Author Archive
March 12th, 2013 at 2:51 pm
Inspector General Blitzes Obama-Holder-Perez Civil Rights Division

A new report is hot off the presses. Virginia’s veteran U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, whose admirable pressure was largely responsible in the first place for the DoJ Inspector General to open an investigation into the department’s Civil Rights Division, just put out a release describing it:



Long-Awaited Report Details Dysfunction Within Human Rights Division

Washington, D.C. (March 12, 2013) – Following the long-awaited release of a report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General on abuses within the Civil Rights Division of DOJ, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today called on the Attorney General to appoint an outside panel to conduct a review of all officials and correct the systemic dysfunction that exists within the division.

Today’s report validates the concerns Wolf raised in 2009 and 2010 about the politicization and inappropriate activities within the Civil Rights Division, including the dismissal of the New Black Panthers Philadelphia voting intimidation case and the subsequent investigation of this matter by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2010.

On Thursday, March 14, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who released today’s report, will testify before Wolf’s Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations subcommittee at 10 a.m. in H-309 in the Capitol.

Wolf’s full statement is below.

“I was deeply troubled, but hardly surprised, to learn from today’s report on the Justice Department’s Inspector General that very serious abuses and politicization are prevalent in the department’s Civil Rights Division.  The report makes clear that the division has become a rat’s nest of unacceptable and unprofessional actions, and even outright threats against career attorneys and systemic mismanagement.

“Above all, I believe that Attorney General Holder has failed in his leadership of this Justice Department.  As the head of the department, he alone bears ultimate responsibility for the serious abuses that occurred on his watch over the last four years.  Notably, the report also confirms that the attorney general was made aware of efforts to dismiss the voting rights case against the New Black Panther Party in 2009, which was apparently dismissed with his blessing.  Holder has failed the American people, and he must be held responsible for the prevailing dysfunction that has occurred under his leadership.

“Today, I am calling on Holder to immediately appoint an outside, independent panel, led by someone of integrity and experience like former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, to conduct a 60-day in-depth review of all officials, attorneys and policies within the division and make recommendations to the department and to the Congress on how to address the systematic dysfunction that has taken root within the division.

“Additionally, all of the individuals cited for improper conduct should be immediately removed and appropriate action should be taken.

“I take these issues very seriously, both because of my responsibilities as chairman of the House CJS Appropriations subcommittee, which funds the Justice Department, but also because I have been a stalwart supporter of voting rights enforcement.

“I was the only member of the Virginia congressional delegation – Republican or Democrat – to vote for the Voting Rights Act in 1982.  I was heavily criticized by state newspapers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, for my vote. I was criticized again by editorials in my district when I supported the Voting Rights Act extension in 2006, but I stuck by my vote because I strongly believe that voting is a sacrosanct and inalienable right of any democracy.

“I first contacted former Inspector General Glenn Fine in July 2009 to request this report.  Nearly four years after my request – and two inspectors general later – this report has finally been released.  Although I was disappointed the IG’s office was initially slow in its review of this case, the pace noticeably accelerated under the leadership of the current IG Michael Horowitz, who assumed this position last spring.  I appreciate Mr. Horowitz’s leadership and believe he has produced a good report.

“I was particularly disheartened by the dismissal of the New Black Panthers case by the Obama Justice Department.  The dismissal was wholeheartedly opposed by the four career attorneys managing the case, as well as the Division’s own appellate office, which is also staffed by career DOJ attorneys.  In a 2009 memo penned by career Appellate Chief Diana K. Flynn, she wrote that DOJ could make a ‘reasonable argument in favor of default relief against all defendants, and probably should.’  She further noted that the complaint’s purpose was ‘to prevent the paramilitary-style intimidation of voters, while leaving open ample opportunity for political expression.’

“Today’s IG report makes clear the degree to which politicization and mismanagement influenced the inexplicable dismissal of this case.  The Civil Rights Division should be beyond reproach, and in my capacity as CJS chairman I will continue to work to finally achieve an ethical, functioning Justice Department that Americans are once again proud of.”

March 12th, 2013 at 1:53 pm
Perez’ Perfidy

At The American Spectator today, I detail in exhaustive fashion the outlandish record of Justice Department official Thomas Perez, who is rumored to be President Obama’s choice to be Secretary of Labor. At NRO, the incomparable Peter Kirsanow provides even more details on an important aspect of that record.

