Playing the Impeachment Game

Reports indicate that President Barack Obama is planning to issue executive orders that will effectively grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, and there is much speculation that he will do so with the intention of provoking impeachment charges. The notion is so outrageous, so far removed every standard of presidential behavior that at this improbable moment in American history it seems all too plausible.

The speculation is predictably coming from outraged Republican congressmen, who can be counted on to find such executive orders so highly provocative that it appears Obama “is begging to be impeached,” but is also being fueled by Democrats both inside and outside the administration. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was accusing the Republicans of secretly planning impeachment even before the reports of an executive-ordered amnesty surfaced, a senior advisor to the president acknowledges that the move “will certainly up the likelihood that (Republicans) would contemplate impeachment at some point,” and the party’s allies in the media are already salivating over the prospect, and the fund-raising letters to the true Democratic believers are already exploiting the issue. Presidents don’t usually beg to be impeached, but this one might once again prove an exception to the usual rules.

One can easily imagine the theory that might have been devised by the political minds within the White House, insulated by layers of security and the comforting blanket of the mainstream news coverage, about how it all might work. The story, which will be respectfully repeated at the top of every evening network newscasts often enough to make it sound believable, is that the racist and xenophobic rednecks of the Republican party so hate our brown-skinned brethren that they refused to act according the president’s wishes and he was therefor forced against every instinct of his adjunct professor of constitutional law’s soul to boldly act alone. With sets designed by the same guy that did Madonna’s tour and the soundtrack music by Beyonce the production will a huge hit with the public, the necessary number of Democrats will hold firm no matter what and the president will be acquitted by the Senate, and the Republicans will suffer the same drubbing in the mid-terms that followed their failed attempt to remove President Bill Clinton from office. At the very least it will distract all attention from the sluggish economy and proliferation of part-time jobs and Obamacare’s latest troubles and the fighting in Gaza and Ukraine and Libya and Syria and the South China Sea and the nuclear weapons program in Iran and the scandals at the VA and the IRS and the NSA and the rest of the alphabet soup and everything else that currently has everyone expecting the Democrats will suffer a drubbing in the mid-term elections.
At the most it could even rescue Obama’s presidency from its current unfavorable standing and restore him to his former heroic status, much as President Andrew Johnson’s little-noted presidency is on occasion fondly recalled for his successful defiance of another impeachment attempt. In Johnson’s case the radical Republicans wanted him to impose a harsher Reconstruction on the defeated Confederate states, and Obama would have surely been among their number if he’d been around at the time, but at this point he’ll probably take whatever favorable historical analogy he can get. The inevitable failure of any attempt to remove Obama from office will also leave him free to flout whatever constitutional limitations on his office he might choose, and by the time the courts get around to imposing whatever restrictions they can get past the Obama appointees he’ll be safely ensconced poolside at his fabulous California mansion and awaiting the glowing the reviews on the memoir that earned him a $20 million advance.
It’s so crazy it might just work, but we see risks that the domestic policy advisor from La Raza might not have included in the briefings. While an impeachment trial would certainly draw almost all attention away from all those other pesky issues that are pulling down the president’s poll numbers, it would also shine a glaring spotlight on immigration policies that are every bit as unpopular. Public opinion polling shows that most Americans have no desire to grant amnesty to the millions of immigrants who have illegally flooded an already tight labor market and strained schools and social service agencies, and even in such allegedly liberal areas as Massachusetts there are large and angry protests springing up wherever the recent influx of illegal minors is being shipped. Obama’s reportedly imminent executive orders would not only be defying Congress, which is always a risk-free political proposition, they would also be defying public opinion, which is always a rash move no matter how the media support.
The impeachment ploy depends on the missteps of the Republicans, which of course increases its odds of success. Thus far the Republican leadership has declined to take the bait, and although we’re no fans of the Republican leadership we think that for the moment this is the wisest course. Any noise about impeachment prior to the election will only distract from issues more favorable to the Republicans, will energize a Democratic base that is currently dispirited, won’t have any hope of a favorable outcome so long as the Democrats retain an unquestioningly loyal majority in the Senate, and even if a miracle were to occur the most favorable outcome would be President Joe Biden. The public outrage that is sure to follow the president’s amnesty orders could give the Republicans solid majorities in both houses of Congress, although not enough in the Senate to win an impeachment verdict without a few very scared red-state Democrats, but until then talk of impeachment is fanciful.
It might well be necessary, though, if the executive orders are far-reaching as they’re described and the most obvious implications of the Internal Revenue Service scandal are proved no matter how fortuitous the computer problems turn out to be, but that tricky question will be best addressed after a successful mid-term election.

