Commentary Magazine


Topic: Van Jones

The Unraveling of the New York Times‘s ‘Citizens United Scandal’ Story

Liberal advocacy group Common Cause has filed a DOJ petition against Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, claiming that the justices’ attendance at a Koch Industry event represented a conflict of interest in last year’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court case. The organization wants the justices to retroactively recuse themselves from the case and for the Court to vacate its decision.

But while the New York Times tried to portray Common Cause’s petition as a serious legal challenge this morning, the holes in the group’s allegations have continued to grow as the day has progressed.

Common Cause argues that the Koch brothers “were among the main beneficiaries of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case,” and by attending Koch-sponsored events, Scalia and Thomas could have had their votes influenced:

Common Cause said in its petition to the Justice Department that if either of the justices appeared before Mr. Koch’s group between 2008 and 2010, when the court was considering aspects of the Citizens United case, “it would certainly raise serious issues of the appearance of impropriety and bias.”

But according to Politico’s Ben Smith, Scalia and Thomas appear to have attended only one Koch event each — and both events took place long before the Supreme Court even knew about the Citizens United case:

But Eugene Meyer, the president of the conservative legal group the Federalist Society, told me today that Scalia spoke to the Palm Springs conference in January of 2007. Citizens United was only filed on December 17 of that year. Thomas spoke to the conference in January 2008, after the case had been filed in federal district court, but months before the Supreme Court took the case in August.

And legal experts I’ve spoken to have also dismissed the basis of Common Cause’s petition.

“I’ve never heard of somebody filing a motion saying we’d like you to disqualify yourself from a case you decided last year because three years before that you gave a speech on a different subject [at an event],” said Ronald Rotunda, the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Chapman University School of Law. “If it was an oral argument, it would be hard to say without snickering.”

Rotunda said that it’s common, and even encouraged, for judges to attend and speak at events, as long as they don’t discuss pending cases. “If the judges have to be disqualified because somebody within earshot talks about legal issues, it would mean judges couldn’t read the newspaper.”

Common Cause’s case seems so flimsy, in fact, that some have guessed it must be a publicity stunt. Which makes sense — the organization is currently gearing up for its anti-Koch rally with Van Jones, which the Times somehow neglected to add to its report.

Multiple attorneys I’ve spoken to have said that this case just isn’t going anywhere. Or, as Rotunda put it, “There’ll be some people laughing about it, and then it’ll disappear.”

I think that’s a safe bet. Maybe someone should let the New York Times in on the joke.

Liberal advocacy group Common Cause has filed a DOJ petition against Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, claiming that the justices’ attendance at a Koch Industry event represented a conflict of interest in last year’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court case. The organization wants the justices to retroactively recuse themselves from the case and for the Court to vacate its decision.

But while the New York Times tried to portray Common Cause’s petition as a serious legal challenge this morning, the holes in the group’s allegations have continued to grow as the day has progressed.

Common Cause argues that the Koch brothers “were among the main beneficiaries of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case,” and by attending Koch-sponsored events, Scalia and Thomas could have had their votes influenced:

Common Cause said in its petition to the Justice Department that if either of the justices appeared before Mr. Koch’s group between 2008 and 2010, when the court was considering aspects of the Citizens United case, “it would certainly raise serious issues of the appearance of impropriety and bias.”

But according to Politico’s Ben Smith, Scalia and Thomas appear to have attended only one Koch event each — and both events took place long before the Supreme Court even knew about the Citizens United case:

But Eugene Meyer, the president of the conservative legal group the Federalist Society, told me today that Scalia spoke to the Palm Springs conference in January of 2007. Citizens United was only filed on December 17 of that year. Thomas spoke to the conference in January 2008, after the case had been filed in federal district court, but months before the Supreme Court took the case in August.

And legal experts I’ve spoken to have also dismissed the basis of Common Cause’s petition.

“I’ve never heard of somebody filing a motion saying we’d like you to disqualify yourself from a case you decided last year because three years before that you gave a speech on a different subject [at an event],” said Ronald Rotunda, the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Chapman University School of Law. “If it was an oral argument, it would be hard to say without snickering.”

Rotunda said that it’s common, and even encouraged, for judges to attend and speak at events, as long as they don’t discuss pending cases. “If the judges have to be disqualified because somebody within earshot talks about legal issues, it would mean judges couldn’t read the newspaper.”

