Early campaign 2016

Summed up in a few lines, in a week of ‘big announcements.’

Like Peggy Noonan, I have emerged from a virtual bunker packed with too much work to allow blogging, only because she says it here.

Two points on the general feel of the 2016 campaign so far.

One is that in the case of Mrs. Clinton we are going to see the press act either like the press of a great nation—hungry, raucous, alive, demanding—or like a hopelessly sickened organism, a big flailing octopus with no strength in its arms, lying like a greasy blob at the bottom of the sea, dying of ideology poisoning.

Yep, that’s it in brief, pithy, well-defined sum.

Please God, let us have a press acting once again like the press of a great nation, hungry, raucous, alive, demanding. And further…challenging, engaging, insightful (and dear God, let them finally be self-reflective for a change, examining how they’ve handled political reporting for years and decades now). And finally, honest and honorable. Is that too much to ask? A lively and engaged press, open to all sides and all views, eager to enter the arena of ideas and work them out and pick them apart and apply critical thinking skills so we can once again have vigorous, robust debate covered well by professional journalists?

Or will we continue to get ‘the blob, dying of ideological poisoning’? So much is yet to be determined, some of it now declared.

A bit more on that in the early going, from Noonan’s WSJ column:

On the Republican side there is a good deep bench and there will be a hell of a fight among serious and estimable contenders. A handful of them—Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rubio, maybe Bobby Jindal—are first-rate debaters, sharp advancers of a thought and a direction. Their debates, their campaigning, their oppo geniuses, their negative ads—it’s all going to be bloody. Will the American people look at them in 2016 and see dynamism and excitement and youth and actual ideas and serious debate? Will it look like that’s where the lightning’s striking and the words have meaning? Will it fortify and revivify the Republican brand? Or will it all look like mayhem and chaos? Will the eventual winner emerge a year from now too bloodied, too damaged to go on and win in November? Will the party itself look bloody and damaged?

On the Democratic side we have Mrs. Clinton, gliding. If she has no serious competition, will the singularity of her situation make her look stable, worthy of reflexive respect, accomplished, serene, the obvious superior choice? Or will Hillary alone on the stage, or the couch, or in the tinted-window SUV, look entitled, presumptuous, old, boring, imperious, yesterday?

Will it all come down to bloody versus boring?

And which would America prefer?

Enough said, for now.

Truth matters, in politics, culture, personal beliefs

Some big questions have demonstrably true answers. But when they don’t fit powerful narratives, some powerful people are making the questions irrelevant.

Or coming up with pragmatic answers, you know, whatever works at the moment to dodge the truth.

As the Planned Parenthood president just did this week, saying that when life begins is not really relevant to the abortion debate.

“It is not something that I feel is really part of this conversation,” Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Thursday. “I don’t know if it’s really relevant to the conversation.”

When pressed, Richards said that in her view life began for her three children when she delivered them.

She explained that the purpose of her organization is not to answer a question that “will be debated through the centuries,” but to provide options for pregnant women.

People who choose to deny the facts may find them debatable or beyond their ability to debate, or just reduce them to an incoherent diversion.

But it is not debatable when life begins. It is scientific fact.

Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards dodging the question of human life by saying it’s irrelevant to the abortion debate is seriously dishonest and disingenuous, at best. It provides the occasion to recall former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the original architects of the abortion movement in America, telling the story behind the lies and deceptions for many years after his conversion. Late in his life, in a dramatic effort to help secure legislation in South Dakota that would strengthen informed consent laws, he made this video admission that as one of the original founders of NARAL, they made up the numbers and the ‘facts’, to ‘save abortion at all costs.’

His lesson about the importance of devising and driving a narrative “at all costs” applies to the whole choice movement, and Richards’ response reveals where incoherence inevitably leads.

It happens in other kinds of politics, too often. Remember Hillary Clinton facing a congressional task force inquiry into what really happened in the notorious Benghazi attacks, finally and angrily shouting ‘what difference does it make?

Political commentator Charles Krauthammer says there’s all the difference.

There’s a difference between the truth and a lie. The difference is that people in high office with public trust ought not lie. And if it was a lie, for whatever political or other reason, it shouldn’t have happened, and the administration itself should have traced it down and corrected it. And they didn’t. And that’s what is disturbing and remains disturbing.

And some people are still seeking the truth about that.

Ans, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught, there is an eternal truth, and it applies to all social issues. And those who seek it will find it.

Benghazi Inquiry: Defiance as a tactic

Congressional investigators finally got Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before their panel to ask for answers they long wanted to hear. What did you know? When did you know it? Who did what and when? She turned the tables on them.

