The Morning Jolt


While the Media Focus on Inconclusive Kavanaugh Allegations, There’s Evidence of Iran Striking Saudi Arabia

Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh speaks at a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House, October 8, 2018. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

This weekend brought another moment where what the majority of the American news media thinks is important and what is actually important diverged wildly. Someday, the news media will be chasing clicks and ratings discussing their cotton-candy news story while ignoring the important and consequential broccoli news story, which will later blow up in a way that millions of Americans feel it. News consumers will wonder how it happened, why it happened, and why they weren’t being told about the broccoli when it mattered. Kind of like the “summer of the sharks” before 9/11.

The Broccoli Story: Iran — Or Somebody — Wants to Blow Up Saudi Arabia’s Oil Production

That brewing fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia isn’t just brewing anymore. It’s looking more and more like an all-out war.

Global energy prices spiked on Monday after a weekend attack on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia caused the worst disruption to world supplies on record, an assault for which President Donald Trump warned that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” to respond.

U.S. officials offered satellite images of the damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial Abqaiq oil processing plant and a key oil field, alleging the pattern of destruction suggested the attack on Saturday came from either Iraq or Iran — rather than Yemen, as claimed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels there.

Iran for its part called the U.S. allegations “maximum lies.”

The Houthis on Monday warned of more attacks on Saudi oil facilities and urged foreign companies doing business in the kingdom to stay away from its energy sites. Yahia Sarie, a rebel spokesman, said facilities such as the Abqaiq oil processing plant and the oil field hit this weekend could again “be targeted at any time.”

Hope you filled up your tank. President Trump said the country will tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve if necessary, and this sort of emergency is why we have the reserve.

At Bloomberg, Eli Lake argues that the U.S. has tried the “open to negotiations” approach and gotten its hand bitten in response too many times.

Trump also now needs to reconsider military options to deter future escalations. As I have reported, U.S. intelligence agencies have mapped the precise locations of Iranian bases and commanders in Yemen and the Middle East. If Trump wants to respond militarily without attacking Iranian territory, he has many targets outside the country.

If Trump continues to pursue negotiations with Iran’s regime, he will be inviting more attacks on America’s allies. This is exactly the strategy — and the consequences — followed and paid by his predecessor, Barack Obama, in his second term. During and after the negotiations for the nuclear deal, Iran armed and trained its proxies in Syria and later in Yemen. The Middle East is now paying for these mistakes. Trump would be a fool to repeat them.

Nobody — or perhaps its more accurate to say few Americans — want a war with Iran, but the Iranians get a say in that, too. Assume the coming days bring proof that Iran launched an attack that shut down half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production. What would the appropriate response from the United States be?

The Cotton Candy Story: Sure, Let’s Rehash the Whole Kavanaugh Drama All Over Again

Our John McCormack notes that a New York Times book excerpt — not an article — that is supposedly a bombshell new accusation against Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh is really a dud, in large part because the book includes rather glaring counter-evidence that the accuser does not recall the incident of Kavanaugh that the book describes. And the Times didn’t feel it was important to mention that!

The New York Times added a correction that essentially says “never mind” to the explosive allegation:

An earlier version of this article, which was adapted from a forthcoming book, did not include one element of the book’s account regarding an assertion by a Yale classmate that friends of Brett Kavanaugh pushed his penis into the hand of a female student at a drunken dorm party. The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.

We keep hearing liberal commentators insist that Kavanaugh has been “credibly accused.” They have an odd definition of this. The three witnesses that Ford mentioned said they don’t remember any party like the one she described. Another man told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he believes he was the man whom Ford remembers. The second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, “contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself,” according to the New York Times. Julie Swetnick contradicted her own affidavit in her media interviews, backtracking about what she specifically saw. Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley found her tales of weekly rape parties in Georgetown going on interrupted for three years — with no contemporaneous reporting, complaints to parents, or police investigations of any kind — so implausible that she was referred the matter to the Justice Department for investigation of whether she could be prosecuted for lying to Congress.

