Media continue to whitewash Benghazi

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

Earlier this week, a bipartisan report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the September 11, 2012 terror attacks on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya laid fault for the U.S. vulnerability to such attacks to incompetence and terrible management decisions on the part of the Obama Administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But you’d never know that from coverage by the mainstream media. The coverage of the report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is illustrative.

The report was significant in that senators from both parties, in a body controlled by the President’s party,  set partisan differences aside and joined together publicly to blame the Administration. Of course, partisan considerations did water down the report by using vague obfuscatory language like “analysts,” “officials,” “policymakers” and classically “those in decision-making positions in Washington, D.C.” instead of identifying either President Barrack Obama or former Secretary of State (and likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton by name. But anyone who read the report got the point.

The bipartisan report’s official conclusion was that it was “imperative” both that the U.S. intelligence community position itself to anticipate, rather than just react to, potential terrorism hotspots and, most significantly, that “those in decision-making positions in Washington, D.C. heed the concerns and wisdom of those on the front lines and make resource and security decisions with those concerns in mind.”  The bipartisan report concluded pointedly, “The United States government did not meet this standard of care in Benghazi.”

Readers of the Post-Dispatch wouldn’t know that. While the paper did cover the report the next day with the Number 3 front-page article totaling 30 column inches (counting the jump to a back page and headlines on both pages), the report’s official conclusion wasn’t even mentioned. (In contrast, two days earlier, the Post devoted more space (34 column inches) to the week-old controversy about the closure of lanes to a Fort Lee, NJ bridge by the administration of potential Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie.)

So how do you cover a report without mentioning its official conclusion? The Post‘s highlighted bullet points leading the article in the print edition distributed to subscribers (which does not appear in the current online version of the article) spun three of the report’s 14 specific “Findings” that led to the report’s official conclusion:

  • A tamer finding that operations in Benghazi continued although the mission crossed ‘tripwires’ that should have led to cutting staff or suspending work. (Finding #5)
  • “Analysts” referred “inaccurately” to a protest at the mission, “leading officials” to make “incorrect” statements. (Finding #9) [The report never said that the references to a protest "led" officials to make incorrect statements; the report merely stated that erroneous reports "influenced" the public statements of policymakers.]
  • Blamed deceased Ambassador Chris Stevens for twice declining extra security help (based on facts recited in Finding #2).

The lead in the print edition stated, “The account spreads blame among the State Department, the military and U.S. intelligence for missing what now seems like obvious warning signs.” The current online version blames “systemic failure of security for U.S. diplomats overseas.”

As to former Secretary Clinton, whom the Post and other mainstream media are actively seeking to insulate from blame, instead of identifying her as one of the key policymakers who failed to heed the concerns and wisdom of those on the front lines or to make resource and security decisions with those concerns in mind, the Post wrongly inferred that the report had cleared her. Both the print and online versions state deceptively, “The report does not name Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time and now is a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.” In the print edition, that statement appeared under a bolded subhead “CLINTON NOT NAMED.”

In one candid moment, though, the Post account in the print edition did concede that that the Administration’s original characterization of the assault as a spontaneous mob protest against an anti-Islamic video was due to the Administration’s “relunctan[ce] to deal publicly with a terrorist attack weeks before the presidential election.” That validates Republican charges that the Administration deliberately lied to the American public in order to continue its pretense that it had kept the country safe from terrorism. The observation was scrubbed entirely from the current online version.

This is no time to tune out

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

This is a frustrating time for conservatives. President Obama and others in the Democrat Party are shredding the Constitution with abandon en route to creating an entitlement-dependent society ruled by executive fiat. The so-called leadership of the Republican Party is not only failing to call them out, they’re attacking movement conservatives who do. Many movement conservatives I know, admire and respect (like this one) are stating openly that it’s time to give up on the Republican Party.

Don’t do it.

The Democrat Party must be stopped and defeated, and the only political organization that can realistically succeed in doing so is the Republican Party. No new political party has succeeded since the Republicans themselves emerged in the 1850s, and current election laws and modern voter attitudes assure the continuance of the current Democrat-Republican duopoly. All the Republican Party needs to succeed is new leadership. Movement conservatives need to remain part of the party to help replace the failed leadership with principled conservatives. The opportune time to do so is right around the corner.

