Biden Against Violence. Sort Of.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden is about to unleash a huge ad buy  decrying violence in general, but not in particular. The reason is obvious.  Polling indicates that he is being hurt in swing states where support for Black Lives Matter has plummeted as a result of months of violence BLM unleashed. Further, despite heroic efforts of the mainstream media to obfuscate the facts,  the violence is largely a left wing affair, aided and abetted by Progressive Mayors. Up until this point the Mayors have refused to enforce laws designed to protect people and property from just the sort of violence that has become a daily occurrence in some American cities. 

Conveniently enough, the Biden campaign, along with its media allies, has pivoted to blaming the violence on Trump and white racists. “Without evidence” as CNN is fond of saying. Well, take a look at the video below of “protesters” below chanting “Death to America” Iranian style and count the MAGA hat wearers among them. It won’t take long because there aren’t any. 

Critics of the Mayors’ response (or lack of it) to the chaos have correctly pointed out that the cities engulfed in violence have been governed overwhelmingly by Democrats for generations. Hilariously enough, the New York Times has rushed into the battle with a front page story saying, well yes, it is true enough that the cities have been run by Democrats but…Mayors, unlike the President, don’t have sufficient power to prevent the violence and in any event Republicans abandoned the cities ages ago. 

Where to begin. 

Let’s start with this. Law enforcement is essentially a local affair. Mayors have the responsibility to direct police priorities. Some actually are directly in charge of police departments. To insure political accountability, most of them appoint the senior management (e.g.— like the Police Commissioner). And as for power, New York City has over 35,000 uniformed officers, making it larger than the standing Armies of most countries. But by and large the Mayors, including New York’s de Blasio, have ordered the police to stand down. In addition plenty of the Mayors have rejected federal law enforcement aid. Nancy Pelosi went so far as to refer to federal law enforcement officers as “storm troopers”. The idea that Mayors in the United States lack sufficient authority or resources to prevent the violence is simply ludicrous on its face. 

Then there is the charge that the problem is that the Republicans have abandoned the nation’s urban areas. Or as the Times notes with a straight face

“…if cities have become synonymous with Democratic politics today, that is true in part because Republicans have largely given up on them. Over the course of decades, Republicans ceased competing seriously for urban voters in presidential elections and representing them in Congress.

“Republican big-city mayors became rare. And along the way, the Republican Party nationally has grown muted on possible solutions to violence, inequality, poverty and segregation in cities.”

It takes a level of duplicity that is simply astounding for the Times to complain that there are few, if any, big city Republican Mayors. The very prospect of an actual Republican Mayor, particularly in New York, is enough to send the paper’s editorial board into periodic convulsions of fear and loathing. True enough the Times endorsed Michael Bloomberg in 2005, a nominal Republican. But the party label was a mere convenience for Mr. Bloomberg, evidenced by the fact that he abandoned the Republican Party after a few years and went on the run for the Democratic Presidential nomination.   

The Times did endorse Republican Rudy Giuliani for a second term, basically because his rival Ruth Messinger displayed breathtaking incompetence; not because they agreed with his policy stances. You have to go all the way back to 1965 to find another Republican Mayoral endorsement. That would be John Vliet Lindsay, who like Bloomberg, eventually abandoned ship and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Presidential nomination in the 1968 cycle. 

The Times isn’t really interested in Republican policy proposals for cities, unless they have all of a sudden decided they are in favor of, say, school choice. What they really want is for the occasional nominal Republican to run as long as said Republican advances the policy objectives of the Democratic Party. 

Let’s be clear about what is going on here. The Democrats are caught in a vise. The radical left that increasingly controls the party’s agenda is sympathetic to the rioters. But the people who used to be rank and file Democrats, “the deplorables” as Hillary Clinton called them, are so unenlightened that they don’t relish having their houses and businesses burned down in the name of social justice. So Biden is trying to square the circle by decrying violence in general, while pointing at right wing racists, in a delicate effort to assuage all elements of his coalition by carefully avoiding saying anything of substance. 