– Bud Norman

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A Short Cut to the Invasion

Let us suppose, quite hypothetically, that your country has lately been invaded by many tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have hopped a train through Mexico from Central America. Further suppose, hypothetically again, that your country is $17 trillion in debt and another $100 trillion or so short of what it has promised the citizens that are already here, that your social service agencies are already straining under the burden of a moribund economy, and that the country’s inability to cope with the influx of adorable youngsters with adorable gang tattoos that has piled up in makeshift detention centers or been transported through angry protest barricades to a town near you has resulted in what everyone agrees is a humanitarian crisis. What would you do in such in an unlikely scenario?
If some vestige of common sense inclines to you to suggest sending the youngsters back home to their families as quickly as possible, and making it clear to any potential future invaders that no matter what nonsense they’ve heard about imminent amnesty and the welcoming arms of a generous welfare state they are not going to get in, then you are clearly unfit for public service. The more enlightened savants of the federal government have suggested that we allow the youngsters to skip the unpleasant train-hopping through Mexico and come directly and at our expense to the imminent amnesty and the welcoming arms of a generous welfare state.
Our source is The New York Times, and we hope that all the “Dr. Strangelove” aficionados will recognize the allusion to a line from that absurdist masterpiece about the “doomsday machine.” “Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the southwest border,” the plucky Timesmen hopefully report, “the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico…” How such generosity would stem the recent surge of migrants at the southwest border is never explained, no doubt an oversight due to deadline pressures, but we are assured of its good intentions. The children are fleeing gang violence in their native lands, we are told by the Times’ administration and activist group sources, and thus are entitled to refugee status.
Some 70,000 or so gang members are believed by the always-reliable United Nations to be active in the Central American countries that have lately been shipping their children northward to the United States, the Times helpfully adds, but that seems a dangerously low standard of peril to be granting refugee status to their compatriots. The world is ringed by slums from Calcutta to Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro to Shanghai to Belgrade that are menaced by similar numbers of gangsters, and such communities as the one on the south side of Chicago that our current president once organized have similarly dangerous streets, so housing and feeding and educating all of them and imprisoning the predictable portion of them will likely prove more costly than America can afford. The same people who scoff at the notion of American exceptionalism are apparently convinced that America is exceptional enough to care for all of the world’s needy people, but they are willing to share the costs of the attempt.
Public opinion and its cussed common sense might yet scuttle the plan, which is so far just another one of the proposals that the savants of the federal government routinely come up with, but the Times warns that “the plan would be similar to a recent bill proposed by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who proposed increasing the number of refugee visas to the three Central American countries by 5,000 each,” so there’s still the chance of a bipartisan nonsensical solution. Some Republican opposition is already rearing itself, and could effectively prevent the proposal from becoming policy, but hat option of sending the youngsters back home to their families as soon as possible and issuing a meaningful warning to the rest to stay home also seems unlikely. Whatever compromise is eventually adopted, America might as well get ready to start housing and educating and feeding a few billion new arrivals.