The 2014 midterm elections should return control of the U.S. Senate to the Republicans and solidify the party’s control of the U.S. House. Historically the President’s party almost always loses big in the second-term midterms, and it appears that the political atmosphere is ripe for a continuance of that trend. The senate seats that are up in 2014 are those that were swept into Democrat hands in 2008, the Democratic wave accompanying Obama’s first election. Republicans need to pick up six net seats to seize control, and seven Democrat-held seats that are up in 2014 are in states carried by Mitt Romney last election. Democrat incumbents in three of them have already surrendered by retiring, and the other four red-state Democrats are in big trouble. And if a big wave develops, up to five more seats in blue or purple states could also flip to the GOP. These include open seats in Iowa and Michigan and Democrat incumbents in New Hampshire, Colorado and even Minnesota. Despite the best efforts of the President, his party and their mouthpieces in the mainstream media, public attention is firmly focused on the failure of Obamacare and how the Democrats they elected lied to them about it. A big wave that snares as many as 11 seats, though a stretch, is nevertheless entirely possible.

In the House, both parties will trade vulnerable seats, but Republicans could still pick up a couple handfuls of net new seats.

Some conservatives have complained, with some justification, that Republican control won’t matter if control is turned over to the current RINO leadership of the party. But the current leadership doesn’t have to be the leadership that takes control in 2015. Even if Mitch McConnell survives his primary against conservative Matt Bevin, grassroots conservatives can and should pressure Republican senators to elect a new majority leader. How about leaving the leadership position in Kentucky, in the capable, principled hands of Rand Paul! Similarly in the House, the party can and should replace Speaker John Boehner with a reliable conservative like Georgia Rep. Tom Price.

Conservatives took control of the party away from moneyed “Me Too” establishment liberals in the 1960s and again when Ronald Reagan ascended to power. We can do it again. This is accomplished by strong conservative showings in contested 2014 primaries. Weak-kneed members like Sen. Roy Blunt, who currently succumb to Obama and Reid, can be made to succumb instead to ascendant conservative power. It has happened before. It can, and must, happen again. (UPDATE: Just days after Blunt urged U.S. House members to ignore conservative groups’ calls to defeat the Murray-Ryan budget deal, Blunt saw the light and voted against it.)

But in order to achieve strong conservative showings in the upcoming primaries and thereby influence other senators and representatives, disgusted principled conservatives need to hang in there to fight that fight. As tempting as bailing out may seem, that would be counterproductive and foolish.

Junior college candidate attacks Tea Party

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

In the non-partisan contest for Trustee of the Junior College District for St. Louis Community College (City and County of St. Louis),  subdistrict 3, one candidate, Allison Stenger, has attacked her opponent, incumbent Trustee Joan McGivney, for being (gasp!) a friend of the Tea Party. In a glossy, full-color mailing, Stenger says she will “stand up to Joan McGivney and her Tea Party friends.”

Apparently Stenger regards the Tea Party to be so negative, so repulsive, that she can win votes by tying her opponent to it, even worth fabricating such a connection. I have never seen McGivney at a Tea Party function. Of course, Stenger merely implied, without actually saying, that McGivney is a Tea Partier; the reference was to McGivney “and her Tea Party friends.” So, Stenger must think it’s evil merely to befriend a Tea Partier!

McGivney, Stenger’s opponent, has been a college trustee for just under a year, having won a special election for an unexpired term last year, when she defeated former Claire McCaskill campaign aide (now State Rep.) Bob Burns (D-Lemay). McGivney has 23 years of real-world work experience, including her own small business and 17 years as a Southwestern Bell executive. According to the Webster-Kirkwood Times, her resume is loaded with dedicated public service, having served on her local city council and school board, as a volunteer tutor at OASIS, and as a mentor at St. Louis City public schools. The Times notes that she was Webster Groves Citizen of the Year in 2002.

In contrast, Stenger’s qualifications are pretty slim. She doesn’t even have a campaign web site or Facebook page, probably because there’s nothing to say. Just turned 26, she has been out of school for less than a year. She is a personal injury attorney with the firm for whom she clerked during law school. During that clerkship she married one of the firm’s partners, St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger (D-Affton), 41, whose name and photograph appear prominently in her campaign materials. So, she filled in the gaps in her resume by cheap-shotting the Tea Party.

Stenger’s other “qualification” is her willingness to be the pawn of teachers unions, who want to oust the college’s chancellor. Teachers unions oppose McGivney because she acts independently of special interests, including the teachers unions, and bases her decisions on facts. McGivney also acts as a guardian of taxpayers interests, which are often at odds with those of the unions.

From the standpoint of good government, it makes sense that the management of the Junior College District’s multimillion dollar budget is better entrusted to a thoughtful, experienced taxpayer advocate than someone just a year out of school who would owe her election to unions representing the district’s employees.