Will it work? Who knows? It could. It is certainly a cynical enough strategy.

JFB

And About Those Norms…

We hear a lot about norms these days, and in particular, about how President Donald Trump’s typically juvenile behavior violates long standing norms and therefore harms democracy. There is something to this. Trump is, after all, boorish, a habitual liar and an all around disgrace. And that’s on a good day. For instance, Trump has recently taken to insinuating that Joe Scarborough may have been involved in the death of one of his staffers when he was a Congressman. The actual cause of death was an undiagnosed heart ailment; the woman died in Florida while Scarborough was in Washington.

That aside, no reasonable person should doubt that norms, manners and temperament are crucial elements for the institutions of civil society, the rule of law and  for freedom generally.  And here, Donald Trump’s behavior is destructive, and becoming more so.

So we are left to ponder a question: Why is it that there is so little interest from the defenders of norms in what is emerging as perhaps one of, if not the biggest political scandals in the history of the Republic? A scandal in which important norms were eviscerated and may well have involved Nixon style (or worse) criminal behavior by high level federal officials.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration used federal law enforcement agencies to surreptitiously surveil members of the Trump campaign and the incoming administration. Obama officials submitted deliberately falsified documents to the FISA Court in a successful effort to obtain warrants to surveil Trump campaign and administration officials. Obama officials went on television to claim they had evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia even though under oath and in secret they admitted that they had no such evidence. 

In the matter of the Russia Collusion allegation, and then the Michael Flynn matter, it turns out that much, if not the entirety of the subsequent investigation was simply based on a pretext largely invented by Christopher Steele who was bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign using the law firm Perkins Coie as a cutout. In the process not only did numerous Obama Administration political officials make requests to have Michael Flynn’s identity unmasked, his identity was quickly (and illegally) leaked to the press, most famously to David Ignatious of the Washington Post.  

The honor roll of Obama Administration officials who were suddenly interested in having Flynn’s name unmasked included: Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, James Comey, James Clapper, James Brennan, Treasury Secretary James Lew, then Chief-of-Staff Denis McDough and of course Joe Biden. For his part, Biden claimed he “knew nothing about these moves to investigate Flynn.” And then, ahem, his name showed up requesting that Flynn be unmasked on January 12, 2017. 

Not only did former Director of National Security (and admitted liar) James Clapper submit an unmasking request in the Flynn matter, so did two of his deputies, Micheal Dempsey and Stephanie L. Sullivan.  According to both Sally Yates and James Comey, James Clapper personally briefed President Obama on the Flynn-Kislyak calls as part of the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB). But well before the unmasking requests were released to the public, Clapper testified behind closed doors under oath in the matter. He was asked (under oath) by Congressman Tom Rooney of Florida: “Did you ever brief President Obama on the Flynn-Kislyak phone calls?” Clapper had a one word answer: “No.” We know that was untrue.

The records also show that Samantha Powers made 260 unmasking requests during her tenure as U.N. Ambassador. She has testified that while most of these requests were made in her name, she herself did not make the them. According this version of events, someone else used her name in a national security matter, but she has no idea who it was. 

In all there were 39 Obama Administration officials who made 53 separate requests to unmask Flynn between election day (November 8, 2016) and inauguration day (January 17, 2017). Most of the requests took place between December 14 and 16, 2016, which was 2 weeks before Flynn’s December 29, 2016 call with  Russian Ambassador Kislyak, the predicate offered as justification for the Flynn investigation. 

In this sordid tale we should not omit the handiwork of John Brennan, Director of the CIA. Brennan claimed that “he [Trump] is wholly in the pocket of Putin”. On Meet the Press he told Chuck Todd “I called [Trump’s] behavior treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and aid and abet the enemy, and I stand very much by that claim.” 

He is not standing by it now, at least from his perch at MSNBC. After special counsel Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government” Brennan backtracked. He said “I don’t know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was”. 

