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Boko Haram is a violent Salafist group that emerged in predominantly Muslim northeast Nigeria in the early 2000s. (Salafism is a Sunni Muslim reform movement that seeks return to the mores of the first generations of Muslims — the Salafiyya or the companions of Mohammed.)

There are reports that it got seed money from Osama bin Laden, and it has long been known to have al Qaeda ties, but how closely it actually works with al Qaeda — as opposed to loud displays of ideological support — is the subject of some debate in the U.S. government. This debate is reflective of general confusion and incoherence in American counterterrorism policy.

The ideological glue that holds Islamist groups together is Islamic supremacism, which is directly derived from a strict, literal interpretation of Muslim scripture, coupled with a belief that the “golden age” of Islam was the time of the first generations — Mohammed and his immediate companions and descendants — to which Muslims must return if they are ever to overcome the corrupting influence of the West. (Boko Haram actually means “Western education is ‘haram’ or forbidden.”)

Nevertheless, our government adamantly refuses to acknowledge the Islamic doctrinal underpinnings of Islamic supremacism.  Consequently, the disconnect: Boko Haram is quite clear that its goal is to impose sharia law and join al Qaeda’s global jihad. Its targets include churches and Western symbols, and its current leader, Abubakar Shekau, is quoted threatening the United States in 2010: “Do not think jihad is over. Rather jihad has just begun. America, die with your fury.” Yet, the Obama administration long refused to designate it as a terrorist organization — at the insistence of the State Department under Hillary Clinton, over the objections of other government agencies. (The State Department finally listed Boko Haram as a terrorist organization after John Kerry took over for Mrs. Clinton.)

Instead, ignoring what Boko Haram pronounces its goals to be, the Obama administration portrayed it as a diffuse organization with no clear agenda that was ascendant due to the policies of the Nigerian government (which is under Christian leadership). As the Boko Haram threat got progressively worse, the State Department and the White House theorized that it could be defused by better government engagement with the Muslim population in Northern Nigeria, and that designating Boko Haram as a terrorist organization—which would have triggered our law’s array of counterterrorism tools and squeezed the organization financially—would raise its prestige while encouraging more government repression against Muslims.

Note the absurdity: our government denies the Islamic doctrinal roots of jihadist terror, yet constantly fears that America’s condemnation of a group as “terrorist” will increase its appeal to factions of the Muslim population.

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Steve Hayes has another important report at the Weekly Standard today about how, in the stretch run of a tight presidential election campaign, the Obama administration misled the public regarding the Benghazi Massacre. The whole report is worth your time, but the conclusion really demonstrates how indefensible the White House position has become:

At the same time the White House was putting the [anti-Muslim] video at the center of the Benghazi story, intelligence professionals and U.S. officials on the ground in Libya were describing a precise attack carried out by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. The Weekly Standard has learned that an analysis from the Defense Intelligence Agency produced a day before [Obama deputy national security adviser Ben] Rhodes sent his email assigned blame for the attacks to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al Sharia Libya. [As Hayes explains, the Rhodes email uncovered by Judicial Watch “rooted” the “protests” in  the “internet video.”] The DIA analysis did not mention a video. It adds to the still-growing body of memos and warnings from top U.S. officials. The top U.S. intelligence official on the ground in Libya repeatedly told officials in Washington that the Benghazi attacks were part of a planned assault by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. The top diplomat in the country said the same thing. Last week, a top intelligence official for AFRICOM told Congress that he shared that view.

We are left with this reality: Top diplomats and intelligence officers in Libya offered assessments of the Benghazi attacks that were true when they made them and remain true today. But top Obama administration officials ignored those assessments. Six weeks before the 2012 presidential election, those officials—at the direction of White House communications and political strategists desperate to maintain the fiction that al Qaeda was “on the run”—lied to the public about how four Americans were killed in a sophisticated attack carried out, on the anniversary of 9/11, by terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda.

