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On Holder, Clapper, Escalated Rhetoric, the Chicago Way, Etc.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Moving into the new year with a backward look at 2010....

What was the worst legislative decision of the passing year? The gigantically unpopular ObamaCare. And what was the year's best judicial ruling? Federal District Judge Henry Hudson's determination that in enacting ObamaCare, Congress exceeded its constitutional authority.

How about some clapping all 'round for national intelligence director James Clapper? In an ABC News interview, Clapper was asked about Britain's hours-earlier foiling of an al-Qaida plot targeting London Christmas shoppers with multiple suicide bombings. Clapper clearly had no idea what the questioner was talking about, and had to be rhetorically rescued by fellow interviewee John Brennan, the White House chief of counter-terrorism. Raucous applause, please.

And speaking of London, the December weather there and across Europe has been snowy and bitterly cold -- as it has in at least the eastern half of the U.S. Must be global warming.

The year shouldn't be allowed to pass without remarking that Steven Rattner, who oversaw the federal takeover of Chrysler and General Motors for the Obama administration, agreed to pay $6 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission in settlement of federal charges relating to kickbacks at a New York pension fund.

During the year, President Obama termed Fox News "ultimately destructive." Would he deploy the same phrase against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange?

In late October, Juan Williams wound up fired by National Public Radio for saying he gets squeamish when he boards planes with passengers wearing Muslim garb. A gentle man, Williams was characteristically mild. Years earlier, NPRist Nina Totenberg said she hoped the late Sen. Jesse Helms would get AIDS by transfusion. But it's funny how that works. Sweet Nina remains at her post.

It's evidently OK to escalate the rhetoric if you're on the correct ideological side. In the week prior to the November elections, Obama said it is "time to punish our Republican enemies." Earlier in the month, at a fundraiser in West Newton, Mass.,, he said: "Facts and science and argument (do) not seem to be winning...because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared." And there's hardly a conservative or moderate Obama hasn't blamed -- for something.

Imagine the orchestrated outrage if George Bush or any Republican had tossed around harsh language the way Obama does? What's more, imagine the howls and ululations if a Republican lame-duck Congress had failed to fund the budget and had rammed through pet legislation -- as the Pelosi/Reid Congress did in its last desperate days.

Remember when the left demanded the removal of John Ashcroft as attorney general during the first term of the second Bush? Ashcroft was deemed too devout in his religious beliefs and too conservative in his political views. Comes now Eric Holder, the incumbent attorney general. (1) Holder has dropped voter-intimidation charges in a high-profile case in Philadelphia. (2) He botched the civilian trial of Tanzanian terrorist Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, winning just one conviction on 285 counts related to the murder of 224 innocents.

He nevertheless bristles at the very notion of (3) not closing Guantanamo and (4) not trying its inmates in civilian courts. Indeed, these days he seems more inclined to hold prisoners there indefinitely (as the Bush administration did) instead of trying them before military tribunals. And (5) Holder opposes expediting appeals of lower-court rulings on the constitutionality (etc.) of ObamaCare. Here's an idea: Remove Holder.

By the way, of the 598 Guantanamo detainees released as of October, 150 were suspected or confirmed -- in the words of a national intelligence report -- of "re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer."

If head-scratching pols are looking for a way out of the Social Security swamp, Chile has a suggestion. Privatize it. Thirty years ago, on the advice of Nobel economist Milton Friedman, Chile became the first country to privatize its national pension system. Today, Chile's system is rocking along with wild popularity, a 9 percent rate of return (those signing up for U.S. Social Security today will see a negative return), and pension debt at just 6 percent of GNP (compared with 100 percent in the U.S.).

Oh, and Chicago's three-member election commission concluded unanimously over the holidays that while Rahm Emanuel lived in Washington as an advisor to Barack Obama, he remained a Chicago resident in spirit. That way, the commission ruled, Emanuel may legally run for mayor without tangling with any troublesome residency issues. Perhaps the commission was bowing to the inevitable, given that Emanuel currently leads the mayoral field by 32 points -- and the commissioners, you know, covet their posts. Whatever. It's but the latest example of The Chicago Way.

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