t Bogart that hookah.

Turkey threatens to do to Armenians what they did to Armenians if anyone mentions what they did to Armenians. Which they deny doing. Unless you make them do it.

Fossil of 4-foot-2-inch boy found. He may or may not be the missing link. He may or may not have fronted an Air Supply tribute band.

And finally, Elizabeth Taylor, 78, is engaged. A triumph of hope over experience.

Obama limits U.S. use of nuclear weapons to one minute after our glorious republic is a steaming pile of ash, toxic waste, and rotting human flesh. So there’s a plan.

World spared another Salinger “masterpiece.” Thank you. Thank you.

Subways of the future are so cool you’ll want to live in them. Unlike some of us…

Loon’s mommy says Fox News made him threaten Nancy Pelosi. Well, MSNBC made me punch a rodeo clown, you don’t hear me whining about it…

Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights forces Steve Jobs to stop running those stupid “Buy Apple” ads.

Obama’s judicial nominee withdraws because she’s not universally acclaimed. Somebody needs a hug. Or clozapine. (I said or …)

NY Times Ethicist says stealing’s OK as long as you convince yourself it’s not really stealing. (Immanuel Kant call your office — and cancel your subscription to the Times.)

ObamaCare a definite pain in the prostate.

Do not quit your job as a nanosurgery technician to stuff envelopes from home. There’s no money in it, apparently.

No Flash a problem if you’re in the Hulu loop.

Fit pregnancy could result in scrawny offspring. O the ironies. And by “O,” I don’t mean O. Or O. Or O.

British farmers claim UFOs are attacking their sheep. Damn foreigners.

Minor-league baseball team signs girl pitcher. For the love of Joe Pepitone, where will this egalitarian madness end? Next thing you know, women will be running businesses and becoming heads of state. Miserable communists…

Prehistoric bugs discovered preserved in amber, just like socialism in the head of a Nation editor…

NYU School of Journalism names Top 10 works of journalism in past decade. Wait a minute — they have schools for journalism? They grade on a curve, yes?

The Twinkie is 80. Literally. Like the one you’re eating right now.

And Gatorade goes kosher. So now your rabbi can replenish his fluids during those really long liturgies. (H/T Abe Greenwald)

Karzai’s tirade makes perfect sense now. Hey, Hamid, don’t Bogart that hookah.

Turkey threatens to do to Armenians what they did to Armenians if anyone mentions what they did to Armenians. Which they deny doing. Unless you make them do it.

Fossil of 4-foot-2-inch boy found. He may or may not be the missing link. He may or may not have fronted an Air Supply tribute band.

And finally, Elizabeth Taylor, 78, is engaged. A triumph of hope over experience.

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We Still Don’t Know What’s in It

Bill McGurn helps highlight two defects in ObamaCare — its uncertainty and its potential to bully the American people. They come together in the provision for an individual mandate, something Obama ran against during the campaign (when he was also promising not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000).

How could there be uncertainty about this key feature? Nancy Pelosi promised, after all, that if we passed it, we’d find out what was in it. Well, this is what comes of racing through a largely secretive legislative process. McGurn explains “one of the murkiest bits of this legislation”:

In testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee last Thursday, the IRS commissioner deflected questions about the agency’s precise role vis-à-vis health care. Mr. Shulman reassured citizens that this bill does not “fundamentally alter” their relationship with the IRS, and said the IRS would not be snooping into their health records. About the penalties associated with the mandate, he was less clear.

Partly that’s because the law is unclear. The original House bill opened the door for criminal sanctions against Americans who didn’t buy health insurance and pay the penalty. The Senate bill did the same until Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.) successfully pushed to amend the bill. Even so, the final language begs the question that Mr. Shulman and Mr. Weiner avoided: Who’s going to enforce the mandate, and how?

You might wonder how we can possibly predict costs if we don’t know how many people, if any, are going to herded into the arms of Big Insurance. You might wonder how we are going to achieve compliance with a law that many already resent if it’s not even clear whether the IRS will go after people. Both are good questions, revealing just how uninterested the Democrats were in thinking through and crafting effective legislation. They simply wanted a notch in their belt and to silence the hollering from their base. Getting a coherent, understandable legislative scheme just wasn’t a priority for them.

