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December 19th, 2013 at 1:22 pm
Trey Gowdy on Benghazi

… and on the press’ dereliction of duty. This is what more vulgar people would use a word starting with the letter after “E”, and then then word “awesome,” to describe. 

 

December 13th, 2013 at 1:55 pm
Ryan’s Rope and Boehner’s Blunder

At NRO this week, I made it clear that I really don’t like Paul Ryan’s budget deal. I now rush in to urge everybody, on all sides on the right, not to over-react. This admonition applies to Speaker John Boehner, too.

Background: While I haven’t always thought Boehner has strategized brilliantly or played his tactical cards wisely, I also think conservatives have frequently gone way overboard in portraying him as some sort of outrageous sellout, “squish,” or (in some cases) flat-out enemy. The man has very solid ratings from the American Conservative Union, and he is a far more effective, and far more conservative, Speaker than Dennis Hastert was; and in many ways he is steadier than Newt Gingrich was.

I’ve also been, over the course of many years, one of Paul Ryan’s foremost advocates, and while I have been far less happy with him this year, my prior post on him (before this deal) was far more in support than opposed.

The point is that I think both Ryan and Boehner are, or at least usually have been, trying their hardest, legitimately, to achieve conservative goals. I mostly do not question their intentions (although both are showing worrisome signs even on that front, but that’s for another day’s discussion), but I do question some of their decisions.

I also think Boehner has very good reason to feel very, very angry at the conservative groups that have portrayed him as being just this side of the devil incarnate, utterly failing to modulate their criticism to match the severity (or lack thereof) of his alleged crimes against ideological purity. It is an axiom of politics that if you treat somebody as an enemy, as the groups have treated Boehner, then eventually he actually starts seeing himself as your enemy — and treats you accordingly. (Conservatives did this to John McCain in the late 1990s, when his only apostasy was on campaign finance, taking positions that most conservatives had taken as recently as six years earlier, before George Will made opposition to McCain-like efforts a cause celebre. McCain was wrong, but he was otherwise solidly conservative and saw himself as one, until conservatives started treating him as an outright pariah — which of course, with his awful temperament, caused him to become increasingly opposed to us on all sorts of issues.)

None of which, though, excuses Boehner’s public conniption fits this week. Boehner’s job as a national leader on the right is to pull people together, not drive them apart. His job is to make it easier to unify to win elections, not to drive wedges that exacerbate cannibalism on the right. He should be trying to bring activists in, not drive them away.

And in this case, he also was wrong on substance in way overstating the case that Ryan’s deal is a win for conservatives and a move towards smaller government. Even if one accepts all of Ryan’s numbers — which, as I explained in the column linked above, are bogus numbers — the deficit reduction over ten years ($23 billion, or a paltry $2.3 billion per year) would amount to extremely small potatoes. The fact — and it is a fact — that the claimed reduction involves lots of smoke and mirrors makes the vehemence of Boehner’s claims even more out of line.

As for Ryan, I actually do think he sincerely thinks he has gotten the best deal he can. (He knows darn well, however, that he is using a lot of gimmicks to make the deal look better to conservatives than it actually is. So he’s not being fully honest — again — and he is also helping feed the impression that conservative hard-liners are unreasonable, which is a counterproductive impression for the long-term cause of good government.) But I think he was not just wrong, but asinine, in shutting out his Senate counterpart (and longtime ally) Jeff Sessions from negotiations that should have included Sessions. What happens when one shuts out Senate conservatives is that there is nobody to raise a red flag when Senate-specific issues come up that really, really make a difference for conservative governance. In this case, Ryan allowed the deal to include an absolutely horrible waiver of Senate budget rules, to the effect that, despite his staff’s pitiful claims to the contrary, really will make it easier for taxes to be raised in the future.

All in all, despite my NRO column, I do not think this deal was an absolutely horrible one; it was merely bad, not horrific, and it was a comparatively minor deal, not a major one. But, as Fred Barnes correctly wrote, we gave up a great deal when we breached the budgetary sequester — and we got precious little in return for it.

In sum (after lots of one-hand/other-hand discussion — sorry!), while conservatives are rightly angry at yet another policy defeat, and while Boehner’s intemperate remarks — in effect, a declaration of war against some of the conservative activist groups — were extraordinarily unwise, it still behooves all of us to take deep breaths and try to gain some perspective. We now do so in the knowledge that Paul Ryan is playing macro-political games that put his personal ambitions above those of the conservative movement, and that Boehner has been pushed to the verge of a McCain-like, all-out-war against the movement. These are not good developments.

Conservatives now can do two things. In the short term, we can encourage senators to join Sessions and Mitch McConnell in opposition to Ryan’s deal. It might still be defeatable. For the long run, I repeat the call I made here two months ago for a summit on the right, to try to pull people together and strategize better. We have an extraordinary opportunity in 2014 for electoral gains, in response to the debacle of ObamaCare. It would be inexcusable for continued warfare on the right to destroy that opportunity. Constructive criticism is fine. Cannibalism isn’t.