And from the standpoint of the Tea Party, now it’s personal. Just like the Starbucks CEO’s recent declaration that opponents of same sex marriage are no longer welcome at his stores, Stenger’s pledge to “stand up to Joan McGivney and her Tea Party friends” makes it clear that Stenger does not want Tea Party votes. And McGivney’s taxpayer advocacy and independence from special interests also make her attractive to Tea Party supporters, even if she isn’t actually a member.

Jr. College candidate attacks Tea Party

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

In the non-partisan contest for Trustee of the Junior College District for St. Louis Community College (City and County of St. Louis),  subdistrict 3, one candidate, Allison Stenger, has attacked her opponent, incumbent Trustee Joan McGivney, for being (gasp!) a friend of the Tea Party. In a glossy, full-color mailing, Stenger says she will “stand up to Joan McGivney and her Tea Party friends.”

Apparently Stenger regards the Tea Party to be so negative, so repulsive, that she can win votes by tying her opponent to it, even worth fabricating such a connection. I have never seen McGivney at a Tea Party function. Of course, Stenger merely implied, without actually saying, that McGivney is a Tea Partier; the reference was to McGivney “and her Tea Party friends.” So, Stenger must think it’s evil merely to befriend a Tea Partier!

McGivney, Stenger’s opponent, has been a college trustee for just under a year, having won a special election for an unexpired term last year, when she defeated former Claire McCaskill campaign aide (now State Rep.) Bob Burns (D-Lemay). McGivney has 23 years of real-world work experience, including her own small business and 17 years as a Southwestern Bell executive. According to the Webster-Kirkwood Times, her resume is loaded with dedicated public service, having served on her local city council and school board, as a volunteer tutor at OASIS, and as a mentor at St. Louis City public schools. The Times notes that she was Webster Groves Citizen of the Year in 2002.

In contrast, Stenger’s qualifications are pretty slim. She doesn’t even have a campaign web site or Facebook page, probably because there’s nothing to say. Just turned 26, she has been out of school for less than a year. She is a personal injury attorney with the firm for whom she clerked during law school. During that clerkship she married one of the firm’s partners, St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger (D-Affton), 41, whose name and photograph appear prominently in her campaign materials. So, she filled in the gaps in her resume by cheap-shotting the Tea Party.

Stenger’s other “qualification” is her willingness to be the pawn of teachers unions, who want to oust the college’s chancellor. Teachers unions oppose McGivney because she acts independently of special interests, including the teachers unions, and bases her decisions on facts. McGivney also acts as a guardian of taxpayers interests, which are often at odds with those of the unions.

From the standpoint of good government, it makes sense that the management of the Junior College District’s multimillion dollar budget is better entrusted to a thoughtful, experienced taxpayer advocate than someone just a year out of school who would owe her election to unions representing the district’s employees.

And from the standpoint of the Tea Party, now it’s personal. Just like the Starbucks CEO’s recent declaration that opponents of same sex marriage are no longer welcome at his stores, Stenger’s pledge to “stand up to Joan McGivney and her Tea Party friends” makes it clear that Stenger does not want Tea Party votes. And McGivney’s taxpayer advocacy and independence from special interests also make her attractive to Tea Party supporters, even if she isn’t actually a member.

Sabato’s partisan rant re: electoral college reform

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

I like Larry Sabato, his Crystal Ball column and the fine work of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. But his post criticizing a proposal to reform the Electoral College falls well short of the standards ordinarily maintained by him and his organization. His thesis is easily unraveled, and it seems to be transparently based on concern that the change could hurt Democrats.

The proposal at issue would change the Electoral College by awarding one electoral vote to the winner of each individual congressional district and the state’s remaining two electoral votes to the statewide winner, the way Maine and Nebraska already award their electoral votes. The other 48 states and District of Columbia currently award electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis.

Crystal Ball‘s hyperbolic headline screams that the plan would “undermine democracy.” Sabato’s personal comment called the proposal “truly rotten” and claimed that it would “fix and game the Electoral College” to benefit Republicans.

Really?

The main analysis, penned by Senior Columnist Prof. Alan Abramowitz, claims the such a plan would have changed the result of the 2012 election because of gerrymandered congressional districts, specifically citing Republican-drawn plans in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, all states that Obama carried last year. But those states’ plans weren’t particularly gerrymandered or even unfair. Abramowitz failed to mention the most blatant gerrymanders, by Republicans in North Carolina, by Democrats in Illinois, and by a nominally non-partisan board in California. Since Romney won North Carolina statewide, the proposed plan would actually have given Obama some electors from that state that he did not receive under the current system. The reverse would have been true in Illinois and California.