And then there is the bullying if, in fact, the mandate exists and will be enforced with the full power of the federal government:

Almost by definition, those hit by the mandate will be either young people starting out, or those working for smaller businesses that do not provide employees with health coverage. Back in November, a report by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that nearly half (46%) of the mandate penalties will be paid by Americans under 300% of the poverty line. In today’s dollars, that works out to $32,500 for an individual. For a family of four, it’s $66,150. …

In his appearance before Congress, Mr. Shulman stated he was still working on “the proper resources” the IRS would need to handle the tax provisions of the health-care act. Maybe that won’t mean 16,500 new agents. If the Republicans do manage to take back Congress come November, however, it should mean hearings in which Mr. Shulman provides the American people with specific answers about how much bigger the IRS is going to get because of this bill—and how exactly the IRS will deal with Americans who don’t pay the penalty tax.

So we will, as McGurn points out, either witness the IRS hassling modest-income Americans into buying insurance they don’t want, or the law will be “unenforced.” If it is the latter, all the estimated cost “savings” supposedly achieved by expanding the risk pool of the newly insured can be tossed onto the heap of misrepresentations and fiscal fantasies deployed to pass the bill despite the dire warnings of those like Rep. Paul Ryan. This is the personification of the ever-growing bureaucratic state — incomprehensible, threatening, and very, very expensive.

Bill McGurn helps highlight two defects in ObamaCare — its uncertainty and its potential to bully the American people. They come together in the provision for an individual mandate, something Obama ran against during the campaign (when he was also promising not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000).

How could there be uncertainty about this key feature? Nancy Pelosi promised, after all, that if we passed it, we’d find out what was in it. Well, this is what comes of racing through a largely secretive legislative process. McGurn explains “one of the murkiest bits of this legislation”:

In testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee last Thursday, the IRS commissioner deflected questions about the agency’s precise role vis-à-vis health care. Mr. Shulman reassured citizens that this bill does not “fundamentally alter” their relationship with the IRS, and said the IRS would not be snooping into their health records. About the penalties associated with the mandate, he was less clear.

Partly that’s because the law is unclear. The original House bill opened the door for criminal sanctions against Americans who didn’t buy health insurance and pay the penalty. The Senate bill did the same until Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.) successfully pushed to amend the bill. Even so, the final language begs the question that Mr. Shulman and Mr. Weiner avoided: Who’s going to enforce the mandate, and how?

You might wonder how we can possibly predict costs if we don’t know how many people, if any, are going to herded into the arms of Big Insurance. You might wonder how we are going to achieve compliance with a law that many already resent if it’s not even clear whether the IRS will go after people. Both are good questions, revealing just how uninterested the Democrats were in thinking through and crafting effective legislation. They simply wanted a notch in their belt and to silence the hollering from their base. Getting a coherent, understandable legislative scheme just wasn’t a priority for them.

And then there is the bullying if, in fact, the mandate exists and will be enforced with the full power of the federal government:

Almost by definition, those hit by the mandate will be either young people starting out, or those working for smaller businesses that do not provide employees with health coverage. Back in November, a report by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that nearly half (46%) of the mandate penalties will be paid by Americans under 300% of the poverty line. In today’s dollars, that works out to $32,500 for an individual. For a family of four, it’s $66,150. …

In his appearance before Congress, Mr. Shulman stated he was still working on “the proper resources” the IRS would need to handle the tax provisions of the health-care act. Maybe that won’t mean 16,500 new agents. If the Republicans do manage to take back Congress come November, however, it should mean hearings in which Mr. Shulman provides the American people with specific answers about how much bigger the IRS is going to get because of this bill—and how exactly the IRS will deal with Americans who don’t pay the penalty tax.

So we will, as McGurn points out, either witness the IRS hassling modest-income Americans into buying insurance they don’t want, or the law will be “unenforced.” If it is the latter, all the estimated cost “savings” supposedly achieved by expanding the risk pool of the newly insured can be tossed onto the heap of misrepresentations and fiscal fantasies deployed to pass the bill despite the dire warnings of those like Rep. Paul Ryan. This is the personification of the ever-growing bureaucratic state — incomprehensible, threatening, and very, very expensive.

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Dumb and Dumber: Joe Biden Picks a Fight with New York

You sometimes wonder whether the Obami are trying to commit political suicide. They come up with the idea of trying KSM in a civilian court in New York. New Yorkers, along with the rest of the country, think the idea stinks. They retreat, at least as to the venue. And now they pick a fight with New York:

It’s a sign of just how angry the White House is at having its plans to hold terror trials in New York City thwarted. Vice President Joe Biden took a swing at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accusing him of inflating estimates of the trial’s security costs. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly put the estimate at $200 million a year for five years, saying it would be an expensive proposition for the City. Biden, however, disputes the numbers. “The mayor came along and said the cost for providing security to hold this trial is x-hundreds of millions of dollars which I think is much more than would be needed,” Biden said. Biden’s surprising outburst is an indication of just how upset President Barack Obama is at having one of his foreign policy goals – showing a kinder face to the Muslim world – meet a solid wall of opposition in New York.

