Jen Psaki, a veteran political spokesman who served in the Obama White House as a deputy press secretary, is off to a rocky start in her new and improved role.
She’s only been at her post of White House press secretary for three weeks, but Ms. Psaki has already been hit for reportedly soliciting journalists for the questions they’ll be asking in the daily briefing, clashed with a couple reporters in testy exchanges and been lampooned for her repeated dodges with a vow that she’ll “circle back.”
Ms. Psaki’s tenure kicked off as many others have, with the incoming spokesman declaring on Day 1 that she would be transparent from the briefing room podium and expects a vigorous back-and-forth with the journalists who cover the White House for a living.
“There will be times when we see things differently in this room — I mean, among all of us. That’s OK. That’s part of our democracy. And rebuilding trust with the American people will be central to our focus in the Press Office and in the White House every single day,” Ms. Psaki said.
But on just her first full day, Ms. Psaki lit some fireworks. Hours earlier, President Biden had signed an executive order mandating the wearing of COVID-protection masks on all federal property — but then the president and others visited the Lincoln Memorial and were seen posing for pictures without masks.
Ms. Psaki defended Mr. Biden as “celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country, and certainly he signed the mask mandate because it was a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks.”
The reporter followed up. “But as Joe Biden often talks about, it is not just important the ‘example of power’ but the ‘power of our example.’ Was that a good example for people who are watching who might not pay attention normally?”
A slightly miffed Ms. Psaki said, “I don’t think — I think we have big — bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.”
Then 10 days into her new gig, a report emerged that said she was quietly soliciting questions from journalists about what they planned to ask during the daily briefing — a big no-no.
The Daily Beast on Feb. 1 published a story headlined: “White House Reporters: Biden Team Wanted Our Questions in Advance.”
“According to three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, the new president’s communications staff have already on occasion probed reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when called upon during briefings,” the story said.
White House reporters voiced their displeasure.
“The press can’t really do its job in the briefing room if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want,” one anonymous White House correspondent told the Daily Beast. “That’s not really a free press at all.”
Conservatives quickly hit Ms. Psaki.
“The left demands 100 percent loyalty from the press, not the 99 percent they already get,” Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor told Fox News. “In today’s cancel culture, journalists don’t dare be open in their criticism, so that’s why this story is all whispers.”
On Feb. 2, Ms. Psaki got combative with a reporter. “We haven’t seen a readout of the resident talking to President Xi [Jingping of China]. And I was wondering if there’s something scheduled or when that might be,” the reporter asked.
Ms. Psaki dodged the question, prompting the reporter to say, “it sounds a lot like the strategy is not to talk to him at this time because you’re talking about speaking to allies and making other calls first. Is — have they requested a call?”
“I don’t have anything more for you,” Ms. Psaki said testily. “I think — I don’t appreciate the, like, putting words in my mouth.”
And just on Monday, Ms. Psaki battled with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy, who asked about the Keystone XL pipeline — which Mr. Biden canceled on his first day in office, eliminating an estimated 11,000 jobs. Mr. Biden has promised those workers would get “green jobs,” and Mr. Doocy asked: “Where is it that they can go for their green job?”
“Well, I’d certainly welcome you to present your data of all the thousands and thousands of people who won’t be getting a green job,” Ms. Psaki said dismissively. “Maybe next time you’re here you can present that.”
But Ms. Psaki dug herself out of the hole, saying vaguely that Mr. Biden “has every plan to share more details on that plan in the weeks ahead.”
Spoken like a true pro. But so far, for the record, Ms. Psaki has yet to “circle back” with more information.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.
Editor’s note: This is one in a series examining the Constitution and Federalist Papers in today’s America. Click HERE to read the series.
The Senate is starting a most unusual impeachment trial. For only the second time in its history, it is likely to proceed to trial to consider articles of impeachment against a former government official. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump seems to be having difficulty keeping a team of defense attorneys or agreeing on a trial strategy.
After a preliminary procedural vote forced by Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, it seems to be an all but foregone conclusion that the trial will end with Mr. Trump’s acquittal.
Suddenly, both Democratic and Republican senators are wondering whether an impeachment trial even makes sense. An extended trial threatens the ability of the Democrats to advance their legislative agenda and delay the confirmation of President Biden’s executive appointments.
The benefits of a trial are uncertain and the costs are real.
What is the point of an impeachment trial in these circumstances, or at all? The most obvious purpose for an impeachment trial is to remove a misbehaving individual from office. Section Four of Article II of the Constitution directs, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The only way Congress can remove a judge or executive officer who has become repugnant to it is by way of a conviction in a Senate trial. Such convictions and removals are rare, in part because judges and executive officers have generally preferred to resign rather than face an impeachment, but they have sometimes been necessary in unusually stubborn cases.
But removal is obviously not on the agenda for an impeachment trial of a former president. The automatic removal that would follow from conviction as required by Article II is not relevant in this case. Article I of the Constitution limits the Senate to two punishments upon conviction of an impeached officer. Removal, if applicable, follows automatically.
