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Pope Francis

Pope Francis' decision to give formal recognition to a Palestinian state is puzzling at best. Some conservative Catholics -- most prominently scholar and papal biographer George Weigel -- have given a wide berth to the pope's views on income inequality, climate change and how best to integrate gay and divorced Catholics into the Church's ministry, even as the left has gleefully embraced the pontiff's rhetoric. Francis' latest foray into controversy is harder to explain.

Unlike Francis' positions on the poor, which Weigel avers are rooted in the pope's pastoral history and mission, the decision on Palestinian statehood is purely political -- and, as such, is open to criticism.

Jonathan Tobin, writing online in Commentary magazine, notes: "For all his good will, the pope is mistaken to think that giving the Palestinians such recognition will advance the peace process." Tobin reminds us that the Palestinians were offered an independent state in 2000, 2001 (in an offer that included almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem) and 2008, and they refused to negotiate in 2013 and 2014 under an Obama administration-led framework that included a two-state solution.

I would go further: By signing a treaty with the Palestinians that includes recognition of the "state of Palestine," Francis has legitimated the Hamas terrorists who govern Gaza and the corrupt Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank.

Certainly Francis is not alone in rushing to embrace unilateral, non-negotiated Palestinian statehood. Some 135 nations have done so, and parliaments in France, Britain, Spain and Ireland have urged their governments to recognize statehood, as well. The Vatican has welcomed a Palestinian ambassador since the U.N. granted the Palestinians observer status in 2012. Nonetheless, his recent decision carries moral weight that in this case is deeply troubling.

As a political act, Francis' recognition of Palestinian statehood is the most troubling evidence to date that he is indeed a man of the left. Coupled with his overtures to radical priests in the Latin American Liberation Theology movement, it becomes harder to slough off the pope's negative comments about "trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world."

The Vatican recently invited the founder of the Liberation Theology movement, Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutierrez, to write a piece for the official Vatican newspaper, excerpting a book by Gutierrez that owes as much to Karl Marx as Jesus Christ. Francis also lifted the suspension of Maryknoll priest and former Marxist Nicaraguan foreign minister Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, who was famous in the 1980s for his denunciations of the United States and his support of armed revolution. In d'Escoto's case, Francis' actions might be interpreted as bringing back into the fold an octogenarian prodigal son. But unlike the original model in the parable, d'Escoto shows no remorse for his past distortions of the Christian gospel to endorse redistribution of wealth at the point of a gun.

Francis' message to serve the poor is welcome. His desire to reform corruption within the Church, within the priestly and episcopal ranks, and in financial institutions is welcome. His ministry of inclusion is important at a time when Christianity is on the retreat in many places -- most recently in the U.S., according to a survey released this week by Pew Research Center.

So why sully his message by giving his imprimatur to the likes of Fatah and Hamas, who refuse to make peace with their neighbor Israel? For the estimated 60,000 Christians living in the Palestinian territories, radical Islam in the region, not Israel, is the main threat. Throughout the Middle East, Christians are fleeing the advance of ISIS and other Islamist jihadists, not the Israeli Defense Forces.

On the second anniversary of the pope's election on March 13, interviewer Kathryn Jean Lopez asked Weigel: "What's the most constructive Catholic response to (Pope Francis)?"

"The papacy is an impossible job," Weigel responded. "So the best thing Catholics can do for the pope is to pray for him."

Indeed.

“Microaggression” and Macro Silliness

A new report is out, purporting to document racial stereotyping and “microaggression” at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  The latter is another addition to the jargon of political correctness, and is defined as slights or snubs, often unintentional, but which communicate derogatory or negative messages. 

From the first news story I saw on this study: “‘They [i.e., students] shared very detailed personal stories of experiencing racism on campus,’ [report coauthor Stacy] Harwood said. For example, some students said they heard classmates comment that racial minorities were less qualified and only admitted because of affirmative action. Others said their advisers encouraged them to change their majors to something less challenging.”

Well, but if a school gives preferential treatment in admissions to students in some racial and ethnic groups, then at least some of those students will be less qualified than students in nonpreferred categories, and they will have been admitted over those better qualified students because of affirmative action. That’s logic, not racism. And it is documented that this lowering of standards leads to a mismatch effect, and that this in turn often will result in students switching majors.

