American Elephants

Tom Steyer Blew $74 Million On Fighting A Pipeline. by The Elephant's Child


Tom Steyer became a billionaire by investing in fossil fuels. Now he is betting against them, and blew at least $74 million trying to persuade the voters to oppose Republicans who disagree with him about the Keystone XL pipeline. He opposes the pipeline, he opposes oil sands from Alberta, and apparently would prefer to see Alberta’s oil sent to market by rail. Rail, of course, is far more dangerous and subject to oil spills than a pipeline — pipelines have an excellent safety record.

Well, proof, once again, that money doesn’t buy elections. Mr. Steyer and the teacher’s unions wasted far more money than most. Mr. Steyer gave most of his money to his NextGen Climate Action Super PAC. Environmental groups including NextGen spent $85 million to support President Obama’s agenda, especially the regulations for “bankrupting coal.” They are not taking the defeat well. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune  whined:

Despite the climate movement’s significant investments and an unprecedented get out the vote program, strong voices for climate action were defeated and candidates paid for by corporate interests and bolstered by sinister voter suppression tactics won the day.

Mitch McConnell made opposition to “the war on coal” the centerpiece of his campaign, and won what was supposed to be a close election by 15 points. Shelley Moore Capito’s support for coal made her the first female GOP Senator in 55 years from West Virginia.

Mr. Steyer and the greens made opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline a litmus test of their support for Democrats, and Mr. Obama dutifully delayed approving the pipeline, despite multiple government reports showing no effect on the climate whatsoever from the pipeline.

In his statement to reporters following the election, Mr. Obama once again went off on “infrastructure and roads and bridges” suggesting that nasty Republicans wouldn’t support those opportunities for creating good jobs for unemployed Americans struggling to join the middle class. That has been Obama’s constant refrain repeated endlessly since 2009. Hello? An oil pipeline guaranteeing  something like 20,000 jobs IS infrastructure.

Republicans are promising to push pro-fossil-fuel  energy policy in Congress, including support for the Keystone XL,  fast-track approval for liquid natural-gas-export terminals, and reining in anti-coal regulations. Democrats might want to help create jobs, and perhaps save their own. Principle works better than falling all over yourself when a billionaire promises money.

If these environmental zealots would spend as much time studying up on the science of energy as they do on trying to buy politicians, they would save a fair amount of cash.

President Obama is Writing Privately to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei by The Elephant's Child


The news today is full of reports about the presidential correspondence with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The October letter was Obama’s fourth time to write Iran’s most powerful political and religious leader since 2009. The correspondence clearly indicates the importance with which Mr. Obama views America’s relations with Iran. The Wall Street Journal wrote:

The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the campaign against Islamic State and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.

Mr. Obama stressed to Mr. Khamenei that any cooperation on Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline, the same people say. …

The combination of stiff sanctions and the surprising drop in the price of oil combined with the rise of Sunni Islamic State militants had moved the relationship into an effective state of détente. That shift could presage more problems in the balance of power in the region and alienate key U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates who are central to the coalition fighting the Islamic State. Iran remains the world’s leading sponsor of terror and abuses of its own people.

Iran has watched while the U.S. heckles Israel about its conduct in the war in Gaza, allows Bashar al-Assad to continue his mass murder, refused to consider more sanctions, countenanced insulting remarks about the elected representative of the Jewish people, and watched the administration’s response to Russia, to China, and continuing refusal to consider “boots on the ground in Iraq” as evidence of the character of the Obama administration. It seems clear that the world has taken the measure of the Obama administration and believes the United States to be weak and indecisive.

The administration, on the other hand, seems to regard the current state of affairs as a potential opening to a diplomatic deal on their nuclear ambitions.

One wonders which part of “DEATH TO AMERICA!” and “Death to the Great Satan” and “Death to the Little Satan” is it that Mr. Obama doesn’t understand?

Mr. Obama and his team have assumed the chances for a deal with Iran at only 50-50. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Iranian counterpart on Sunday in the Persian Gulf country of Oman. Unfortunately, they considered the diplomatic negotiations with Iran so sensitive that they didn’t tell its Middle East allies, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE about Mr. Obama’s October letter. Leaders from those countries have expressed growing concern that softening demands from the U.S. to try to reach “a deal” with Iran will allow Iran to gain the capacity to produce nuclear weapons.

