The Cliffhanger, Jan. 30

Ever since the language of the ???fiscal cliff??? was appropriated to describe the political battle over a tax increase, it???s become increasingly clear that every issue is a ???cliff??? now.  Here are today???s snapshots from the edge???

** John Kerry confirmed as Secretary of State: Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) was confirmed as Secretary of State on Tuesday night by a vote of 94-3, which is the kind of enthusiasm his fellow senators normally reserve for pork-laden “hurricane relief” bills.  Republicans John Cornyn of Texas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Ted Cruz of Texas voted against him, in a manner reminiscent of Jenjiss Khan.  “I was compelled to vote no on Senator Kerry’s nomination because of his longstanding less-than-vigorous defense of U.S. national security issues and, in particular, his long record of supporting treaties and international tribunals that have undermined U.S. sovereignty,” Cruz explained.  Clearly Kerry is a man of his time, because everyone is giving up sovereignty these days.  Just try refusing to pay for other people’s birth control, and you’ll see what I mean.

** Senator Cornyn doesn’t like Chuck Hagel much, either: Not only was Senator Cornyn a big sourpuss when it was time to replace Hillary “What Difference Does It Make?” Clinton as SecState with a man who has never been right about a major foreign policy issue, but he’s also been slow to climb aboard the rickety Chuck Hagel bandwagon, which continues to emit some alarming noises as it rolls toward Secretary of Defenseville.  Hagel’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Cornyn wrote an op-ed in National Review today, in which he says Hagel is “the same person who has consistently opposed sanctions against Iran.  He is the same person who wanted Washington to support Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization.  The same person who voted against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group (at a time when the IRGC was orchestrating the murder of U.S. troops in Iraq).  The same person who refused to sign a letter asking the European Union to label Hezbollah (an Iranian proxy) a terror group.  The same person who urged President Bush to offer Iran ‘direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks.’  The same person who called for establishing a U.S. diplomatic mission in Tehran.  The same person who dismissed ‘a military strike against Iran’ as ‘not a viable, feasible, responsible option.’  The same person who wrote that a nuclear Iran might be tolerable because ‘sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability (as opposed to stateless terrorist groups) will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior.'”

Hagel is also the same person who used to say that Israel was keeping Palestinians “caged up like animals” and “chained down for many, many years.”  If this was not the same Chuck Hagel, the nice Chuck Hagel who is a devoted friend of Israel and foe of Iranian nukes should contact Senator Cornyn’s office immediately.  Identity theft is a serious crime.

** Taxpayer losses on TARP bailouts worse than originally believed: Remember how we lost $22 billion on those TARP bailouts?  The inspector general just released a new report that says it’s more like $27 billion.  The increased losses come from decreased value in shares of the bailed-out companies sold off by Uncle Sam.  They don’t seem like very good “investments” then, do they?  More than half of the sum still owed to the U.S. taxpayer comes from General Motors and its former financial subsidiary.  President Obama loves to tuck low-information voters in for bed by telling them funny stories about how GM was a big moneymaking investment that repaid taxpayers in full.

** FBI raids offices of top Menendez donor: Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – who has been known to publicly accuse people of felony tax evasion, based on tips from imaginary friends – doddered to a microphone and declared that no one should take the scandals swirling around Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) seriously, because “all anyone here has to look at is the source… it’s a source that has brought up a lot of non-issues.”  He was referring to the Daily Callerwhich has been slow to join the “mainstream media” in studiously ignoring the Menendez story because he has a “D” after his name.  Right on cue, the FBI raided the West Palm Beach offices of the top donor who has provided Menendez with so many memorable trips to the Dominican Republic, which is apparently teeming with memorable teenage girls.  “The investigation is believed to be focusing on [Dr. Solomon] Melgen’s finances and the allegations about Menendez’s trips and contact with prostitutes,” reports the Miami Heraldwhich as far as I know is not owned by the Daily Caller.  Melgen has a private plane and throws big political contributions to Democrats, even though he owes the IRS over $11 million in back taxes.  Funny, the Democrats are usually so outspoken against rich fat cats who refuse to pay their fair share.  Time to stress-test that fabled Democrat shield against embarrassing media coverage!

** The “reality-based community” gets hoodwinked again: The big Internet story yesterday was a hoax cooked up by MSNBC video editors, who manufactured a phony story about gun-rights crazies “heckling” the father of a Newtown shooting victim and “shouting him down.”  Every dim bulb on the Left flickered excitedly at this news and repeated it uncritically, until the full and unedited video got out there, and everyone could see the “heckling victim” had asked for a response from the audience, and they were just trying to answer his question.  This has now become a gut check for liberal true believers: if you’re really serious about membership in the “reality-based community,” you have to pretend the “heckling” story is still true, even though no one who watches the unedited video could possibly believe it.  It helps to get huffy and shriek “How dare you!” when people who live in the real world point out that you’re full of malarkey.

** CNN fires everybody: A big shake-up at CNN left contributors Mary Matalin, James Carville, Bill Bennett, Maria Cardona, and the redoubtable Erick Erickson of RedState with more time to “spend with their families” (as the classic Washington euphemism has it), or perhaps attend those “frequent skeet shooting sessions” President Obama claims to hold at Camp David.  Even the fate of the lovable Soledad O’Brien is said to be in doubt, as someone else is getting her morning time slot.  Word has it that Erickson may end up at Fox News, where you can shoot skeet right out of the green room.