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Krauthammer’s Take: Don’t Be Surprised If Scots ‘Flinch,’ Choose to Stay in U.K.



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Polls show Scotland’s independence referendum, set for Thursday, too close to call, but Charles Krauthammer would not be surprised if Unionists win out.

“I think what’s really happened here: You had a poll last week showing seccession winning, and now you have the latest poll showing a real tightening. I think in these situations,” Krauthammer said on Wednesday’s Special Report, “there is often the desire to go independent, and then at the last second, when you think about all the implications . . . I think there would be a counter reaction to stay within the U.K.” He noted the serious economic consequences Scotland will face should it choose to become independent.

“My guess would be that it will be really close but . . . they might at the end flinch.”

Marco Rubio Delivers a Major National-Defense Speech



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Today Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) delivered a wide-ranging speech on U.S. foreign and defense policy, billed “American Strength: Building 21st Century Defense Capabilities.” Repairing often to U.S. history, Senator Rubio surveys the global threat environment and argues for a robust buildup of America’s military and intelligence capabilities. The speech further cements Rubio as the only major contender in the 2016 presidential field with anything like a strategic, coherent vision of foreign policy. 

Rubio begins by taking aim at the failure of foreign-policy leadership among both Democrats and Republicans. 

Never before have our people and our economy been so connected to the world. What happens across the planet can have a greater impact on your family than what happens down the street.

But as it was in George Washington’s time, the proper approach to global threats remains a sharply debated topic. In recent years, many Americans have come to oppose significant military engagements overseas, which is understandable. Too many have lost a child or a parent or a friend in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they question whether the outcome has been worth it.

But as threats have risen in recent months, our people appear more willing to engage abroad. What is unfortunate is that too many leaders in both parties, including our president and some who aspire to be president, have shown they would rather wait for poll numbers to change than demonstrate the leadership necessary to shape them.

Instead of outlining the costs of inaction to our people months ago when they should have, they were content to take the political path of least resistance. They advocated leaving our allies to fend for themselves. They proposed massive reductions to defense spending. And they tried to convince Americans the world would be fine without our leadership, or worse, that America would be fine regardless of the chaos the world devolved into.

“The president’s foreign policy was once a failure,” Rubio continues. ”Now it is simply non-existent. From Libya to Syria to Egypt to Ukraine, this administration simply shrugs as threats fester. When the administration does act, it fails to communicate any consistent rationale for military use.” Rubio goes on to lay out a strategic and political rationale for American strength abroad, building upon his growing expertise as second most senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the GOP side. Surprisingly, however, the speech mainly lays out a comprehensive framework for national-defense priorities, calling for robust and specific enhancements to our air, naval, and land forces. That is the purview of the Armed Services Committee (of which he is not a member), and a significant expansion of his portfolio of leading issues.

The speech is well worth watching in full, including the Q&A at the end. 

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Django Actress Uses Hysterics, ‘Race Card,’ to Get Out of Police Encounter



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Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, but presumably Daniele Watts thought hers would be her role in Django Unchained. As it happens, she’s garnered more attention for a bizarre run-in with Los Angeles law enforcement last week.

Watts initially said she was doing “nothing wrong” when she was detained last Thursday, September 11, by LAPD sergeant Jim Parker. According to Watts, she was “making out” with her boyfriend, Brian Lucas, in Lucas’s silver Mercedes when the officer accosted them. The couple claimed that Parker profiled Watts as a prostitute, since she is black and Lucas is white.

Police audio, obtained by TMZ, reveals Watts employing the full range of her theatrical talents to badger Parker. As he asks for her identification, noting that someone called police to report “lewd acts,” Watts replies: “Do you know how many times the cops have been called just because we’re black and he’s white?”

“Who brought up a race card?” Parker responds.

“I’m bringing it up.”

When the officer contests her claim that she has a right not to show identification, she tries another tack: “I have not done anything wrong. I’m on the phone with my father. My stepmom is dying.”

Near the end of the audio, she asks her “daddy” to talk to the policeman.

“Thank you for bringing up the race card,” says the officer, sarcastically, at one point. “I never hear that.”

