‐ Are we even sure Boko Haram is on Twitter?
‐ Boko Haram, the killer Islamist cult of northern Nigeria, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls and threatens, in a video narrated by the cult’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, to sell them into slavery. Shekau boasts that kidnapping and enslavement are sanctioned by the Koran. We leave that question to Muslim casuists. What is unquestionable is that Boko Haram correctly sees the education of young women as a threat to its political and religious agenda. Michelle Obama was right to join in the “Bring back our girls” hashtag campaign; anything that alerts liberals and other low-information voters to the dangers of militant Islamists is a good thing. But words have to be followed with action. We should give the Nigerian army whatever help it needs to set this feral insurgency back.
‐ There are second acts in American lives, and sex acts. Here comes Monica Lewinsky to the pages of Vanity Fair, with yet another attempt (she has already written a memoir) to get some perspective on the Internet asteroid hit of her youth. Commenting on Mrs. Clinton’s remarks to her late friend Diane Blair (in which she both called Lewinsky a “loony toon” and wondered if the affair had somehow been instigated by her neglect of her husband), Lewinsky writes, “I find the impulse to blame the Woman — not only me, but herself — troubling.” Hillary Clinton, feminist icon, rode to prominence on her husband’s coattails — and takes the blame for her husband’s misdeeds. Let feminists untangle that if they can. We would only observe that many great Americans have had troubled personal lives — Hamilton, Lincoln — which we overlook because of their public accomplishments. So what are Hillary Clinton’s again?
‐ Lois Lerner is the former head of the tax-exempt division at the IRS, who presided over the investigations of dozens of conservative groups before the 2012 election. The IRS used “Tea Party” and “patriot” as keywords in sniffing out untoward political activity. When Lerner appeared before the House Oversight Committee in May 2013, she gave an opening statement briefly defending herself, then invoked the Fifth Amendment. House Republicans cried foul — you can’t speak, then claim your right not to speak at the same time — and have finally voted to hold her in contempt of Congress. NR’s Andy McCarthy has a better idea: Give Lerner immunity and find out what she knows. The contempt charge must go to court, where a victory for the House is not assured. Punishing Lerner is not the point anyway. The IRS investigations represented bureaucratic sabotage of the political process. We need to know who, if anyone, ordered or knew of it.
‐ Mitt Romney said that Republicans should go along with an increase in the minimum wage, in order to communicate that they stand for more jobs and higher wages. As Romney surely knows, however, a large increase in the minimum wage, especially in a weak labor market, will retard job growth, making it harder to climb the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. Republicans should find better ways to convey their desire to increase opportunity, such as an increase in the earned-income tax credit or the redirection of federal funds to help the unemployed relocate to boomtowns. And Romney, whose words have created a p.r. problem for his party, should find better ways to offer advice for Republicans.
‐ Charlie Crist, running for governor of Florida as a Democrat, claimed that he had left the Republican party after becoming convinced that it opposed President Obama because of his race. This reality apparently dawned on him at the precise moment it became clear that he was going to lose the 2010 Republican primary for Senate to Marco Rubio. If Crist wins, his obvious contempt for the intelligence of his state’s voters will in some measure be vindicated.
‐ The Republican Senate primary in North Carolina was cast as the midterm election season’s first showdown between the party establishment and its tea-party rivals. Tea partiers were, however, hopelessly divided between two candidates: physician Greg Brannon, who was endorsed by senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and Baptist pastor Mark Harris, who was endorsed by Mike Huckabee. As a result, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth, groups known for backing insurgent candidates, stayed out of North Carolina altogether. More important, the winner, Thom Tillis, speaker of the state house, has a strongly conservative record, and has done quite a bit to pull policy in North Carolina rightward. Kay Hagan, who barely got elected a few weeks after the crash of 2008, should beware.
‐ Ben Sasse resoundingly won the GOP Senate primary in Nebraska. Featured in an NR cover story by John J. Miller when he was still little-known to most Nebraskans, Sasse established his identity early as a fierce opponent of Obamacare and an advocate of positive conservative policy proposals. He was endorsed by major tea-party groups and enjoyed their air cover in the ad wars. Like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Pat Toomey before him, he shows that the Tea Party does best when it backs impressive, knowledgeable candidates with deft political touches. An unapologetic wonk, Sasse served in the George W. Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services and has degrees from Harvard and Yale. He will be a splendid addition to the Republican Senate caucus.
