A new year does not necessarily mean turning over a new leaf. To the contrary, most pols began 2016 true to form.
Hillary Clinton's former State Department colleagues couldn't manage to release in a timely manner her emails as directed by a federal court judge, reminding us that both the Obama administration and the Clintons tend to view legal rulings as mere suggestions. Now that the number of classified emails on her private server surpassed 1,200 - and her prior assurance that there was no classified information in the emails determined to be a blatant falsehood - the only question remains is what the FBI intends to do about all this.
After seven years of government by executive fiat and executive branch disdain for Congress, the Democrats are poised to nominate another candidate whose respect for the law is nonexistent. We can be spared the jabs about President George W. Bush "shredding" the Constitution. The Democrats have become defenders of lawlessness.
Republicans are also living up to their well-earned reputations. Jeb Bush's team, having discovered that tens of millions in ads were essentially wasted, now shifts its millions on a final, near-desperate attempt to defy expectations and survive the early primary states. Given the concern among mainstream Republicans about Sen. Ted Cruz's electability and Donald Trump's sanity, Bush will face intense pressure if he fails to gain traction in Iowa and New Hampshire to get out this month, making way for a widely acceptable candidate whom middle of the road Republicans can back. Bush's prospects are unchanged and grim.
Ben Carson never seemed like presidential material from our vantage point. He lacked basic knowledge of policy issues, concrete proposals he could cogently explain and the temperament of a credible commander in chief. He also proved he could not competently run his own campaign. With a month before the first contest and his polls in freefall, he fired his top campaign advisers who, after months and months of the Carson campaign, vow to show us the real Carson. In fact, voters have seen quite enough of the doctor to figure out he is not remotely ready for the presidency.
Let's not forget the Obama administration. After seven years in office Obama and his advisers have become caricatures of themselves - arrogant, clueless and dangerous. Ben Rhodes (who is supposed to work on foreign policy as a deputy national security adviser but instead specializes in political spin, as we saw in his Benghazi creative writing instructing Obama flacks to cite the anti-Muhammad video as the cause of the attack) and the president are convinced the problem is not the Islamic State but their inability to sell the public on how well things are going in the war against jihadists. No, really.
If the president and his second-term flunkies merely appeared on TV and tweeted more, perhaps we would, you know, not pay so much attention to reality - attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., Russian and Iranian troops in Syria, an Islamic State the size of Indiana (as Jeb Bush likes to put it), and Iranian aggression on the rise thanks to a nuclear deal that predictably has become a license for Iran to behave even more wretchedly at home and more defiant internationally. The administration's reluctance to impose new sanctions on Iran for its impermissible missile tests is indicative of a policy that amounts to pure appeasement and retreat. In all this the real menace in the administration's eyes is the opposition - not Iran but Congress, the media and the press. It chose to spy on, or say it was spying on, Israeli officials and members of Congress and then to suggest the former was conspiring or even bribing the latter, as Lee Smith explains:
"But of course, Israeli officials were neither 'coordinating' nor were they bribing, because here's the main point, which nearly everyone in Washington, especially in the pro-Israel community, understands: Even if Bibi and the rest of the government of Israel were craven enough, and wealthy enough, and delusional enough, to try to buy off all of Washington, they all know-and have known for decades-that the NSA is listening to their communications. . . . In fact, according to multiple sources reached recently, no one in the American intelligence community was spying on U.S. citizens or our elected representatives, and forwarding their names to the White House; the White House just wanted them to believe this was happening. Why? . . . [This should be] understood as part of the White House's aggressive campaign to spook possible opponents of the Iran deal."
It all became fodder for the administration's barely disguised anti-Semitic attacks accusing Jewish groups of buying votes and members of congress of kowtowing to the Jewish state. Perhaps these critics had simply figured out what the president did not: The Iranian deal was a blunder of immense proportions that will have deleterious consequences for years, maybe decades, to come. And, also par for the course, Senate Democrats who kowtowed to the White House in lining up behind the deal declare they are "profoundly" concerned. Sorry, senators, but that just isn't going to cut it.
As much as we would like for 2016 to mark a fresh political start, then, we find the same characters behaving in familiar ways. Hillary Clinton is her old dishonest, secretive self. Jeb Bush is still struggling, confirming money does not buy you everything. Carson is still in over his head and Fiorina remains an underachiever. The White House has learned nothing from failure. (Failure? What failure?) All that is to be expected, for however much we may want things to change, it will take more than New Year's resolutions and wishful thinking to see real improvement and growth from politicians.
Clinton (with a phalanx of obsequious aides), ineffective presidential candidates (with consultants who get paid whether the candidate bombs or not) and Obama (with Rhodes to tell him exactly what he wants to hear) aren't about to undergo any serious self-improvement. Sadly, we shouldn't bank on voters becoming any more discerning either.