You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting anything for these past few days. Unfortunately we were flooded over the weekend, so much of my energy has been devoted to cleaning up in the aftermath of that event. I hope to be back to business as usual in the next few days.
In May of 2012, four months before the Benghazi terrorist attack, Hillary Clinton was viewed favourably by 66% of the American public. That’s down to scarcely over 50% today, in large part due to Benghazi and her reaction to it. As the 2016 Presidential campaign heats up, she’s going to be taking fire from Democratic primary opponents as well as Republicans – and some commentators have pointed out that there have been some early attacks already. From pundits to politicians, everyone has been speculating about Mrs Clinton’s Presidential ambitions, but it seems that they’re taking for granted that she would be a serious contender. Favourability is just one part of overall electability, and lately I’ve been wondering: just how electable is Hillary Clinton?
As part of her somewhat lacklustre book launch, Mrs Clinton has been in the news a lot recently. Everywhere she goes, the question of Benghazi keeps cropping up, and it seems that it would be a major issue in the 2016 Presidential race. She’s trying to avoid the issue by saying she won’t take part in any “politicising” of the terrorist attack, but she and Obama were the ones who politicised it to begin with, with their fictitious “protest”. The Benghazi issue won’t go away as easily as she’d like, and it’s clearly dragging her down.
Benghazi is even more damaging than she realises, though. She allowed a terrorist attack to happen on her watch after being warned, and after seeing Britain and others pulling out of that very dangerous city. Worse, she lied about it by following Obama’s “protest” narrative for weeks afterward. And then there’s the famous “what difference, at this point, does it make” statement at the Senate hearings. There was no protest and she knew it. But she’s clever, so it will never be proven outright that she lied. But if she runs in 2016, her only executive experience is as Secretary of State. In her entire career, she’s held one position of power. And she couldn’t handle it. The re-set with Russia was a disaster, and the catastrophe in Benghazi speaks for itself. She achieved nothing of consequence in her time at State, and even she herself talks in these meaningless vague terms about “improving America’s image in the world” as if it were a tangible achievement. It isn’t, and by the way, America’s image in the world has seldom been worse. That’s her legacy – one of failure. Though perhaps John Kerry is trying to do her a favour by showing America that there actually is a worse Secretary of State?
A few weeks ago, Karl Rove struck a nerve when he questioned Mrs Clinton’s health. She will obviously have to disclose her medical records as part of any Presidential bid, but one suspects that if her health were failing in any way she would have ruled herself out of the race, if only for the sake of the Democratic Party whose leadership have all but awarded her the nomination already. Health aside, the issue of her age is also going to crop up. On polling day in 2016 she’ll be 69 years old, only a few months younger than Reagan was, and assuming she serves two terms, she would be 77 when she leaves office. In Reagan’s day things were different. During the Cold War, the United States had very clear allies and enemies, but since 9/11, things have changed. The Presidency today is not well suited to an older person in their 70’s, which is one major factor in why we have President Obama instead of President McCain. The Democrats made a big deal out of McCain’s age and health in 2008, suggesting he was close to death and using that to attack Sarah Palin, someone they found much easier to attack. Mrs Clinton won’t make it through the 2016 campaign without being able to clearly demonstrate that health- and age-related issues will not have a negative impact on her Presidency. But even that may not be good enough. After a quarter of a century in the public eye and advancing in age, voters may well decide to support a younger, more energetic candidate. Were the Republicans to run such a candidate, we could see a re-run of 2008: a “status quo” versus “hope and change” election. I’d favour the Republicans in such a scenario.
Falling favourability numbers for someone so well-known this far out from election day should be a serious concern for the Clinton campaign. It’s easy to boost those numbers when nobody really knows who you are or what you stand for, but she’s been around for so long that there’s nothing left for voters to find out, at least, nothing positive. There may be revelations from Trey Gowdy’s new Select Committee between now and polling day which have an even more serious impact. Her health will be a concern, more so because of her age, and there’s always the possibility that an as-yet unconsidered candidate might steal the nomination from her in another hard-fought primary. Those who are saying that Hillary Clinton is sure to be the next President of the United States might want to take another look. Is she really electable?
