I look at this news and think . . . Yeah, Biden’s in.
A former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail server tried this week to fend off a subpoena to testify before Congress, saying he would assert his constitutional right not to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself.
The move by Bryan Pagliano, who had worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up the server in her New York home in 2009, came in a Monday letter from his lawyer to the House panel investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Who Thought the Syrian Civil War Was a Good Idea?
Twitter user Brandt reminds us that some key figures in Obama’s inner circle were convinced that the Syrian civil war was in America’s interest:
By April, senior officials said, one of the major skeptics, Tom Donilon, had shifted in favor of arming the rebels. Another strong opponent in the fall, Ms. Rice, had also shifted her position, partly because of the alarming intelligence about the state of the rebellion.
[Current Chief of Staff Denis] McDonough, who had perhaps the closest ties to Mr. Obama, remained skeptical. He questioned how much it was in America’s interest to tamp down the violence in Syria. Accompanying a group of senior lawmakers on a day trip to the Guantánamo Bay naval base in early June, Mr. McDonough argued that the status quo in Syria could keep Iran pinned down for years. In later discussions, he also suggested that a fight in Syria between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda would work to America’s advantage, according to Congressional officials.
Human-rights monitors estimate 5,000 people were killed in Syria’s fighting last month. The previous month, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated the death toll at about 240,000; 2 million wounded, 11 million displaced.
Problems that seem far away tend to show up at your doorstep eventually:
In the years that followed Obama’s shortsighted decision to abandon Syria (and the entire region, it would turn out) to violence, Europe would find itself in the midst of a refugee crisis. A great human tide has descended upon the continent as teeming masses of Middle Easterners and North Africans displaced by warfare take flight into Europe. The Czech Republic and Hungary, finding themselves on the frontlines of the crushing mass of terrorized Syrians, have taken emergency measures. Prague revealed this week that it simply lacked the manpower to detain those refugees racing for Northern European havens. Budapest has shut down rail lines and has created de facto detention centers in order to cope with the crisis. Italy is prepared to re-impose border controls at Germany’s request.
Look, it’s just trains full of desperate people in central Europe and an atmosphere of anger, resentment, and fear. What’s the worst that could happen, right, McDonough?
It Turns Out Democrats Don’t Really Care About Policy, Either
Maybe I’m not giving Donald Trump a fair shake. He’s one of the few men who can get Democrats to abandon their support for universal health care.
Republican support for universal health care rose 28 points thanks to Trump’s seal of approval. Democratic support for universal health care dropped, however, by . . . 36 points. How many Dems out there are true believers in the ObamaCare dream and how many are mindlessly in favor for no better reason than that Barack Obama thinks it’s a keen idea? Note too that it’s not just a matter of the sheer number of Dems changing their position here, it’s a matter of going from heavy majority support to less than 50 percent in favor. Trump’s backing can turn an 82 percent Democratic consensus into a 46 percent plurality. And if you think that’s a fluke result, try this one . . .
Republican support for affirmative action rises 18 points with Trump’s backing but it’s still a small share of the party that’s in favor. Democratic support for affirmative action drops 19 points with Trump’s endorsement, once again crossing from a majority consensus (64 percent) to a plurality one (45 percent). Many more issues would need to be surveyed in this way to try to draw a firm conclusion about which party has more hacks willing to go along with whatever their leadership says, but there’s at least as much reason from this to believe Democrats would win that contest as Republicans would.
Runaway Executive Power Grabs: Catch the Fever!
One more reason Obama’s executive power grabs are bad . . . every other executive thinks they can do the same:
After failing to persuade his Legislature to expand Medicaid, Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska said Thursday that he planned to unilaterally accept the federal funds available to cover more low-income residents under the program.
Mr. Walker, an independent who took office in December, said in a news conference in Anchorage that he could not wait any longer to offer health coverage to the roughly 42,000 people his administration projects will be eligible under the expansion. Expanding Medicaid — an option for every state under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — was a campaign priority for Mr. Walker, who couched it as a “common-sense decision” for the state’s economy and for the health of its people.
Mr. Walker said he had sent a letter to the state’s Legislative Budget and Audit Committee on Thursday, giving it a required 45-day notice of his intention to accept the federal expansion funds. The committee can issue a recommendation, but Mr. Walker said he had the authority under state law to proceed even if the committee did not approve.
Full speed ahead, legislative process and separation of powers be damned!
State officials processed 356 new applications for Medicaid Sept. 1, the first day of an expansion of the program, and another 27 individuals were approved for health care under the expansion.
“It was a very good day, with a lot of hard work by many folks, especially in the field. We also saw a significant increase in phone volume at 5 p.m. directly related to Medicaid expansion inquiries,” said Dawnell Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Services.
About 40,000 Alaskans became newly eligible for Medicaid Sept. 1 after the Alaska Supreme Court acted a day earlier, refusing to temporarily block the state from expanding the health care program.
The Alaska State Legislature now has to go to court to fight to remind the governor that he doesn’t get to make a move like this all by himself.
ADDENDA: Because we desperately need some lighter news . . .
Io9 fears that the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War will stink because of the core concept, beloved groups of super-heroes battling each other.
The idea can work if you do it right, which is make each side have a reasonable point. Nobody wants to see half their favorite heroes become the de facto villains for no good reason.
First, keep in mind that the world of the Marvel Universe has seen a New York City World’s Fair-type event shot up by runaway robo-drones (Iron Man 2); a New Mexico town get torn apart by a giant metallic monster (Thor); New York City suffer considerable damage from an alien invasion (The Avengers); Air Force One blown out of the sky and the Vice President arrested for participating in an evil conspiracy (Iron Man 3); a giant spaceship crash into a city in England (Thor: The Dark World) ; giant flying aircraft carriers crashing into the Potomac River and the revelation that the world’s preeminent global security organization, SHIELD, was deeply infiltrated by neo-Nazis (come on, HYDRA are Nazis, even though they soft-pedal it) in Captain America: The Winter Soldier; and then some Balkan city blasted into the atmosphere and then destroyed in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Oh, and Hulk tore apart a good chunk of a city and Ultron smashed a lot of a South Korean city.
The public around the world should be freaking out; every summer some major city gets torn apart by these battles. At least half the world should be adamantly demanding the registration and policing of all “super-powered” beings and technology. In the comic books, the “Civil War” storyline was about registering super heroes by their real names, which as Io9 points out, seems like a small thing to have an all-out “civil war” about. No, the better point of contention should be an effective ban on “vigilantes,” a declaration that anybody with powers has to either sign up with SHIELD/The Avengers or stay out of the heroism business entirely.
A slew of heroes might rightfully say, “Wait, I’m now required to sign up with the secretive, unaccountable giant bureaucracy that was infiltrated to the core by neo-Nazis? No thank you.” Suddenly you’ve got your publicly-beloved government-sanctioned team and your rogue, mysterious, work-in-the-shadows team. (Kind of like the Avengers and X-Men for us early-1990s fans.)
And of course, what begins as a reasonable disagreement of opinion about super-heroic codes of conduct could be exacerbated by any one of many villains who want to throw gasoline on the fire. HYDRA, Loki, the real Mandarin . . . there’s no shortage of bad people in the Marvel universe who would see a superhero civil war as to their advantage, and set up “false flag” attacks. Of course, in the final act, the heroes discover this and re-team up to stop the real bad guys.
You’re welcome, Marvel.