‐ The Supreme Court ruled that the town of Greece, N.Y., could continue to hold public prayers at the start of town-board meetings, and that the federal courts could not police these prayers for sectarianism. Such prayers hardly constitute an establishment of religion — let alone, those of us who are sticklers for the constitutional text cannot resist adding, one established by Congress. (The First Amendment does not begin, “Local boards shall follow no practice . . .”) Justice Elena Kagan, in dissent, claimed that the prayers made religious minorities into less than equal citizens before the government. Yet they are of course equal in every respect from taxes to voting; the inequality consists only of having to hear words they are more likely than other citizens to find alien. Good manners should cause local majorities, whatever their religion, to avoid giving gratuitous offense, but the Constitution does not contain that mandate.
‐ The news that someone called Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” is dog-bites-man: He has been subjected to that slur for most of his career. But it cannot help biting, every time. The latest lout to defame Thomas this way is a congressman, Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.). He was seconded by another congressman, James Clyburn (D., S.C.), although Clyburn would not use the specific term “Uncle Tom”: “All of us have ways of expressing our disappointments.” We’d recommend trying a less disgusting one.
‐ Unhappy with the Supreme Court’s campaign-finance jurisprudence, Senate Democrats have introduced a constitutional amendment that would effectively repeal the First Amendment. It would allow Congress to regulate nearly all political speech, including that of newspapers and television stations. It is an act of vandalism that undermines a key political liberty, the first item in the Bill of Rights. It is a reckless and cynical maneuver, and it should be stopped dead.
‐ Clayton Lockett kidnapped four people, shot one (a teenage girl), and then, when she failed to die, ordered cronies to bury her alive, for which he was sentenced to death. But his execution dragged on for three quarters of an hour when his veins failed to process the lethal injection. Opponents of capital punishment seized on Lockett’s suffering as emblematic of all executions. The tortures that once accompanied executions for such crimes as regicide served only to torment victims, to divert onlookers, and to deter by their savagery. These are not proper ends of punishment. Society rightly punishes lawbreakers by removing from them the fruits of their labor (fines), or by removing them from society (imprisonment). In extreme cases of contempt for life and bonds of humanity, society may remove them permanently and suddenly (execution). The state did not mean to give Clayton Lockett pain, but it was right to take his life. The solution for botched executions is to do them well.
‐ The Obama administration in May released the names of 55 colleges facing a federal probe for not doing enough to combat sexual assault. The colleges, among them several elite institutions, are being investigated for failing to comply with their obligations under Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds. Under the law, colleges are required to respond to allegations of sexual assault with disciplinary proceedings. Unsurprisingly, higher-ed bureaucrats are not skilled at adjudicating rape accusations, which are notoriously difficult to prosecute for obvious reasons (especially, as is often the case on campuses, when alcohol is involved). The administration’s response — to push colleges to lower standards of evidence and weaken due-process protections — may satisfy feminist activists, but it will harm the cause of justice. Rape is a very serious crime. It should be prosecuted in criminal courts, not by administrators subject to political pressure.
‐ Scandals are nothing new to the Department of Veterans Affairs, but they seem to be breaking at an alarming rate lately: In Texas, veterans had to show cancer symptoms in three consecutive screenings before becoming eligible for crucial tests. Dozens of vets died in Phoenix while waiting for appointments on phantom queues created to boost performance metrics. In other states, vets’ requests for appointments were delayed so that it appeared that they received attention within 14 days of asking for it. What’s been the result so far? Six VA employees, in a system of 5,500, have been placed on leave. Congressmen and vets’ advocates are calling for VA secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, which may be warranted. For now, there are plenty of other VA employees much more closely entwined with gaming the system, and they should be fired — and laws passed to make it easier to fire employees in the future.
‐ In 1986, the National Organization for Women took Joseph Scheidler to court, alleging that demonstrations he led at abortion clinics interfered with interstate commerce. NOW was probably right that he discouraged business. He had made a practice of setting up camp outside clinics and displaying images of aborted unborn children. His tactics were not to everyone’s taste, though of course neither was what the images depicted. In 1989, NOW added charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against Scheidler, which had the effect of associating his cause with organized crime. His supporters appropriated the insinuation. They call him the Godfather of pro-life activism. After 28 years of litigation, including three trips to the Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this spring found for Scheidler, ordered NOW to pay him $63,391 for legal costs, and declared the case finally over. Congratulations to Scheidler, now 86, and his codefendant, tenacity.
