American Elephants


The Left Gears Up For The Coming Campaign by The Elephant's Child

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We have one declared candidate for President of the United States, but the media cannot wait. They want the contest on now, because campaigns always make for better opportunities for stories, and that’s easier than trying to understand the ups and downs of daily policies and events.

This time it’s PolitiFact, and whatever it is they are going to fact check it! Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker said in January, before a New Hampshire audience, that he paid just $1 for his sweater at Kohl’s. He said there was a time when the word “thrift” was not in his vocabulary. He said he had bought something at the price on the tag, and his wife couldn’t believe he didn’t understand the concept of bargain hunting. He learned his lesson.

Now, we grant this is not the most important topic in politics today. But we decided to fact check it for two reasons,” PolitiFact’s James B. Nelson wrote. “First, we heard from readers from around the country who thought it was an unbelievable story — as in, literally impossible to believe. Second, it goes to what has been a major theme of Walker’s visits to some of the early primary states — that he is just an average guy.”

PolitiFact, a division of the Tampa Bay Times, noted that Walker’s reputation for being a regular Joe contrasts nicely with the more “well-heeled” GOP 2016 hopefuls, particularly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

They called the Kohl’s in Hooksett, NH, and an employee in menswear said all of their Henley sweaters were on the clearance racks. Based on photos of Walker in the sweater, it appeared to be a “Chaps twisted button Mock Sweater” in ‘walnut twist.’ Unable to find it on the Kohl’s’ website they went to the local store and found plenty of Chaps sweaters marked between 80 and 90 percent off, even more than Walker had claimed. Some were originally priced at $70 and marked down to $7, but Walker said he used his “Kohl’s Cash” a store discount card based on previous purchases.

Politifact was forced to hand Gov. Walker a “true” rating for his claim. Dang! No big story there. But you see what I mean.



Manipulating Domestic Opinion. Do You Believe Him? by The Elephant's Child

What was going on yesterday? A media frenzy so focused on the possibility that someone might be offended that it wiped all other news off the page? A full-throated attack by the Big Gay Hate Machine to discourage anyone from objecting to their choices? Oddly enough, the RFRA laws that were passed did not even mention sex, Gays, intolerance, or anything else related to discrimination, but merely said that religious beliefs needed to receive consideration.

Or was this media frenzy called out by the White House to take media attention off the nuclear discussions in Switzerland? Was it a mere coincidence that Senator Menendez (D-CT) (who was a sponsor of two different bills, one putting the sanctions back on Iran if they didn’t fully allow inspections, and the other forcing any agreement to come to the Senate for confirmation) was suddenly indicted for supposed corruption just when his bills might come to the attention of the public?

See how suspicious I’m becoming? Obama is a fierce competitor. The Republicans may have won control of Congress, but Obama has no intention of changing his strategy from doing exactly what he chooses by executive orders— to consulting and cooperating with Republicans to try to accomplish something. Obama believes the ends justify the means. Obama wants to be in control of his situation. Obama is dogmatic in his essential positions and does not change his mind.

We are told that Mr. Obama only sees his closest associates. That he requires from his czars and advisers a short list of 3 choices from which he will choose. That sounds like that he does not have the skill set he needs to deal with the complex problems he wants to address.

There is no Iran deal yet, but Obama was speaking of a pact in the past tense, as if it was a done deal. “He claims  ‘It has succeeded exactly as intended’—pretty much what he says about ObamaCare.”

You will notice that today, the media frenzy of yesterday has virtually disappeared. Obama has made his big statement for domestic purposes, and, as Investors says, “Nothing, apparently, will stop Obama from accepting the inevitability of a nuclear Iran and absurdly claiming that it makes the world safer.”



It Isn’t Really About Religious Liberty, That’s Just an Excuse! by The Elephant's Child

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Today’s big Kerfuffle is about the Religious Freedom law that Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence just signed into law. It is simply a state-level version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which imposes a “strict scrutiny” legal standard when state or local governments pass laws that interfere with the free exercise of religion. Governor Pence and Indiana’s legislators have been denounced as gay-hating bigots, a claim never made when President Bill Clinton signed the federal RFRA, or even about the people and officials of the 20 states with a RFRA. There are another dozen or so states that also have constitutional provisions that are similar.

Ssssh!  It’s not about religious freedom. It about Mike Pence who has been a successful and accomplished governor, is nice looking, very likeable, and who is one of a number of outstanding governors who might well run for the office of the President of the United States. This is what today’s far-left progressives do. The issue is never the issue. And this one is about an attempt to attack Mike Pence and disqualify him as a potential Republican candidate.

