American Elephants


Fooling the Public and Manipulating the Media by The Elephant's Child

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On May 5th, The New York Times Magazine published a lengthy interview with Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser.  Mr. Rhodes “travels with the president, sees him all day long, and not only writes his speeches and communications strategies but also shapes the content of policy.”

The piece was titled “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru: How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age” by David Samuels. It was a revealing interview. Mr. Rhodes says he has a sort of mind-meld with the president. Much has been made of the fact that Rhodes was working on an M.F.A. in creative writing, and now he channels the president’s consciousness into an optimistic narrative that shapes the president’s foreign policy.

Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.

Rhodes is a storyteller who” uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal.”

His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.

The revelations of how the campaign to sell the Iran Deal to the public was developed, and though planned from the first days of Obama’s presidency, the “story” of the Iran deal began in 2013 when a “moderate” faction inside the Iranian regime led by Hassan Rouhani beat regime “hard-liners” in an election and then began to pursue a policy of “openness,” which included a newfound willingness to negotiate the dismantling of its illicit nuclear-weapons program.”

The president announced the nuclear deal on July 14, 2015: “Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not.” Actually the meaningful part of negotiations with Iran took place in mid-2012, many months before Rouhani and the moderate group where chosen in an election among candidates handpicked by the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. There was never any new reality in Iran nor any moderate faction. With this one bold move, the administration would begin the process of a large- scale disengagement from the Middle East, which had always been Obama’s goal.

With the smug innocence of the morally superior, Mr. Rhodes revealed far too many truths about manipulating the media, his contempt for the press, and how he manages the flow of information. Since the actions of the Obama administration are obviously correct, selling the deal to Congress, and framing the deal as a choice between peace and war was Rhodes strategy.

Guided by his moral superiority, Rhodes neglected to consider that the American people aren’t much on being deliberately lied to, and the media isn’t enthusiastic about being manipulated, and especially about that being publicly revealed.

Articles about Ben Rhodes, about the NYT Magazine piece, and about the lies in presenting the Iran Deal have been forthcoming in a steady flow from all over the world. Congress has invited Mr. Rhodes to come testify about his part in the episode and it is suggested that if he does not turn up voluntarily, he will be subpoenaed.



A Truly Weird Electoral Season. by The Elephant's Child

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They are voting in Indiana, and the polls will be closing soon. I do not understand this presidential campaign at all. We are told that the people are really angry. According to the media and Donald Trump, they are angry about illegal immigration, and unfair trade policy that is negatively affecting our country. According to exit polls, the people are not particularly concerned about immigration as it is far down the list of concerns, and majorities prefer a path to citizenship.

Mr. Trump is going to build a huge big wall. And he is going to put big tariffs on any country that isn’t being fair. He’s going to be nicer to our friends so we will be closer, but he will insist that they pay a larger share of  the cost of protecting them from radical Islam. He liked World War II and the Cold War, but is against any foreign adventures since.

What the people seem to be angry about is the economy, the lack of jobs, jobs going to immigrants, they are fearful about terrorism, angry about the ridiculous hooplah over women’s restrooms being open to men, the increased cost of ObamaCare, the lack of jobs and economic growth, and increased inflation while salaries have not risen at all. Jobs have vanished on coal country, employment is down in oil and gas country because of the drop in the price of oil, some manufacturing jobs have gone overseas because of high corporate taxes, and some high-tech jobs have gone to H1-B immigrants.

All of these problems are the direct result of policies of the Obama administration. The stimulus didn’t work. Republicans warned that ObamaCare was not going to work and would cost more, not less; every Republican voted against he initial law, and have voted to repeal the act five times, Obama has vetoed their efforts each time. Jobs have gone to offshore companies as a direct result of the highest corporate tax in the world. The rise of ISIS and the war in Syria and the Middle East is a direct result of Obama pulling the troops out of Iraq too soon. President Obama vowed early to bankrupt the coal companies, which he has done in a misguided and fruitless battle against catastrophic global warming which exists only in the computer programs of the IPCC. And in refusing to utter the words Islamic terrorism, Obama has skewed all of our perceptions of  the Middle East and what is happening.

So the people are furious with the Republicans? Huh?

