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JIM TREACHER: Reminder: Hillary Clinton Has Directly Contributed To Rape Culture. “Many of the same people who make such a convincing ‘rape culture’ argument will also argue that you should vote for Hillary. Many of the same people who assumed the UVA Phi Psi house was guilty of gang rape, who say things like ‘I believe women’ when presented with evidence that a rape accusation is false, will defend Hillary because she was just doing her job.”

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Ecuador Family Wins Favors After Donations to Democrats. “The Obama administration overturned a ban preventing a wealthy, politically connected Ecuadorean woman from entering the United States after her family gave tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, according to finance records and government officials.”

READY FOR HILLARY TO GO AWAY: People Magazine’s worst selling issue this year? The one with Hillary Clinton on the cover.

GENE LYONS: No Defense For The Mistakes In the Rolling Stone Rape Story.

Preppy WASPs, of course, are America’s last acceptable criminal class. A journalist can “profile” them all she wants with no fear of chastisement. On a recent Slate podcast, Erdeley explained she’d decided to write about UVA’s heavy-drinking “elitist fraternity culture” even before she’d met “Jackie,” the alleged victim.

“Southern” was a big part of it, too. . . .

If Rolling Stone’s story reads like a Stephen King novel, that may be because it’s largely imaginary.

UVA pledge events take place during spring semester, not September; there was no fraternity party. The side door Jackie escaped from doesn’t exist. Her three friends say they encountered her about a mile from Phi Kappa Psi that night, telling a lurid, but very different story involving forced oral sex. Jackie had no visible wounds. It was she who insisted on keeping quiet.

They also say Erdeley never interviewed them.

Jackie’s alleged seducer “Drew” never belonged to the fraternity and denies ever dating Jackie — an easy alibi to break, unless true.

The scales having fallen from my eyes, I keep returning to the scene where guys outside an off-campus bar supposedly called Jackie a “feminazi bitch.”

“One flung a bottle at Jackie that broke on the side of her face,” we’re told, “leaving a blood-red bruise around her eye.”

Maybe an NFL quarterback could throw a beer bottle hard enough to break on somebody’s face, but I doubt it. The victim, however, would be more than bruised. She’d be lucky to survive.

And there would definitely be a police report.

Indeed. Interesting to see this coming from a Dem columnist generally regarded as part of the Hillary orbit.

SHUTDOWN FLASHBACK: Elizabeth Warren slams House GOP’s “anarchy gang” — The Massachusetts senator delivers a rousing defense of government against “anarchists.”

UPDATE: You know, it’s cynical but I wonder if part of Warren’s trouble with Cromnibus is the campaign-finance provision that would give the party apparat a lot more power. That would be of great advantage to Hillary . . . .

ROGER SIMON: Explaining Hillary’s Sympathy For The Devil.

KURT SCHLICHTER: Will The GOP Lose To Hillary In 2016 By Nominating A Loser Like Jeb?

GOOD: Baghdad and Kurds reach ‘win-win’ accord over Iraq’s oil revenue.

You know, I still think that if we’d gone ahead with the Oil Trust idea back in 2003, Iraqis would have had a much better reason to hang together. But despite backing not only from me, but from Hillary Clinton, Milton Friedman, and Michael Barone, it never happened. Too bad.

MORE ON THE WAR BETWEEN THE DEMOCRATS’ GENTRY-LIBERAL AND URBAN-BLACK FACTIONS: Obama Shafts Hillary With Amnesty and Ferguson.

Obama can remain a player with a 35% constituency, but Hillary needs 50% + 1 to win. The Obama coalition/Democrat base has the Chablis-swilling limo libs from Marin County, the AFSCME-dues paying DMV diversity consultants, and the big screen-watching EBT cardholder vote nailed down. Everyone else, not so much anymore. And Obama is clearly fine with that.

Hillary was supposed to do what Bill did and bring back those blue collar Dems – the people who make things with their hands, the people who didn’t go to Wellesley, and the government employees like Officer Darren Wilson who actual perform a useful service. But Obama doesn’t need or even want them, and he’s happily driving them away to strengthen his own coalition. He’s refused to stand up against the race hustlers and rioters. And he’s hung the executive amnesty around Hillary’s neck, ensuring that she’ll spend the next two years promising not to undo it – in contrast the GOP nominee who will be talking about little else.

Hillary faces two problems that have potentially mutually exclusive solutions. One is keeping the Obama coalition behind her, and it’s already making noises about fleeing to Big Chief Warren. The other is expanding the coalition to once again include normal people. An executive amnesty she could undo with a pen stroke is not going to be any help with that. Nor are media images of businesses burning because some hardworking cop refused to allow himself to be murdered to please the likes of Al Sharpton.

With another Democrat in the White House, Obama’s a has-been. With a Republican and an angry 35% constituency, he’ll matter — basically, Al Sharpton writ large.

I COULD LIVE WITH THAT: A 2016 ballot without Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush? You heard it here.

Charlie Cook, one of the most respected political experts in the country, believes Hillary Clinton has only a 25-30 percent chance of running for president, and in any case he thinks she is either “rusty” or “she has lost her fastball.” He bases that on her disastrous book tour, in which she said some very inappropriate things and also did not sell many books.

The author of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report newsletter for almost 30 years also disappointed a local audience when he did not give Jeb Bush much of a chance of gaining the Republican nomination.

“Bush has two issues working against him to win the Republican primary for the 2016 presidential election,” Cook said. “One is immigration reform, which he favors; and two, is his advocacy of education reform.”

Neither of those causes would sit well with Republican primary voters, Cook said.

I’d be very happy to avoid a Bush/Clinton campaign.

SO LAST WEEK I TALKED ABOUT THE STRUGGLE FOR POSITION in the Democratic Party, between it’s urban-black wing and its gentry liberal wing. Now we see another blow struck: Deval Patrick warns Hillary Clinton: Inevitability is “off-putting.”

“I don’t mean that as a criticism of her; I just think people read inevitably as entitlement,” he added. “And the American people want, and ought to want, their candidates to sweat for the job, you know, to actually make the case for why they’re the right person for the right time.”

Translation: If you want me on board, you have to make it worth my while. . . .

Meanwhile, the Gentry Liberals are fighting back: Democrats assail Wall Street ties in Obama administration.

President Obama’s nomination of Antonio Weiss to serve as the Treasury Department’s top domestic finance official is drawing fire from an unusual sector: his fellow Democrats.

Liberal lawmakers like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have been quick to oppose Weiss, a major investment banker with Lazard.

Among their grievances is the fact that Lazard’s work is primarily in international finance and he is nominated for a domestic position. They’re also critical of his role in structuring several tax inversion deals, which have drawn criticism from the president himself.

But an underlying thread to the Democratic opposition is a fatigue with filling top-ranking administration spots with officials that have spent significant time working for or on behalf of Wall Street titans. Warren penned an op-ed in The Huffington Post criticizing the administration’s approach under the headline “Enough is Enough.”

It’s amusing to watch this infighting, but it’s not serious — it’s just positioning for a piece of the 2016 pie.

SO WHY ALL THE FERGUSON HOOPLA? Last time the Dems and Sharpton made a big deal of a shooting, it was the Trayvon Martin case, hyped to keep up black turnout for 2012. But now there’s not an election. So why Ferguson, and why now? Polling indicates that most people aren’t all that sympathetic, and protests that tie up Interstates, etc. aren’t going to attract swing voters.

But it’s not about swing voters. It’s about the base. And it’s not about the Democratic Party’s base, but about certain leaders’ base within the Democratic Party. This may be best understood as an intra-party struggle. Obama is the champion of the urban-black wing of the party, and because of him that wing has been on top. But his star is fading, black voters are beginning to realize that they haven’t benefited economically, and the next Dem nominee — whether it’s Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, or Elizabeth Warren — will be from the white gentry-liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The riots, the marches, the traffic-blocking are a way of telling them that the Sharpton wing is still a force to be reckoned with, and to improve its bargaining power between now and 2016. At least, that’s the only way this — not at all spontaneous — street theater makes sense.