December 5th, 2013 at 5:04 pm
Chaiters Never Win

Yesterday I was attacked in cyberprint, bizarrely and scurrilously,  by liberal professional race-baiter Jonathan Chait. Somehow, apparently, calling Barack Obama “haughty” makes me at least somewhat an “heir” to vicious slave overseers. I responded at NRO today, at length, but not in kind, instead trying to keep the debate on a constructive plane — with this being one of the key passages:

Chait gives far too little credit to conservatives under 50, to so many of us who grew up as admirers of the famously minority-friendly Jack Kemp, for being perfectly well aware of, and greatly saddened by, what he calls the “still-extant residue” of the more virulently racist society that once existed. If he would only look, he would find plenty of examples of conservative thinkers and writers expounding thoughtfully and sympathetically on problems still faced by black Americans and on the Right’s own failures to address them.

It’s hard to make progress in good faith when the other side refuses to assume you possess good faith to start with.

But in trying to stay on the topic of constructive race relations, I deliberately avoided a few other highly legitimate rebuttals or explanations that need saying but that didn’t serve my main points. Let me address them here.

First, consider the source. It is truly bizarre to be told by Fulminator X that it is off limits, supposedly because it is latently and effectively racist, to use somewhat harsh language to criticize a president who happens to be black, even if such language is less harsh than that used by Fulminator X to criticize a white president. How is it a sign of racial equality to treat a black president as a creature too fragile to be subject to mean, hateful words such as … er… “haughty”?

Consider my supposedly off-limits paragraph:

Every time decent people think the scandals and embarrassments circling Barack Obama will sink this presidency, we look up and see Obama still there — chin jutting out, countenance haughty, voice dripping with disdain for conservatives — utterly unembarrassed, utterly undeterred from any assertion of power he thinks he can get away with, tradition and propriety and the Constitution be damned. The man has no shame, no self-doubt, not a shred of humility, no sense that anybody else has legitimate reason to question him or hold any other point of view.

Now compare that to the breathtaking treatment, in Jonathan Chait’s most (in)famous essay ever, that Chait afforded George W. Bush:

I hate President George W. Bush…. I hate the way he walks–shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks–blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudopopulist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing– a way to establish one’s social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more…. … Conservatives believe liberals resent Bush in part because he is a rough-hewn Texan. In fact, they hate him because they believe he is not a rough-hewn Texan but rather a pampered frat boy masquerading as one, with his pickup truck and blue jeans serving as the perfect props to disguise his plutocratic nature…. …Bush is a dullard lacking any moral constraints in his pursuit of partisan gain, loyal to no principle save the comfort of the very rich, unburdened by any thoughtful consideration of the national interest, and a man who, on those occasions when he actually does make a correct decision, does so almost by accident.

But isn’t it such a shame that I called Obama “haughty?”

MOVING RIGHT ALONG….

The truly outlandish thing Chait writes is that it is “factually bizarre” — not even a strange opinion, but “factually” bizarre — to accuse Obama of being haughty and unembarrassed. (Somebody needs to explain to Chait that a “fact” is something inarguable, provable, not subject to disagreement.) Why? Because in a recent press conference Obama supposedly was (get THIS!) “profusely and even flamboyantly contrite.” Huh? Flamboyantly? I just re-read the press conference transcript, and it is full of mild acknowledgments that the ObamaCare web site isn’t working perfectly while all bracketed in an insistence that everything still is better than it seems and will get better still. While he mouthed several pro forma acceptances of responsibility — “it’s on me” — there were plenty of observers who noted that he didn’t always seem to really mean it.

To quote the ever-left Dana Milbank on the president’s attitude:

Even as he accepted responsibility for the debacle, he couldn’t resist transferring some blame to the assembled press (“the things that go right, you guys aren’t going to write about”) and to Republicans (“repeal, repeal, let’s get rid of this thing”).

But Obama seemed genuinely puzzled by the notion that his leadership may have been the cause.

Yet it is supposedly “factually bizarre” for me to fail to appreciate this president’s supposedly self-evident humility. Right. Look, if I were the only one who finds Obama generally haughty and self-referential, that would be one thing. But a Google search would quickly produce hundreds and hundreds of similar judgments.

I could go on.  But the takeout should be this: Just as Obama’s skin color should play no role in any criticism of him, nor should it shield him from criticism, much less to accuse his critics of the ultimate political sin of some version of racism.

Maybe somebody should tell Chait that, to stoop to such unfair insults rather than to engage in legitimate debate, one might be charged with being a “dullard lacking any moral constraint.”