‐ On May 12, the Gosnell Movie crowd-funding campaign came to a victorious conclusion. In only 45 days, the project raised over $2.2 million from some 26,000 contributors on Indiegogo, making it the largest project ever funded on the website and a true grassroots success story (23,000 of its contributors gave $100 or less — a dollar really does make a difference). The date of the made-for-TV movie’s release is still to be determined, but filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer and journalist Magdalena Segieda will soon begin production. “Funded by people who want the truth to be told,” promotional material for the film says. Hear, hear!
‐ Chevron has for years been the target of what is almost certainly the largest attempt at extortion in modern history, with a collection of corrupt authorities in Ecuador and environmental interests in the United States attempting to shake the firm down for billions of dollars in a lawsuit based on fraud, bribery, and chicanery. The suit was thrown out in the United States, and a judge cleared the way for Chevron to proceed against its antagonists under the RICO Act. Among those on the wrong side of this matter is the old and influential Washington law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs, which has withdrawn from the case and agreed to issue a public apology for its role in the matter and to pay Chevron $15 million in restitution. The chairman of Patton Boggs is the son of a former Democratic House majority leader (and brother to Cokie Roberts), and the Chevron case touches liberal and Democratic powers from the Cuomo administration in New York to Greenpeace. The Washington Post called the settlement “stunning,” a development that “tarnishes the reputation of Patton Boggs.” Given the facts of the case, which the judge himself called “extraordinary,” there are a great many reputations that will not survive the fallout intact.
‐ Media bias is one of those topics that typically prompt the rolling of eyes — largely, it should be said, those set in liberal heads. But a new study from Indiana University suggests that, far from being a pernicious myth, the situation is worse than even the most depressed of observers dared to believe. As of this year, just 7.1 percent of the nation’s journalists identify as “Republicans” — 17 points lower than in the general population. The number who identify as “Democrats,” meanwhile? Twenty-eight percent — just three points shy of the national average. It’s getting worse. Just ten years ago, the numbers were dramatically different, with 18 percent reporting themselves as Republicans. It must be that Democrats are just more objective than Republicans.
‐ One day, when Kingsley Martin ran The New Statesman, a Stalin-loving British political journal, a young editor timidly asked for a raise, pleading poverty. Martin responded with shock: “Good god! You mean you haven’t got a private income?” A similarly monolithic culture evidently prevails at America’s liberal publications. According to The American Prospect, editorial staffs at major progressive outlets, most of whose members come from wealthy backgrounds and attended fancy colleges, are, on average, only 10 percent “non-white and/or Hispanic,” as against 40 percent of the nation as a whole. All the publications profess dismay about this, and each one has an excuse for why it’s so hard to make good “diversity” hires: low pay scales, the recession, a very thin applicant pool — and, most deliciously, The Nation (4 percent non-white) grumbles about union rules. People need to understand how hard it is to find qualified minorities to write rip-roaring denunciations of businessmen’s insensitivity.
‐ David Bonior was a stalwart economic liberal for two and a half decades in the House of Representatives — his bona fides got him elected House majority whip and, in retirement, earned him a professorship in labor studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. But he’s starting to wander off the reservation: He recently opened two restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area at which he hires non-union workers and pays the minimum wage for tipped workers, and he is now complaining about regulations. We’re glad that, like George McGovern at his bed-and-breakfast once upon a time, Bonior is learning what it takes for small businesses to compete. We can think of a few of Bonior’s friends who would also profit from being put in the private sector.
‐ Something important has happened in Wisconsin. After Republican governor Scott Walker won his recall election two years ago, a team of prosecutors, investigators, and regulators went after the Wisconsin Club for Growth, along with almost 30 other groups or individuals. Their charge: illegal coordination with the Walker campaign. As George Will writes, “Wisconsin’s sordid episode began, appropriately, with a sound of tyranny — fists pounding on the doors of private citizens in pre-dawn raids.” Those with the aforementioned fists did not have a legal leg to stand on. But they could certainly intimidate, suppress, and exhaust their political opponents. Last year, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director, Eric O’Keefe, filed a civil-rights suit against the prosecutorial team. The conservatives were represented by attorney David B. Rivkin Jr., who has written for this magazine. Judge Rudolph T. Randa issued a stinging, resounding decision: The prosecutors “must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.” The separation of powers has triumphed again. But it was a close-run thing, and innocent people were put through hell.