I remember the first days of “shock and awe” when the US, allied with Britain and others, went into Iraq in 2003. It didn’t take long for the Iraqi army to be routed, and with Saddam Hussein gone, President Bush gave a speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln in front of a banner which read “Mission Accomplished”. In retrospect, perhaps victory was declared a little too early.
Perhaps Barack Obama should’ve paid more attention to the history of the war before pulling all US troops out of Iraq before Iraq was ready. He missed two crucial lessons which now explain why cities across Iraq have fallen to al-Qaeda, and why the terrorist forces are within striking distance of the capital, Baghdad. Firstly, the Iraqi army in 2003 fell apart very quickly when presented with serious opposition, and in spite of training and equipment given to Iraq by the US, they simply were not ready to take full control of their own security while still facing a major threat from terrorists. Secondly, Obama was too quick to declare his own “mission accomplished”, and history will look back on the speeches he and Biden gave at the time of the pull-out in much the same way as they look back on Bush standing in front of that banner on the Abraham Lincoln.
Iraq is now close to total collapse, and over the past few days, we’ve seen it happen in real-time. City after city has fallen to concerted terrorist attacks. Almost 4,500 American servicemen lost their lives to liberate Iraq, but now it seems that their sacrifice will have been in vain. President Obama has seen to that. There are so many ways that Obama has failed America’s troops and veterans that one hardly knows where to begin. I’m keen to avoid labelling each new development as “the worst”, because I see many in the media doing that and it’s irritating and disingenuous. But the Iraq pull-out was clearly one of Obama’s biggest mistakes, one he is now compounding by refusing to provide air support even after the Iraqis begged him for it. The Iraqi government knows that if terrorist forces reach Baghdad they won’t survive. They need American intervention, and they have needed it for some time.
The Obama foreign policy is one of retreat, and is headed by an incompetent ideologue in John Kerry, the man who ran in 2004 on an anti-war platform. Obama was so desperate to get out of Iraq that he wilfully ignored the consequences of doing so. Only now, with Iraq about to fall, has he finally recognised that there’s a problem – but still he won’t do anything to help. Within a matter of hours, al-Qaeda will be in Baghdad. Iraq will have fallen, and all the American servicemen who died will have died in vain. All those who were wounded and maimed will have been so injured in vain. That is the President’s responsibility, and that will be his legacy. He wants to do the same thing now in Afghanistan, and pull all troops out before he leaves office. Events in Iraq should make him reverse that decision, but they won’t. Obama lacks the ability to understand where he went wrong, and Kerry’s no help. The exact same thing will happen in Afghanistan, it’s all but guaranteed. President Obama came into office promising to pull out of Iraq. Congratulations, Mr President. Mission accomplished.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been defeated in his primary against Tea Party-backed challenger Dave Brat, according to reports. This is a big surprise in an election cycle which has seen very few incumbents lose out on either side (with some Democrats resorting to extraordinary measures to ensure their Congressman stays on the ballot). It’s certainly one of the Tea Party’s biggest ever political scalps, because Cantor is second only to Speaker John Boehner in the hierarchy of the House of Representatives.
Brat ran a fairly typical Tea Party campaign, attacking Cantor’s record as a conservative, and labelling him a Washington insider. At a time when Congress is seeing record-low approval ratings, it’s clearly a label which resonated with Virginians. Cantor’s defeat is all the more surprising because politicians in senior leadership positions seldom lose out in such fashion. Voters are often keen to keep a well-known or senior figure as their representative, in spite of the fact that often those in such senior positions have less time to dedicate to constituency matters. Perhaps this is one of the factors in Cantor’s loss.
But I’m in danger of taking the media line and spinning this as Cantor’s defeat, when in reality we should be celebrating Brat’s victory. After all, elections are more about the winners than the losers. So who is the man who’s going to carry the Republican banner for Virginia’s 7th District come November? His website has proven difficult to access tonight, no doubt because many journalists and interested people are trying to find out more about him too. He has a PhD in Economics, and is widely recognised in Virginia as an expert on budgetary matters. So far, so good, because if there’s one thing Washington needs it’s people who understand the major economic issues facing the country. His bio also says that he has “rural values” having grown up in the rural midwest, has two children and is a practising Catholic.