So if you want to change this reality, the first step is to end admission preferences on the basis of race. I doubt that the university here has done this; on its admissions page, it says it aims “[t]o achieve a class that embodies rich diversity” and that “[s]tudent diversity is a compelling interest.”  And you, gentle reader, will be astonished to learn that, while the report makes many recommendations, ending racial preferences in admissions is not among them.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education also had an article last week on a new study, this one showing there may be some educational drawbacks to interracial contacts on campus (“negative experiences with students from other backgrounds may actually hurt undergraduates’ intellectual development”).  Here’s my posted response:

The purported “educational benefits” from using racial preferences in order to achieve “diversity” have always been marginal at best as well as disputed. What’s more, they do not outweigh the many costs of engaging in such discrimination. If it turns out that there are some purported benefits to weighing race in order to avoid diversity, I would feel the same way: Those benefits would be only marginal and will be legitimately disputed, and would not outweigh the many costs of engaging in such discrimination. The fact that social science evidence can be cited to favor and disfavor racial diversity is no surprise and nothing new: The opposing briefs in Brown v. Board of Education each cited social science (see this link ).

As a matter of policy and, certainly, law the correct approach is obvious: The best qualified students should be admitted, and skin color and national origin should be ignored.

And here, by the way, is a list of the costs of weighing race in university admissions: It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified students, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients; it mismatches African Americans and Latinos with institutions, setting them up for failure; it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body; it creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation; it breeds hypocrisy within the school and encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive; and it gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership — an untenable legal regime as America becomes an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic society and as individual Americans are themselves more and more likely to be multiracial and multiethnic (starting with our president).

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A couple of short items. 

From time to time, I’ve written about the rampant political correctness at Bowdoin College, the exposure of which has been executed brilliantly in recent years by Center for Equal Opportunity board member Tom Klingenstein and the good folks at the National Association of Scholars, a stalwart CEO ally.  The latest item in our bill of particulars is a Bowdoin professor’s spirited defense of the Communists:  After all, she says, they were fighting the Nazis and wanted a nicer world, doncha know:  Listen here.

Also, in case you missed it, Hillary Clinton gave a big speech last week on race and crime.  You can read it here. The best line:  . . . as the congenital optimist I must be to live my life . . . ”  The worst: Mothers and fathers who fear for their sons’ safety when they go off to school — or just to go buy a pack of Skittles.” Lots on community mistrust of the police and “mass incarceration”; not a word on out-of-wedlock births. Enjoy.

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Finally, my eye was caught by this sentence in a recent news story — titled “Kasich Explains to Conservatives How He Won African-American Votes” — on a speech by Ohio governor and possible presidential candidate John Kasich: “He also suggested that awarding 20 percent of contracts in a recent highway project to African-American firms had been a success for communities of color.”

Needless to say, this sort of bean-counting makes me nervous — especially if, as is often the case, the 20 percent came about as a result of a state-mandated “goal” (read “quota”). Ohio is a repeat offender in this area, by the way.

But here’s an instructive story: When I first heard about this, I was told that Kasich was bragging about the 80 percent that went to whites rather than the 20 percent that went to blacks. Needless to say, this would have been a very big deal, and probably the end of any presidential aspirations by the governor. But the news story cited above says that, no, what Kasich was bragging about was not the 80 percent going to whites but the 20 percent going to blacks. That’s completely different!

But wait: Either way Kasich is saying the same thing, so why would the “80 percent” version create a firestorm while the “20 percent” version creates a yawn? Oh, because Kasich is white, you say. But if a black politician bragged about a set-aside program that he had helped pass by pointing to the high percentage of contracts now going to blacks, would anybody condemn that? Would anybody even notice?

Okay, you say, maybe the reason for the difference is that one quota is for a group that has been oppressed and the other is for a group that has been an oppressor. But is that really how we ought to be making law and policy in 2015, in a country that is increasingly multiracial and multiethnic? 

And what if we have a quota for, say, Latinos that hurts, say, Asian Americans — as is indeed the case in university admissions: Is there a history of Asian Americans oppressing Latinos in this country? And, in the contracting context, what if the preferences favor Asian Americans (and blacks) over Latinos (as sometimes happens)?  Do we have a history of Latinos oppressing Asian Americans and Asian Americans oppressing Latinos?

Clinton Greed

The Clintons have always had an uneasy relationship with money. Bill never had any. And although Hillary had a comfortable upbringing, she didn't take the path to riches that her Yale Law degree might have provided, choosing instead to do public interest law right out of law school and marry a man with great political ambition.