– Bud Norman

The Noise in Israel and the Quiet Elsewhere

Every few years or so Israel has to wage war against the Islamist terror gangs that want to kill every Jew in the world, and the current unpleasantness is much the same as all the other occasions. What’s conspicuously different this time around, however, is that most of the world doesn’t seem to mind Israel defending its citizens.
The usual outraged demonstrations have been strikingly absent from the public squares of the Islamic world, leftist indignation in the west has been relatively muted, and many of the governments in the west have been surprisingly supportive of Israel. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and even the avowedly socialist French President Francois Hollande, whose country saw a few local Islamist terror gangs attack the local synagogues, have all called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu with words of support. All of those calls came in before Netanyahu heard from the United States, which was formerly Israel’s best friend but has lately been more interested in dictating its housing policies and hectoring it to accept a so-called “peace treaty” with the same Islamist terror gang that is now indiscriminately lobbing rockets into their country, but even the current administration has accepted Israel’s right to self-defense in its public statements. Not so unequivocally supportive as Canada and its conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in this strange new world we find ourselves living in, but accepting nonetheless.
It would feel nice to attribute this strange new understanding to the world’s sudden ability to see the world with moral clarity, and to understand that Hamas’ rain of rockets on Israel hasn’t killed thousands only because of the Jewish state’s amazing “Iron Dome” missile defense system and that Israel’s retaliatory strikes against the launch sites have killed only hundreds because of their extraordinary efforts to prevent civilian casualties, but this is too hopeful. The public squares of the Islamic world are probably quiet only because the people gathered there are distracted by the many more thousands of co-religionists who are being slaughtered by the nominally Muslim government of Syria and the Islamist terror gang that has spilled over from that conflict into an all-out assault on Iraq. The Arab and Sunni governments of the region don’t have the usual motives to whip up anti-Israel sentiment among their restive populations, not when the rockets are being supplied by a Persian and Shiite Iranian theocracy that poses a far more frightening threat than Israel ever would. Those suddenly supportive western governments are probably making the same calculations, with a wary eye on the Islamist terror gangs living happily on welfare within their borders, and might well revert to their traditional moral relativism as soon as it is politically expedient.
Still, at this moment the tide of international opinion seems to have turned in Israel’s favor, and given that Hamas’ futile rocket-lobbing was never intended as a military victory but only a public relations coup, that bodes well for a total Israeli victory. In an ill-timed op-ed piece published in an Israeli magazine just days before Hamas started indiscriminately lobbing rockets into Israel, President Barack Obama was still urging the adoption of his proposed peace deal with the Hamas-affiliated government and claiming it would “help turn the tide of international opinion and sideline violent extremists,” but despite the Israeli’s wise decision to argue his advice the world seems willing to side with Israel’s right to sideline the violent extremists with some pin-point missile strikes at sites the civilians are long forewarned to stay away from. Perhaps this is another example of leading from behind, but it looks more like another botched attempt to keep up with rather than ahead of world opinion.

– Bud Norman

Every Picture Tells a Story

Perhaps it’s just our skewed right-wing perspective, but President Barack Obama seems to be losing his once unerring knack for public relations.
Consider that carefully posed and widely disseminated photograph of the president with his sleeves rolled up and his tie loosened as he shares a beer and a game of pool with the governor of Colorado. The image is obviously calculated to portray the President of the United States as a regular sort of guy and easy-going fellow you’d like to have a drink with, which is just the sort of thing that helped him win the presidency in the first place, but it seems to us not quite right for a moment so far into a second term. Especially at a moment when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors are pouring over the nation’s relatively nearby southwestern border and even the local Democrats are noisily clamoring for some presidential attention. One of the rare Democratic congressmen from Texas described the photo-op as “bizarre,” “aloof,” and “detached,” and we’re inclined to agree.
The President did fly down to Texas to meet with the state’s Republican governor, who controversially considered forgoing the usual handshake-on-the-tarmac photo-op, but the visit to the Lone Star State was devoted mostly to fund-raisers and did not include a visit to any of the makeshift detention camps where the Central American urchins are being piled up. The oversight is being widely described as Obama’s “Katrina moment,” an allusion to that long-ago time when his predecessor was pilloried in the press and buried in the polls for a perceived indifference to the human toll of a hurricane that had battered the Gulf Coast after he flew over the wreckage rather than land and interfere with the rescue efforts. The press was more eager to seize the moment against Bush, and would have been just as happy to lambaste him for landing and interfering with the rescue efforts, but even the most sympathetic media have lately had a hard time spinning the invasion of unaccompanied minor illegal aliens as a good news story.
Over at The New York Times’ the loyal scribes gave prominence in their coverage to the president’s predictable gripe that the Republicans were out to get him and wouldn’t set aside their petty political ploys to cough the few billion dollars that he expects will solve the problem, but even there it was impossible to pretend that the president hadn’t invited the invasion when he signed an executive order that promised two years without deportation to any kid who could hop a freight to the United States and that the Republicans have always been a bunch of soft-on-border-security sissies. There’s still some faint hope that the President will still win the amnesty-by-euphism “comprehensive immigration reform” that he’s been pining for the past six years, and the press doesn’t seem quite sure how to portray Obama’s sudden role reversal as a tough-talking border enforcer, especially when they can reasonably anticipate that he’ll eventually revert to his former compassionate self.
We suspect that the White House itself hasn’t yet decided how to spin this disaster, except for the usual play of blaming it all on the Republicans. Just as they thought that alleged-deserter-for-five-ferocious-terrorists swap was going to be a public relations boon, and even trotted out the alleged deserter’s Taliban-bearded and Koran-quoting crazy-pants dad for a photo-op in the Rose Garden, they probably thought an influx of adorably sad-eyed waifs would tug at the heartstrings of a weepy American and nudge that amnesty-by-euphemism bill over the line. With most of the arrivals being scary-looking teenagers, and the younger ones in such unpleasant circumstances that both the press and Congress haven’t been allowed a look, which is such bad publicity that one can only assume the pictures and interviews would be far worse, this is looking like just another recent public relations plan that hasn’t worked out.
Maybe that’s just our skewed right-wing perspective, though. No doubt many Americans are still unaware of being invaded by unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants, and thought Obama looked pretty cool hanging out with that regular guy-looking governor. Eventually the invasion will fade from the news, just as those kidnapped Nigerian girls and the shoddy treatment at the Veterans Administration and the illegal harassment of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service have been relegated to the inside pages or dropped from the news altogether, and the image of that cool dude at the pool table will linger.