Ever since his stalwart defense of the administration’s funny stimulus numbers (funny in both senses of the word), Biden has apparently become the designated spokesman to spin unsubstantiated, losing arguments with a paucity of evidence. Needless to say, New York officials did not welcome the VP’s criticisms:

City officials are irked at Biden’s assertion. “I will leave the security of New York City up to the mayor and police commissioner. I think Joe Biden should have talked to City officials. No city should have to put up with the burden and risk of the trial so the administration can have a terroristic pony show,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Queens).

Yes, it’s hard to believe Biden would be arguing the point because no one thinks the KSM trial will take place in New York. Many of us suspect that no city or state will want it and that we will soon be back, where we should be, to trying terrorists in the war against our civilization in a military tribunal.

We have come to expect flawed decision-making from the Obami. But it does seem as though the longer they stay in office, the dumber and more inept they become on the pure politics of it all. For people waging a perpetual campaign complete with rallies and Potemkin Village summits (the bipartisanship rather than the buildings is fake, in this case), they sure have lost their political touch.

You sometimes wonder whether the Obami are trying to commit political suicide. They come up with the idea of trying KSM in a civilian court in New York. New Yorkers, along with the rest of the country, think the idea stinks. They retreat, at least as to the venue. And now they pick a fight with New York:

It’s a sign of just how angry the White House is at having its plans to hold terror trials in New York City thwarted. Vice President Joe Biden took a swing at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accusing him of inflating estimates of the trial’s security costs. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly put the estimate at $200 million a year for five years, saying it would be an expensive proposition for the City. Biden, however, disputes the numbers. “The mayor came along and said the cost for providing security to hold this trial is x-hundreds of millions of dollars which I think is much more than would be needed,” Biden said. Biden’s surprising outburst is an indication of just how upset President Barack Obama is at having one of his foreign policy goals – showing a kinder face to the Muslim world – meet a solid wall of opposition in New York.

Ever since his stalwart defense of the administration’s funny stimulus numbers (funny in both senses of the word), Biden has apparently become the designated spokesman to spin unsubstantiated, losing arguments with a paucity of evidence. Needless to say, New York officials did not welcome the VP’s criticisms:

City officials are irked at Biden’s assertion. “I will leave the security of New York City up to the mayor and police commissioner. I think Joe Biden should have talked to City officials. No city should have to put up with the burden and risk of the trial so the administration can have a terroristic pony show,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Queens).

Yes, it’s hard to believe Biden would be arguing the point because no one thinks the KSM trial will take place in New York. Many of us suspect that no city or state will want it and that we will soon be back, where we should be, to trying terrorists in the war against our civilization in a military tribunal.

We have come to expect flawed decision-making from the Obami. But it does seem as though the longer they stay in office, the dumber and more inept they become on the pure politics of it all. For people waging a perpetual campaign complete with rallies and Potemkin Village summits (the bipartisanship rather than the buildings is fake, in this case), they sure have lost their political touch.

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Re: The New Black Panther Stonewall Continues

Commissioner Todd Gaziano of  the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights tells us about the witness line-up for the February 12 hearing:

There are three fact witnesses who will testify at the hearing scheduled for February 12, 2010: Mike Mauro, Chris Hill, and Bartle Bull. Each of these individuals was a poll watcher affiliated with either the Republican Party or the McCain campaign.

Both Mr. Hill and Mr. Bull were interviewed by reporters. Their comments are reflected in the video excerpts provided. Mr. Mauro is also seen in the videos, but does not make any comments and was not interviewed. He is the young gentleman in the blue jacket seen off to the side in several of the videos taken at the property.

All of these witnesses will describe the actions and comments of members of the New Black Panther Party, as well as conservations they may have had with poll workers inside the voting facility.

In addition, the Commission will hear from Gregory Katsas, a former Department of Justice official. . .

Finally, Congressman Frank Wolf will be appearing before the Commission to discuss his concerns and efforts relating to this matter.