But, clearly, both Bill and Hillary wanted the good life -- and the money it takes to provide it. Nothing wrong with that, but the means by which they've enriched themselves have been unsavory at best. And all this makes suspicious the recent revelations that Bill and Hillary have become fabulously rich through the former president's speeches paid by individuals, corporate interests and governments who stood to benefit from their relationship with a former president married to a U.S. senator who then became secretary of state.

Between 2001 and 2013, Bill Clinton earned more than $100 million in speaking fees, $26 million of which came from donors to the Clinton Foundation. What's more, the foundation itself has accumulated $250 million in assets, much of it from foreign donors, The New York Times has reported. The Times, in a lengthy investigative piece based in part on the forthcoming book "Clinton Cash" by Peter Schweizer, described the "special ethical challenge" the foundation faced accepting huge sums of money "even as (Bill Clinton's) wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation's donors."

The Times piece focused on the possible role that cash paid to the foundation and to Bill Clinton personally might have played in a deal that handed Russia effective control of 20 percent of the United States' uranium reserves.  The story, which is long and complex, involves Bill Clinton, Canadian businessmen, the authoritarian president of Kazakhstan, a Kazakh state-run uranium agency, the Russian government, and a little-known federal interagency group, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, on which Hillary Clinton sat as secretary of state.

Over a four-year period between 2005 and 2009, one of the Canadian businessmen at the heart of the story, Frank Giustra, developed a close relationship with Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, to which he has donated $31.3 million as of 2008. According to the Times, Giustra flew Clinton on his private jet to Kazakhstan for a dinner with President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev in 2005.  Within days, Giustra's small company acquired stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the Kazakh uranium agency.

Giustra later merged his company with a large South African uranium company, Uranium One, whose chairman, Ian Telfer, also became a big donor to the Clinton Foundation. Between 2009 and 2013, Telfer used his family foundation to donate at least $2.35 million to the foundation, Canadian records show. According to the Times' report, "those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors."

But the story doesn't end there. Uranium One's stock plummeted in 2009 when the head of the Kazakh state uranium agency was arrested on corruption charges, which included selling uranium deposits to Giustra's company. Meanwhile, Russia was trying to acquire a stake in Uranium One, and the company pressed the U.S. embassy in Kazakhstan to assure Russia that the Kazakh uranium licenses were still valid.

The pressure apparently succeeded, and U.S. energy officials met with their Kazakh counterparts on June 10 and 11. Three days later, the Russian government acquired 17 percent of Uranium One. Within a year, the Russians made a bid for 51-percent control of Uranium One -- but first they needed approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, on which Hillary Clinton served, because of Uranium One's U.S. acquisitions.

Shortly after the Russians announced their intent, Bill Clinton flew to Moscow for a speech for which he was paid $500,000 by "a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock," according to the Times. The committee approved the Russian deal despite the fact that it gave the Russians control over uranium mines and exploration in several Western states. As a result, Russia now controls 20 percent of U.S. uranium.

Hillary Clinton's campaign would like to ignore this story. But it is unlikely -- with The New York Times, The Washington Post and other mainstream media now looking into it -- that they can sweep it entirely under the rug.

But who knows? Does anyone even remember that the Whitewater investigation was sparked not by sex between a president and a White House intern, but by a land deal meant to enrich then Gov. Bill Clinton and his wife?

Clinton's Phony Immigration Push

Like her former boss Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is more interested in goading Republicans on immigration than she is in actually fixing our broken system. This week, Clinton announced that she would expand on Obama's executive action, which would defer deportation and grant work permits for up to five million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

"I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive action that would put DREAMers, including those with us today, at risk of deportation," she said in reference to students in the audience who had come to the U.S. illegally as children. "If Congress refuses to act, as president, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further."

Clinton also said she favors a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. What she didn't say was that she would work with Congress to achieve those aims. Nor would she commit to making immigration reform an early agenda item in her presidency -- saying only it would be a "priority."

Instead, she spent her time attacking Republicans. "When they talk about 'legal status,' that is code for second-class status," she said in obvious reference to Jeb Bush, who has advocated legal residency but not necessarily full citizenship for those who came illegally as adults. She ignores, of course, that Republicans, including most prominently Marco Rubio, have sponsored legislation that would allow many of the 11 million an opportunity to become naturalized citizens, albeit with longer wait times than those who came here legally before they could apply. She also ignores a Pew Research Center poll that shows foreign-born Hispanics are more concerned about earning legal status than a path to citizenship by more than 2 to 1.

