PowerLine -> What It Takes To Be Fired by CNN ? Democrats on the Rocks?

PowerLine -> What It Takes To Be Fired by CNN ? Democrats on the Rocks?

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  • What It Takes To Be Fired by CNN
  • Democrats on the Rocks?
  • The Washington Post’s pitiful analysis of “obstruction”
  • Mugging Mr. Murray: Murray speaks
  • Stray thoughts about Comey
What It Takes To Be Fired by CNN

Posted: 09 Jun 2017 04:03 PM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

CNN has joined the New York Times and the Washington Post (along with the perennially hysterical MSNBC) in the front rank of the Resistance to America’s duly elected government. Cranking out over-the-top anti-Trump propaganda is mostly what the network does these days.

But even at CNN, there are limits. First the network fired “comedian” Kathy Griffin from what was apparently her only CNN gig, co-hosting the network’s New Year’s Eve show. Griffin’s offense, as we all know, was displaying a model of the president’s severed, bloody head. Given the magnitude of the offense, finding a new New Year’s Eve co-host didn’t seem like much of a price to pay.

Now CNN has brought down the hammer again. It has fired Reza Aslan, who hosted a CNN series. Aslan has a degree, among others, from Harvard Divinity School. Divinity isn’t what it once was; his offense was this tweet about President Trump:

So maybe publicly calling the president a piece of shit is a bright line for CNN.

Then again, maybe not. Aslan’s Twitter feed is one long rant against President Trump. Aslan tweeted last September:

CNN didn’t seem to have a problem with it then. And, as the Free Beacon has pointed out, Aslan’s Twitter feed has long been filled with such references, directed to the president and to Republicans. This famous one related to Todd Akin, a GOP Senate candidate:

More recently, Aslan tweeted this scatological attack on the president:

Translation: “I will piss on America the way I had prostitutes piss on your president and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it” https://t.co/QrAdm8DnI0

— Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) June 2, 2017

So Aslan has been behaving this way repeatedly and for a long time. After CNN announced that it wouldn’t be renewing his program on religion (!) for another season, Aslan issued an apology in which he said:

In these politically charged times, the tenor of our nation’s discourse has become complicated. And I recognize that CNN needs to protect its brand as an unbiased news outlet.

If CNN ever had a brand as an unbiased news outlet, it was gone a long time ago.

Meanwhile, one is left to ponder: is Reza Aslan a raving lunatic, or a typical Democrat? Or both?

Democrats on the Rocks?

Posted: 09 Jun 2017 03:59 PM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

President Trump may have poor approval ratings, and the Republican Congress looks a little shaky at the moment in the Getting Big Things Done Department (like repealing Obamacare and getting a serious tax reform package together), so in the ordinary cycle of politics you’d be reasonable to forecast a bad election for Republicans in 2018. This may yet come to pass for all of the conventional reasons, but it is worth looking at the Democrats for a moment, and realizing that they’re in terrible shape.

That’s not just a partisan spin from me, but the judgment of veteran liberal journalist Thomas Edsall, writing in the New York Times earlier this week. (Though I’ve always disliked Edsall’s ideology and some of his journalism, the one time I met him I found him to be a very nice man, unlike many—even most—Washington journalists.) One thing I like about Edsall these days is that he calls it as he sees it, and has often been self-critical of liberals and Democrats in the past. He was one of the few liberal writers not surprised at Trump’s appeal to formerly reliable Democratic voters, and he also agrees with the conservative critique that Democrats have become too beholden to wealthy coastal elites on Wall Street and Hollywood/Silicon Valley. Edsall notes the growing survey data that shows more and more voters believe that “the party of the rich” is the Democratic Party more than the Republican Party.

Here are a few excerpts from “The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought”:

Sifting through the wreckage of the 2016 election, Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions.

What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide.

Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets. . .

From here Edsall goes on to review a symposium of liberal analysts in The American Prospect quarterly. A couple of highlights:

While the populism espoused by Sanders and Warren is economic, challenging C.E.O.s, major corporations and “the billionaire class,” Trump is the messenger of what [Guy] Molyneux calls “political populism,” which “is, fundamentally, a story about the failure of government.” . . .