– Bud Norman

Once the Bottom is Reached

President Barack Obama’s poll numbers have been plunging lately, to the point that a plurality of Americans now consider him the worst chief executive of the post-war era, and the rightward side of the political aisle has been pleased. The rising disapproval bodes well for the Republican Party’s chances in the upcoming mid-term elections, which would make it even harder for Obama achieve the transformation of America that he once promised, and it might even suggest that the public was wised up enough that Obama’s style of liberalism will still be out of fashion even when the next presidential race rolls around, so the schadenfreude is forgivable.
We hope this is so, but still can’t shake a nagging worry that a lack of public adulation will only provoke more outrageous behavior by the president. Once the president gets down to that 35 percent or so that is his absolute floor of public support, most of it coming from black Americans emotionally invested in the first black president and Hispanics eager for more ethnic company and whites dependent on his largesse or unwilling to admit that their naive hero-worship was unfounded, he might well decide there’s use trying to please the ingrates who comprise the rest of the country and just charge ahead on his agenda with no regard for the public’s opinion. We’ve been watching the fellow carefully over the past six years, and he strikes us as that sort of guy.
A more pragmatic president would be moving to the center at a time of plummeting popularity, seeking some sort sort of compromise with the opposition on any number of issues in order to reassure his former supporters that he’s still playing the game on their behalf according to the usual rules, but Obama has ramped up the rhetoric that seems calculated to prevent any deals with the hated Republicans and instead vowed to proceed by rules of his own making. The Supreme Court has lately been finding fault with those new rules, oftentimes even by unanimous decisions that include Obama’s own appointees, but he’s still cocky enough to taunt his opponents by saying “So sue me.” The policies he’s inviting lawsuits over are unpopular enough to cause consternation for the Democratic congressional candidates that he needs to get the policies enacted by constitutional methods, but he seems to have already concluded that such old-fashioned techniques are no longer tenable. Once the voters have ratified their objections at the ballot box, we suspect he’ll only be more insistent on overruling the views of the rubes he has so long despised as bitter clingers to guns and God and the most base prejudices.
That base of support that Obama cannot drop below seems to like that he’s abandoned the usual means of enacting public policy, and won’t mind a bit if he goes even further from that archaic old constitution written by dead white men to give them what the publicly-financed goodies they want. The bitter tone of the president’s recent pronouncements suggest that he no longer cares about the rest of us, and indeed feels betrayed by the public’s disapproval, so once he reaches that rock bottom he’ll probably start smoking in public and berating the less liberal Democrats and letting his freak flag fly. At that point, God help us all.

– Bud Norman

For the Children’s Sake

May God bless Nancy Pelosi’s bleeding heart. The former Speaker of the House and current Democratic minority leader recently traveled where the recent invasion of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors is being stacked up in hellish makeshift detention centers, and with admirable empathy declared that she would like to take them all home with her.
Even the fabulously wealthy Pelosi’s multiple mansions apparently aren’t quite big enough to accommodate the tens of thousands of illegal youngsters who have crossed the border in the month, alas, but we’ll graciously assume that it was only out of a sense of fairness that Pelosi returned to her swank San Francisco digs without even the few hundred or so of the youngsters that she could have housed and fed. Still, she described the humanitarian crisis on the border as a “humanitarian opportunity” for those politically powerless communities that will be welcoming the invasion and those ungenerous taxpayers she expects to pick up the tab. The poor souls who traveled across Mexico from Central America are mostly “children,” as Pelosi pointed out, and she simply couldn’t bear the thought of anything so cruel as sending them home to their families.
The vast majority of these children are over the age of 16, an advanced enough age in the slums of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador that they managed the long trek across Mexico atop freight trains and drug-smuggling routes and are now causing problems in those makeshift detention camps with their rampant sexual activity, but such an exquisitely sensitive soul as Pelosi’s regards them as children nonetheless. That in many cases they carry disease, gang loyalties, no skills that might contribute to the American economy, and considerable costs for their care is of matter once the word “children” has been invoked.
That the invasion began after the president signed an executive order deferring deportation of minor illegal immigrants and this “humanitarian opportunity” is a direct result of that oh-so-compassionate policy is also to be overlooked, lest one be indifferent to the plight of mere children cast upon our land by cruel fate. The sight of illegal immigrants stacked up in makeshift camps and being flown around the country to cash-strapped communities unable to afford their care should even make Americans all the more amenable to a comprehensive immigration reform law that would bring millions more similarly burdensome immigrants to a land that already has a record number of people out of work.