They blame the policies of the Obama administration on the Republicans? They don’t think the Republicans have done enough to stop the administration?

This is the first time, as far as I know, when a President of the United States has deliberately decided that “he has a phone and a pen” and he will accomplish by executive order or actions of agencies whatever he wants, and that he will pay no attention to the Constitution of the United States of America, because he believes it to be a tired old document that needs repealing or fixing.  The remedies available are to proceed through the courts in one lawsuit or another or to impeach the president. The Republicans have voted to repeal ObamaCare five times, Obama has vetoed every bill.

Results are in from Indiana, and Donald Trump has enough votes that he will be the presumptive nominee, for he is sure to pick up enough from states like California and Washington, for example, from the remainder of states left.  Ted Cruz has suspended his campaign.

I am not and have not been a Trump supporter. I do not understand what they hope for from what little Mr. Trump has had to say in his speeches.  His supporters seem to put a lot of faith in “Make America Great Again”  and “America First” which was a discredited slogan from  the America First Committee which was highly non-interventionist in the days just before World War II. I guess they see it as patriotism and strength. I see it as lacking in evidence.

We’ll see. Mr. Trump hasn’t even released his tax returns, and is due to face trial for fraud regarding his promotion of Trump University.  But then the case against Hillary proceeds slowly as well. What a weird, weird electoral season.



“Notable & Quotable” by The Elephant's Child

The Wall Street Journal included these lines from the Mayo Clinic’s online entry on narcissistic personality disorder in their “Notable & Quotable” column.

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement—and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything—for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection. . . .

[The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5] . . . criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

Exaggerating your achievements and talents

Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate . . .

Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner



We Don’t Understand What is Happening. Are We Deliberately Ignorant? by The Elephant's Child

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Michael Ledeen, writing in Forbes, April 1: :The Whole World Is In Turmoil Not Just Us”

The fierce conflicts we are witnessing in the primaries are not just an American phenomenon, indeed it’s hard to find a country that isn’t fighting internally as we are.   Most of the world is intensely divided, and our own domestic debates are part of a global disruption.

The many divisions should not surprise us, as we are in the midst of a transition from the post-World War II bipolar world to something else, something as yet unclear.  In part, it is a return to historic normalcy, although few who grew up during the Cold War would recognize it as such.  The post-war world, for roughly a half-century after the defeat of Germany and Japan, was unusually peaceful compared with past centuries.  From 1945 until very recently, there was no major war, and “stability” was considered a fundamental objective of sensible strategy.  Three or four generations have grown up in that world, and are surprised at open conflict and instability.

Yesterday, Dr. Ledeen again, this time at PJ Media:

“Terrible Things Are Happening”

Americans just can’t take the Iranian tyrants seriously. If you ask us what Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei means when he leads his weekend crowds in a chant of “Death to America,” most Americans will not say “he wants to destroy us all.” Yet that is precisely what he means, and if we had leaders worthy of the name, they would be designing a strategy to bring down the Tehran regime before Khamenei and his evil henchmen do terrible things to us. Here.

Instead, the president and the secretary of state keep showering largesse on the ayatollahs, who respond by telling us they are preparing our destruction.

Just last week, for example, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said Iran is preparing for all-out war with the U.S. and its allies, and has vowed Iran will continue advancing and testing its ballistic missile program.

Bret Stephens: The Wall Street Journal, 4/11/2016

Islam and the Radical West, The political orthodoxy of the left is the gateway drug to jihad.”

We’ve become lazy in our thinking about Islam and the West. Whether the Islam practiced by al Qaeda or ISIS is “radical” or merely traditional isn’t the question. It’s whether the West can recognize that the moral nihilism of today’s Jihadi Johns is the logical outgrowth of the moral relativism that is the default religion of today’s West.

Daniel Hannan: Washington Examiner, 4/11/2016

“The terrorist threat is getting serious, but we mustn’t panic”

Do you remember the footage of last month’s subway bomb in Brussels? You know, with the frightened passengers choking their way along a smoke-filled tunnel while children cried? Well, the man who shot that video was a friend of mine, a Brussels-based American freelance reporter who happened to be on the train, and who helped carry some people to safety.