Whining about gerrymandering ignores the fact that who benefits from gerrymandering changes over time. In Missouri, for example, the current Republican-drawn map, which caused the state’s loss of a seat from decennial reapportionment to come at the Democrats’ expense, represented the first time Republicans had drawn the state’s map since 1920. The liberally oriented main stream academics and media rarely objected when unfair redistricting favored Democrats.

The real reason that the proposed plan would have given the Republican nominee an electoral majority in 2012 even though the Democrat won the national popular vote by several million votes (and why Republicans control the House of Representatives even though Democratic congressional candidates outpolled Republican candidates nationally) is because of housing patterns. People who vote Democratic tend to congregate in metropolitan areas filled with people who think and vote like themselves, while people who vote Republican are more geographically dispersed. In the McKinley/Teddy Roosevelt era, the politics were exactly reversed, with Republicans dominating most cities and Democrats dominating most rural areas. (The red/blue state map of McKinley’s 1896 election is virtually a mirror image of the 2000 election, except for five states not then admitted to the Union.)

The rationale for the Electoral College is to give relevance to a broader geographical range of voters. When George W. Bush was criticized that he had won unfairly and against the will of the people in 2000, he explained that he would have campaigned differently if the popular vote had determined the outcome, but he campaigned according to the rules in place. Barack Obama did exactly the same thing, surgically concentrating on just ten “swing” states. Electing the president by the popular vote would put a premium on appealing to geographically concentrated voters who could be reached most economically, to the detriment of everyone else. That would shift attention away from most “swing” states, mostly to the benefit of single-party machine areas. Since Democrats are geographically concentrated, that plan would favor Democrats. And that bias would presumably be just fine for liberal academics.

Balkanizing presidential election returns into separate, independent elections (51 current jurisdictions, 486 under the proposal) insulates the election from fraud (whether by multiple or ineligible voting, voter suppression, or logistical problems with overseas and military ballots) by isolating its impact to a single area that is already likely to vote for the party that would benefit from the fraud. A few political machines (either urban Democrat or rural Republican) are in a better position to steal a national election in a larger election than in 51 or 486 smaller ones. For example, under the current system, the Chicago Democratic machine allegedly changed the outcome of the razor-thin 1960 election by swinging Illinois’ electoral votes to Kennedy with late reporting votes. (Democrats may prefer confused butterfly ballot voting in Florida in 2000 as an election-changing example.) Under a popular vote system, a few like-minded machines could manufacture millions of phony votes and steal an election that wasn’t close. Under the district vote proposal, they could have only affected congressional districts that they were going to win anyway, plus the two statewide votes.

The proposed reform would bring the election results closer to the people by giving relevance to their individual district, while still giving some attention to statewide results. The voices (and votes) of urban Democrats in Missouri and Texas and rural Republicans in Illinois and California would actually matter. Overall, that would currently favor Republicans. At other times (e.g., 1945-1980) it would favor Democrats. And the system that’s in place now isn’t really all that bad.

Democrats bork themselves

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

The passing of Judge Robert Bork is a sad day for conservatives and all of America. The country will forever suffer the lost opportunity to have had his intellect and principled guidance on our highest court. Democrats rewrote the rule book to deny him his rightful place on the Supreme Court.

The Senate’s refusal to confirm President Reagan’s nomination of Bork to the high court caused Reagan to settle for a less principled choice, Anthony Kennedy, a moderate who would become the court’s “swing vote” for over twenty years.

But now, Bork’s passing has its own ironic revenge. Had he been on the court, his death would have created a vacancy from the conservative wing during the presidency of a liberal Democrat with a liberal Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. It would have given President Obama the ability to turn the court’s majority over to the liberal wing, something statists and other liberals have craved ever since President Nixon changed the court’s course by naming Warren Burger to replace Earl Warren as chief justice. It would have marked a Democrat President’s first opportunity to replace a conservative justice with a liberal since 1967, when Lyndon Johnson named Thurgood Marshall to succeed Tom Clark. Conservatives would retake that seat in 1990, when Marshall was succeeded by Clarence Thomas.

But that liberal opportunity is not to be, at least not just now, and it isn’t to be because liberal Democrats refused to do the right thing in 1987. If they had followed time-honored precedent, the impeccable legal credentials of Bork would have required them to confirm, in spite of the senators’ philosophic and political differences with the judge, just as senators of both parties had done repeatedly in the past. But no, liberal Democrats, led by a young prospective presidential contender named Joe Biden, played politics and changed the unwritten rules to deny Bork the position he deserved.

