Making the click-through worthwhile this week: The president tweets about Iran and the question before the media is now how they choose to discuss that country’s regime, what you need to know about state election officials’ efforts to secure the vote for the 2018 election, and a funny ad in Wisconsin thankfully doesn’t live down to the fears of toilet humor implied by the title.
Oh, the National Media Is Going to Pay Attention to Iran This Week?
President Trump on Twitter, shortly before midnight last night:
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
I guess the national political media will spend this week talking about Iran.
Iran didn’t go anywhere. They’re threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off the Persian Gulf from the rest of the world, but those of us with long memories will remember this is an Iranian habit. They’re still prepping for cyber attacks against the United States. They’re still arresting teenagers for dancing, and cracking down on student activists. The regime’s police are still shooting protesters who are objecting to a lack of water in drought-stricken areas. Their diplomats are being arrested for helping assist plots to bomb opposition-group meetings in France.
They’re filing a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice over our latest sanctions.
I don’t mind the national political media spending this week talking about Iran. I wish we spent more weeks talking about Iran, and outside of the context of the Iranian nuclear deal, which basically turned into a proxy for how you felt about Obama. If you liked Obama, it was a diplomatic masterstroke, a triumph of peace in the most difficult of circumstances; if you didn’t like Obama, it was a slew of concessions in exchange for a spotty inspection regime that allowed the biggest state sponsor of terror in the world to race to build a nuke in eleven years.
Just because we only hear about the Iranian regime doing bad things sporadically doesn’t mean the Iranian regime is only doing bad things sporadically.
The good news is, if you’re reading National Review, you’re hearing about Iran even when the president isn’t tweeting about it. In the latest issue, we note that Iranian military general Gholam Reza Jalali is running around saying the Israelis are stealing the rain from his country — another advocate of the “Jews control the weather” theory. (He should run for D.C. city council.)
Back in June, our Jay Nordlinger wrote a bit about Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, and how after the short-lived “Green Revolution” against the regime in 2009, he spent 118 days in prison, 107 of them in solitary confinement. He was tortured, both physically and psychologically. “Every day, I was told I was going to be executed.”
(When you see women dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” at speeches by Vice President Mike Pence, it seems overwrought and ridiculous; when contrasted with the actual tyranny and systematic oppression of Iranian women, it’s galling. In Iran, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is much closer to reality.)
Tzvi Kahn, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argued that the United States needed to sanction Mahmoud Alavi, the head of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. And Victor Davis Hanson called our attention to Mohammad-Javad Larijani, a high-level official in Iran’s judiciary, who announced recently in public that the regime allowed several of the 9/11 hijackers to go through their country without passport stamps to ensure they could travel freely elsewhere.
This is what the Iranian regime is, day after day, year after year. Sanctions against the regime weakened it but did not change its nature and, if we’re being honest, didn’t mitigate the threats from it nearly as much as we would like. Years of Obama-era engagement and endless summits in Geneva and the Iran Deal strengthened the regime, but did little to change its nature or aggression. As much as some of us would probably prefer to ignore Tehran, it sponsors too much terrorism to ignore and backs dangerous factions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Iran is well along the road to being the dominant power in the Middle East.
The country would be well-served by a national discussion of what to do about Iran’s mullahs, one that went beyond “Are the president’s tweets provocative or not?”
What You Need to Know About the Security of Your Vote in November
Toward the end of last week, you probably saw headlines such as, “Additional election security funding left out of bill passed Thursday.” House Democrats wanted to add another $380 million for election security to an appropriations bill for the Interior Department.
The argument from House Republicans was that this problem had already been addressed. The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed in March included $380 million for election security.
Inconveniently for the Democratic argument, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission announced earlier in the week that more than $333 million had been transferred into state accounts. (States have to cover 5 percent of the cost of security measures; they can cover their portion at any time within two years of receiving the grant.)
States can use the money to replace old equipment, ensure that the voting machines leave a paper record of the vote, upgrade election-related computer systems and cyber-security, post-election audit systems, and train state and local officials.
If any official in any local or state government doesn’t feel like their system of voting and tabulating votes is safe from tampering, fraud, or hacking, the time to say so is now — not after the election!
Another point worth noting is that earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed data from 564 voting jurisdictions across the country and concluded that “80 percent of the population nationwide resided within jurisdictions that used voting equipment that resulted in an auditable paper trail — and more jurisdictions are heading in that direction every day.” That same GAO report found that 96 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the way their voting equipment worked in the 2016 election.
A paper trail makes it much tougher for hackers to mess around with the recorded votes. The Center for Election Innovation and Research notes that Pennsylvania and Delaware are currently moving towards paper-record systems and they calculate that by the 2020 general election, “85 or even 90 percent of Americans will live in jurisdictions that used voting equipment with an auditable paper trail.”
Governing magazine points out that all of the “Russia hacked the election” and “Russia influenced the election” talking points conflate efforts to influence the election with actual incidences of breaking into computer systems and altering the votes or vote totals: “There’s no proof that any actual votes were changed by hackers in 2016, but the whole menu of Russian attacks — fake social media profiles, political ads on the internet, hacking into Democratic Party emails — has undermined public confidence. Actual voting infrastructure, such as voting machines and voter registration rolls, are often conflated in media accounts with these other types of attacks on the political process as a whole.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s latest indictment indicates that hackers affiliated with Russian military intelligence did get access to voter-information data in Illinois in July 2016. But there’s no evidence that they actually managed to alter or make mischief with any of the data and no indication that they could alter the vote total. (Note that Hillary Clinton won Illinois by a larger margin in 2016 than Barack Obama did in 2012 and 2008.)
Usually You Cringe When You Hear About a Political Ad Entitled ‘Flush’ . . .
By far, the best use of a toilet in a campaign ad this year comes from GOP Senate candidate Leah Vukmir.
Vukmir, a state senator, is in a tight primary fight with Kevin Nicholson. She’s earned an A+ and an endorsement from the NRA. The primary is August 14; Wisconsin’s Republican senator, Ron Johnson, pushed a plan earlier this year to ensure that all of the Republican candidates unify behind the nominee in the fall.
ADDENDA: I’m scheduled to appear on HLN sometime around noon today.