Here’s part of Kirsanow’s:

The Civil Rights Division refused to answer 18 separate interrogatories pertaining to the substance of the NBPP case. The Division also failed to provide witness statements for twelve key witnesses and refused to respond to 22 requests for production of documents. Further, DOJ barred two Civil Rights Division attorneys from testifying before the commission (the two later defied the department and testified at considerable risk to their professional careers).

Here’s part of mine:

Perez has overseen most of the unprecedentedly naked politicizationof DoJ’s Civil Rights Division, as detailed in an exhaustive series of reports at PJ Media. In short, of 113 “career” (meaning supposedly apolitical) civil-service hires for the Civil Rights Division under Obama and (mostly) Perez, every one of those 113 weredemonstrably liberal activists. (The New York Times effectivelyconfirmed this report: “None of the new hires listed conservative organizations.”) In fact, many of them hailed from backgrounds with outfits such as the “Intersex Society of North America,” or wrote essays about “Genital Normalizing Surgery on Intersexed Infants,” or fiercely advocated the “rights” of prisoners in Arizona to perform Hawaiian chants and rituals. Since Dec. 3, 2009, Perez has insisted on personally approving each of these new hires.

He has aggressively continued a series of lawsuits against various municipal police and fire departments to try to force them to jettison written tests for membership – including a suit against the heroic Fire Department of New York in which the Obama team has argued in favor of what amounts to strict racial quotas – at the expense of public safety. Amazingly enough, Perez actually arguedthat black firefighter applicants who fail 70 percent (!!!!) of the entrance exam still be admitted to the fire academy.

From what I hear, more on Perez, quite devastating, might be coming out as early as this afternoon.

March 11th, 2013 at 11:07 am
Bama School Choice Battle Brewing

In Alabama two weeks ago, the state Legislature pulled an old switcheroo in conference committee to push through a sweeping but focused statewide school choice bill. The bill provides a tuition tax credit (refundable) to any students in districts where there are officially “failing” schools, to attend any school, public or private, of their choice (assuming they meet any other eligibility requirements). It also allows individuals and businesses to take a tax credit for donations to what amounts to a scholarship fund, to be used for the same purpose.

The problem is, the “choice” elements of the bill were not part of the original bill in the state House or the state Senate (instead, it was a narrower “school flexibility” bill, good in itself, but not involving any widespread parental choice). The broader elements of the bill were appended to the bill in conference committee, with almost no debate, and then rushed through both the House and Senate floors with almost no debate, but with huge majorities.

The state education union filed suit, claiming the procedures used violated both the state Constitution and the sate’s unique “Open Meetings” law. While I don’t discuss the constitutional issue here (I don’t think the complaint holds water), I do explain on WKRG-TV in Mobile why schoolchildren will be the winners, and why the law will probably succeed legal challenge based on the Open Meetings law, but also be a short-term political detriment to the Republicans who pushed it through.  For school choice advocates, not just locally but nationally, this Alabama brouhaha won’t fade away any time real soon, and it bears close scrutiny on numerous levels. I personally think it is a wonderful bill. But the politics of it all are likely to be dicey for a while. Anyway, again, please watch this very short news segment (3:39) for an overview.

March 11th, 2013 at 10:27 am
Ted Cruz: Boffo, not ‘Wacko’

In a remarkable editorial six weeks ago, The NYT attacked new U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), arguing the Republican Party “should marginalize lawmakers like Mr. Cruz.” Last week, the hyper-mercurial (to put it kindly) John McCain included Cruz among the group of younger lawmakers he labeled as “wackos.” Very nice. Those are both the sorts of non-endorsements that should make Cruz a hero among all correct-thinking Americans.

With last week’s strong questioning of AG Eric Holder, then on the Senate floor supporting Rand Paul’s filibuster as the second longest speaker (about two hours), and now with his amendment to defund Obamacare, which is rallying conservatives and gaining support from Senate Republicans (so far Lee, Paul, Rubio, and Inhofe, plus supportive comments from Mitch McConnell), Sen. Cruz — along with his friends Rand Paul and Mike Lee — is emerging as a smart, proactive force on policy and message. And, despite the howls from the likes of McCain and Chris Matthews (again, birds of a feather), there is not a thing that Cruz has done or said that, in any reasonable context, have been remotely objectionable (as National Review noted here, saying Cruz had “ably and aggressively executed his duty as a United States senator).