Kerry Echoes His Boss

April 29th, 2014 - 9:04 am

John Kerry is attempting to walk back his smear of Israel as an “apartheid” state. That the current secretary of state is a clownish figure has been well known for decades. But what should not be lost in the latest gaffe is that it is not a gaffe. In what he foolishly thought was a safe place to let his hair down, Kerry merely gave voice to what the Obama administration thinks. “Apartheid” trips easily off his tongue because it is part of the Islamist narrative that the administration has internalized.

Forget Kerry. This was made explicit in Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech—for anyone who didn’t infer it already from Obama’s friendships with notorious Israel bashers like Rashid Khalidi and Bill Ayers (see P. David Hornik’s FPM report on Ayers joining his fellow tenured radicals in a 2010 petition accusing Israel of — all together now — apartheid policies). As I recounted in The Grand Jihad, Obama’s speech “combined fictional accounts of Islamic history and doctrine, a woefully ignorant explanation of Israel’s claim to its sovereign territory, and an execrable moral equivalence drawn between Southern slave owners in early America and modern Israelis besieged by Palestinian terror.”

On the latter two points, in what I described as a “sweet-sounding sell-out,” the president claimed:

The recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.

The Muslim Brotherhood leaders invited to the speech over the Mubarak government’s objection must have been giddy. My book explains:

“The basic Arab argument against Israel,” Caroline Glick observes, is that the Jewish nation was established for a single reason:  “to soothe the guilty consciences of Europeans who were embarrassed about the Holocaust.  By their telling, the Jews have no legal, historic or moral rights to the Land of Israel.”

This is patently false. As Melanie Phillips put it:

The Jews’ aspiration for their homeland does not derive from the Holocaust, nor their overall tragic history.  It derives from Judaism itself, which is composed of the inseparable elements of the religion, the people and the land.  Their unique claim upon the land rests upon the fact that the Jews are the only people for whom Israel was ever their nation, which it was for hundreds of years—centuries before the Arabs and Muslims came on the scene.

Exactly.  The legal, historical, and moral claims of Jews predate Adolph Hitler by many centuries.  As Glick elaborates, what the League of Nations mandated in 1922 was not the creation but the reconstitution of the Jewish commonwealth.  Moreover, by emphasizing “anti-Semitism in Europe,” Obama ignored the Nazis’ alliance with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinians—“and the fact,” Phillips adds,that Nazi-style Jew-hatred continues to pour out of the Arab and Muslim world to this day.”

It was all well and good for the president to discourage “threatening Israel with destruction” and the repetition of  “vile stereotypes about Jews.” But this was just buttering-up rhetoric, preparing the way for a wholesale adoption of Palestinian mythology.

According to Obama, it was “undeniable” that for sixty years the Palestinians had suffered in pursuit of a homeland, endured the pain of dislocation, and been confined “in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands,” waiting, ever waiting for “a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead.”

This is preposterous.  Let’s put aside that the Palestinians have controlled Gaza since 2005—any refugee camps there are courtesy of Hamas. The Arabs, Phillips pointed out, could easily have created a Palestinian state during the twenty years (between 1948 and 1967) that Jordan and Egypt held the West Bank and Gaza, respectively. They opted not to do so. Before that, the Palestinians had been offered a homeland in 1936 and 1947, and Israel renewed the offer in 1967 and 2000.  They keep turning down these entreaties because their goal is to destroy Israel, not coexist in “peace and security.”

How fitting it would have been, in Cairo, for an American president to look [the al-Azhar University officials in the audience] in the eye and observe that Egypt, too, has a border with Gaza, which they police energetically—at times, brutally—to seal off the Palestinians.

But no, instead we got Islamism 101:  The Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegitimate, the president declared. They “undermine efforts to achieve peace” and must stop. Unstated, naturally, were the nettlesome facts that: (a) a million Arabs live in Israel (live, in fact, with more freedom and dignity than Arabs live anywhere else in the Middle East), and (b) Palestinians demand a “right of return” to Israel (one that would destroy its character as a Jewish state) as part of any final settlement. Hectoring Israel over the settlements is the world according to sharia:  What’s Islam’s is Islam’s, and what’s yours is Islam’s.