‐ New York State’s resident worrywarts have been shocked and horrified to discover the effect of their “assault weapons” ban. Observing that “new models being made to comply with the law are almost entirely the same as those that were banned,” ABC News reported in May that advocates are disappointed. One wonders what they expected. “Assault weapon” has long been a meaningless term, contrived and deployed by politicians in order to establish a group of weapons that they might ban more easily. New York did not change the type of firearms that residents may legally own; it only prohibited cosmetic features such as grips and stocks. And so manufacturers changed their offerings. Complaining about the change to the AR-15, NYU law professor James Jacob whined that the post-ban weapon “differs only in how it looks, not in how it functions.” Critics of the bans have been explaining that for years.
‐ Bill de Blasio is an unapologetic progressive — and, he says, an avowed fiscal conservative. The first budget he just drew up for New York City is as good a piece of evidence as any that this is oxymoronic. To pay off the teachers’ unions that helped elect him, he recently agreed to a new schools contract that will award them billions of dollars in raises. De Blasio plans to pay for them with savings that won’t arrive until 2020, through hoped-for efficiencies in the city’s health benefits. The new budget turns the moderately thrifty Bloomberg’s $2.4 billion surplus this year into a $2 billion deficit two years from now. De Blasio is spending beyond his means even as the Gotham economy is humming; this is how the city collapsed in the 1970s.
‐ When Toyota stunned Torrance, Calif., by announcing that it is moving its North American headquarters to the Dallas suburbs, Governor Jerry Brown retreated into denial: “We’ve got a few problems,” he said. “We have lots of little burdens and regulations and taxes, but smart people figure out how to make it.” The people at Toyota are, by most estimates, pretty smart, and they’ve figured out that the burdens in California are not small ones: They include the highest taxes in the country, a regulatory environment that chokes off enterprises large and small, and a state government that is, if all of its liabilities are properly accounted for, probably insolvent. Toyota does not manufacture automobiles in California, which apparently is not much interested in businesses based on atoms rather than bits. It does manufacture in Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama, and moving its headquarters closer to its operations makes sense. Outside of Silicon Valley, California’s economy remains in free fall — in March, the state had the nation’s fourth-highest unemployment rate. One Torrance resident said that the Toyota move would “tear this place apart.” Honda moved its headquarters out of California in 2013, Nissan left in 2006. California has enormous advantages: talent, climate, ports, and more. Its greatest gifts are natural; its economic disaster is entirely man-made.
‐ Give the KGB (now the FSB) its due: The boys always knew how to rig a good election. Its handling of the “separatist” referendum in eastern Ukraine has had exactly the right touch of amateurishness, just as if it were the work of local bumpkins. The man with the machine gun standing by the ballot box was a nice touch too — reminding people of both the sacredness of the voting process and the need to protect it from neo-fascists in Kiev. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. If consulted, we would have advised a lower vote for independence than 89 percent, which sounds a little too Soviet. But let’s not make the best the enemy of the good. It’s done the job: The people have spoken and endorsed what Putin wanted even though he very sportingly asked them to postpone the referendum until after the all-Ukraine election on May 25. Putin even called the May 25 election a positive step forward, so as to appear positive himself. But he doesn’t want that either, because it would install an undeniably legitimate government in Kiev. Now the separatist “authorities” can save him from his diplomatic endorsement by either preventing the all-Ukraine election or rigging it in the East. All these delicate maneuvers by Putin have two aims: to destabilize Ukraine and to initiate a prolonged diplomatic dance that will restrain the West from serious assistance to Kiev. In the second aim he is assisted by the West’s own divisions. These are more complicated than the usual U.S.-U.K.–versus–“Europe” picture. On Ukraine, Washington gets robust support from Britain, Poland, Sweden, and the Baltic states for a policy of generous aid to Kiev. It is obstructed by Mediterranean Europe (in part because Ukraine is a rival for scarce funding). Germany is the swing vote — torn between its commitment to international law and the pressure of its business community not to disrupt the close Russo-German economic relationship. Within a divided coalition cabinet, Chancellor Merkel had been leading the first view, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, the second. But Merkel has now appealed to Kiev to refrain from force against the separatist militias until after the election — which risks losing eastern Ukraine without a fight. And Steinmeier is in Ukraine hoping to broker some kind of compromise between government and separatists. This is dangerous. They are playing Putin’s game — at which Putin is much more skilled than they are — without those NATO allies who might stiffen their spines in negotiation. If Merkel and Steinmeier concede too much and gain too little, it will be hard for the rest of NATO to reverse Germany’s signature on an agreement. So how it turns out may be crucial for Ukraine’s hopes of genuine independence, revealing about the direction of Germany in the post-Ukraine world, and perhaps fateful for the future of the wider West.
