Monday, April 20, 2015

The ‘Party of CEOs’ and Religious Liberty

The ‘Party of CEOs’ and Religious Liberty
Social conservatives need to get serious.
By Maggie Gallagher 

War with Iran

War with Iran


After the media firestorm over Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame, then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey appointed Patrick Fitzgerald to serve as independent counsel. Fitzgerald was to ascertain who had identified Plame to Robert Novak as a CIA agent and whether a crime had been committed in the process. The chain of events having been initiated by Wilson’s New York Times op-ed column, the Times itself served as the ringmaster of the media circus. Judging by the circus, the fate of the republic seemed to hang in the balance.
Fitzgerald’s prosecution of Libby dates back to 2005. The details have already receded into the mists of ancient history. Arthur Herman provides a useful summary in his National Review column on Judith Miller’s new book The Story: A Reporter’s Journey. Herman writes:
The Plame case has been shrouded in a fog of media-generated myth for almost a decade. The myth maintains that [Vice President] Cheney and [Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter"] Libby deliberately set out to blow the cover of CIA employee Valerie Plame in retaliation for an explosive op-ed that her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, published in the New York Times in July 2003. In that op-ed, Wilson contradicted the Bush administration’s assertion that Saddam Hussein had been trying to obtain yellowcake uranium in Niger in order to build an atomic bomb. The leak of Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak — so goes the story — led special prosecutor Fitzgerald on a two-year investigation to find the culprit, culminating in the trial and conviction of Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice.
We now know — and not just from Miller’s book — that virtually every element of that story is false.
Even though he had no factual basis to do so, Fitzgerald sought to make a case against Cheney. Miller was his chosen means, through the prosecution of Libby based on testimony that Miller believes she now gave falsely (if unintentionally) as a result of information withheld from her and the defense by Fitzgerald. Miller only came to the realization that she had testified falsely while reading Valerie Plame’s memoir, which helped explain to Miller an ambiguous parenthetical reference Miller had made to Plame’s possible employment in notes she had taken on a conversation with Libby.
The Wall Street Journal has posted a meticulous and detailed exploration of Miller’s revelations by Peter Berkowitz. The detailed version of Berkowitz’s column is “The false evidence against Scooter Libby” (the Journal has also posted the less detailed published version).
Miller’s revelations should be a source of profound shame to the actors in this drama, especially including Fitzgerald. They constitute a scandal in which names should be taken and responsibility assessed. Berkowitz concludes his detailed account in this fashion:
At a news conference on Oct. 28, 2005, the day the grand jury returned a five-count indictment, Mr. Fitzgerald accused Mr. Libby of obstructing justice, which he likened to when “the umpire gets sand thrown his eyes.” The allegations against Mr. Libby were grave, argued Mr. Fitzgerald, because “the truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.” In closing arguments on Feb. 20, 2007, Mr. Fitzgerald repeated the “sand” accusation and proclaimed that as a result, Mr. Libby “stole the truth from the judicial system.” At Mr. Libby’s June 5, 2007, sentencing hearing, Mr. Fitzgerald urged Judge Walton to impose a stiff punishment “to make a clear statement that truth matters, and that truth matters above all else in the judicial system.”
Special Counsel Fitzgerald’s brazen inversion could hardly have been more complete. It was Patrick J. Fitzgerald, serving as an officer of the Justice Department and backed by vast federal power, who threw sand in the eyes of Judith Miller and the other prosecution witnesses, in the eyes of the American people and in the apparatus of the American legal system. Mr. Fitzgerald appears to have placed the quest for a conviction above the search for the truth and the pursuit of justice.
Where are they now? Fitzgerald is a member of the American Academy of Trial Lawyers now serving as a partner in the Chicago office of Skadden Arps. James Comey is now Director of the FBI. Wilson serves as a guest speaker and panelist in conferences and other programs devoted to African business policies and political affairs, as well as on matters pertaining to “the CIA leak scandal.” Plame is at work on a series of spy novels with mystery writer Sarah Lovett. Plame and Lovett published the first book in the series — Blowback — in October 2013 under a Penguin imprint. They followed up in 2014 with Burned.
The authorized version of the story was told in the 2010 Hollywood film made of Plame’s memoir Fair Game, the book that prompted Miller’s realization that she had testified falsely against Libby. Naomi Watts played Plame; Sean Penn played Wilson. A.O Scott’s New York Times review of the film found it a graceful and subtle portrayal of a marriage under stress. Judith Miller provided a more sapient assessment in the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal now editorially refers to this affair as “The Libby injustice.” Lewis Libby seeks the restoration of his reputation.
What about the New York Times? Miller was a New York Times reporter at the time this episode played out. The Times published Wilson’s 2003 op-ed column on his trip to Niger. The Times was foremost among those decrying Plame’s alleged “outing.” I wrote at some length about the role of the Times in the post “In which the Times plays with matches.”Where is the Times now?
The New York Times serves as captain of the Obama administration’s mainstream media cheerleading squad. The review of Miller’s book published here by the Times this week omits any mention of Miller’s recantation of her false testimony against Libby.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Fareed Zakaria argues that (1) “at the heart of the concerns surrounding the deal with Iran is [the] simple question [of] whether Iran is rational” and (2) Iran’s foreign policy has, for decades, been rational. Zakaria also takes critics of President Obama’s “deal” to task for claiming both that Iran is not rational and prescribing a policy — racheting up pressure — that presupposes Iran’s rationality.
Zakaria’s analysis is shallow in all respects. First, substantial concerns surround Obama’s “deal” even if Iran is rational. The question of Iran’s rationality goes to whether Iran will use nuclear weapons, not whether it will develop them. It is perfectly rational for Iran to develop nukes, since doing so will make it even more powerful. Indeed, developing nukes has been part of the foreign policy that Zakaria celebrates as rational.
A nuclear Iran is certainly of concern. Such an Iran will initially have an enormous ability to project its power in the region, to the detriment of U.S. interests and those of our traditional allies.
To counter that influence, major Arab states will very likely develop nuclear weapons. A Middle East in which the major players, including countries whose governments are not inherently stable, have nuclear arms is not in America’s interests.
The perils of a nuclear Iran are so obvious that even President Obama made it his stated objective to prevent Iran from obtaining that status. Sooner or later, a rational Iran will obtain it under the deal that Obama is willing to accept.
Second, we should not assume that Iran is sufficiently rational not to use nukes under any circumstances. Looking at Hitler’s Germany in the summer of 1939, one would have concluded that it was rational. All of Hitler’s major policies — e.g., rearmament, the Anschluss, the Munich agreement and subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia, the pact with the Soviet Union — had come good.
Like Hitler’s Germany, the Iranian regime has behaved rationally, and extremely shrewdly, in consolidating domestic power and in becoming a dominant regional force. Like Hitler, the mullahs have known when to negotiate and just how to play the negotiation game.
But this doesn’t mean that once Iran becomes the overwhelmingly dominant force in the region, it won’t disastrously overreach or miscalculate. Hitler did, and he’s but one example of a tyrant who behaved rationally on the ascent only to lead his people and his region into ruin once on top.
Do I believe that the mullahs will use nukes against Israel, Arab states, Europe, or America? No. But I agree with Benjamin Netanyahu whom Zakaria quotes as warning that “you can’t bet on their rationality.” Not when you’re betting your life.
Finally, there is no inconsistency between concern that a nuclear Iran will behave rationally and the view that it’s possible to influence Iran’s behavior by racheting up pressure. Even if the regime were bent on dropping nukes on Tel Aviv, it’s first priority would still be staying in power. Possessing the survival instinct doesn’t entail rationality in other respects.
Thus, Iran is susceptible to pressure. This explains why it came to the negotiating table in the first place.
I’m not suggesting that the U.S. can apply enough pressure to dissuade the mullahs from going nuclear. At this point, with the sanctions regime loosened and difficult fully to resurrect, Iran’s most rational move is to proceed with its nuclear weapons program whether or not we try to sanction it. Indeed, proceeding to develop nukes probably would have been the most rational approach in the face of the previous, robust sanctions regime, had not Obama offered relief.
Even so, I believe that our most rational approach is to inflict maximum pressure and pain on the regime via sanctions and other methods, so as to enhance the prospect of regime change and/or test the mullahs resolve to go nuclear, while keeping military options in the forefront.
Zakharia’s apparent prescription — stop worrying about a nuclear Iran because the mullahs are rational — seems misguided, if not irrational.

