Commentary Magazine


Topic: Department of Justice

Holder — a People Pleaser!

Another entry in the Eric Holder “Can you believe this?” file comes with this report (h/t Main Justice):

In January, after a review by the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that the authors of the torture memos had committed professional misconduct, Holder allowed the supervisor of that office, David Margolis, to overturn the committee’s conclusion and absolve the lawyers of wrongdoing. Sources close to Holder say that he was disappointed by Margolis’s decision and believed the finding of misconduct was correct — but was unwilling to overrule a nonpolitical employee on such a sensitive issue.

Disappointed? Indeed, he must have been, for the entire mission of DOJ in the first two years of the administration seems to have been defined by a “not Bush” or “get Bushies” mentality. Don’t let the civil rights laws be applied against Black defendants. Don’t follow the Office of Legal Counsel opinion on DC voting rights. Release detainee-abuse photos. Go after John Yoo and Jay Bybee. The problem, however, was that each of these highly politicized decisions was legally flawed and politically untenable even to those in the Department. After all, career attorneys at DOJ did not welcome the investigation of one set of lawyers by a new administration, which took issue with the policy calls of its predecessors.

The rest of the lengthy piece is mostly a rehash of the stories we have heard before — the White House vs. DOJ on terror policy and self-congratulation about the Obama team’s record on civil rights (well, for certain types of cases). But this sums up Holder’s central flaw fairly well and explains why, after replete evidence of his role in the pardon of Marc Rich and Puerto Rican terrorists, he never should have been confirmed:

Like any good political appointee, he was prepared to defend the policy whether he liked it or not. And in that case, maybe it didn’t matter what he supported; promoting the policy was supporting it. I was reminded of something one of his friends had told me, a former DOJ official who has known Holder since the beginning of his career: “Eric has this instinct to please. That’s his weakness. He doesn’t have to be told what to do — he’s willing to do whatever it takes. It’s his survival mechanism in Washington.”

But it makes for a rotten attorney general. And in the case of the Obama administration, it made for a top lawyer far too willing to accommodate the worst leftist impulses in the White House and in the increasingly politicized ranks of the Justice Department. Maybe Holder should start spending more time with his family.

Another entry in the Eric Holder “Can you believe this?” file comes with this report (h/t Main Justice):

In January, after a review by the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that the authors of the torture memos had committed professional misconduct, Holder allowed the supervisor of that office, David Margolis, to overturn the committee’s conclusion and absolve the lawyers of wrongdoing. Sources close to Holder say that he was disappointed by Margolis’s decision and believed the finding of misconduct was correct — but was unwilling to overrule a nonpolitical employee on such a sensitive issue.

Disappointed? Indeed, he must have been, for the entire mission of DOJ in the first two years of the administration seems to have been defined by a “not Bush” or “get Bushies” mentality. Don’t let the civil rights laws be applied against Black defendants. Don’t follow the Office of Legal Counsel opinion on DC voting rights. Release detainee-abuse photos. Go after John Yoo and Jay Bybee. The problem, however, was that each of these highly politicized decisions was legally flawed and politically untenable even to those in the Department. After all, career attorneys at DOJ did not welcome the investigation of one set of lawyers by a new administration, which took issue with the policy calls of its predecessors.

The rest of the lengthy piece is mostly a rehash of the stories we have heard before — the White House vs. DOJ on terror policy and self-congratulation about the Obama team’s record on civil rights (well, for certain types of cases). But this sums up Holder’s central flaw fairly well and explains why, after replete evidence of his role in the pardon of Marc Rich and Puerto Rican terrorists, he never should have been confirmed:

Like any good political appointee, he was prepared to defend the policy whether he liked it or not. And in that case, maybe it didn’t matter what he supported; promoting the policy was supporting it. I was reminded of something one of his friends had told me, a former DOJ official who has known Holder since the beginning of his career: “Eric has this instinct to please. That’s his weakness. He doesn’t have to be told what to do — he’s willing to do whatever it takes. It’s his survival mechanism in Washington.”

But it makes for a rotten attorney general. And in the case of the Obama administration, it made for a top lawyer far too willing to accommodate the worst leftist impulses in the White House and in the increasingly politicized ranks of the Justice Department. Maybe Holder should start spending more time with his family.

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Never Mind, Forget the KSM Trial

With the midterms in the rearview mirror the Obama administration can now admit the obvious: a public trial for KSM is impossible. The Washington Post reports:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.

The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.

In other words, all of the attorney general’s assertions regarding the superiority of a public trial have proven faulty, and the administration now looks buffoonish. After excoriating critics and defending their scheme to put KSM on trial in civilian court, they now are forced to concede, “OK, it won’t work.” This was all perfectly apparent at the time to everyone but Eric Holder and the leftist lawyers who populate the Department of Justice (a number of whom represented Guantanamo detainees).

The administration is hard-pressed to explain the utter ineptitude that has characterized its detainee policy and the latest reversal. The best it can muster is this:

The Mohammed case is “a case that has to be addressed, and clearly it’s complicated in ways that weren’t originally foreseen, but as a symbol in some way of a thwarted policy, it is wholly misleading,” the senior official said.

Weren’t foreseen by whom? The hapless attorney general.

The administration has had to countermand Eric Holder twice now — first on the release of the detainee-abuse photos and now on the KSM trial and perhaps on the entire issue of military tribunals. For a constitutional scholar, as the president imagines himself, he certainly hired a second-rate lawyer to run the Justice Department. Holder and his appointees are consumed by ideology and lacking in common sense and legal smarts. If it weren’t for the State Department, DOJ would win hands down the “least effective” Obama  department. The good news is that their advice has a short shelf-life.

With the midterms in the rearview mirror the Obama administration can now admit the obvious: a public trial for KSM is impossible. The Washington Post reports:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.

The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.

In other words, all of the attorney general’s assertions regarding the superiority of a public trial have proven faulty, and the administration now looks buffoonish. After excoriating critics and defending their scheme to put KSM on trial in civilian court, they now are forced to concede, “OK, it won’t work.” This was all perfectly apparent at the time to everyone but Eric Holder and the leftist lawyers who populate the Department of Justice (a number of whom represented Guantanamo detainees).

The administration is hard-pressed to explain the utter ineptitude that has characterized its detainee policy and the latest reversal. The best it can muster is this:

The Mohammed case is “a case that has to be addressed, and clearly it’s complicated in ways that weren’t originally foreseen, but as a symbol in some way of a thwarted policy, it is wholly misleading,” the senior official said.

Weren’t foreseen by whom? The hapless attorney general.

The administration has had to countermand Eric Holder twice now — first on the release of the detainee-abuse photos and now on the KSM trial and perhaps on the entire issue of military tribunals. For a constitutional scholar, as the president imagines himself, he certainly hired a second-rate lawyer to run the Justice Department. Holder and his appointees are consumed by ideology and lacking in common sense and legal smarts. If it weren’t for the State Department, DOJ would win hands down the “least effective” Obama  department. The good news is that their advice has a short shelf-life.

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What About the Other CIA Witchhunt?

After three years,  John Durham, the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the destruction of tapes showing enhanced interrogation techniques employed by CIA officials, has closed the case. As this report notes, this “is the latest example of Justice Department officials’ declining to seek criminal penalties for some of the controversial episodes in the C.I.A.’s now defunct detention and interrogation program.”

But what about the other witchhunt investigation that Obama has ordered, or rather the reinvestigation of CIA officials for use of those enhanced techniques? As I have previously reported, professional prosecutors had already ruled out filing criminal charges, but the Obama team, anxious for its pound of flesh, insisted that Durham reinvestigate these same operatives. Does the termination of the tape case suggest that this investigation, loudly protested by career CIA officials, including Leon Panetta, is going to be shut down as well?

I wouldn’t be so sure. An individual with knowledge of Durham’s investigation (who is also highly critical of the Obama administration’s decision to contravene the decision of career prosecutors) emphasizes that these are “totally separate cases.” He nevertheless observes that from what he has seen, Durham and his team seem “like straight shooters — very thorough, trying to get a full understanding” of the issues.

A former Justice Department official likewise cautions: “I think it would prove too much to read something into the fact that he announced the closing of one investigation without announcing the results of the other. The tapes investigation started in January 2008, while it was expanded by Holder to cover interrogators in August 2009. That’s a big-time gap. With that said, it is not as if Durham was not coming across interrogator behavior in the course of investigating the tape destruction.”

Perhaps the most insightful reaction came from a former high-ranking national security official who was deeply troubled by the administration’s decision to place CIA employees back in legal peril. In response to my question asking him to assess what Durham’s dismissal of the tape case might say about the interrogation inquiry, he replied simply, “Not at all clear. One can hope.”

The decision to set Durham loose on CIA operatives already exonerated under a prior administration was another misbegotten and dangerous idea by the Obami, one of many that signaled to CIA officials that they would be foolhardy not to be risk-averse in their anti-terrorism activities. So, indeed, we should hope that Durham shows himself once again to be a wise prosecutor and shuts down a politically motivated inquest.