If this doesn’t strike as a caring policy, then you just don’t care as much about the children as Pelosi’s bleeding heart.

– Bud Norman

An Inconvenient Invasion

Lately the Russian army has invaded Ukraine, an Islamist terrorist group has invaded Iraq, and there’s been an invasion of unaccompanied minors into the United States. The first of these has largely been forgotten by America media too busy downplaying all the domestic scandals they’re hoping you’ll forget, the second is a popular topic in the press becomes it allows them recall the good old days of Bush-bashing, and the third is being treated with a suspicious restraint.
Perhaps it’s because an invasion of unaccompanied minors sounds relatively harmless, as if they’re unlikely to do any more than the rest of the unsupervised kiddos running around everywhere, but it has already proved a noteworthy problem. The self-proclaimed Most Transparent Administration in History has been characteristically opaque about the number of youthful invaders and what exactly has become of them, but by all accounts there are already tens of thousands of them with more on the way and they’ve either been released into the country or housed in makeshift detention camps at military bases or state facilities where diseases are flourishing and such basic necessities as underwear are lacking. Such dire circumstances for so many unaccompanied minors would ordinarily warrant hours of outraged air time and pages full of sob stories, with plenty of heartbreaking pictures of sad-eyed waifs huddled in the corner of an Army gymnasium, so the relatively restrained nature of the coverage is striking.
Too many years of toiling in the newspaper business lead us to several cynical theories.
One is that the pictures aren’t quite right. Most of the sad-eyed waifs being stuffed into those Army gymnasiums are 16 or older, which is a rather ripe old age when you’re coming out of the crime-ravaged slums of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador by way of hopped freight trains through Mexico, and thus far the most memorable photographs show some very fearsome young men decorated with gang tattoos brandishing obscene hand gestures and striking crotch-crabbing poses. Most people confronted with such a picture would be more inclined to send the young hoodlums back home rather than write a check to ensure their care, which is not at all what the press would prefer.
Much of the press has long been devoted to the cause of unrestricted immigration to the United States, and the recent invasion of unaccompanied minors is not proving helpful. A more manageable and photogenic number might have appealed to America’s generous nature, but the current invasion is so large that even The New York Times has been forced to report that the social service agencies are being overwhelmed in such a far-flung location as The Big Apple, and a nation already overwhelmed by $17 trillion of debt and a government that cannot provide promised medical care for its veterans might well decide it can only be so generous. All those gang-sign flashing minors in the current invasion were lured here by rampant rumors throughout Central America that any minors who could somehow get into the United States would not only be welcomed but treated to government largesse, and if that were to become an actual policy as so many wish it could entice the entire Third World.
The story is also unhelpful to the Obama administration, which is another cause to which the much of the press is devoted. Those rampant rumors about kids getting in free began when the president signed one of his frequent executive orders to defer deportation of minor illegal immigrants for two years, were likely further fueled by the president’s promise to deliver even more concessions, and somehow went unnoticed by the administration-appointed ambassadors of those Central American countries as well as the intelligence agencies that were apparently too busy keeping track of your internet browsing. After another executive order adding another two years of deferred deportation, as well as a promise to provide all the invaders with legal representation, the administration is now advertising a get-tough policy in Central America and threatening to eventually send the invaders home, but it remains to be seen if this is another of the administration’s meaningless “red line” threats. The president will have a hard enough time selling his “comprehensive immigration reform” bill with the more rock-ribbed Republicans that are coming out of the primaries, and making his tear-jerking speeches about those noble folks who only want to come here to make a living for their sad-eyed waifs will be especially difficult while shipping off planeloads of young Central Americans.
The story will continue to be reported, and in most cases accurately and with less than the usual amount of spin, but don’t expect it for the generate the same sort of breathless excitement that the press once had for George W. Bush’s decades-old Air National Guard records or what’s in Sarah Palin’s garbage cans. Some stories just aren’t as much fun, and sometimes the pictures just don’t work.