The Senate also may take an additional vote to disqualify the convicted individual from holding and enjoying “any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.” That option is still on the table in the case of a former officer, but only if two-thirds of the senators are first willing to find the impeached individual guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. That possibility seems increasingly unlikely in the case of Mr. Trump.
If conviction is unlikely, and thus disqualification is not a plausible outcome, is there any purpose to continuing with an impeachment trial? It is still possible both for the House to notify the Senate that it does not wish to proceed with a trial (it has done so before) and for the Senate to refuse to hold anything more than a perfunctory proceeding to get quickly to the inevitable conclusion of a not-guilty verdict.
That said, there is still a potential purpose to a Senate impeachment trial even when the outcome is all but assured.
Impeachments are not only mechanisms to remove wayward officers. They are also a formal process for exposing wrongdoing, for allowing the accused to defend themselves against charges of public wrongdoing, and for condemning some kinds of behavior as public wrongs.
Historically, the impeachment power served as the ultimate legislative tool for investigating wrongdoing in the government, particularly in the executive branch. As Mr. Trump demonstrated, it is quite possible for a determined president to stonewall congressional investigations into the activities of executive officials.
Mr. Trump’s blockade of congressional investigations was unusually sweeping and comprehensive, but his was hardly the first administration to attempt to stifle legislative efforts to peer into the workings of the executive branch. The impeachment power has always been the trump card that gave Congress additional leverage to force administrations to compromise and cooperate with investigations.
In an earlier era, before oversight hearings became a regular part of legislative practice in America, the impeachment power was the formal process by which Congress could investigate potential misconduct in the government. An impeachment trial of Mr. Trump could be used to lay bare for the public the facts of what happened in the weeks after the election and on the day of the Capitol riot. Congress might prefer to do that through ordinary hearings or a fact-finding commission, but one purpose of a trial would be to shine a spotlight on the behavior of the Trump administration and campaign.
When the Constitution describes the role of the Senate in the impeachment process, it speaks in the judicial language of a trial.
An important feature of a trial is that it allows the impeached individual to present a defense. When former Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan was found not guilty of fraud charges by a Bronx, New York, jury during the Reagan administration, he famously asked on the courthouse steps, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”
An impeachment trial provides an opportunity for a wrongly accused public officer to get his reputation back by confronting his accusers and mounting a public defense of his actions. Mr. Trump might well welcome the chance to achieve a kind of vindication by beating the impeachment rap a second time.
The impeachment process is also a means by which Congress can formally condemn the conduct of public men as unacceptable and grossly incompatible with the public trust. Mr. Trump was a norm-breaker. Some of those norms should not have been broken. The impeachment process is one means by which Congress can attempt to reestablish those norms.
Through the impeachment process, Congress can send a message to future government officials that they are expected to concede an election that they lose, to refrain from casting baseless aspersions on the legitimacy of American elections, and to avoid fomenting political violence.
Of course, Congress might wind up doing the opposite. If the impeachment trial becomes an opportunity for Mr. Trump to further advance his theories of massive election fraud and results in his acquittal on a largely partisan vote, then Congress might inadvertently send the message that such behavior is not beyond the pale after all.
• Keith E. Whittington is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University. He is the author, most recently, of “Repugnant Laws: Judicial Review of Acts of Congress from the Founding to the Present.”
When the magician tells you to look right, look left, because that’s where the action is.
Unfortunately, Congress looked right.
In a striking bipartisan vote, the Senate voted to keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Good move, but not where the action is. Instead, the Biden administration has announced it has a series of steps planned to restore funds and political status to the Palestinian Authority, including the possibility of reopening the Jerusalem Consulate — understood as the American Embassy to the Palestinians.
The U.N., EU and U.S. all sanctioned Iran at some point since 1980. While effective in some areas, the sanctions did not prevent Iran from cheating on its nuclear and ballistic missile obligations. President Biden has announced an intention to return in some form to the 2015 JCPOA — and from there, to negotiate another, stronger deal. In response, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the U.S. must first lift sanctions — most importantly, oil and banking sanctions, which are terrorism-sponsorship-related, not nuclear or missile related. Congress is working to prevent that. Good idea.
But the action on Iran is on the other side. In Yemen.
The president announced the lifting of the terrorism designation from Houthi rebels in Yemen, couched in diplo-speak: “This decision has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct, including attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens. We are committed to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory against further such attacks.”
So, the Houthis are acknowledged to behave like a terror organization, and their “reprehensible conduct” includes the use of child soldiers, but the Biden administration plans to ignore that. Why?
The goal is not the Houthis. If the administration believes sanctions relief for Iran will be stymied by Congress, one way to show the Tehran that President Biden is serious about negotiations is to lift a set of sanctions on an Iranian ally that provides an important and coveted base for Iran in the Red Sea.