To un-seat a Republican heavyweight like Cantor is quite a feat. He looks set to be a difficult candidate to beat in November, and one hopes that the Republican establishment will rally behind him, no matter how disappointed some will surely be about Cantor. Party unity is important, and everyone must get behind the nominated candidates if the party is to do well in November. As I said in my piece on Senator McConnell, there may be unintended consequences when a senior party figure is defeated, but ultimately that choice remains with primary voters for a reason. Republicans in the 7th District clearly believed that Cantor was no longer effectively representing them in Washington, so they opted to let someone else have a go. If Brat’s values are more in line with theirs, it was the right decision. The Republican Party can get a new House Majority Leader, but the people of Virginia’s 7th District only get one chance every two years to get effective representation. One thing’s for sure, though: the Tea Party is alive and kicking!
By now, regular readers will know how I feel about John Kerry. He’s not qualified to serve as Secretary of State, and the sooner his damaging and disastrous tenure comes to an end the better. In case more proof were needed that American voters made the right choice in 2004, Kerry said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that it was “baloney” that the release of five high-ranking Taliban commanders from Guantanamo would put American troops at risk. Really? Baloney?
Let’s think about this for just a moment. By Kerry and his boss’ admissions, the United States will continue to have a military presence in Afghanistan until at least 2016. Under the terms of their release, Qatar (hardly a nation with a stellar reputation – and prone to corruption and bribery) is obliged to monitor these people only until 2015. So that gives them more than a year to get back to Afghanistan before Obama’s disastrous pull-out can be completed. Hardened terrorists need only a fraction of that time to harm American and NATO soldiers.
Releasing inmates from Guantanamo, regardless of the intentions, is always going to put American soldiers and civilians at risk. Estimates are that at least 30% of inmates released to date have returned to the battlefield. So Kerry was once again wrong, once again ideologically blind to a simple reality. He has once again proven that he is not fit to serve as Secretary of State. When asked that question, the only answer he should’ve given would be to say that, yes, it’s possible that releasing these terrorists will put American troops at risk, but the President took the calculation that it was worth paying that price to get back America’s only PoW. That would at least have been honest. Or would it?
Some have argued that this release is the opening salvo in Obama and Kerry’s quest to close Guantanamo before they leave office. Obama made it an issue in 2008, and on his first day in office, signed an executive order to close the detention facility. But reality set in quickly, and it became apparent that closing Guantanamo was not an option then, and it remains not an option now. Until there is a viable alternative, the facility must remain open.
But Kerry and Obama are single-minded when it comes to Islamic extremism… or are we not supposed to call it that any more? A few weeks ago, Kerry compared the state of Israel to South Africa under apartheid, and by doing so elevated the Islamic extremists who have promised to wipe Israel off the map to anti-apartheid icons and Nobel Peace Prize winners like Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. He’s simply not someone trustworthy on the issue of Islamic extremists.
John Kerry’s latest comments show that he’s not qualified to serve as Secretary of State. Whether it’s a bold-faced lie or liberal naïveté makes no real difference any more. Obama’s foreign policy is in tatters, and the best way to fix it would be to appoint an effective Secretary of State, not another political appointee. Kerry simply cannot handle the job, and it’s past time for him to go. These latest comments were just another load of baloney from the worst Secretary of State since Hillary Clinton.
A political scandal is brewing in the UK, as two senior government ministers have a very public argument forcing an apology to the Prime Minister and the resignation of a senior Home Office aide. PM David Cameron is said to be “furious” that his Education Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May have chosen to settle their disagreement so publicly, and the political press and opposition parties have had a field day as discipline at the heart of the government and the Conservative Party appears to have broken down. Theresa May, many have alleged, is trying to set herself up for a leadership bid assuming that the Conservatives don’t win the next general election. Michael Gove is known to be a supporter of current Chancellor George Osborne under such circumstances, but it should be noted that Cameron is still their leader, and with the Conservatives being in a comparatively good electoral position right now, all this political posturing and in-fighting serves no real purpose and damages both of them.