Worse than that, though, Obama treated listeners to this bit of wisdom: “Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed” (emphasis added). Resistance is a weasel word par excellence—sort of Saul Alinsky for Islamists. It is how the Islamist can tell you, straight-faced, that he is vigorously opposed to “terrorism.” In his mind, “terrorism” is American national defense and the existence of the Zionist entity. Blowing up Israelis and American troops, by contrast, is not terrorism—it’s resistance. By using their weasel word, the president accepted a noxious premise: The Palestinians are an oppressed people, not a people trying to annihilate their unwanted neighbors. Their violence and killing is not a moral wrong but a tactical problem—“it will not succeed.”

And why not?  Well, because in Obama’s twisted history, the Palestinians are just like “black people in America” fighting for their civil rights . . . which, of course, implicitly casts Israelis in the role of slave owners inflicting “the lash of the whip.”  Those civil rights, Obama maintained, were won solely “by peaceful and determined resistance.”

In Cairo, the president drew a despicable analogy between (a) the plight of American blacks from the time of slavery through the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. and (b) the Palestinian campaign of terror that has failed to achieve statehood because its unrelenting goal—reaffirmed recently as a few days ago when Hamas and Fatah united—is the annihilation of the Jewish state, not peaceful coexistence with it.

I do not understand how anyone who heard Obama’s Cairo speech could be remotely surprised by Kerry’s “apartheid” remarks.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that dozens of lawyers will be reassigned to the Justice Department’s pardon office in anticipation of a surge of applications from drug offenders for reductions in their sentences — applications the Obama administration has signaled it would look upon favorably. This exercise is another transparent usurpation of legislative power by the president. The pardon power is just the camouflage for it.

The pardon power exists so that the president can act in individual cases to correct excesses and injustices. It is not supposed to be a vehicle by which presidents rewrite congressional statutes that they disagree with philosophically (just as “prosecutorial discretion,” another doctrine the Obama administration has abused, is not supposed to be a vehicle by which the president substitutes his policies for duly enacted federal law).

The Obama administration is philosophically opposed to mandatory minimums in the federal penal law, especially in the narcotics area. The Justice Department is filled with racialist ideologues and pro-criminal rights ideologues (they tend to be the same people) who have long contended that the drug laws are racist. This is another of those absurd arguments that finds racism based on unintended consequences rather than racist designs.

The mandatory minimums for crack (“cocaine base”) crimes are more severe than for powder cocaine (which was called “cocaine hydrochloride” back when I was a federal prosecutor). Many crack distributors are black and Hispanic, while many powder cocaine distributors are white — although there are plenty of whites in the former category and minority dealers in the latter. Thus, it is contended, the mandatory minimums are racist in effect.

It has been argued for decades that this disparity is unjust. As a matter of racism, this claim is frivolous. As a matter of logic, it is not: crack is rightly punished more severely because it is more addictive and ruinous. For a long time, though, crack was punished at a 100:1 ratio to powder coke (e.g., the 10-year mandatory minimum kicked in at 5,000 grams, or 5 kilos, of powder coke but only 50 grams of crack). It is perfectly constitutional for Congress to do this, but it is not sensible — crack may be worse than powder coke, but not a hundred times worse.

The way our system deals with bad laws is to change them by legislative repeal or amendment, not for the president to decree new laws unilaterally. And, in fact, the drug laws have been changed: Crack is still treated more harshly, but the crack floor for the 10-year minimum was raised (by a factor of more than 5) from 50 to 280 grams. Similarly, for the 5-year mandatory minimum, the ratio is no longer 100:1 — while it is still triggered by 500 grams of powder cocaine, it now takes 28 grams of crack, not 5 grams.

To many people, this is still too wide a disparity, but note that the difference is based on the severe addictive tendencies and street-level violence associated with crack, not race. And in any event, if the law is to be changed, our system requires that it be changed by passing laws in Congress.

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Outside of the specter of U.S. pressure on Israel to release additional scores of terrorists, I confess to having had little interest in the latest futile American quest to resuscitate the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Like most transnational progressive enterprises, this decades-old theater is all process and no peace—about what you’d expect from a venture in which the United States believes it must be an impartial “honest broker” between America’s friends and America’s enemies.

