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The Dream of Muslim Outreach Has Become a Nightmare

Affirming Muslim grievances has only increased the Arab world’s sense that Obama is weak.

 

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Alphabet Soup Corruption

 

Name a government agency or cabinet, and chances are its reputation has nosedived since 2008.  A Pew poll, which has charted public trust in the federal government over some 57 years, hit a historic low last year, with only 19% expressing confidence in Washington. Despite President Obama’s campaign promises in 2008 to usher in a new era of accountability and transparency, formerly disinterested agencies have either been politicized to the point of corruption or rendered ineffective by the appointment of incompetent and politically driven directors.

The Hillary Clinton email scandal has tarnished the reputation of both the FBI and the Department of Justice for the foreseeable future. FBI Director James Comey concluded that his agency’s investigation of Clinton’s careless use of private emails to transmit confidential and classified communications on a private server likely led to security compromises, but that her actions were not a result of intentional wrongdoing—and thus not in his view prosecutable. However, the statutes in question do not require willful intent to break the law, only negligence (the causes of such dangerous carelessness are irrelevant). Read more →

Ten Reasons Why Trump Could Win

With four more months until Election Day, be prepared for chills and spills.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Three Modest Propositions

 

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Enemies See America As Vulnerable Prey

Our domestic tensions embolden our enemies.

By Victor Davis Hanson//National Review Online

 

Here is a sampling of some recent news abroad:

A Russian guard attacked a U.S. diplomatic official at the door to the American Embassy in Moscow, even as NATO leaders met to galvanize against the next act of Russian aggression.

The Islamic State continued its global terrorist rampage with horrific attacks in Baghdad and Istanbul.

Iran rebuffed United Nations warnings and defiantly boasted that it will continue testing ballistic missiles. German intelligence believes that Iran, empowered by the release of $100 billion in impounded cash, is violating its recent American-led nonproliferation deal in an effort to import nuclear bomb-making technology.

North Korea conducted a test (unsuccessful, apparently) of a submarine-based guided missile.

There are various ways of interpreting these ominous events.
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Washington’s Hollow Men

The government/media power elite are spectacularly ignorant of the American people.

by Victor Davis Hanson//National Review Online

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion.

— T. S. Eliot

In Merced or Dayton, if an insurance agent, eager to help his wife facing indictment, barged into a restaurant where the local DA is known to lunch, he would almost certainly be told to get the hell out.

But among the Washington elite, the scenario is apparently quite different. The two parties, in supposedly serendipitous fashion, just happen to touch down at the same time on the Phoenix corporate tarmac, with their private planes pulling up nose to nose. Then the attorney general of the United States and her husband, in secrecy enforced by federal security details, welcome the ex-president onto her government plane. Afterward, and only when caught, the prosecutor and the husband of the person under investigation assure the world that they talked about everything except Hillary Clinton’s possible indictment, Loretta Lynch’s past appointment by Bill Clinton and likely judicial future, or the general quandary of 2016.

There has been a lot of talk since Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump of the corrosive power and influence of the “elite” and the “establishment.” But to quote Butch Cassidy to the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys?”

In the case of the ancient Romans or of the traditional British ruling classes, land, birth, education, money, government service, and cultural notoriety were among the ingredients that made one an establishmentarian. But our modern American elite is a bit different.

Residence, either in the Boston–Washington, D.C., or the San Francisco–Los Angeles corridor, often is a requisite. Celebrity and public exposure count — e.g., access to traditional television outlets (as opposed to hoi polloi Internet blogging). So does education — again, most often a coastal-corridor thing: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, Stanford, etc.

Net worth, whether made or inherited, helps. But lots of billionaires, especially Midwestern sorts, are not part of the elite, in that their money does not necessarily translate into much political or cultural influence — or influence of the right sort. (Exceptions are Chicago traders who bundle millions for Hillary.)

Especially influential are the revolving-door multimillionaires, especially from big banks and Wall Street — the Tim Geithners, Jack Lews, Hank Paulsons, and Robert Rubins, but also the lesser flunkies of the Freddie/Fannie Clintonite crowd, a Franklin Raines (raking in $90 million) or a Jamie Gorelick ($26 million), all of whom came into the White House and its bureaucracies to get rich, but who always seem shocked when the public does not like their incestuous trails of bailouts, relief plans, favorable regulations, etc.

