The Morning Jolt


Obama Alums Are Trying Everything to Defend the Iran Deal

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Obama national-security team throws everything up against the Israeli intelligence presentation and sees what works; Nancy Pelosi helps out Republicans by pledging to run for speaker of the House again; finding examples of good sportsmanship and character on a giant obstacle course; and Jonah’s 453-page deep-thought trigger.

The Obama Team’s Response to Israel’s Intelligence Scoop Is Unintentionally Revealing

Former Obama administration national-security spokesman Tommy Vietor: “After years of bashing U.S. intelligence agencies for getting Iraq WMD wrong, Trump is now cooking up intel with the Israelis to push us closer to a conflict with Iran. A scandal hiding in plain sight.”

Former Obama administration deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes: “By reminding everyone of the well-known pre-Iran Deal history, Netanyahu inadvertently made the case for why the Iran Deal needs to stay in place. Without it, all the restrictions on Iran’s program and the inspections regime that verify compliance go away.”

As John Cooper observed . . . pick one, guys. Bibi Netanyahu’s presentation can’t be made-up nonsense AND undisputed facts that everyone already knew. And the fact that two former Obama officials are offering two contradictory counter-arguments simultaneously suggests that they’re throwing everything up against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Iran deal defenders seem to think that repeating the phrase “stringent and invasive verification procedures” over and over again somehow changes the fact that Iran has said it will never allow inspections of its military sites. If outside inspectors are allowed to examine sites A, B, and C, and not allowed to inspect sites X, Y and Z, where do you think a regime would be tempted to research and develop nuclear weapons? This is like saying to a search warrant, “officer, you can look anywhere in my house except my bedroom.”

This is why Iran’s long history of lying, revealed in depth and detail by the Israeli intelligence operation, matters. It further reconfirms that we are dealing with a regime that wanted nuclear weapons for a long time and tried to hide its efforts. It cannot be disputed that if they have the opportunity to cheat, they will cheat. Deal defenders insist that the inspectors will be able to find anything that should concern us. That’s a giant gamble, with literally nuclear consequences. Iran got everything it wanted in the deal, including an end to sanctions and $1.7 billion in pallets of cash, in exchange for a promise to not develop nuclear weapons for eleven years and a limited system of inspections to verify they’re keeping that promise.

Vietor also called Ben Shapiro “Baby Bannon Ben” which suggests he’s . . . either not informed or gleefully dishonest about the openly hostile relationship between Shapiro and Steve Bannon.

May House Democrats Never Have the Courage to Replace Nancy Pelosi

Finally, some good news for Republicans.

Despite grumblings from some Democrats and dismal approval ratings, the House minority leader aims to keep an iron grip on her leadership role, saying in an interview Tuesday that she fully intends to lead House Democrats if they recapture control of the chamber in November, as many prognosticators believe is likely.

“We will win. I will run for speaker. I feel confident about it. And my members do, too,” Pelosi told a meeting of Globe reporters and editors. She was in Boston for a Democratic fund-raiser hosted by Representative Katherine Clark.

Had Pelosi gone the other way, she would have deprived Republicans of their simplest, easiest message to motivate their base: “Do you want to see Nancy Pelosi become speaker of the House again?”

Back in late 2016, I wrote, “With Harry Reid leaving office, she’s now clearly the least gifted communicator in the ranks of the Democratic leadership. From her ‘we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it’ defense of Obamacare to her boast that the law would create 400,000 jobs ‘almost immediately’ to her entirely avoidable spat with then–CIA director Leon Panetta, this is a woman with a penchant for stepping in it.”

But poor communication skills are only part of Pelosi’s problem. She’s also grown old and very rich during her time in government, slowly becoming a populist’s paranoiac fantasy before our eyes. She literally lives on “Billionaire’s Row” in San Francisco. She was a big fan of earmarks, and has been accused of steering subsidies to donors and engaging in insider trading. And voters know it, too. She’s now such an effective stand-in for out-of-control, big-spending, out-of-touch progressivism that the National Republican Congressional Committee uses her in swing-district television ads every cycle.

The headline in the Globe article is, “Nancy Pelosi doesn’t plan on going anywhere.” Doesn’t that wording suggest she won’t be moving into the speaker’s office?

The Underappreciated Appeal of America’s . . . Ninja Warriors

The other day, Wall Street Journal sports writer Jason Gay wrote about the upcoming “all jocks” edition of Dancing with the Stars. Apparently, everyone’s rooting for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

If we’re offering tributes to skilled competitors in reality show clashes, allow me to tout my gradual surrender to the inescapable appeal of American Ninja Warrior. You’ve probably clicked past it on NBC, watching spunky amateur athletes struggling past elaborate obstacle courses that look like backyard jungle gyms somehow mated with construction scaffolding and the gargantuan offspring took over a city street. Leaping, climbing, and hanging by their arms for minutes at a time, the aspiring “ninjas” are very gradually eliminated round by round and episode by episode, building up to a rarely-claimed million-dollar prize for completion of the most difficult course, in the finals. (The entire course is above pools or mats, so no one gets hurt too badly from a fall.) All along, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Matt Iseman provide play-by-play announcing and commentary with a level of enthusiasm that makes Dick Vitale sound like Ben Stein. (I had no idea until I looked it up that Iseman was a licensed physician, an honors graduate of Princeton University and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and did a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Colorado.)

My sons have become obsessive fans of American Ninja Warrior, regaling me with what happened last time and asking me to sort out whether Isaac Caldiero or Geoff Britten is better. I mostly stare and contemplate what kind of shoulder, arm, and finger muscles you must have to be able to literally hang by your fingertips for several minutes while shimmying along a hanging girder.

The kind of short biographical film that quickly gets insufferable in Olympics coverage — I know, I know, this athlete had a beloved relative die recently, he survived a car accident, his dog ran away, he lost a sock in the dryer, just get to the ski jump already — actually makes up a good bit of the bread-and-butter of ANW, and here it works. Almost all of the warriors have day jobs like emergency physicians, ranchers, school teachers, or rabbis-in-training, and the short films showcase their efforts to balance pursuing some non-athletic dream or career while training  to be a “ninja” in gyms and backyards and playgrounds. Britten was a freelance television cameraman who worked Orioles and Nationals games. Caldiero was a busboy. These are not athletes who have spent their entire youth in the glare of the spotlight and enjoyed the perks of fame. There are some exceptional women athletes as well, and there are no lowered standards or tilted playing field; women compete on the same course as the men.

What stands out the most after watching a few episodes is that all of the competitors’ rivalries are friendly, there’s no trash-talking, and opponents cheer each other on — a level of sportsmanship and good character that is jarring if you’ve been watching NBA players jaw at each other, fights in the NHL, or listening to sports radio. This is what sports used to be before they turned into billion-dollar businesses.

ADDENDA: Jonah’s new book, Suicide of the West, is proving difficult to finish in the sense that after every chapter I find myself wanting to climb to the top of some hill and ponder deep thoughts about civilization, Western values, and how best to preserve them. Eventually I’ll have a full review, but this section from his most recent column is a good sample:

Humans have always come preloaded with the coalition instinct.

What feels different these days is that, more and more, one hears people jettisoning universal norms — free speech, constitutional fidelity, rhetorical decency — in favor of relativistic ones that simply suit the needs of one coalitional identity group or another. Some on the left now denounce free speech solely because it is a threat to their power. Many Trump supporters wave off his rhetorical grotesqueries because “he fights!”

Rather than simple blindness to our hypocritical violations of standards, we’re declaring war on the standards themselves. If this trend continues, we may get less hypocrisy and more open war between coalitions.


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