I am also informed that subpoenas for Justice Department witnesses are outstanding. It is unclear (but I would suggest unlikely) that they will show up. As for Katsas, he will be testifying, among other things, concerning the standard Justice Department policy in handling cases of voter intimidation, whether given the facts of this case the Obama team was justified in pulling the case before a default judgment could be entered, and whether the associate attorney general (in this case, Thomas Perrelli, who has been identified in press reports as a decision-maker in the dismissal of the voter intimidation case) would be involved in a decision like this. He will also provide some insight into the sort of communication that would normally take place between the White House and Justice Department in the dismissal of a high-profile issue such as the New Black Panther Party case.

His testimony should be enlightening on many levels. For starters, the Obami have persistently claimed that the Bush administration did not adequately enforce civil-rights laws and that they intend now to correct this delinquency. Katsas may shine new light on the differing perspectives of the two administration. Moreover, the Commission is obviously digging to uncover whether in fact “career lawyers” made the decision to dismiss the case, as the Obami have claimed, or whether the decision-makers were indeed political appointees. And then there is the key question: what did the White House know?

Well, let’s see what we find out. It is now clear, I think, why Eric Holder has been stonewalling the Commission on its discovery requests. There seems to be much to ferret out.

UPDATE: This report tells us that the leader of the New Black Panther Party, Malik Zulu Shabazz, failed to show up for his deposition this week scheduled by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The deposition was intended to gather information in advance of the February 12 hearing. Sources tell me that the Department of Justice has been requested to enforce the subpoena on behalf of the Commission. No word on whether Justice will do so, but it is hard to fathom what excuse Holder could raise to prevent enforcement of a duly executed subpoena on a third party witness with direct involvement in a matter which is the subject of a Commission investigation.

Commissioner Todd Gaziano of  the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights tells us about the witness line-up for the February 12 hearing:

There are three fact witnesses who will testify at the hearing scheduled for February 12, 2010: Mike Mauro, Chris Hill, and Bartle Bull. Each of these individuals was a poll watcher affiliated with either the Republican Party or the McCain campaign.

Both Mr. Hill and Mr. Bull were interviewed by reporters. Their comments are reflected in the video excerpts provided. Mr. Mauro is also seen in the videos, but does not make any comments and was not interviewed. He is the young gentleman in the blue jacket seen off to the side in several of the videos taken at the property.

All of these witnesses will describe the actions and comments of members of the New Black Panther Party, as well as conservations they may have had with poll workers inside the voting facility.

In addition, the Commission will hear from Gregory Katsas, a former Department of Justice official. . .

Finally, Congressman Frank Wolf will be appearing before the Commission to discuss his concerns and efforts relating to this matter.

I am also informed that subpoenas for Justice Department witnesses are outstanding. It is unclear (but I would suggest unlikely) that they will show up. As for Katsas, he will be testifying, among other things, concerning the standard Justice Department policy in handling cases of voter intimidation, whether given the facts of this case the Obama team was justified in pulling the case before a default judgment could be entered, and whether the associate attorney general (in this case, Thomas Perrelli, who has been identified in press reports as a decision-maker in the dismissal of the voter intimidation case) would be involved in a decision like this. He will also provide some insight into the sort of communication that would normally take place between the White House and Justice Department in the dismissal of a high-profile issue such as the New Black Panther Party case.

His testimony should be enlightening on many levels. For starters, the Obami have persistently claimed that the Bush administration did not adequately enforce civil-rights laws and that they intend now to correct this delinquency. Katsas may shine new light on the differing perspectives of the two administration. Moreover, the Commission is obviously digging to uncover whether in fact “career lawyers” made the decision to dismiss the case, as the Obami have claimed, or whether the decision-makers were indeed political appointees. And then there is the key question: what did the White House know?

Well, let’s see what we find out. It is now clear, I think, why Eric Holder has been stonewalling the Commission on its discovery requests. There seems to be much to ferret out.

UPDATE: This report tells us that the leader of the New Black Panther Party, Malik Zulu Shabazz, failed to show up for his deposition this week scheduled by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The deposition was intended to gather information in advance of the February 12 hearing. Sources tell me that the Department of Justice has been requested to enforce the subpoena on behalf of the Commission. No word on whether Justice will do so, but it is hard to fathom what excuse Holder could raise to prevent enforcement of a duly executed subpoena on a third party witness with direct involvement in a matter which is the subject of a Commission investigation.

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What’s the Basis for Holder’s Stonewall?