‐ Recently, the Dalai Lama was in Oslo, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize. He was the guest of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is independent of the government. The government itself declined to receive the Dalai Lama — fearing the wrath of the People’s Republic of China, as so many governments do. In 2007, George W. Bush paid tribute to the Dalai Lama, as the Tibetan leader received the Congressional Gold Medal. Bush spoke of “the stubborn endurance of religious repression.” And he said that “Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away.” Norwegians should feel the same way. They pride themselves on being a human-rights nation, and should blush a little with shame at their government’s snub of the Dalai Lama.
‐ Sounding ready to find the Holy See guilty of violating a U.N. treaty it signed in 2002, the United Nations Committee Against Torture is arguing that the sexual abuse of minors by priests is a form of torture for which the Vatican must be held accountable. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, representing the Vatican, pointed out that incidence of the crime has dropped sharply since the Church began imposing stricter measures to prevent it in recent years. The U.N. panel said that’s not enough. Like the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child back in January, it also took the Church to task for Catholic teaching against abortion. Tomasi seized on the unforced error, and even if the panel hadn’t drawn attention to its double standard, he might have done so himself. “The Holy See condemns the torture of anyone,” he said, “including those tortured and killed before they are born.”
‐ Considering that Arabs have accused sharks, birds, sheep, and even insects of being Israeli spies, it is perhaps no surprise that they are now turning their attention to cartoon characters. Egyptian television recently showed an excerpt from a 2001 Simpsons episode that purportedly proves that the Arab Spring was the result of a “global conspiracy.” In the clip, a parody of music videos, planes drop bombs on a group of Middle Eastern fighters, one of whose vehicles is decorated with the same flag used by today’s Syrian opposition — a decade ahead of time! Clever, these Zionists. The only problem is that the flag in question was also used by the Syrian state for several decades beginning in the 1930s, so perhaps The Simpsons was not prophetic but merely copied an old design. Oh well, even Homer nods . . .
‐ Liberal Protestant churches looking for missions in the world risk swallowing the Devil’s bait of anti-Semitism. Typically, anti-Israeli activists lodge themselves in committees devoted to Middle Eastern affairs. But if the general membership acquiesces in their handiwork, out of mistaken notions of fairness or anti-imperialism, then their views infect the entire church. The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has published a study guide on the Middle East, Zionism Unsettled, which goes beyond criticizing Israel’s policies to questioning its very existence. Zionism is equated with Christian anti-Semitism, as a stimulus to crime; it cites the wretched Jews of Iran as a model for how Jews and Muslims might get along. Presbyterians should mind their own house, lest they break the Ninth Commandment.
‐ It used to be said that a liberal was the sort of person who wouldn’t take his own side in an argument. Now, it seems to be the sort of person who won’t let his opponent take his — or, in the case of New Jersey’s Rutgers University, hers. When former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was invited to speak at the college’s commencement this year, the “Rutgers Student Protestors” reacted with anger, penning an open letter that labeled Rice a “War Criminal.” In order to avoid causing a scene, Rice pulled out. This is a shame. There is much more to a free society than limited laws. Once upon a time, it was considered a good thing when a person of controversy was destined for a campus. “I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas,” Rice explained in a statement. “These values are essential to the health of our democracy.” Not, it seems, to our nation’s college campuses.
‐ And on rolls the witch hunt. When May started, twins David and Jason Benham were gearing up to host a new home-improvement show on HGTV; a few days in, and the network announced that it had “decided not to move forward.” What a difference a post makes. HGTV’s mind was apparently altered by a single entry on the blog Right Wing Watch, in which the pair were excoriated for holding traditional views on abortion, gay marriage, divorce, adultery, and pornography; for having a father who is a controversial preacher; and for criticizing Islam. This, David Benham told CNN, “was too much for them to bear.” What a shame. Like Phil Robertson before them, the brothers did not do anything concrete; they merely expressed their beliefs — in other places. They did not plan to share their politics on air, nor to impose it upon the network. They did not extend their views into their construction business. They merely spoke. Traditional Christianity is becoming the love that dare not speak its name.