Iran is at war not only with Israel and the United States, but with Sunni Islam. Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina, and Egypt, home of al-Azhar University are targets. Iran’s harassment across the Persian Gulf was a major factor in the Gulf States’ opening to Israel, but a base in the heel of the Saudi boot, i.e., in Yemen, puts Iranian military capabilities east and west of Saudi Arabia, and undermines Egypt, Jordan and Israel. It allows access to overland routes through Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan — and directly into Egypt through Sinai.
The Red Sea is the only Israeli outlet to the Gulf of Aden and then the Arabian Sea, the route of its trade with India and China. It is Jordan’s only sea outlet and only direct outlet, and the Eilat-Aqaba Free Trade Zone is a major source of trade revenue for America’s ally, King Abdullah II. For Egypt, it is the route to and from the Suez Canal.
Therefore, Iran has been stoking the Houthi insurrection in Yemen, providing, among other things, long-range missiles that have been fired into Riyadh. The 2019 cruise missile attack on the Abqaiq oil facility and Saudi airport were determined by the UN to be of Iranian origin. U.S. warships have intercepted Iranian weapons shipments intended for Houthi militias. Other shipments, originating in Iran, have been intercepted coming overland from Oman. All such shipments to the Houthis are in violation of U.N. resolutions.
If security and freedom of navigation for these allies are not sufficient reasons for the United States to be concerned with Iran at the chokepoint of the Bab el Mandeb Strait, consider this: Camp Lemonier, the U.S. naval expeditionary base, sits directly opposite Yemen off Djibouti. Camp Lemonier is home to the Combined Joint Task Force and is the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.
Why is it there?
A map is helpful here. The coastal countries north of the Mediterranean Sea are all NATO members. Facing them, along the North African coast, are Sunni Muslim countries, all of which except Libya are partners in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. The arrangement helps keep the Mediterranean stable and free for shipping.
One way to make North Africa less stable is to make the row of countries underneath it less stable. Chad, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Niger all are targets of instability-seekers, including Iran.
The United States helps those governments more effectively control their own territory and borders, reducing the likelihood of transnational jihad. They are, to be sure, as much targets of Sunni jihad as they are of Iran, but Iran’s infusion of funds supports Sunni Hamas, al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, al Shabab and others. Instability, chaos, anti-Americanism, anti-Israelism, anti-Westernism and anti-Christianity are what Sunni jihadists seek — and they are what Iran seeks.
The State Department’s goal, according to a spokesman, is “a negotiated settlement that will end the war and the suffering of the Yemeni people.” But a war that is stoked by Iran for Iran’s purposes against Iran’s enemies leaves the Yemeni people without the ability to negotiate anything — terror designation or no terror designation.
Congress should not be led to look right when the mischief is on the left.
• Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.
In an age when establishment politicians and mainstream media outlets peddle a steady stream of disinformation and outright lies, it is more important than ever that dissenting voices be heard.
People in positions of power lying through their teeth is nothing new. What is relatively novel, however, is the complete and utter abandonment of objectivity. Any and all semblance of journalistic integrity has been replaced by gaslighting on a grand scale, aided and abetted by Big Tech bullies all too willing to put their thumbs on the scale of public discourse.
Consider the ridiculous, post-presidency impeachment of Donald Trump, which is really just part of a larger effort to silence half the country. The left spent months encouraging violence and destruction last summer and fall as the Antifa/BLM riots swept through cities all over the country, yet Big Tech and the mainstream media never batted an eyelid. Now, though, anybody who dares to question the integrity of an election marred by irregularities and illegalities on a massive scale is being aggressively silenced on social media and vilified by supposedly objective journalists
An objective observer might be tempted to look at the left’s concerted, weeks-long campaign of violence and destruction carried out in cities across the country by well-funded and organized quasi-paramilitaries — and decide it poses a greater threat to the peace and stability of the Republic than the media’s mythical far-right bogeyman.
An objective observer would of course never be able to get a job at CNN and might also find himself booted off of his social media platforms or even fired from his job for voicing his opinions. The shameful reality is that Big Tech and Big Business are all too willing to tilt at media-manufactured windmills, and in the process the rights and voices of everyday men and women are trampled.
That is why it is absolutely crucial that dissenting voices are protected and given a platform whenever and wherever possible. Thankfully, media networks like Real America’s Voice and social media platforms like CloutHub are taking up that call and leading the charge for free speech and open debate. The Democrat-media complex must know they cannot simply dismiss 74 million patriotic Americans as neo-Nazis and think the debate has been settled. The debate is just getting started.
Americans who truly cherish free speech and free debate must remind Big Tech that its role is to enable people to communicate with one another — not to decide what they may communicate to one another. Americans who truly value objective journalism must remind the mainstream media that their job is to speak truth to power, not to spread lies on behalf of power.