November 21st, 2013 at 3:03 pm
Destroy the Country! Yeah, That’s It!!!!

For a while I thought the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart might turn out to be one of those increasingly rare birds, a thoughtful and constructive and fair-minded liberal. I was wrong. Today, Capehart has a column entitled — I kid you not — “The GOP is out to destroy the country.” Now Capehart obviously knows this is a cheap shot, so he tries to have it both ways, in the have-cake-eat-too mode, by immediately labeling his own headline “rather hyperbolic” and then, in the very same lead paragraph, writing that the headline actually does “seem appropriate” because, as he goes on to explain, those meanie Republicans just don’t want to let Obama “move this nation forward.”

Egads. Since when do we need a president to move our nation forward? Lord forbid that we need a president or a government to move American forward. I thought that was our job as individuals, while government was just there to protect us and ensure our basic freedoms. I guess I made the mistake of actually studying and understanding American political theory and history, while the morally superior folks like Capehart knew they could put all that aside and instead assume a class of elite managers in Washington is best able to move us forward because we just are too inept to do so on our own.

Ignoring any policy proposals he doesn’t like allows Capehart to blast Republicans for “failing to have viable alternative proposals worthy of national debate.” Note the qualifiers. And who, pray tell, gets to decide what is “viable” or not and what is “worthy of debate”? None other than lefties like Capehart. Never mind that Republicans and conservatives for years have pushed policy alternatives on just about every important national issue under the sun, only to be — if one applies his own terminology to his side as well as ours — “blocked” by the “obstruction” of Democrats.

Calling for the parties to work together (by which he obviously means Republicans should work to do what Democrats want), Capehart on one hand blames Republicans for poisoning the well while on the other hand doing some serious poisoning of his own by asserting as a stated fact, that “Half of the legislative branch is in thrall to a band of right-wing zealots unmoved by facts as much as they are motivated by hatred of the president.” Yeah, that’s it: Accuse the other side of nastiness while insulting it in ways you would never accept if aimed at you. That’s just a great way to promote healthy dialogue.

Somebody needs to teach Capehart some manners. And some civics lessons, too.

November 5th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
Friedman’s World Not Just Flat, but “Racist”

My former boss, Bob Livingston, sent the letter below to the New York Times on Oct. 31. The Times hasn’t published it, so I will. It speaks for itself:

Dear Editor,

Last night, I attended a very nice gathering of roughly 1000 Egyptians and Americans hosted by some wonderful people seeking to enhance commercial and educational relations between Egypt and the US.  For the most part, all of the speakers including your own illustrious Tom Friedman provided positive and uplifting messages of hope and cooperation.

I say for the most part, because there was one notable exception so unexpected and out of context that it was breathtaking.  By that I refer to Mr. Friedman’s categorical and unsupported declaration in his closing remarks that 80% of those who politically oppose the Obama administration’s policies are racially motivated.

As a staunch conservative Republican with multiple friends and business partners not of my own race, I was so shocked by his declaration that I practically fell off my chair.  None of the other speakers found any reason to discuss race relations in either country, so Mr. Friedman’s statement was gratuitous, contextually odd, and completely erroneous.

When the program was over, I approached him and told him exactly what I thought…in words and phrases of my old sailor days.  To his credit, he did not retreat from his position, convincing me that he is either far less intelligent than I thought, or else he saw this gathering as a chance to spread hateful bigotry to an international audience without contradiction.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Livingston

Member of Congress (Retired)

October 16th, 2013 at 4:11 pm
If I Were in the House of Reps…..

I would vote “no” on the Senate deal. I would insist that without a delay of at least six months in the ObamaCare individual mandate, I would not vote for it. In the end, it is the president who must make sure that the nation doesn’t go into default. He can only do so by meeting halfway with the House that holds the power of the purse. The failed ObamaCare rollout has proved that it makes no sense to require somebody to enroll in something they literally cannot enroll in, because the government isn’t ready to have them enroll. No, no, no.

October 15th, 2013 at 11:13 am
The Stuff of Nightmares

My wife is not often prone to nightmares. Indeed, so rare and mild are her nightmares that she has asked me NOT to wake her up if I hear indications that she is having one, UNLESS she seems like she is in abject terror for an extended period of time (i.e., not just for three or four seconds).

Late last week, after more than 15 seconds of hearing her cry out in absolute misery in her sleep, I figured those rare conditions applied, so I woke her up — and she was grateful that I did. She then went back to sleep.

But here’s the rub: When I asked her the next morning if she remembered what she had been dreaming about, she answered as only a company Treasurer/Human Resources chief could (she basically fills both roles for a family business). Her nightmare, she said, was about ObamaCare. Literally. In her dream, she kept getting caught up in the bowels of the Affordable Care Act’s endless pages of regulations, so much so that somehow all of those regulations seemed to be closing in on her and entrapping her and drowning her.