Common Cause’s case seems so flimsy, in fact, that some have guessed it must be a publicity stunt. Which makes sense — the organization is currently gearing up for its anti-Koch rally with Van Jones, which the Times somehow neglected to add to its report.

Multiple attorneys I’ve spoken to have said that this case just isn’t going anywhere. Or, as Rotunda put it, “There’ll be some people laughing about it, and then it’ll disappear.”

I think that’s a safe bet. Maybe someone should let the New York Times in on the joke.

Read Less

The Last Thing This Administration Needs

Earlier this month, I commented that it was quite possible that Obama could choose a worse chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel — Valerie Jarrett. Her personal judgment is poor, her political instincts run far-left, and she is so cozy with the president, she’s unlikely to part with him — or deliver contrary views — and thereby curb his most self-destructive tendencies. Dana Milbank confirms my take:

As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.

She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.

In addition to Jarrett’s hiring of Van Jones, support for the Ground Zero mosque, and enthusiasm for Fox News–bashing, Milbank points out that she’s ridden to the rescue of two problematic figures:

Consider the recent hiring of Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren as the White House official in charge of setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Emanuel and others had opposed the appointment on grounds that Warren is difficult to work with and politically radioactive. But Jarrett, arguing for the need for more senior women in the White House, got Obama to overrule Warren’s detractors. …

Jarrett made a similar intervention months earlier, when some senior White House officials were losing confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder. His job appeared to be in jeopardy over the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammad on trial in New York, but Jarrett made sure that Holder, a friend, would remain in good standing.

Her judgment is deeply flawed, and her ascension would essentially rule out any significant policy readjustment by the Obama administration.  Selecting her would confirm that Obama is not one to self-reflect, admit error, and adjust to new circumstances.

Earlier this month, I commented that it was quite possible that Obama could choose a worse chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel — Valerie Jarrett. Her personal judgment is poor, her political instincts run far-left, and she is so cozy with the president, she’s unlikely to part with him — or deliver contrary views — and thereby curb his most self-destructive tendencies. Dana Milbank confirms my take:

As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.

She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.

In addition to Jarrett’s hiring of Van Jones, support for the Ground Zero mosque, and enthusiasm for Fox News–bashing, Milbank points out that she’s ridden to the rescue of two problematic figures:

Consider the recent hiring of Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren as the White House official in charge of setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Emanuel and others had opposed the appointment on grounds that Warren is difficult to work with and politically radioactive. But Jarrett, arguing for the need for more senior women in the White House, got Obama to overrule Warren’s detractors. …

Jarrett made a similar intervention months earlier, when some senior White House officials were losing confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder. His job appeared to be in jeopardy over the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammad on trial in New York, but Jarrett made sure that Holder, a friend, would remain in good standing.

Her judgment is deeply flawed, and her ascension would essentially rule out any significant policy readjustment by the Obama administration.  Selecting her would confirm that Obama is not one to self-reflect, admit error, and adjust to new circumstances.

Read Less

From the Frying Pan into the Fire

Those who keep advising Obama to fire people miss a key point: the replacements could be worse than the current crew. No, it really is possible. Mayor Daley of Chicago won’t run for another term, and Washington is abuzz with speculation that Rahm Emanuel will leave (flee?) the administration to run for the job. Ben Smith reports: “Emanuel has told Chicago associates, a source tells me, who he believes will likely succeed him: senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.”

Obama will be trading one Chicago pol (who at least understood how to elect Democrats from places that weren’t deep Blue) for a liberal Chicago pol whose instincts seem to mirror David Axelrod’s: when in doubt, go left. This was the gal who thought Obama’s defense of the Ground Zero mosque was a swell idea. She also remains a potential witness in the Blago retrial. She also led the vendetta against Fox News.  And of course, 9/11 truther Van Jones was her hire.

In short, if the Obami are looking for a far-left chief of staff with bad political instincts and a Chicago-machine outlook, they couldn’t do “better” than Valerie Jarrett.

Those who keep advising Obama to fire people miss a key point: the replacements could be worse than the current crew. No, it really is possible. Mayor Daley of Chicago won’t run for another term, and Washington is abuzz with speculation that Rahm Emanuel will leave (flee?) the administration to run for the job. Ben Smith reports: “Emanuel has told Chicago associates, a source tells me, who he believes will likely succeed him: senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.”