For decades, the perception that an intrusive federal government promotes policies favoring African-Americans and other minorities at the expense of whites has driven anti-government animosity.

In May, the Public Religion Research Institute released a report, “Beyond Economics: Fears of Cultural Displacement Pushed the White Working Class to Trump.” It found that

“more than half (52%) of white working-class Americans believe discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities” and that “four in ten white working-class Americans agree” with the statement that “efforts to increase diversity almost always come at the expense of whites.”

It’s going to be fun watching Democrats try to work their way out of the Identity Politics Box they have locked themselves into.

The Washington Post’s pitiful analysis of “obstruction”

Posted: 09 Jun 2017 09:32 AM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

“Comey lays out the case that Trump obstructed justice.” So declares the Washington Post in a front page “news” story about James Comey’s testimony.

The story, by Matt Zapotosky is based on shoddy legal analysis and held together by quotes from lawyers and professors of no great prominence. Zapotosky doesn’t bother to include the views of the many prominent legal analysts — Alan Dershowitz and Andy McCarthy to name just two — who perceive no case for obstruction of justice. Either Zapotosky didn’t see fit to seek this viewpoint or he saw fit not to include it in his utterly biased article.

Zapotosky writes:

There was evidence of possible intent: when the president cleared the room so he could ask Comey — without the attorney general or his son-in-law present — about the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contact s with Russian officials after the 2016 election.

There was the suggestion of quid pro quo: when Trump repeatedly raised the status of Comey’s job as he asked for loyalty.

And there was the consequence: when Comey, having not steered investigators away from Flynn, was fired by Trump in May, long before the end of his 10-year term.

Let’s examine these claims. “Clearing the room” isn’t evidence of intent to obstruct justice. President Trump might have cleared the room because he knew he was about to do something inappropriate but not illegal (that’s my view of what Trump did). He might have cleared the room because he knew he was about to do something that was neither illegal nor inappropriate, but that might nonetheless be embarrassing.

Clearing the room can only be evidence of intent to obstruct justice if what Trump did after the room emptied was an attempt to obstruct justice. So the whole “clearing the room” business begs the question.

Nor does Zapotosky come to grips, or even mention, the argument that it would not have been unlawful for Trump, having cleared the room, to order Comey to halt a portion, or the entirety, of the Flynn investigation. Comey himself testified:

[A]s a legal matter, the president is the head of the executive branch and could direct, in theory — we have important norms against this — [that] anyone be investigat[ed] or not. I think he has the legal authority. All of us ultimately report in the executive branch to the president.

(Emphasis added)

If Comey is right, then Zapotosky’s attempt at a three-step legal analysis is short-circuited at the outset.

As for the “quid pro quo,” Comey wants us to infer that Trump conditioned Comey’s retention as FBI director on “loyalty.” However, Trump retained Comey without having secured the loyalty pledge allegedly demanded (Trump apparently disputes that he asked for loyalty). Indeed, according to Comey, when he said he would give Trump honesty, Trump responded: “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” Comey replied: “You will get honest loyalty from me.”

Thus, if there was a quid pro quo, it was retention in exchange for “honest loyalty.” Obstruction of justice cannot be inferred from this.

Moreover, even a general pledge of loyalty would not support an obstruction of justice claim. Such a pledge would not be a pledge to obstruct an investigation.

Finally, what about the firing of Comey after he didn’t “steer[] investigators away from Flynn”? First, there is no basis for assuming that the discharge was for not so “steering.” It’s clear that Trump discharged Comey because of dissatisfaction with Comey’s conduct relating to the investigation, but there is no evidence that he fired him out of dissatisfaction with the Flynn portion of it.

What was Trump dissatisfied about? His spokesman says the president didn’t like Comey’s “grandstanding” and “politicization” of the investigation. This has nothing to do with Flynn (as it must, if Zapotosky’s three-step theory of obstruction is to hold up). Comey’s testimony suggests that Trump was unhappy that the director wouldn’t publicly say the president isn’t under investigation. This too has nothing to do with Flynn.