It was the worst nightmare she had had in years.

And it hasn’t ended for her, or any of us, since she woke up.

True story.

May 22nd, 2013 at 7:57 pm
Ashton Right, Mukasey Off (Slightly)

I agree with Ashton that it is a bad idea — an awful idea — to have the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division investigate the IRS scandal. I also agree with Ashton that in the short run, the best thing of all is to keep letting Congress (and the press) investigate this outrage, and let the body politic be the judge. In fact, that’s what Andy McCarthy argues today at National Review Online, with superb reasoning:

The Framers would have been astounded at the notion that Congress’s responsibility to ensure the proper working of government could be delegated to an unaccountable prosecutor. The paramount question is whether the government is out of control, not whether some mid-level official (or even a higher official) can be convicted by a jury.

Indeed, I think there is some agreement between Mukasey and McCarthy: Mukasey’s main point was not about who would conduct the criminal prosecution, but that a “special counsel” would be a bad idea. I agree. Only if it is later decided to open a criminal investigation, says Mukasey, should it then be determined who best to conduct such an investigation. But as McCarthy writes, a criminal investigation makes it easier to keep things secret from the public. That’s the opposite of what good citizens should want right now.

As Ashton says (which makes it unanimous!), “Best for the House to continue exercising its oversight responsibilities until they find some smoking guns.” Or, I would add, until a situation that might develop where smoking guns seem likely to be found, but only a criminal investigation could show exactly where the smoke is coming from. (I hope that metaphor works.)

So, to review: Congress and the press, only, for the time being. A “special prosecutor,” probably never. On that, we all agree. The only place Mukasey goes afield is in who should conduct a criminal investigation if one finally is required. The Civil Rights Division? As Ashton says, perish the thought.

May 22nd, 2013 at 12:13 pm
Christian Adams Last Night in Mobile

Last night, I had the pleasure of introducing former Justice Department whistleblower J. Christian Adams at his speech to the Mobile chapter of the Federalist Society. Ace reporter Brendan Kirby of the Mobile Press-Register wrote about the event here.

Adams was superb. It is well worth reading his book, Injustice, about the corruption at the Obama/Holder Justice Department.

In my introduction, by the way, I told the story about the first time I tried to talk to Adams, while he was still at DoJ:

You should know, though, that the first time I ever spoke to Christian, he said he couldn’t talk to me and sent me to a Justice Department press flack named Schmaler, who proceeded to yell and curse at me like a Greek fury before I ever had two very polite sentences out of my mouth.

Tracy Schmaler would later go on to be identified in numerous news accounts as almost habitually yelling at other reporters as well. And now, as of a couple of days ago, she is in the news again:

In addition to Burke’s involvement in leaking the document, emails the IG uncovered show senior officials at the Department of Justice discussed smearing Dodson.

One of those was Tracy Schmaler, the Director of the Department’s Office of Public Affairs, who resigned her position at the DOJ after emails uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request showed that she worked with leftwing advocacy group Media Matters for America to smear whistleblowers and members of Congress and the media who sought to investigate DOJ scandals under Attorney General Eric Holder.

To complete the circle, this is not the first time Schmaler — who now works for Obama hardball political maestro David Axelrod — has been shown to have been part of a smear campaign. She earlier had been found, via e-mails, to have smeared Justice Department attorneys while they still worked for the department. One of those attorneys: J. Christian Adams.

May 22nd, 2013 at 11:17 am
Benghazi, in Short Form and in Long

The Heritage Foundation has a strong 2-minute video about the Benghazi affair, well worth watching. And I have a 2,000-word piece that explains, in detail, why it really is a scandal, and why the media is, as usual, focusing on the wrong things. An excerpt:

In both Fast and Furious and in Benghazi, the result of the administration’s incompetence (or worse) was that people died. (Lots of people.) When an administration tries to cover up the real reasons people died, that alone usually makes it a scandal by the usual Washington Post/establishment media standards. When the administration threatens or punishes those who try to correct the record, it’s more than a scandal; it’s almost always criminal.

What the Post calls conservatives “obsess[ing]” over Benghazi is actually, by all prior standards, an eminently reasonable insistence that corruption be outed and reversed. The State Department’s mendacious, 12-step emasculation of the Benghazi talking points, for political purposes related to maintaining an already ongoing lie about an Internet video, is just one part of a long series of Libya-related actions that together amount to a serious corruption of our political system.

If there was nothing to hide, why was Mr. Hicks so maltreated?

May 20th, 2013 at 6:18 pm
Frightening New Report of Obamite Harassment

At NRO today, Jillian Kay Melchior has a very important story about how the leaders of one of my favorite organizations, what I have described as “the heroic True the Vote” group, have been harassed by not one, not two, not three, but four separate federal agencies that had never before done anything to look even slightly askance at those leaders — never, that is, until just after True the Vote was formed. The IRS, the FBI, the ATF, and OSHA all have made life miserable for True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht and her husband, Bryan.