However, the media, in typically biased fashion, have completely missed the real story underneath the political scuffle. Theresa May’s Home Office made a serious allegation against Mr Gove’s Education Department: that they had failed to act on information given to them in 2010 that radical Muslims had infiltrated over 20 schools in the Birmingham area and were trying to radicalise and otherwise endanger the safety of kids in state-run schools. There is ample evidence that in some schools in the UK, radical Muslims are given free reign to preach their hateful extremist ideology, just like Abu Hamza used to do from his Mosque in east London. By going straight for the political element of the story, the British media has clearly demonstrated its pro-Muslim, pro-immigration, and anti-Conservative agenda. It is a classic case of media bias.
There are millions of Muslims in the UK, and to walk through some areas in big cities, one would be forgiven for thinking one was in Pakistan, Arabia, or southeast Asia. The Labour Party promoted an open-door immigration policy after 1997, but the issue goes back for decades before that to the aftermath of the Second World War. Britain is not a Muslim country, nor has it ever been, but many in the British Muslim community want to introduce religious teachings and elements of Sharia law. The British government conceded defeat, and has allowed “faith schools” to be operated along Muslim lines promoting Islamic teachings. And anyone who says that mass immigration has led to fundamental changes in British society is branded a “racist”.
Even today, Labour Party politicians still try to make the case for Britain being “multi-cultural”, but the truth is that many British people are very uncomfortable with that idea. After all, why should Britain be forced to be multi-cultural, and see its own indigenous culture relegated to sharing a place with many others, while other nations retain and reassert their own cultural identities? Nobody suggests that Pakistan should be multi-cultural. The problem in the UK is that many immigrants fail to adapt to British culture. They retain not just their own religious beliefs, but their own languages, dress codes, work ethic, architectural style, and so on and so on. Then, naturally, they tend to settle in areas of towns and cities which already have other immigrants, essentially colonising those areas.
The simple fact is that, in some cases, different cultures find it difficult to co-exist because their values are so fundamentally different. In some Islamic societies, women are second-class citizens, and there have been cases in the UK where women and girls have been killed over the concept of Islamic “honour”. Islam is nominally a peaceful religion, but a significant number of its adherents resort to violent means to try to enforce their version of society onto others. Some even claim to be waging war against the UK and her allies, and we have seen the tragic result of that extremist ideology manifest on the streets of London and elsewhere. Not long ago, a British soldier was brutally murdered on a busy London street by Muslim radicals, and of course, who could forget the 7/7 bombings in 2005 which claimed over 50 lives? Three of the four suicide bombers that day were born in the UK, though that fact was not widely reported.
Britain is no stranger to terrorists with radical agendas, though. The IRA murdered over 1,800 people in Northern Ireland and beyond in their quest for a republican Ireland (supported, as we have noted, by New York Congressman Peter King and others). But the media were never shy to call the IRA for what they were – terrorists. Now, we are told to be careful what we write about extremist Muslims, and even President Obama has avoided using terms like “Islamic extremists” for fear of offending. But if we don’t call these would-be killers out as what they are, we embolden them. The British media, by inflating this political scandal and downplaying the incredibly serious implications of radical Islamic extremists infiltrating British schools have shown that they are incredibly biased when it comes to certain issues. The media elites and political elites in the UK are keen to push for still more immigration to the increasingly crowded country, and continue to support multi-culturalism even though it’s clear that most British people do not.
It was this multi-cultural agenda, coupled with a wide open door to immigrants, which has led to this incredibly dangerous situation for British children. Children in some areas of the UK are going to government-run schools which have been infiltrated by Islamic extremists who hate everything that the UK stands for. But the media want to tell us a story of how two government ministers don’t like each other very much. That is stupid and that is dangerous. The British public need the media to keep them informed of important events, and what could be more important than discovering that enemies of the country have taken over government-run schools? British children are in danger, but the media is covering it up because the elites don’t want to add yet more fuel to the anti-immigration feeling which is understandably growing in Britain. I think that’s the real scandal here.
Let’s be clear: uncontrolled immigration, led predominantly by the Labour Party, allowed millions of Muslims to come to the UK, where a policy of multi-culturalism and excessive use of the race card meant they didn’t see any need to adapt or integrate. Islamic extremists born and raised in the UK have on several occasions attacked and killed British citizens, and now they’ve taken to preaching their hateful, destructive agenda in government-run schools. Given all that, I don’t care in the slightest which politicians dislike each other, because there’s a deadly serious problem which needs to be solved immediately. Children are in danger from Islamic extremists. There will be time to deal with the political implications later, but right now, everyone needs to be focused on one single goal: protecting British kids. It’s a scandal that they’re not.