Cruz also has put together a staff of rising conservative superstars (who I won’t list here because good staffers usually are loathe to draw attention away from their boss), more than a few of whom I know personally to be among the savviest and most principled of public servants.

All of which is to say that this new senator continues to bear watching, and applauding.

March 8th, 2013 at 12:21 pm
Jennifer Rubin Takes McCain to Task

In a very thoughtful but eminently necessary takedown, Jennifer Rubin takes John McCain to task, quite effectively, for his recent conniption fit against Rand Paul. (Actually, Rubin was comparatively gentle on McCain: She could have blasted the bejeebers out of him for his ongoing rants against Paul, Ted Cruz, and others on the right. McCain really does need to take a chill pill — or maybe about a dozen chill pills, while listening to soothing music, and return to public discourse only after a few Lenten confessions about his ill disposition.)

Here’s a key passage from Rubin’s blog post:

It is a mistake for conservative hawks is to view any limitation (constitutional, fiscal, real world) as a threat to their well-meaning effort to maintain U.S. influence in the world. In fact, it is only with respect for some limits on the executive, understanding of fiscal restraints and, most important, an appreciation for whom we are dealing with (friend or foe) that an internationalist foreign policy can be sustained.

At some point McCain begins to hurt more than help that endeavor.

Do read the whole post. I do take issue with one thing, however. In the course of making a larger point, she wrote:  ”If you want to promote pro-life views you better not nominate Richard Mourdock….”  It is time to set the record straight on Mourdock, who disastrously lost the Senate seat in Indiana that Richard Lugar had held for 36 years. It is true that Mourdock proved to be an inept (or less than fully, uh, ept) general election candidate, struggling mightily in what should have been an easy race even before he stumbled in a discussion of rape and abortion. But, unlike in some other cases that shall here go nameless, there was every reason to believe that Mourdock would be a solid candidate. Elected statewide as Treasurer of Indiana, he had shown political skills beyond a narrow constituency; he had a good record in office; his main claims to fame were fiscal/economic rather than social-issue hard-liner issues; and he ran a primary campaign based on broad themes rather than narrow appeals. Then, when he did stumble on rape, the reality is that what he said, in context, was almost perfectly acceptable. It only sounded awful when taken out of context — and then, mostly because it occurred in an atmosphere poisoned by Todd Akin’s truly idiotic rape/abortion statements in Missouri. After Akin’s screw-up, of course, Mourdock should have been prepared to avoid even wandering into the thicket he wandered into — but he shouldn’t be lumped in with Akin as having said something obnoxious, or of not being, on paper, a thoroughly acceptable candidate.

But that’s an aside — just something I had to say, because those who backed Mourdock in the primary had every reason to think they were getting a very solid candidate.

Back to the main point. As Rubin wrote, in criticizing McCain:

Whatever the reason, he is making an serious error of the type that recently has plagued many conservatives in a variety of policy arenas. A policy with no limits is not sustainable. And an approach to foreign or domestic policy that shuns prudence, balance and recent experience isn’t conservative.

This is a lesson all of us should take to heart. Politics is the art of the possible. And temper tantrums, like McCain’s, often make fewer good things possible than they otherwise would have been.

March 5th, 2013 at 10:45 pm
Attorney General Eric Holder is Criminally Dangerous

With the news today that Eric Holder has told Kentucky’s U.S. Sen. Rand Paul that President Obama “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial,” it is now apparent that this man is criminally out of control, and a menace to society. This chilling, outrageous, tyrannical assertion of power comes on top of a stunning assertion that he himself is entirely above the law giving Congress the power to oversee federal agencies and to enforce said power — which derives directly from the Constitution — via the ability to hold scofflaws officially in contempt. Here’s what he said about the members of an elected, co-equal branch of government, when they held him in contempt: “ I have to tell you that for me to really be affected by what happened, I’d have to have respect for the people who voted in that way,” Holder told ABC News. “And I didn’t, so it didn’t have that huge an impact on me.” Note that the contempt vote against Holder was not just a partisan exercise: Seventeen Democrats also voted to hold him in contempt, for his refusal to share information (and for prevaricating) about the murderous “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal. This is lawlessness upon lawlessness upon lawlessness — from a thoroughly mendacious man who already was running a lawless department. The list of Holder’s outrages through the years is so long as to defy belief… but today’s letter to Rand Paul is by far the most frightening, most despicable chapter in Holder’s reign of proto-criminality.