POLITICO: Revival Of Long-Buried Cosby Accusations Could Pose Problems For Bill & Hillary Clinton.

ED DRISCOLL: Season’s Greetings From Ferguson.

Note that The ACLU’s statement doesn’t criticize the Grand Jury’s decision.

Related: Ferguson Witness Told Investigators That Michael Brown Charged Cop “Like a Football Player. Head Down.” “The witness’s account of the unarmed Brown charging Wilson–even after he had been shot in the hand during a struggle at the cop’s patrol car–supports the officer’s contention that he fired a series of shots as Brown bore down on him.”

UPDATE: So, Hillary’s been awfully quiet. This, via Facebook, may explain why. I’d guess that Today Show viewers are her core demographic.

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Yeah, the margin seems huge, but it’s an online survey of Today viewers, not a poll. I suspect it would be a lot narrower if people hadn’t awakened to images of burning and looting, too.

Meanwhile, I went to the Today site to see if the number has updated, and now I can’t find the survey at all. I found a clip encouraging people to come to the site and vote, but either I’m just missing it or it’s been taken down.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, that’s not too far from this online poll at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. My guess is that this means the media coverage will drop off sharply.

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MORE: And here’s a poll at NJ.com:

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JOSH BLACKMAN: The Constitutional Limits Of Prosecutorial Discretion. Also, Prosecutorial Discretion With Rubber Stamps.

Josh’s discussion also reminds me of MCI V. AT&T, 512 U.S. 218 (1994), in which the Supreme Court held that the FCC couldn’t stretch a statutory provision allowing it to “modify” tariff requirements into a general rule eliminating the need for most of the industry to file tariffs at all. That seems fairly analogous to what Obama is doing with immigration, and possibly a better fit than Heckler v. Chaney.

On the contra side, though, there’s the case I always bring up when people suggest that executive power has exploded in recent years, U.S. v. Spawr Optical. (Also discussed here.) Spawr is a Court of Appeals case, not a Supreme Court case, and turned on some particularly sweeping statutory delegations, but still. . . .

Meanwhile, some thoughts from Ilya Somin.

I also think that if the Supreme Court wants to hear this in a hurry, it can. If it takes it in the ordinary course of business, we’ll probably see a decision in June of 2016. Could Obama — already seen as passively aggressively undermining Hillary in other ways — have put a long-range torpedo into the water that will explode around the time of the Democratic Convention?

WELL, WITH HILLARY IT’S MORE LIKE BEN-GAY AND GIN: Can any 2016 Democrat have that ‘new car smell’?

REPORTS THAT HE’LL BE REPLACED BY JONATHAN GRUBER ARE UNCONFIRMED: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel To Resign. I’m no Hagel fan, but he’s been one of the less-incompetent members of the team. There have been signs that he was being marginalized for quite a while.

Perhaps as a favor to Hillary, Obama will offer the job to Jim Webb. Or maybe it would be a favor to Elizabeth Warren. . . .

MY MONEY’S ON JIM WEBB, AT LEAST IF HE GETS A BETTER HAIRCUT: Democrats Need a Hillary Backup.

The Democratic presidential bench is looking a little thin these days, isn’t it? After Hillary Clinton, we have … um … Jim Webb, who I bet you can’t even remember what office he held, and outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who couldn’t even get his own lieutenant governor elected as his handpicked successor in a blue state. If anything happens to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee will effectively be taking out LeBron James to send in Pee-wee Herman.

But how big a problem is this? You don’t need a dozen good people on the bench, just one or two who could make a plausible run for the presidency. And those people tend not to emerge when there’s not much of a realistic shot at winning — for example, when you’ve got a high-profile candidate with great name recognition, primary experience and most of your party’s donor base sitting in their back pocket. Once Hillary wins or loses, other people will presumably start grooming themselves for a serious run, rather than make an idealistic attempt to pull the party leftward in the primaries or a long audition for the VP slot.

I’ve seen this argument made by smart people who know more about politics than I do, and part of me is convinced. But the other part of me wonders where those candidates are going to come from if Democrats remain confined to the deep-blue parts of the map. Those places are more populous, but less numerous, than the red states — which means fewer governors and congressmen to choose from. Especially because a few blue states have shown a penchant for electing Republican moderates to rein in their liberal legislatures.

Barack Obama aside, political talent has to be nurtured.

I think Barack could have done with a bit more nurturing himself.

IN CASE YOU MISSED THIS DURING LAST NIGHT’S AMNESTY TALK EXPLOSION: Top Obama bundler accused of child rape.

On Wednesday, Portland, Ore. police arrested Terrence Patrick Bean, who has been charged with two felony counts of having sex with a minor last year. This man is not just any old guy accused of having sex with a 15-year-old – he’s a big-money Democratic donor and liberal political activist with connections inside the Obama White House. Bean raised more than a half-million dollars for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. . . .

A search of the Federal Election Commission’s campaign-finance database turns up thousands in donations every cycle by Bean to the Democratic Party’s most powerful leaders, including Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Rep. Barney Frank, among others. Photos of Bean posted online show him flying on Air Force One with Obama.

Although this report is in USA Today, I assume the major TV networks — which haven’t even covered Jonathan Gruber — will give this story a pass. Remember: Making sure you know what they want you to know is job #2 for them; making sure you don’t know what they don’t want you to know is job #1.

TEACH OBAMA SUPPORTERS NOT TO RAPE: USA Today: Top Obama bundler accused of child rape.

Conservatives complain that President Obama gets a free pass from the media, which acts as a de-facto public-relations shop for the Democrat in the White House. Never has that charge seemed truer than now as an ugly rape scandal unfolds on the west coast.

On Wednesday, Portland police arrested Terrence Patrick Bean, who has been charged with two felony counts of having sex with a minor last year. This man is not just any old guy accused of having sex with a 15-year-old – he’s a big-money Democratic donor and liberal political activist with connections inside the Obama White House. Bean raised more than a half-million dollars for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

“Bean has been one of the state’s biggest Democratic donors and an influential figure in gay rights circles in the state,” reports oregonlive.com. “He helped found two major national political groups, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and has been a major contributor for several Democratic presidential candidates, including Barack Obama.”

A search of the Federal Election Commission’s campaign-finance database turns up thousands in donations every cycle by Bean to the Democratic Party’s most powerful leaders, including Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Rep. Barney Frank, among others. Photos of Bean posted online show him flying on Air Force One with Obama.

The scandal is escalating. Earlier today, according to local media Kiah Loy Lawson, allegedly 66-year-old Bean’s 25-year-old former boyfriend, was arrested by the Portland Sex Crimes Unit for sexually abusing the same boy. After the relationship between the two men ended, Lawson went public with claims that Bean had a practice of secretly videotaping himself having sex with others.

​This story was first reported by the local press, and there have been vague references to sexual trouble for Bean and Lawson since June, but the national media has not picked it up. That oversight is politically convenient for President Obama as he tries to pull off one of his riskiest political moves ever with his amnesty executive order.

Telling you what they want you to know is job #2; not telling you what they don’t want you to know is job #1.

SHIRTGATE ROUNDUP: Jonah Goldberg: The feminist freakout over the scientist’s ‘girly’ shirt. “In short, feminists want a monopoly on when everyone must be outraged or offended. A few weeks ago, feminist idiots rolled out a video of little girls dressed as princesses, cursing like foul-mouthed comedian Andrew Dice Clay. Unlike Taylor, they set out to offend. But that was in support of feminism, so it was OK. (I’d like to see the parents of those kids tearfully apologizing for exploiting their kids as cheap propaganda props.)”

Related: The Era Of Male Guilt.

This is not about women being able to have careers, or stopping guys who beat their wives, or some other topic where you might expect equal rights for women to naturally arise as a direct issue. Now it’s about every minute little part of every area of your life. . . .