Obama will be trading one Chicago pol (who at least understood how to elect Democrats from places that weren’t deep Blue) for a liberal Chicago pol whose instincts seem to mirror David Axelrod’s: when in doubt, go left. This was the gal who thought Obama’s defense of the Ground Zero mosque was a swell idea. She also remains a potential witness in the Blago retrial. She also led the vendetta against Fox News.  And of course, 9/11 truther Van Jones was her hire.

In short, if the Obami are looking for a far-left chief of staff with bad political instincts and a Chicago-machine outlook, they couldn’t do “better” than Valerie Jarrett.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The mayor of Las Vegas, despite numbers from helpful (or is it desperate?) Democratic polling outfits showing he would do better against Republican challengers to Harry Reid, says he won’t run. Recruitment is hard for the side facing rather than riding the wave.

Surveying the Democratic retirements and opt-outs, it sure does seem that “Democrats are spooked at all levels. Beau Biden’s Delaware bid has always had a Coakleyesque Democratic entitlement aroma to it, and Massachusetts has now sensitized the noses of the rest of the nation. Much more so than Republicans, Democratic congressional candidates are often products of their urban party machines, but I sure wouldn’t want to be a machine candidate running for Congress anywhere in the country next fall.”

Speaking of machines, the Illinois Senate primary race has heated up. The Democratic front-runner, Alexi Giannoulias, is being attacked for his ties to Tony Rezko. You sort of see how that would be a problem in the general election.

Democrats in Illinois seem awfully jumpy: “A televised forum among the three leading Democrats for the Senate last week seemed to transform into a scuffle over which one would be least likely, come November, to repeat what happened in Massachusetts. (Along the way, they struck notes that sounded not so unlike Mr. Brown.)”

Meanwhile, the White House doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Politico reports: “White House advisers appearing on the Sunday talk shows gave three different estimates of how many jobs could be credited to President Obama’s Recovery Act.”

Liberals can barely disguise their disdain for the Obami’s muddled health-care stance. TNR complains: “The White House seems to agree that passing the Senate bill and fixing it with reconciliation would be the best way to proceed. But that doesn’t mean they’re pushing hard for that option. According to the same sources, the Obama administration sent vague, sometimes conflicting signals about its intentions for much of last week–making the task for reform advocates even harder.” (And he could have been such a fine editor for them!) Perhaps the Obami just want the whole health-care thing to go away. That they might finally accomplish.

Megan McArdle explains how to do precisely that: “We want to pass health care, but we just have a few things to do first. … Once it goes on the back burner, it’s over. As time goes by, voters will be thinking less and less about the health care bill they hated, and more and more about other things in the news. There is not going to be any appetite among Democrats for returning to this toxic process and refreshing those bad memories. They’re going to want to spend the time between now and the election talking about things that voters, y’know, like.”

Victor Davis Hanson takes us down memory lane: “After Van Jones, Anita Dunn, the Skip Gates mess, the ‘tea-bagger’ slurs, the attacks on Fox News, the Copenhagen dashes, the bowing, the apologizing, the reordering of creditors, the NEA obsequiousness, the lackluster overseas-contingency-operation front, the deer-in-the-headlights pause on Afghanistan, the pseudo-deadlines on Iran, Guantanamo, and health care, the transparency and bipartisanship fraud, and dozens of other things, Obama simply does not have the popularity to carry unpopular legislation forward.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that “a new report warns that al-Qaeda has not abandoned its goal of attacking the United States with a chemical, biological or even nuclear weapon. The report, by a former senior CIA official who led the agency’s hunt for terrorists’ weapons of mass destruction, portrays al-Qaeda’s leaders as determined and patient, willing to wait for years to acquire the kinds of weapons that could inflict widespread casualties.” (Not even if we close Guantanamo? Give KSM his trial? No.) Seems like a good reminder that whenever we grab an al-Qaeda operative, we should be doing everything within our power to get every bit of data we can in order to prevent an attack with “widespread casualties.”

The mayor of Las Vegas, despite numbers from helpful (or is it desperate?) Democratic polling outfits showing he would do better against Republican challengers to Harry Reid, says he won’t run. Recruitment is hard for the side facing rather than riding the wave.

Surveying the Democratic retirements and opt-outs, it sure does seem that “Democrats are spooked at all levels. Beau Biden’s Delaware bid has always had a Coakleyesque Democratic entitlement aroma to it, and Massachusetts has now sensitized the noses of the rest of the nation. Much more so than Republicans, Democratic congressional candidates are often products of their urban party machines, but I sure wouldn’t want to be a machine candidate running for Congress anywhere in the country next fall.”

