04 January 2011

Jennifer Rubin is terrible

Rubin has had a column at the Washington Post for some time. It's called "Right Turn," and it is usually pretty mediocre or - at worst - mildly silly. But she's taken a bright bold leap into the realm of truly terrible with her latest column. It's all about the sober seriousness of the incoming Republican House.

Democrats had predicted -- hoped, really -- that Republicans would fire up a host of nonsensical investigations of the Obama administration, thereby demonstrating the GOP's hyper-partisanship and unfitness to govern. But reality should be dawning on Democrats and the media that this Republican majority is far more disciplined and sober than was the Newt Gingrich majority. Already, one of the most aggressive Republicans, Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.), has disclaimed interest in probing the alleged job offer Joe Sestak got to encourage him to leave the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania. Sestak lost, the Republican candidate won, and the public now could care less about this incident.

I'm not sure Rubin should be pronouncing any dawning realities, considering how it doesn't appear she and reality are on speaking terms. It seems more like she made an unwitting faux pas around reality at a Christmas party, perhaps after too much eggnog, and now reality is holding her at a chilly distance. I think Jennifer Rubin can only get reality's answering machine.

I think this because her prime example for the sober seriousness of the new GOP is Issa, who only today has been sort-of backpedaling his previous declaration that Obama is "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." Now Issa just says he has "one of the most corrupt administrations."

And of course there are other reasons to think that the Boehner class of 2010 isn't even as serious as the Gingrich class of 1994. One of them is that the class of 1994 came into their offices with a serious legislative plan, the Contract with America - it outlined specific legislative goals. The class of 2010 has the Pledge to America, instead, which is essentially empty and inflammatory rhetoric: "goals" rather than any serious legislation.

So while it's a bizarrely backwards statement to call this new herd of elephants "disciplined and sober," it's especially bizarre in comparison with the batch from 1994.

Rubin continues with examples where she thinks oversight has been lacking from the Pelosi House:

Democrats, however, should be concerned about real oversight, the sort we've not seen in the last two years while the Democratic Congress displayed precious little interest in examining the executive branch's performance on a slew of policy issues. Why didn't the House Foreign Affairs committee grill the Obama administration on cutting aid to the Green Movement, or its continued participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, or its shocking muteness on human rights? Why did the House Judiciary Committee not hold hearings on the politicization of the Justice Department (on everything from reversing a decades-old position on the constitutionality of voting rights for D.C. to the second-guessing of career attorneys who declined to prosecute CIA operatives who used enhanced interrogation techniques, to the New Black Panther scandal, to the lack of enforcement of military voting rights)? Why didn't we see hearings on recidivism by released Guantanamo detainees? Well, because all of this would have proved embarrassing to the administration.

Cutting aid to the Green Movement? What Is Rubin suggesting that we were giving financial support to the Iranian opposition movement?

She doesn't link any articles or cite anything, but I find it kind of hard to believe that this was the case, at least not in any open way that could be then publicly cut. There are two reasons for this: (a) it's considering highly improper in the international community for one nation to directly fund a political party in another nation (even if it does happen secretly, a lot) and (b) it would be really counterproductive for the USA to openly fund the Greens, since that would then make the Greens despised by the Iranian public. Statements of moral support, access to media, maybe a few other things.

After some searching, though, I think I found to what Rubin refers: it seems that last year the Obama administration stopped funding several Washington think tanks that are dedicated to aiding Iranian opposition. This is obviously a far cry from "cutting aid to the Green movement," and frankly I'm pretty much on board with this. I'm not much of a deficit hawk, but government-funded "social-networking programs" seem like a smart thing to cut in these thin times.

Rubin's other evidence seems of the same quality. Her link about Obama's "shocking muteness on human rights" is an article about a speech Obama gave to the U.N. on the topic of... human rights! He must have spoken shockingly quietly. The article is pretty critical about Obama's human rights efforts in general, but it also calls those efforts "notoriously weak" - not something with which I agree but certainly not evidence of a lack of push-back on the President.

There is no reason to think the new House will be more serious about oversight, unless their wild shotgun blasts of subpoenas happen to stumble on something real.  They'll probably manage to find something to make into a scandal, of course - there's always something, especially if you're willing to manufacture outrage.  But this is a Republican House whose very first priority is a vulgar joke of a bill, not legislation of import.

Seriously, this is a terrible column. Jennifer Rubin is terrible.

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