To make a long, long, long story short, there can be no acceptable peace between Israel and the Palestinians absent four non-negotiable conditions: (a) there must be a single authority capable of negotiating for the Palestinian side; (b) the Palestinians must unconditionally accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state; (c) the Palestinians must convincingly renounce terrorism; and (d) the Palestinians must abandon the absurd “right of return” demand. Islamic supremacists whine that this is a one-sided set of requirements, but it’s not. It is basic in any negotiation that each side acknowledge the other’s right to exist and basic sovereign prerogatives. Besides, we all know that there is almost no concession Israel would refrain from making for the sake of peace if these elementary understandings were in place. So my general attitude about the “peace process” is: Wake me up when the Palestinians agree to those conditions and, in the meantime, try not to do too much harm.

Nevertheless, it is worth reading Adam Kredo’s report in the Washington Free Beacon on the Obama administration’s underhanded efforts to scapegoat Israel for the inevitable failure of Secretary of State John Kerry’s farcical attempt to negotiate a final settlement without pressing the Palestinians to make the basic concessions everyone knows must be made. Adam writes:

The Obama administration has been waging a secret media war in capitals across two continents blaming Israel for the recent collapse of peace talks with the Palestinians, according to former Israeli diplomats and Washington, D.C. insiders familiar with the peace process.

Multiple sources told the Washington Free Beacon that top Obama administration officials have worked for the past several days to manufacture a crisis over the reissuing of housing permits in a Jerusalem neighborhood widely acknowledged as Israeli territory.

Senior State Department officials based in Israel have sought to lay the groundwork for Israel to take the blame for talks collapsing by peddling a narrative to the Israeli press claiming that the Palestinians were outraged over Israeli settlements, the Free Beacon has learned.

These administration officials have planted several stories in Israeli and U.S. newspapers blaming Israel for the collapse of peace talks and have additionally provided reporters with anonymous quotes slamming the Israeli government.

The primary source of these multiple reports has been identified as Middle East envoy Martin Indyk and his staff, according to these insiders, who said that the secret media campaign against Israel paved the way for Secretary of State John Kerry to go before Congress on Tuesday and publicly blame Israel for tanking the talks.

“The Palestinians didn’t even know they were supposed to be abandoning negotiations because of these housing permits, which are actually old, reissued permits for areas everyone assumes will end up on the Israelis’ side of the border anyway,” said one senior official at a U.S. based pro-Israel organization who asked to remain anonymous because the Obama administration has in the past retaliated against critics from inside the pro-Israel world….

So the Palestinians won’t concede that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, and Hamas—which rules at least half the Palestinians and is not controlled by the Fatah faction Kerry is courting—continues to promise jihad until Israel is annihilated, and Obama wants you to think the problem is … housing permits in Jerusalem?

We have seen for over five years now that the Obama administration and its State Department (under both Hillary Clinton and Kerry) are sympathetic to the Islamic supremacist case against Israel—or, to try to put a more benign spin on it, are persuaded that appeasing Islamic supremacists is the best way to make them more accommodating. I happen to think that’s reckless, but wouldn’t it be refreshing if they’d just say what they really think rather than playing these stupid games?

And imagine being Israel about now, with President Obama saying, “Hey, don’t worry about what might be going on in my Iran negotiations. You know I’ve got your back.” Gives you lots of confidence, no?

Obama’s Motley ‘Champions of Change’

April 4th, 2014 - 8:51 am

I did not learn until this week that President Obama’s website, WhiteHouse.gov, regularly profiles young leftwing radicals it calls “Champions of Change.” Now, in a space of just a few days, two of the president’s “champions” have made news.

One is Linda Sarsour, described by the White House as a “community activist” who specializes in “community organizing” and “immigrants’ rights advocacy,” and who “conducts trainings nationally on the importance of civic engagement in the Arab and Muslim American community.” Evidently, civic engagement need not be civil engagement. Ms. Sarsour has joined her voice to that of CAIR in the campaign to suppress Honor Diaries, a film about the brutalization and systematic inequality faced by women in Muslim-majority societies. Ms. Sarsour reacted to the widely viewed and acclaimed film by tweeting:

How many times do we have to tell White women that we do not need to be saved by them? Is there code language I need to use to get thru?