Speaking of machines, the Illinois Senate primary race has heated up. The Democratic front-runner, Alexi Giannoulias, is being attacked for his ties to Tony Rezko. You sort of see how that would be a problem in the general election.

Democrats in Illinois seem awfully jumpy: “A televised forum among the three leading Democrats for the Senate last week seemed to transform into a scuffle over which one would be least likely, come November, to repeat what happened in Massachusetts. (Along the way, they struck notes that sounded not so unlike Mr. Brown.)”

Meanwhile, the White House doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Politico reports: “White House advisers appearing on the Sunday talk shows gave three different estimates of how many jobs could be credited to President Obama’s Recovery Act.”

Liberals can barely disguise their disdain for the Obami’s muddled health-care stance. TNR complains: “The White House seems to agree that passing the Senate bill and fixing it with reconciliation would be the best way to proceed. But that doesn’t mean they’re pushing hard for that option. According to the same sources, the Obama administration sent vague, sometimes conflicting signals about its intentions for much of last week–making the task for reform advocates even harder.” (And he could have been such a fine editor for them!) Perhaps the Obami just want the whole health-care thing to go away. That they might finally accomplish.

Megan McArdle explains how to do precisely that: “We want to pass health care, but we just have a few things to do first. … Once it goes on the back burner, it’s over. As time goes by, voters will be thinking less and less about the health care bill they hated, and more and more about other things in the news. There is not going to be any appetite among Democrats for returning to this toxic process and refreshing those bad memories. They’re going to want to spend the time between now and the election talking about things that voters, y’know, like.”

Victor Davis Hanson takes us down memory lane: “After Van Jones, Anita Dunn, the Skip Gates mess, the ‘tea-bagger’ slurs, the attacks on Fox News, the Copenhagen dashes, the bowing, the apologizing, the reordering of creditors, the NEA obsequiousness, the lackluster overseas-contingency-operation front, the deer-in-the-headlights pause on Afghanistan, the pseudo-deadlines on Iran, Guantanamo, and health care, the transparency and bipartisanship fraud, and dozens of other things, Obama simply does not have the popularity to carry unpopular legislation forward.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that “a new report warns that al-Qaeda has not abandoned its goal of attacking the United States with a chemical, biological or even nuclear weapon. The report, by a former senior CIA official who led the agency’s hunt for terrorists’ weapons of mass destruction, portrays al-Qaeda’s leaders as determined and patient, willing to wait for years to acquire the kinds of weapons that could inflict widespread casualties.” (Not even if we close Guantanamo? Give KSM his trial? No.) Seems like a good reminder that whenever we grab an al-Qaeda operative, we should be doing everything within our power to get every bit of data we can in order to prevent an attack with “widespread casualties.”

Read Less

Time to Clean House?

Yuval Levin raises an interesting point about the Obami:

They have made it impossible for themselves to change course without a massive loss of face and of political capital. But however costly, that change will now need to come. You have to wonder if the people responsible for setting this course—and especially Rahm Emanuel and the House and Senate leadership—will still be standing when it’s all done with.

Obama isn’t big on firing people. It took a weekend of angst before Van Jones was shown the door. No one lost his job over the national security debacle that resulted in the Christmas Day near-catastrophe. So will he now clean house, after his domestic agenda has blown up in the Bluest State, his approval rating has plummeted, his party has formed a circular firing squad, and his congressional majorities are at risk? It seems that the Obama political brain trust — which thought its expertise extended to Afghanistan war strategy and the Middle East “peace process” — wasn’t very good at the jobs in which they were supposedly expert. Rahm Emanuel understood Congress. David Axelrod understood political salesmanship. But they, along with Obama of course, made a perfect mess in only a year.

It might be smart for Obama to toss some of them out. For starters, it might elevate the tone of the White House, which has been languishing in the partisan sewers for a year. And it might signal to panicked Democrats in the House and Senate that Obama doesn’t intend to plow them under. But most of all, it would be a message to the country that the president has learned a lesson and is setting a new direction.

Other presidents have shoved advisers aside at opportune moments. George W. Bush fired Donald Rumsfeld. Ronald Reagan fired Donald Regan. Bill Clinton fired Mack McLarty. In all those cases, the presidents and the country were the better for it. Obama might think hard about following his predecessors’ lead. Really, he could hardly do worse than his current staff.