Which is to say that this is a power play. It reminds me of what Shelby Steele has written about the phenomenon of “white guilt”: the presumption that all white people are complicit in the crimes of slavery and segregation and are therefore guilty until they prove themselves innocent. And they can prove their innocence by embracing whatever political agenda the guardians of racial grievance choose to decree.

So call this new system “male guilt.” Every man is presumed sexist until proven otherwise, and his only hope is appease the self-appointed arbiters of offensiveness.

This will all acquire a laser-like focus very quickly, because accusation of sexism will soon have an urgent, concrete purpose: destroying all opposition to Hillary Clinton’s presumed presidential campaign. As Stephen Miller observes: “If you want to know what #ReadyForHillary will look like for 4 years… This is it.”

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that approach will make the Democrats’ gender-gap problems worse.

Also: London’s mayor launches stellar defense of scientist’s heavenly bodies shirt. What I love about the interviewer in that photo is that she’s looking at his eyes, not his chest, unlike, say Rose Eveleth. Quoth Johnson:

Those politically-correct Earthlings who ensured Taylor was “bombarded across the Internet with a hurtling dustcloud of hate” should be ashamed of themselves, Johnson wrote. After all, Taylor may study heavenly bodies, but he is not a priest.

London Mayor Boris Johnson came to Taylor’s defense after Internet sniping reduced the scientist to tears. (Reuters)

“He is a space scientist with a fine collection of tattoos, and if you are an extrovert space scientist, that is the kind of shirt that you are allowed to wear,” Johnson wrote.

The nimble-minded mayor went on to point out that the treatment of Taylor represented a double-standard when juxtaposed to that afforded Kim Kardashian; the shirt showed no exposed nipples or buttocks; and more nudity can be seen at the National Gallery than hanging in Taylor’s closet.

“What are we all – a bunch of Islamist maniacs who think any representation of the human form is an offence against God?” Johnson thundered. “This is the 21st century, for goodness’ sake.”

Yeah, it’s not turning out quite as I’d hoped. But, then, plenty of women are unhappy, too: “The femisogynists talk constantly about how women are so interested in science, technology, and engineering, but when there is a major, groundbreaking story involving those exact subjects, the only thing they can do is whine about how a shirt hurt their feelings.”

UPDATE: From the comments:

More attention should be paid to how this entire episode played out with boys. This should have been an opportunity to interest the next generation of young men in becoming scientists and space researchers. Especially the very smart, socially awkward boys who are most suited to the field.

You know, the kind of boys who are the constant target of bullies in school.

What these boys saw was that space science is no place to escape from bullies and that space scientists are not respected by women. They watched a man at the top of the space science profession humiliated and not protected by his employers and peers.

The young men — the next generation of space scientists — might not overtly think about it, but in the back of their mind how can they not feel that this is not the profession for them. They don’t want to end up like him.

That’s the message these “feminists” are sending.

Spot on.

IS THE END OF MANDATORY RETIREMENT BAD FOR ACADEMIA? Seems as if it’s proceeding just as Richard Epstein predicted twenty years ago, which is to say, badly. Ending mandatory retirement — which happened elsewhere years before the law applied to academia — is just another part of the ongoing process of transferring wealth from younger people to older people.

I’m amused, though, to imagine the author of this piece extending her reasoning to, say, Hillary Clinton. . . .

UPDATE: Roger Simon emails: “Hey, what’s all this aging bullshit from the mega-tedious Chronicle of Higher Ed? Sophocles wrote Oedipus at Colonus near his death at age 90. No one has done anything of that level since Shakespeare. (Well,maybe Tolstoy, but he was no spring chicken.)”

RON FOURNIER: The Extraordinary Smallness of Washington: Institutional shrinkage marks the politics and governing of the Bush-Obama era. Hmm. My first thought is that the term “Bush-Obama era” would be convenient for Hillary — and maybe other Democrats — who want to distance themselves from Obama’s presidency. . . .

BUT HILLARY SAYS SHE FEELS FINE NOW, “READY TO BE PRESIDENT:” Woman Wakes Up in Morgue After 11 Hours.

DON SURBER: The first 2016 Electoral College Map looks bad for Democrats.

I am not saying that the 31 states where Republicans control the legislature will definitely go Republican in the 2016 presidential race. But if they do, that’s 314 Electoral College votes. You need only 270 to win. . . . The carnage this year should demoralize Democrats, particularly Hillary Clinton, who has the misfortune of being the Democratic front runner for 2016. George McGovern and Fritz Mondale feel her pain.

Hillary Clinton was about as effective as Pat Nixon on the campaign trail. Her candidates lost 12 of the 13 tight Senate races she campaigned in. Even the Jacksonville Jaguars have a better winning record this year. She’s old and it shows. Her ideas have atrophied. She has been a fixture in Washington for 22, always causing some controversy, always blaming others, always cackling. One reason Democratic Party bosses backed her opponent in the 2008 nomination process was that he was No Drama Obama.

She’s 67 and has had only one executive position in her live. And she blew that gig in Benghazi.

Of course, she heads a bench of balsa wood. Behind her is “young Hillary” — Elizabeth Warren, 65. Then there is the “conservative Democrat,” Martin O’Malley, 51, governor of Maryland. He doesn’t want the government’s boot on your throat; he wants to put its ballet slipper there. He pushed for cheap college tuition for illegal aliens. Democrats are about to learn that “immigration reform” is as big a loser as gun control and global warming.

Andrew Cuomo, 56, may be the most intriguing in the Democratic bunch. He cut a deal with Republicans to get re-elected in exchange for Republicans taking control of the state Senate. After Obama, Democrats may go for a guy who cuts deals, no matter how far below the table they go. Oh and you political virgins out there need to understand, Republicans got the better end of the deal.

But like his father before him, Cuomo doesn’t need the presidency. He has all he needs in Albany.

Besides, who needs the noise?

The bottom line is no matter who the Democrats nominate, he or she faces an Electoral College map that is stacked against Democrats. The Solid South now stretches to Wisconsin.

Read the whole thing. But don’t get cocky, kid.

ROLL CALL: How Elise Stefanik Became The Youngest Woman Ever Elected To Congress.

Rep.-elect Elise Stefanik’s path to victory in New York reflected the trajectory of the midterms nationally, as Republicans invaded Democratic territory to make double-digit gains in the House.

But in so many other ways, Stefanik’s dominant win was one of her own making.

Stefanik defeated a wealthy Democrat, Aaron Woolf, by more than 20 points in a district the president carried just a couple years ago. At 30 years old, she’s the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and New York Republicans now tout her as the future of their party.

But that’s nowhere close to where Stefanik started the cycle in the upstate wilderness.

In late summer 2013, she drove an F-150 truck to methodically meet local Republican leaders in the vast district represented by a popular Democrat, Bill Owens.

“I had this 29-year-old political unknown who was introducing herself as willing to challenge an entrenched political incumbent,” recalled Ray Scollin, Chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, who found Stefanik on Twitter before meeting her in a Saranac Lake coffee shop last year. “I know a lot of people who thought of it as laughable.”

The GOP had been burned before when factions failed to coalesce behind the same candidate in the North Country. The Empire State’s 21st District is one of the largest on the East Coast, extending from the Canadian border to north of Albany. From there, it’s faster to drive round-trip to Manhattan than traverse the district filled with scenic lakes, forests and struggling manufacturing plants.

Stefanik spent her days working for her family’s plywood company, checking her gmail in between stops and carrying a handful of palm cards to the smallest of GOP functions.

“She put well over 100,000 miles on that truck,” recalled Stefanik’s ad-maker, Russ Schriefer. “She’d drive five hours to meet with a half-a-dozen people.”

Retail politics. Hard to imagine, say, Hillary — even a 29-year-old Hillary — doing anything like that.

SO NOW THE NEW REPUBLIC IS WRITING THINGS THAT WE ONLY USED TO HEAR FROM THE “CRAZED FEVER SWAMPS OF THE RIGHT.” The Obama Whisperer: No one has understood Valerie Jarrett’s role, until now.