If you remember, Rick Perry was disqualified as a potential Republican candidate because of the way he melted down in the debates last time. Melted down? Well, not exactly. He went blank on a third agency he wanted to mention and couldn’t think of it. Something that has happened to lots of us. But the actual small blank moment has been boosted into a “complete disqualification.” Who says? Well, all those news people.

Then there was Chris Christie. It was the bridge thing. He was accused of deliberately blocking a bridge in order to influence votes by making commuters angry. He was absolved of the accusation, but the issue has been boosted into a “complete disqualification.”

Then there was Governor Scott Walker. A New York Times writer accused him of slashing the funds for schools and laying off teachers. Ooops! The writer was Gail Collins, and the slashing of funds, such as it was, happened in the previous administration before Scott Walker took office.

Ted Cruz, who just announced his candidacy, has already been accused as being even more unprepared for office than former state senate backbencher who kept voting present, and was a community organizer. He has been tarred with the McCarthy label, and many more drastic accusations will be forthcoming. What could scare the hard left more? He is conservative, has a link to the immigrant community, speaks Spanish, is an accomplished attorney who has argued for the State of Texas before the Supreme Court many times and often successfully, and is admittedly brilliant.

This is the pattern for the Left. Republican candidates will be portrayed as waging war on women and minorities, favoring only the rich, inflicting pain on working families to benefit the wealthy few, not caring about the poor and vulnerable, while Republicans say the left is using class warfare tactics, or being divisive. Democrats go for the throat, Republicans are too polite to do so, and try to explain how lower taxes for everyone will benefit the economy.

So the issue (religious freedom) is not the issue. The real issue is getting rid of Republican candidates who might be attractive to voters. Attacking religious fundamentalists (the anti-religion crowd has never gotten over Hobby Lobby). Distracting national attention from the poisonous Iran deal negotiations. And finding someone to replace Hillary who is building up a huge scandal with her email evasion before she even declares as a candidate.



Man The Lifeboats, The Ship of State is Sinking by The Elephant's Child

Why Yemen Matters: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times 3/28/15

Last Thursday, the Middle East Kingdom of Saudi Arabia led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country of Yemen. And they didn’t bother to tell the White House what they were doing because they don’t trust them. Saudi and Egypt have been active in a Yemen war before, but on opposite sides. It is striking that they should join forces, not against Israel, but against Iran.

Uncertain of Obama, Arab States Gear Up for War: David Schenker and Gilad Wenig, Wall Street Journal, 3/29/15

“Few organizations boast a reputation of dysfunction comparable to the Arab League’s. Over seven decades the Arab League has distinguished itself through infighting and fecklessness. But now, with the Obama administration seen as missing in action in the Middle East, the alliance of 22 countries is undergoing a renaissance. Over the weekend, the Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and endorsed the creation of an intervention force to fight terrorism in the Middle East.

Regional backing for the force came days after a mostly Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed, nominally Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, who last week sacked the provisional capital of Aden and drove Yemen President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.”

Obama Admin Threatens U. S. Allies for Disagreeing with Iran Nuke Deal: Adam Kredo, Free Beacon, 3/27/15

“LAUSANNE, Switzerland—Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.”

Richard Engel: Military Officials Say Allies No Longer Trust  Us, Fear Intel Might Leak to Iran: Daniel Bassali, Free Beacon, 3/27/15

“Saudi Arabia and other countries simply don’t trust the United States any more, don’t trust this administration, think the administration is working to befriend Iran to try to make a deal in Switzerland, and therefore didn’t feel the intelligence frankly would be secure. And I think that’s a situation that is quite troubling for U.S. foreign policy,” Engel said.

Obama’s Latest Concession Guts What’s Left of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Jonathan Tobin, Contentions 3/26/15

“The Iranians were holding their ground on yet another key point in the negotiations and, to no one’s surprise, the Obama administration is preparing to give in to them again. This time the issue is Iran’s refusal to open its facilities up to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors eager to see how much progress they’ve made on military research for the nuclear program. But instead of threatening to walk away from a process that appears on track to ending sanctions on the Islamist regime over this key point, the administration is preparing to amend the current draft of the deal to allow the Iranians several years’ leeway before they’d be required to give a full reckoning about how close they are to a bomb. What this amounts to is the West waving the white flag on effective verification of Iran’s nuclear activities. And that means that not only will Iran be able to cheat their way to a bomb, but they may very well get there even while observing the agreement that is expected to be finalized by the end of the month.”