Creepy too are the satellite grifters like “investment banker” Rahm Emanuel — who somehow, between the White House and the House of Representatives, made off with $16 million for his financial “expertise” — or Chelsea Clinton, who made her fortune ($15 million?) largely by being a “consultant” for a Wall Street investment group (her fluff job at NBC News was small potatoes in comparison). The locus classicus, of course, is the Clinton power marriage itself, which invested nearly 40 years of public service in what proved to be a gargantuan pay-for-play payoff, when they parlayed Hillary’s political trajectories into a personal fortune of well over $100 million. Give them credit: From the early days, when they would write off as IRS deductions gifts of their used underwear, they ended up 30 years later getting paid $10,000 to $60,000 a minute for their Wall Street riffs.

The nexus between Big Government, Big Money, Big Influence, and Big Media is sometimes empowered by familial journalistic continuity (e.g., John Dickerson, son of Nancy Dickerson) or a second generation of fashion/glitz and media (Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper), but again is increasingly expressed in the corridor “power couple,” the sorts who receive sycophantic adulation in New York and Washington monthly magazines. The Andrea Mitchell/Alan Greenspan power marriage was hailed as a threefer of media, government, and money. What was so strange, however, was just how often wrong were Mitchell in her amateurishly politicized rants and Greenspan in his cryptic Delphic prophecies — and always in areas of their supposedly greatest expertise.

Take also the Obama Cabinet. When we wonder how Susan Rice could go on television on five occasions in a single day to deceive about Benghazi; or John Kerry — in the middle of a war whose results Obama would come to call a “stable” and “self-reliant” democratic Iraq — could warn American youth that the punishment for poor school performance was “to get stuck in Iraq”; or Jay Carney (now senior vice president of global corporate affairs at Amazon) and Josh Earnest could both repeatedly mislead the country on Benghazi, the reason may be not just that they felt their influence, status, and privilege meant they were rarely responsible for the real-world consequences of their own rhetoric, but that they had forgotten entirely the nature of middle-class America, or never really knew it at all.

I get the impression that members of the D.C. elite do not wait in line with a sick kid in the emergency room on a Saturday night, when the blood flows and the supporters of rival gangs have to be separated in the waiting room; or that they find dirty diapers, car seats, and dead dogs tossed on their lawns, or wait two hours at the DMV, or are told that their journalistic assignment was outsourced to India, or read public-school teachers’ comments on their kids’ papers that were ungrammatical and misspelled to the point of being incomprehensible. The elite seems to be ignorant that, about 1975, Bedford Falls flyover country started to become Pottersville.

In forming perceptions about Benghazi, the Iran deal, globalization, or illegal immigration, it is sometimes hard to know who is making policy and who is reporting and analyzing such formulations — or whether they are one and the same. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is married to former ABC television producer Ian Cameron. Ben Rhodes, who drew up the talking-points deceptions about Benghazi and seemed to boast of deceiving the public about the Iran deal, is the brother of CBS News president David Rhodes. Will 60 Minutes do one of its signature hit pieces on Ben Rhodes?

Secretary of State John Kerry — who famously docks his yacht in Rhode Island in order to avoid paying Massachusetts taxes on it — is married to Teresa Heinz, the billionaire widow of the late senator and catsup heir John Heinz. Former Obama press secretary Jay Carney married Claire Shipman, senior national correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America; his successor, Josh Earnest, married Natalie Wyeth, a veteran of the Treasury Department. Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s “body woman,” is married to creepy sexter Anthony Weiner; perhaps she was mesmerized by his stellar political career, his feminist credentials, and his tolerant approach to deviancy? And on and on it goes.

These Christiane Amanpour/Jamie Rosen or Samantha Power/Cass Sunstein types of connections could be explored to the nth degree, especially their moth-to-the-flame progressive fixations with maximizing privilege, power, and class. But my purpose is not to suggest some conspiratorial cabal of D.C. and New York insiders, only to note that an increasing number of government and media elites are so entangled with each other, leveraging lucrative careers in politics, finance, and the media, and doubling their influence through marriage, that they have scant knowledge of and less concern for the clingers who live well beyond their coastal-corridor moats. And so when reality proves their preconceptions wrong — from Benghazi to Brexit — they have only outrage and disdain to fall back on.