I could go on with example after example, but the point is clear. Political operatives, law enforcement and intelligence officers in the Obama Administration conducted surreptitious surveillance on opposing Party’s presidential campaign and candidate. On national TV, they went so far as to fan flames about a non-existent Trump-Russia conspiracy, using “evidence” that they knew to be phony and manufactured by the Clinton campaign. We know this because Obama Administration officials have admitted to as much.

Evelyn Farkas, an Obama Administration Defense Department appointee, claimed on MSNBC that she was afraid that Trump administration officials might destroy evidence of the alleged collusion “if they found out how we knew what we knew about Trump’s staff dealing with Russians”. 

But when questioned under oath behind closed doors by Rep. Gowdy of South Carolina, Farkas sang a different tune. 

So, would someone please remind me again on how these norms are supposed to work. 

We Need to Talk about… Joe Biden

His name is not Donald J Trump.

That is all it takes, apparently, for a Democratic challenger to command the loyalty of the party faithful. It doesn’t matter what he thinks, assuming he is capable of it. After all his supporters refuse to think. They just know his name isn’t Donald Trump. 

But there is a problem that goes way beyond the usual foolishness that accompanies political campaigns. The problem concerns the mental acuity of the almost certain Democratic Party nominee for president, former vice president Joe Biden. It is obvious to all who are willing to see that the mental faculties of the former vice president, never strong to begin with, are in a state of rapid decline. The man can barely get through a sentence without losing his train of thought. He routinely begins to rank order proposed solutions to problems but almost never manages to get past the first on the list before wandering off. 

But his name is not Donald Trump. 

Joe Biden’s campaign, which now largely consists of boiler plate coming from a makeshift TV studio in his basement, is a pretty joyless affair. Were it not for his campaign’s center of operations at 620 8th Avenue in Manhattan, the campaign would be invisible. However, behind the scenes the campaign is working feverishly to unite the Party. The effort is instructive. 

During the primaries the voters went out of their way to signal that they were decidedly not interested in having a left-wing radical on the model of Jeremy Corbyn at the top of the ticket. And so beginning with South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden trounced Bernie Sanders (I. Rolling Stone) at every step of the way. There were strategic elements to the vote as well. Joe Biden looked safe compared to wild man Bernie Sanders and he looked normal compared to the schoolmarmish Elizabeth Warren (D MA) who, it must be said, annoyed pretty much everyone she came into contact with. 

You would think that set of circumstances would lead the almost certain nominee to try to unite the party around a center-left ticket. But you would be wrong. Because few really voted for Joe Biden with any kind of enthusiasm. They just voted against all the rest; Biden was just the one left standing. And all the rest, possibly excepting Amy Klobuchar (D, MN), were (and are) radical lefties. They control a large chuck of convention delegates, and more importantly, they control the policy conversation. So Biden is moving to the left, not the center, to unite the Party around his candidacy. 

There are two parts to the Biden strategy. The first is picking a female running mate. That’s what he promised to do, and this appears to be one of those rare promises he means to keep. The issue he facers is that there is a behind the scenes pitched battle to influence his choice. According to the gossip around DC, Bernie Sanders vetoed Biden’s choice of (heaven help us) Elizabeth Warren. Apparently Sanders and Warren are no longer besties. 

Amy Klobuchar has distinguished herself by occasionally taking reality into consideration. For the Bernie Bros, that is disqualifying, so it is unlikely that Biden would tap her, no matter how sensible a choice it would be given all the rest. That leaves Stacey Abrams, professional grievance monger, whose chief qualification for high office is that she ran for governor of Georgia and lost. She lost and has to this day has refused to concede, maintaining without a shred of evidence, that the election was stolen. Of the 3.9 million votes cast, she lost by just under 55,000, a margin of 1.39%, insufficient to trigger a recount. 

The important thing about Stacey Abrams is not that she, like Hillary Clinton, is a sore loser. The important thing is that her name is not Donald Trump, which is all that matters.

Let’s leave personnel matters aside for the moment and turn to the second problem the fledgling Biden campaign has to face as it attempts to unify the Party. Biden has a policy problem. 