Luckily for those of us who wish to live in a truly free society, what makes the establishment’s favored method of silencing its political opponents so successful is also the same thing that makes it vulnerable: It relies on an unchallenged mainstream media-social media feedback loop. That feedback loop can be broken. If those of us who value freedom work together to build alternative, independent means of information sharing, it will be broken.
• Gina Loudon is a best-selling author, president of programming and anchor of “Dr. Gina Prime Time” on RAV-TV (Real America’s Voice), brand ambassador for CloutHub and a long-time adviser to President Donald Trump.
As we approach the second Valentine’s Day of the pandemic era, it’s time to take stock of the impact COVID-19 is having on our most vital national institution: marriage.
The first major survey on families in the pandemic, from American Family Survey, found that 34% of Americans overall say the pandemic has increased stress in their marriage. For those households that faced economic setbacks, the number rises to 45%. And a major online legal provider announced they’ve seen a 34% increase in requests for divorce paperwork, and shockingly, newly married couples make up 20% of those requests.
Most disturbing of all, mainstream publications of record are openly promoting the idea that divorce is not only a good thing and part of the new normal, but also the solution to COVID-driven household frustrations.
The New York Times recently featured a piece extolling the benefits of divorce.
The writer argues breaking up a family unit could be the most beneficial for everyone involved. Claiming her divorce happened as COVID-19 heightened her already existing feelings of the structural claustrophobia of her marriage. She concludes, “This process hasn’t always been easy for us or for our children, but in the end, when I’m feeling sad, I tell them — and myself — that they now have four adults who love them, a wider circle, something a little closer to a clan.”
Not to be outdone an article featured in Parents Magazine titled “Divorce Is On the Rise During the Pandemic — and Don’t Feel Guilty If That Includes You” proposes that divorce can not only be good for adults, but can also be good for the children … “divorce doesn’t automatically mean your kid will be damaged — in fact, it may even have benefits for our children, including resilience, spending quality time with each parent, and having increased empathy.”
The idea that divorce benefits the family is not only absurd, it has no justification from a statistical point of view.
A recent study found that after one year of divorce over 50% of children in the study did not see their father within a one year time frame, and after ten years, 64% of fathers no longer had any contact with their children. And research, conducted over 15 years, showed that children whose parents divorced immediately began to suffer from behavioral problems that lasted for years after the divorce.
In short, these publications are not only wrong, they are tragically and heartbreakingly wrong.
The immediate relief and short-term personal benefits that we see as a perceived justification of divorce are dwarfed by the negative, long-term impacts divorce actually has on us and our children. The good news though is that, just as the data shows the negative impact of divorce for all involved, data also points us to a way forward in our marriages, beyond just “staying together for the kids.”’
In fact, a study conducted for a workshop helping couples facing severe marital crises found that over 70% of attending couples were still married 7 years later.
What’s the magic to this marital success?
Data and research concludes there are two keys: taking care of our spousal relationship and taking care of ourselves.
In the spousal relationship sphere, stopping negative communication in our relationships is paramount. This negative communication comprises what the Gottman Institute refers to as the 4 Horseman in a couples interaction: being defensive, expressing criticism, showing contempt and stonewalling. Research from the University of Washington found that couples who stop this negative communication in their marriage saw their chance of divorce decrease by 80%. Additionally, when couples then expressed appreciation of each other and focused on a shared dream together the success rate for the marriage grew even more.
Let’s look at taking care of ourselves, because good mental health is key to healthy relationships.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has disrupted the very core of our daily routines. Work from home, online classes for kids and lockdowns have limited options for recreational activities and social gatherings, taking away the very opportunities for breaks and healthy diversions that are crucial in our mental health.
But while it’s easy to justify pushing our own mental health to the background while we help our spouse and children it’s actually counterproductive to our marriage. Two independent studies discovered that when one person in the relationship begins to increase their own self-esteem, it has a positive impact on the relationship.
And making it a priority for a spouse to get that much-needed break is crucial as well, as research has shown that people who believed that their spouse was attentive to their needs, regardless of whether the spouse really was attentive, had a more satisfying and long lasting marriage than those who believed the opposite about their spouse.
While this two-part formula has been shown to be highly successful, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the data and research available to guide us to healthy marriages.
The reality is that we have the answers and the power to fix, and grow, our marriages.
So while many are claiming that marriage is another casualty of COVID-19, know that the research and data actually point to a hopeful outcome and way forward for married couples in America. If 2020 was the year that we lost our marriages, or they’re now hanging by a thread, then let’s make 2021 the year we get our marriage back. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and the future generations that will be impacted by the choices we make today in our relationships.
• Kimberly Holmes is CEO of Marriage Helper, an organization offering resources to save, fix, grow and rebuild their marriages.
Democratic leaders have spent months promising to “listen to the scientists;” however, when it comes to reopening schools and getting children back to in-person learning, their actions do not match their words.