Free Fall in the Middle East: Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest, 3/27/15

“But as President Ahab glances around his deck, few of his shipmates are manning their posts—in fact, most seem to be scrambling for the lifeboats. Oh well, there’s always that trusty tar, Unnamed State Department Official, to rely on for a friendly quote in Politico:

“There’s a sense that the only view worth having on the Middle East is the long view. […] We’ve painfully seen that good can turn to bad and bad can turn to good in an instant, which might be a sobriety worth holding on to at moments like this. The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region.”…

James Jeffrey, Obama’s former Ambassador to Iraq, cuts through the commentary on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a certain pithiness:”

“We’re in a goddamn free fall here.”



Iran Has Declared Victory in Its Contest With the West. by The Elephant's Child

Iran minister says sanctions must be lifted before nuclear agreement “Iran’s foreign minister and chief negotiator in the nuclear talks with the West declared victory for his country, stating that no matter how the negotiations end, Tehran has come out “the winner,” according to remarks made on Tuesday and presented in the country’s state-run press.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to the country’s Assembly of Experts, declaring that the nuclear negotiations have established Tehran as a global power broker.

“We are the winner whether the [nuclear] negotiations yield results or not,” Zarif was quoted as saying before the assembly by the Tasnim News Agency. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken.”

I’m not sure that this is what President Obama has in mind as ‘his legacy.’

When the world’s most powerful nations began their effort to negotiate away Iran’s nuclear program in 2003, the Islamic Republic had 130 centrifuges. These machines convert uranium into a form that can set off a chain reaction. That chain reaction in turn can either create nuclear energy or be set off to explode the most destructive bomb the world has ever seen. By November 2013, when Iran reached a so-called interim accord with the United States and other nations to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the relaxation of tough sanctions, the Islamic Republic had deployed nearly 20,000 centrifuges.

Estimates suggest those centrifuges could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb in as little as 45 days—the so-called breakout period. They have already generated a stockpile of low-enriched uranium sufficient to produce as many as seven nuclear bombs. Some believe that Iran could convert a bomb’s worth of uranium into the payload of a crude nuclear device in perhaps a few months.

Negotiators could not reach a final deal by the initial November 2014 deadline, so extensions were devised. The new deadline comes at the end of June. Press reports and administration statements are providing us with a picture of what America and the other nations in the negotiations are now hoping to achieve. They are trying to use various technical means and human oversight to slow down Iran’s breakout time from a few months to one year and ensure that a deal lasts at least a decade. In exchange for these concessions, they appear ready to enshrine Iran as a threshold nuclear state.

This is what President Obama has in mind as his legacy. All the concessions fit a long-term pattern. “If a nuclear deal is imminent, that is largely because over the past 13 years of on and off negotiations, the great powers of the world have slowly gut surely given in to Iran’s demands. …Instead of ending the threat of Iranian nuclearization, negotiators have apparently limited their ambitions to an attempt to regulate it.” Instead of a “legacy” this can be more accurately called wishful thinking.

The core factor for the past 13 years has been the desire to avoid military confrontation at all costs — and especially during the Obama administration — the fear of even threatening it. With no credible threat, you get nothing, a pretend agreement, collapse, doesn’t matter. You can guess what the Obama response is —Bush’s fault. He left us with no options. Sorry, a president is confronted with the problems that exist. They don’t disappear by blaming your predecessor. You have to deal with what is, not cowardly kick the can on down the road. To understand the three-pronged strategies involved, read the whole thing here. It is an important discussion. As the administration lifted the sanctions, Iran, now able to support its nuclear program again, had refused to reduce its nuclear capacity. We now have no leverage, we gave it all away.

There are those among the Iran Watchers  who believe that the negotiations have worked and a deal could lead to “a more engaged Iran.” Obama’s goal of reconciliation has been constant. He ignored the Green Revolution in favor of a new relationship with Iran that would define regional order and speak to the brilliance of the Obama presidency.

On the other hand, the Green Revolution indicated that ordinary Iranians are not all that happy with the leadership of the Mullahs. Did we ignore that at our peril? I don’t know. The IAEA record with nuclear proliferation is — North Korea, Pakistan and India — all a surprise when they became nuclear states. Iran works closely with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs.