After three years,  John Durham, the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the destruction of tapes showing enhanced interrogation techniques employed by CIA officials, has closed the case. As this report notes, this “is the latest example of Justice Department officials’ declining to seek criminal penalties for some of the controversial episodes in the C.I.A.’s now defunct detention and interrogation program.”

But what about the other witchhunt investigation that Obama has ordered, or rather the reinvestigation of CIA officials for use of those enhanced techniques? As I have previously reported, professional prosecutors had already ruled out filing criminal charges, but the Obama team, anxious for its pound of flesh, insisted that Durham reinvestigate these same operatives. Does the termination of the tape case suggest that this investigation, loudly protested by career CIA officials, including Leon Panetta, is going to be shut down as well?

I wouldn’t be so sure. An individual with knowledge of Durham’s investigation (who is also highly critical of the Obama administration’s decision to contravene the decision of career prosecutors) emphasizes that these are “totally separate cases.” He nevertheless observes that from what he has seen, Durham and his team seem “like straight shooters — very thorough, trying to get a full understanding” of the issues.

A former Justice Department official likewise cautions: “I think it would prove too much to read something into the fact that he announced the closing of one investigation without announcing the results of the other. The tapes investigation started in January 2008, while it was expanded by Holder to cover interrogators in August 2009. That’s a big-time gap. With that said, it is not as if Durham was not coming across interrogator behavior in the course of investigating the tape destruction.”

Perhaps the most insightful reaction came from a former high-ranking national security official who was deeply troubled by the administration’s decision to place CIA employees back in legal peril. In response to my question asking him to assess what Durham’s dismissal of the tape case might say about the interrogation inquiry, he replied simply, “Not at all clear. One can hope.”

The decision to set Durham loose on CIA operatives already exonerated under a prior administration was another misbegotten and dangerous idea by the Obami, one of many that signaled to CIA officials that they would be foolhardy not to be risk-averse in their anti-terrorism activities. So, indeed, we should hope that Durham shows himself once again to be a wise prosecutor and shuts down a politically motivated inquest.

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Watching DOJ

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes: Read More

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes:

The new documents include a series of emails between two political appointees: former Democratic election lawyer and current Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. Both DOJ officials were involved in detailed discussions regarding the NBPP decision. …

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political appointees were involved in the NBPP decision. Perez suggested that the dispute was merely “a case of career people disagreeing with career people.”

In fact, political appointee Sam Hirsch sent an April 30, 2009, email to Steven Rosenbaum (then-Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights) thanking Rosenbaum for “doing everything you’re doing to make sure that this case is properly resolved.” The next day, the DOJ began to reverse course on its NBPP voter intimidation lawsuit.

We’re going to see where the e-mail trail leads. There will be several storylines. First, how far will the scandal go? The administration may try to “amputate” at the assistant attorney general level (Perez), but evidence already revealed suggests that the associate attorney general level (the #3 position) can’t escape. But of course, the key question will be whether Eric Holder himself will be shoved off the stage. (We are going to get that frank discussion on race he’s been pining for regardless.)

Second, we’ll see how much interference Democrats are willing to run for the White House. The administration’s toady commissioner Michael Yaki tried his best to derail the commission’s investigation but wound up only embarrassing himself as the evidence gushed forth. Will House Democrats be in the mood to follow that path — or is this a fine opportunity to display their “independence” from the White House?

And finally, we’ll find out how much the administration has learned and how beholden it is to liberal activists. The Obama team has two options: (1) admit fault, repudiate a race-specific view of civil rights enforcement (e.g., only whites can be defendants), come clean, and let heads roll; or (2) fight tooth and nail, keep stonewalling, and reassure the NAACP and other liberal civil rights groups that they will stick with the left-leaning party line (i.e., civil rights laws are there to protect only “traditional” victims).

This issue is not remotely the biggest headache the administration will have to face in the next two years, but it sure will be revealing. And quite entertaining, I suspect.

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Arizona Immigration Law Hearing

This account by the Washington Post of the 9th Circuit hearing on the Arizona immigration law is revealing on a number of counts.

Judge John T. Noonan (whose own exacting questioning I experienced in law school some years back) didn’t think much of the Obama administration’s advocacy skills:

“I’ve read your brief, I’ve read the District Court opinion, I’ve heard your interchange with my two colleagues, and I don’t understand your argument,” Noonan told deputy solicitor general Edwin S. Kneedler. “We are dependent as a court on counsel being responsive. … You keep saying the problem is that a state officer is told to do something. That’s not a matter of preemption. … I would think the proper thing to do is to concede that this is a point where you don’t have an argument.”

That doesn’t mean the government doesn’t have other viable arguments in its attempt to overturn the Arizona law or that this issue is going to be settled by the 9th Circuit. (Certainly it’s headed for the Supreme Court.) But it does mean that the Obama Justice Department is doing a poor job of litigating.

Even more telling is this passage from the Post‘s report:

With Noonan, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, so bluntly stating his views, legal experts said the government’s chances of having the injunction upheld may rest with the other two judges on Monday’s panel: Carlos T. Bea and Richard A. Paez.

Bea is also a Republican appointee and tends to vote with the court’s conservative wing, which could help Arizona’s chances. Paez is a Democratic appointee.

But Bea and Paez are Hispanic, and it is Hispanics who are most upset about the Arizona law.

What?! This is the wise Latino school of thought, the suggestion that these justices would vote their ethnicity rather than their conscience. The Post digs up a supposed scholar whom I’ve never heard of to opine: “‘Perhaps this is one area where Bea might not vote as a so-called conservative because he himself is an immigrant,’ said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and an expert on the 9th Circuit.” Perhaps Hellman’s students should disregard the chazzerai they are being taught.

This account by the Washington Post of the 9th Circuit hearing on the Arizona immigration law is revealing on a number of counts.

Judge John T. Noonan (whose own exacting questioning I experienced in law school some years back) didn’t think much of the Obama administration’s advocacy skills:

“I’ve read your brief, I’ve read the District Court opinion, I’ve heard your interchange with my two colleagues, and I don’t understand your argument,” Noonan told deputy solicitor general Edwin S. Kneedler. “We are dependent as a court on counsel being responsive. … You keep saying the problem is that a state officer is told to do something. That’s not a matter of preemption. … I would think the proper thing to do is to concede that this is a point where you don’t have an argument.”

That doesn’t mean the government doesn’t have other viable arguments in its attempt to overturn the Arizona law or that this issue is going to be settled by the 9th Circuit. (Certainly it’s headed for the Supreme Court.) But it does mean that the Obama Justice Department is doing a poor job of litigating.

Even more telling is this passage from the Post‘s report:

With Noonan, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, so bluntly stating his views, legal experts said the government’s chances of having the injunction upheld may rest with the other two judges on Monday’s panel: Carlos T. Bea and Richard A. Paez.

Bea is also a Republican appointee and tends to vote with the court’s conservative wing, which could help Arizona’s chances. Paez is a Democratic appointee.

But Bea and Paez are Hispanic, and it is Hispanics who are most upset about the Arizona law.

What?! This is the wise Latino school of thought, the suggestion that these justices would vote their ethnicity rather than their conscience. The Post digs up a supposed scholar whom I’ve never heard of to opine: “‘Perhaps this is one area where Bea might not vote as a so-called conservative because he himself is an immigrant,’ said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and an expert on the 9th Circuit.” Perhaps Hellman’s students should disregard the chazzerai they are being taught.

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Best Supporting Role in a Civil Rights Cover-Up

Hollywood is not the only place where self-congratulatory awards are plentiful. Andrew Malcolm notes that the Obama Department of Justice has handed out a slew of these — more than 300 (if you didn’t get one, start updating your resume) — to their attorneys and staffers. He empathizes (no, not really) with the “workload” all this entails:

Dropping the Black Panther voter intimidation case. Not closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Suing Arizona for trying to do the federal job of securing the porous Mexican border against drug and human smugglers. Fighting in federal court to uphold the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law on gays in the military that Obama often says he really, really opposes and will certainly change someday on his watch. Ditto for the department’s ongoing legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett got caught on an interview video recently kinda letting the cat out of the bag about the White House view of gay being a lifestyle choice. But she apologized for the revelation.

Let’s not forget about hiring attorneys who previously represented al-Qaeda terrorists, refusing to enforce portions of the Voting Rights Act (which would head off fraud), and giving rotten advice (later countermanded) with respect to the release of detainee-abuse photos. You wonder what these awards were for. Best misleading answer to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Most egregious case of conflict of interest in matters of national security. The mind reels.