In his letter, this Attorney Generally Hideous wrote that he can indeed imagine a scenario in which “it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.” This would trample over all tradition, over due process, and also almost certainly over the Posse Comitatus Act.

This man — and probably his boss, the president, if Mr. Obama agrees with Mr. Holder — is a menace to society. One wonders whether now, finally, the civil liberties-left — in Congress, and in the establishment media — will finally hold Holder to something approaching the standard they held George Bush when Bush merely wanted to use enhanced — barely enhanced — interrogation techniques on foreign enemy combatants.

If the chief law enforcement officer of the land actually believes in such raw tyranny, we are all in danger.

February 26th, 2013 at 4:52 pm
The Shameful Behavior of the Senate, re: Hagel

As I write this, the Senate is voting on the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. It is doing so without a single word of debate (other than a quick summation of his resume by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan). So, after voting two weeks ago to reject cloture on the nomination — a move by definition meaning that the opponents want more time for public debate — those same opponents now are not taking the opportunity to, you know, actually debate. No summary arguments will now be recorded for history about why so many found the nomination so troubling. No attempt will be made to lay before the public a full, well-organized, incisive explanation of what the stakes are. All that remains is the impression that senators two weeks ago threw a mere hissy fit, utterly pointless except to show that they could stomp their feet and whine if they darn well wanted to.

Opposing senators two weeks ago asked for more time to examine Hagel’s record. Plenty of new material has emerged since then, much of it serving to reinforce the earlier objections to the nomination. And plenty of other new material, even material intended for eventual release to the public, remains publicly unavailable for now specifically because Mr. Hagel refuses access to it. This, of course, raises questions about what else Mr. Hagel is hiding.

So, having demanded time for new material to emerge, and having seen new material emerge, why are the opponents now declining the opportunity to discuss those materials, and to review the old ones, for the public record, and to try to convince some of their colleagues to withdraw their support? By Senate rules, 30 hours of debate is allowed post-cloture. Cloture was invoked yesterday. Instead of 30 hours, though, the Senate used all of about three minutes, featuring only the aforementioned summary by Sen. Levin.

This is a disgrace. It would be a disgrace if the shoe were on the other foot and it was a Republican nominee who might have to wait a whole extra day or two before taking office. It is a disgrace because it is an abdication of the Senate’s responsibility to hold open debate for the sake of the public, whenever weighty issues are to be voted on.

Citizens should be sickened that we have been put through two more weeks of bother, all in the name of further debate, and then denied any serious debate at all.

No wonder the public so often remains in the dark about the real workings of, and reasoning behind the workings of, their elected Congress. No wonder the public holds Congress in such contempt. That’s what contemptuous behavior elicits — and today’s lack of debate was contemptuous indeed.

February 26th, 2013 at 1:18 pm
On Sequester, Is Obama Crying ‘Wolf’?

In my weekly spot last Thursday on the terrific WKRG-TV, channel 5 news in Mobile, I explain why, just possibly, this battle over the “sequester” might end better for Republicans politically than did the Gingrich “government shutdown” battles of 1995-1996. It could be that Barack Obama has overplayed his hand, and overplayed his warnings.


February 26th, 2013 at 9:00 am
Bama GOP Rebukes Shelby re: Hagel Support

I reported last night at The American Spectator that the Alabama state Republican Steering Committee passed an emergency resolution requesting that U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby reverse course and return to opposing the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. I noted that this is a rare, and major, request, and that it represents overwhelming grassroots opposition to Hagel. Now, here, for the first time, I can post the resolution itself, rather than just quote from it.

In addition to slamming Hagel for a strange friendliness to enemies such as Iran and for hostility toward Israel, the resolution also hit him hard for incompetence, as demonstrated at his confirmation hearing where his performance was “not satisfactory to many persons who value the capability of this country to defend itself against foreign enemies.”

Rarely does a state party so openly take on its own senior U.S. senator — albeit in very respectful terms toward Shelby himself. This should send a message to other senators about just how outrageous this nomination is.

Again, the resolution itself is here.

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February 22nd, 2013 at 9:54 am
Murdock Slams Hagel

At NRO, libertarian columnist Deroy Murdock organizes a devastating litany of Chuck Hagel’s less-than-kind remarks and actions with regard to Jews and Israel. Well worth a read. Seriously strong stuff.