Clinton's advocacy of executive action granting legal status and a path to citizenship doesn't solve the problem. It makes it worse. One of the biggest objections to granting legal status to those who have crossed illegally into the U.S. or overstayed their visas is that it will encourage even more illegal immigration. Opponents of reform are quick to point out that the last big amnesty, in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan -- which granted legal status to four million people -- encouraged 12 million more people to come illegally.

Critics are right, but not for the reason they think. The real problem was the failure of Congress to adopt a flexible, market-driven, skills-based legal immigration law at the same time. Instead, the emphasis was on punishing employers who hired illegal immigrants, a system that turned every American who wants to hire a part-time housekeeper or gardener into a quasi-border enforcement agent. The law has never been fully enforced, largely because it cannot be. The very idea that every hiring decision in America should be subjected to some federal agency's pre-approval and monitoring is ludicrous -- and about as un-conservative an approach imaginable.

And that's the part of the equation that the secure-the-border-first crowd doesn't understand, either. Securing the border requires an overhaul of legal immigration laws that recognize labor demand. We don't produce enough engineers, mathematicians and scientists or enough people willing to pick tomatoes, clean hotels or de-bone chickens among the native-born population. We can ship many, though not all, of those jobs overseas, or we can admit legally those foreign-born with the skills and willingness to perform the jobs into the U.S. The latter helps our economy grow and benefits everyone, native and foreign-born.

If Clinton really wanted to do something constructive on immigration reform, she would say that, if elected, she would work with members of both parties who want to solve the problem, not exacerbate it. But then immigration reform has never been that important to her. It certainly wasn't part of her agenda last time she ran for president. In fact, running was what she mostly did -- away from the issue. She couldn't decide whether she was for or against driver's licenses for undocumented aliens -- a hot issue at the time. And, along with fellow Democratic senators, she opposed guest worker programs supported by the Bush administration in 2007, which ultimately doomed comprehensive reform from being brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

Now she's decided to jump all in, taking the most aggressive stand of any candidate running. Pardon me for thinking she is every bit as cynical as those on the right whose stance caters to the anti-immigrant minority in the GOP. Immigration reform shouldn't be a partisan wedge issue; it ought to be a policy priority for candidates in both parties.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of 2012

Republicans lost the 2012 presidential election during their primaries. By the time Mitt Romney secured his party's nomination, the seeds of his defeat had already germinated. The challenge for Republicans in 2016 will be to keep that from happening again. And no issue is more fraught with dangers for Republicans than immigration.

Of the three announced Republican candidates -- Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul -- Rubio is probably in the best position to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Paul's problem is that he has been all over the board on immigration. Although he has recently said he favors legislation that would give work permits to many of the 11 million immigrants now in the U.S. illegally, Paul wants to revoke birthright citizenship. But the nation has, from its founding, embraced birthright citizenship, albeit denying it to the descendants of slaves until passage of the 14th Amendment. A constitutional amendment revoking birthright citizenship has no chance of adoption, and those who argue that simple legislation would suffice ignore the plain language of the 14th Amendment, the legislative history and debate at the time of adoption, and Supreme Court precedents.

Cruz, on the other hand, has made opposition to illegal immigration a cornerstone of his political identity, pushing to shut down the entire Department of Homeland Security to prevent funding for President Barack Obama's executive amnesty. But even Cruz has adopted a softer tone in the aftermath of the announcement of his presidential bid, saying he favors a legal guest-worker program -- a position opposed by restrictionist anti-immigration groups, such as NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

So how would Rubio fare in the immigration debate within the party? Rubio was one of the so-called Gang of Eight, who fashioned a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013. The anti-immigrant right has denounced the bill as "amnesty," but Rubio has been skillful in deflecting those attacks. The bill included fines for those who have broken the nation's immigration laws -- $1,000 per person is hardly an amnesty -- as well as requirements that they pay all back taxes, pass a criminal background check and learn English.

As Rubio told Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly this week, he worked to make the bill as conservative as possible in a Senate that was still controlled by Democrats and assumed that the Republican House would strengthen the border provisions and other parts of the bill. "That was our hope. It didn't work out that way," he said.