Being both physicians and members of Congress with direct patient care experience, we have closely followed the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and the scientific data and studies compiled over the last year. Thankfully, given the emergency authorization of two vaccines and potentially more on the way under Operation Warp Speed, we are closer than ever to getting life back to normal.
Over the course of the past year, we have studied and learned more about this virus and have similarly improved on how we respond to and adjust to this “new normal” in a safe and healthy manner. Unfortunately, while many restaurants and other businesses have managed to reopen safely, many schools remain closed since last spring, despite risk-assessment evidence to the contrary. According to the data available — and the current administration’s own recent public statements — schools can, and should, safely reopen for the overall health and well-being of our children.
Just a few hours after President Biden’s newly appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) declared that “vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” the White House walked back the scientist’s statement, claiming it was not official CDC guidance. Clearly, that scientific answer was simply inconvenient for President Biden and Democrats.
Teachers unions across America are pushing back on any calls for reopening and are resisting all efforts to take steps in that direction. Coupled with mounting parental frustration, local leaders are feeling pressure on all sides. Even some of our nation’s most liberal cities have reached a breaking point — Chicago’s mayor, while calling for schools to reopen, says discussions with the local union have gone “backward.” San Francisco’s city attorney is suing its own school board and district over their reopening plan, calling it “ambiguous, empty rhetoric.”
Amongst the heated and contentious conversations, scientific facts should guide our solutions, and here’s what we know. First, children are not at great risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19. Second, while Democrats call for billions in new funding to help schools reopen, there are still billions in unspent funding for educational services from the previous COVID-19 relief packages, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Congress most recently provided an additional $82 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund in the December relief package. Third, and most critical to getting students and teachers back in the classroom, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Wolensky stated just this past week that the data — the science — supports the notion that schools can reopen even without teacher vaccinations.
The data is clear. Unfortunately, some of our nation’s public schools are failing our children. Virtual learning yields subpar results, and many students are falling further behind, especially those in low-income and underprivileged communities. Additionally, Clark County, Nevada, serves as a glaring example of the serious mental anguish children are enduring, as they have already had double the number of student suicides compared to last year. Unfortunately, the detrimental effects of keeping kids home are great, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics has stressed the importance of students returning to in-person learning.
We should never allow teachers unions or any other entity to make unscientific decisions that affect the health and well-being of our children. We must listen to the scientists and reopen our schools immediately.
• Dr. Brad Wenstrup specializes in podiatric medicine and surgery and is a co-chair of the GOP Doctor’s Caucus. He is an Iraq War veteran and currently serves as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Dr. Andy Harris specializes in anesthesiology and is the former head of obstetric anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins University. He serves as co-chair of the GOP Doctor’s Caucus. Dr. Michael Burgess specializes in obstetrics and gynecology and practiced medicine in North Texas. He was recently elected a co-chair of the GOP Doctor’s Caucus for the 117th Congress. Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks specializes in ophthalmology, served as president of the Iowa Medical Society, and is a former member of the Army Reserve. She was just elected to Congress to represent Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District and is a member of the GOP Doctor’s Caucus.
“Killing for them is a habit,” Rasha al-Ameer told reporters last week.
By “them” she meant Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization that is Lebanon’s most powerful political party, with a militia the Lebanese Armed Forces dares not challenge. Hezbollah operates internationally and is known to partner with Latin American drug cartels. One more pertinent fact you should know: Hezbollah’s primary allegiance is to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The killing in question on this occasion was that of Miss al-Ameer’s brother, Lokman Slim, a prominent Lebanese Shia filmmaker, publisher and activist who had the temerity to criticize Hezbollah for the incalculable harm it has done to his long-suffering country.
On Thursday, Mr. Slim was found dead in his car, on a rural road, shot three times in the head, once in the chest, and once in the back. His assassins, it seems, wanted to be sure they had done their job properly.
Hezbollah, Iran’s rulers, and other adversaries of the United States hope, and perhaps expect, that the new American administration will do nothing much in response, which assures that the “international community” will do nothing much in response. A Leninist maxim guides them: “Probe with your bayonets. If you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw.”
And not just on their home turf: Last Thursday, an Iranian diplomat was sentenced by a Belgium court to 20 years in prison for having plotted to bomb a rally of exiled dissidents in France in 2018.
The diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, had supplied explosives and a detonator. The charges for which he was convicted included “attempted terrorist murder.”
Does his sentencing suggest that Europeans are finally getting tough on Iran’s rulers? No, putting one diplomat-cum-terrorist behind bars is small potatoes.
The very next day, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, reassured Tehran that more serious consequences would not be forthcoming. The “maximum pressure” campaign initiated by President Trump should end, he asserted, replaced by a “maximum diplomacy” campaign.
Mr. Borrell then flew to Moscow where, three days earlier, Aleksei Navalny had been sentenced to prison. A Russian opposition leader, Mr. Navalny was poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent last summer — an assassination attempt that he and Western officials believe was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Navalny survived only because friends managed to get him out of Russia for treatment. Upon his return last month, he was immediately arrested.