Since her arrest, Watts has paraded the incident. On Thursday evening she posted to her Facebook page: 

I will continue to look any “authority figure” in the eye without fear. NO POLICE OFFICER OR GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL IS MORE POWERFUL THAN ME. WE ARE EQUALS. I KNOW THAT I WILL ALWAYS BE FREE BECAUSE THAT IS THE NATURE OF MY SPIRIT . . .

The tears I cry for a country that calls itself “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and yet detains people for claiming that very right.

However, it is clear that Watts was doing more than showing affection to her beau. To accompany the audio — in which Watts grows increasingly shrill until she finally stomps away, leaving Lucas to sigh in exasperation — TMZ also released photographs taken from the office building. They show Watts straddling her boyfriend, apparently having sex in the front seat of the vehicle, the passenger door and sunroof of which are open.

TMZ reported Monday that Watts plans to file a complaint against the LAPD.

Web Briefing: September 22, 2014

Democratic Senator Makes John Kerry Squirm Over Congressional Authorization for War



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John Kerry faced immediate opposition from his own party Wednesday over President Obama’s plan to reuse the 9/11 authorization for military action to rubber stamp an attack on the Islamic State, with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez forcing Kerry to make his tortured case before warning that the administration must seek new approval for war.

The New Jersey Democrat began by with skepticism over the White House’s claim that a 2001 authorization for use of military force (AUMF) could be used to give legal authority for the president to act in Iraq without a congressional vote.

“How is it that the administration believes that the 9/11 AUMF — or the Iraq AUMF — provide the authorization to move forward, whether the Congress decides to or not?” he asked, noting that the administration had pushed for the Iraq AUMF to be repealed just one year previously.

The secretary of state began a convoluted response, saying that “good lawyers” in the State Department have concluded that the 2001 authorization “includes al-Qaeda — it’s always been interpreted as including al-Qaeda.”

“Al-Qaeda threw out ISIL,” Menendez replied.

“Al-Qaeda and associated forces,” Kerry insisted. “That is the language. al-Qaeda and associated forces. Now, ISIL began as al-Qaeda. In 2005 in Iraq, 2004, ISIL was al-Qaeda in Iraq. And it only became this thing called ISIL a year ago. And it only became that out of convenience, to separate themselves in an internal fight. . . . A mere publicity stunt to separate yourself and call yourself something else does not get you out from under the force of United States law that is targeting them.”

“I appreciate your ability as a former prosecutor and a gifted attorney to try to make the case,” Menendez said. “I will tell you that — at least from the chair’s perspective — you’re gonna need a new AUMF. Because I don’t want to be part of, thirteen years later and a multitude of countries that have been used in that regard, for that to be the authority.”

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Who Were the Southern Democrats?



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Ezra Klein writes:

The Democratic House majority that dominated through much of the 20th Century wasn’t the Democratic Party as we think of it at all.

Instead, it combined liberal and moderate Democrats with a conservative southern bloc that was, for reasons of congressional seniority and tribal history, Democratic, but which voted to the right of many Republicans. 

Jonathan Bernstein recently made the same point.

I’m not sure they’re right. The Southern Democrats of old seem to have been pretty pro-big government, and to have voted with liberals on issues other than racial segregation and labor law. Seth Ackerman wrote about this question a while ago.

We can look at the ideology scores of Northern and Southern House members, using the well-known data compiled by Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal. Their data set, which takes into account all roll calls in every Congress, distills each legislator’s voting into scores on two dimensions, which together can predict on average 85% of votes. The first dimension score, which carries the bulk of predictive power, reflects conventional notions of contention over the “role of government in the economy.” The second dimension score is a racial-sectional one whose predictive power was greatest during controversies over Reconstruction in the nineteenth century and civil rights in the twentieth.

As you’d expect, Southerners were always far to the right of Northerners on the second dimension. But as the graph below shows, the average Southern member’s score on the first dimension was consistently more “liberal” than the average Northern member’s through 1958, and remained roughly even with the North through 1964.