Yuval Levin raises an interesting point about the Obami:

They have made it impossible for themselves to change course without a massive loss of face and of political capital. But however costly, that change will now need to come. You have to wonder if the people responsible for setting this course—and especially Rahm Emanuel and the House and Senate leadership—will still be standing when it’s all done with.

Obama isn’t big on firing people. It took a weekend of angst before Van Jones was shown the door. No one lost his job over the national security debacle that resulted in the Christmas Day near-catastrophe. So will he now clean house, after his domestic agenda has blown up in the Bluest State, his approval rating has plummeted, his party has formed a circular firing squad, and his congressional majorities are at risk? It seems that the Obama political brain trust — which thought its expertise extended to Afghanistan war strategy and the Middle East “peace process” — wasn’t very good at the jobs in which they were supposedly expert. Rahm Emanuel understood Congress. David Axelrod understood political salesmanship. But they, along with Obama of course, made a perfect mess in only a year.

It might be smart for Obama to toss some of them out. For starters, it might elevate the tone of the White House, which has been languishing in the partisan sewers for a year. And it might signal to panicked Democrats in the House and Senate that Obama doesn’t intend to plow them under. But most of all, it would be a message to the country that the president has learned a lesson and is setting a new direction.

Other presidents have shoved advisers aside at opportune moments. George W. Bush fired Donald Rumsfeld. Ronald Reagan fired Donald Regan. Bill Clinton fired Mack McLarty. In all those cases, the presidents and the country were the better for it. Obama might think hard about following his predecessors’ lead. Really, he could hardly do worse than his current staff.

Read Less

The Perils of Ignoring Bad News

Two Democratic pollsters and consultants, Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen, take to the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages to decry the attack by the Obami and their supporters on Fox News and pollsters including Gallup and Rasmussen. They call out the vendetta against Fox, Robert Gibbs’s shot at Gallup, and the avalanche of criticism by liberal spinners as “political intimidation”:

The attacks on Rasmussen and Gallup follow an effort by the White House to wage war on Fox News and to brand it, as former White House Director of Communications Anita Dunn did, as “not a real news organization.” The move backfired; in time, other news organizations rallied around Fox News. But the message was clear: criticize the White House at your peril. … Mr. Gibbs’s comments and the recent attempts by the Democratic left to muzzle Scott Rasmussen reflect a disturbing trend in our politics: a tendency to try to stifle legitimate feedback about political concerns—particularly if the feedback is negative to the incumbent administration.

It’s not only unseemly and revealing of a prickly, defensive, and arrogant administration; it has, I think, contributed to the constant state of shock in which the Obami constantly find themselves. Who knew Van Jones was a problem? How could anyone see a 20-point thumping coming in the Virginia gubernatorial race and a loss in very Blue New Jersey? How could the tea-party protesters catch on? How could Massachusetts be competitive? They always seem a step behind the news and the last to recognize their flagging political fortunes.

That arguably flows directly from indifference and hostility to bad news. If one considers only MSNBC and the New York Times, you can miss a lot of news and many a warning sign that the public isn’t with you. And conversely, the refusal to engage the opposition in meaningful ways (rather than simply deride critics as illegitimate if not downright “un-American,” as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi tagged the town-hall attendees) has left the policy battleground to the other side. Conservatives say ObamaCare cuts Medicare, unwisely raises taxes in a recession, and will lead to rationed care. The Obami say: Shut up. You can see why they may be losing the argument.

Caddell and Schoen deserve credit for raising the red flag. But as Democrats, they do so not for purely altruistic reasons. They know, even if the White House doesn’t, that putting your fingers in your ears and humming is no way to govern.

Two Democratic pollsters and consultants, Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen, take to the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages to decry the attack by the Obami and their supporters on Fox News and pollsters including Gallup and Rasmussen. They call out the vendetta against Fox, Robert Gibbs’s shot at Gallup, and the avalanche of criticism by liberal spinners as “political intimidation”:

The attacks on Rasmussen and Gallup follow an effort by the White House to wage war on Fox News and to brand it, as former White House Director of Communications Anita Dunn did, as “not a real news organization.” The move backfired; in time, other news organizations rallied around Fox News. But the message was clear: criticize the White House at your peril. … Mr. Gibbs’s comments and the recent attempts by the Democratic left to muzzle Scott Rasmussen reflect a disturbing trend in our politics: a tendency to try to stifle legitimate feedback about political concerns—particularly if the feedback is negative to the incumbent administration.