Rubio opposes President Obama's executive amnesty -- as do most Republicans. But he also knows that deporting 11 million people would be not only unfeasible but also un-American.

In an example of courage under fire, he gave a firm "no" to a voter in New Hampshire who asked that he commit to "send home every single person that's violated our country's laws and is here illegally." Rather than pander to the anti-immigrant wing of the party, Rubio said: "I don't think anyone can commit that to you. You have 12? million human beings in America, most of whom we don't even know who they are and some of them whom our country's not going to tolerate rounding up and sending back."

Rubio has spent a decade and a half fashioning solutions as a legislator, first in the Florida House of Representatives, where he became speaker, and then in the U.S. Senate. He knows that the only solution to our immigration problem is to rewrite our antiquated, unworkable immigration laws.

If Rubio and other would-be Republican hopefuls can stick to focusing on ways to fix our broken system and ignore temptations to bash immigrants who are here illegally, they just might end the primary season with some hope of winning over the Hispanic and Asian voters who deserted the party in 2012. Without those voters, the GOP would have a much more difficult path to taking back the White House. But more importantly, it's the right thing to do.

A Thug by Any Other Name

For most Americans, including President Barack Obama, the term "thug" seemed an appropriate appellation for the rioters who destroyed businesses, homes and other property in Baltimore this week. Now liberals are crying foul. The Baltimore Sun has editorialized, "Having city leaders apply it to the high school students and others who rioted throughout Baltimore tells the offenders that they weren't just wrong in what they did, but that they're also worthless because of it -- something too many people already believe."

Baltimore's mayor, after initially using the term, apologized on Twitter: "That night we saw misguided young people who need to be held accountable, but who also need support. And my comments then didn't convey that." Several commentators have likened the use of the term to the N-word.

But a thug by any other name remains just that. What does one call the people running into a Baltimore CVS and stripping its contents before setting it afire? Somehow "misguided young people" doesn't quite convey the behavior or the participants.

The world watched while parts of Baltimore burned. Not just stores owned by big corporations who can rebuild -- though most likely somewhere else -- but mom and pop storefronts blazed throughout the night, as did a brand-new senior housing center and modest row houses that had been owned by some families for generations. To try to understand the perpetrators' motivation or to excuse their actions is a great disservice to the victims of the violence.

Thank goodness the riot was short-lived. The credit goes in equal measure to Baltimore residents who took to the streets to say no to violence and the governor of Maryland, who ordered a state of emergency and sent in state police and the National Guard to restore order.

The fact is that the neighborhoods that suffered most in the riots need more police officers, not fewer, despite the chants of some protesters. Baltimore has long bucked a national trend of declining violent crime. As Jason Riley noted in The Wall Street Journal, violent crime in Baltimore is three times the national rate, and the murder rate is more than six times higher. And things are getting worse. Through the first three months of this year, the murder rate was up 20 percent over the same time period last year.

None of this is to diminish the horror of what happened to Freddie Gray in police custody. The man suffered three broken vertebrae and a nearly severed spinal cord. A police investigation has now been turned over to state prosecutors, who will decide whether charges are to be filed against the officers in charge. We don't know exactly what happened -- and perhaps we never will. But we know enough to say that something went terribly wrong.

The Washington Post has reported that a prisoner being transported in the van with Gray claims Gray was thrashing about and hitting the sides of the vehicle, perhaps in an attempt to hurt himself. But even if those reports turn out to be true, it does not necessarily absolve the police department of culpability in his injuries. Throwing a handcuffed suspect in the back of a van unsecured is an invitation to injury. To excuse the behavior of individuals -- even police officers -- who treat a human being, including a criminal suspect, like human garbage isn't much better than calling thugs "misguided."

We give police officers tremendous authority and deference in our society -- but with that comes responsibility. I don't underestimate the toll inflicted on police who have to deal day in and day out with violent, dangerous individuals. It's not a job most of us could do. But turning a blind eye when individual police officers use excessive force or are negligent in ensuring the safety of those in their charge encourages the bad actors.

Those of us who believe in law and order must hold all individuals who behave violently accountable for their actions -- and that goes for kids hurling rocks and looting, as well as the men and women who arrest them.

What a Deal

Boy do I have a deal for you. Give me enough money to build a fancy new house, and I promise I won't try to blow up yours. You can even check my basement to make sure I'm not stockpiling dynamite. Oh, and I promise I won't try to buy any explosives from those shady characters I hang out with or hide what I already have in a storage unit somewhere else.