In the flap over the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department appears to be making up rules as it goes along. Back on December 18, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a letter from its general counsel David Blackwood to the Justice Department’s Joseph H. Hunt, wrote to explain why the commission had resorted to sending subpoenas to obtain information on the controversial dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and to try to dislodge the reason for the Justice Department’s apparent refusal to cooperate with the commission. He wrote:

To allay your concerns, the Commission requested a meeting where we would negotiate revisions to our discovery plan so as to eliminate or minimize the likelihood the Commission’s work would interfere with OPR’s pending investigation. Your refusal to schedule a meeting even to discuss the Commission’s pending discovery requests and depositions suggests that DOJ is not interested in working to develop a path that will allow each agency to fulfill its statutory obligation. As you are aware, the Commission first began requesting related information from the Department on June 16, 2009, six months ago. After six months passed without a substantive response from DOJ, the Commission felt it necessary to issue subpoenas.

Hunt wrote back on December 23, denying that the department was refusing to cooperate and asserting that it wasn’t unwilling to meet with the commission. Hunt seemed to suggest that the department wanted the chance to “set forth its position in writing,” but alas, it never consented to a meeting and still has not presented a viable legal theory for refusing to cooperate. In its blizzard of excuses in its discovery response, Eric Holder’s Justice Department asserts the attorney-client privilege. But a 1982 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel specifically found that “the interests implicated by the attorney-client privilege generally are subsumed under a claim of executive privilege … and the considerations of separation of powers and effective performance of constitutional duties determine the validity of the claim of privilege.” A 1986 opinion similarly makes clear that the attorney-client privilege “is not usually considered to constitute a separate basis [from executive privilege] for resisting congressional demands for information.” In short, there really isn’t an attorney-client privilege, just executive privilege, but the Obami seem unwilling to use that politically charged defense. Read More

In the flap over the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department appears to be making up rules as it goes along. Back on December 18, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a letter from its general counsel David Blackwood to the Justice Department’s Joseph H. Hunt, wrote to explain why the commission had resorted to sending subpoenas to obtain information on the controversial dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and to try to dislodge the reason for the Justice Department’s apparent refusal to cooperate with the commission. He wrote:

To allay your concerns, the Commission requested a meeting where we would negotiate revisions to our discovery plan so as to eliminate or minimize the likelihood the Commission’s work would interfere with OPR’s pending investigation. Your refusal to schedule a meeting even to discuss the Commission’s pending discovery requests and depositions suggests that DOJ is not interested in working to develop a path that will allow each agency to fulfill its statutory obligation. As you are aware, the Commission first began requesting related information from the Department on June 16, 2009, six months ago. After six months passed without a substantive response from DOJ, the Commission felt it necessary to issue subpoenas.

Hunt wrote back on December 23, denying that the department was refusing to cooperate and asserting that it wasn’t unwilling to meet with the commission. Hunt seemed to suggest that the department wanted the chance to “set forth its position in writing,” but alas, it never consented to a meeting and still has not presented a viable legal theory for refusing to cooperate. In its blizzard of excuses in its discovery response, Eric Holder’s Justice Department asserts the attorney-client privilege. But a 1982 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel specifically found that “the interests implicated by the attorney-client privilege generally are subsumed under a claim of executive privilege … and the considerations of separation of powers and effective performance of constitutional duties determine the validity of the claim of privilege.” A 1986 opinion similarly makes clear that the attorney-client privilege “is not usually considered to constitute a separate basis [from executive privilege] for resisting congressional demands for information.” In short, there really isn’t an attorney-client privilege, just executive privilege, but the Obami seem unwilling to use that politically charged defense.

So has the president or his attorney general invoked executive privilege? Commissioner Todd Gaziano told me it’s not clear. He says, “Not only has the Department refused to give us the information — the documents and answers to which we are statutorily entitled — but it still has not given us a legal argument or justification for not doing so.” He noted that this occurs “in the face of binding department authority,” which shows there is no valid attorney-client privilege.

The White House thought it appropriate to invoke executive privilege to block testimony of its social secretary, so perhaps that’s where they’re going with this. But that privilege arguably can only be invoked by the president or his department heads, in this case Holder. Maybe if Obama ever gives a press conference he can tell us. Or maybe at the upcoming confirmation hearing of the not-yet-selected No. 2 man in the Justice Department, an enterprising senator can find out why the department thinks it can make up new rules, avoid explaining what exactly they are, and refuse to permit anyone to peer into a decision that apparently is so indefensible, it requires a Nixonian-like defensive strategy.