Even at this late date in the Obama presidency, there is no surer way to elicit paranoid whispers or armchair psychoanalysis from Democrats than to mention the name Valerie Jarrett. Party operatives, administration officials—they are shocked by her sheer longevity and marvel at her influence. When I asked a longtime source who left the Obama White House years ago for his impressions of Jarrett, he confessed that he was too fearful to speak with me, even off the record. . . .

Jarrett holds a key vote on Cabinet picks (she opposed Larry Summers at Treasury and was among the first Obama aides to come around on Hillary Clinton at State) and has an outsize say on ambassadorships and judgeships. She helps determine who gets invited to the First Lady’s Box for the State of the Union, who attends state dinners and bill-signing ceremonies, and who sits where at any of the above. She has placed friends and former employees in important positions across the administration—“you can be my person over there,” is a common refrain.

And Jarrett has been known to enjoy the perks of high office herself. When administration aides plan “bilats,” the term of art for meetings of two countries’ top officials, they realize that whatever size meeting they negotiate—nine by nine, eight by eight, etc.—our side will typically include one less foreign policy hand, because Jarrett has a standing seat at any table that includes the president. . . . According to a former high-level aide, there is no longer a daily meeting between the president and his top advisers. Under the old system, if the president waved off one adviser’s objection to his preferred plan of action, another could step in to vouch for the objection’s merit. The advice Obama gets now, though, comes more regularly through one-off interactions with the likes of Jarrett and Denis McDonough, who don’t have anyone else to back them up. In the second term, observes the former aide, “Maybe the president says, more often than in the past, ‘We’re doing it.’”

The result is that Obama has become even more persuaded of his righteousness as the years have gone on.

In the end, though — this is the Chris Hughes New Republic, after all — we learn that America has let Obama down, not the other way around.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, this bit of psychoanalysis: “She is Yoko to Obama’s John Lennon. The mother who won’t abandon him.”

Plus: “With so many Czars around there’s bound to be a Rasputin.”

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: Tuesday’s Biggest Loser? Hillary Clinton.

ED DRISCOLL: The Rise Of The John Birch Left.

The modern left is built around a trio of laudable principles: protecting the environment is good, racism is bad, and so is demonizing a person over his or her sexual preferences. (In the chapter of his book Intellectuals titled “The Flight from Reason,” Paul Johnson wrote that “At the end of the Second World War, there was a significant change in the predominant aim of secular intellectuals, a shift of emphasis from utopianism to hedonism.” ) But just as the Bircher right began to see communists everywhere, the new Bircher left sees racism, sexism, homophobia, and Koch Brothers everywhere.

They’re lurking around more corners than Gen. Ripper imagined there were commies lurking inside Burpelson Air Force Base. They’re inside your video games! They own NFL teams! They’ll steal your condoms! Disagree with President Obama? Racist! (That goes for you too, Bill, Hillary, and your Democratic supporters.) Not onboard for gender-neutral bathrooms? Not too thrilled with abortion-obsessed candidates like Wendy Davis and “Mark Uterus”? Sexist! Disagree with using global warming as a cudgel to usher in the brave new world of bankrupt coal companies and $10 a gallon gasoline? Climate denier!

And as with the original Birchers, don’t get ‘em started on fluoride.

The original Birchers weren’t bad people, but their Cold War paranoia got the better of them. Similarly, as Charles Krauthammer famously said, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil,” which illustrates how a John Birch-style worldview can cause the modern leftists to take an equally cracked view of his fellow countrymen, to the point of writing off entire states and genders.

Indeed.

OBAMA’S PRESS CONFERENCE A REMINDER: Oh, This Is Why Republicans Won.

President Obama is a singularly ungracious and non-self-reflective person. In his press conference today he refused yet again to acknowledge reality. . . .

If ever there was a display justifying more robust congressional stewardship of national security, this was it.

In Hillaryland, you wonder what they make of this. Will they be forced to defend a clueless president still unmoved by voters’ resounding anti-Obama message? The more antagonistic he becomes toward the majorities in both houses, the more dangerous it will become for Hillary Clinton to remain aligned with him and his policies. She cannot run and win offering a third Obama term.

All in all it did not bode well for the next two years, but it does provide an attractive target for Republicans to run against in 2016. (We can’t take this anymore!) It also suggests that the voters were right to hamstring him and send minders to keep things from getting far worse internationally and more lawless at home. It was, most of all, a reminder of why he is unpopular.

Yeah, he’s kind of a self-centered jerk when you get right down to it.

UPDATE: More:

Before the election, Obama said his policies were on the ballot. Which policies? And why won’t he acknowledge that those policies were rejected? Because he was bullshitting when he said the polities were on the ballot? If his people had won, he’d have claimed we endorsed those policies, that he had a mandate. So when the reverse happens, how can he evade the reverse meaning?

Well, he’s expecting the press to cover for him, but they seem to be starting to lose patience.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

Obama is the political equivalent of Captain Queeg in the film “The Caine Mutiny” … and we all know how that turned out. Soon he will be looking for strawberries stolen from the WH Kitchen and fidgeting with marbles in the Oval Office.

Yeah, I’m a little worried about how his emotional state will turn out.

PANTSUITS HAVE NO COATTAILS: Jaclyn Cashman: Midterms are microcosm of Hillary Clinton’s clout. The pic of Hillary behind a Martha Coakley sign is a cruel touch.

HARD TO SEE THIS AS GOOD NEWS FOR HILLARY: Republicans now have every congressional seat for Arkansas for the first time in 141 years.

YEAH, HER CAMPAIGNING DIDN’T BEAR A LOT OF FRUIT: Rand Paul Says McConnell Victory A Defeat For Hillary Clinton. And look at how things went in Arkansas.

WELL, WE’VE FOUND OUR #HILLARY2016 CAMPAIGN SLOGAN! Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation.

HEH: Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama hit by hecklers at separate speeches. “First Hillary Clinton, then Michelle Obama. Both of the Democratic Party’s leading ladies were heckled while giving speeches at separate campaign events this week — not a good sign in the lead-up to an Election Day that’s already expected to go Republican.”

“MANY EMPTY SEATS” AT Hillary Clinton rally in Maryland.

HILLARY CLARIFIES, BUT ANN ALTHOUSE IS UNAMUSED: “Like it’s our fault we don’t know what she meant. How many times does she have to tell us? She’s been talking so long — for a couple of decades — that we ought to know everything she has to say. We should be completing sentences for her… like a doting, faithful old husband.” Well, she certainly doesn’t have anyone to fill that role at home.

IT’S NOT HER FAULT, IT’S THE CONCUSSION TALKING: Hillary Clinton: Business Don’t Create Jobs!

IT’S NOT CLEAR TO ME THAT THE WHITE HOUSE IS SUFFERING FROM A VAGINA SHORTAGE AT THE MOMENT: “What is the case for Hillary…? It boils down… She has experience, she’s a woman, and it’s her turn.”

ED DRISCOLL: Buzzfeed Accidentally Gives The MSM Game Away. “They’ve been pivoting ever since; watch next year for the same leftists who accused Hillary of the most virulent racism in 2008 to tell you she’s the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being they’ve ever known in their life.”

ED DRISCOLL ON THE DAILY NEWS’ OBAMA DISAPPOINTMENT: If only the New York Daily News had taken its own advice in 2008. “The 2008 covers above, just a small example of the daily hagiography pumped out by the MSM back then, reflect a very different, but similarly self-destructive contagion that rapidly enveloped the MSM starting in early 2007. The virus began to subside around mid-2009, when it slowly became obvious that the MSM had sacrificed their credibility to elect a false messiah. But as a dangerous aftereffect to Obama fever, the MSM quickly turned viciously on its readers, in the form of their unceasing racialist attacks on the Tea Party and anyone who dared oppose The One. . . . After November, it will be fascinating to watch the MSM similarly go all-in to aid Hillary, and act as if 2008 never happened, and pretend that they had no role to play whatsoever in electing a president about to go as deep into the memory hole as Woodrow Wilson, and for similar reasons. It isn’t just that the MSM got things so wrong, it’s that they permanently shattered their credibility to make it happen. Don’t let them forget what they’d like the world to forget.”

