July 9, 2015

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Jonathan Tobin has interesting ideas about who benefits from the endless Iran negotiations. 

In the hands of a president that was tough enough to mean what he said when he threatened to walk away from nuclear talks with Iran if it didn’t get what it wanted, a negotiating deadline would be an effective tool to obtain the West’s objectives. But over the course of the last two years, the Obama administration has realized that when a deadline loomed they were the only players in the diplomatic standoff that started to sweat. The Iranians quickly learned that faced with the prospect of President Obama’s cherished dream of a new détente with their regime, the West preferred concessions to walkouts and accordingly stiffened their stands on outstanding issues. That’s why the U.S. has treated every such recent deadline as a flexible rather than a rigid concept, a decision that was repeated when first the June 30 date for an end to the talks and then the July 7th date that was regarded as the true end point passed without either an agreement or the U.S. team packing their bags and leaving Vienna. Even many of the administration’s critics see this as not an altogether bad thing since more talking is to be preferred to another Western collapse. But with their hotel reservations now extended until Saturday, the question arises as to who will benefit from the seemingly endless Iran negotiations?

There are good reasons why everyone from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker to many Israelis seem unperturbed by the latest extension of the talks. They are sure that if President Obama thought either the June 30 or the July 7 dates were his last chance for signing an agreement with Iran, Tehran’s intransigence on a number of key points would have been rewarded with American surrenders. They think that because the last two years of negotiations with Iran have been largely characterized by a series of U.S. retreats on uranium enrichment, the retention of the regime’s nuclear infrastructure in the form of thousands of centrifuges, and the drafting of a deal that expired after ten years rather than one that created permanent restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program were largely the result of the administration’s panic. Faced with the choice between no deal and one that favored Iran, the president has always chosen the latter. …



Kevin Williamson writes on Greece.

The Greeks have their Bernie Sanders. What they need is their Chris Christie.

The Greek people spent part of the weekend in the streets celebrating their status as international deadbeat. They spent the rest of the weekend hoarding food, fuel, and medicine in preparation for the manmade disaster they have inflicted upon themselves.

Greek referendum voters overwhelmingly rejected bailout terms offered them by their European patrons. Greece’s leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras — think of him as Europe’s answer to Senator Sanders, but with enough discipline to be dangerous — insisted that a popular rejection of the bailout terms would put him in a stronger negotiating position. The European Central Bank (ECB) immediately began to disabuse the Greeks of that notion: The first order of ECB business on Monday was — if you’ll forgive me for eliding the financial gobbledygook — choosing a larger sledgehammer with which to jack up Greek financial institutions should Athens fail to sober up sufficiently for Tuesday’s emergency negotiations. …

… The presence of Greece in the Eurozone is the result of a lie: The Greeks pretended to get their deficits and debt under control, and the Europeans pretended to believe them. That was the first act. In the second act, after the advent of the current crisis, the Greeks pretended to enact fiscal reforms, and the Europeans pretended to believe them. …

… It is not as though Americans are immune to the substitution of temper tantrums for real budgets. Polls have shown that Americans understand, for example, the financial problems of Social Security, and that the program’s imbalances mean that there are essentially three possible remedies: raising taxes, cutting benefits, or some combination of both. Majorities of Americans oppose all three. Chris Christie is running for president as the entitlement-reform guy, rejecting the conventional wisdom about the so-called third rail of American politics: “They say, ‘Don’t touch it.’ We’re going to hug it.”

But will voters embrace such reform?

The situation in Greece illustrates the shocking extent to which citizens of advanced, high-income, democratic societies are willing to see themselves reduced in exchange for a small regular check from the government. It does not inspire confidence. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who wrote a book called “Hard Choices,” has embraced the do-nothing agenda on entitlement reform. That wasn’t a hard choice. But there are hard choices to come, and we’ll either be choosers or we’ll be beggars.




More from John Fund.