In Moscow, Mr. Borrell was informed that the Russian government was expelling several European diplomats who, it was charged, had participated in “illegal protests” in support of Mr. Navalny.
Mr. Borrell “strongly condemned” the expulsions. “All European member states are united against it,” he emphasized, demanding — or just suggesting — that the expulsions be “reconsidered.” This demonstration of “maximum diplomacy” appears to have impressed Mr. Putin not at all.
Meanwhile, the “maximum pressure” which Mr. Borrell is keen to end has put Iran’s rulers under serious economic stress. Nevertheless, they have managed to scrape together the funds necessary to arm Houthi rebels in Yemen — whose designation as terrorists the Biden administration last week rescinded — and to continue supplying Hezbollah with precision-guided missiles (PGMs) aimed at Israel.
In an initial response to the assassination of Mr. Slim, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement that did not mention Hezbollah but said instead: “We join the international community in calling for his killers to be brought to swift justice.”
Fat chance. Remember the catastrophic explosion that killed more than 200 people in Beirut last August? The investigation has ground to a halt.
Lebanese authorities (meaning Hezbollah and its allies) have declined offers of an international probe — not that such an inquiry would do better.
Remember the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri along with 21 bystanders? An international investigation and U.N. Special Tribunal spent the next 15 years and millions of dollars only to convict one low-level Hezbollah operative who was tried in absentia, his whereabout said to be unknown. The court acknowledged that Hezbollah had motive to “eliminate” Mr. Hariri but declined to issue a conclusive determination.
Look, I understand that President Biden has no good options. But he does have bad options. Those he might want to avoid. Among the worst would be to reward Hezbollah, Iran’s rulers, Mr. Putin and others who have the habit of murdering dissidents, at home and abroad.
That means no economic rescue for Lebanon — currently sinking in debt, its banks riddled with corruption — so long as Hezbollah is calling the shots. And it is now more obvious than ever how foolhardy it would be to lift sanctions on Tehran and return to the misleadingly named Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Despite repeated claims to the contrary, that deal did not end the regime’s nuclear weapons program. At most, it delayed progress in some areas — until the “sunset” clauses kick in, vaporizing restrictions — while implicitly licensing the regime’s terrorism and other malign activities.
Diplomacy can and should continue. But diplomacy should not be confused with therapy. When dealing with despots, there are no talking cures.
Enriching, empowering, and accommodating those who despise us and murder with impunity does not transform them into friendly neighbors in the global village. That approach has been tried. It consistently disappoints.
Does President Biden understand all that? Hezbollah, Iran’s rulers, Mr. Putin and other adversaries of the United States are watching. Their bayonets are affixed. They’re eager to know whether it’s safe to proceed.
• Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for The Washington Times.
The news of a young man self-immolating has the potential to stir up controversies at a global level, especially when the act in itself was a call for attention towards the repression of one nation by the other, but the news of Shurmo, a 26-year old man from Tibet, stayed underground for more than five years.
This is what happened in Chinese-occupied Tibet. Although there were many Tibetan eyewitnesses to Shurmo’s self-immolation that day yet because of the Chinese government’s extreme, heinous and draconian rules and policies, which censor press and the Internet in Tibet, the news of this unfortunate event failed to surface on the Internet and otherwise at the time it happened.
For a long time, China has had Tibet under its thumb. The condition of human rights in the region is beyond deplorable. The repression of freedom of speech, practice of religion, free movement and freedom to form associations and assembly in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2019 is far worse than any other place in People’s Republic of China.
China has disturbed the traditional Tibetan living standards and customs and quickened the forced absorption of Tibetans into standard Chinese society through:
• Promoting an influx of non-Tibetans into Tibetan territories, most of who were Chinese.
• Expanding their domestic tourism industry.
• Forcibly settling and urbanizing Tibetan nomads and farmers, which in turn is killing the latter’s ethnicity.
• Debilitating Tibetan-language training in government schools and monasteries while at the same time promoting Mandarin everywhere.
China occupied Tibet, which was an independent nation historically, in 1949 after a bloody conquest of the Himalayan nation. Many years forward, China is still controlling everything in Tibet and is dealing with it with an iron-fist and a tyrannical structure.
After the Chinese military took over Tibet in 1949, Tibetans have been treated as class two citizens in their own nation. They were kicked out of their homes and shipped off to townships so that the government could ‘develop’ these occupied spaces. More than 6,000 monasteries have been annihilated and those that endured are not being utilized by monks, but ironically, they are being utilized as religious and spiritual attractions for — generally Chinese — travelers while they themselves censor the religious autonomy of the Tibetans.
The Tibetan territories that were once used as spiritual spots and held a great significance naturally are now being utilized as nuclear waste dump yards. Tibetans don’t even enjoy the freedom of movement. Many Tibetan passports have been recalled and their borders have been sealed as well making this land of culture and ethnicity a closed territory which is slowly losing all its uniqueness because China is hell-bent upon forcing its own culture on the Tibetans.