Hollywood is not the only place where self-congratulatory awards are plentiful. Andrew Malcolm notes that the Obama Department of Justice has handed out a slew of these — more than 300 (if you didn’t get one, start updating your resume) — to their attorneys and staffers. He empathizes (no, not really) with the “workload” all this entails:

Dropping the Black Panther voter intimidation case. Not closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Suing Arizona for trying to do the federal job of securing the porous Mexican border against drug and human smugglers. Fighting in federal court to uphold the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law on gays in the military that Obama often says he really, really opposes and will certainly change someday on his watch. Ditto for the department’s ongoing legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett got caught on an interview video recently kinda letting the cat out of the bag about the White House view of gay being a lifestyle choice. But she apologized for the revelation.

Let’s not forget about hiring attorneys who previously represented al-Qaeda terrorists, refusing to enforce portions of the Voting Rights Act (which would head off fraud), and giving rotten advice (later countermanded) with respect to the release of detainee-abuse photos. You wonder what these awards were for. Best misleading answer to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Most egregious case of conflict of interest in matters of national security. The mind reels.

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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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Anti-Terrorism Paralysis

Obama’s anti-terrorism policies have centered on tying our own hands (e.g., prohibiting enhanced interrogations), criminalizing our anti-terror activities (Mirandizing terrorist bombers), and trying to make grand gestures to the Muslim World (announcing Guantanamo’s closing). But mainly, his administration has been delaying, stalling, and frustrating the families of terror victims. A case in point:

The 10th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole on Tuesday conjured up painful memories for the families of the 17 Navy sailors who died in the terrorist attack, but it also revealed simmering anger at the Obama administration over the lack of concrete progress in bringing an alleged perpetrator to justice.

In February 2009, less than three weeks after his inauguration, President Barack Obama held an emotional meeting with family members of victims of the Cole bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Families said the new president promised swift action yet pleaded for their patience so his aides and Congress could overhaul the military commission system – which federal courts twice invalidated during the Bush administration.

Yet 20 months later, there are few signs the case against Saudi-born Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri – the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing who was captured in 2003 – has moved forward.

Likewise, the trial of KSM is stymied: no locale wants a civilian trial, and the Obama Justice Department is ideologically averse to military tribunals. Meanwhile, Eric Holder’s promised review of Miranda warnings for terrorists has gone nowhere.

As in so many other areas of national security, it appears that the Obama team just doesn’t spend much time or effort on these matters. Perhaps once his domestic agenda is up-ended by a GOP-controlled House (and possibly Senate), he’ll have more time to devote to these issues.

Obama’s anti-terrorism policies have centered on tying our own hands (e.g., prohibiting enhanced interrogations), criminalizing our anti-terror activities (Mirandizing terrorist bombers), and trying to make grand gestures to the Muslim World (announcing Guantanamo’s closing). But mainly, his administration has been delaying, stalling, and frustrating the families of terror victims. A case in point:

The 10th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole on Tuesday conjured up painful memories for the families of the 17 Navy sailors who died in the terrorist attack, but it also revealed simmering anger at the Obama administration over the lack of concrete progress in bringing an alleged perpetrator to justice.

In February 2009, less than three weeks after his inauguration, President Barack Obama held an emotional meeting with family members of victims of the Cole bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Families said the new president promised swift action yet pleaded for their patience so his aides and Congress could overhaul the military commission system – which federal courts twice invalidated during the Bush administration.

Yet 20 months later, there are few signs the case against Saudi-born Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri – the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing who was captured in 2003 – has moved forward.

Likewise, the trial of KSM is stymied: no locale wants a civilian trial, and the Obama Justice Department is ideologically averse to military tribunals. Meanwhile, Eric Holder’s promised review of Miranda warnings for terrorists has gone nowhere.

As in so many other areas of national security, it appears that the Obama team just doesn’t spend much time or effort on these matters. Perhaps once his domestic agenda is up-ended by a GOP-controlled House (and possibly Senate), he’ll have more time to devote to these issues.

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Part 2: Immigration and the Golden State

In this post I continue my responses to Peter Robinson’s thought-provoking questions about the degree to which immigration has contributed to California’s current predicament (e.g., fiscal ruin, economic stagnation, political dysfunction). Peter’s second question concerns the political impact on the Republican party. He asks:

Q:  There’s plenty of evidence that, as Hispanics move into the middle class, they begin voting Republican, following the same pattern as previous immigrant groups. In California, though, the Hispanics that do indeed join the middle class are always hugely outnumbered as the influx of poor Mexicans continues — and, as these recent arrivals begin voting, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The state that gave us Reagan has now become dark blue. … With California out of play, the GOP stands at a permanent disadvantage in presidential politics.  Isn’t all that too high a price to pay for loose immigration policies?

Let’s break this down into legal and illegal immigration. No critic of lax efforts to cut down on voter fraud has been more ferocious than I. But, honestly, I don’t believe that there are huge numbers of illegal immigrants who flock to the polls. And if there were (as well as for other reasons, which I have amplified in other writings on Obama Justice Department), we need to clean house at the DOJ. One way to start would be to make sure the Department, contrary to the directions of Obama appointees, enforces Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to clean up their voter rolls.

But I think we’re principally talking about Hispanic citizens. Here, the GOP’s problem, I would suggest, is entirely one of its own making. If a party cannot connect with and make its case to a large segment of the electorate, which actually shares many of its fundamental values (e.g., family, the sanctity of life, economic opportunity), there is something wrong with the party. (Let Obama blame or write off voters.)

The argument that “We’ve tried, but nothing works” is a cop-out. (I’m not persuaded by the argument that John McCain’s inability to attract Hispanic voters in 2008 is proof of this. McCain essentially reversed course on immigration in the campaign. Moreover, McCain couldn’t even connect with New Englanders.) In Virginia,  now Gov. Bob McDonnell told me in late 2008 that Republicans had done a poor job of explaining that it is the illegal part they object to — not the immigrant part. And, in the 2009 campaign, he went to Hispanic communities explaining why conservative positions on education, family, low taxes, reasonable regulation, crime, etc. are good for them. If Republicans tried that over an extended period of time, continued to demonstrate that they are a diverse party (Marco Rubio and other Hispanic candidates and officials help in this regard), and tamped down on the over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric, they might improve their standing. “We don’t know that!” critics say. True, but why not give it a shot? (Given current polling data, this might be an opportune time to start.)

The question also touches on comprehensive immigration reform. If we legalize them all, the argument goes, then they will stream to the polls and the GOP will be toast. My response is two-fold: 1) see the preceding paragraph and 2) let’s consider what would happen if many of the current immigrants were legalized. For that discussion, let’s turn to Peter’s final question:

Q.  The 2.6 million immigrants in California illegally consume hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public services each year.  They pay sales taxes—but only sales taxes.  On balance, isn’t it likely that they represent an economic drag on the entire state?  “[T]he several million illegal aliens in the state,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote recently, “might make California’s meltdown a little bit more severe than, say, Montana’s or Utah’s.” Isn’t Victor on to something?

Victor is always on to something! But as I discussed in Part 1, the picture is a bit more complicated than anti-immigration activists would have us believe. The data is mixed regarding the net cost-benefits at the state level. Moreover, there are some illegal immigrants who pay more than sales tax. Do they pay property taxes? Do they, if they’ve managed to get on a payroll, pay Social Security taxes (perhaps under a phony Social Security card)? Some do. I think that saying they act as a drag on the state goes too far. The data cited here and in Part 1 suggest that while state expenditures might be stressed, the overall economy benefits tremendously by immigrants.

Still, I’ll concede that in the short run, new, poor immigrants may use more social services than they pay for in taxes, as compared to the rest of the population. But then — Peter sees this coming — let’s figure out how to naturalize the vast majority of them and get them to start paying all their taxes into the system. Am I arguing for “amnesty”? Amnesty is a free pass. I favor allowing otherwise law-abiding immigrants who want to pay a fine, contribute their share to taxes, and go through background checks and a waiting period to legalize their status. Then they can begin to contribute fully to the coffers of California and every other state.

Comprehensive immigration reform would also entail serious border enforcement, temporary worker rules, and employer verification measures. The constant stream of “poor Mexicans” then would slow down. Then we could get down to the business of discussing appropriate levels of legal immigration and an increase in visas for skilled workers.

I come back to Peter’s basic query: Is immigration (legal and not) a significant factor in California’s mess? In my view it isn’t, especially in comparison to Californians’ enormous self-inflicted wounds (e.g., state constitutional chaos, misguided reforms, public-employee union corruption and excess). Certainly, we should should address the issue. We might get around to it if Obama ever started treating immigration reform as a serious policy matter instead of a political football.

In this post I continue my responses to Peter Robinson’s thought-provoking questions about the degree to which immigration has contributed to California’s current predicament (e.g., fiscal ruin, economic stagnation, political dysfunction). Peter’s second question concerns the political impact on the Republican party. He asks:

Q:  There’s plenty of evidence that, as Hispanics move into the middle class, they begin voting Republican, following the same pattern as previous immigrant groups. In California, though, the Hispanics that do indeed join the middle class are always hugely outnumbered as the influx of poor Mexicans continues — and, as these recent arrivals begin voting, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The state that gave us Reagan has now become dark blue. … With California out of play, the GOP stands at a permanent disadvantage in presidential politics.  Isn’t all that too high a price to pay for loose immigration policies?