HILLARY HYPOCRISY: Clinton Talks Student Debt While Being Paid $225K By UNLV Charity. “Hillary Clinton spoke at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) last night about how millions of young people are burdened by student debt. She would know – her contract demanded she be paid $225,000 by the UNLV Foundation to speak there.”

TOM MAGUIRE: So, Now ISIS Has The Chemical Weapons That Saddam Never Had?

UPDATE: Gabriel Malor: Despite What You May Have Read In The Papers, The Iraq War Was Not About An Active Weapons Program. “The NYTimes has published a particularly despicable piece on the Iraq War. Here’s the link, if you must. Now, let me start by saying there are parts of this piece that are noteworthy, and those parts recount acts of valor and duty by U.S. service members. That’s not the despicable part. The despicable part is how the NYTimes writers have twisted what happened to these service members to their own end of rewriting the Iraq War. . . . The first sentence is an absolute lie, uttered at Bush 43′s expense, and made to justify the terrifying conclusion, laid at Obama’s feet, in the last sentence. This NYTimes piece has an overarching political goal: to cement forever the lie that the Iraq War was directed solely at stopping an active weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. As we know, the military never found an active weapons program, which makes this a particularly compelling slander.”

History will be whatever it needs to be to support a Hillary candidacy.

BYRON YORK: The Audacity of Greg Orman.

For many Republicans, the real problem is not that Orman is a cipher. It’s the suspicion that his entire campaign is a ruse. . . .

Yes, Orman can be slippery on some big issues. What would he do about Obamacare? Nobody really knows, except that Orman would not repeal the health care law. He’s been unclear about the Keystone pipeline, and fuzzy on immigration, too.

But on some other important issues, Orman has taken a clear stand. For example, at the debate, Orman proposed doing the following: 1) Relax Dodd-Frank restrictions on community and regional banks. 2) Review all government regulation every decade to rescind regulations that inhibit business growth. 3) Lower the corporate tax rate. 4) Lower overall tax rates. 5) Raise the Social Security eligibility age for younger Americans. 6) Cut the abuse of Social Security disability payments.

It’s all the kind of thing one often hears from Republican candidates. . . .

Then there is Orman’s own political history. He ran briefly against Roberts as a Democrat in 2008, but now says he is neither Democrat nor Republican. But he has made campaign contributions to Democrats over the years, among them Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and Al Franken. At the debate, Orman noted just one Republican to whom he has given — Scott Brown, briefly the GOP senator from Massachusetts.

Later this week, there will be a fundraiser in New York for Orman, sponsored in part by big-money Democratic donors like Jonathan Soros, Joe Gleberman, John Petry, and others. Put it all together, and Orman seems to be the candidate that Democrats really, really want to win the Senate race in Kansas.

How do we know it’s a bad year for Dems? Even Democrats are running as Republicans.

CHANGE: Mitt Romney leads Hillary Clinton in theoretical 2016 Iowa matchup.

STATE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: More evidence of rampant mismanagement under Hillary Clinton.

AMY OTTO: A new sexual consent law in California has Progressives pushing for a return to the kind of sexual arrangements they decry as regressive. They’re Mrs. Grundy now. Our only hope for getting them to go back to a “sex is private!” line is if Hillary is charged in some sort of rape scandal.

MENTAL CONFUSION. PROBABLY FROM THAT CONCUSSION. Hillary flubs history lesson; thinks Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1930s.

BIGGEST CASUALTY OF JULIA PIERSON’S RESIGNATION FROM THE SECRET SERVICE? Hillary — or, rather, Hillary’s narrative.

Remember, after the last wave of Secret Service scandals — involving drinking and prostitution — Pierson was chosen to head the Secret Service because, basically, she was a woman. There were a lot of men making men-type screwups, and a nice, frumpy woman would bring them into line and fix things.

Well, that’s basically the narrative Hillary’s people have been preparing for 2016. Oops.

Related: “It’s as if they thought having a female director would fix — image-fix — their women-related problems. There’s more to the Secret Service than just making it seem as if someone is stopping them from whoring. Did she even succeed at that? Or were we just supposed to feel better about it?”

Plus, from the comments:

1. The bad old SS was a male oriented, competent, hard drinking male club (think Clint Eastwood in “Line of Fire”) that covered up the parties and off duty issues

2. The bad new SS is a PC oriented incompetent club that covers up on duty incompetence

The SS at the CDC violated a number of rules and she directly ordered a cover-up.

I can guess which one a Hillary Administration would look like.

JIM WEBB looking more serious about challenging Hillary Clinton.

In his speech last week at the National Press Club, Webb spoke to what he believes is a sense of economic dread and war weariness in the electorate.

“It’s rare when the economy crashes at the same time we are at war,” he said. “The centrifugal forces of social cohesion are spinning so out of control that the people at the very top exist in a distant outer orbit, completely separated in their homes, schools and associations from those of us who are even in the middle.”

Hmm. Sounds like he’s been reading Joel Kotkin’s new book. Which every aspiring candidate should.

What I like about Jim Webb is that he’s not a typical lefty weenie. On the other hand, he behaved poorly in that gun incident. More on that here.

UH HUH: White House: Obama wasn’t passing buck with ISIS comment.

President Obama wasn’t passing the buck by saying intelligence officials underestimated the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the White House said Monday.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said officials were aware of the threat posed by ISIS, but misjudged the will of the Iraqi military to fight back and how successful the terror group would be at capturing territory. He said “everybody” — from the intelligence community to the White House — made the same mistake, but that Obama was ultimately responsible.

“The president’s commander in chief and he’s the one who takes responsibility for ensuring that we have the kinds of policies in place that are required to protect our interests around the globe,” Earnest said.

Reporters grilled Earnest about Obama’s remarks Sunday on “60 Minutes,” where he at one point said Jim Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has acknowledged misreading “what had been taking place in Syria” with regards to ISIS.

The remark has created a firestorm, with Republicans and some former intelligence officials arguing the president was trying to shirk responsibility.

Well, that’s because, you know, he was. In the words of Ron Fournier: “I, me, my. It’s their fault. I, me, my. It’s their fault. I, me, my. It’s their fault. I, me, my. It’s their fault. I, me, my …”

Related: Rogers: Intel officials warned Obama about ISIS ‘for over a year.’

But hey, the Hillary/Kerry shop’s still defending him: State: White House didn’t drop the ball on ISIS threat. Well, okay then.

ED MORRISSEY: Politico: Iowa’s got a woman problem, and only Hillary can cure it. Politico conveniently ignores the fact that a woman — Joni Ernst — looks likely to win a statewide race this year. But then, we know two things: (1) Politico, and here reporter Dave Price is no exception, is totally in the tank for Hillary; and (2) Republican women don’t count as, well, you know, women. Because equality!

ROGER KIMBALL: The Fate Of Free Speech.

What are the major threats to free speech today? Perhaps the overarching condition that threatens free speech is the spread of political correctness. This has sharply curtailed candor about all manner of contentious subjects. It is no longer possible, in polite society, to speak frankly about race, about differences between the sexes, or a hundred other topics — so-called “climate change,” for example, or the relationship between Islam and free speech.

It is extraordinary, is it not, that various Islamic groups, often with the collusion of Western politicians, including Hillary Clinton, are proposing to resurrect blasphemy laws , making it illegal — illegal — to “insult” Mohammed or criticize Islam? The end of their efforts is a “global censorship regime.” We’re not there yet, not quite, but we’re well on the road. One sign of the success of this campaign is the systematic reluctance of Western leaders to described Islamic terrorism as, well, Islamic terrorism.

It’s almost as if our leaders have been frightened, or bought off, or something.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: The Golden Bowl: Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative, and our supine media.

BECAUSE ALL HIS PREDICTIONS CAME TRUE? Why We’re Talking About Mitt Romney.