Sound like a good bargain? Well, in simple terms, it pretty much describes the framework the Obama administration has signed on to in order to persuade Iran to give up its quest to build nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and our allies agree to lift economic sanctions, which have crippled the Iranian economy, in return for Iran agreeing to hold back on making nuclear weapons for a while. They promise to convert facilities we know they have been using to enrich uranium and plutonium. They will even let us inspect some sites, though we know they have violated all previous agreements for open inspections. And we'll continue to turn a blind eye toward the mullahs' pervasive violations of human rights, especially those of women.

President Obama seems to regard as a major achievement an agreement to reach an agreement, which is all this week's deal is -- a formal agreement won't happen until June, if at all. Was ever an American president so deluded as to his accomplishments? His administration has so far botched everything it has touched when it comes to foreign affairs. Obama came into office promising to restore America's reputation. Instead, he's damaged it, perhaps irreparably for the near future.

Our allies don't trust us. Relations between the U.S. and Israel rarely have been worse, but we're not on all that great of terms with the UK or Germany, either. Do any of our allies even trust our word any longer? Why should they, when the president repeatedly has failed to live up to promises, whether to stop Russian aggression in Ukraine or to keep the murderous Assad regime from killing Syrian civilians?

Indeed, the Middle East has descended into chaos. Iraq is plagued by ISIS and sectarian conflicts between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The government in Yemen has collapsed, forcing a Saudi-led military operation that hopes to fend off Iranian-backed rebels from gaining total control of the failed state.

In North Africa, terrorists have attacked a museum in Tunisia and a U.S. consulate in Libya, and both countries face growing threats from ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates. Morocco, often regarded as the most stabile country in the region, arrested ISIS members in March who were allegedly planning attacks against military installations and plotting political assassinations.

Sub-Saharan Africa is in no better shape. Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon and Uganda all have experienced Islamist terrorist attacks since 2010, killing many hundreds of victims, many of them Christians. An attack on Christian students at a Kenyan University campus left nearly 150 dead on Thursday alone. The Obama administration's response to the threat of Boko Haram has proved little more effective than Michelle Obama's tweeting #BringBackOurGirls when the terrorists kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian young women last year.

The Iranian deal is of a piece with the Obama administration's overall foreign policy. It is more capitulation to those who threaten our national security. Iran will get an immediate economic boost as we lift sanctions, which will strengthen a regime that is already ascendant as a regional power. A stronger Iranian economy will make it easier for the ruling mullahs to promote terrorism around the world and to fight proxy wars in Yemen and elsewhere. Thanks to Obama's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, Iran is already calling the shots in those areas of Iraq that haven't fallen to ISIS.

At a Rose Garden press conference announcing the Iran deal, the president promised: "If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it."

Whew. I feel a lot safer. Don't you?

Disparity Nonsense

The New York Times had a long editorial-screed over the weekend, titled “Forcing Black Men Out of Society.” 

It’s a predictable lament:  The racist war on drugs has unfairly imprisoned large numbers of black men, and this has made it harder for them to get jobs when they get out, and it has made it impossible for black women to marry and so they instead have children out of wedlock.  What’s more, the fact that so many blacks go to prison reinforces racist stereotypes, so that African Americans can’t get jobs even when they don’t have a criminal record, and even face racism when they are still children by the way they are disciplined in schools.  “Deindustrialization” helped pave the way for all this, presumably because it was the difficulty of finding honest work that led so many African Americans to choose a life of crime.  The Times concludes—as I said, it’s all very predictable — that racism is also to blame for “the many grievous cases of unarmed black men and boys who were shot dead by the police — now routinely captured on video.” 

The solution?  Well, the Times doesn’t say, but since it all stems from the war on drugs (“nonviolent drug offenses”), then I guess if drugs were legalized then racism would end, employment would skyrocket, and out-of-wedlock birthrates would plummet.

This is all nonsense, a combination of bad facts and bad logic. 

Reasonable people can differ about whether the war on drugs has been a good idea and what can be done to improve law-enforcement policies in this area, but to suggest that it was racist in conception and has been waged in a racially discriminatory way is simply false.  If the government had announced that it had no problem with people selling heroin and crack in the ghetto, would that have been welcomed by African Americans?  Have the police turned a blind eye to the trafficking in “white drugs,” like methamphetamine and prescription opioids?