Here’s the odd thing, though: I wasn’t especially surprised that he had been there. Knowing someone who has been caught up in a terrorist attack no longer feels strange. We are becoming habituated to jihad, blase about bombs.

And in contrast, a voice from the Left: Andrew J. Bacevich, Politico, 4/4/2016

“Let’s end America’s hopeless war for the Middle East”

A hundred years ago, the armies of World War I fought to a bloody stalemate on the Western Front and desperately searched for ways to break it and gain an edge. They field-tested tanks and poison gas, rolling barrages and storm-trooper tactics. Today, the United States is stuck in an analogous stalemate in the Middle East and Islamic world in general. And we are field-testing all manner of novelties, much like the great armies of Europe mired in the trenches: the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs and counterinsurgency, precision-guided munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles, not to mention such passing fancies as “overwhelming force,” “shock and awe,” and “air occupation.”

Yet as was the case a century ago, the introduction of some new battlefield technique does not necessarily signify progress. On the contrary, it only deepens the stalemate.



Obama’s Disastrous Iran Deal and Its Reverberations by The Elephant's Child

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Obama’s bizarre love affair with Iran continues: so writes Roger L. Simon at PJ Media. “In the last week or so, Obama has decided to ignore the putatively sanctioned Iranian missile tests—the ones with the “charming” admonitions for Israel to be wiped off the Earth emblasoned on the fuselage in Hebrew and Farsi—and seemingly agreed to the ayatollah’s demand that Iran should be allowed into our dollar system. A hundred and fifty billion evidently wasn’t enough.”

Iran clearly is continuing to do just as they choose, ignoring any sanctions, as if there was no ‘deal’. Congress has not agreed to any deal. Yet when Obama lightly criticizes Iran it comes across as absolutely bizarre — as advice to Iran on their business climate. “When they launch ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous.” It makes six million Israelis nervous too.

Congress  has not lifted U.S. sanctions on Iran. Keep that in mind. The President and the Secretary of State cannot make treaties on their own. The U.S. Constitution requires congressional approval for any such agreement.

European governments and industries are heading for Tehran to get a cut of the massive windfall that the end of international sanctions. Americans are largely sidelined. However, Obama has given Boeing special permission to do business with Iran. The administration hs been cutting back on defense spending. A new market would mean jobs and decreasing the trade deficit.

Obama believes that new business will improve the Iranian economy and benefit Iran’s people who had been suffering under sanctions. The Supreme Leader has no concern for Iran’s people but is only interested in destroying Israel and the United States. He says so, regularly. Obama believes, ignoring long years of evidence, that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon, that they are people just like us who care about their people and their families.

Yousef Al Otaiba, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the U.S. writes in the Wall Street Journal:

If the carrots of engagement aren’t working, we must not be afraid to bring back the sticks. Recent half measures against Iran’s violations of the ballistic-missile ban are not enough. If the aggression continues, the U.S. and the global community should make clear that Iran will face the full range of sanctions and other steps still available under U.N. resolutions and in the nuclear deal itself.

Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region must stop. Until it does, our hope for a new Iran should not cloud the reality that the old Iran is very much still with us—as dangerous and as disruptive as ever.

“Congress is investigating whether the Obama administration misled lawmakers last summer about the extent of concessions granted to Iran under the nuclear deal, as well as if administration officials have been quietly rewriting the deal’s terms in the aftermath of the agreement, according to sources and a formal notice sent to the State Department. ”

“The concerns come after statements from top officials last week suggesting that Iran is set to receive greater weapons and sanctions relief, moves that the administration had promised Congress would never take place as White House officials promoted the deal last summer.”

The other wild card in the deal is the price of oil, which is running currently at about $37 a barrel — far below Iran’s break-even price. Obama will not give permission to bomb any oil field because of the environment.



Obama: Iran is Obeying letter of the Nuclear Deal, Not the Spirit by The Elephant's Child

Last Friday, President Obama had a news conference and talked a bit about his friends in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said: “When they launched ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel that makes businesses nervous…If Iran continues to ship missiles to Hezbollah, that gets businesses nervous.” And here was Obama, hoping that with the new influx of businesses from around the world, Iran would turn to improving the economy of their country and improving the lives of their people. Here’s the complete transcript.

