A Not-So-Crazy Middle East Conspiracy Theory

Being unfamiliar with the Kuwaiti press, we have no idea how much credence to give Al-Jarida‘s report that in 2014 the Obama administration thwarted an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities by threatening to shoot down the Israeli jets. Being all too familiar with the Obama administration and its dealing with both Israel and Iran, however, we can’t dismiss the story as entirely implausible.
The usually reliable Times of Israel quotes a former Israeli Defense Forces chief as saying that a strike against Iran was seriously considered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but ultimately rejected on the advice of himself and other top military officers, which also seems within the realm of possibility, and we will await with open mind whatever confirmations or denials the administration’s various spokesmen might provide. Still, there’s no shaking a unsettling suspicion that President Barack Obama might actually have threatened to wage war against Israel in defense of Iran.
Obama’s antipathy for Israel and ardent desire for rapprochement with Iran have long been apparent, but have been especially conspicuous in the lead-up to Netanyahu’s address to Congress on Tuesday. The speech is at the invitation of the Republican leadership, and the president is claiming it is a breach of diplomatic protocol for Netanyahu to have accepted without the president’s approval, that it constitutes unethical meddling in a foreign nation’s politics to schedule the speech within weeks of Israeli elections, and that it could endanger America’s on negotiations with the Iran government over its nuclear weapons program. None of which is at all convincing, unless you’re one of the obedient Democrats who are huffily boycotting the speech. Obama’s own frequent breaches of protocol toward Israel include having its head of state cool his heels in a White House office for hours and allowing high administration officials to impugn Netanyahu’s courage with barnyard epithets, groups loyal to Obama have been openly campaigning in Israel and his own preferences regarding the election have been well-known to the Israeli public, and Netanyahu can only endanger America’s deal with Iran by making a persuasive case to Congress and the American people that it is dangerous the security of Israel and America and the rest of the world. The president’s annoyance with Netanyahu and Israel at large preceded the invitation to make the speech by at least seven years, and his peculiar affinity for Iran’s America-hating theocracy goes back as far.
Obama’s apparent desire is to allow Iranian regional hegemony and nuclear weapons and international respectability in exchange for, well, we’re not sure exactly, but assume it will include some assurance that they’ll help deal with the Islamic State al-Qaeda and other regional pests and abandon their frequently stated goal of the death of America. He probably also expects a grand photo opportunity as he delivers peace in our time, and a good write-up in the history books as the man who finally brought lasting amity to the Middle East, but he seems awfully worried that Netanyahu will make a persuasive case that it’s all a dangerous pipe dream. Iran’s state-run news agency is peddling the typically crazy Middle East conspiracy theory that America is secretly behind the Islamic State, the government is offering safe haven to al-Qaeda terrorists despite their Sunnism, Iranian street demonstrations still feature the ritual chant of death to America, and the country’s influence is reading into Iraq and Lebanon and Jordan and elsewhere in the region without ceding anything to the Great Satan. With Obama protecting Iran from the sanctions that had recently brought its economy to a near halt, and with no immediate disavowals that he’s also been protecting it from Israeli jets, the country has no reason to agree to any deal that threatens their dream of nuclear weapons and whatever apocalyptic plans they might have for them. That would set off a nuclear arms race in a region characterized by religious manias and ancient hatreds, with Saudi Arabia having already made arrangements with nuclear-armed Pakistan in the event of an Iranian bomb being developed, and Netanyahu can hardly be blamed for any discomfort he might have about that scenario.
The Secretary of State has declined to state “what is or isn’t the situation” regarding his negotiations with Iran, and Obama’s only argument for his policies seems to be that we should trust him, but alas, we don’t. At this point, we’re not even sure that he hasn’t threatened to shoot down Israeli planes to defend an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