While Holder has prevented his employees from testifying before the commission, former voting-rights section chief Chris Coates has made his views known. His rationale (which should be read in full here) for bringing the case against the New Black Panther Party is a tribute to the notions of equal protection and fairness. The Holder team won’t tell us what was wrong with that analysis and why it countermanded the decision of Coates and his team, dismissing a case as egregious as the New Black Panther Party matter. As Coates said in his goodbye remarks to his colleagues:

A lot has been said about the politization [sic] of the Civil Rights Division. I believe that one of the most detrimental ways to politicize the enforcement process in the Voting Section is to enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act only for the protection of certain racial or ethnic minorities; or to take the position that the Voting Section is not going to enforce certain provision [sic] of any of the voting statutes the Voting Section has the responsibility to enforce. Such decisions carry with them obvious, enormous implications for partisan political struggles.

Well that seems to be what’s going on here — made-up rules and politics run rampant in the Justice Department. Not what the Obami promised, is it?

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Europe to Step Up?

For quite a while — for decades, in fact — it has been fashionable to predict the eclipse of American power. What’s changed over the years is the identity of the country that would knock us off the top perch. In the 1930s and for a long time afterward progressive opinion viewed the Soviet Union as the power that would rise to dominance. Then it was Japan. Now it’s China. But another popular claimant for the top spot has also been Europe, especially since European integration has gotten tighter over the course of the last decade. Many pundits expect — and no doubt hope — that the EU will supplant the U.S. as the world’s most influential actor. There are many problems with this analysis but not the least of them is the EU itself, which shows no desire to wield substantial military power and can’t even achieve much policy coherence to make use of the hard and soft power at its disposal.

The latest evidence of this chronic shortcoming is the selection of the EU’s leadership under its new constitution. As the New York Times notes, “The combination of Belgium’s prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, for the bloc’s presidential post and Catherine Ashton, the European commissioner for trade, who is British, as foreign policy chief leaves the Union without the high-profile leadership for which many had yearned.”

It would have been a very different situation if Tony Blair had been chosen for the top spot and if, say, Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, had been chosen as the foreign-policy representative. They would have been a high-profile duo who could have maximized European power. So why choose instead two unknowns of little stature or influence? One suspects that the Europeans chose Van Rompuy and Ashton precisely because they are unlikely to threaten national prerogatives over foreign policy. For all their talk of unity and their actions to achieve some in economic policy, European states remain intensely nationalistic when it comes to the core prerogatives of a nation-state, such as defense and foreign policy. They have little desire to subcontract out those responsibilities to bureaucrats in Brussels. As long as that remains the dominant attitude on the continent — and it shows little sign of changing — the nations of the EU will never achieve the aggregate power that, in theory, the size of their population and economy (both larger than those of the U.S.) would entitle them.

For quite a while — for decades, in fact — it has been fashionable to predict the eclipse of American power. What’s changed over the years is the identity of the country that would knock us off the top perch. In the 1930s and for a long time afterward progressive opinion viewed the Soviet Union as the power that would rise to dominance. Then it was Japan. Now it’s China. But another popular claimant for the top spot has also been Europe, especially since European integration has gotten tighter over the course of the last decade. Many pundits expect — and no doubt hope — that the EU will supplant the U.S. as the world’s most influential actor. There are many problems with this analysis but not the least of them is the EU itself, which shows no desire to wield substantial military power and can’t even achieve much policy coherence to make use of the hard and soft power at its disposal.

The latest evidence of this chronic shortcoming is the selection of the EU’s leadership under its new constitution. As the New York Times notes, “The combination of Belgium’s prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, for the bloc’s presidential post and Catherine Ashton, the European commissioner for trade, who is British, as foreign policy chief leaves the Union without the high-profile leadership for which many had yearned.”

It would have been a very different situation if Tony Blair had been chosen for the top spot and if, say, Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, had been chosen as the foreign-policy representative. They would have been a high-profile duo who could have maximized European power. So why choose instead two unknowns of little stature or influence? One suspects that the Europeans chose Van Rompuy and Ashton precisely because they are unlikely to threaten national prerogatives over foreign policy. For all their talk of unity and their actions to achieve some in economic policy, European states remain intensely nationalistic when it comes to the core prerogatives of a nation-state, such as defense and foreign policy. They have little desire to subcontract out those responsibilities to bureaucrats in Brussels. As long as that remains the dominant attitude on the continent — and it shows little sign of changing — the nations of the EU will never achieve the aggregate power that, in theory, the size of their population and economy (both larger than those of the U.S.) would entitle them.