The situation escalated in 2012. That February, True the Vote received a third request for information from the IRS, which also sent its first questionnaire to King Street Patriots. Catherine says the IRS had “hundreds of questions — hundreds and hundreds of questions.” The IRS requested every Facebook post and Tweet she had ever written. She received questions about her family, whether she’d ever run for political office, and which organizations she had spoken to.

Read the whole thing. It is mind-boggling. It is frightening. It is a story about government tyranny. It is sickening.

At CFIF alone, I have written about True the Vote here and here and here. The group does a wonderful job fighting against vote fraud, while carefully staying well within all legal bounds itself.  For daring to help empower ordinary citizens to act as watchdogs against incompetent or corrupt government, Catherine Engelbrecht has now been treated by multiple organs of government as if she is a criminal, maybe even dangerous.

This must not stand. MUST….. NOT….. STAND.

May 19th, 2013 at 4:15 pm
Artur Davis: Don’t Dismiss These Scandals

Former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis has done a smart, well-reasoned analysis of the underlying meaning(s) of Barack Obama’s week of scandals. He rightly notes that “Obama’s administration struggles mightily with the threshold concept of accountability.”

And:

The emerging argument, which seems to be that the Obama White House was detached enough to rely on the expertise of its department heads to resolve the dilemmas around each event in the current spotlight, would sound strained even if it came during a presidency that was famously disengaged….

More fundamentally, the “we left it to our division heads defense” would not excuse any executive leadership in the public or private sector from the imperative of setting values and standards of conduct for decisions made inside the organization’s own walls, and policing the extent to which those standards survive.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that at a minimum, if you credit its defense, that this government seems more rudderless than could have been imagined eleven days ago.

Also of great note, Davis rightly focuses on a supremely important facet of the Benghazi scandal that the establishment media seems to have willfully ignored, even though it is one of the most despicable aspects of the administration’s longer-term response to the attack:

Even if one buys the rationalization that Benghazi was only so much internecine backbiting between two old rivals, the State Department and CIA, that rationalization entirely omits the evidence that a career diplomat was punished for raising internal questions about security in advance of the Libyan attack, as well as about the unofficial chronicle, or “talking points”, regarding what led to the assault. What kind of leadership is oblivious to the immediate fortunes of a reasonably high ranking whistleblower?

Of course, this is hardly the first time that this administration has tried to bully whistleblowers. They did it to Justice Department whistleblowers J. Christian Adams and Christopher Coates; they did it to five (!) different Inspectors General; and they at the very least undermined a whistleblower in the St. Paul, Minnesota case that has so badly (and rightly) harmed the confirmation prospects for Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez.

Anyway, Davis has a lot of other insights well worth reading in his post.

May 17th, 2013 at 4:08 pm
The Left’s Two Canards About the IRS Scandal

A friend who wishes to remain nameless, somebody without known connection to the stories herein, first  identified the two “canards” I discuss below.

The background is this: In addition to deliberately targeting conservative groups to keep them from receiving tax-exempt status, the IRS also — according to an increasing number of reports — was also increasingly harassing existing conservative groups with invasive, expensive audits, no matter how thin (or non-existent) the reasons for suddenly claiming an audit was appropriate. It turns out that the good folks at the venerable Leadership Institute were among those targeted for such an audit, as LI reports here.

What the IRS asked the Leadership Institute

Copies of applications for internships and summer programs; to include: lists of those selected for internships and students in 2008.
– In regards to such internships, please provide information regarding where the interns physically worked and how the placement was arranged.
– After completing internships and courses, where were the students and interns employed?……

This is just one of the examples LI gives in its report of the obnoxious and irrelevant data demanded by the IRS. It’s also chilling: What was the IRS planning to do with its list of names?

Quote from LI founder and president Morton Blackwell: ”

“The IRS’ indefensible behavior is worse than we first thought, as it targeted both new and existing conservative groups in politically motivated attacks,” said Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute. “Fortunately my Leadership Institute had the resources to stand up to the government’s bullying and intimidation. Other groups, including grassroots and tea party groups we’ve helped train, did not.  Defending ourselves from the harassing audit cost my organization more than $50,000 in legal fees alone.”

This is inexcusable. Anybody who has ever dealt with Morton Blackwell knows just how fastidiously he has observed all relevant regulations for the more than three decades LI has been in operation. He will not discuss partisan political organizing on his LI email. As the longtime Republican National Committeeman from Virginia, Blackwell is well known for leaving LI’s offices to go use a phone elsewhere in order to avoid using LI phone lines when on RNC calls. Again and again and again, Blackwell has made clear to everybody at LI, and all those who deal with him while he is in LI offices, that certain rules prohibit LI from direct partisan or overtly political activity. After thirty years of this, surely the IRS should have known this about the IRS.