I’d note that the executive producer of Honor Diaries is the heroic Somali human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It features several courageous Muslim women, including Pakistani-born Qanta Ahmed, a medical doctor who has an important column about the film and the campaign to suppress it at NRO today. But there are indeed some “White women” involved in the writing, production and financing of the film, and that’s apparently too much for a “Champion of Change” to abide.

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Earlier today, a jury in Manhattan federal court convicted Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, of al Qaeda’s conspiracy to mass-murder Americans, as well as providing material support to the terror network. I discussed the case here, and Ben Weiser’s report at the New York Times is here.

The result is cause for celebration, including for those of us who can separate public policy disputes from justice in individual cases. I have been arguing for many years that alien enemy combatants should not be given civilian trials, particularly while the war is still ongoing—and while the country certainly does not seem to be on a war footing, we are still have troops in harm’s way, we are still in armed combat against al Qaeda and its allies under a congressional authorization of force, and the Obama administration is still using lethal force against al Qaeda operatives under the laws of war. But regardless of whether I ever succeed in persuading the government on how enemy-combatant terrorists should be treated—the current administration is dead set against my position—I still want the United States to convict culpable terrorists, no matter where the trials happen, civilian or military court. The policy debate is by definition political (in the non-pejorative sense of “political”); but no one should want to see the trials themselves politicized.

Alas, Attorney General Holder cannot help himself. Here is part of the press release he put out after Abu Ghaith’s conviction:

I want to especially note that this verdict has proven that proceedings such as these can safely occur in the city I am proud to call home, as in other locations across our great nation. It was appropriate that this defendant, who publicly rejoiced over the attacks on the World Trade Center, faced trial in the shadow of where those buildings once stood.

We never doubted the ability of our Article III court system to administer justice swiftly in this case, as it has in hundreds of other cases involving terrorism defendants. It would be a good thing for the country if this case has the result of putting that political debate to rest. This outcome vindicates the government’s approach to securing convictions against not only this particular defendant, but also other senior leaders of al Qaeda.

This statement is by turns disingenuous, specious, and improper…which is what we’ve come to expect from Mr. Holder, throughout his Clinton and Obama stints at the Justice Department.

1. No one doubted that this terrorism trial in Manhattan, like the many before it dating back to 1993, would occur safely. The question was whether the heavy expense and burden involved in keeping it safe were worth bearing under circumstances where a perfectly safe trial facility is available at Guantanamo Bay. American taxpayers have spent untold millions to make Gitmo state-of-the-art, holding the trial there would have spared New York City lots of expense and anxiety, and we’d have had the added benefit of compliance with acts of Congress that endorse military commission trials.

2. How strange to point to “the shadow of where those [World Trade Center] buildings once stood”—a jolting reminder that they no longer stand because terrorists destroyed them about two months after the conclusion of another al Qaeda trial in Manhattan (involving four terrorists complicit in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa).

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As an enthusiastic fan of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), I am sorry that an ongoing project prevented me from participating in PJM’s Cruz symposium. But this relevant news just came over the transom, so I thought I’d at least pass it along.

As I’ve previously noted, Obama administration officials have been working the codify in federal law the IRS harassment and obstruction of conservative organizations that President Obama and Attorney General Holder claimed to find “intolerable,” “inexcusable,” “outrageous,” and “unacceptable” back when the scandal first came to light. As usual, it has been Senator Cruz leading the charge to try to stop them.

In the Senate today, Cruz offered two amendments that would have safeguarded the First Amendment rights of Americans against being profiled and targeted for IRS harassment. Specifically, it would have made it unlawful for IRS employees to:

[W]illfully act with the intent to injure, oppress, threaten, intimidate, or single out and subject to undue scrutiny any person or organization in any state.

One might think that discriminating against groups based solely on their political beliefs is something so manifestly wrong and un-American that everyone could agree it should be prohibited – especially after all the Obama administration’s bloviating about how terrible it is. Instead, Democrats unanimously opposed the Cruz amendment. Their majority assured the measure’s defeat.