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McCain Blogger Call

John McCain held another blogger call today, starting off with a jab at Barack Obama on Iraq. Citing Obama’s recent statement that U.S. troops might have to re-enter after he withdrew them because Al Qaeda “might establish a base,” McCain stressed that Al Qaeda already “has a base” and that General Petraeus has identified Iraq as the “central battleground” in the war against terrorism.

I asked how he regarded the Democrats’ abandonment of free trade and to expand on his thoughts on the passing of William F. Buckley, Jr. On trade, he stated that “the far Left is driving the debate” and gave a spirited defense of the benefits of free trade, which he termed “a fundamental requirement of American policy.” On Buckley, he declared that he was “a trailblazer” and “a true conservative leader” and “one of the nicest, one of the [most] decent people” he knew.

In response to other questions he enthusiastically stated he would continue town hall meetings and keep the media “on the bus” even after he wraps up the nomination. As for Obama, he demurred when asked if he would attack Obama’s experience, saying rather he would explain his own experience and point out the “very, very significant differences” on policy issues. Asked about George Will’s column today blasting him on campaign finance reform he diplomatically complimented Will as a great conservative writer, but said they would have to “agree to disagree” on campaign reform. However, he acknowledged (as Will pointed out) that he had refused to shake former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith’s hand because, he alleged, Smith had “savaged me and attacked my character.” (His tone was calm, but there could be no mistaking his animosity toward Smith.)

On other topics he wholeheartedly supported a proposal by Senator Jim DeMint to enact a one-year ban on earmarks, expressed “grave concern” about the progress of the Six Party talks (and said the New York Philharmonic trip was “fine,” but he wished people from the “world’s largest gulag” could have attended the concert instead of 1400 hand-picked guests), and said that President Bush could help the GOP’s chances and conservatives more generally by staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintaining pressure on Iran and vetoing any spending bill with an earmark. On Iraq, he explained that we could have a long-term presence there, but was “absolutely” confident that military victory could be achieved during his term as president. For good measure he also passed a “pop quiz’ on the difference between the YouTube and MySpace websites.

Over all, he seemed feisty and engaged, but careful in tone to stress the upcoming election would be conducted with respect. In short, he seems raring to start the general election battle.

John McCain held another blogger call today, starting off with a jab at Barack Obama on Iraq. Citing Obama’s recent statement that U.S. troops might have to re-enter after he withdrew them because Al Qaeda “might establish a base,” McCain stressed that Al Qaeda already “has a base” and that General Petraeus has identified Iraq as the “central battleground” in the war against terrorism.

I asked how he regarded the Democrats’ abandonment of free trade and to expand on his thoughts on the passing of William F. Buckley, Jr. On trade, he stated that “the far Left is driving the debate” and gave a spirited defense of the benefits of free trade, which he termed “a fundamental requirement of American policy.” On Buckley, he declared that he was “a trailblazer” and “a true conservative leader” and “one of the nicest, one of the [most] decent people” he knew.

In response to other questions he enthusiastically stated he would continue town hall meetings and keep the media “on the bus” even after he wraps up the nomination. As for Obama, he demurred when asked if he would attack Obama’s experience, saying rather he would explain his own experience and point out the “very, very significant differences” on policy issues. Asked about George Will’s column today blasting him on campaign finance reform he diplomatically complimented Will as a great conservative writer, but said they would have to “agree to disagree” on campaign reform. However, he acknowledged (as Will pointed out) that he had refused to shake former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith’s hand because, he alleged, Smith had “savaged me and attacked my character.” (His tone was calm, but there could be no mistaking his animosity toward Smith.)

On other topics he wholeheartedly supported a proposal by Senator Jim DeMint to enact a one-year ban on earmarks, expressed “grave concern” about the progress of the Six Party talks (and said the New York Philharmonic trip was “fine,” but he wished people from the “world’s largest gulag” could have attended the concert instead of 1400 hand-picked guests), and said that President Bush could help the GOP’s chances and conservatives more generally by staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintaining pressure on Iran and vetoing any spending bill with an earmark. On Iraq, he explained that we could have a long-term presence there, but was “absolutely” confident that military victory could be achieved during his term as president. For good measure he also passed a “pop quiz’ on the difference between the YouTube and MySpace websites.

Over all, he seemed feisty and engaged, but careful in tone to stress the upcoming election would be conducted with respect. In short, he seems raring to start the general election battle.

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The Best Interests of the Game?