February 20th, 2013 at 4:03 pm
More Problems for Hagel

See especially the two updates in this post, about Lindsey Graham again getting tough and about even more stonewalling on information by Hagel. This isn’t over yet, folks. Not at all.

February 20th, 2013 at 11:32 am
Hagel’s Archives Should Be Opened Now

I’ll have more to say shortly about the broader topic of the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary and about the use of the filibuster to stop him. But for now, this is really important: Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard has been denied access to records of Hagel that are intended to be public, that will be public in the long run (within about 2 1/2 years) anyway, and that therefore obviously contain no information that Hagel himself intended to be kept private.

For the good of the public, on such an important nomination, these records should be made available now, before any final vote on Hagel’s nomination. It’s not even a close call. Nobody can claim that these records are either irrelevant or of either a classified nature or of a too-personal nature — because Hagel himself donated them to a university for the purpose of public records.

Even the New York Times should be compelled to support any request to delay the vote on Hagel until Senators can review the records.

February 15th, 2013 at 3:37 pm
The History Against the HHS Mandate

For what it’s worth, I explain it here. This is not a fight about contraception; it is a do-or-die fight for religious freedom, against persecution from the state. If the mandate stands, no faith is safe.

February 15th, 2013 at 12:50 pm
A Corporate Tax “Cut” Isn’t Enough

Tim’s column on corporate tax rates is superb. But I’d go even farther.

Before I explain, I’d like to highlight this part of Tim’s column, which is right on target:

At one point Lew stated that any reform must bring in more revenue to feed out-of-control federal spending, and suggested that although America’s official tax rate is too high, the actual effective rate is “much lower.”  Senator Portman helpfully instructed him that even the U.S. effective rate far exceeds the industrialized world average.

We must also beware Lew’s other caveat above.  Liberals will attempt to exploit corporate tax reform as a source of new revenue for the federal government.  Our budgetary problem, however, is not insufficient revenues but extravagant spending, as illustrated by the fact that if we simply returned to 2005 spending levels we would have enjoyed a $100 billion surplus last year.

The deficit problem clearly is caused by over-spending. But one thing I would emphasize is that cutting corporate rates probably would not add anything to the deficit; indeed, the sort of parallel tax cut, that of cutting capital gains tax rates, has consistently resulted in greater total revenues from capital gains actually coming into federal coffers. The added economic activity really has “paid for itself,” and then some.

But, as I said, I would go farther. As I’ve written here and elsewhere before, I would completely eliminate corporate income taxes. Gone. Kaput. Finis. Nada. And, obviously, if the rate is zero, there would be zero revenues from that particular tax, so of course the “more than paid for itself” argument would go out the window.

But that doesn’t mean eliminating the tax would cost much or any revenue, total, to the feds. Indeed, it was a left-leaning, former Democratic Capitol Hill budget staffer who first suggested to me the idea of completely eliminating this tax, and he, as a number cruncher, explained that he thought it would be almost revenue neutral. Some of the “lost” taxes would be recouped immediately via higher receipts from capital gains taxes and dividend taxes (because corporate profits obviously would be expected to rise), and some would be recouped through substantially higher economic growth, and some would be recouped due to a huge rush of companies repatriating their business operations. And so on, as I’ve explained elsewhere — including some savings on the spending side due to cutbacks in no-longer-needed IRS enforcement.

If I were a politician rather than a journalist, I would make this proposal part of my platform — and dare any demagogue to criticize me for it as long as it the criticism was done in open debate.

Finally, it’s worth noting that other very smart people have pushed the same idea, including Megan McArdle, formerly of The Atlantic and now apparently of The Daily Beast.

February 13th, 2013 at 1:02 pm
The Most Important Civil Liberties Column of the Year

My old friend Deroy Murdock was kind enough to cite me in this column, but that’s not why the column is important. In chilling — nay, not just chilling, but sickening and frightening — detail, Murdock lays out the growing problem of over-use of SWAT teams, often deadly. He also ties it to the gun-control debate, saying, in effect, that these sorts of SWAT abuses are one reason individuals need guns — yes, to protect themselves against government agents.