What the Democrats and the nation got instead was Kennedy, who besides being more moderate was also nine years younger than Bork. Kennedy remains very much alive and still on the court. And thanks to another wrongful Democratic act, Kennedy isn’t even a swing vote any more. That second act was President Obama’s attempt to bully the court into submission to his agenda. He singled the court out for criticism in his 2010 State of the Union speech, which hardened the resolve of the court’s conservative wing. It especially angered Kennedy, who has been a more reliable conservative vote ever since.

What goes around comes around. Yes, America misses the well-reasoned conservative decisions that a Justice Bork would have rendered for some 25 years. He is gone now, and he is missed. But the guy we had to “settle” for lives on, stronger than ever.  Obama and Biden inadvertently did their parts, some 22 years apart, to preserve the conservative edge on the Supreme Court today.

Silver linings around the dark 2012 cloud

Amid rumblings in the gleeful lamestream media about how the demographics of the evolving electorate doom Republicans to permanent minority status, there are a few glimmers of hope for conservatives in the exit polls, especially when compared to prior elections.

The Unablogger

Perhaps most important, voters are growing more conservative with respect to the appropriate role of government. Voter attitude flipped from thinking, 51% to 43%, that the government should do more to solve the nation’s problems in 2008 to believing (by the same margin) in 2012 that the government is already doing too much. The conservative attitude in 2012 even surpassed the 49-46 margin by which voters had opposed more government involvement when Bush won reelection in 2004. So how did these voters reelect Obama? Because the “takers” are lining up better than the “makers.” Obama won reelection because he carried more of the voters who shared his governmental vision (81-17) than Romney did among the voters who shared his (74-24). The table is set for an articulate advocate for smaller government.

Rays of hope also appear for conservatives among the President’s strongest supporters. Even though Obama carried voters under 30 by a solid 60-37 margin in 2012, that deficit was a big improvement over 2008. Young whites moved dramatically, from favoring Obama over McCain, 51-44, to backing Romney by 10 points, 54-44. Even as older minority voters were moving even more toward Obama, young minority voters moved a few points toward Romney. When it comes to the youth vote, Democrats may be premature in hanging the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

While African Americans were Obama’s most devoted supporters, their support actually receded 2 points this year. Black defection was most notable among young blacks (4 points) and black men (7 points). Perhaps greater improvement is possible once a black president is no longer on the ticket or in office.

Obama’s hostility towards Israel took its toll. His 69-30 margin among Jewish voters obscured the fact that Jews trended more Republican in 2012 than any other religious group. While most religious groups of voters (including atheists) moved about 3 points from Obama in 2008 to Romney in 2012, Jewish voters made the same move by 9 points. While the 2012 Republican rebound failed to bounce all the way back to Bush’s levels for Catholics and Protestants in 2004 and improved over Bush’s 2000 performance by a single point, the Republican Jewish vote improved 5 points over 2004 and 11 points over 2000. Whether the shift is sui generis to 2012 or persists like the Democrat gains among “other religions” in 2004 and atheists in 2008 remains to be seen.

Obama’s support among other key parts of his base may have been overstated. With all the racket from labor unions, you’d think union families would have been nearly unanimous for the President. But Romney won 40% of them. And that’s not really new. George W. Bush also won 40% of the vote from union families in 2004, and even John McCain won a substantially similar 39% in 2008.

Similarly, while gay, lesbian and bisexual voters gave Obama a 76-22 majority in 2012, that was no different than their support for Kerry when Bush won reelection in 2004. (McCain had actually run 6 points better among those voters, but Obama’s position switch on gay marriage won them back.) At least this election didn’t break any new ground with this group. Since gays tend to have relatively high disposable income, Republicans have the potential to fare better with them when economic issues become more important.

Finally, Obama’s 2008 success in rallying both the upper and lower classes against the middle was not repeated this year. His campaign’s appeals to classic FDR-era class warfare backfired. Voters with family incomes over $200,000 flipped from 52-46 for Obama in 2008 to 54-45 for Romney. Obama’s specific targeting of incomes exceeding $250,000 was not well received by voters earning that much, as Romney carried them by 13 points, 55-42. Obama had expected to offset those losses with big gains among voters with family income under $50,000, but their support remained flat.

Conservatives have their work cut out for them in the near future, but prospects aren’t as gloomy as they appeared on election night.

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