If a disproportionate number of those arrested for drug crimes are black, it is because a disproportionate number of drug criminals are black.  It is not true that all groups use illegal drugs at the same rate, and in any event it is not for using drugs but for selling them that people are typically sent to prison.

And the charges of racial bias these days are generally limited to drug-law enforcement, since even extremists like Michelle Alexander acknowledge that “black men do have much higher rates of violent crime [than whites].” And the overwhelming majority of those in prison are not there for drug crimes.

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that there is widespread discrimination in drug-law enforcement. What should be done about it?  Here’s my suggestion, and it can be implemented immediately and at no cost:

Step 1: Do not use, buy, or sell illegal drugs.

Step 2: If you belong to a racial or ethnic group that you think is targeted by the police, then especially do not use, buy, or sell illegal drugs.

Now, it may be objected that it is unfair if the police let white kids buy, use, and sell illegal drugs more than black kids. True, but when you think about it, it’s really not a good idea to buy, use, or sell illegal drugs anyway. It’s not as if the police were keeping you from doing something that would be beneficial or even harmless to you and your community if you did it. Indeed, if the police were more tolerant of blacks buying, using, and selling illegal drugs than white kids, probably the Times would complain about that.  It certainly would not improve the black individuals and neighborhoods for which the Times professes such concern.

At no extra charge, I will also provide another suggestion, for members of all racial and ethnic groups:

Step 3: Instead of using, buying, and selling illegal drugs, spend that time doing homework or something else that will improve your mind, character, and future prospects.

The Times is also wrong to argue that the reason black children are disciplined at higher rates than other children is because of racism, and its suggestion that unarmed black men and boys are “routinely” shot by the police is libelous.

But, most fundamentally, it is absurd to suggest that high black incarceration rates have led to high black out-of-wedlock birthrates.  This is a classic instance of confusing cause and effect.  Youths, especially boys, are much more likely to get into trouble if they grow up in a home without a father — and this is true regardless of skin color.  Conversely, locking up a male does not cause a female to become pregnant. 

The Times is right that, to the extent racial stereotypes linger, they are now driven by the perception that African Americans are more likely to commit crimes and have other social and cultural failings.  But — though we must strive to judge people as individuals — these perceptions are, as a statistical matter, quite accurate.  Recall that even Jesse Jackson admitted to engaging in such stereotyping, when he admitted that he would be more worried if he were being followed by two young black men than by two young men of some other color. 

The Times exaggerates the extent and results of that stereotyping, however, and ignores the single most important way to combat them:  For African Americans to stop having 71.5 percent of their children out of wedlock.  That, and not the legalization of drugs, is what would cause economic well-being among African Americans to skyrocket, their incarceration and discipline rates to plummet, and, therefore, for racism to decline even more than it already has.

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The New York Times is not alone in thinking that racism and sexism explain every disparity.  Thus, you hear the same complaint all the time in higher education — for example, that this is why there are fewer women on science faculties. 

And the Chronicle of Higher Education is generally hospitable to such claims, so it was something of a surprise to read a pair of articles in it this month on some new research.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education on April 14: “Sexist hiring practices are commonly blamed for the underrepresentation of women in many fields of academic science, but new research suggests that such an assumption is wrong.”  In fact, “male and female faculty members in four fields under study preferred to hire female applicants, by a two-to-one ratio, over male applicants with identical qualifications and life situations ….”  And then, a few days later, another Chronicle of Higher Education article reported on a second study:

When it came to landing tenure-track jobs in their field, women and members of minority groups considered underrepresented appeared to be at a significant advantage. Black and Hispanic doctorate holders were both quicker and, respectively, 51 percent and 30 percent more likely than their white counterparts to obtain such positions. Asian doctorate holders were slowest to land such positions and 33 percent less likely than whites to obtain them. Women were quicker, and 10 percent more likely than men, to get tenure-track jobs, although the picture varied somewhat by family status, with single men and women who had children under age 6 being at a distinct disadvantage.

The picture changed markedly when it came to getting tenure, which tenure-track professors, on the whole, were most likely to receive at about the seven-year mark. Non-Asian minority members and women were slower to receive tenure, and black assistant professors were substantially less likely to ever receive it. Women with children under age 6 again appeared to be at a disadvantage.