I stand by the piece I wrote on June 2nd, in which I was critical of the way Fox News presented the Bergdahl release story on the front page of their website. At the time I wrote that short article, Sgt. Bergdahl had only just been released from captivity, and while there were very serious questions surrounding the release of detainees from Guantanamo, I felt that the way Fox had chosen to present that headline was at best questionable, and I do not regret saying so. Those of you who are frequent readers will know that I don’t mince words; I call things as I see them, and I saw the Fox piece as presenting a serious issue in a sensationalist way.
However, events in recent days have shown that the Fox headline on June 2nd may well have been accurate as a description of Sgt. Bergdahl. Many of his comrades have broken their silence, telling their stories about serving with Sgt. Bergdahl in Afghanistan, and a picture is emerging of someone whose loyalty to the United States was at best wavering. He clearly did not, as Susan Rice claimed in yet another poor performance on a Sunday show, serve with “honour and distinction”.
Some have claimed that the Bergdahl story is “just another scandal” for an administration which clearly has no shortage of those. It’s obvious that the White House sorely misjudged the situation and the reaction to the release of Guantanamo inmates. Some in Congress, especially on the Democratic side, are critical solely because they were not consulted. That anger will die down as the Democrats rally to try to save their Senate majority in November. But to the pundits who say that the Obama administration was trying to use the Bergdahl release to divert attention away from the scandal at the VA, I would say this: it worked.
Maybe it didn’t work in quite the way that the President’s team hoped. That Rose Garden appearance with the eccentric-looking Bergdahl Sr. was clearly an error in judgement on the part of the President’s advisors. What I can’t fathom is how they could have been so far off the mark when it comes to public opinion. Obviously releasing Guantanamo inmates is not going to go over well (except, perhaps, with a select few on the far-left), especially when it’s a five-for-one swap. It hardly seems fair, but one could hardly expect the Taliban to negotiate a fair deal. But the Defense Department had known for years that Sgt. Bergdahl may have deserted his post in Afghanistan, and worse, may have collaborated with the Taliban, though at this point it’s unclear if that was done under duress. We should be very careful to say that these accusations have thus far not been proven, but there are serious questions about Sgt. Bergdahl’s conduct. The White House had to know that.
Part of being a civilised society is placing a very high value on human life. President Obama did the right thing in getting Sgt. Bergdahl back, regardless of the questions about his conduct. Even President Reagan negotiated with unsavory characters to secure the release of hostages in Iran. However, it was a major political miscalculation to try to portray it as some kind of foreign policy success. The President clearly is lacking in any major foreign policy successes, but it should have been obvious even to him that there was no way to spin this in a positive way. By running around Congress once again, even Obama’s political allies deserted him, and the administration had to quickly backpedal. It looks once again like the President was not paying enough attention.
The Bergdahl scandal and the questions surrounding the release of Taliban commanders from Guantanamo will continue to dog the President. He was wrong-footed by people in his own team who should have kept him better-informed. The questions about Sgt. Bergdahl’s conduct will ultimately have to be resolved in a legal setting, perhaps a military court-martial. Obama is already perceived as a weak leader, especially on foreign policy, and the developments in the Bergdahl case certainly will not help him in this regard. While he may have done the right thing to bring home America’s only PoW held by the Taliban, it was wrong to try to claim it as a win, and wrong to try to claim that the swap would not endanger Americans either by allowing Taliban commanders back in the field or by potentially encouraging future hostage-taking by Taliban militants.
If what Obama wanted was a break from the VA and Obamacare scandals as the mid-terms draw closer, he got it. But the Bergdahl story doesn’t have long-term momentum in the way that those other scandals do. With the Select Committee investigating Benghazi just getting started, and a long election campaign between now and November, the President’s numerous other scandals will be back in the headlines before too long. He and his team misjudged the situation, and the end result was yet another scandal that the President can ill afford.