‐ Tal Fortgang, a freshman at Princeton, has created a genuine intellectual controversy with his now-famous essay in the Princeton Tory, since republished by Time, on the subject of “privilege” and being told to “check” it by liberal enforcers of public mores. For those who may be blessedly unaware, “check your privilege” is a common command issued to those who check such demographic boxes as white, male, middle-class, in possession of physical genitals matching one’s metaphysical self-conception, etc. It’s basically the new “politically incorrect,” meaning the Left’s way of saying: “Shut up.” Far from denying his own privileged position, Fortgang noted that it was less the result of whiteness and maleness than of the sort of family he comes from and the sort of country he lives in: one in which his grandparents, Jewish refugees from the Nazis who had the “privilege” of doing time in Siberian labor camps and Bergen-Belsen, could build a life and a business, send their son to college and graduate school, and leave their grandchildren in the happy position Fortgang enjoys. That kind of privilege — the kind that comes from having stable families and a thriving free-market economy — is something the Left does not want to talk about, for obvious reasons. Appreciating the privileges that come with being an American used to be part of what was quaintly called “patriotism,” and it generally comes more easily to those who, like Fortgang’s grandparents, have points of comparison more dramatic than the women’s-studies department at Princeton.
‐ Renowned literary critic and political scholar Krystal Ball took to MSNBC’s The Cycle in May to advance an inventive new theory about George Orwell. Animal Farm, Ball suggested, is not merely a satirical novel against the excesses of Joseph Stalin, but a general warning against anyone who seeks to “hog up all the economic resources.” In today’s environment, Ball explained, Animal Farm warns “not of some now nonexistent Communist threat but of the power concentrated in the hands of the wealthy elites and corporations” — specifically, “Mitt Romney.” This would have been news to the book’s author, whose dislike of capitalism was well known but who insisted repeatedly that his work was little more than a narrow parable against the Soviet Union. Ball’s risible attempt to recruit one of the great works of the Western canon to her cause tells us a great deal about MSNBC’s editorial standards. Now, if only we had a word for calling things the opposite of what they are . . .
‐ Golf, which boomed for many years, is on the decline: Fewer people are playing. “People under 35 have especially spurned the game, saying it takes too long to play, is too difficult to learn and has too many tiresome rules,” reported the New York Times. Those are very modern sentiments. Instead of saying, “This is our game and we like it,” some golf authorities are thinking creatively, or, if you prefer, dumbing down the game: making the cups on greens the size of extra-large pizzas, for instance. You can also take mulligans, tee up the ball on the fairway or in the rough, and throw the ball out of a bunker — i.e., cheat. People have been doing these things for many years, without any special invitation.
‐ Kenneth Y. Tomlinson was a gritty reporter, a terrific writer, and a visionary editor. He spent most of his career at Reader’s Digest, one of the great magazines of the 20th century, starting out in the 1960s at its bureau in Washington, D.C., where he wrote riveting stories on union corruption and criminal justice. Hard work and talent pushed him up the masthead of the Digest until he became editor-in-chief in 1989. Along the way, he took time off at President Reagan’s urging to lead Voice of America. Following Tomlinson’s retirement from the Digest, he chaired both the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, where he attracted the ire of liberals for objecting to the flamboyant political biases of NPR and PBS. Later, he called on Congress to stop funding them completely. To the end, Tomlinson loved his family, horse racing, and mentoring young writers. Dead at 69. R.I.P.
‐ Economics, as it existed, was not a large enough field to satisfy the hungry mind of Gary Becker, who extended economic analysis beyond such traditional fields of study as growth and interest rates to include everything from crime to drug addiction to family life — innovations that, as his many admirers have noted, seemed obvious in retrospect but had not yet occurred to anybody. He was inspired to study crime in part by his own mischievous inclinations: Faced with a difficult parking situation, he calculated in his mind the likelihood of his getting a ticket, and realized that others might be making similar calculations about everything from making a charitable donation to getting a divorce. Milton Friedman hailed him as the most important social scientist of his generation, and his work on employment discrimination fundamentally changed our understanding of the phenomenon. His monthly columns in Business Week, later collected as The Economics of Life, brought his unique gifts to a popular audience, and he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for economics in 1992. “Unlike Marxian analysis,” he said in his Nobel lecture, “the economic approach I refer to does not assume that individuals are motivated solely by selfishness or gain. It is a method of analysis, not an assumption about particular motivations. Along with others, I have tried to pry economists away from narrow assumptions about self-interest. Behavior is driven by a much richer set of values and preferences.” Narrow assumptions were never his method. Dead at 83. R.I.P.