Terry McDermott is a Los Angeles Times staff writer who wrote a book about the 9/11 hijackers. In 2005, he wrote about the number of people convinced they encountered Mohammad Atta in places and times he simply couldn’t be there:

Over the last four years, I have interviewed dozens of people who swore they saw Atta somewhere he wasn’t. This includes an assortment of waiters, students, flight instructors, taxi drivers and, more dramatically, two women who each claim to have been married to Atta, this despite the fact that they were never in the same city at the same time he was.

How could it be that so many people remember that they knew Atta, that they saw him or his name, when all the facts argue otherwise? I don’t think they are all lying. Maybe none of them is.

I think Atta entered an American psyche desperate for a name and face and an explanation. He came complete with what has become one of the iconic images of 9/11 — his Florida DMV mug shot, an image so memorable, so powerful and perfect for the moment that it allowed people to see in it whatever they needed to see. I think people subsequently, subconsciously placed that face where it made sense to them.

Research indicates that over time, our brain “edits” our memories. It’s not like bringing a photo out of a file cabinet. It’s like re-painting a portrait each time. This is one of the ways people who are not telling the truth can pass lie detectors. They’ve convinced themselves that they remember something happening, but their memory isn’t quite accurate.

For someone who went to Yale, who vaguely remembers a party with heavy drinking and some guy being a jerk who engaged in unforgivable or embarrassing behavior, who wants the perpetrator to be Kavanaugh because he now represents in their mind everything they hate about Trump, or Republicans, or conservatives, or pro-lifers, the perpetrator’s face becomes that of Kavanaugh. Motivated reasoning meets motivated remembering.

The Times correction doesn’t matter this morning. Way too many prominent Democrats have already pushed their chips to the center of the table and can’t change their bets now. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Julian Castro all called for impeaching Kavanaugh and removing him from the court. Joe Biden didn’t quite join them, but said, “We need to get to the bottom of whether the Trump Administration and Senate Republicans pressured the FBI to ignore evidence or prevented them from following up on leads relating to Justice Kavanaugh’s background investigation, subsequent allegations that arose, and the truthfulness of his testimony to the Senate.” This morning Biden is getting grief for a “tepid” response.

Democrats and their allies in the media have to pretend that correction never happened, the same way they have to pretend Debra Katz, the attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, never said, “When he takes a scalpel to Roe v. Wade, we will know who he is, we know his character, and we know what motivates him, and that is important; it is important that we know, and that is part of what motivated Christine.” Oh. So she knew how he was going to rule on a particular issue, and that was part of what motivated her?

Wonder of Wonders, It Turns Out Joe Biden’s Memory Might Be Underrated

At first, I thought Michael Harriot’s dissection of Joe Biden’s not-quite-so-plausible tale of confronting the notorious gangster “Corn Pop” at a Wilmington swimming pool in 1962 was painfully hilarious. (Some bad language at the link.) Actually, it’s indisputably hilarious, the question is whether it’s fair. Because it turns out CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale found some evidence to corroborate parts of Biden’s story. William Morris, nicknamed “CornPop,” existed and passed away a few years ago. A former mayor of Wilmington knew him and knew he was a rough kid in his teen years. There was indeed a gang called “the Romans” in Wilmington in the 1960s, and other longtime residents recall the story of Biden confronting a gang member at a pool.

Go figure. Good for you, Joe Biden.

Of course, Michael Graham wonders how Biden could work as a lifeguard during the summers in college and simultaneously be medically excused from Vietnam for “asthma as a teenager.”

ADDENDA: Thanks to everyone who came out to Barnes and Noble for the book signing Sunday afternoon! For about half of you, I spared you the kickoff of a disappointing day of professional football. The reader reviews remain happy, and I will try to line up other book events as opportunities arise.

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