Because his decency and competence stand in stark contrast to the current President? That said, I don’t think he should run in 2016. But I think he should be slamming Obama — and the press, and Hillary — with I-told-you-sos that remind people how things went before. And, in the case of the press, how it shamefully prostituted itself to support and protect a candidacy that, deep down, it had to know was unworthy.

JOURNALISM: Politico Staffers Begin Circling Wagons to Ensure Hillary’s Not Vetted.

Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure this response from Glenn Thrush is anti-Mexican bigotry or something.

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BILL CLINTON ON INVERSIONS: “This is their money.” “As many Democrats attack companies that take advantage of corporate tax inversions, former President Bill Clinton expressed sympathy for them.” Okay, this is really just a message to Wall Street that if it donates to Hillary, she’ll take care of them. But while Bill can promise that, can he deliver?

WELL, WE KNOW HE LIKES GUNS FOR HIMSELF. Ex-Sen. Jim Webb Seriously Looking At 2016 Run. Hillary’s looking weak.

BUT HOW’S THE CREASE? THAT’S THE IMPORTANT THING. Hillary Clinton, an empty (pant)suit?

STANLEY KURTZ: Why Hillary’s Alinsky Letters Matter. An explanation for Glenn Thrush, et al.

2016 IN A NUTSHELL, FROM FRANK J. FLEMING: “Hillary has to be careful to not let the fact that she’s not particularly good at anything distract from how she’s a woman.”

#NARRATIVEFAIL: The Rape Epidemic Is A Fiction: Sexual assaults today are a third of what they were twenty years ago. Remember, none of this is about reality, or the welfare of women. It’s about Hillary battlespace preparation, and jobs and power for “social justice warriors.”

THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON UNEARTHS Hillary Clinton’s correspondence with Saul Alinsky. On Twitter, the reaction from pro-journalists seems to be “Who’s Alinsky again?”

Plus: “We’re not even close to 2016 and just tonight we’ve had: 1) CBS run a Hillary hero show 2) Politico smugly dismiss new Hillary info.” Think of them as Democratic operatives with bylines and you’ll never be far wrong.

Though whether Hillary will benefit from being compared to Tea Leoni isn’t entirely clear. . . .

MEGAN MCARDLE: How Many Rape Reports Are False?

The number of false accusations is what statisticians call a “dark number” — that is, there is a true number, but it is unknown, and perhaps unknowable. For a deep dive into the reasons it’s so hard to know, I commend you to Cathy Young’s new piece at Slate, in which she details all the problems that confound investigations into false rape accusations.

Here’s what we do know: The 2 percent number is very bad and should never be cited. It apparently traces its lineage back to Susan Brownmiller’s legendary “Against Our Will,” and her citation for this figure is a single speech by an appellate judge before a small group of lawyers. His source for this statistic was a single area of New York that started having policewomen conduct all rape interviews. This is not data. It is an anecdote about an anecdote.

The 41 percent number beloved of men’s-rights activists is better; it involves a peer-reviewed study by Eugene Kanin of a police department in some unknown small city. False reports could only be declared if the victim herself withdrew the charge. However. We’re talking about one city, in which 109 rapes were examined over a period of nine years. As feminists point out, victims might have withdrawn the charges simply because they found it too traumatic to engage with the police department, not because the accusation was false. And the study itself is now pretty elderly. A lot has changed in 20 years, including, possibly, the number of false rape accusations in this city and the rest of the nation. This number should be used only with grave caution.

But so should any other numbers, such as the 8 percent figure that is commonly attributed to the FBI. When you dig into the research itself, you find it is often heavily inflected with the authors’ prior beliefs about what constitutes the “real problem”: unreported cases of rape or false reports? So Kanin is frequently chided for accepting the results of a police department investigation that included offering the victims a polygraph, because this is intimidating for true victims as well as women making false reports, and it could raise the incidence of false negatives. On the other hand, if the rate of false rape reports is quite high — much higher than that of other crimes — then this might be a reasonable precaution. It’s possible that by encouraging police departments not to polygraph rape victims, we have fixed a cruel system in which innocent victims are bullied into recanting. It’s also possible that we’ve increased the number of false accusations that proceed to investigation and conviction.

Shorter: You cannot treat “percentage of reports that were found to be false by investigators” as “percentage of reports that were actually false.” Some women may simply have recanted to disengage from the system. Some police officers may decide a case was false when it wasn’t. On the other hand, we also know that false accusations can make their way through the system pretty far — witness the Duke lacrosse players and Brian Banks.

What we know is that we don’t know.

Thing is, all the rape-talk isn’t about getting justice for victims. It’s about stirring up female voters for Hillary, while demonizing, marginalizing, and silencing men, and about justifying policies that generate employment and self-esteem for “social justice warriors.” Given that these are generally execrable people, any policy that enlarges their power or perks should be viewed with deep suspicion.

AS THE ADMINISTRATION FLOUNDERS ON IRAQ, let’s remember a time when Democrats were more forceful. Here’s a flashback to what the Democrats, including Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, were saying on Iraq before the invasion:

“MEANWHILE, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS TURNED INTO PEYTON PLACE.” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats’ War On Women. “If the targets of back-biting were Republican women I have little doubt that the media would hop on the ‘war on women’ bandwagon. Really, why is poor Wasserman Shultz taking blame when the male president is responsible for the party’s bad fortunes? And how [many] of these ‘personal questions’ about Clinton have to do with her age — a sign of sexism in a world in which men grow distinguished and women grow old? (If you think this is pure silliness, you know how Republicans feel when accused of misogyny.)”

UPDATE: From the comments: “More like The Harper Valley PTA, it would seem.” Heh.

SHARYL ATKISSON: Hillary Cronies Sanitized Benghazi Files Before Accountability Review Board Got Documents. “As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to ‘separate’ damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the first time Maxwell has publicly come forward with the story. At the time, Maxwell was a leader in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which was charged with collecting emails and documents relevant to the Benghazi probe.”

We used to call it “vacuuming” the files back in the day.

Related: Hillary’s “Plumbers” Hid Benghazi Docs.

MICHAEL BARONE: Obama forced by events to reverse course — and disillusion base.

One of his chief advantages over Hillary Clinton in 2008 was her vote for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 and Obama’s opposition to it, albeit as a state senator from an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

In the late 1960s Democrats switched from being the more hawkish of our two parties, more likely to support military interventions and commitments, to being the more dovish. Visceral opposition to military action, and suspicion that even the most limited such action will lead to massive war, is deeply implanted in many Democratic voters.

You can expect, therefore, a skittish reaction to Obama’s announcement of a military escalation from senatorial and congressional candidates in states with dovish Democratic electorates like Colorado and Iowa. We also may also see depressed turnout of Democratic doves all over the country in November.

It is apparent that Obama’s decision to take military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, however limited, came despite his deep-seated feelings and was forced on him by events. American voters do not take kindly to videotaped beheadings of Americans. It unleashes a Jacksonian impulse to wipe the people who do these things off the face of the earth.

Obama, like his predecessor, likes to depict Islam as a religion of peace. An unhappily large number of Muslims, however, have other ideas. Their aggression and immunity to appeasement have forced the president to take actions that he, like many of his fellow Democrats, abhors.

Yeah, that keeps happening.

FAKE WAR HERO TOM HARKIN: Hillary’s More Liberal Than People Think.

Here’s the Harkin fake war hero story, which doesn’t really have much to do with Hillary but which bears repeating.

HEY, THIS SOUNDS LIKE WHAT OBAMA AIDES ARE SAYING TODAY! Flashback: Bush Aides Say Iraq War Needs No Hill Vote; Some See Such Support As Politically Helpful. “Lawyers for President Bush have concluded he can launch an attack on Iraq without new approval from Congress, in part because they say permission remains in force from the 1991 resolution giving Bush’s father authority to wage war in the Persian Gulf, according to administration officials. At the same time, some administration officials are arguing internally that the president should seek lawmakers’ backing anyway to build public support and to avoid souring congressional relations. If Bush took that course, he still would be likely to assert that congressional consent was not legally necessary, the officials said.”