… the situation in Greece is growing more dire. Greeks traveling abroad are seeing their credit cards refused, online purchases from sites like Amazon are restricted, many ATMs lack the cash to provide even the meager $66 a day allowance the Greek government is allowing its people and shortages of pharmaceutical drugs are being reported. If Tsipras thinks reforms are more “than ordinary citizens can stand,” how does he think they will handle the current transition of Greece to that of a lesser-developed country?




John Steele Gordon on college costs. 

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning, Senator Lamar Alexander argues that college is not too expensive for students to afford, what with Pell Grants, student loans, college tuition assistance of various kinds, etc. That’s true to some extent, but the fact remains that college is a whole lot more expensive than it used to be.

When I graduated from Vanderbilt in 1966, tuition was $1,100 a semester, or $2,200 a year. Using the CPI to convert to 2015 dollars, which would be a little over $16,000 in today’s money. But Senator Alexander reports that tuition at Vanderbilt today is $43,000, more than two-and-one-half times as much (and much that used to be included in tuition is now charged as separate fees, much like now having to pay to check luggage on airlines). That is true pretty much across the country. …




David Gerlernter, Yale prof, is quoted by Scott Johnson.

… “Students today are so ignorant that it’s hard to accept how ignorant they are. It’s hard to grasp that [the student] you’re talking to, who is bright, articulate, interested, doesn’t know who Beethoven was. Looking back at the history of the 20th Century [he] just sees a fog. Has [only] the vaguest idea of who Winston Churchill was or why he mattered. No image of Teddy Roosevelt. We have failed [them].”



Jonathan Tobin posts on Hillary’s interview on CNN. 

After months of shielding herself from the press via staged events and rope lines, Hillary Clinton finally sat down to talk with a member of the national media yesterday. But anyone thinking that a new more open, honest or humble Hillary would be unveiled in the interview with CNN’s Briana Keilar was bound to be disappointed. Much like her stilted performance back in March when she had a press conference to deal with questions about her email scandal, Clinton’s appearance did nothing to silence questions about either her trustworthiness or her political instincts. Her responses to even the softball questions lobbed into her by Keilar were not merely high-handed and clueless. They were also brazenly false and presented a portrait of an arrogant Hillary Clinton to the country that shows she believes herself to be entitled not only to the presidency but to be treated as if the normal rules of law and conduct don’t apply to her. While this shaky performance may not cause most members of her party to question her inevitable coronation as their presidential nominee in 2016, it should embolden both her Democratic challengers and potential Republican opponents to think she remains deeply vulnerable.

The first thing to be understood about this interview is that it was as favorable a setting as she could have hoped for. Rather than press Clinton to answer tough questions about her emails or the conflicts of interest that investigations of her family foundation have brought out into the open, Keilar largely let the former First Lady get away with murder. At no point did she follow up with pointed rejoinders seeking details or ask about Sidney Blumenthal’s involvement in both her family foundation and Libya policy. Nor did she challenge Clinton on her numerous false assertions, especially where it concerned the emails. Even on policy questions, Clinton was allowed to merely voice generalities rather than specifics and given free rein to take gratuitous pot shots at her potential rivals. …

… She has lived the last 22 years at the pinnacle of American public life lived inside the cocoon of Secret Service protection along with the trappings of the vast wealth she and her husband have accumulated through a supposed charity that operates more like a political slush fund. All this seems to have stripped her of both the common touch but also of any notion of public accountability. From her current frame of reference, the American people are simply not allowed to distrust her or even to question her ethics. She owes them no explanations or apologies even when caught in misbehavior. They must simply accept all criticisms of her as illegitimate.

Given Clinton’s enormous advantages in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, it’s not clear that even several more months of similarly dismal performances would be enough to allow a clearly implausible challenger like Bernie Sanders to beat her. But even her most ardent supporters must today be wondering why she is unable to bend even a little bit when it comes to showing a trace of humility or willingness to admit fault. They must know it all stems from a sense of entitlement that a better politician would be at pains to hide. For all of her natural gifts, Clinton’s demeanor and defensiveness screams vulnerability against a tough opponent. It remains to be seen whether someone so bereft of basic political skills can be elected president.

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