It’s not only unseemly and revealing of a prickly, defensive, and arrogant administration; it has, I think, contributed to the constant state of shock in which the Obami constantly find themselves. Who knew Van Jones was a problem? How could anyone see a 20-point thumping coming in the Virginia gubernatorial race and a loss in very Blue New Jersey? How could the tea-party protesters catch on? How could Massachusetts be competitive? They always seem a step behind the news and the last to recognize their flagging political fortunes.

That arguably flows directly from indifference and hostility to bad news. If one considers only MSNBC and the New York Times, you can miss a lot of news and many a warning sign that the public isn’t with you. And conversely, the refusal to engage the opposition in meaningful ways (rather than simply deride critics as illegitimate if not downright “un-American,” as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi tagged the town-hall attendees) has left the policy battleground to the other side. Conservatives say ObamaCare cuts Medicare, unwisely raises taxes in a recession, and will lead to rationed care. The Obami say: Shut up. You can see why they may be losing the argument.

Caddell and Schoen deserve credit for raising the red flag. But as Democrats, they do so not for purely altruistic reasons. They know, even if the White House doesn’t, that putting your fingers in your ears and humming is no way to govern.

Read Less

Why Is Napolitano Still There?

Mickey Kaus wants to know why the chattering class is being so nice to Janet Napolitano. Maureen Dowd, David Broder, and a bunch of former and current office-holders rallied around her over the weekend. But she is a national punch line, forever tied to her “the system worked” hooey, so what’s the story? Kaus muses: “Does she give great parties? Is it that DHS has a highly effective, overactive P.R. person? Or does America’s bureaucratic capital simply overvalue those whose first instinct is to defend their bureaucracy?” Well, even conservatives who know her say she is pleasant, and that counts for something, I suppose. But when Michael Chertoff damns her with faint praise (“her heart is in the right place”) I get a bit suspicious.

Here’s a theory: it is in everyone’s interest (except that of the American people, but their views don’t count for much on vital national issues such as health care, so why listen to them on this, right?) to keep her around. The Republicans don’t want this to stop with the Secretary of Homeland Security. They place responsibility on the president and his weirdly inappropriate conduct of the war against Islamic fundamentalists (whom he won’t identify as the enemy). And as long as she is around saying dopey things, the Republicans’ case that the Obami are out to lunch on anti-terrorism is strengthened. She is a useful piñata. Meanwhile, the Democrats don’t want any heads to start rolling because then the public might get the idea that this is a really big deal. Dumping her would be inconsistent with their line that they’ve always been on top of things. And then the White House never likes to fire anyone (recall how long it took to get rid of 9/11 “truther” Van Jones) because that might suggest the Obami either have made a specific mistake or, more generally, lack judgment. So she just might be safe in the near term. Which makes everyone happy. Except the public.

Mickey Kaus wants to know why the chattering class is being so nice to Janet Napolitano. Maureen Dowd, David Broder, and a bunch of former and current office-holders rallied around her over the weekend. But she is a national punch line, forever tied to her “the system worked” hooey, so what’s the story? Kaus muses: “Does she give great parties? Is it that DHS has a highly effective, overactive P.R. person? Or does America’s bureaucratic capital simply overvalue those whose first instinct is to defend their bureaucracy?” Well, even conservatives who know her say she is pleasant, and that counts for something, I suppose. But when Michael Chertoff damns her with faint praise (“her heart is in the right place”) I get a bit suspicious.

Here’s a theory: it is in everyone’s interest (except that of the American people, but their views don’t count for much on vital national issues such as health care, so why listen to them on this, right?) to keep her around. The Republicans don’t want this to stop with the Secretary of Homeland Security. They place responsibility on the president and his weirdly inappropriate conduct of the war against Islamic fundamentalists (whom he won’t identify as the enemy). And as long as she is around saying dopey things, the Republicans’ case that the Obami are out to lunch on anti-terrorism is strengthened. She is a useful piñata. Meanwhile, the Democrats don’t want any heads to start rolling because then the public might get the idea that this is a really big deal. Dumping her would be inconsistent with their line that they’ve always been on top of things. And then the White House never likes to fire anyone (recall how long it took to get rid of 9/11 “truther” Van Jones) because that might suggest the Obami either have made a specific mistake or, more generally, lack judgment. So she just might be safe in the near term. Which makes everyone happy. Except the public.