The Middle East is a hotbed of clashing religious beliefs, including small sects currently being eliminated by ISIS. There is, however, a special danger in the Shiite doctrine held by the leaders of Iran. The return of the hidden Imam will bring the war that ends the world and creates heavenly bliss for believers. Bernard Lewis, America’s leading expert in Mideast Studies, wrote that during the Cold War, Mutual Assured Destruction was a deterrent that worked. Today it is an inducement.

James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said:

Iran now is either very close to being able to field a nuclear weapon or it should be regarded as already having that capability. …

Consequently, even one nuclear warhead detonated at orbital altitude over the United States would black out the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for months or years by means of the electromagnetic pulse it would create. The Congressional EMP Commission assessed that a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill nine of 10 Americans through starvation and societal collapse. Islamic State-like gangs would rule the streets.

Just such a scenario is described in Iranian military documents.

I have no sense that the Obama administration has even considered such possibilities. The Arab nations are deeply worried.



Obama: I’ll Try To Make the Case to the American People After I Make a Deal With Iran by The Elephant's Child

155623786-550x377Obama said yesterday, that he will wait until after a nuclear deal with Iran is made to make the case to the American people that it is the right thing to do. Um, was I just saying something about political instincts?

President Obama was asked about the Republican letter to the Mullahs in Iran. Democrats are having a protracted hissy-fit that members of Congress would dare communicate with Iran, forgetting that Ted Kennedy, for example, went to Russia and tried to get them to help out in an American election, or Nancy Pelosi’s running off to Syria to schmooze with Bashar Assad. The 47 senators who signed the letter simply felt it necessary to inform the Iranians of how deals are made with this country, according to the Constitution, and that to be valid, they must be agreed to by Congress.

A member of the press asked Obama, can you comment on the Republican letter to Iran? Can  you comment on that?



A Slow-Motion Disaster Unfolding Before Our Eyes by The Elephant's Child

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Last Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual Policy Conference, National Security Advisor Susan Rice spoke to the conference. The most important element of the post-World War II nuclear non-proliferation regime is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968. Iran is a signatory to that treaty and has never pulled out.  As outlined in Rice’s speech, the actions of the Obama administration “obviate the NPT as a tool against future proliferation and fatally weakens the UN Security Council. In fact, the Obama administration is jettisoning the entire system by which we have prevented countries and non-state actors from building and obtaining nukes for almost half a century and virtually guaranteeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” according to Jonathan Greenberg, a Senior Fellow at the Salomon Center.

 In 2002, the world discovered that Iran had secretly built – in violation of their treaty obligations under the NPT – nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak. Since 2002, there have been six U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for Iran to cease uranium enrichment. In her speech Monday, Rice said that ending Iranian enrichment is an “unachievable ideal.” That the President’s National Security Advisor is willing to say, in public, that enforcing the NPT and six Security Council mandates is “unachievable” is astounding. The Security Council was designed to be the real seat of power at the UN – the only international body with any real teeth. It will now spend whatever existence it has left gumming pureed solids.

This is like watching a candidate for a Darwin Award gradually demonstrating why he became a candidate, in slow motion. It cannot end well. Rice repeated her boss’s usual blather about “we are keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.” This used to be, Mr. Greenberg says, “vaguely coded language for hawks who wanted an acknowledgement that the administration was willing to consider military action against Iranian nuclear targets.” Nobody believes them anymore. Shortly after vowing that all options are on the table, Rice suggested that a military option “would only set back Iran’s program” a little. We’ll consider military action but it won’t work;

You might think that new sanctions would work. No, says Rice. “sanctions never stopped Iran from advancing its program.” The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded exactly the opposite. It was the sanctions that brought Iran to the table. Mr. Greenberg summarizes:

So, if we pull all those strings together, here’s what we get: even though we have the legal authority to stop them from enriching uranium, we can’t do that. We’ll consider bombing them, but only as seriously as you would consider something you’ve publicly conceded can’t work. And sanctions don’t work despite the fact that they work. Oh, and, incidentally, if talks fail, the preceding lemons are the only measures we’ve got as a fallback option so the talks kind of have to work.

“Any deal,” she said, “must increase the time it takes Iran to reach breakout capacity.” That’s a fine goal, except that the goal used to be to deny them the ability to achieve breakout at all. …“Any deal,” she continued, “must ensure frequent and intrusive inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites.” According to a UN report released yesterday, another from late-February, and a series of reports from the unfortunately acronymed Institute for Science and International Security, Iran is violating this requirement while sitting in negotiations.

It’s like watching a slow-motion disaster unfold on the screen. You know what is going to happen inevitably, but you are powerless to do anything about it.




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