Let’s break this down into legal and illegal immigration. No critic of lax efforts to cut down on voter fraud has been more ferocious than I. But, honestly, I don’t believe that there are huge numbers of illegal immigrants who flock to the polls. And if there were (as well as for other reasons, which I have amplified in other writings on Obama Justice Department), we need to clean house at the DOJ. One way to start would be to make sure the Department, contrary to the directions of Obama appointees, enforces Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to clean up their voter rolls.

But I think we’re principally talking about Hispanic citizens. Here, the GOP’s problem, I would suggest, is entirely one of its own making. If a party cannot connect with and make its case to a large segment of the electorate, which actually shares many of its fundamental values (e.g., family, the sanctity of life, economic opportunity), there is something wrong with the party. (Let Obama blame or write off voters.)

The argument that “We’ve tried, but nothing works” is a cop-out. (I’m not persuaded by the argument that John McCain’s inability to attract Hispanic voters in 2008 is proof of this. McCain essentially reversed course on immigration in the campaign. Moreover, McCain couldn’t even connect with New Englanders.) In Virginia,  now Gov. Bob McDonnell told me in late 2008 that Republicans had done a poor job of explaining that it is the illegal part they object to — not the immigrant part. And, in the 2009 campaign, he went to Hispanic communities explaining why conservative positions on education, family, low taxes, reasonable regulation, crime, etc. are good for them. If Republicans tried that over an extended period of time, continued to demonstrate that they are a diverse party (Marco Rubio and other Hispanic candidates and officials help in this regard), and tamped down on the over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric, they might improve their standing. “We don’t know that!” critics say. True, but why not give it a shot? (Given current polling data, this might be an opportune time to start.)

The question also touches on comprehensive immigration reform. If we legalize them all, the argument goes, then they will stream to the polls and the GOP will be toast. My response is two-fold: 1) see the preceding paragraph and 2) let’s consider what would happen if many of the current immigrants were legalized. For that discussion, let’s turn to Peter’s final question:

Q.  The 2.6 million immigrants in California illegally consume hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public services each year.  They pay sales taxes—but only sales taxes.  On balance, isn’t it likely that they represent an economic drag on the entire state?  “[T]he several million illegal aliens in the state,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote recently, “might make California’s meltdown a little bit more severe than, say, Montana’s or Utah’s.” Isn’t Victor on to something?

Victor is always on to something! But as I discussed in Part 1, the picture is a bit more complicated than anti-immigration activists would have us believe. The data is mixed regarding the net cost-benefits at the state level. Moreover, there are some illegal immigrants who pay more than sales tax. Do they pay property taxes? Do they, if they’ve managed to get on a payroll, pay Social Security taxes (perhaps under a phony Social Security card)? Some do. I think that saying they act as a drag on the state goes too far. The data cited here and in Part 1 suggest that while state expenditures might be stressed, the overall economy benefits tremendously by immigrants.

Still, I’ll concede that in the short run, new, poor immigrants may use more social services than they pay for in taxes, as compared to the rest of the population. But then — Peter sees this coming — let’s figure out how to naturalize the vast majority of them and get them to start paying all their taxes into the system. Am I arguing for “amnesty”? Amnesty is a free pass. I favor allowing otherwise law-abiding immigrants who want to pay a fine, contribute their share to taxes, and go through background checks and a waiting period to legalize their status. Then they can begin to contribute fully to the coffers of California and every other state.

Comprehensive immigration reform would also entail serious border enforcement, temporary worker rules, and employer verification measures. The constant stream of “poor Mexicans” then would slow down. Then we could get down to the business of discussing appropriate levels of legal immigration and an increase in visas for skilled workers.

I come back to Peter’s basic query: Is immigration (legal and not) a significant factor in California’s mess? In my view it isn’t, especially in comparison to Californians’ enormous self-inflicted wounds (e.g., state constitutional chaos, misguided reforms, public-employee union corruption and excess). Certainly, we should should address the issue. We might get around to it if Obama ever started treating immigration reform as a serious policy matter instead of a political football.

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Hiding Facts in a Scandal Never Works

Since the Obama team pulled the plug on the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, the administration has tried to keep the facts under wraps and the relevant documents and witnesses from surfacing. But this never works in Washington. In these sorts of scandals, the facts will still come out one way or another.

The new Congress with GOP chairmen will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents and then take the administration to federal court if its stonewalling continues. Judicial Watch is already in federal court challenging the administration’s withholding of documents from Thomas Perrelli, the associate attorney general. Then there are Justice Department attorneys who fear they may be caught in the scandal — because they complied with Obama appointees’ directions to withhold documents improperly, provided misleading answers to discovery requests, or aided in obstructing investigations. Now they may very well decide to assist investigators in an effort to distance themselves from the wrongdoers. There are many witnesses to the meetings, e-mails, documents, and discussions described by  Chris Coates and J. Christian Adams. It’s inconceivable all of them will remain silent.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn Fine, is, or should be, another source of concern for the administration. When Reps. Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith were struggling in 2009 to get facts about the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, they wrote to Fine to implore him to open an investigation. Now, for many years, Fine has pushed for greater statutory authority to act as DOJ’s centralized watchdog, which in essence would overshadow the Office of Professional Responsibility (whose reputation has been poor and only deteriorated when its work on the John Yoo and Jay Bybee investigation was repudiated). In 2009, Fine said he lacked the authority to pursue the matter. But that was when the Obama team was riding high and ample evidence of systemic wrongdoing hadn’t been confirmed. In September 2010, both Obama’s political standing and the state of the evidence have changed.

Sure enough, Fine recently informed Wolf and Smith that he’s now undertaking that investigation. The New Black Panther Party scandal might finally give Fine the visibility and respect he has long sought. And it sure won’t harm his reputation with the new Congress.

Since the Obama team pulled the plug on the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, the administration has tried to keep the facts under wraps and the relevant documents and witnesses from surfacing. But this never works in Washington. In these sorts of scandals, the facts will still come out one way or another.

The new Congress with GOP chairmen will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents and then take the administration to federal court if its stonewalling continues. Judicial Watch is already in federal court challenging the administration’s withholding of documents from Thomas Perrelli, the associate attorney general. Then there are Justice Department attorneys who fear they may be caught in the scandal — because they complied with Obama appointees’ directions to withhold documents improperly, provided misleading answers to discovery requests, or aided in obstructing investigations. Now they may very well decide to assist investigators in an effort to distance themselves from the wrongdoers. There are many witnesses to the meetings, e-mails, documents, and discussions described by  Chris Coates and J. Christian Adams. It’s inconceivable all of them will remain silent.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn Fine, is, or should be, another source of concern for the administration. When Reps. Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith were struggling in 2009 to get facts about the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, they wrote to Fine to implore him to open an investigation. Now, for many years, Fine has pushed for greater statutory authority to act as DOJ’s centralized watchdog, which in essence would overshadow the Office of Professional Responsibility (whose reputation has been poor and only deteriorated when its work on the John Yoo and Jay Bybee investigation was repudiated). In 2009, Fine said he lacked the authority to pursue the matter. But that was when the Obama team was riding high and ample evidence of systemic wrongdoing hadn’t been confirmed. In September 2010, both Obama’s political standing and the state of the evidence have changed.

Sure enough, Fine recently informed Wolf and Smith that he’s now undertaking that investigation. The New Black Panther Party scandal might finally give Fine the visibility and respect he has long sought. And it sure won’t harm his reputation with the new Congress.

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Investigating Mahmoud Karzai

It’s good to read that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Mahmoud Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s brother, who, like his siblings, became an instant millionaire when his brother took power. Mahmoud is actually a U.S. citizen, so he is especially vulnerable to American law enforcement. But I have a question and a caveat to offer.

First, I don’t understand why the New York Times is reporting that the NSA is wiretapping Mahmoud. NSA surveillance is one of the most closely held secrets in the U.S. government, so why was it leaked? Possibly to put pressure on Mahmoud, but, if anything, it simply alerts him to be more discreet in his communications. Perhaps someone more savvy in the ways of law enforcement can tell me what’s going on with the leak.

Now the caveat: the goal should not be to throw Mahmoud into jail. The goal should be to apply leverage on his brother, the president, to help clean up Afghan politics. Investigating Mahmoud is a great way to pressure his brother, but actually indicting him and trying to convict him could backfire by making Hamid more intransigent. It is vitally important that this criminal probe be coordinated at the highest levels of the administration with General Petraeus’s headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to make sure that all the U.S. government actors are on the same page here. Unfortunately, given the Justice Department’s tradition of independence, I suspect that kind of coordination to only happen at the cabinet or even presidential level. Prosecutions, in general, should be made strictly on the merits of the case, but this is a case that is intimately wrapped up with an American war effort in which 100,000 American lives are at risk. Therefore, ordinary law-enforcement concerns need to be subordinated to larger strategic imperatives.