– Bud Norman

The Separation of Powers and Other Constitutional Irrelevancies

Much of what we learned in our school days has been rendered obsolete by the march of progress. An automotive class once taught us how to rebuild a carburetor, a skill that has proved useless in dealing with the fuel-injected automobiles we have subsequently owned. We once prided ourselves on our ability to sift through card files and Periodicals of Publications and arcane volumes gathering dust on library shelves to come up with needed information, but even that skill has atrophied with infrequent use over the past many years of internet search engines. Our recollection of food pyramids and global cooling and the rest of what they kept yakking about in our health and science classes is vague, but we assume most of that is also out of fashion.
All that stuff they taught us about the Constitution and its checks and balances and separations of power and how a bill becomes law is apparently no longer applicable, as well, although we’re not at all sure this is progress.
An up-to-date curriculum would now teach students that the president has the unilateral power to make immigration law, enter treaties with foreign powers, enforce carbon regulations that even the most left-wing Congress in history explicitly declined to pass, and assume control of the internet without even answering any questions from Congress. Even when the most left-wing Congress in history did grant the president’s request by passing the abominable Obamacare law the president insisted that it be implemented according to his most politically advantageous timetable rather than according to what is written into the law, and that part about subsidies being available only through state exchanges is apparently to be ignored entirely because it doesn’t say what the president wants it to say. Now the president intends to enforce gun control regulations, so it seems all that stuff we were taught about the Second Amendment and its right to bear arms will also need revision.
The president’s latest dictate doesn’t ban AR-15 rifles, only the bullets that go in them, but this will make little difference to the law-abiding owners of those weapons. For some reason the AR-15 is an especially offensive firearm to the left, probably because its appearance is so similar to that of the weapons used by that nasty military of ours, to the extent that the last round of post-school-shooting hysteria offered up legislation to ban it, but the fact that Congress voted down the idea is apparently no longer an impediment to its implementation. There’s still some resistance to the president’s executive actions in both the courts and the House of Representatives, but enough of the Republicans in the Senate are resigned to the president’s unilateral power to make immigration that it might well be so. The White House has offered a “tweet”-sized explanation that “We’re a nation of laws, but we’re also respecting the fact that we’re a nation of immigrants,” which doesn’t seem very respectful of the notion of lawful immigration, but so the president has “tweeted” and so shall it be done. At least we’re able to grouse about it on this electronic forum, but it remains to be seen if that will out-last the Federal Communication Commission’s new regulations, which the FCC chairman declined to explain to the duly-elected members of Congress.
All of this will be perfectly fine with the president’s more devoted admirers, who much prefer him to that old system of checks and balances and separations of power and how a bill becomes a law, but they ought to be asking themselves how they’d like such powers to be in the hands of a Republican president. It could happen some day, after all, and would not only easily un-do all the presidential proclamations of the Obama era but unleash a wide range of policies that would surely unsettle the left. They could expect some help from principled conservatives who support the ends but not the means, and perhaps the courts will offer some restraints on the executive branch after years of wrangling over President Obama’s orders, and of course the press will suddenly be outraged, but we expect they will find it  a dangerous precedent.