Bush was smart to get Congress on board — even though by 2006, many, including Hillary, were pretending they’d never voted for the war — and Obama would be smart to do the same now.

“IRON DISCIPLINE:” Politico gives soft-soap treatment to Hillary backup Elizabeth Warren. The more puff pieces like this you see, the more likely it is that Hillary won’t run.

YEAH, THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” STUFF ISN’T LOOKING SO GOOD: Becoming secretary of state could be Hillary’s biggest political mistake. “Hillary Clinton enjoyed remarkably high approval ratings during her time as secretary of state under President Obama, but those numbers have evaporated as the Middle East burns and Moscow continues its expansion westward — leaving her legacy in tatters. This development is occurring at a terrible time for Clinton, months before she is expected to announce her 2016 presidential ambitions.”

OPERATION I-TOLD-YOU-SO: What Is Mitt Romney Up To?

My reading of Romney is that he’s a man who doesn’t lack an ego, but that he has far less ego than most politicians. I think he actually is interested in public service, and that right now he’s been casting about—after over a year of laying low and thinking, and recovering from his defeat—for the role he can take on to best serve the nation and even the world.

If that’s grandiose, so be it. And the conclusion I think he may have come to is that he can serve as a guide to the party and as a symbol of solidity, a “what might have been” for the American people to compare and contrast to Obama and other Democrats. As such, he can remind them that the current decline and chaos weren’t inevitable, and needn’t be inevitable for the future, if they are smarter next time and elect a more conservative candidate than Hillary Clinton or whoever will be the Democratic nominee.

Will it work? I don’t know. But I think that’s his plan, and so far he’s executed quite nicely.

Plus, it’s always fun to say “I told you so.”

WELL, THIS MIGHT BE CONVENIENT FOR HILLARY, IF TRUE: New Book Says C.I.A. Official in Benghazi Held Up Rescue.

ANNALS OF “SMART DIPLOMACY:” America’s confused foreign policy in the post-Soviet sphere.

Washington seems to have developed an imperative to engage when it is too late, if at all, in reaction to Moscow’s assertive actions and has excelled in sending mixed messages. Azerbaijan is arguably the most pivotal nation in Eurasia today. It is a key transit point for NATO operations in Afghanistan, the only nation bordering both Russia and Iran, and one of the very few secular and tolerant Muslim societies in the world. Yet instead of intensively reaching out to Azerbaijan, Washington constantly criticizes or alternately ignores Baku.

In contrast to Russia and Iran, which both frequently send top level delegations to convince Baku to turn away from its pro-Western course, Washington has been MIA, with Hillary Clinton being the last high-level Administration official visiting in 2012. Compare this to the Moscow: Putin personally visited Baku just before the presidential elections in 2013 to court Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev. Now consider this through the prism of regional perceptions and the global outcry about the lack of American leadership.

Failing to offer a credible security commitment to their allies in the post-Soviet space, the United States and Europe are unable to address their most immediate and present threats. Offering some vague European prospects peppered by heavy criticism and diluted by the constant bickering and lack of leadership among the Europeans, the West comes across as weak in the face of Russia’s decisive, instant and brutal force. The much touted EU Association agreement doesn’t even offer clear support to Azerbaijan for its territorial integrity, unlike the other candidates. This is a sign of strategic confusion in the European ranks.

When you elect feckless leaders, you get feckless leadership.

RICH BAEHR: Hillary Is In No Rush.

WASHINGTON POST: Why Obama’s ‘We don’t have a strategy’ gaffe stings. “Polls have increasingly shown that Americans view Obama as a weak commander in chief without much direction or heft t0 his foreign policy. . . . And as a series of overseas foreign policy crises have popped up in recent years, the White House has remained largely hands-off — a decision that rightly or wrongly feeds the narrative of it not having a real strategy. And it certainly didn’t help that the White House set a so-called ‘red line’ of the Syrian government using chemical weapons on its people, but didn’t actually do anything when it crossed the red line. And then Obama goes and says something like he did Thursday.”

But I love how the Post still can’t write about an Obama gaffe without taking a jab — make that two jabs — at Romney along the way.

UPDATE: Points And Figures: “When the world is crashing around you, that’s not an answer. The time to answer the question with, ‘We don’t have a strategy yet.’ was was a year ago.”

A year ago, Obama was calling ISIS “junior varsity.” Plus:

Supposedly, with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, we had an A team working on these problems. She has pretty much screwed the pooch and I would hate to see how badly she could do as President. At the same time, where has Obama been? It’s not just that he is golfing, but goes deeper than that. It’s not political party differences either, because in a time of crisis, elections shouldn’t matter. CEO’s and Presidents make decisions for the good of the country; not minutiae or teacher’s pets.

His investors and his Board of Directors are looking for some definitive action that can bring some calm before the world goes spinning out of control. But, his brain is vacant. America feels listless, and also it feels like dominoes are falling that could bring us to a situation we don’t want to be in. There are parallels to both WW1 and WW2, but every new chapter has its own twists and turns. The future requires its own imaginative thinking.

Great leaders have core values. When things go nuts, they can rely on those core values. They are bedrock that help to speedily build a plan to get the ship right. This is why when an early stage company starts to grow, one of the things great CEO’s do is build a corporate culture. When in doubt, they can rely on the core values of that culture to seize the day, and employees internalize it to put out fires.

What are Obama’s core values, and do they mesh with the American culture we have created over 200+ years?

Yeah, I don’t think anybody considers Obama a “great leader” anymore, and nobody wants to talk about his core values.

UPDATE: Ten Obama Press Conference Lowlights. “It is hard to tell which was worse — the substance of the president’s remarks on Thursday or that he thought it was a good idea to go out there, with no real news on anything. He confirmed what many of us have long suspected — there is no strategy for dealing with the Islamic State, which his own advisers — but not the president — say is a real threat to the homeland. Obama would only say the Islamic State is a threat to Iraq. It leaves one wondering if he really thinks a jihadist state in the Middle East is no big deal for the U.S.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael Schrage corrects me — it wasn’t a year ago that Obama was calling ISIS junior varsity, it was just last January.

AMAZING, GIVEN THE DIFFERENCE IN MEDIA HYPE: Paul Ryan’s book beats Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ on New York Times Bestseller list.

SMART DIPLOMACY: Russia invades Ukraine, Obama expresses ‘concern.’ “There is no better example of the ruinous Obama foreign policy than Ukraine. The president has issued empty threats, diminished sanctions and refused to allow Ukraine to protect itself. If you are the leader of a Baltic state, you’re probably and justifiably panicked. The president will no doubt issue more empty threats. But that doesn’t do Ukraine any good, and it surely won’t protect other potential victims. Hillary Clinton‘s reset policy, it seems, has been a complete failure. Or is she going to blame others for this one as well?” If I were the Poles, I’d be trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

THE FIX IS IN: Democrats set primary calendar that would help Hillary Clinton.

“ANYONE BUT OBAMA” SENTIMENT DOESN’T EXTEND TO HILLARY: YouGov poll: Most Americans, and most Democrats, do not wish Hillary had won in 2008.

BUT OF COURSE: Hillary Is Already Insisting On Staying In Presidential Suites. “The former first lady is already insisting on staying in the ‘presidential suite’ of the world’s finest hotels, typically traveling to them on nothing less than a $39 million private Gulfstream G450 jet before collecting a $250,000-plus speaking fee, a new report says. Just like the president, she sends an ‘advance’ team to check out her accommodations and speech set-up before she touches down, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reviewed her standard speaking contract and other documents related to an upcoming Nevada visit.”

MICHAEL BARONE: Hillary Clinton not campaigning much for her party in 2014, unlike Richard Nixon in 1966.

TOM MAGUIRE: A Character-Building Article On Nation-Building In Iraq.

I still think that if we’d gone ahead with the Oil Trust idea back in 2003, Iraqis would have had a much better reason to hang together. But despite backing not only from me, but from Hillary Clinton, Milton Friedman, and Michael Barone, it never happened. Too bad.