Nonetheless, the audit came. And it was unlawfully invasive. Indeed, so obsessed was the IRS with LI that it even demanded the following from The Hawaii Tea Party in a January 26, 2012 letter: “Provide details regarding your relationship with the Leadership Institute. Provide copies of their training material.”

Huh? Why is a Hawaii Tea Party being asked about connections with LI, as if LI is some nefarious organization? This is sickening.

NOW, HERE’S THE RUB: There have been two excuses offered by hardened lefties for why (they say) the IRS scandal isn’t really much of a scandal at all. First is the idea that the poor overworked IRS employees were just trying to figure how to deal with such a huge surge in 501(c)(4) applications and that it was all these new requests that caused the problem. But… the audits of LI and others (granted, the audits came from a different division, but that means there should be ANOTHER investigation, of those) had nothing to do with new applications. And, as this story shows, even the new applications weren’t rising. So this whole excuse completely falls apart.

Secondly, to quote my aforementioned friend: “LI is a 501c3. The other lefty narrative has been that this is about 501c4s, these legal structures that have a new life since Citizens United. Lefty legal people say ‘501c3 law is SO WELL UNDERSTOOD and NO ONE UNDERSTANDS 501c4 law.’ So the Citizens United thing is a canard. This is just about using the IRS to intimidate enemies.”

I hope that makes sense. In other words, the argument that the IRS officials were confused because they were dealing with different regs (the c4 ones) than they were accustomed to (the c3 ones) is absurd, at least as far as the audits of LI and others were concerned — because LI was a c3!

Finally, it’s worth noting that the 501(c)(4) spending was not, despite Obama’s and others’ complaints, driven by the famous Citizens United case that Obama loves to castigate; instead, even according to the left’sown favorite election-related lawyer, Rick Hasen, that spending rose as a result of the Wisconsin Right to Life case from two years earlier.

In all, there remains no excuse for the targeting of Tea Parties, of other conservative organizations, or the auditing of conservative organizations and individuals. All the excuses offered so far are as thin as gossamer, and not even as strong.

May 14th, 2013 at 6:00 pm
True the Vote Among Those Targeted by IRS

In the second update today on items I wrote about last week, it turns out that what I described as the “heroic organization True the Vote” was one of those conservative groups targeted by the IRS. The Washington Post, in an eye-opening report co-written by my old friend Juliet Eilperin (yes, conservatives can have liberal friends), confirmed the apparent abuse of True the Vote  while showing the IRS scandal extends well beyond “low level IRS employees in Cincinnati.”

True the Vote is dedicated to careful and fair application of voting laws. It should be praised, not targeted for abuse by rogue bureaucrats (or by the administration that employs them).

May 14th, 2013 at 5:48 pm
Chevron Keeps Fighting Back

My column last week included yet another update on the long-running dispute between the oil giant Chevron and a group of apparently underhanded plaintiffs’ lawyers with regard to a rather obviously bogus lawsuit involving alleged Ecuadoran environmental damage.

Just a little update: Now Chevron isn’t just fighting back against the main plaintiffs’ lawyers and against corrupt judges in Ecuador, but also against the major DC law/lobby firm Patton-Boggs. This is serious stuff. Not to pre-judge the outcome of this counter-suit, but the very act of suing Patton-Boggs directly is a major and, I think, unusual step. Usually it’s not the firms themselves that get sued. Then again, rarely has a company been so abused as Chevron has been by the long-running lawsuit, so it should be no surprise that Chevron is looking absolutely everywhere it can to be “made whole.”

On the underlying case (not the specific claims against P-B), Chevron of course continues to prove its points, again and again and again. Chevron clearly has been wronged, and everybody, including Patton-Boggs, should acknowledge as much.

May 14th, 2013 at 5:10 pm
DeMint Supports Defense

Newly installed Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, former senator from South Carolina and favorite of conservatives just about everywhere, was in Mobile, AL last week to give  a speech for the superb Alabama Policy Institute. I wrote about it here.

But one part of my interview I did not write about last week (because it didn’t fit the main theme I was writing about) should give pause to those so-called conservatives, mostly younger ones, who seem blithely unconcerned (or at least only marginally concerned) with the continuing cutbacks in the U.S. defense budget.

I asked DeMint if he was more or less satisfied with how the battle over the budget “sequester” had played out. Frankly, I was not even thinking about defense, even though I have written that Republicans should have moved heaven and earth to protect defense from most of the effects of sequestration. When I asked the question, my assumption was that he would say he was largely satisfied with this interim step in the ongoing budget battles; my idea was to ask a follow-up question, based on the details of his response, about the bigger pictures of the larger, long-term budget problem.