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The Washington Post finds it newsworthy that senior al-Qaeda figures are leaving (or being shown the door in) Iran. Obviously, it is an interesting development … but one is constrained to ask why the Post did not seem to think it much of a story that Iran was harboring al-Qaeda leaders in the first place.

Iran, as our friend Michael Ledeen has repeatedly observed (most recently, here), is the chief sponsor of jihadism in the world. That it is a Shiite jihadist regime has not made much difference where the West is concerned: the mullahs have trained, supplied, financed and harbored Sunni jihadists – al-Qaeda and Hamas prominently among them – for over 20 years. This is the most outrageous aspect of the U.S. government’s negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program, negotiations conducted by both the Bush and Obama administrations. The regime’s nuclear ambitions have been compartmentalized from its terror facilitation, notwithstanding that it is the regime’s propagation of revolutionary jihad that makes its potential acquisition of nukes so intolerable. We do not sit up at night worrying about, say, India’s nuclear weapons. We have anxiety over Iran because for its regime, “Death to America” is not a slogan, it is a ruthlessly pursued goal.

This is why Michael and I, among not nearly enough others, have urged for a decade that the problem in Iran is the regime, not the nukes, and that any sensible American foreign policy should make regime change in Iran an imperative. This has never necessarily meant a military invasion of Iran (although that option should always be on the table – not as saber-rattling but as something the mullahs become convinced is a realistic possibility). It has simply meant that we should have organized every aspect of American foreign policy – military, intelligence, economic, and diplomatic – on strangling the regime until it is deposed, hopefully by the Iranian people themselves but by external forces if that’s what it takes.

The mullahs gave their al-Qaeda allies a soft place to land after the post-9/11 U.S. invasion. Naturally, some see the apparent al-Qaeda exodus from Iran as a hopeful sign that Obama’s amateur-hour rapprochement gambit is working. But of course, it has nothing to do with that. What the president is doing, as observed by none other than Iran’s “moderate” president Hassan Rouhani, is a slow-motion surrender – and note that, only a day ago, Tehran’s jihadist-in-chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “economic jihad” against the West. Iran has no incentive to help what Khamenei continues to call “the enemy,” the United States, against its erstwhile ally, al-Qaeda – and if it did, as Michael Rubin points out, it would be handing the al-Qaeda leaders over to us, not allowing them to return to places whether they can direct jihadist violence against us.

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As noted in my weekend column at National Review Online, last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal editorial on the IRS scandal was stellar. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for last Wednesday’s editorial on immigration – a rant against the Republican establishment’s sudden retreat from plans to push for immigration “reform” this year.

A number of conservative commentators, myself included, were baffled by the GOP’s apparent embrace of “amnesty first, enforcement (maybe) later” proposals. Those initiatives, while preferred by the Journal, the Chamber of Commerce, the Obama administration, and congressional Democrats, are anathema to Main Street – including the GOP’s conservative base, which must be turned out if the party is to succeed in what, thanks to Obamacare, is a promising midterm-election year. Still, even when I find myself opposed to the Journal’s bottom line on some issue or other, the editors’ take is nearly always smart and worth considering. Last Wednesday’s was neither.

The editors whine, for example, that “Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and the Heritage Foundation,” who oppose the current reform effort, “might as well share research staffs with the AFL-CIO.” And … so what? It could just as easily be said that the WSJ editorial board seems to be strategizing with La Raza, the Center for American Progress, and the Obama White House. Such claims may be worth remembering the next time the Journal complains about smear tactics and guilt-by-association arguments, but they shed no light on the merits of the immigration controversy.

The Journal ruefully concedes that President Obama’s lawlessness, particularly in the implementation of the “Affordable” Care Act, has left him without credibility “on any other law he signs” – which, of course, would include the enforcement component of any immigration overhaul. That’s true, but as even Senator Chuck Schumer must know, it’s just a fraction of the problem. It is not just Obama but the federal government – Republican leadership as well as congressional Democrats – that cannot be trusted when it comes to policing illegal immigration.

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