In fact, all of Lyndon Johnson’s major War on Poverty programs were enacted with a majority of Southerners voting for final passage. The 1964 Economic Opportunity Act – the omnibus bill establishing Job Corps, a federal work-study program, adult education funding, and various other things – was sponsored in the House by staunch anti-labor segregationist Phil Landrum of Georgia, and passed with 60% of Southern Democrats voting in favor, even as 87% of Republicans opposed it. Likewise, Medicare passed in 1965 with 61% of Southern Democrats in favor and 93% of Republicans opposed. The 1964 Food Stamp Act, after an intra-party log-rolling deal involving farm subsidies, went through on virtually a straight party-line vote.

There were certainly hard-right Southern Democratic legislators who refused to vote for such policies. There were also surprisingly liberal ones; the region’s Congressional delegations were more ideologically diverse than is usually assumed.

If there was one legislator who best embodied the classic image of a conservative Southern Democrat in Congress, it was probably Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. An uncompromising (if “genteel”) segregationist and signer of the Southern Manifesto, Russell, according to a political scientist writing in 1950, belonged to a class of Southern legislators which “speaks for the respectable conservatives, speaks for chambers of commerce, civic clubs, banks, corporations.” Russell was probably a bit to the right of the median Southerner in Congress. But it is a mark of how different that time and place were that Russell declared the proudest accomplishment of his forty-year Congressional career to be the National School Lunch Act, which he spearheaded in 1946 and then doggedly defended over the years whenever its funding was challenged: “No one,” he charged, “should seek to deny a poor child in a poor state a lunch at school because both child and state are less able to pay than a wealthier child in a wealthy state.”

Iranian President Mocks Obama’s ‘Red Line’ Rhetoric



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Iranian president Hassan Rouhani took a jab at President Obama while emphasizing his commitment to protect Baghdad from Islamic State terrorists.

“When we say the red line we mean the red line,” Rouhani said during an NBC interview. “It means we will not allow Baghdad to be occupied by the terrorists or the religious sites such as Karbala or Najaf be occupied by the terrorists.”

The comment was an apparent allusion to President Obama’s declaration that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people would cross a “red line” for the United States. The president eventually opted not to carry out air strikes against the regime after the attack, favoring a deal under which Assad would hand over his chemical-weapons stockpiles.

That decision prompted criticism that other rogue regimes would take note. “Iran is paying very close attention to what we’re doing,” former defense secretary Leon Panetta, who served under Obama, said. “There’s no question in my mind they’re looking at the situation, and what they are seeing right now is an element of weakness.”

Even State Dept’s Social-Media Strategy to Counter ISIS Is a Mess



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The latest chapter of the State Department’s woeful social-media practices is apparently unfolding in its effort to deter jihadi recruitment.

A year ago, the department launched the “Think Again Turn Away” campaign, which aims to combat leading Islamic extremists on Twitter. Unfortunately, the campaign’s efforts, which consist of tweeting comebacks at well-known jihadists, putting out memes and videos, and retweeting links to images of the groups’ brutality, are having the opposite effect and actually “providing jihadists legitimacy and a stage on which to project their messages,” according to one expert.

Over at Time, Rita Katz, the director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the online behavior of jihadist groups, says that this approach of effectively engaging in Twitter spats with jihadist accounts is backfiring. On multiple occasions, she writes, whenever Think Again Turn Away tries to counter a prominent jihadist, not only does it legitimate the individual’s stature, but it is met with a firestorm of even more rebuttals from supporters of the terrorist groups. As a result, the U.S. government looks steam-rolled with disapproval and raises the standing of the Islamic State, the al-Nusra Front, or other terrorist groups.

Katz also notes how a recent video by Think Again Turn Away intended to scare off potential Western recruits ended up highlighting the elements of the Islamic State that appeals to susceptible youths, such as killing non-Muslims and destroying and taking over towns in the region.

Other missteps include tweeting out pictures of the brutality, which have been met with wide applause by the organizations’ supporters. For example, upon sharing a picture of children in the region standing before a crucified man, Think Again Turn Away was met with approving tweets such as, “i rather my children see this so they know whats their fate when they aganst shariah of ALLAH, than democazy.”

While the State Department’s efforts have good intentions, their shortcomings in understanding the problem at hand have made Think Again Turn Away not only “a waste of taxpayer money, but ultimately . . . counterproductive,” Katz concludes.