Read Less

Making the Wish List

Tim Cavanaugh (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

I don’t understand the Washington cant that says [Larry] Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can’t be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on his way to winning re-election.

This is not only brilliant advice for the economic team, but it is worth considering on a broader basis. Multiple firings would serve many aims. First, they keep the media off of their new favorite storyline — namely, “Is this really the guy we went into the tank for?” Second, it cuts against the image of the president as the wimp in chief. Third, many people deserve to be fired — not just the obvious loonies and incompetents such as Van Jones and the fellow responsible for panicking New Yorkers with the Air Force One flyover. Fourth, Obama loves to play the “look ma, no hands game” so firing staff who “didn’t perform” maintains Obama’s aura as someone who really, honestly is the smartest, wisest president ever. He just had bad staff, you see.

So who’s on the list? Well, Joe Biden can’t be fired until 2012. Besides, he’s useful for reminding the country that we could be in worse hands. The obvious candidates: Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and James Jones. If there has been a worse trio of foreign-policy advisers who’ve made hash of just about everything they’ve touched I’d be hard pressed to name it. Their removal would be a big step toward “restoring our standing” in the world. (That’s what we were promised, you recall.) Think of it as a mega reset.

And then there are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. After all, they’ve been running everything — from the Afghanistan war seminars, to Middle East strategy, to the stimulus and health care. Indeed, their fingerprints are all over many of the administration’s worst calls. Moreover, firing them would help dispel one of those “bad” storylines that John Harris pointed out:

The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols. It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.” The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington.

And finally there is Eric Holder, who has been front and center in some of the worst decisions of the administration — the ill-conceived and unresearched decision to close Guantanamo, the release of interrogation memos, the reinvestigation of CIA operatives, the now-reversed decision to release detainee-abuse photos, and the civilian trial of KSM (topped off by an Alberto Gonzales-like appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee). But I’m thinking it’s best to wait on that one. They’ll need a moment when the KSM trial is spinning out of control and Senate races in New York and Illinois are still winnable to announce that, by gosh, this handling of KSM is a mess and Holder is taking full responsibility on the way out the door.

Okay, it’s a lot of people to can. But it’s been a lousy first year.

Tim Cavanaugh (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

I don’t understand the Washington cant that says [Larry] Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can’t be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on his way to winning re-election.

This is not only brilliant advice for the economic team, but it is worth considering on a broader basis. Multiple firings would serve many aims. First, they keep the media off of their new favorite storyline — namely, “Is this really the guy we went into the tank for?” Second, it cuts against the image of the president as the wimp in chief. Third, many people deserve to be fired — not just the obvious loonies and incompetents such as Van Jones and the fellow responsible for panicking New Yorkers with the Air Force One flyover. Fourth, Obama loves to play the “look ma, no hands game” so firing staff who “didn’t perform” maintains Obama’s aura as someone who really, honestly is the smartest, wisest president ever. He just had bad staff, you see.

So who’s on the list? Well, Joe Biden can’t be fired until 2012. Besides, he’s useful for reminding the country that we could be in worse hands. The obvious candidates: Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and James Jones. If there has been a worse trio of foreign-policy advisers who’ve made hash of just about everything they’ve touched I’d be hard pressed to name it. Their removal would be a big step toward “restoring our standing” in the world. (That’s what we were promised, you recall.) Think of it as a mega reset.

And then there are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. After all, they’ve been running everything — from the Afghanistan war seminars, to Middle East strategy, to the stimulus and health care. Indeed, their fingerprints are all over many of the administration’s worst calls. Moreover, firing them would help dispel one of those “bad” storylines that John Harris pointed out:

The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols. It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.” The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington.

And finally there is Eric Holder, who has been front and center in some of the worst decisions of the administration — the ill-conceived and unresearched decision to close Guantanamo, the release of interrogation memos, the reinvestigation of CIA operatives, the now-reversed decision to release detainee-abuse photos, and the civilian trial of KSM (topped off by an Alberto Gonzales-like appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee). But I’m thinking it’s best to wait on that one. They’ll need a moment when the KSM trial is spinning out of control and Senate races in New York and Illinois are still winnable to announce that, by gosh, this handling of KSM is a mess and Holder is taking full responsibility on the way out the door.

Okay, it’s a lot of people to can. But it’s been a lousy first year.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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