In fact, from that table out in front of the high panel of senators, the singular table behind which she faced a group of senators, she dominated them. It was quite a spectacle.

Here’s how Thomas Sowell saw it.

An old-time trial lawyer once said, “When your case is weak, shout louder!”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shouted louder when asked about the Obama administration’s story last fall that the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. ambassador’s quarters in Benghazi was due to an anti-Islamic video that someone in the United States had put on the Internet, and thereby provoked a protest that escalated into violence.

She shouted: “We had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Students of propaganda may admire the skill with which she misdirected people’s attention. But those of us who are still old-fashioned enough to think that the truth matters cannot applaud her success.

Let’s go back to square one.

After the attack on the American ambassador’s quarters in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the Obama administration immediately blamed it on the anti-Islamic video.

Moreover, this version of what happened was not just a passing remark. It was a story that the administration kept repeating insistently. U.N. ambassador Susan Rice repeated that story on five different television talk shows on the same Sunday. President Obama himself repeated the same story at the United Nations. The man who put the anti-Islamic video on the Internet was arrested for a parole violation, and this created more media coverage to keep attention on this theme.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Secretary Clinton now asks. What difference did it make at the time?

Obviously the Obama administration thought it made a difference, with an election coming up. Prior to the attack, the administration’s political theme was that Barack Obama had killed Osama bin Laden (with an assist from the Navy SEALs) and vanquished al-Qaeda, and was now in the process of putting the terrorist threat behind us.

To have the attack in Benghazi be seen as a terrorist attack — and a devastating one — would have ruined this picture, with an election coming up.

The key question that remains unanswered to this day is: What speck of evidence is there that the attack in Benghazi was due to the much-discussed video or that there was ever any protest demonstration outside the ambassador’s quarters?

If there is no evidence whatever, then the whole attempt to say that a protest over a video escalated into an attack was a deliberate hoax by people who knew better.

The senators, or some of them anyway, tried to ferret this out. But some didn’t, and even those who did were shut down by Sec. Clinton’s manipulation of the hearing.

Robert George picks up on Sowell’s comments. And asks his own good questions.

Thomas Sowell tells it like it is on Benghazi-gate. But Professor Sowell is a conservative and a Republican. Where are the voices of our liberal and Democratic friends and fellow citizens? Why the lack of curiosity about critical questions of governmental responsibility and accountability? Why the silence?

For heaven’s sake, an American ambassador and three other Americans were brutally murdered by terrorists (terrorists who appear to have links to Al Qaeda). This is a serious business, not a minor political dust up in which partisans can be excused for circling the wagons.

Why have so many on the liberal side of the political spectrum praised Secretary of State Clinton’s theatrical performance before the Senate committee, rather than damning her appalling evasions of the central questions? Why are so few–indeed, none, so far as I am aware (but someone please correct me if I am wrong)–demanding that President Obama tell the public when he became aware of the fact that the murders of Ambassador Stevens and the others were premeditated attacks by a terrorist unit, not (as he and others in the administration stated or implied for nearly a month) acts of spontaneous violence by a mob enflamed by an anti-Islamic film. Where is the Democratic “Howard Baker”?

Is there no one left in the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson, the party of my grandparents and parents—the party to which I myself once gave allegiance—with the integrity and courage to demand answers to the key questions: What did the President know and when he know it?

If it is only conservatives and Republicans demanding answers, they will be dismissed as partisans simply trying to harm their political opponents—and the questions will go unanswered. No one will be held accountable for the falsifications and deceptions that went on for weeks in the run up to a national election. If the public good is to be served—and if we are to deter government misconduct of this nature in the future—it is critical that demands for accountability be bipartisan. Someone must be willing to break the (in this case blue) wall of silence. Someone on the Democratic side must speak.

As Sowell concludes:

Once the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi is seen for what it was — a highly coordinated and highly successful operation by terrorists who were said to have been vanquished — that calls into question the Obama administration’s Middle East foreign policy.

That is why it still matters.

Besides the fact that truth always does.

Obama and Clinton headlines

It’s interesting to see big media work with political realities.

The current issue of Time has Mark Halperin speculating that President Obama is on the ropes. Which is hardly contestable.

If the election were held today, the Obama-Biden ticket would not win the 270 electoral votes required to hold the White House. The coalition that helped elect the President–fired-up liberals, independents, business interests, a friendly media contingent–has been disbanded. Deep-pocketed conservative donors and Republican voters are desperate to depose the man they consider Jimmy Carter redux or worse. Democrats on Capitol Hill privately display nearly as much disdain for the Administration as their GOP counterparts, complaining about both its incompetence and its ideology. Most of all, Obama now owns a weak economy and hasn’t been…

Which is where the content for non-subscribers ends. But since I’m a subscriber, I’ll fill you in. Halperin goes on to say

Most of all, Obama now ownss a weak economy and hasn’t been able to generate his own luck.