– Bud Norman

About That Poll

Everything seems to be spinning out of control, from foreign affairs to the domestic economy to those ever more scandalous scandals, but everyone on the right has been taking some time out to enjoy that Wall Street Journal-National Broadcasting Company poll that shows that President Barack Obama is at last taking some of the blame for it all. The poll shows widespread disapproval of the president’s handling of the economy and especially of his foreign policies, with an especially precipitous drop in his popularity among Hispanics, and it’s bad enough that such a reliable apologist as NBC’s Chuck Todd has declared that “Essentially the public is declaring that (Obama’s) presidency is over.”
Obama’s presidency won’t actually be over for another two and half years, alas, but there is some consolation in reading that so many Americans have belatedly concluded that it should be done. The poll bodes well for the Republicans’ chances in the mid-term elections, which traditionally reflect the popularity of the sitting president, and that offers a chance a to at least limit some of the damage over the last two years of the era of hope and change. Deeper in the poll there are also contains some numbers on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton that provide hope for the presidential election in ’16. and the possibility that some of the damage can be undone. We can’t begrudge anyone the faint glimmer of optimism that the poll provides, but it remains to be seen if the Republicans will once again squander its possibilities.
Much of the public’s dissatisfaction is with the administration’s foreign policy, which will likely also be a problem for the former Secretary of State who is the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the Republicans will find it difficult to offer a popular alternative. The last Republican administration’s forceful response to Islamism’s war against America remains unpopular, even if the public is just as discontented with the results of both Obama’s apologetic and appeasing repudiation of that approach and his bomb-first-and-ask-questions-later adventures in Libya and Pakistan and elsewhere, and the next Republican nominee will have to find an appealing middle ground that eschews long commitments of troops without letting the international order slide into chaos. The presumptive Democratic nominee and her as-yet-unknown challengers will be trying to strike the same balance, and while they won’t be able to promise deterrence through a stronger and better-funded military they will have a helpful press explaining that all of the world’s problems are still the fault of the last the Republican administration. Events are proceeding at such a pace that is impossible to predict the challenges that will be debated in the next but election, but it is safe to say they’re headed in a direction that will make the debate lively and difficult for both sides.
Things are going so badly from Ukraine to the Middle East to the South China Sea that foreign policy will play a larger-than-usual role in the next elections, but the pocketbook issues will as always be important. This should also play to the Republicans’ benefit, especially when Obamacare has been fully implemented and the consequences of all those foreign policy mistakes become apparent at the gas pump, but the Republicans’ penchant for political ineptitude could also negate that advantage. The Democrats have already indicated that they’ll run on the argument that the problem isn’t the impoverishment of the middle class that their policies have caused but rather the wealth of a few people that Republican policies have allowed, and human nature being prone to envy it will be a popular line. The presumptive Democratic nominee has lately encountered some unaccustomed bad press because she’s one of those wealthy people her party wants the public to resent, but the Democrats can always come up with another nominee who’s been getting by on a few hundred thousand dollars a years from government or academia, or come up with some more satisfactory explanation for why they’re running a woman who got filthy rich on writing books and giving speeches for the corporate world.
That precipitous drop in the president’s popularity with Hispanics is also encouraging, especially if it reflects a realization that his kind-hearted Hispanic-kids-get-in-free policy has created a humanitarian crisis for tens of thousands of Hispanic children, but the Republicans will still have to make a convincing case that their more hard-headed approach will have less heartbreaking consequences. The growing Hispanic population will remain a political challenge for the Republicans, and the demographic trends that are providing more unmarried women and children of unmarried couples bring challenges that will be hard to overcome with just a strong case for better policies.
Still, those poll numbers provide a grumpy right-winger will some small measure of satisfaction. These days, we’ll take whatever  we can get.