Sometimes their smug isolation is the stuff of caricature. Mark Zuckerberg waxes poetically on about the illiberality of building border walls (e.g., “I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others”), but he is now simultaneously involved in three controversies involving either hyper-private security patrols or walls or both as he seeks to use his fortune to create Maginot Lines around his Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Hawaii properties to keep the wrong sort of people quite distant.

I should end by returning to Hillary Clinton, whose insider arc from the cattle-futures con to quarter-million-dollar Wall Street chats to the e-mail scandal shares the common and persistent theme of influence peddling, greed, and lying, while she lectures Americans about the need for trust, fairness, and transparency. Or perhaps I should finish with Chelsea, a chip off the old blockess, who became instantly rich as she decried the culture’s overemphasis on wealth, and whose husband’s hedge fund is tottering, after disastrously investing in Greek bailout bonds — at a time when his mother-in-law and Sidney Blumenthal were exchanging classified speculations over whether German banks would guarantee Greek debt and hence investors’ money.

But I conclude on a much more sober, judicious, and appropriately unimpeachable D.C. figure, the rightly revered Thomas Pickering, career diplomat, bipartisan Council on Foreign Relation fixture, co-chairman of blue-ribbon investigative committees, and perhaps heir to the itinerant fixers of a bygone age, such as Sumner Welles, John McCloy, and Clark Clifford. Pickering — multilingual, veteran of hazardous diplomatic posts, confidant to presidents of both parties, and octogenarian “wise man” — was asked by the State Department to conduct its internal investigation of the Benghazi debacle, as chairman of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board.

Four of the five members of this board, including Pickering, were apparently recommended by Hillary Clinton’s own State Department team in good Quis custodiet custodes? style. No one would dare suggest that Pickering, appointed as an undersecretary of state and an ambassador by Bill Clinton, and a well-known Clinton friend, might have various conflicts of interest in investigating fully the allegations that Hillary Clinton refused to beef up security at the consulate in Benghazi, or falsely claimed in public that the loss of four Americans was the result of an inflammatory video, just hours after she confided in e-mail communications that it was a preplanned al-Qaeda attack.

Instead, Pickering decided that Clinton would never appear before his committee and declared that he was not interested in a gotcha finding; yet somehow Clinton aide Cheryl Mills found a way to review the board’s findings before publication. In the end, the State Department chastised and put on leave lowly subordinates for seemingly working within the security parameters established by the sacrosanct secretary of state.

Nor would anyone suggest that the temperate and esteemed Pickering, as a vice president of Boeing from 2001 to 2006, and then a consultant to Boeing from 2006 to 2015, had any special financial interest in promoting the Clinton, and then the Kerry, outreach to Iran. Indeed, Pickering testified before Congress and wrote elegant op-eds about why the Iran non-enrichment accord was a good deal — but without ever quite telling the country that a liberated Iran was also considering a $25 billion purchase of aircraft (with potential dual use as military transports) from Boeing — which just happened to be Pickering’s quite generous corporate client.

Is it all that strange that when Washington fixtures write outraged op-eds about the “fascistic” Donald Trump or the “self-harming” Brexit voters, no one seems to listen any more? Does a Hank Paulson — former assistant to John Erhlichman, former CEO of Goldman Sachs (which has given over $800,000 to Hillary’s campaigns as well as $675,000 in speaking fees), former Treasury secretary, and of some $700 million in net worth — ever sense that his assurances that Hillary is presidential and not corrupt are not believable? Or that the effect of his politicking is analogous to angrily waving a Mexican flag at a Trump rally?

In a sense, these revolving-door apparatchiks and incestuous couples are bullies, who use their megaphones to disparage others who are supposedly blinkered and ignorant to the point of not believing that a videomaker caused the attacks in Libya, not trusting the Iranians, being skeptical about the theory of sanctuary cities, missing the genius of the European Union, not seeing the brilliant logic in allowing in 12 million immigrants from southern Mexico and Central America under unlawful auspices, panicking about $20 trillion in debt, and incapable of appreciating the wonders of outsourcing.

In matters of deception, ostentatious vulgarity never proves as injurious as the hubris of the mannered establishment. So what I resent most about the Washington hollow men is not the sources and methods through which they parlay wealth, power, and influence, or the values they embrace to exercise and perpetuate their privilege and sense of exalted self, but the feigned outrage that they express when anyone dares suggest, by word or vote, that they are mediocrities and ethical adolescents — and really quite emotional, after all.