 

A New Khodorkovsky? Russian Billionaire Placed under House Arrest



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The chairman of the conglomerate controlling one of Russia’s last remaining private oil companies has been placed under house arrest.

Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who chairs the Russian conglomerate Sistema, has been accused of money laundering by the Russian Federal Investigative Committee. Sistema owns over 70 percent of Bashneft, one of the few Russian oil companies not controlled by the state.

The arrest has been criticized by many as politically motivated and follows speculation that the state-controlled company Rosneft had recently attempted to purchase Bashneft. (Rosneft is Russia’s largest oil company and chaired by Putin ally Igor Sechin.)

The Yevtushenkov affair is reminiscent of the 2003 arrest and imprisonment of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose own oil-and-gas company, Yukos, was subsequently dismantled, with the majority of its assets given over to Rosneft. Khodorkovsky was released from prison last December following a pardon by Putin, and now lives in Switzerland. He commented on the case earlier today:

Khodorkovsky told the daily “Vedomosti” that he believes Sechin, a powerful ally of President Vladimir Putin, wants to avert the threat of a decline in oil production by taking control of Bashneft, an oil company at the center of the case against AFK Sistema chairman Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

Khodorkovsky said “this is the very same Igor Ivanovich [Sechin], who has gotten no smarter in 11 years and may have gotten even greedier.”

Khodorkovsky has accused Sechin of engineering his 2003 arrest and the downfall of his company, Yukos, whose main assets ended up in Rosneft’s hands and helped it become Russia’s biggest oil producer.

Upstate New Yorker Arrested for Aiding ISIS, Planning Terrorism in U.S.



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Federal authorities have finally revealed the reasons for an upstate New York man’s arrest in late May: They say he was using revenues from his food store, Halal Mojo and Food Mart, to fund the Islamic State — and was planning to do much more.

Via CNN:

Mufid A. Elfgeeh, 30, was arrested on May 31, though federal officials didn’t outline the case against him until Tuesday. According to an indictment, he faces three counts of trying “to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization” (namely, ISIS), one count of attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States, two counts of having an unregistered firearm silencer and one for possessing guns or silencers “in furtherance of a crime of violence.” . . .

He allegedly wrote in one tweet: “Al Qaeda said it loud and clear: we are fighting the American invasion and their hegemony over the earth and the people.” In another message, Elfgeeh purportedly stated ISIS “will one day rule the world with the will of Allah.”

The affidavit alleges that he urged people to donate a third of their salary or, at least, “#Five_thousand_dollars_from_every_household” (as stated in one tweet) — stressing the importance of supporting groups like ISIS financially. . . .

The affidavit points to conversations with the two FBI informants in which Elfgeeh talked about getting his hands on guns and ammunition to inflict violence stateside. According to the affidavit, Elfgeeh once said he might kill “five or ten already, 15, something like that . . . then we” will post video or another message online to explain why he did it.

“We want . . . to start shooting those who were in the Army who went to Iraq,” he said in April, according to the document.

The Yemeni-born Elfgeeh could find himself detained for some time: Providing material support to a terrorist group is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The attempted murder charge has a maximum sentence of 20 years. Up to 30 years is possible for the firearms charges.

Re: The Social Issues



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Beyond offering Ramesh an “amen,” there’s something to be said about the different attitudes Americans take toward the so-called social issues: abortion, gay marriage, marijuana legalization, etc. As Ramesh points out, attitudes have changed significantly on gay marriage and marijuana, but not on abortion. What conservatives often fail to emphasize, I think, is that abortion is simply in a different category of issues than is gay marriage or marijuana legalization. Not that those latter issues are not important — they certainly are — but they are not life-and-death issues. The marijuana debate is about how much we think it is worth intervening in other people’s lives to police the use of a relatively mild intoxicant; the abortion debate is about what it means to be a human being. To that extent, the entire idea of “the social issues” is probably more harmful than helpful. Abortion and gay marriage are not even roughly comparable. 