The machinery of the Democratic Party is dominated by its left wing, which is also where its enthusiasm lies. It is this ideological bloc that is determined to set the policy agenda. And so it is gearing up to instruct Biden on what he is supposed to believe. Since Biden’s core belief is that he should be President he will say and do pretty much whatever he thinks will unify the Party so he can win in November. 

The balancing act will be determined by calculating how far left he has to move to placate his socialist allies (and let’s not pretend that they are not socialists) without losing moderates who vote Democratic, particularly in the upper Midwest. These are the voters who are the salt of the earth when they vote for Democrats and deplorables when they don’t. 

So how far left is Biden prepared to go to fulfill his life long ambition? One clue is that his campaign has created in partnership with Bernie Sanders, a series of panels with a mandate to hammer out policy positions for the fall campaign.  The six panels formed so far will explore “possible policy initiatives” with respect to climate change, criminal justice, the economy, education, health care and immigration. 

Biden named 5 members of each committee; Sanders named 3. Each committee has 2 co-chairs, one named by Biden and one by Sanders. Inevitably, the Sanders picks are radicals with allegiances to outside groups. (Sanders remember is not even a Democrat). For instance, the co-chair of the climate change panel is non-other than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) who has pledged her allegiance to the “Climate Justice Community” to whom she pledges to be “fully accountable”. 

Other task force members are outspoken in their views favoring an end to fracking, adopting Medicare-for-All, “free college”, welfare benefits for illegal aliens and defunding the Border Patrol.  Not surprisingly an economist on the panel, Stephanie Kelton (PhD, the New School, 2001) is an advocate of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). She claims that governments no longer have to worry about where they will get the money to pay for things, they can just print the currency. No problem. (See Kelton interviewed at the CFA Institute at this link). She gets to the heart of MMT at about 1 minute into the video.

It is, or should be, perfectly obvious that all the movement in the Biden campaign is to the left, and in all probability will continue to be. What is so bizarre about all this is that up until this point campaigns would iron out their policy positions and announce them before hand. Biden is waiting to be told what his policy positions are after having effectively won the nomination. 

But that is how things park in the People’s Republic. 

Then again, his name is not Donald Trump. 

Just like 300 million other Americans. 

JFB

The Season is Upon Us

When January of 2021 comes rolling around it is virtually inevitable that a supremely ambitious, self-serving, vicious and ignorant partisan hack will take the Presidential oath of office. The only question is whether the hack will be named Donald Trump or Joe Biden. In plenty of respects it makes little difference; in others it could make a big difference. There is just no way to predict it. 

Partisans who, for some mysterious reason, consider both themselves and President Trump to be conservatives, make two arguments for supporting Trump’s re-election. First they argue, Trump has compiled a sterling record of Judicial picks. Second, the alternative to Trump is socialism or some variant of it. While there is a real possibility of this, the jury is still out. 

Donald J Trump

While it is true in this writer’s estimation that Trump has indeed done a fine job in selecting judicial appointments, it is doubtful (and I am being charitable here) that this results from some Trumpian judicial philosophy moored to originalism or textualism. Instead it reflects the work of Mitch McConnell, who does espouse a relatively conservative judicial philosophy, and has done so for many years. It also includes Senator McConnell’s ongoing vigorous defense of the First amendment, an amendment that finds no friend in either the White House or in Progressive circles. 

The issue of judicial picks as an important electoral consideration begins to lose (some) of its salience when the discussion of a second term for Trump comes up. That is not only because Trump plainly has no idea what he talking about with respect to judicial philosophy (or much else for that matter), but also because a second term would introduce us to Trump unplugged. Trump without filters so to speak. In such a case there is no good reason for Christian Evangelicals to assume that Trump would continue to nominate conservative judges. After all during the Republican primary season he did refer to the possibility of appointing his famously liberal sister, then a sitting judge and an abortion rights enthusiast, to the Supreme Court.  