There is hardly any media report in China on what China is doing in this Himalayan nation. Press and speech are censored and nothing escapes without Chinese intervention. There have been reports, where people have tried to deflect, but most are killed by the Chinese troops. Those who do raise their voices and go the extra length of getting the world to know about the sad state of affairs in Tibet are usually detained by the Chinese authorities. They are either taken as political prisoners, their freedom and movement is blocked, they continue to be tortured in the worst way possible; or they are made to disappear, nobody knowing where they are or even if they are alive.
“Lodoe Gyatso was arrested outside the Potala Palace in January 2018 and has not been seen since. In November 2018 sources reported Lodoe had been sentenced to 18 years in prison, but officials insisted his case was a state secret that could not be discussed. His whereabouts and condition were unknown.
Thubpa, a monk from Ngaba County, Sichuan, was detained in late 2017 and has not been heard from since. He had previously served 18 months in prison for burning a Chinese flag in protest in 2008. No charges have been announced and his whereabouts were unknown” as published in an article by International Campaign for Tibet on March 11, 2020.
These are just a few reports that were published out of the sea of thousands of others that couldn’t find their way out due to press censorship. China has always sought to be in control, either by enforcing inhumane laws and regulations, or by repressing any news which might bring it under the radar of global criticism. It doesn’t want the news of protests against itself to reach the wider domain. The very same country which called for “global peace” and promoted “dialog” believes in torturing the dissenters.
There have been around 157 self-immolation protests in Tibet from 2009 to 2019, including Shurmo. Out of them, 125 protestors succumbed to their burns. And yet, China turns a blind eye and deaf ears to the cries of the tortured. For China, nothing is more important than the annihilation of those that come in the way of its expansionist dreams.
To China, the protesters are pestilent elements, and it doesn’t matter if they die. To the world, it is Tibet’s call for help. China’s perverse cruelty towards the Tibetans and the Uighurs is a reflection of what may happen if the country becomes a global power. Every time the world overlooks China’s excesses, the latter triumphs. If the world isn’t careful and doesn’t call out China against its violation of Human Rights in the name of consolidation of its powers, China would soon be an invincible force that might disrupt Global peace eventually.
• Jianli Yang is founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China.
A quote that’s often attributed to P.T. Barnum, whether or not he said it, is “There’s a sucker born every minute.” In the case of people who have willingly given their money to the grifters known as the Lincoln Project, I’m not sure that the term “sucker” goes deep enough.
Merely scratching the surface of the organization’s spending and the characters involved would make anyone — even the most ardent Trump hater — turn and run, yet somehow they still exist and make an extreme amount of money.
Many pundits and journalists have focused on the recently uncovered alleged actions of the Lincoln Project’s co-founder John Weaver, which include using his position of “power” to proposition young men for sex. That’s disturbing and gross all on its own, but the drum has been beaten on this grooming story so much that it’s not worth digging into. There are plenty of other issues that raise red flags with this organization and its self-serving staff.
The first issue that comes to mind is what anyone donating money to any organization should ask: Where’d it all go?
According to Jacobin magazine, a leftist rag that should be cheering on their actions, Lincoln’s primary political activity has been “lighting liberals’ money on fire.” Lincoln had total expenditures of $86 million dollars in the last election cycle, over $52 million of that money was funneled through firms controlled by Lincoln’s founders Reed Galen and Ron Steslow — a.k.a. they paid themselves incredibly well.
And when Lincoln spent money on a Democratic candidate in a key race, they lost, to the tune of $12 million.
When they’re not pocketing cash, they’re busy being some of the most blatant hypocrites in American politics. When founder Rick Wilson wasn’t busy being mislabeled as an accurate representation of a conservative on CNN and MSNBC, he spent most of his last year attacking President Trump and the GOP for ‘being racist.’ Unfortunately for the sloppy Mr. Wilson, he forgot to clean up piles of tweets disparaging Mexicans and Muslims — and pictures of his ‘South will rise again’ Confederate Flag cooler before going on his long-winded rants.
While we’re on the topic of Mr. Wilson, the donors who gave nearly $68 thousand to his GoFundMe for a documentary film, “on the disastrous 1st year of the Trump administration” are still waiting to see any results of their donations.
It’s interesting that the Lincoln Project would speak about how President Trump ‘behaved like a dictator’ — perhaps this was known from personal knowledge. Another of their executives, Stuart Stevens, had a long history of counseling autocratic regimes spanning from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Albania, where he worked for a former Stalinist apparatchik — going as far as to make direct phone calls to the opposition leadership of who he was working for to threaten to withhold U.S. aid.
Then there’s the laughable case of Steve Schmidt, who conveniently decided he hated President Trump after he had praised him and had interviewed and was turned down for a Trump campaign position. Mr. Trump even called him a “blathering idiot” and a “total loser.”