It’s official: With yesterday’s steroid report making front page news, George Mitchell has become a brand name, the investigatory equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal. A story in today’s New York Times encapsulates the credulous, even ceremonial treatment the press has, for the most part, afforded Mitchell’s findings. Which would be fine, if only Mitchell wasn’t up to his ears in conflicts of interest, and hadn’t produced a document that reported almost nothing new, save for empty rhetoric (“hundreds of thousands of our children are using [steroids]”) and the often uncorroborated claims of two sources ensnared in the legal system and looking to cut a deal, spiced up with a good dose of hearsay.

Conducting some 700 interviews and going over hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, Mitchell turns up considerably less than can be found in the book that exposes Barry Bonds’s steroid use, Game of Shadows, or in Howard Bryant’s excellent Juicing The Game. We could have found out more, and at least as credibly, simply by compiling a list of the players whose statistics improved by an order of magnitude after the age of 32, something nearly unheard of prior to the steroid era.

Clearly aware of how little he’d turned up, Mitchell released his 409-page document just an hour before holding a press conference, ensuring that reporters had no time to read, let alone absorb, the document before asking him questions. When tough questions did come up, he stonewalled with endless variations of “it’s in the report.” It was a smart way to control the story, given that few new names were unearthed—much of the report reads like a detailed summary of the better news reporting of the last decade—and the big ones that were, most notably Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada, were, to anyone who’d been paying attention, among the most obvious abusers.

Read More

It’s official: With yesterday’s steroid report making front page news, George Mitchell has become a brand name, the investigatory equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal. A story in today’s New York Times encapsulates the credulous, even ceremonial treatment the press has, for the most part, afforded Mitchell’s findings. Which would be fine, if only Mitchell wasn’t up to his ears in conflicts of interest, and hadn’t produced a document that reported almost nothing new, save for empty rhetoric (“hundreds of thousands of our children are using [steroids]”) and the often uncorroborated claims of two sources ensnared in the legal system and looking to cut a deal, spiced up with a good dose of hearsay.

Conducting some 700 interviews and going over hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, Mitchell turns up considerably less than can be found in the book that exposes Barry Bonds’s steroid use, Game of Shadows, or in Howard Bryant’s excellent Juicing The Game. We could have found out more, and at least as credibly, simply by compiling a list of the players whose statistics improved by an order of magnitude after the age of 32, something nearly unheard of prior to the steroid era.

Clearly aware of how little he’d turned up, Mitchell released his 409-page document just an hour before holding a press conference, ensuring that reporters had no time to read, let alone absorb, the document before asking him questions. When tough questions did come up, he stonewalled with endless variations of “it’s in the report.” It was a smart way to control the story, given that few new names were unearthed—much of the report reads like a detailed summary of the better news reporting of the last decade—and the big ones that were, most notably Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada, were, to anyone who’d been paying attention, among the most obvious abusers.

In place of significant new revelations, Mitchell continuously blamed the players for their lack of cooperation with his investigation. Why the players should have cooperated with what was effectively an attack on labor by management remains unclear. After all, it was no secret on whose behalf Mitchell was working.

New York writers have concentrated on Mitchell’s ties to the Red Sox. Conspiracy theories about this focus on the New York-centric quality of the report; the outing of Indians pitcher Paul Byrd, in the middle of a postseason series between the Sox and the Indians, as a human growth hormone user; and the decision not to tender a contract to reliever Brendan Donnelly, just a few hours before the report, with Donnelly’s name in it, was released. However, the bigger, more open, conspiracy is that of the former Senator’s relationship to management.

Tim Marchman of the New York Sun, evidently one of the few writers who bothered to read the report before reporting on it, lists these conflicts in what should be considered the definitive dispatch thus far on the report. Suffice it to say that Mitchell, who presently serves as a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox, is, in Marchman’s words, “a member of baseball management as surely as anyone now living.”

This is the only light in which to understand a report that breaks just enough ground to fool lazy reporters, while allowing Commissioner Bud Selig to declare an end to the steroid era, by pushing through the new rules and regulations Mitchell proposes, and using these changes to keep Congress at bay. As Marchman puts it, Selig’s appointing Mitchell is akin to “President Bush’s charging Karl Rove with a blue ribbon inquiry into the war in Iraq, and Rove’s brushing away the appearance of impropriety by assuring the world that the White House political operation would get no special favor.”

All of this befits a league that expects us to believe that a commissioner who’s a former owner, and who serves at the mercy of ownership, is acting “in the best interests of the game.”

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