– Bud Norman

Motive, Results, and All the Hubbub

There’s still a lot of talk about President Barack Obama’s patriotism and religiosity, or lack thereof, so we figure we might as well weigh in.
The questions have persisted for the past seven years or so, ever since Obama was first campaigning for the presidency, but the latest round in the ongoing debate was prompted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s remark during a recent speech that “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.” This commonplace opinion of course provoked outrage from the press, which immediately demanded that every prominent Republican repudiate the idea or be tarred as the sort of America-hating traitors who would question a political opponent’s patriotism. The first to be grilled was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was present at the speech and is a frontrunner for the next Republican presidential nomination, but just about anyone else whose name might come up in a conversation about the race was eventually obliged to opine on the matter. Most took the position that they’d rather criticize the results Obama’s policies are having on America than speculate about his motives, which strikes us as a reasonable and respectful stance for an opposition party to take, but apparently even Republicans are expected to profess their faith in Barack Obama’s undying love for his country. Anything less, according to The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, is symptomatic of some dread psychological impairment called “Obama Derangement Syndrome.”
Any skepticism regarding the president’s Christianity is “insidious agnosticism,” according to The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, which is what happens when the press inevitably starts pressing Republicans about the president’s true religious beliefs. Walker was naturally the first to be asked about what lurks deep in the president’s heart and mind, and scandalized the press by saying that he did not presume to know, and soon the rest of the rest of the potential Republican field had spoken more or less the same outrageous slander at the president, with even Giuliani falling back on the same sensible position. Polls were trotted out showing that a sizable minority of the American public suspects the president is secretly Muslim, much tsk-taking was done about how right-wing media had so slyly perpetuated such a slanderous slur, although there’s certainly nothing wrong with the president being Muslim, which is after all a Religion of Peace and part of the fabric of American history, as the president has often pointed out, and the clear implication was made that those Republicans have gone mad with their disrespect of both the presidency and the United States of America for which it stands.
We can’t recall the press insisting on such institutional respect back when President Chimpy McBushitler occupied the Oval Office and the “Bush Derangement Syndrome” was coined, and former Vice President Al Gore was shrieking that “He betrayed our country” and Keith Olbermann was doing his “you, sir, are a Nazi” diatribes to applause from all the right people, and when candidate Barack Obama was blasting the “unpatriotic” half-trillion dollar deficits that he would soon double, and on the innumerable other occasions when prominent Democrats impugned the opposition’s motives, but the rule against questioning an opponent’s patriotism is flexible that way. The press no doubt hopes they can portray the Republicans as crazed conspiracy theorists with an irrational hated of the First Black President, but they should be worried that the questions persist after so many years.
One didn’t have to be tuned into Fox News to hear the president say he believed in American exceptionalism only to the extent that British or Greek believed in British or Greek exceptionalism, or when his wife said that first time she’d felt proud to be an American was when the country seem poised to her elect her husband president, or when he apologized for America’s “arrogance” and “dismissiveness” toward Europe or its past aggressions against the underdeveloped nations, and it’s hard to see where the policies resulting from these inclinations has furthered America’s interests abroad. The “fundamental transformation” of America that candidate Obama promised has delivered similarly desultory results at home, and although recent economic growth can be damned with the faint praise of outperforming Europe the administration seems as intent as ever on emulating the European model. The president has written about his conversion to Christianity through a preacher who once thundered “God damn America” from the pulpit, he told The New York Times about how the Muslim call to prayer was one of the “most beautiful sounds” he has heard, he frequently extols the greatness of Islam and his most notable recent reference to Christianity was a warning that it should not “get on a high horse” because of long-ago episodes as the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, and he told the United Nations that “the future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam,” none of which are the kinds of things that Christians usually say. The policies that have followed from such inclinations have resulted in the spread of radical Islam throughout much of the Middle East, leaving all sorts of nastiness in its wake and encouraging the continued terroristic attacks on the west, and the best efforts of the press can not erase all possible doubt about the reasons.
Which is not to say that we question the president’s love of country or abiding Christian faith. He might well love America so much that he wants to turn it into Europe, and have arrived at some revolutionary understanding of Christianity that acknowledges Mohammad as the true prophet who must not be slandered with any doubts about his prophecy, and in any case he seems alarmingly confident that he’s doing what’s best for the country and the entire world. Most liberals we know pride themselves on their less-than-fulsome assessment of America, an anecdotal observation borne out by polling data, but they consider this a patriotic chore they must perform lest America become too proud of itself. At this late date in a lame duck presidency we’re more concerned about the results, which we and a number of soon-to-be-beheaded Christians find displeasing, and we’re willing to forgive any Republican contenders who are insufficiently effusive about the president’s pureness of heart.