– Bud Norman

Back to the Scandalous Future

There’s a certain unsettling feeling of the 1970s to this moment. Leisure suits and platform shoes aren’t back in vogue and the current pop hits aren’t quite disco, but the fashions and the music are otherwise just as horrible. Officially there is no “stagflation,” because except at the grocery store and the gas pump the inflation rate is low, but the stagnation part of that long-forgotten portmanteau is evident in even the most gussied-up government statistics. There’s the same foreboding sense of international turmoil and domestic scandal, too, and the same nagging suspicion that no in charge has a clue. The impending fall of Baghdad is evoking unpleasant memories of the fall of Saigon, Russian tanks rolling into Ukraine bring the chill of a new Cold War, and now there’s a two-year gap in the Internal Revenue Service’s e-mails that eerily recall the 18-and-a-half minute gap in the Watergate tapes.
Those too young to have been transfixed by the Watergate scandal won’t appreciate the ominous meaning of an 18-and-a-half-minute gap, but suffice to say it was a big deal back in the day. A third-rate burglary to wire-tap the Democratic National Headquarters in the fancy-schmantzy Watergate building in Washington, D.C., had been linked to operatives of President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, high-ranking administration officials were implicated in a cover-up that seemed to go to the very top, and when the stone age reel-to-reel tape recordings that chronicled the White House conversations were subpoenaed by a Congressional investigation they included a suspicious gap of that famous duration just when they were getting to the good parts. The White House’s explanation that the missing portions had accidentally been erased by the president’s ever-loyal personal security was widely ridiculed, especially after photographs of her desk and the tape recorder demonstrated the strange contortions that would have been required to accomplish such an accident, and public opinion reasonably concluded that the erasure was an intelligence-insulting ploy in a broader conspiracy. Nixon eventually resigned rather than be convicted in his upcoming impeachment trial, and Pulitzer Prizes and Academy Awards and a lifelong gig on the talk shows was awarded those who had uncovered the crime.
Only the most obsessive Watergate buffs will recall that the articles of impeachment also included that Nixon had “endeavored” to use the Internal Revenue Service against his political foes. There was some evidence of this on the unexpurgated portions of those tape recordings, but they also reveal that the administration’s effort came to naught because the IRS was too thoroughly dominated by Democrats and other political foes of the president. That a president would even contemplate such a thing was then considered an impeachable offense, however, and it outraged the citizenry as much as the break-ins and huggings and the subsequent attempts to obstruct justice. Say what you will about the ’70s, and all its myriad sartorial and musical and political failings, but at least people could still rouse themselves to an appropriate degree of outrage over such things.
Nowadays there’s a story buried deep inside the local newspapers that the IRS has been caught red-handed harassing a president’s political foes, and the public seems willing to accept the president’s word that it’s just another “phony scandal” like the four dead Americans at an unprotected consulate in a Middle Eastern hell-hole, or the 200-plus Mexicans killed by guns provided to south-of-the-border drug gangs by our federal government’s gun-running operation, or the gang members being allowed entry north-of-the-border by a non-enforcement policy, or the many brave American veterans dead due to the neglector a government-run health care system, or any of countless other recent incidents that once would have had the country riled up. Now the key high-ranking figure in the IRS’ harassment of conservative groups is invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a Congressional investigation of this “phony scandal,” there are two years of her e-mails that have been suspiciously erased by a claimed computer crash that is every bit as dubious as that accidental-erasure-during-a-yoga-routine that was offered during the Watergate days, and would be laughed at by IRS agents if a private business came up with such a flimsy excuse for failing to provide information during an audit, and yet the story is treated only briefly by the most of the media and doesn’t even rate so much as mention in “All the News That’s Fit to Print” on the pages of the New York Times. The average citizen is blissfully unaware of the story, and certainly not clamoring for impeachment.
The average citizen of the ’70s was probably no more civic-minded and beholden to higher standards that the average citizen of the day, but back in the day the media landscape was more conducive to public outrage. That old joke that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you was never more true than in the case of Nixon, who had been hated by the sophisticated since ever since he’d defeated their progressive dream girl in his first Congressional run and rightly exposed their pal Alger Hiss as a communist spy, no matter how many Environmental Protection Agencies and affirmative action programs and wage-and-price controls and other liberal projects he gave them, and when he at long last provided them necessary rope to hang him with they pre-empted all the soap operas on the only three channels a television set could get and made sure that everyone in the country knew about it. Equally outrageous scandals by the current president are more easily hidden amongst all the the other scandals and the news about bigoted basketball team owners and homosexual football players and the latest exploits of some drug-addled celebrity other another, especially when most of the media have been eager to promote the president ever since he first emerged as an agent of hope and change and healing the planet and all the rest of nonsense.
We have no desire to return to the days of three channels and a handful of big-time newspapers rubbing the public’s nose in the scandals of their choice, nor do we care to re-live any other aspects of the ’70s except perhaps the best of Merle Haggard’s work from the era, but it would be nice to get a big of that moral outrage back. Another impeachment trial would have a nice nostalgic feel, too, but that seems as likely as a comeback of the leisure suit.