The second argument Trump’s supporters make is that the alternative candidate is intolerable because he is either a socialist, a variant of one, or beholden to the Socialist wing of his party. Which of course brings up the alternative lout: former Vice President Joe Biden, who is busy rummaging around for a running mate whose chief qualification is the possession of two X  chromosomes. 

Former Vice President Biden

The search for a female VP is underway because Mr Biden promised in his last debate with Bernie Sanders (I, Rolling Stone) to name a woman to run with him. No other criteria were deemed important in the selection process, typically characterized as a potential President’s most important choice and one that gives potential voters some insight into the candidates thinking.  Assuming that is, he is capable of it.  

It is going to be difficult for Mr. Biden to find some ideological balance in his selection because he has been pretty much all over the lot in a long and supercilious political career mostly notable for its combination of vacuousness and self-aggrandizement. Consider for a moment Mr Biden’s checkered history on a whole raft of public policy issues.

After all, he did vote for the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s before he got around to advocating for same-sex marriage as Vice President. Although he pretends to have been a dove on the second Iraq war, he voted for it and defended it as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here he is in 2002 according to The Hill:

“President Bush did not lash out precipitously at Iraq after 9/11. He did not snub the U.N. or our allies. He did not dismiss new inspection regimes. He did not ignore Congress,” Biden said in a 2002 floor speech given during the debate over legislation authorizing action against Iraq.

“At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation, and I believe he will continue to do so. At least, that is my fervent hope,” Biden said. “I wish he would turn down the rhetorical excess in some cases because I think it undercuts the decision he ends up making. But in each case in my view he has made the right rational calm deliberate decision.”

Then there is his ever shifting position on abortion rights. Way back in 1976 he voted for a law (The Hyde Amendment) prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. In 1981 he added the “Biden Amendment” to the Foreign Assistance Act prohibiting American aid from being used for abortion related research. It is still on the books. Back in 1982 he proposed a law allowing states to overturn Roe v. Wade. In 1984 he supported what came to be known as the “Mexico City policy” which banned federal funding for overseas organizations that provide or expand abortion services. Then in 1995 and in 1997 he voted for bills to ban partial birth abortions; those bills were ultimately vetoed by President Clinton. 

Now, of course, Biden is in favor of federal funding for abortion on demand. 

And that’s before the history of corruption chronicled by Peter Schweizer in “Profiles in Corruption”.  It seems that Biden was the master of the sweetheart deal when government contracts were to be handed out. And surprisingly enough, brothers Frank and James were apparent beneficiaries of the largesse. As was son Hunter Biden. 

This may be where Elizabeth Warren (D. MA) comes in handy as a V.P. pick. Consider that Biden voted for the repeal of Glass-Steagall which by 2008 had turned into a cardinal sin in left wing circles. And that Biden acted as errand boy for the credit card industry for years.  Elizabeth Warren, self-proclaimed scourge of Wall Street, would provide a perfect cover for Biden’s financial shenanigans. 

Sen Elizabeth Warren

She has already passed the first bootlicking test for the post with predictable cravenness. Warren, who called for the impeachment of Justice Kavanaugh over fantastical sexual assault claims that never had a shred of evidence attached to them, has decided to give Biden a pass in the matter of Tara Reade’s claim against him. A claim whose credibility far surpasses the various claims lodged against Kavanaugh.  

To nobody’s surprise, Warren announced that she found Biden’s denial of the allegations “credible and convincing”. This is the same woman who, during the Senate Kavanaugh hearings said: 

“What the United States Senate is about to do [vote in favor of Kavanaugh] hurts,” she said. “It hurts every survivor of sexual assault who has been ignored… every woman who has been told to sit down and shut up… every person who will be on the losing end of a Kavanaugh swing vote against them and in favor of states that keep American citizens from voting, in favor of corporations that cheat consumers, in favor of gun traffickers that put our children at risk. This hurts, but I want to be clear; I am not sorry I got in this fight.” 

I’d have to say she is a solid front runner in a race to the bottom. But wait,  there is bound to be more: the game has just begun. 

JFB