– Bud Norman

Softball Questions and Their Perils

Public figures should always beware of the friendly interview. Our many years of media servitude have taught us that the most kindly questions tend to elicit the most embarrassing answers, and that an interviewer’s knowing nods of approval will invariably provoke an an unguarded interviewee into even further embarrassment. President Barack Obama, who has a marked fondness for the friendly interview, once again proves the point in his free-flowing conversation with Matt Yglesias at the Vox.com web site.
The president usually prefers to take his case to the likes of the 60 Minutes program, which has boasted it won’t play any “gotcha” tricks on him, or late night television comedians such as Jon Stewart and David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon, who invite him to join in on the hip humor, or the “Pimp With a Limp” radio show, which we suppose offers some sort of “street cred” without any of the “yo’ mama” sort of “dissing” that one usually endures to acquire, but he will occasionally reach out to more respectable but no less respectful publications. The ploy, alas, has never worked out well. Even with a former Clinton apparatchik-turned-ABC correspondent Obama found himself speaking of “my Muslim faith, he couldn’t schmooze with such a genial chap as Jay Leno without making Special Olympics jokes about his bowling skills, an appearance on the “Pimp With a Limp” radio show is humiliating in itself, and such a genteel publication as The Atlantic Monthly recently had him dismissing the Islamic State as a “jayvee team” of terrorism even as it was conquering a large swathe of the Middle East. Chatting with such an obsequious scribe as Matt Yglesias at such a fashionably liberal site as Vox.com was bound to be trouble.
The interview is divided between domestic politics and foreign affairs, and we’ll limit our outrage to the latter. That portion opens with a pretentious attempt to locate Obama’s foreign policy on a scale between “idealism” and “realism,” allowing the president to wisely position in himself somewhere between the extremes of Woodrow Wilson “out there with the League of Nations and imaging everybody holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ and imposing these wonderful rules everybody abides by,” and the “realist” camp that is “supporting dictators who happen to be our friend, and you’re cutting deals and solely pursuing the self-interest of our country as narrowly defined.” This is a familiar position for Obama, who also represents the country’s last choice between those who would rape the environment and enslave the working man or those who would do away with commerce altogether, which we assume is the theme of the domestic politics portion of the interview, and he could be confident that Yglesias wouldn’t offer any challenge. We would have been tempted to ask how Obama’s deference to the United Nations is any different than Wilson’s mania for the equally ineffectual League of Nations, or whether he was more annoyed by Wilson’s decision to enter World War I just because of some German sabotage and the sinking of American vessels and the proved plot to lead Mexico into a revanchist war against the United States or the unfortunate situation America would find itself in if the world were dominated by Prussian militarism, and if the deal that the administration is cutting with the dictators in Iran seemingly because they are not our friends is at all “realistic,” but that’s probably why we weren’t granted the interview.
There is much more similarly self-aggrandizing nonsense, including some concerned talk about the problem of “failed states” that neglects any mention of Islamic State-controlled Iraq or Libya or Yemen or Somalia or any of the other basket-cases that were recently cited as the administration’s great foreign policy success, and some talk about how we can nonetheless afford massive defense cuts while our debt service payments largely fund the Chinese military’s ongoing build-up, as well as some bragging about the withdrawal of troops from what is Islamic State-occupied Iraq, and of course Yglesias only invites him to ramble on with more howlers. Most noticed, at least in the conservative portion of the media, was Obama’s grousing about the media’s strange insistence on reporting the latest acts of Islamic terror rather than focusing on ore pressing problems such as “climate change.” Egged on by the seemingly helpful Yglesias, Obama likened it to the “if it bleeds it leads” formula that has your local news station reporting on the big pile-up on the interstate or the double homicide in the poor part of town rather than the colder-than-predicted weather. The president’s priorities seem markedly different than those of the public, which we suspect regards Islamic terrorism as a newsworthy concern, but no one at Vox.com is likely to raise the point.
Lulled by such awed acquiescence the president went on to mention “the folks” who were killed at “random target” in the aftermath of the slaughter of the staff of a French satirical magazine, as if the target that Islamic terrorists randomly chose just happened to turn out to be a kosher delicatessen where the “folks” just happened to be Jews, and that was too much for the even the mainstream to endure. At the White House press conference the unenviable spokesman Josh Earnest endured numerous questions about the characterization, and his efforts to dodge them all make for entertaining viewing. We notice the president wasn’t pressed by Yglesias about such “folks” as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his countrymen, which we suppose is only polite, the Jewish question being such a sensitive one, but it would have also been fun. That would have lured the conversation into that unfriendly territory where public figures become guarded, though, and might not have been so revealing.