– Bud Norman

Compassion and Its Consequences

Compassion is an admirable quality, most of the time, but should always be administered with a commensurate amount of common sense and a careful calculation of the possible consequences. Otherwise, you wind up with something like the humanitarian crisis now unfolding on the southwest border of the United States.
A recent surge of illegal immigration in that region has left more than 47,000 unaccompanied children in federal custody since October, with another 60,000  expected to arrive within a year, and most are currently being held among thousands more adults of all sorts in overcrowded and under-supplied make-shift facilities in Texas and Arizona. The White House acknowledges this is a humanitarian crisis, calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take charge and asking Congress for $1.4 billion to pay for it, but insists that that it has nothing to do with the executive order issued in 2012 that allowed minor illegal aliens to delay deportation for two years. Two weeks ago the administration the rolled out guidelines allowing an extra two years, which was also explained in terms of compassion for those unfortunate children who happen to find themselves illegally in the United States of America.
That those unfortunate children who happened to find themselves illegally in the United States were there because their parents thought it would put them at the front of the line for citizenship after word got out about the executive order is not at all a compassionate theory, but it’s hard to think of a more plausible explanation. The administration is claiming the influx is due to the recent unrest in Central America, but the unrest there is not recent. American media are notoriously indifferent to Central America and might well have have ignored the social upheaval there until tens of thousands of refugee child wound up in over-crowded and under-supplied make-shift detention accounts in the southwestern United States, but even the administration’s State Department has failed to issue any alarmed statements about the developments there. Press accounts suggest that most of the recent arrivals have come from Guatemala and Honduras, and the only recent advisories to be found at the State Department’s web site warn that Honduras has had the world’s highest murder rate since 2010. Life is tough all over Latin America, and in rain-soaked and strife-torn Venezuela the celebrated compassion of the socialist government has even resulted in a shortage of drinking water, but it’s odd that those make-shift camps in the southwestern United States didn’t start filling up with children until after the executive orders had been made to give them at least four years in the government’s care.
Perhaps the recent influx is due to word getting out across Central America that the United States economy is chugging along so well that a record number of people have stopped looking for work, and the ambitious parents figured that their children could snatch up all the jobs that are being created, but not even the White House seems willing to venture this theory.
Even with the handy and ever-present excuse of Latin American political and economic dysfunction, the White House is likely to have yet another public relations problem with situation. The state of Arizona, which was blocked by the federal courts from enforcing the federal laws that White House had decided the federal government would not enforce, is complaining loudly about the “dumping” of thousands of illegals in their state and in conditions they cannot condone. The city of El Paso, Texas, will likely be none too pleased that thousands of other illegal immigrants are being released on the their own recognizance in that city. In Tennessee, the destination for at least one of the illegals being released in El Paso, according to an interview with the local newspaper, might also find fault in the administration policy. Republicans everywhere who have become convinced that no immigration reform should be negotiated with this president because he cannot be trusted to enforce any law passed will likely become more resolute in the conviction, more compassionate Republicans who bought into this nonsense, such as House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor will find themselves all the more vulnerable in their already-close primary races against more rock-ribbed challengers, and Democrats will have to explain what they’re going to do about tens of thousands illegal urchins without being so heartless as to send them back to their parents and home.
Yet another executive order has now been issued requiring that all of the children be appointed legal representation, which seems not only a compassionate but probably necessary thing to do, and when word gets out in Central America that the four free years in the United States come with a lawyer we’ll deal with the increased arrivals. It’s more work for those unemployed law school grads, and more government will be required, so at least for the Democrats there is some upside. Still, the White House has been sending out word that it will be willing to work with such compassionate Republicans as Cantor on some sort of compromise, which should be annoying to the likes of White House domestic policy director Cecilia Munoz, who was previously the the head of the Latino rights organization La Raza, which for the remaining majority of Americans who don’t habla Espanol translates as “The Race,” which basically sums up its racialist ideology. It is not clear what sort of compromise these two sides of the compassionate coin will arrive at, but we expect it will sound very compassionate.
The idea of telling desperate Central American families that they could give their children a shot at the American dream by dumping in the harsh deserts along the borders of Texas and Arizona sounded very compassionate, too, and has created a humanitarian crisis. There are still political pressures being exerted on an already sympathetic administration to end all deportations, with arguments even more compassionate about the poor souls merely seeking a better life in the land of opportunity, and when the word gets out and the make-shift camps proliferate even more compassionate remedies will be required. A better policy would be to tell those desperate Central American families that their children are best of at home, and they should force their own governments to address the socialistic causes of their poverty rather than exporting the human misery to a United States that is now reeling from its own socialistic policies and cannot competently manage the problems its indebted government faces, but that won’t sound very compassionate in the inevitable attack ads against any candidate who takes such a stand. The results that have followed those executive aren’t at all humane, as the administration is forced to acknowledge, yet to argue against these policies is thought heartless.

– Bud Norman

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