It’s good to read that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Mahmoud Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s brother, who, like his siblings, became an instant millionaire when his brother took power. Mahmoud is actually a U.S. citizen, so he is especially vulnerable to American law enforcement. But I have a question and a caveat to offer.

First, I don’t understand why the New York Times is reporting that the NSA is wiretapping Mahmoud. NSA surveillance is one of the most closely held secrets in the U.S. government, so why was it leaked? Possibly to put pressure on Mahmoud, but, if anything, it simply alerts him to be more discreet in his communications. Perhaps someone more savvy in the ways of law enforcement can tell me what’s going on with the leak.

Now the caveat: the goal should not be to throw Mahmoud into jail. The goal should be to apply leverage on his brother, the president, to help clean up Afghan politics. Investigating Mahmoud is a great way to pressure his brother, but actually indicting him and trying to convict him could backfire by making Hamid more intransigent. It is vitally important that this criminal probe be coordinated at the highest levels of the administration with General Petraeus’s headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to make sure that all the U.S. government actors are on the same page here. Unfortunately, given the Justice Department’s tradition of independence, I suspect that kind of coordination to only happen at the cabinet or even presidential level. Prosecutions, in general, should be made strictly on the merits of the case, but this is a case that is intimately wrapped up with an American war effort in which 100,000 American lives are at risk. Therefore, ordinary law-enforcement concerns need to be subordinated to larger strategic imperatives.

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The Wrongdoing, the Cover-Up, and Executive Privilege

Like any administration snared in a Beltway scandal, the Obama team has two problems in the New Black Panther Party scandal: the wrongdoing and the cover-up.

The wrongdoing is not merely that the Obama administration dismissed a blatant case of voter intimidation. It is not merely that an NAACP attorney pressured the Obama team to dump the case. It is not merely that the Obama Justice Department explicitly told attorneys not to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which helps prevent voter fraud. It is that the Obama team believes that the civil rights laws run only one way and offer protection only to certain racial or ethnic groups. That’s not the law (or the Equal Protection Clause has no meaning), and it runs afoul of Americans’ basic sense of fairness. That is why the Obama administration denies that it holds such a view. They may be radicals, but they aren’t dumb.

The cover-up takes two forms. There are the false statements put out by the Justice Department and made under oath by the assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas Perez, first, denying that political appointees were involved in the case and, second, disclaiming the existence of hostility toward race-neutral enforcement of voting laws. But there is also the Nixonian abuse of executive privilege to prevent scrutiny of the Justice Department. It is this latter issue that has gotten too little attention.

The administration has refused to produce witnesses and documents, employing a spurious claim of “deliberative process” privilege. Case law and Justice Department memoranda make clear that this is an offshoot of the executive privilege that is applicable only when invoked by the president (or, some would say, a Cabinet-level official). But Obama hasn’t done this. After all, “executive privilege” sounds bad. It reeks of “cover-up.” But without a formal invocation of the privilege, it is lawlessness, pure and simple, to withhold documents and witnesses in response to lawful subpoenas, FOIA requests, and a federal statute (which obligates the DOJ to cooperate with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights).

It was both inaccurate and nervy for the Justice Department’s spokesman to claim that Chris Coates’s testimony was short on facts. To begin with, Coates cited example after example to support the conclusion that the Obama team considers only racial, ethnic, and language minorities to be protected by civil rights laws. But more to the point, he was prevented from disclosing even more details because of the administration’s privilege claim. Again and again, Coates explained that he couldn’t answer questions out of respect for the DOJ’s position. Similarly, the log obtained by Judicial Watch lists dozens of e-mails and documents transmitted between political appointees and the voting section that would substantiate testimony by Coates. All that information remains hidden from view because the Justice Department is concealing it.

The mainstream media have just woken up to the extent and importance of the scandal, so perhaps they will get around to this aspect of the case. Yet I get the feeling that if it had been the Bush administration telling whistleblowers not to testify and withholding, absent any legal basis, key documents that could implicate high-ranking officials, the media would have already been all over this.

Like any administration snared in a Beltway scandal, the Obama team has two problems in the New Black Panther Party scandal: the wrongdoing and the cover-up.

The wrongdoing is not merely that the Obama administration dismissed a blatant case of voter intimidation. It is not merely that an NAACP attorney pressured the Obama team to dump the case. It is not merely that the Obama Justice Department explicitly told attorneys not to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which helps prevent voter fraud. It is that the Obama team believes that the civil rights laws run only one way and offer protection only to certain racial or ethnic groups. That’s not the law (or the Equal Protection Clause has no meaning), and it runs afoul of Americans’ basic sense of fairness. That is why the Obama administration denies that it holds such a view. They may be radicals, but they aren’t dumb.

The cover-up takes two forms. There are the false statements put out by the Justice Department and made under oath by the assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas Perez, first, denying that political appointees were involved in the case and, second, disclaiming the existence of hostility toward race-neutral enforcement of voting laws. But there is also the Nixonian abuse of executive privilege to prevent scrutiny of the Justice Department. It is this latter issue that has gotten too little attention.

The administration has refused to produce witnesses and documents, employing a spurious claim of “deliberative process” privilege. Case law and Justice Department memoranda make clear that this is an offshoot of the executive privilege that is applicable only when invoked by the president (or, some would say, a Cabinet-level official). But Obama hasn’t done this. After all, “executive privilege” sounds bad. It reeks of “cover-up.” But without a formal invocation of the privilege, it is lawlessness, pure and simple, to withhold documents and witnesses in response to lawful subpoenas, FOIA requests, and a federal statute (which obligates the DOJ to cooperate with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights).

It was both inaccurate and nervy for the Justice Department’s spokesman to claim that Chris Coates’s testimony was short on facts. To begin with, Coates cited example after example to support the conclusion that the Obama team considers only racial, ethnic, and language minorities to be protected by civil rights laws. But more to the point, he was prevented from disclosing even more details because of the administration’s privilege claim. Again and again, Coates explained that he couldn’t answer questions out of respect for the DOJ’s position. Similarly, the log obtained by Judicial Watch lists dozens of e-mails and documents transmitted between political appointees and the voting section that would substantiate testimony by Coates. All that information remains hidden from view because the Justice Department is concealing it.

The mainstream media have just woken up to the extent and importance of the scandal, so perhaps they will get around to this aspect of the case. Yet I get the feeling that if it had been the Bush administration telling whistleblowers not to testify and withholding, absent any legal basis, key documents that could implicate high-ranking officials, the media would have already been all over this.

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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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If You Want Something Done Right

Notwithstanding Janet Napolitano’s assertions, the administration’s anti-terrorism system hasn’t “worked.” Instead, ordinary airline passengers have proven to be our best defense.

The Obama Justice Department isn’t keen on enforcing Section No. 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that states and localities clean up their voting rolls to prevent fraud. So ordinary citizens are doing what the Justice Department won’t — uncovering voter fraud. This report explains that 50 friends took up the effort after seeing what went on in Houston on Election Day 2008:

“What we saw shocked us,” [ Catherine Engelbrecht] said. “There was no one checking IDs, judges would vote for people that asked for help. It was fraud, and we watched like deer in the headlights.”

Their shared experience, she says, created “True the Vote,” a citizen-based grassroots organization that began collecting publicly available voting data to prove that what they saw in their day at the polls was, indeed, happening — and that it was happening everywhere.

“It was a true Tea Party moment,” she remembers.

They set up their own voter-fraud unit:

“The first thing we started to do was look at houses with more than six voters in them” Engelbrecht said, because those houses were the most likely to have fraudulent registrations attached to them. “Most voting districts had 1,800 if they were Republican and 2,400 of these houses if they were Democratic. …

“But we came across one with 24,000, and that was where we started looking.”

It was Houston’s poorest and predominantly black district, which has led some to accuse the group of targeting poor black areas. But Engelbrecht rejects that, saying, “It had nothing to do with politics. It was just the numbers.”

Perhaps the new Congress should privatize voter fraud investigations. These amateurs turned up an ACORN-like operation:

Most of the findings focused on a group called Houston Votes, a voter registration group headed by Steve Caddle, who also works for the Service Employees International Union. Among the findings were that only 1,793 of the 25,000 registrations the group submitted appeared to be valid. The other registrations included one of a woman who registered six times in the same day; registrations of non-citizens; so many applications from one Houston Voters collector in one day that it was deemed to be beyond human capability; and 1,597 registrations that named the same person multiple times, often with different signatures. …

“The integrity of the voting rolls in Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name Houston Votes,” the Harris voter registrar, Leo Vasquez, charged as he passed on the documentation to the district attorney.