And here’s Ezra Levant who ran across a video clip posted by the White House, of Obama boasting about just how awesome the Iran Deal is, except the nuclear program isn’t dismantled? The deal is so pathetically awful that if Obama were trying to destroy America, instead of leading the country — what would he have done differently?



Anger Management: Everybody’s Angry! by The Elephant's Child

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Everybody is angry, or so we are told. The election is about a nation consumed with anger. That’s an easy diagnosis, if perhaps too facile. The debate last night would seem to confirm that diagnosis. The tag line to the debate was Ben Carson’s wistful “Would somebody please attack me?” (so I can have a chance to speak) Otherwise, it was obvious that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were thoroughly fed up with Donald Trump’s constant rude slurs and attacks, and gave him a dose of his own medicine. He was clearly unprepared for that.

Donald Trump, we are told, is conducting a “populist campaign.” But what does that mean? Merriam Webster simply says a populist is:

a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people

So I turned to Business Dictionary.com (which was the next post) :

In general, ideology or political movement that mobilizes the population (often, but not always, the lower classes) against an institution or government, usually in the defense of the underdog or the wronged. Whether of left, right or middle political persuasion, it seeks to unite the uncorrupt and the unsophisticated (the ‘little man’) against the corrupt dominant elites (usually the orthodox politicians) and their camp followers (usually the rich and the intellectuals). It is guided by the belief that political and social goals are best achieved by the direct actions of the masses.

I haven’t heard anyone talking about “the little man” in years. And yes, there’s way too much talk about “the working class” (vs. the leisure class?), the common people, the unwashed, the lower classes — that sort of thing. I have always thought of America as a classless society. I grew up very rural, and have always known people who were very poor, as well as people who were unusually rich. I didn’t know until recent years that was unusual, that most people grew up in neighborhoods were everyone was pretty much like them.

As far as Donald Trump representing the “common man” or “the little people”, Kimberly Strassel disposed of that theme in today’s column at the Wall Street Journal, pointing out that “Trump is the Ultimate Insider,” today’s must read, (paywall, or look on Google)

I’m not sure that the anger is not misdirected. President Obama has famously announced that he has a phone and a pen, and will attempt to make law on his own, since Congress will not cooperate. And he has been successfully doing exactly that. Many voters are furious with Republicans in Congress for not stopping him. And it is really the first time a president has so flagrantly violated the laws and the Constitution in ignoring the tripartite nature of our government deliberately, and  attempted to enact his own preferences in violation of public opinion.

There has been a campaign by Democrats to blame the police and policing for “mass incarceration” though that incarceration is to blame for a dramatically reduced crime rate, in order to keep the black community focused on “white privilege,” in particular and unfair treatment in general, rather than the dreadful unemployment rate in the black community, and the lack of opportunity, resentment which is supposed to make sure that blacks vote.

David Gerlernter wrote that the source of the anger is political correctness, where changed vocabulary and changed emphasis are changing our culture in ways that we could not have imagined. Who could have imagined that the government would demand that people be freely able to use the restroom based on what sex they are identifying with on that particular day. Or women in combat despite the objections of the military. Or that the military would be required to run the engines of war-making on biofuels because global warming. There’s some pretty strong evidence for an aversion to PC in all its forms.

There’s a lot of evidence for anger over our foreign policy, and the neglect of long term allies in favor of pandering to our enemies. We have given Iran everything it wants in exchange for some vague agreements they are already ignoring. Ditto for Cuba, and Obama plans to visit shortly where he will promise all sorts of aid in exchange for nothing at all — the mistreatment of the Cuban people will continue, as will the mistreatment or execution of dissidents.

A lot of small businesses have found themselves unable to compete with other businesses who hire illegal aliens at reduced wages. Workers at Disney were famously fired, but forced to train their H1B replacements in order to get the severance pay to which they were entitled. Those workers are testifying before Congress, but any resulting legislation will be a long time coming, and that’s a source of a lot of anger.

And of course you have the people enrolled in ObamaCare who have learned that the promise that “you can keep your doctor” was a bunch of hooey, and you will have to pay far more, and wait longer to see a new doctor that you may or may not like.




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