Anti-Brexit Elites Aren’t the Ones Who Suffer from Their Policies

by Victor Davis Hanson//National Review Online

Following the Brexit, Europe may witness even more plebiscites against the undemocratic European Union throughout the continent.

The furor of ignored Europeans against their union is not just directed against rich and powerful government elites per se, or against the flood of mostly young male migrants from the war-torn Middle East. The rage also arises from the hypocrisy of a governing elite that never seems to be subject to the ramifications of its own top-down policies. The bureaucratic class that runs Europe from Brussels and Strasbourg too often lectures European voters on climate change, immigration, politically correct attitudes about diversity, and the constant need for more bureaucracy, more regulations, and more redistributive taxes.
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Ideologues Make for Dangerous Politicians

Opportunists are at least attuned to public opinion, unlike ideologues.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

 

Hillary Clinton is a seasoned liberal politician, but one with few core beliefs. Her positions on subjects such as gay marriage, free-trade agreements, the Keystone XL pipeline, the Iraq War, the Assad regime in Syria, and the use of the term “radical Islam” all seem to hinge on what she perceives 51 percent of the public to believe on any given day.

Such politicians believe truth is a relative construct. Things are deemed false by politicians only if they cannot convince the public that they are true — and vice versa. When the majority of Americans no longer believe Clinton’s yarns about her private e-mail server to the point of not wanting to vote for her, then she will change her narrative and create new, convenient truths to reflect the new consensus.

Donald Trump is an amateur politician but a politician nevertheless. He is ostensibly conservative, but he likewise seems to change his positions on a number of issues — from abortion to the Iraq War — depending on what he feels has become the majority position. And as with Clinton, Trump’s idea of truth is defined as what works, while falsity is simply any narrative that proved unusable.
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The Trump Nuclear Bomb

Other public figures won’t admit they agree with him — but they often quietly adopt his ideas.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Donald Trump has a frightening habit of uttering things that many people apparently think, but would never express. And he blusters in such an off-putting and sloppy fashion that he alienates those who otherwise might agree with many of his critiques of political correctness.

Nonetheless, when the dust settles, we often see that Trump’s megatonnage strikes a chord — and, with it, sometimes has effected change. In an odd way, the more personally unpopular he becomes for raising taboo issues, the more resonant become the more refined variants of his proposals for addressing these festering problems.

For the last several months, anti-Trump demonstrators have sought to disrupt his rallies; they attack his supporters and wave offensive anti-American and often overtly racist placards, while burning American and waving Mexican flags — often with a nonchalant police force looking on.

Trump shouts back that their antics are only further proof of his general point: Illegal immigration and an open border have subverted our immigration laws and created a paradoxical movement that is as illogical as it is ungracious. After fleeing Mexico, entering the U.S. illegally, and being treated with respect (try doing the same in any Latin American country), some foreign nationals have been waving the flag of the country they do not wish to return to, while scorning the flag of the country that they demand to stay in. But apparently they are not fond of Trump’s larger point, disguised by his barroom rhetoric, which is that the old melting-pot protocols of rapid assimilation, integration, and intermarriage have been sabotaged — and now the American people can at last see the wages of that disaster on national TV.
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Politics, Not Personalities, Will Likely Determine the Presidential Election

The candidates may be unconventional, but their political agendas fall along a conventional divide.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

At first glance, 2016 sizes up as no other election year in American history.

For more than 30 years, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been high-profile and controversial celebrities. Both have been plagued by scandals and are viewed negatively by millions of voters. Clinton is facing possible federal indictment; Trump is being sued over Trump University.

If elected, Clinton would be first female president in U.S. history. If Trump prevails, he would be the first president to assume office without having held a political or cabinet office or a high military rank.

Yet the race still could prove more conventional than unorthodox.

Trump is considered uniquely crude. But take some of our most iconic political figures and one can find comparable extremist rhetoric.

As California governor, Ronald Reagan once said of University of California at Berkeley protesters, “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.” When the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and forced her family to distribute food to the poor, Reagan quipped, “It’s just too bad we can’t have an epidemic of botulism.”

Barack Obama has scoffed this his own grandmother was a “typical white person,” called on his supporters to “get in their face” of his opponents, invoked a variation of the phrase “bring a gun to a knife fight” in an attempt to fire up supporters during his first presidential campaign, and compared his own bad bowling to the supposed competition level of the Special Olympics.
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