And if that weren’t enough, the day after that announcement, “a three-alarm fire destroyed almost all of Harris County’s voting machines, throwing the upcoming Nov. 2 election into turmoil.” Imagine that.

It’s admirable that we have citizens like Engelbrecht who take their civic responsibilities seriously, but there’s no excuse for the Obama Justice Department’s indifference to voting fraud. If Engelbrecht could uncover a massive voter-fraud operation, imagine what a contentious Justice Department could turn up. You’d almost think that they don’t mind that the voting rolls in heavily Democratic districts are bloated with imaginary voters.

Notwithstanding Janet Napolitano’s assertions, the administration’s anti-terrorism system hasn’t “worked.” Instead, ordinary airline passengers have proven to be our best defense.

The Obama Justice Department isn’t keen on enforcing Section No. 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that states and localities clean up their voting rolls to prevent fraud. So ordinary citizens are doing what the Justice Department won’t — uncovering voter fraud. This report explains that 50 friends took up the effort after seeing what went on in Houston on Election Day 2008:

“What we saw shocked us,” [ Catherine Engelbrecht] said. “There was no one checking IDs, judges would vote for people that asked for help. It was fraud, and we watched like deer in the headlights.”

Their shared experience, she says, created “True the Vote,” a citizen-based grassroots organization that began collecting publicly available voting data to prove that what they saw in their day at the polls was, indeed, happening — and that it was happening everywhere.

“It was a true Tea Party moment,” she remembers.

They set up their own voter-fraud unit:

“The first thing we started to do was look at houses with more than six voters in them” Engelbrecht said, because those houses were the most likely to have fraudulent registrations attached to them. “Most voting districts had 1,800 if they were Republican and 2,400 of these houses if they were Democratic. …

“But we came across one with 24,000, and that was where we started looking.”

It was Houston’s poorest and predominantly black district, which has led some to accuse the group of targeting poor black areas. But Engelbrecht rejects that, saying, “It had nothing to do with politics. It was just the numbers.”

Perhaps the new Congress should privatize voter fraud investigations. These amateurs turned up an ACORN-like operation:

Most of the findings focused on a group called Houston Votes, a voter registration group headed by Steve Caddle, who also works for the Service Employees International Union. Among the findings were that only 1,793 of the 25,000 registrations the group submitted appeared to be valid. The other registrations included one of a woman who registered six times in the same day; registrations of non-citizens; so many applications from one Houston Voters collector in one day that it was deemed to be beyond human capability; and 1,597 registrations that named the same person multiple times, often with different signatures. …

“The integrity of the voting rolls in Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name Houston Votes,” the Harris voter registrar, Leo Vasquez, charged as he passed on the documentation to the district attorney.

And if that weren’t enough, the day after that announcement, “a three-alarm fire destroyed almost all of Harris County’s voting machines, throwing the upcoming Nov. 2 election into turmoil.” Imagine that.

It’s admirable that we have citizens like Engelbrecht who take their civic responsibilities seriously, but there’s no excuse for the Obama Justice Department’s indifference to voting fraud. If Engelbrecht could uncover a massive voter-fraud operation, imagine what a contentious Justice Department could turn up. You’d almost think that they don’t mind that the voting rolls in heavily Democratic districts are bloated with imaginary voters.

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Will Obama Change?

Let’s assume that the Republicans take the House and make large gains in the Senate, that many Obama advisers depart, and there is a great hue and cry among Democrats. Was Obama too liberal, or not tough enough? Did Obama overinterpret his mandate? Is his presidency “over”?

It is not unlike the debate that went on following the Democrats’ defeat in 1994, when Bill Clinton memorably asserted, “The president is still relevant here.” It turned out he was relevant, in part, because he desperately wanted a second term and, more important, had the intellectual and personal flexibility to reconfigure his agenda.

We will know soon enough whether Obama intends to dig in or bend to reality. Will he populate the new team with seasoned advisers outside his own circle and immune from the cult of The One? If he does, we’ll know he’s serious about rescuing his presidency and his prospects for 2012. Will he go along with a full extension of the Bush tax cuts? If he does, we’ll know he’s thrown in the towel on the class-warfare gambit and is seriously considering how to aid, not impede, employers. Will he tone down or drop altogether his Muslim outreach and begin to articulate the nature and motives of our enemy? If  he does, we’ll know he has recognized that his approach has failed to deliver results overseas and that domestically it has alienated if not infuriated average Americans. Will he clean house in the Justice Department? If he does, we’ll know he recognizes the cloud of corruption and politicization that plays into the narrative that the Chicago pols have simply transplanted their machine inside the Beltway. Will he drop the plan to close Guantanamo and give KSM a public trial? If he does, we’ll know he’s put away the childish obsession with being “not Bush” and recognized the substantive and political drawbacks to a national security policy designed to please the ACLU. And finally, will he lift the Afghanistan war troop-withdrawal deadline? If he does, we’ll know he’s accepted the responsibility and demands of being commander in chief and listened to the generals and not the political hacks.

There’s a chance he might do a couple of these. All or most? If he does, we’ll be shocked.

Let’s assume that the Republicans take the House and make large gains in the Senate, that many Obama advisers depart, and there is a great hue and cry among Democrats. Was Obama too liberal, or not tough enough? Did Obama overinterpret his mandate? Is his presidency “over”?

It is not unlike the debate that went on following the Democrats’ defeat in 1994, when Bill Clinton memorably asserted, “The president is still relevant here.” It turned out he was relevant, in part, because he desperately wanted a second term and, more important, had the intellectual and personal flexibility to reconfigure his agenda.

We will know soon enough whether Obama intends to dig in or bend to reality. Will he populate the new team with seasoned advisers outside his own circle and immune from the cult of The One? If he does, we’ll know he’s serious about rescuing his presidency and his prospects for 2012. Will he go along with a full extension of the Bush tax cuts? If he does, we’ll know he’s thrown in the towel on the class-warfare gambit and is seriously considering how to aid, not impede, employers. Will he tone down or drop altogether his Muslim outreach and begin to articulate the nature and motives of our enemy? If  he does, we’ll know he has recognized that his approach has failed to deliver results overseas and that domestically it has alienated if not infuriated average Americans. Will he clean house in the Justice Department? If he does, we’ll know he recognizes the cloud of corruption and politicization that plays into the narrative that the Chicago pols have simply transplanted their machine inside the Beltway. Will he drop the plan to close Guantanamo and give KSM a public trial? If he does, we’ll know he’s put away the childish obsession with being “not Bush” and recognized the substantive and political drawbacks to a national security policy designed to please the ACLU. And finally, will he lift the Afghanistan war troop-withdrawal deadline? If he does, we’ll know he’s accepted the responsibility and demands of being commander in chief and listened to the generals and not the political hacks.

There’s a chance he might do a couple of these. All or most? If he does, we’ll be shocked.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith has this right about a new, fantastical Vanity Fair piece: “you can really write anything about Palin.”

Michael Goldfarb has the goods on the “moderate” Ground Zero mosque builders. It seems they won’t condemn Tuesday’s slaughter of four Israelis. This is precisely why Muslim outreach is a flawed and ultimately dangerous exercise — it overlooks and excuses the coddling of terrorists.

Stephen Schwartz has the scoop on the Ground Zero mosque builders’ infighting: “Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.”

PPP has the Ohio gubernatorial race going to John Kasich: “Former Congressman and Fox News anchor John Kasich leads Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, 50-40, in PPP’s first poll of likely voters in the race. In the previous survey of registered voters in June, Kasich led only 43-41. President Obama won Ohio by four points in 2008, but the likely 2010 electorate now reports having voted for John McCain by three—a seven-point shift in turnout which mirrors Kasich’s eight-point improvement in the horse race in the last two months.” That same shift is probably happening nationwide.

The GOP has narrowed the gap: “The number of Republicans in the United States grew in August while the number of Democrats slipped a bit and the gap between the parties fell to the smallest advantage for Democrats in five years. In August, 35.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Democrats. That’s down nearly half a percentage point  from a month ago and is the smallest percentage of Democrats ever recorded in nearly eight years of monthly tracking. At the same time, the number of Republicans grew in August grew to 33.8%.” Well, Obama helped a lot.

Pete Hegseth of Vets for Freedom has the numbers: “[Obama] shouldn’t have attempted to weave in an economic message; the words seemed petty and out of place. They were the president’s backhanded way of saying we wasted the last decade on Iraq, rather than fixing our economy. (Minor detail: The president’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost $100 billion more than the entire cost of the Iraq war.) His economic posturing took the focus off the troops and their accomplishments, and was unnecessary.” Yeah, there’s some perspective.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Tom Mahnken has the impression that Obama would rather be doing something else: “[O]ne could not help to see in the president’s words and mannerisms, a man who was distracted, whose heart wasn’t in it. In a speech nominally devoted to Iraq, he couldn’t help but talk about the U.S. economy. … Whereas Bush exhibited great courage in going against his own military to support the Iraqi surge and sell it to his own party and the American people, Obama has yet to put comparable effort into selling his own Afghan surge. The Oval Office speech was a missed opportunity to do just that.”