I’ll let Time deliver the bottom line for their subscribers. But in the middle, Haperin asks and then answers the question “What advantages does Obama have?” Here’s a snip:

No one has a better record of taking up his game when everything is on the line. And he recently acknowledged he’d be willing to “grind it out a little bit” – presumably meaning “get tought” – when the time comes.

Which is precisely the times the president less represents the country than the particular base that elected him. And it all gets political again. As if it ever stopped…

A confluence of media coverage this week points to another political campaign going on, though more covertly, and it may just be my first take on it, granted.

But the cover of last week’s Time Magazine featured Hillary Clinton in a flattering feature of her command of the Secretary of State position. It caught my attention. Then, a week later, former president Bill Clinton was featured as a guest on Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart, with heavy emphasis on his book Back To Work, with the sub-title Why We Need Smart Government For A Strong Economy. It rang a bell. Re-checking that Time cover story, I noticed the title was “Hillary Clinton & The Rise of Smart Power.”

Smart coincidence? The 2012 presidential election is exactly one year away. Strategy rules.

Hillary instead of Obama?

Many people would like a 2008 do-over.

Some would prefer to change the Democratic party candidate in the next presidential election. Even though the current one is the president. This started recently as a murmur and then a buzz, generated by an eager media, joined in jest(?) even by former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President Bill Clinton.

“You know, I’m very proud of her, and so I’m always gratified whenever anyone says anything nice about her,” Mr. Clinton said when asked about Cheney’s recent comment that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most competent member of the Obama administration and would make a stronger candidate for the Democrats than Mr. Obama in 2012.

Yes, that’s the buzz. It’s being floated as a trial balloon in some places. And dropped like a foursquare concrete block in others. Like the president’s hometown paper. Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman doesn’t mince words.

When Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984, his slogan was “Morning in America.” For Barack Obama, it’s more like midnight in a coal mine.

The sputtering economy is about to stall out, unemployment is high, his jobs program may not pass, foreclosures are rampant and the poor guy can’t even sneak a cigarette.

His approval rating is at its lowest level ever. His party just lost two House elections — one in a district it had held for 88 consecutive years. He’s staked his future on the jobs bill, which most Americans don’t think would work.

The vultures are starting to circle. Former White House spokesman Bill Burton said that unless Obama can rally the Democratic base, which is disillusioned with him, “it’s going to be impossible for the president to win.” Democratic consultant James Carville had one word of advice for Obama: “Panic.”

But there is good news for the president. I checked the Constitution, and he is under no compulsion to run for re-election. He can scrap the campaign, bag the fundraising calls and never watch another Republican debate as long as he’s willing to vacate the premises by Jan. 20, 2013.

There’s more, keep reading.

In the event he wins, Obama could find himself with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Then he will long for the good old days of 2011. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner will bound out of bed each day eager to make his life miserable.

Besides avoiding this indignity, Obama might do his party a big favor. In hard times, voters have a powerful urge to punish incumbents. He could slake this thirst by stepping aside and taking the blame. Then someone less reviled could replace him at the top of the ticket.

The ideal candidate would be a figure of stature and ability who can’t be blamed for the economy. That person should not be a member of Congress, since it has an even lower approval rating than the president’s.

It would also help to be conspicuously associated with prosperity. Given Obama’s reputation for being too quick to compromise, a reputation for toughness would be an asset.

Even without the giveaway up top, you can see where this is going.

As it happens, there is someone at hand who fits this description: Hillary Clinton. Her husband presided over a boom, she’s been busy deposing dictators instead of destroying jobs, and she’s never been accused of being a pushover.

Not only that, Clinton is a savvy political veteran who already knows how to run for president. Oh, and a new Bloomberg poll finds her to be merely “the most popular national political figure in America today.”

If he runs for re-election, Obama may find that the only fate worse than losing is winning. But he might arrange things so it will be Clinton who has the unenviable job of reviving the economy, balancing the budget, getting out of Afghanistan and grappling with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Obama, meanwhile, will be on a Hawaiian beach, wrestling the cap off a Corona.

I keep getting asked who I think is the real GOP frontrunner, or who I think is most plausible and ‘electable’ (which is the word of the moment) in the Republican field, and frankly I’m still on a listening tour there. There are issues with everyone in the field. But frankly, the question is now keenly being put to the one currently holding the office. I’m listening there, too.