– Bud Norman

To Vaccine, or Not to Vaccine

There’s been a spate of news stories about vaccinations lately, and we’re not sure why. It seems to have something to do with an outbreak of measles that started in California and has since spread to seven other states, Mexico, and the bloodstream of the nation’s politics as far away as New Jersey, as the press has avidly pressed all the prominent public figures about their stands on mandatory vaccinations. Most of the brouhaha seems to involve two of the more prominent potential Republican presidential candidates, rather than what the people who actually make current policy are doing, so we suspect all the coverage might have more to do with partisanship rather than the public health.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have both been pilloried for offering the opinion that perhaps in some cases vaccinations should be voluntary, with many pundits extrapolating that such anti-science craziness is running amok in the Republican party, but the storyline might lead to conclusions that the press does not intend.
Although we’re not inclined to support the presidential candidacies of either Christie or Paul their comments don’t seem so very extreme, and to the extent they are it’s hardly a craziness unique to the Republican party. Christie reportedly called for “balance” between individual rights and community health and “some measure of choice” before clarifying the comments by saying “there is no question that children should be vaccinated.” Paul waded into deeper waters by claiming vaccinations should be voluntary as they have been associated with mental disorders and saying that parents “should have some input,” which led to the resurrection of earlier quotes likening mandatory vaccinations to martial law, but he’s also done some clarifying by saying that he didn’t mean to find a causation rather than just a correlation between vaccination and mental disorders and the demonstrating his acceptance of vaccination as a medical practice by “tweeting” a photograph of himself getting a booster shot. Both men might be mistaken even in their most carefully clarified opinions, but neither seem to be on the lunatic fringe.
We have no expertise in any medical field that would entitle us to comment on the matter, but our general experience of civilization has inoculated in us a belief that individual liberty and parental rights should not weigh lightly on the scale counter-balancing communal concerns. Nor do we trust blindly in scientific expertise, which has never been infallible and lately seems more fallible than ever. If the people who truly do know what they’re talking about are verifiably correct that such coercive measures as barring un-vaccinated children from school are required to protect the reset of the population from outbreaks of deadly disease we have no problem with those policies, but that conclusion can only be verified by the most skeptical analysis. There’s a long history of public policy and jurisprudence on the question of mandatory vaccinations, with public debate pushing the scales on both sides at various times, and one can only hope that if the debate isn’t shut down prematurely it will lead to the most beneficial outcome this time around.
Skeptical analysis will strike some as a superstitious and anti-scientific attitude, and this may well be one of those occasions when skepticism is overcome by scientific proof, but it is by no means unique to any particular party or political philosophy. The eminently conservative National Review makes an eminently conservative case for mandatory vaccinations, while the anti-vaccination groups are largely funded by liberal donors. Such an influential pundit as Jon Stewart let Robert Kennedy Jr. go on about his anti-vaccination views,  and fellow agitprop comic Bill Maher voiced opinions that go beyond what Christie or Paul ever while said  token Republican guest former Republican Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist was calling him “crazy.” For as long as we can remember the pretty face of the anti-vaccination movement has been former Playboy model and reality television star Jenny McCarthy, and although we’re not sure of her political views on any other topic we doubt she’s a doctrinaire Republican. An instinctive distrust of the medical establishment is now more common among the holistic and homeopathic sort of liberals than it is among those simple rural Republican folk who used to fall for goat-gland quackery but now sign up for insurance that will cover all the latest medical marvels, and if we all die for lack of vaccination it will be hard to pin it on the Republican party or conservatism generally.
This all started in California, as we recall from a few paragraphs ago, and there’s no plausible way to blame the Republicans for anything that happens there. After several giddy stories about Christie’s and Paul’s apparent missteps The Washington Post got around to reporting that even presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might take a mistaken step in the “political minefield” of vaccination politics, but in her case they worry that her past advocacy of mandatory vaccinations will be a liability and that her brief flirtation with the now-assumed-debunked theory that vaccinations cause autism will also be a problem. Given that Clinton is more likely to be the Democratic nominee than either Christie or Paul are to be the Republican standard-bearer, that story might stick around longer.
In case you’re wondering where the current president stands on this, be assured that a grand total of three reporters among the ravenous pack at the latest press conference put the question to the White House spokesman. It took all three tries and more than an hour, but at they at last elicited the answer that parents certainly should have their children vaccinated, and that therefore every parent will do so,  so the federal government need not force them to do so. This strikes us as very similar to the more controversial remarks by Christie and Paul, and just as incoherent, but it comes from the White House and is therefore assumed to be a very centrist and reasonable position. There were no question regarding the $50 million that Obama’s budget proposes cutting from vaccination programs for the uninsured, but we would have enjoyed hearing the response.
Having no children we don’t have to reach any decisions concerning pediatric inoculations, and unless any of our personal problems can be somehow attributed to some previously undetected form of autism we are grateful that our parents chose to follow the prevailing medical advice of decades past, although we’ve forgone any shots for many years now without any apparent ill effects, but we offer no advice to anyone regarding vaccinations. Whatever you might be forced to choose, you’ll probably make as good a guess as any politician.