The two articles fit together quite well, and each supports one of the Center for Equal Opportunity’s longstanding criticisms of affirmative action, as I then wrote:  “One obvious possible explanation [for the tenure disparity] is that the women and URMs [‘underrepresented minorities’] hired were not as well qualified as the men, whites, and Asian Americans hired. This is quite plausible given the ‘diversity’ efforts to hire more women and URMs.”

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Rick Esenberg, who heads the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, had some nice things to say about us this month in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Roger Clegg wanted to have a dialogue about race. Roger is General Counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity. He is fiercely intelligent but gentle-mannered; one of the nicer people I know. CEO had done a study that demonstrated just how strongly the University of Wisconsin prefers African-American applicants over similarly situated whites, Asians and even Hispanics. (The preference still doesn't result in a large black enrollment at Madison.) When he came to Madison to discuss the report, he was accosted by screaming hordes whose idea of a dialogue is shouting over what you don't want to hear.

Thanks, Rick!  It all ended well, by the way, with more attention being given to our study and the university’s discriminatory policies than would otherwise have been the case.  And through persistence I was able eventually to deliver my message to the “screaming hordes” — and then make it home safely.

Nothing Inevitable About Clinton Nomination

A new CBS poll on Hillary Clinton this week suggests that the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state faces a steeper road to the White House than her supporters might think. Only 26 percent in the poll of the adult population had a favorable view of Clinton, while 37 percent had an unfavorable opinion, and an astonishing 36 percent said they hadn't heard enough to form an opinion or were undecided.

Because the poll sampled all adults, not just registered voters, the poll's political significance is limited. Much of the general public pays little attention to politics, and even less so this far out from an election. And, obviously, only those who register and vote actually matter on Election Day.

Nonetheless, the inevitability of a Clinton presidency is far from secure. For one thing, many people don't trust her. According to the CBS poll, only 42 percent view her as trustworthy, while 47 percent do not. What is unusual about this finding is that it goes against the usual gender advantage women candidates have on issues of trust and ethics. For decades, studies and polling have shown that voters think women politicians are more likely than men to be trustworthy and ethical.

Hillary's problems go back to her days in the White House in the 1990s. Who among those who follow politics can forget the battle over her billing records from the Rose Law Firm, subpoenaed but "lost," until they showed up mysteriously two years later in the first couple's White House residence? From her response to the Benghazi attack, which killed a U.S. ambassador and two other Americans, to the dustup over her using a personal email account to conduct State Department business, Clinton has shown herself to be both defensive and secretive, neither of which qualities inspires trust.

Clinton also seems tired. As a woman who is the same age as Clinton, I can understand it. I travel a great deal -- about 100,000 miles a year -- but nothing like Clinton will when she runs. Sixteen-hour days are one thing when you're in your 40s and another as you approach 70. And, let's face it, women may hold a gender advantage with the public on some personal attributes, but age isn't one of them.

Clinton will be 69 in 2016 -- the same age as Ronald Reagan was in 1980 when he ran and won in a landslide. But age was kinder to Reagan, as it often is to men. Reagan managed to convey energy and vigor by riding horseback and chopping wood in his leisure time and engaging with voters and debating on the campaign trail. Clinton doesn't seem to have that same gift. Sure, it's not fair that women are judged more harshly on age -- but it probably matters in an election, even if few people are willing to say so.

Clinton has tremendous advantages -- not least intelligence, ambition and a fundraising juggernaut -- which have discouraged other serious Democrats from entering the race. But it's important to remember that in 2008 her nomination seemed pretty inevitable, too, until a little-known first-term senator decided to launch a challenge. We all know how that ended.

But Clinton can't be beat unless someone else gets in the race. Right now, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley looks like he might make a go of it. O'Malley isn't a household name, but neither was Barack Obama, and unlike Obama, O'Malley has had actual executive experience.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren keeps saying she's not running, but she has a fervent fan base in the left wing of the Democratic Party and could cause Clinton some problems if she decided to throw her hat in the ring. But there are other Democratic senators who also could step into the fray.

Sen. Sherrod Brown from Ohio comes to mind. A former Eagle Scout and a devout member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, he seems solidly Middle American and would win support among union members and populists for his role in blocking U.S. free trade agreements. He also happens not to be up for reelection until 2018, which means he could run without giving up his current job.

It is far too early to know what will happen once the race for president begins. But I, for one, am not betting that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.