It should not be too difficult for somebody who has my views on marijuana to be part of the same party or political movement as somebody who has Mike Huckabee’s. But it would be very difficult for somebody with my views on abortion to get behind somebody who has Susan Collins’s daft views on abortion. We might be able to accommodate the occasional Maine lady, but we don’t want to see her advancing beyond that, either. It’s a line in the sand in a way that marijuana isn’t.

Gay marriage is a little different in that it is a line in the sand for some people, though I am baffled as to why. But I cannot see how the Republican party has anything to lose by being forthrightly and assertively pro-life: The poll numbers don’t look too bad for that position, and it seems to me very unlikely that voters for whom abortion is the most important issue are going to vote for a conservative party in any numbers under any plausible circumstances, regardless of whether it softened or abandoned its position on the question of abortion. 

The most important reason to stick to the pro-life position is of course that it is the right position. 

Disoriented?



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AJ, I hope we won’t acquiesce in the idea that “Orient” is pejorative. (I say “acquiesce in” out of respect for WFB, who disliked “acquiesce to,” which was coming into vogue when I was growing up.) The fact that Biden says “Orient” is one of the few positive things I know about him.

I recently wrote an essay for NR called “Adventures in Lexical Fashion: Today’s progressive term may become tomorrow’s slur.” To see it, go here. This essay is mainly about gay-related stuff — “homosexual” is on the bad list now, apparently — but there are racial and ethnic bits too, including a paragraph on (gasp) “Oriental.”

Kerry Confronts Women of Code Pink for Providing Cover to ISIS Misogynists



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The feminist anti-war warriors of Code Pink were back in force on Capitol Hill Wednesday, disrupting John Kerry’s Senate testimony and prompting the secretary of state to scold the activists for opposing action against a group that brutally subjugates women.

Speaking during his opening statement before the committee, Kerry sought to address the earlier interruption and the pink anti-war signs held up behind him.

“I respect the right of Code Pink to protest and to use that right,” he said. “But you know what, I also know something about Code Pink. Code Pink was started by a woman, and women, who were opposed to war but who also thought that the government’s job was to take care of people. And to give them health care and education and good jobs.”

“And if that’s what you believe in — and I believe it is — then you ought to care about fighting ISIL,” Kerry continued. “Because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women. They believe women shouldn’t have an education. They sell off girls to be sex slaves to jihadists. . . . And they’re not offering anyone health care of any kind. They’re not offering anyone education of any kind.”

“Frankly, Code Pink and a lot of other people need to stop and think about how you stop them and deal with that,” the secretary of state concluded.

Ted Cruz Opposes Funding Bill and ISIS Measures



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Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) plans to vote against the government-funding proposal and President Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels as a counterweight to the Islamic State and dictator Bashar Assad.

Cruz dislikes the government-funding measure because it sets up a lame-duck session of Congress.

“I intend to vote no on any continuing resolution that expires in December,” Cruz told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday. “I think setting the expiration date for December is designed to ensure a lame-duck session, and lame-duck sessions historically have presented opportunities for Congress to pass terrible legislation, because in a lame duck you have members of Congress who were just defeated at the polls casting their final votes free from any accountability to the voters. And it is in lame-duck sessions that Congresses are much more likely to raise taxes, are much more likely to consider and pass things like amnesty, and are much more likely to hand out corporate welfare. In my view, substantive policy decisions should be made by elected members of Congress who are accountable to the voters and we should not have a lame-duck session for anything but true emergency legislation.”

Cruz also panned the president’s plan to arm Syrian rebels. “I do not support arming the rebels in Syria, because the administration has presented no coherent plan for distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys,” he said, noting that the Islamic State is a rebel group itself.  “Every time I have pressed the administration in both open hearings and classified hearings, as to how they would distinguish the good guys from the bad guys, the administration has failed to have an answer that makes any sense.”

Obama’s ISIS Crisis Leads to Blowout Ratings for Fox News



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President Obama’s struggle to present a clear strategy to combat the Islamic State might’ve caused some headaches in Washington last week. But it was all smiles at Fox News headquarters in New York City, as the network easily outdid its cable-news competitors and nearly ended up at the top of the cable-ratings pile altogether.