Please read it. Yes, this. Here is one of many examples:

On July 13, 2010, a dozen St. Paul, Minn.–area policemen and a federal Drug Enforcement Agency officer assaulted Roberto Franco’s home. Clad in Army fatigues, they rousted all nine people there, including three children. “Each plaintiff was forced to the floor at gun and rifle point and handcuffed behind their backs,” states Franco’s $30 million federal lawsuit against these authorities. “Defendants shot and killed the familydog and forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead and bloody pet for more than an hour while defendants continued to search the plaintiffs’ home.”

According to the complaint, one young girl who “was handcuffed and prevented by officer from obtaining and taking her medication thus induced a diabetic episode as a result of low blood-sugar levels.”

Oops. Wrong house!

Negligent police meant to hit the house adjacent to the Francos. The search warrant named next-door neighbor Rafael Ybarra, but did not mention anyone named Franco. Perhaps these cops forgot to read that document before launching their onslaught against the Francos, their home, and their dog.

Eventually, the SWATsters realized their error. As the complaint continues: “Despite the fact that defendants learned that the suspect did not live at the address raided, defendants remained in the home of plaintiffs and continued searching the home.” The authorities eventually found a .22-caliber revolver in the basement. Although it belonged to Gilbert Castillo, another resident of the house, the gun was pinned on Franco, leading to his incarceration with Minnesota’s Department of Corrections.

February 12th, 2013 at 5:30 pm
Honoring POW Heroes from Vietnam

Speaker John Boehner put out a wonderful press release today honoring U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, released from seven years of North Vietnamese captivity 40 years ago today. An excerpt:

In fact, Sam was set aside for extra abuse because of his obstinate resistance to his Communist captors.  At various points Sam spent 42 straight months in solitary confinement and was forced into leg stocks for more than two years.

“But while Sam’s jailors punished his body, they could not break his spirit; his love of God and country is a deep wellspring they could never penetrate.  His scars bear witness to his tenacity and toughness.

Johnson was on the very first plane of POWs that left Vietnam as a result of the agreement forged by President Richard Nixon. Among the 130-some others released that first day were Edward Alvarez Jr. (later Deputy Administrator of the VA) — honored last year down here where I live in Mobile when our local Chapter of the Association of Naval Services Officers (ANSO) was named after him — former Vice Presidential candidate James Stockdale, and former U.S. Sen. Jeremiah Denton, also of Mobile. Denton, by the way, is a delightful man who continued to do good works for decades after he left the Senate.

Denton’s book about the experience, When Hell Was in Session, is an incredibly moving read.

(U.S. Sen. John McCain was released from Vietnam a month later, on March 14, 1973.)

Anyway, even all these years later, please take a moment to stop, consider the courage and sacrifice and hardiness of those kept in such hellish conditions while serving our country’s cause, and please offer a prayer of thanks.

February 7th, 2013 at 12:21 pm
Rand Paul’s Really Ignorant Paragraph

There is much to commend, and there are some things to question, about Rand Paul’s big foreign policy speech yesterday at Heritage Foundation. The overall idea of using George Kennan-like “containment” for Iran or for jihadist Islam in general is, well, problematic , although there are plenty of elements of his speech that are at least somewhat sensible. It is a good thing to have discussion of such issues, and there is much value in having people make a thoughtful case against over-eagerness for military intervention. Those of us who tend a little more towards interventionism (“tend” being the key word, rather than “strongly favor”) do need to be challenged about the dangers of using military force.

Nonetheless, a fuller discussion of Paul’s speech would require more space and time than is available for me this morning. One paragraph, however, was so tendentious, so … well, civility requires that I withhold the most accurate words… anyway, so wrong as to demand response.

Here’s the passage at issue:

In the 1980s, the war caucus in Congress armed bin Laden and the mujaheddin in their fight with the Soviet Union. In fact, it was the official position of the State Department to support radical jihad against the Soviets. We all know how well that worked out.

Let’s leave aside for now the insulting, utterly asinine, sickening, inexcusable use of the phrase “war caucus” to describe those (including Reagan!) who supported the mujaheddin against the Soviets. That word choice alone is almost entirely disqualifying for its purveyor to ever be president.