Second, firing Comey for whatever reason wouldn’t be obstruction of justice, given that the firing was not intended to, and did not, end the investigation or let Flynn off the hook. Indeed, if Prof. Dershowitz and Comey (see his quoted testimony above) are right, the firing wouldn’t be obstruction of justice even if it had been intended to end the investigation or let Flynn off the hook.

If the Post is going to publish an article like Zapotosky’s it should (1) be labeled opinion (as it is in the internet version — where it appears, oddly, under “National Security” — but not in the paper) and (2) refrain from cherry-picking quotes from legal analysts on only one side of the issue.

However, the Washington Post has made itself part of the “resistance” to President Trump. It is unrealistic to expect fair and honest journalism from this rabidly anti-Trump organ.

Mugging Mr. Murray: Murray speaks

Posted: 09 Jun 2017 07:02 AM PDT

(Scott Johnson)

American Enterprise Institute fellow Charles Murray must rank among our most prominent living social scientists. At a May 17 hearing of the Joint Economic Committee convened by Senator and JEC vice chairman Mike Lee, Murray was included on a panel of social scientists testifying on the state of social capital in America — the subject of a new report released by the committee.

Testifying along with Murray on the panel were Prof. Robert Putnam (Harvard), Prof. Mario Small (Harvard) and Yuval Levin (Ethics and Public Policy Center). The occasion of their testimony was the release of a report prepared by committee staff at Lee’s request on the state of “associational life” in the United States.

I wrote about the hearing and posted the video in “Mugging Mr. Murray.” Please let me review what happened next before updating what I wrote with Murray’s first public comment on it last night in Minneapolis.

What happened next is a disgrace. Committee Democrats performed a concerted mugging of Murray rich in the defamation flaunted by ignorant rioters protesting Murray’s appearances at Middlebury and other college campuses.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was the first to jump Murray. She inserted her thinly veiled disparagement of Murray into the proceedings and promptly departed. Klobuchar’s Democratic colleagues on the committee then piled on and pummeled him.

Klobuchar avoided smearing Murray directly. Called on first to pose questions after the witnesses’ opening statements, Klobuchar sought to build a little social capital of her own discussing the local Minnesota scene. Then Klobuchar turned to an expression of “concern” about unnamed “individuals.” Senator Klobuchar commented:

One troubling aspect of this hearing today are [sic] we are here to discuss a very important issue that impacts our society and I think there are many constructive ways we should examine the issue of social capital and it’s our responsibility to seek a wide range of expertise. I do want to express concern that I do not believe it is constructive to engage on this matter with individuals whose theories are drastically polarizing and have been discredited.

Senator Klobuchar exited for a meeting at the White House, leaving her colleagues “progressively” to fill in the blanks. Senator Martin Heinrich directed questions to the aptly named Prof. Small regarding the lack of evidence supporting “inherent genetic differences” leading to disparate economic outcomes. Murray was not named, but they are of course talking about him.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney was the first to call out Murray by name. She made a statement condemning Murray’s “infamous” and “offensive views about a woman’s capabilities.” She wants Murray to be gone: “[I]n my humble opinion, Congress should not give these ideas a platform in our committee, should not seek to elevate offensive claims that rely on spurious evidence.”

For the slow learners out there who may have missed the action at Middlebury, Virginia Rep. Don Beyer and Michigan Senator Gary Peters added to the indictment of Murray. Beyer criticized Senator Lee himself for inviting Murray to appear before the committee:

[T]hose racist luminaries whose ideas and policies would ideally be rejected by all 535 members of Congress often turn to pseudoscience to justify hatred and exploitation. Cognizant of this history we would hope we would do everything in our part to make a clean break with that foul part of our legacy as opposed to dressing it up in new clothes and returning it to these marble halls…I’m dismayed that…the decision to invite Charles Murray risks turning this hearing into a sideshow. I cannot imagine, Senator [Lee], a man of your intelligence and political acumen was unaware of the meaning and consequences of inviting Charles Murray…I don’t believe that this committee’s time and resources should be used to burnish his reputation. After all, it was his unconstrained exercise of his constitutionally protected right of free speech that gave him his toxic reputation in the first place.

Beyer then called on Prof. Small to disparage The Bell Curve. Small dutifully complied.