The deadline for a nuclear deal is November 24. Iran is adopting a hardline negotiating position. So what harm can a letter from the American president do?

Actually, a lot. The Journal quotes a senior White House official who provides context for Obama’s outreach: “We’ve passed on messages to the Iranians . . . saying our objective is against ISIL. We’re not using this as a platform to reoccupy Iraq or to undermine Iran.”

Saying this to Iran is the diplomatic equivalent of telling an ill-reputed used-car salesman, “Money is no object, I don’t need a test drive, and I’m desperate to buy today.” It’s not very clever.

Iran’s hardliners are likely to see the president’s latest letter as a verification of increasing American malleability. But there’s a deeper issue here. As I noted in September, the administration’s willingness to see the best in Iran without challenging the worst manages to inspire only the latter. While we offer friendship, from Beirut to Baghdad, from Sanaa to Washington, Iran forges power through violent opportunism.

Other headlines don’t offer much confidence: “Pentagon: Iran Giving ‘Lethal Aid to the Taliban to Fight U.S.and Report: Iran Nuclear Program More Advanced that Previously Believed. or from the Weekly Standard: The Most Dangerous Man in the World.”

What can possibly go wrong?


Serious People With Real Talent to Offer! by The Elephant's Child


Weren’t we told after the 2012 election about the high-tech ground-game of Obama’s election team? They just knew how to do elections, and the stodgy Republicans would never be able to catch up?  Yes, I thought that was the conventional wisdom.

And wasn’t there supposed to be a fatal war in the Republican party between stodgy, conventional Conservatives and the radical, extremist Tea Party? I think even Homeland Security has the Tea Party on their watch list of dangerous extremists.

The Tea Party (TEA—Taxed Enough Already) cheerfully took inspiration from British colonists fed up with British taxes who dressed up as faux Indians, and threw a lot of bales of tea into Boston Harbor. Great fun, hardly dangerous extremism. The tea-party wave sent 87 new Republicans to the House  in 2010, and a steady group of reformers to the Senate. Harry Reid has kept the Senate from accomplishing anything, but the influence of the tea party on the Republican caucus has been important internally.

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel is paying  close attention:

The Senate is about to change in ways that go far beyond GOP control. Voters aren’t just sending a bumper crop of Republicans to Washington in January; they are sending an A-Team. …

It happens that most of the incoming Republican freshmen are experts in, and passionate about, the issues that are about to dominate Washington. The country hasn’t witnessed a real foreign-policy debate since at least 2004, but President Obama’s mishandling of ISIS has made it inevitable. Joining the fray will be folks like Arkansas’s Tom Cotton. The 37-year-old Harvard-educated, former Army platoon leader has in his few short House years positioned himself as a leading voice on foreign policy.

Add Iowa’s incoming senator, Joni Ernst, who served in Iraq and Kuwait, and who made her opponent’s votes to defund the Iraq war a prominent part of her campaign. In Alaska, Dan Sullivan, who looks to win that Senate race, ran on his military service and his time working on foreign policy for Condi Rice in the White House. The voices of these younger veterans are going to resonate in any coming debate over the president’s cuts to the Pentagon budget. Expect, too, an interesting new dynamic vis-à-vis the Rand Paul wing of the GOP.

Cory Gardner, Dan Sullivan and Montana’s Steve Daines know their way around energy and the environment. Nebraska’s Ben Sasse ran on a fully thought out replacement for ObamaCare, Thom Tillis, and David Perdue are both former businessmen who are deeply interested in tax-code overhaul and budget reform.

Last Tuesday, the voters said clearly that they wanted a change in direction of policy, but it was more than just complaint about the way things were going. They did something about it. They elected men and women of real substance.

The Upcoming 114th Congress House of Representatives Map by The Elephant's Child


(Click to enlarge)

Liberal Prophets by The Elephant's Child

(h/t: Vanderleun)

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