RICHARD FERNANDEZ: Looking For The Attractor.

There’s a crisis in punditry. Disasters have become altogether too predictable. . . .

Nobody really believes that the leaders of the nation or the West in general can find their way out of the mess they’ve created. Not after all that huffing and puffing about climate change, transgender initiatives, Obamaphones, “getting engaged with your disease” and other varieties of trivial pursuit.

The Big Ticket problems they’ve pooh-poohed for so long are here. Food, energy, security and demography. In a short, the world of things. Boo. Your design margin has been canceled. Politicians are running for cover. . . .

That the current system is in flux is no longer in doubt. What everyone wants to know is where the attractor is. “In dynamical systems, an attractor is a set of physical properties toward which a system tends to evolve.” Where is the world going? Who is going to lead it? The conventional wisdom is that it was Barack or Hillary who would do the leading. But it looks more like no mas!

What punditry needs now is not someone who can interpret the past — that’s easy — but someone who can glimpse the further future. But even the greatest minds have no crystal ball. The mists of uncertainty shroud all. One can only repeat what Winston Churchill said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Like the folks in Europe 100 years ago, I think we’re going to miss the Gay 90s.

IT’S ALMOST LIKE EVERYONE SPIES ON EVERYONE ELSE: German agents secretly recorded Hillary Clinton conversation. “German security agents recorded a conversation involving Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state, German media reported Friday, a potential embarrassment for Berlin, which has lambasted Washington for its widespread surveillance. Clinton’s words were intercepted while she was on a U.S. government plane, Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and German regional public broadcasters NDR and WDR said, without giving details of where she was or when the recording was made.” It’s kind of embarrassing to the US, though, that they were able to do so.

CLINTON MACHINE TAKES OVER THE “allegedly nonpartisan (but actually left-wing) watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).” “CREW, which plans to add a more explicitly political arm in order to target Republican politicians, donors, and other enemies of David Brock, is the latest addition to Brock’s stable of aggressive political attack outfits, such as Media Matters, American Bridge, and the recently announced American Independent Institute and American Democracy Legal Fund.”

Say, does Brock still have a loaded bodyguard?

UPDATE: Ethics watchdog to become Democratic lapdog: report. “Vogel reports that a greatly expanded CREW will now become part of Brock’s web of partisan organizations that provide opposition research and attack services for Democrats independent of the official party structure. His organizations have spent a lot of time preparing for a possible Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2016, by fending off attacks on her.”

If you’re out of line it’s your bang-pop.

INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY: Impeach Obama? He’s The Best Asset The GOP Has. “Obama is Republicans’ greatest political asset and Democrats’ greatest political liability. And for Republicans, he promises to be an asset that continues to pay dividends.”

Related: Hillary gauges how far is far enough from Obama’s mounting stigma.

SO SHE’S A T-1000? Huh. I thought she was a T-888. Hillary Clinton, expert shape-shifter.

SPECIAL GUEST EDITORIAL: Obama’s Foreign Policy Failures, By Hillary Rodham Clinton.

MEGAN MCARDLE: When Obama Beat Hillary, We All Lost.

I think that Hillary Clinton would have been more cautious when dealing with Republicans, and therefore ultimately more successful in some ways. At the very least, she would not be facing the same level of vehement opposition in Congress.

I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it. From the Tea Party’s perspective, you had an unpopular program that should have died in the same way, and for the same reasons, that Social Security privatization did: because sensible politicians saw that, no matter how ardently they and their base might desire it, this was out of step with what the majority of the country wanted (and no, you cannot rescue the polls by claiming that the only problem with the law was that it wasn’t liberal enough; when you dig down into what people mean when they say that, the idea that there was ever a majority or a plurality that was secretly in favor of Obamacare collapses). . . .

I think that Hillary Clinton would have pulled back when Rahm Emanuel (or his counterfactual Clinton administration counterpart) told her that this was a political loser and she should drop it. I’ve written before about how my Twitter feed filled up with comparisons to 1932 the night that Obama took the presidency, and it’s quite clear to me that the Obama administration shared what you might call delusions of FDR. It thought that it was in a transformative, historical moment where the normal rules of political caution didn’t apply. The administration was wrong, and the country paid for that.

They’ve been wrong about a lot of things, and we’ve paid — and will pay — for that. But the sheer “I won” in-your-face immaturity of the Obamaites — remember the “Hey, Hey, Goodbye” chant to Bush at the inauguration — ensured that people would be angrier than normal. And they did that on purpose because a sharply divided nation suited them politically. Now Ron Fournier wonders if Americans would rally behind Obama after another 9/11 the way we rallied behind Bush, and I think the answer is no — because Obama has spent his entire time in office flicking boogers at half the country.

As I’ve said before, the reason why presidents traditionally act “presidential” isn’t because they’re stiffly formal, it’s because acting presidential, rather than purely political, lets you appeal to the whole country in ways that a pure partisan can’t. Obama doesn’t care, and we may very well pay for that, too. But elections have consequences, and when you elect a guy like Obama, the consequences are bad ones.

NOT SO HAPPY WITH HILLARY: Exclusive: Obama Told Lawmakers Criticism of His Syria Policy is ‘Horsesh*t.’

SAME AS IT EVER WAS. SAME AS IT EVER WAS. Philip Klein: Nothing Hillary Clinton Is Now Saying About Foreign Policy Matters. “If history has taught us anything, especially when it comes to foreign policy, it’s that Clinton doesn’t have positions — she has positioning.”

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OPERATIVES WITH BYLINES: Mediaite: From ISIS to Health Care, Hillary’s Media Allies Rewriting History.

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Obama’s plan to stop ISIS panned by both sides of aisle. Hillary’s first to plunge in the knife:

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” said Clinton, who served as Obama’s first secretary of state.

She made the comment to The Atlantic in response to a question about one of the administration’s blunt mantras to observe caution – an approach critics say has led to disengagement as events exploded in the Middle East.

Clinton, in a new interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the magazine, blasted the administration’s failure to arm Syrian rebels in the early phase of their uprising against President Bashar al Assad – a policy she tried to change.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.

Her strategy appears to be to run against Obama the way Obama ran against Bush. Maybe a bit awkward that she was in charge of his foreign policy for most of the time.

NATIONAL JOURNAL: The World Will Blame Obama If Iraq Falls.

Well, yes. It was stable and relatively peaceful — so much that Obama and Biden were bragging about it — and then he blew the Status Of Forces Agreement negotiations because, fundamentally, he didn’t want troops to stay.

Related: What Kind Of Iraq Did Obama Inherit?

Plus, I’m just going to keep running this video of what the Democrats, including Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, were saying on Iraq before the invasion:

Because I expect a lot of revisionist history over the next few months.

Plus: 2008 Flashback: Obama Says Preventing Genocide Not A Reason To Stay In Iraq. He was warned. He didn’t care.

And who can forget this?

REMINDER: Hillary Clinton Pushed Obama to Keep Troops in Iraq.

WHY, HOWEVER COULD THAT HAVE HAPPENED? The crusade against Iraq War supporters has forgotten someone: Hillary Clinton.

Barack Obama used a similar line of attack on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary campaign:

[People] should ask themselves: Who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right, and who got it wrong?

And yet less than two weeks after his election, Obama made the person who was doggedly wrong on the “most important foreign policy decision” in a generation his secretary of State.

That convenient amnesia is exactly what is going to happen in 2016, when many of those who are willing to shout “baby killer” at Paul Wolfowitz will make it their full-time job to elect Hillary Clinton commander in chief. Clinton has given a totally implausible account of her evolving views on Iraq, even as she continues her hard-line hawkishness. Her entire career has been peppered with urging presidents to bomb, whether the target was Serbia in the ’90s or Libya and Syria this decade.

I also predict that Obama’s supporters won’t be focusing on his right/wrong-call ratio much . . . .

BECAUSE HILLARY ISN’T RUNNING IN 2016? Why Democrats Are Ditching Their “War On Women” Rhetoric.

Maybe it’s starting to chase younger women away.