The BP oil-spill debacle has not come to end: “The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil-drilling dealt the government another blow on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman denied the government’s request to throw out a suit challenging the drilling halt that had been filed by offshore-oil-service companies. Justice Department lawyers had argued the lawsuit was moot because the Interior Department imposed a new, temporary drilling ban on July 12, replacing a May 28 order that Judge Feldman had struck down in June.”

Ben Smith has this right about a new, fantastical Vanity Fair piece: “you can really write anything about Palin.”

Michael Goldfarb has the goods on the “moderate” Ground Zero mosque builders. It seems they won’t condemn Tuesday’s slaughter of four Israelis. This is precisely why Muslim outreach is a flawed and ultimately dangerous exercise — it overlooks and excuses the coddling of terrorists.

Stephen Schwartz has the scoop on the Ground Zero mosque builders’ infighting: “Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.”

PPP has the Ohio gubernatorial race going to John Kasich: “Former Congressman and Fox News anchor John Kasich leads Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, 50-40, in PPP’s first poll of likely voters in the race. In the previous survey of registered voters in June, Kasich led only 43-41. President Obama won Ohio by four points in 2008, but the likely 2010 electorate now reports having voted for John McCain by three—a seven-point shift in turnout which mirrors Kasich’s eight-point improvement in the horse race in the last two months.” That same shift is probably happening nationwide.

The GOP has narrowed the gap: “The number of Republicans in the United States grew in August while the number of Democrats slipped a bit and the gap between the parties fell to the smallest advantage for Democrats in five years. In August, 35.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Democrats. That’s down nearly half a percentage point  from a month ago and is the smallest percentage of Democrats ever recorded in nearly eight years of monthly tracking. At the same time, the number of Republicans grew in August grew to 33.8%.” Well, Obama helped a lot.

Pete Hegseth of Vets for Freedom has the numbers: “[Obama] shouldn’t have attempted to weave in an economic message; the words seemed petty and out of place. They were the president’s backhanded way of saying we wasted the last decade on Iraq, rather than fixing our economy. (Minor detail: The president’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost $100 billion more than the entire cost of the Iraq war.) His economic posturing took the focus off the troops and their accomplishments, and was unnecessary.” Yeah, there’s some perspective.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Tom Mahnken has the impression that Obama would rather be doing something else: “[O]ne could not help to see in the president’s words and mannerisms, a man who was distracted, whose heart wasn’t in it. In a speech nominally devoted to Iraq, he couldn’t help but talk about the U.S. economy. … Whereas Bush exhibited great courage in going against his own military to support the Iraqi surge and sell it to his own party and the American people, Obama has yet to put comparable effort into selling his own Afghan surge. The Oval Office speech was a missed opportunity to do just that.”

The BP oil-spill debacle has not come to end: “The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil-drilling dealt the government another blow on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman denied the government’s request to throw out a suit challenging the drilling halt that had been filed by offshore-oil-service companies. Justice Department lawyers had argued the lawsuit was moot because the Interior Department imposed a new, temporary drilling ban on July 12, replacing a May 28 order that Judge Feldman had struck down in June.”

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How Obama Sees America

The Obama administration recently submitted a 29-page report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights in America. It won the praise of the ACLU, which points out that the report “correctly acknowledges the need for improvement in several key areas, including racial justice, women’s rights, LGBT [Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender People] rights and discrimination against Muslims and Americans of South Asian and Arab descent.”

The report — part of what the UN Human Rights Council calls its “Universal Periodic Review,” in which countries grade their own human rights records — is both ludicrous and offensive. Let’s take them in order.

The report reads like a term paper by a very earnest and very politically correct college freshman. After a few perfunctory words of praise for America in the introduction, the rest of the document is a catalogue of terrible liberal sins that are being washed away by wonderful liberal solutions, including (but not restricted to) ObamaCare; the recently passed financial reform law; suing Arizona for its law aimed to curb illegal immigration; the first White House Adviser on Violence Against Women; the “formation of the 9/11 Backlash Taskforce”; an internal review of the Justice Department’s 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies; a commitment to “protecting the rights of incarcerated persons … including the right to practice their religion”; and of course — who could ever forget? — President Obama’s hosting “a historic summit with nearly 400 tribal leaders to develop a policy agenda for Native Americans where he emphasized his commitment to regular and meaningful consultation with tribal officials regarding federal policy decisions that have tribal implications.”

Gems like these can be found on virtually every page.

The offensive element of this report is that human rights is a deeply serious matter that should be treated in a serious, scholarly way. For the Obama administration to corrupt the cause of human rights in such a flagrant, stupid manner is troubling.

It is also evidence of a particular cast of mind, one that is eager to undermine America’s moral standing in the world. That has been a consistent effort by the current administration. We have seen if from the president, who seems to take special delight in denigrating our country before the rest of the world, and those such as Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, who went out of his way to assure us that in discussions with China about human rights, the Arizona law against illegal immigration was brought up “up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”

The report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, then, is of a piece. It is yet more evidence that when the president and his administration scan the world for human rights violations, they are irresistibly drawn back to the grave injustices they believe have been and are being perpetrated by America.

It is an unprecedented and alarming thing to witness — an administration that is not only unwilling to defend the United States but seems to take great joy and satisfaction in undermining her.

The Obama administration recently submitted a 29-page report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights in America. It won the praise of the ACLU, which points out that the report “correctly acknowledges the need for improvement in several key areas, including racial justice, women’s rights, LGBT [Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender People] rights and discrimination against Muslims and Americans of South Asian and Arab descent.”

The report — part of what the UN Human Rights Council calls its “Universal Periodic Review,” in which countries grade their own human rights records — is both ludicrous and offensive. Let’s take them in order.

The report reads like a term paper by a very earnest and very politically correct college freshman. After a few perfunctory words of praise for America in the introduction, the rest of the document is a catalogue of terrible liberal sins that are being washed away by wonderful liberal solutions, including (but not restricted to) ObamaCare; the recently passed financial reform law; suing Arizona for its law aimed to curb illegal immigration; the first White House Adviser on Violence Against Women; the “formation of the 9/11 Backlash Taskforce”; an internal review of the Justice Department’s 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies; a commitment to “protecting the rights of incarcerated persons … including the right to practice their religion”; and of course — who could ever forget? — President Obama’s hosting “a historic summit with nearly 400 tribal leaders to develop a policy agenda for Native Americans where he emphasized his commitment to regular and meaningful consultation with tribal officials regarding federal policy decisions that have tribal implications.”

Gems like these can be found on virtually every page.

The offensive element of this report is that human rights is a deeply serious matter that should be treated in a serious, scholarly way. For the Obama administration to corrupt the cause of human rights in such a flagrant, stupid manner is troubling.

It is also evidence of a particular cast of mind, one that is eager to undermine America’s moral standing in the world. That has been a consistent effort by the current administration. We have seen if from the president, who seems to take special delight in denigrating our country before the rest of the world, and those such as Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, who went out of his way to assure us that in discussions with China about human rights, the Arizona law against illegal immigration was brought up “up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”

The report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, then, is of a piece. It is yet more evidence that when the president and his administration scan the world for human rights violations, they are irresistibly drawn back to the grave injustices they believe have been and are being perpetrated by America.

It is an unprecedented and alarming thing to witness — an administration that is not only unwilling to defend the United States but seems to take great joy and satisfaction in undermining her.

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Pack It Up, Inspector Javert

Not only witty conservative bloggers are calling for Patrick Fitzgerald to hang it up. In the wake of Blago’s largely hung jury, it has dawned on many more that the prosecutor is more persecutor and a menace to the justice system. The Wall Street Journal reminds us of Fitzgerald’s presser two years ago:

Then, the U.S. Attorney spoke of “what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree” and accused Blagojevich of “the most appalling conduct” that would have “Lincoln roll over in his grave.” It was “a truly new low,” Mr. Fitzgerald told the world. … As the former Justice Department lawyer Victoria Toensing noted in these pages at the time, Mr. Fitzgerald violated prosecutorial ethics by speaking “beyond the four corners of the complaint,” to use the criminal law vernacular for the facts at issue, thus possibly tainting the jury pool.

As the WSJ editors point out, this is not an isolated occurrence. There is a pattern at work here — smear and intimidate, throw whatever charges you can at the vilified defendant, and see what the jury will buy:

At a 2005 press conference, Mr. Fitzgerald implied that Mr. Libby had obstructed his investigation into who leaked the former CIA analyst’s name, even though he knew from the start that the real “leaker” was Richard Armitage.