– Bud Norman

A Pattern Emerges

President Barack Obama was one of the few world leaders who did not attend the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on Holocaust Memorial Day, just as he was one of the few world leaders who did not attend an earlier march in France protesting terror attacks that killed the staff of a satirical magazine and then four Jews at a Kosher market. He also won’t be meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli Prime Minister comes to Washington to deliver an address to Congress, and a pattern can be inferred.
Which is not to say we infer that the president has any animosity toward the Jewish people. The slight to France was eventually acknowledged as such by the White House, which dispatched aging hippie troubadour James Taylor to serenade them with “You’ve Got a Friend” as a token of regret. The administration issued a clear statement that it does not approve of the Holocaust, too, and its highest-ranking Jew was in attendance at the Auschwitz memorial while the president was trying to sooth relations with the new king of Saudi Arabia. The administration claims the president won’t be meeting with Netanyahu only because it doesn’t want to be seen as meddling in Israel’s upcoming elections, as well, and at least it won’t be denying Netanyahu a visa to make the speech. One might infer that the White House has no special affinity for the Jewish people, as it hard to imagine the president thrice passing up such prime opportunities to demonstrate his respect for Islamist theocracies, people who were shot in self-defense, openly homosexual athletes, or anyone else with a claim to victimization.
That part about not wanting to affect the Israeli elections is especially suspicious, since pretty much everyone in that country already knows that Obama does not want to see Netanyahu reelected, and the State Department is cooperating with an Obama-affiliated organization actively working for Netanyahu’s leftist opposition, and not meeting with a visiting head of state sends as clear a signal and meeting with him, and the administration is still sending out word through its favorite press organs that Obama can’t stand Netanyahu and is angry about the speech. Netanyahu was invited to make the speech by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and accepted without the usual step of clearing it with the president, and those loyal press organs are happy to explain how it’s an outrageous breach of protocol that has endangered the American-Israeli relationship. To hear The New York Times tell, the Israeli ambassador who passed along the invitation should be declared persona non grata. We can’t recall the same outrage when Obama left Netanyahu cooling his heels for more than an hour at a White House meeting, or was escorted out the back door after yet another meeting, or when the ever-unnamed White House sources questioned Netanyahu’s courage with a barnyard epithet, or when any of Obama’s several other conspicuous breaches of protocol with Israel occurred over the past seven years, but by now Israel should be accustomed to such double standards.
That the White House is still fuming through the press suggests how very bad its relationship with the Jewish state, if not the Jewish people, has become. We suspect that the president is just as annoyed with the Republican majorities in Congress who invited his least favorite international figure to address America, but there is more involved than just domestic politics. Obama is no doubt worried that Netanyahu might persuade enough Democrats to join with the Republicans to override a veto against a bill imposing economic sanctions on Iran, and perhaps even persuade the American public that the president’s endless negotiations with Iran are only allowing that nutcase theocracy the time to build its nuclear arsenal, and those endless talks seem to be the president’s top priority in foreign affairs. An Iranian bomb would pose an existential threat to Israel, which does not seem a priority to the administration at all, and one can infer from that what one wants.