The question now becomes, where do these self-serving gentlemen now turn since Mr. Trump lost the election? And the answer is simply, cancel culture.
A successful grift has to move the goalposts on to the next big bogeymen in order to keep the money flowing in, and now that Joe Biden has become President, the Lincoln Project has shifted to canceling businesses and corporations who support Senate Republicans.
Suddenly, this group of MSNBC-friendly conservatives finds it offensive that corporate America has donated to Sens. Cruz, Hawley, Cotton and Paul after they objected to the certification of the election results. How dare these Republicans fulfill what they believed to be their constitutional duty by doing the exact same thing that Democrats have done in multiple presidential elections over the past few decades — and to take it further, how dare anyone — especially corporations — support them, right?
More importantly, it’s going to take millions more dollars in donations to stop these Republicans with ridiculous ads on Fox News that can be summarized as caricatures of the most ridiculous leftist tweets on any topic.
Luckily, it seems there are less and less rubes in America who are giving the Lincoln Project their hard-earned dollars, but who’s to say that a business competitor of one of the targeted corporations won’t drop a few extra dollars into their pockets to try to score some points in the market.
In the middle of the left removing President Abraham Lincoln’s name from schools because he’s no longer woke enough for them, perhaps they should consider forcing this group of bottom-feeding swamp creatures to change their name to something much more accurate — The Barnum Project.
• Tim Young is a political comedian and author of “I Hate Democrats/I Hate Republicans” (Post Hill Press).
What did you do Sunday evening? I watched the gaudiest pageant ever performed on television, interspersed with a football game.
The football game was a serious — dare I say? — dignified adult entertainment. Yet what came with it was typical American excess. Lights flashing, noise deafening, hundreds of people marching, and I believe there were cartoon figures parading around the field.
I worried that it was going to be another siege of the Capitol, but then I got hold of myself. Our Capitol building was hundreds of miles to the north. Yet if the Super Bowl game had been held in Washington, D.C. the government would have called in the troops again, possibly armor units would have been mustered.
The excess surrounding the Super Bowl is the kind of extravagance only a corporate entertainment mogul could envision, and only an arrested adolescent could thrill to. When I say only a corporate entertainment mogul could envision the multidimensional gaud that I saw Sunday I know what I am talking about.
Years ago, I used to get invited to corporate functions put on by the three major networks. Usually, they would center their dinners around one of their so-called stars, Barbara Walters, Peter Jennings! Then they would importune upon one of their guests — a journalist such as me who was expected to be mightily impressed by the display — to write glowingly about their productions. You, perhaps, wondered about the origins of my anti-media bias? Suffice to say, the moguls were governed by really cheap minds. Sunday night their paw prints were all over the orgies.
Yet even they could not spoil the seriousness of the football game that I tuned in on. Tom Brady was making his 10th Super Bowl appearance and at 43 years of age. He was pursuing his 7th Super Bowl title and his 5th MVP award. To add to the drama, he was up against the Kansas City Chiefs, quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes, allegedly the Tom Brady of the future whose team was the defending champion.
All the ingredients for a great match up were in place including one or two players that Mr. Brady handpicked from earlier days. He brought from retirement a star tight end who had helped him when he was a New England Patriot, Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski scored two touchdowns Sunday evening. Mr. Brady also brought along with him Antonio Brown, a wide receiver supposedly troubled by personal problems, but last Sunday he had no troubles that I could see.
Monday morning the headline over the front page of The Washington Times said it all, “Brady, Buccaneers crush Chiefs to win Super Bowl.” Mr. Brady quarterbacked his way through a near-perfect game. I sensed what was coming when the teams entered the stadium.
The first team out was the Chiefs, enshrouded in a cloud of smoke. Doubtless it was one of the corporate moguls’ attempts at theater. Next came the Buccaneers, and I saw no smoke. I did see Mr. Brady near the front of his team, walking alone, hands at his side, head down, lost in thought. I have no idea what he was thinking about, but you can be sure it was not frivolous. He won the game 31-9. He was expected to lose.
Great men are often alone. I have known several, preeminently Ronald Reagan, but I have also known others. Even in a room full of people they are often alone. Figures with great responsibilities are people apart. Tom Brady has had the responsibility of leading a team into 10 Super Bowls, and now he has won seven. My guess is that achievement will last forever. Moreover, he is a good father, a good husband, and good team player. After every winning game that I have observed he always congratulates his team first. He is a gentleman.
For some reason there are people out there who do not consider his achievements the achievements of a great man. They talk as though he simply walked into 10 Super Bowls. In seven of those games he just “had a good day” and his opposition did not.
On Twitterdom Brady is being disparaged for not wearing a mask on the sidelines. I wonder if his teammates would prefer he wear a mask. I wonder what other charges will be flung at him. These virtue flaunters abound with sanctimony. Tom Brady abounds with honors, richly deserved.
• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.