Then there was the railroading of Conrad Black, the conservative newspaper baron who was convicted in 2007 using the infinitely malleable “honest services” fraud law. The Supreme Court junked much of that law earlier this year, leading to Mr. Black’s release from prison. The jury had earlier dismissed nine of the 13 charges Mr. Fitzgerald filed.

Fitzgerald is lacking in the very qualities we must demand of prosecutors: discretion and restraint. The Washington Post editors recognize this in their well-taken objection to Blago’s retrial:

Mr. Fitzgerald is entitled under the law to drag the ex-governor back into court. He has the resources to do so and the motivation: The Blagojevich brand of politics is repugnant, beyond any doubt. It perverts democracy and puts moneyed interests over the common good. But the prosecutor took his shot and lost. He should stand down before crossing another fine line — the one that separates prosecution from persecution.

Because Fitzgerald can’t or won’t recognize the difference between the two, it’s time for him to pack it in, albeit much too late for Scooter Libby and Conrad Black. One final thought: had the extent of Fitzgerald’s abuse of power been clear at the time, would President Bush have withheld a full pardon from Libby? We don’t know, but all this is further evidence of the need to rethink the notion of “special prosecutors,” who by definition are freed from the restraints that prevent ordinary prosecutors from running amok and abusing their power.

Not only witty conservative bloggers are calling for Patrick Fitzgerald to hang it up. In the wake of Blago’s largely hung jury, it has dawned on many more that the prosecutor is more persecutor and a menace to the justice system. The Wall Street Journal reminds us of Fitzgerald’s presser two years ago:

Then, the U.S. Attorney spoke of “what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree” and accused Blagojevich of “the most appalling conduct” that would have “Lincoln roll over in his grave.” It was “a truly new low,” Mr. Fitzgerald told the world. … As the former Justice Department lawyer Victoria Toensing noted in these pages at the time, Mr. Fitzgerald violated prosecutorial ethics by speaking “beyond the four corners of the complaint,” to use the criminal law vernacular for the facts at issue, thus possibly tainting the jury pool.

As the WSJ editors point out, this is not an isolated occurrence. There is a pattern at work here — smear and intimidate, throw whatever charges you can at the vilified defendant, and see what the jury will buy:

At a 2005 press conference, Mr. Fitzgerald implied that Mr. Libby had obstructed his investigation into who leaked the former CIA analyst’s name, even though he knew from the start that the real “leaker” was Richard Armitage.

Then there was the railroading of Conrad Black, the conservative newspaper baron who was convicted in 2007 using the infinitely malleable “honest services” fraud law. The Supreme Court junked much of that law earlier this year, leading to Mr. Black’s release from prison. The jury had earlier dismissed nine of the 13 charges Mr. Fitzgerald filed.

Fitzgerald is lacking in the very qualities we must demand of prosecutors: discretion and restraint. The Washington Post editors recognize this in their well-taken objection to Blago’s retrial:

Mr. Fitzgerald is entitled under the law to drag the ex-governor back into court. He has the resources to do so and the motivation: The Blagojevich brand of politics is repugnant, beyond any doubt. It perverts democracy and puts moneyed interests over the common good. But the prosecutor took his shot and lost. He should stand down before crossing another fine line — the one that separates prosecution from persecution.

Because Fitzgerald can’t or won’t recognize the difference between the two, it’s time for him to pack it in, albeit much too late for Scooter Libby and Conrad Black. One final thought: had the extent of Fitzgerald’s abuse of power been clear at the time, would President Bush have withheld a full pardon from Libby? We don’t know, but all this is further evidence of the need to rethink the notion of “special prosecutors,” who by definition are freed from the restraints that prevent ordinary prosecutors from running amok and abusing their power.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sounds like every pro-Israel organization and self-described pro-Israel candidate should be in agreement with Noah Pollak: “Congress funds 22 percent of the [UN Human Rights] Council’s activities. Is it right to collude in allowing a democratic ally to become an international punching bag for activists who are only prevented from treating us the same way by virtue of our greater power? And should the United States help promote the idea that one of the most important and effective national security tools we employ — targeted killings — is an act of state terrorism that must be prosecuted by international courts? … It is time that the administration abandoned the Council. And it is time that Congress stopped funding it.”

Sounds like Nixon: “The hypocrisy of the Obama Justice Department has reached staggering proportions on a host of issues stemming from the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case. Such systemic evasion of justice breeds lawlessness. The Justice Department’s latest thumb in the eye of its critics came in an Aug. 11 letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Sounds like the Big Apple is part of second America: “A majority of New Yorkers remain opposed to a mosque proposed as part of a planned Islamic cultural center near ground zero and the issue will be a factor for many voters this fall, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday. The Siena College poll showed 63 percent of New York voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 percent supporting it.”

Sounds like the rest of California: “The city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times. … The loans raise new questions about how officials were compensated in Bell. The Times revealed last month that top city administrators were among the highest paid in the nation, sparking outrage and investigations by both L.A. County prosecutors and the California attorney general. Rizzo’s contract for this year called for him to receive more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits. The loans appear to have come on top of that compensation.”

Sounds like Milton Friedman: “Almost every action the president has taken has deepened and lengthened the downturn. … His policies are anti-investment, anti-jobs, and anti-growth. Raising taxes — with a 15 percent hike on certain small business corporations, new taxes to pay for ObamaCare, and an increase on the dividend tax from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent — depresses new investment throughout the economy.” Worth reading in full; Mitt Romney appears ready to roll in 2012.

Sounds like Barney Frank is spitting mad: “President Obama, whom I greatly admire … when the economic recovery bill — we’re supposed to call it the ‘recovery bill,’ not the ‘stimulus’ bill; that’s what the focus groups tell us — he predicted or his aides predicted at the time that if it passed, unemployment would get under 8 percent. … That was a dumb thing to do.” Focus groups at the White House — how Clintonian!

Sounds like Charlie Crist is taking political lessons from Obama and Pelosi: “Crist recently refunded a $9,600 contribution from Jim Greer, the indicted former Republican Party of Florida chairman. ‘He asked for it back, so I gave it to him,’ said Crist. But Crist said that doesn’t apply to anyone who asks for a refund. Asked what was different about Greer, Crist said, ‘I think he really needed it.'” The rest of the donors will just spend it on dumb things like groceries, mortgages, family vacations, and Marco Rubio, you see.

Sounds like every pro-Israel organization and self-described pro-Israel candidate should be in agreement with Noah Pollak: “Congress funds 22 percent of the [UN Human Rights] Council’s activities. Is it right to collude in allowing a democratic ally to become an international punching bag for activists who are only prevented from treating us the same way by virtue of our greater power? And should the United States help promote the idea that one of the most important and effective national security tools we employ — targeted killings — is an act of state terrorism that must be prosecuted by international courts? … It is time that the administration abandoned the Council. And it is time that Congress stopped funding it.”

Sounds like Nixon: “The hypocrisy of the Obama Justice Department has reached staggering proportions on a host of issues stemming from the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case. Such systemic evasion of justice breeds lawlessness. The Justice Department’s latest thumb in the eye of its critics came in an Aug. 11 letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Sounds like the Big Apple is part of second America: “A majority of New Yorkers remain opposed to a mosque proposed as part of a planned Islamic cultural center near ground zero and the issue will be a factor for many voters this fall, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday. The Siena College poll showed 63 percent of New York voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 percent supporting it.”

Sounds like the rest of California: “The city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times. … The loans raise new questions about how officials were compensated in Bell. The Times revealed last month that top city administrators were among the highest paid in the nation, sparking outrage and investigations by both L.A. County prosecutors and the California attorney general. Rizzo’s contract for this year called for him to receive more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits. The loans appear to have come on top of that compensation.”

Sounds like Milton Friedman: “Almost every action the president has taken has deepened and lengthened the downturn. … His policies are anti-investment, anti-jobs, and anti-growth. Raising taxes — with a 15 percent hike on certain small business corporations, new taxes to pay for ObamaCare, and an increase on the dividend tax from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent — depresses new investment throughout the economy.” Worth reading in full; Mitt Romney appears ready to roll in 2012.

Sounds like Barney Frank is spitting mad: “President Obama, whom I greatly admire … when the economic recovery bill — we’re supposed to call it the ‘recovery bill,’ not the ‘stimulus’ bill; that’s what the focus groups tell us — he predicted or his aides predicted at the time that if it passed, unemployment would get under 8 percent. … That was a dumb thing to do.” Focus groups at the White House — how Clintonian!

Sounds like Charlie Crist is taking political lessons from Obama and Pelosi: “Crist recently refunded a $9,600 contribution from Jim Greer, the indicted former Republican Party of Florida chairman. ‘He asked for it back, so I gave it to him,’ said Crist. But Crist said that doesn’t apply to anyone who asks for a refund. Asked what was different about Greer, Crist said, ‘I think he really needed it.'” The rest of the donors will just spend it on dumb things like groceries, mortgages, family vacations, and Marco Rubio, you see.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ‘That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.'”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ‘That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.'”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

Read Less




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