Instead, let’s just look at a little history here — because the ignorance evident in this paragraph is truly astonishing. One would be hard pressed to find even a single historian, whether right, left, or center, who would argue anything other than that the Soviet failure in Afghanistan was not just a huge factor, but probably an essential one, in the Soviets’ ultimate loss of the Cold War. The mujaheddin did much to help bleed the Soviets dry, at a comparatively negligible cost to the United States (for smuggled military hardware and some intelligence). “We all know how well that worked out,” said Sen. Paul, dismissively, of the work of our “war caucus” to support the mujaheddin. Yes, we do: It played a key role in helping us win the Cold War. Anybody who doesn’t understand that is either foolish or invincibly ignorant.

Second, it is a myth that the United States “armed bin Laden.” False, false, false. It is also a falsehood to say that bin Laden was a major player within the mujeheddin or in the anti-Soviet war effort at all. Finally, it is false even to say that the Afghani effort against the Soviets was primarily, or even largely, about “jihad.” It was a defensive effort against armed invaders, not an offensive effort by “radicals” in the name of Allah. Sure, there were religious aspects to the motivations of the mujaheddin, who of course considered the Soviets to be “infidels,” but to say that the primary goal was to expand the reach of the Prophet is so absurd as to be laughable. The Afghani defense against the Soviets was, in truth, as close to being a nationalist, patriotic war as the diverse tribes of Afghanistan are ever likely to be involved in.

So every element of Sen. Paul’s paragraph was wrong: 1) Reagan was not the head of a “war caucus.” 2) The U.S. did not arm bin Laden.  3) The U.S. support had nothing to do with “radical jihad.” 4) The Afghani/mujaheddin effort as a whole was only tangentially jihadist. And 5) The war in Afghanistan that kicked out the Soviets worked out not badly, but very, very well for the United States, for the Western world, and for the hundreds of millions of people freed from behind the Iron Curtain and for millions elsewhere whose “non-aligned states” were freed from fear of the Soviets and thus could move more towards free markets and towards Western prosperity.

Finally, as a post-script, most knowledgeable people would argue that it was only after the Soviets left that the radical jihadists like the Taliban and bin Laden really gained ascendance within Afghanistan — and it was not because the United States helped arm the mujaheddin, but because we left so soon afterwards without providing reconstruction aid. While nobody would suggest that the U.S. should have done anything approaching “nation building,” it is certainly arguable — and the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, as well as congressmen I know personally, indeed did and do argue this — that humanitarian aid, of not-terribly-expensive sorts, might have gone a long way towards bolstering the society in Afghanistan, and towards bolstering more responsible elements therein, in such a way that the Taliban might not have been able to find anywhere near as much opportunity to operate.

The lesson then would be not that Paul-like isolation is the best idea, but rather that just a little involvement might have then, and often does, helped ward off future disaster.

Rand Paul makes a lot of sense on many domestic issues. But by virtue of this one paragraph alone, his big “coming out” exam on foreign policy earned an unambiguous grade of ‘F.’

February 6th, 2013 at 11:02 am
Thirty Years Ago Today

Thirty years ago today, upwards of 400 college students crammed into the White House to wish Ronald Reagan a happy 72nd birthday. I wrote about it here. I also wrote about it here. It disposes of the myth that Reagan was just scripted by his aides.

Last year at CFIF, I disposed of other Reagan myths.

Another time, I wrote of a visit to the Reagan Ranch.

As do tens of millions of Americans, I miss Reagan more and more, every day.

But back to that 72nd birthday party. Here’s a tidbit I didn’t include in those other two columns. One of the people among us that day was the photo editor of the Georgetown HOYA, the college newspaper I wrote for. This guy took great pictures. (I have several from that day; I wish I knew how to post them here.) Anyway, this guy was a good-naturedly committed Democrat, through and through, who would later work as an aide to a Democratic Congressman. Amidst a sea of College Republicans, he may have been the only Democrat in attendance. Anyway, after the event was over, I asked him what he thought. (He shall remain nameless, in case he doesn’t want his current employers, whomever they are, to know that he said such nice things about Reagan.)  He smiled, and then he chuckled. “Well, I still don’t like his policies,” he said. “But I’ve gotta say, he sure did seem like a great guy. I mean, I really liked him. That was fun!”

Reagan’s “likability factor” has been much remarked upon, through the years, of course. This is just one more example of how infectiously likable he was. Still, it is testimony to the reality that this part of Reagan’s success was no mere myth. What is a myth is the liberal spin on it. The liberal spin was that Reagan just sort of projected a fake image of likability through the TV screen, and that there was no real substance to it. But that’s not true. Reagan was likable precisely because he was so genuinely sunny and cheerful. The likability factor was greater, not lesser,  in the flesh.