Klobuchar’s prefatory disparagement of Murray culminated in these remarks by Senator Peters:

Before us today we have a witness who serves no purpose other than to bring divisiveness to this body. And while I’m sure all of us here believe deeply in freedom of speech and expression as well as the need for Congress to seek a wide range of opinions and expertise, a witness who has promoted racist and sexist stereotypes is a needless distraction from what we need to be doing here. To have someone who holds these views elevated alongside actual policy experts before us today is disrespectful to our other witnesses and the members of the committee and the important topics that we have to discuss.

Recall that Murray appeared before the committee by the invitation of the JEC, presumably (according to Beyer’s remarks) the invitation of Senator Lee. At no point was Murray invited to respond to the ignorant and cowardly attacks on him. At no point did Senator Lee speak up on Murray’s behalf.

This is what I have learned since originally commenting on the JEC hearing. Committee Democrats warned Lee that if Murray testified they would attack him as they did. Lee himself neither warned Murray nor invited Murray to respond.

Last night Murray spoke on campus at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis as the featured annual dinner guest of Intellectual Takeout. It was a terrific event. The video of Murray’s presentation is posted on Intellectual Takeout’s Facebook page here.

In his remarks last night Murray addressed the madness on campus with initial attention to the riot at Middlebury when he appeared there on March 2. Following Murray’s formal remarks, Intellectual Takeout President Devin Foley read Murray a few questions submitted from the audience including my question about what happened at the JEC hearing. Murray said he was glad Lee didn’t give him the opportunity to respond to the attacks on him by the Democrats because his response would have turned his mugging into more of a story than it had been (despite my best efforts, I should add).

Putting that to one side, however, Murray commented that the hearing “made me much more angry than the Middlebury thing.” After summarizing the JEC Democrats’ disparagement of him, Murray concisely responded: “The willingness of people who have not read a word you have ever written to libel you in a Senate hearing room for the Congressional Record is to me despicable.”

I wanted to return to this subject to give Murray the last word. As to Klobuchar and her Democratic colleagues, Murray’s last word is “despicable.”

UPDATE: Our friends at Intellectual Takeout have sent us the video as posted here on YouTube and below. Murray starts speaking at about 10:00.

Stray thoughts about Comey

Posted: 09 Jun 2017 05:39 AM PDT

(Scott Johnson)Former FBI Director James Comey is master operator on the Washington scene. That is the predominant impression I came away with from Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday. It is an impression that is consistent with his self-serving confessions of uneasiness, discomfort, confusion, cowardice, fright, tongue-tied wonderment and the like. What manner of man (let alone FBI Director) is this?

Comey has met with his friend Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to supervise the investigation into Russia-related matters and whatever else strikes his fancy. Comey is Mueller’s old colleague and friend. We learned yesterday that once he was fired by President Trump Comey himself sought to engineer the appointment of a special counsel. Mission accomplished.

Comey has met with Mueller and turned over his memos of conversations that he had with Trump while serving as FBI Director. Comey conveyed the impression that Trump is a current subject of Mueller’s investigation for obstruction of justice based on Comey’s firing and Trump’s subsequent remarks. John Podhoretz reads the tea leaves here. There are complications with this line of thought.

I am troubled by Comey’s confidence that the obstruction train is going down the tracks. Alan Dershowitz considers the issue here and here, Andrew McCarthy here.

Returning to Comey and his memos, we discovered that Comey used a cutout to leak the contents of one of his memos to the New York Times. His cutout was Columbia Law School Professor Daniel Richman, who describes himself on the Columbia site as an adviser to Comey. Comey testified that he read the memo to Richman for the purpose of having Richman transmit the contents with “a reporter” (presumably a Timesman).

Why use a cutout? Comey testified: “Because I was weary [of] the media [that] was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach, if it was I who gave it to the media.”

Here the clock strikes thirteen. This is ridiculous. Comey himself could have called the same Times reporter whom Richman called — Michael Schmidt, per this story — without attracting Schmidt’s fellow seagulls.

What is Comey talking about? And by the way, what other seagulls has he fed? As I say, this guy is a master operator. He is a master operator who can dish out a patently absurd story with a perfectly straight face.

Did Comey do anything wrong leaking the contents of his memo to a third party? Jonathan Turley considers the possibilities here.

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