Hostages? What Hostages?

Hostages? What Hostages?

Hillary Clinton’s Truman Show Campaign

Hillary Clinton’s Truman Show Campaign
If she can’t handle a kickoff speech, how could she handle the presidency?
By Ian Tuttle 
In the catalogue of stock political events, a campaign launch may be as easy as it gets. Sure, first impressions are important. But you find a setting that is historically or personally significant, you hang a few American flags, you gather a crowd of cheering supporters, you talk about America’s great promise, you march out to an upbeat tune. The bar is low. It’s hard to screw up a campaign launch.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Obama’s Iran ‘Framework’ Is a Chimera

Obama’s Iran ‘Framework’ Is a Chimera
The details of the negotiations to nowhere are beside the point.
By Andrew C. McCarthy 


Today’s Wall Street Journal has an estimate of who paid 2014 federal income taxes. The estimate is from the Tax Policy Center, as official IRS data won’t be available for a couple of years. The Journal headlines, “Top 20% of Earners Pay 84% of Income Tax,” but that actually understates how skewed the tax burden is.
This chart shows shares of income and income taxes by quintile. Note that the bottom 40% is actually getting money. Click to enlarge:
Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 3.21.30 PM
This chart is more interesting. It breaks down the top 20% of income earners. Note that you have to be in the $261,500+ income group to pay more than your fair share in taxes. And it is only the hated 1%, those earning over $615,000, who pay significantly more than their fair share:
Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 3.23.24 PM
The federal tax system has gotten steadily more progressive over the years, and is now themost progressive personal tax system (including payroll taxes in addition to income taxes) of any developed country.