Nielsen reports that for the week starting on September 8, Fox News ranked second in primetime cable ratings and third in total daytme viewers — beating out not just its news competitors but nearly all other channels on cable (only the essentially unassailable ESPN beat Fox in primetime).

Megyn Kelly, host of Fox’s The Kelly File, landed in the top five highest-rated telecasts in cable on Wednesday with her coverage of president’s speech on the Islamic State, a huge performance for a news show.

Meanwhile, even as the NFL controversy and the advent of war against the Islamic State should have been boosting ratings across cable news, MSNBC came in 23rd in primetime and 27th in total daytime viewers, while CNN hit 30th and 25th, respectively. 

The Social Issues and Republicans



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New Bloomberg post.

It’s a mistake to assume the public is moving substantially leftward on social issues or that Democrats now have a long-term advantage on them — because not all “social issues” are the same.

Lee Bollinger’s Mask Slips



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Here’s an interesting panel discussion on “What’s Next for Affirmative Action?” put on by the New York Times and moderated by its Supreme Court correspondent, Adam Liptak. The panelists are Columbia University president Lee Bollinger, Georgetown University law school professor Sheryll Cashin, and Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation. Cashin and Kahlenberg want to end racial preferences in university admissions; Bollinger, a longtime advocate of them, of course does not.

What’s most interesting is that Bollinger makes it quite clear that the principal reason he favors racial preferences is because of America’s history of racial discrimination — notwithstanding the fact that this justification has been rejected by the Supreme Court and has not been available as a legal matter for decades. (See, for example, what he says at around 13:30–15:30, 23:30, and 32:00.)

Interesting that he admits it, though not surprising that he thinks it: For a long time, it has been clear that this — and not the phony-baloney “diversity” rationale — is what really motivates schools. And how “compelling” can the diversity rationale be to the courts if it’s not the real reason for these policies?

Biden’s on a Roll: Calls Asia ‘the Orient’



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Fresh off the heels of apologizing for using the offensive term “Shylocks,” Joe Biden referred to Asia as “the Orient” while detailing his recent trip to the continent and attempting to show off his foreign-policy cred.

“On the way back from Mumbai to meet with President Xi in China, I stopped in Singapore to meet with a guy named Lee Kuan Yew,” the vice president said in Iowa on Wednesday, “who most foreign-policy experts around the world say is the wisest man in the Orient.”

Most dictionaries define “Orient” as an archaic term used to refer to Asia. The word has largely taken on a pejorative meaning in recent years, with one scholar calling its use part of ”racializing Asians as forever opposite ‘others.’”

Ted Cruz Dismisses Mike Huckabee’s 2016 Suggestion



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Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) doesn’t put much stock in Republican governors and former governors suggesting that primary voters should not nominate a senator to be president in 2016.

“I’m not sure it’s news that governors tend to prefer governors,” Cruz told National Review Online Wednesday. “You know, it’s funny, a lot of chattering voices in Washington didn’t think we needed a governor when the governor was Ronald Reagan coming from California.”

He made the comment when asked to respond to former Governor Mike Huckabee (R., Ark.), a potential 2016 rival who said that primary voters need to pick a candidate with executive experience.

“If not me, I would be supportive of someone who has had executive experience and who has been a governor prior to somebody having only had legislative experience, which I think is fundamentally different in the manner in which one serves,” Huckabee told reporters on Monday.

Cruz said he was focused on the wrong thing. “The test that should be applied is not whether someone is a governor or a senator or a candlestick maker, the test that should be applied is who is standing up and leading?” Cruz said. “We are facing enormous challenges. I think the stakes in this country have never been higher and it is my hope in 2016 that Republicans will nominate whoever is standing up and leading, whoever is making the case that the path that we’re on is not working, that the Obama economic agenda is a disaster that is hurting millions of Americans, that the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has produced wreckage on a global scale, and there is a better path.”

NR Seeks Full-Time Editor



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National Review is hiring a full-time editor. Applicants should have several years of experience and be familiar with, and enthusiastic about, National Review. If you are interested, please send a résumé and a cover letter to editorial.applications (at) nationalreview.com.

Salam: Americans ‘Rally Around the Flag’ in Conflict, But Doesn’t Mean Dems Benefit Politically



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