‐ Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was born in 1918 to two famous musicians: the violinist after whom he was named and the soprano Alma Gluck. He himself became an actor. First, however, he went to Yale and fought in World War II, where he received the Purple Heart. He starred in television shows, most prominently The F.B.I. and 77 Sunset Strip. He was also an out-and-proud conservative. He campaigned for Barry Goldwater and for Ronald Reagan, too. He has died at 95 at his ranch in Solvang, Calif. — very close to the Reagan ranch. His children said, “A devout Christian, he actively enjoyed his life to the last day, showering love on his extended family, playing golf, and visiting with close friends.” R.I.P.
The Administration’s Deceptions
On the matter of Benghazi, the Democrats keep asking: “Where’s the scandal?” Here: The White House misled the American public about a critical matter of national interest, and it continues to practice deceit as the facts of the case are sorted out. The facts are these: There were attacks against American diplomatic facilities abroad, carried out by terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda, scheduled for the anniversary of the September 11 hijackings and announced by a series of threats from Islamist organizations that were reported, among other places, in the Egyptian newspapers the day before the attack. The Obama administration took insufficient precautionary measures. In Cairo, the U.S. embassy was overrun and the American flag hauled down while the black banner of al-Qaeda was raised. In the Libyan city of Benghazi, there was an organized assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and another diplomat were murdered; a few hours later, a similar assault was carried out on a CIA installation about a mile away, in which two security personnel were killed. And the White House, for political purposes, tried to convince the American public that all of this happened as a spontaneous and hence unpreventable response to a Christian filmmaker’s depiction of Mohammed.
The Benghazi dishonesty did not end with Susan Rice’s now-infamous 2012 Sunday-show storytelling circuit, in which she blamed the attack on an Internet video that Muslims found insulting but that in fact had nothing to do with what was a jihadist attack. In April, press secretary Jay Carney managed to annoy the usually pliant White House press corps with his embarrassing attempt to explain away the withholding of documents sought by Congress, saying that a bombshell e-mail from deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes to Rice was not about Benghazi, even though it was part of her preparation to go on shows where she would be asked about Benghazi. He has labeled investigation into the matter evidence of a “conspiracy theory.” It is nothing of the sort, and getting a picture of the administration’s failures and dishonesty in the matter requires no leap of logic or supposition of unknown forces at work.
Faced with this dramatic evidence of its incompetence six weeks before an election, the Obama administration distorted a kernel of truth — Cairo’s grand mufti had in fact denounced the video — and told the public a story in which the attacks were not acts of jihadist terrorism organized with malice aforethought by Islamists but rather were riots resulting from spontaneous protests. The video was at most a minor factor in the Cairo riots, which were orchestrated by Mohammed al-Zawahiri, brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The video was not a significant factor in any way in Benghazi, but the administration insisted on its own version of events, downplaying the role of Islamic extremism and removing references to specific jihadist organizations from CIA-provided materials. The deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morell, told Congress that the video was “not something the analysts have attributed this attack to,” but the Obama administration was less interested in intelligence than in politics. The purpose of the video-protest narrative was to convince the American public that the bloodshed in the Middle East was the result of protests sparked by boobish Christians, and not a broader failure of policy. We know that because Rhodes helpfully put those precise words into an e-mail, telling Rice she should “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” Challenged to explain the White House’s response, former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor summoned the full moral seriousness of the Obama administration and replied: “Dude, this was, like, two years ago.”
There is much to be learned still about what happened at Benghazi and how to be better on guard against such events in the future. But about what happened in Washington regarding Benghazi there is no doubt: The Obama administration misled the American public for its own narrow political ends. One needn’t think that Benghazi is the next Watergate to be disturbed by the administration’s behavior, and by its continued resistance to providing a full and honest accounting of its actions that day.