I give that context only to show that I did not prompt DeMint in the slightest about defense. But here’s what he said, with his first words in response to my question:

“No, I’m not happy because so much was taken out of defense.” Then, after about three sentences to say he also didn’t think sequestration did enough to restrain spending on matters other than defense, he returned to his original point: “We do need to go back and figure out if we have enough money for modernization of our defense forces. I don’t think we do.”

This is significant. DeMint is well-known as a spending cutter, a hero to small-government advocates, a budget balancer extraordinaire. Yet, given the chance to crow about how Republicans had won a political skirmish against Obama with regard to sequestration, DeMint’s first thought instead turned toward protecting our nation from foreign threats. Tea Partiers, younger conservatives, and the increasing strain of conservatives who tend toward isolationism all should pay heed.

The fact of the matter, as Frederick W. Kagan wrote in the May 6 National Review (and as the good folks at The Weekly Standard have repeatedly argued in theme if not in the following specific examples), the sequester directly has caused “the cancellation of scheduled deployments of eight U.S. Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier destined for the Persian Gulf, and the grounding of 17 U.S. Air Force squadrons,” resulting in “a devastating blow to American global credibility just when our enemies and friends are watching most closely.” We thus have “created a window in 2013 during which the United States will have no aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf,” thus leading the Iranian Revolutionary Guard publication Mashregh to exult that this move gives the lie to any perceived threat of American military force (if Iran suddenly brings to full fruition a nuclear weapons program).

Kagan described plenty of other dangerous effects on our defense forces as a result of sequestration, and explained why it is that President Obama has far less ability to move funds among Pentagon accounts (and thus to avoid some of these ill effects) than is widely assumed.

Kagan is correct, as is DeMint. It’s long past time for conservatives to start again recalling, and acting on, those once-prominent parts of our beliefs, growing from our Goldwater-Reagan roots, that always have placed a strong national defense posture front and center among public-policy imperatives.

May 14th, 2013 at 12:18 pm
Meanwhile, on Tom Perez…..

(Note: This is the first of either three or four blog posts coming today, on different subjects. LOTS going on. Please keep coming back to this site today and tomorrow….)

Okay, first, there are several important developments regarding Tom Perez, whose nomination for Labor Secretary is slated, after several delays, for a committee vote this week.

First, Republican opposition to Perez seems to be stiffening, with several senators coming out definitively, or in some cases more strongly than they already have, against his nomination. Most significant was the stout statement last week by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.:

“He is a committed ideologue who appears willing, quite frankly, to say or do anything to achieve his ideological ends.

“His willingness, time and again, to bend or ignore the law and to misstate the facts in order to advance his far-left ideology lead me and others to conclude that he’d continue to do so if he were confirmed to another, and much more consequential, position of public trust……

“Mr. Perez, however, does not merely push the envelope; all too often, he circumvents or ignores a law with which he disagrees.

“A few examples:

“As a member of the Montgomery County Council, Mr. Perez pushed through a county policy that encouraged the circumvention of federal immigration law. Later, as head of the federal government’s top voting-rights watchdog, he refused to protect the right to vote for Americans of all races, in violation of the very law he was charged to enforce. In the same post at the Department of Justice, Mr. Perez directed the federal government to sue against the advice of career attorneys at his own office. In another case involving a Florida woman who was lawfully exercising her First Amendment right to protest an abortion clinic, the federal judge who threw out Mr. Perez’s lawsuit said he was ‘at a loss as to why the government chose to prosecute this particular case’ in the first place.

“This is what pushing the envelope means in the case of Mr. Perez: a flippant and dismissive attitude about the boundaries that everybody else has to follow for the sake of the liberal causes he believes in.

“In short, it means a lack of respect for the rule of law – and a lack of respect for the need of those in positions of power to follow it…..

“[He is] a crusading ideologue whose conviction about his own rightness on the issues leads him to believe the law does not apply to him. Unbound by the rules that apply to everyone else, Mr. Perez seems to view himself as free to employ whatever means at his disposal, legal or otherwise, to achieve his ideological goals.

“To say this is problematic would be an understatement.

McConnell is hardly the only Republican senator to speak out. The list now includes Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, along with previously announced opposition by Louisiana’s David Vitter.

NOW, PLEASE NOTE THIS: The single biggest issue in the short term should be Perez’ refusal to honor valid congressional subpoenas, about actions of his that certainly appear to be flagrantly illegal. And even Democrat Elijah Cummings agrees that Perez’s refusal should not stand:

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the committee that held the hearing, yesterday joined Representative Darrell Issa of California, the committee chairman, in sending letter to Perez requesting that he provide all personal e-mails used to conduct official business that were subpoenaed by the panel last month, and respond by the end of this week.