In one-on-one situations he was reportedly not easy to get to know; there was a famous “distance” or “reserve” in play. But that wasn’t from a lack of warmth; it came from what was, oddly enough, a certain shyness — or so I’ve been led to believe. But it certainly wasn’t an indication of a lack of warmth. The warmth sprang from a real belief that there was an innate decency somewhere in every human being. “It was from his mother that Reagan inherited his faith in the goodness of people” wrote biographer Craig Shirley in Rendezvous with Destiny. “His humanitarian streak would surface throughout his life.”

In his presence even more than through a TV lens, most people easily and immediately sensed this about Reagan. That’s what my friend, the photo editor, did — and his response was absolutely typical of almost all who came in contact with Reagan.

So Happy Birthday, Mr. President. With a emphasis on “happy” — because happiness seemed one of your special gifts.

February 1st, 2013 at 11:59 am
Some “Facts” For Hillary

When a serial prevaricator, plagued also by incompetence and petty corruption, blasts other people for “refus[ing] to face the facts,” it is almost beyond parody. Yet that’s what Hillary Clinton, taking time from busy life trading cattle futures, has done in a parting shot at her critics as she (thank the Lord) leaves her post as Secretary of State, where she left a footprint about as big as a pigeon’s.

As she repeatedly blamed a video for an attack the video had nothing to do with, as her own Department repeatedly refused requests or ignored recommendations for stepped-up security, as she provided evasive testimony on the whole situation, she nonetheless found the sheer gall to blame others for her own pathetic failings. Worse, by acting as if she, the prevaricator, were the one guided solely by the facts, while the others supposedly ignore the facts, she dives so far down the rabbit hole — or so far back into George Orwell’s 1984 — as to no longer have any capacity herself even to understand the difference between fact and fiction.

As she leaves the scene with bizarrely high approval ratings, she merits a full column reminding the public of her incredibly sordid history and of her utter failure to actually advance U.S. interests. Perhaps she will receive it in this space in the coming days — although here’s hoping that some other brave soul will provide such a column, and that it will contain the full, devastating litany of Mrs. Clinton’s perfidy through the years.

Hillary Clinton has been a plague on the body politic for four long decades. One only hopes her retirement from public life will be permanent.

January 30th, 2013 at 5:37 pm
Another Home Run by Artur Davis

At NRO, former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis tells important truths to conservatives — namely, that we need to learn how to talk to people who aren’t already on our side and who are not of natural cultural affinity with us (not that they are necessarily culturally against us, but just that they aren’t automatically in cultural concert with us either).

Many of them work with their hands, and their backs and legs and feet hurt at the end of the day. They worry not about freedom, but about the depleted state of their savings. They don’t carry around a pocket copy of the Constitution, but they know that too many of their tax dollars go to Washington, and is it such a quaint thought that they want a return on their investment and want government to work for their interests?

What do we have to say to them, the people who work with their hands….?

Davis is right. Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal are saying similar things, with Ryan naturally recalling the themes of his late, great mentor, Jack Kemp.

I’ll throw out an issue conservatives need to do better at. We, myself definitely included, have made lots of justifiable noise about the dangers of vote fraud. We cannot back down on that issue no matter how many media people spread cheap shots about how our real goal is “vote suppression.” BUT…. BUT…. BUT, we also must show that we are intensely interested in making sure that as many people who legitimately qualify to vote find it as easy as possible to register and vote — and we must particularly try to figure out how to make voting not such a chore, so that nobody is forced to stand in line for hours just to participate in the electoral process. If there are any left-leaning people who seriously want to reach out and find solutions rather than bash us, we should find them, and see if we can find common ground. If they will admit the indisputable fact that vote fraud is a problem, and help us fight against it, we should admit that our voting system is often too complicated or convoluted.

Anyway, that’s going astray from what Davis said. But it’s just one example, admittedly on a second-tier issue (for most people), of how conservatives should try to broaden our reach. More importantly, we should likewise try to broaden our reach on economics, on opportunity, and on health care, among other major topics.

I’ll end with by quoting Davis again:

The world that Obama does not see in his progressive manifesto, the world that he barely acknowledges or address, it is the space that we can occupy as conservatives if we will only claim it.