It is illegal for bureaucrats to use private email for government business. It is illegal for bureaucrats to ignore a congressional subpoena (except in certain, severely limited circumstances when officially claiming executive privilege, which cannot be the case here). It boggles the mind that somebody could still even have a chance of confirmation who has done both (and continues to do the latter). And it is astonishing, or should be astonishing, that the establishment media hasn’t heavily criticized Perez for these violations.

Also, former whistleblower Christian Adams is out with one more good argument about the the thuggishness of Mr. Perez, who abuses his authority at every turn:

When local sheriffs made the mistake of asking for guidance from Perez about how to implement the Alabama immigration law, Perez threatened them in a meeting. Memo to state and local officials everywhere: don’t ask for guidance from the DOJ Civil Rights Division. The radicals running the place will take advantage of your good faith and make demands of you that the law does not support.

Perez has also threatened election officials in Alabama, threatening to “bury” the state ”with paper” if Alabama did not give in. This is typical of the would-be Labor secretary. Under oath before Congress, he is all smiles, sunshine, and bluebirds; behind closed doors he is a thuggish progressive bureaucrat comfortable wielding power despite what the law says.

Adams will be speaking down here in Mobile next week to the local chapter of the Federalist Society. He promises to have much more to say about Perez during his remarks.

It is also worth reviewing a statement on the nomination by Judicial Watch, whose work has done so much to uncover the various examples of Perez’ perfidy.

Also, Hans von Spakovsky eviscerates Perez’ excuse for using his private emails, here.

Finally, even a youth organization is coming out against Perez, on pure policy grounds. See the statement of Generation Opportunity, here.

May 10th, 2013 at 4:17 pm
Wolf Whets Appetite for Benghazi Bipartisanship

For many months now, the excellent U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, has been calling for the appointment of a special “select” committee to investigate all aspects of the 9/11 catastrophe in Benghazi, Libya. In the wake of this week’s explosive hearings, Wolf renewed his call today in a letter to Speaker John Boehner. His argument always had made sense: “A thorough inquiry will require witnesses from across government – including the Defense Department, State Department, Intelligence Community, Justice Department and even the White House.  Only a Select Committee would be able to bring the cross-jurisdictional expertise and subpoena authority to compel answers from these agencies.” Also: “It’s worth restating that the committee would be bipartisan, thereby putting an end to misguided criticism from some that this investigation is only being done for political reasons.”

Wolf’s arguments always have made sense. It’s not that Chairman Darrel Issa’s committee has been doing a bad job — far from it — but it is just a reality that the media has treated Issa’s inquiry as being partisan, and also that a select committee would have the advantages of sole focus and of cross-jurisdictional authority.

Today, the Wall Street Journal endorsed the idea, and it closed with a particularly strong argument:

“Mr. Boehner said on Thursday that the administration should release its email communications on Benghazi, but it won’t do so unless they are subpoenaed. Frank Wolf, one of the House’s most senior members, has it right. Benghazi’s explanation deserves the best effort elected officials can give it, and the right vehicle is a Select Committee with subpoena power and deposition authority.”

Those emails, by the way, are almost certainly the key. Boehner has been right to focus on them. As Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said in the past 24 hours, what really is important is not just whether there was a cover-up, but what was being covered up. What more can we learn about the State Department refusing multiple requests for added security in the months before the assault, and was the White House involved in those decisions. And, with what is more likely to have White House involvement, what about the now-confirmed story that rescuers were ready to at least try to fly to Benghazi, but were told to stand down? Who told them to stand down, and why? And where was Obama during all of this? Sleeping? Planning his fund-raising remarks for his trip to Las Vegas?

Anyway, a select committee can best look into all of this. As usual, Frank Wolf is right.

May 6th, 2013 at 4:23 pm
Firefighters Directly Oppose Tom Perez

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is, as I have reported here before, a radical’s radical. Now a large group of the heroic firefighters of New York City are taking him on. The head of the group, Paul Mannix, blasted Perez conduct on multiple fronts  – and then, in opposing a favorite, radical political theory of Perez, Mannix put it plainly: “Disparate impact and [racial and gender] proportionalism for its own sake is going to get people killed.” Perez, however, has shown repeatedly he thinks public safety should take a back seat to his favorite racial spoils system. Senators might want to take note.

April 27th, 2013 at 11:12 am
More Writers, Groups Blast Thomas Perez

The excellent Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute takes on Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez here. CATO’s superb constitutional expert Ilya Shapiro does so in a post whose headline calls Perez “all that is bad with government.”  Merit Matters, representing the finest of the FDNY, does so here. James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation weighed in, too. And there have been lots of others.

And George Talbot of the Mobile Press-Register reports a hugely disturbing story of Perez threatening Alabama sheriffs. Please read this one: Is it even lawful for a federal official to threaten sheriffs not to enforce a duly passed law that hasn’t been blocked by the courts?

Perez is a lout.