– Bud Norman

Another State of the Union

State of the Union messages are supposed to be solemn affairs, full of pomp and circumstance and high-blown rhetoric about the future of the nation, but Tuesday’s affair was basically political gamesmanship.
President Barack Obama opened with a rather pointed plea for civility from the Republicans that he has previously accused of wanting dirty water and dirty air and told to sit in the back seat of the governmental automobile, and when he implied that he was above any partisan pettiness because he wouldn’t be running for office again they couldn’t resist some boisterous applause. This led to his apparently improvised boast that he’d already won two elections, which earned some boisterous applause from the Democrats, and the rest of the speech was intended to cause the Republicans further embarrassment in future races.
After some gloating about the booming economy, which continues to have the lowest labor participation labor force participation rates in decades and stagnant wages and job gains that have gone mostly to the illegal immigrants that Obama wants to keep in the country, and is booming only in the places where the oil industry is pumping out cheap energy despite his best efforts to stop them and because of the resiliency of the capitalism system that he wants to replace with European-style socialism, the rest of the speech was the usual agenda of soaking the rich and handing out free stuff to everyone else. None of it has any chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress, but the plan is that whatever identity group candidates Democrats come up with in the presidential election will be able to once again portray the Republicans as rich-people-loving meanies who won’t let the kindly Democrats give you free stuff.
The ancient ploy has worked well enough for Obama to be gloating over his two presidential elections, but not well enough to keep him from making it to a Republican-controlled Congress, and it remains to be seen how well it works this time. The free stuff includes government-paid tuition to your local community college, but given how few people currently bother to complete a community college education and how little it is likely to do ensure future success that’s probably less enticing than the free stuff Oprah Winfrey used to put under her audience’s seats. He wants a tax credit for middle class families that would amount to about $500, but given that the sum wouldn’t cover the restaurant tab during one of Obama’s frequent Hawaii vacations he’ll be hard-pressed to parlay that into a reputation as a common man. There are promises to make housing more affordable, reminiscent of the “affordable housing” policies of the Clinton era that created the housing bubble, and higher-speed internet, which of course will be thoroughly regulated by the government, along with a laundry list of other goodies that most press reports didn’t bother to mention. None are likely to be remembered by the time the ’16 election rolls around, while the massive debt that has already piled up from the putatively free stuff that’s been doled out the Obama will still be an issue.
Still, people do hate rich folks and love free stuff, and at this point there doesn’t seem to much else for the Democrats to run on. At last year’s State of the Union the president opened with a boast that all the troops had been pulled out of Iraq, and this year’s speech made no mention of the 2,000 troops who have since returned to deal with the consequences of America’s premature withdrawal from that country. If the economy continues to improve and the deficits continue to decline the Republicans will have a strong case that their obstructionism deserves more credit than the president’s spending and regulating and bloating, and if the Democrats try to take credit for lower gas prices they’ll annoy their environmentalist donors. Free stuff and slandering the mean old Republicans will be the Democrats’ platform, and we can’t blame Obama for trotting it out now.

– Bud Norman

The Parties in Retreat

The Republicans and the Democrats are both in retreat, at least in the sense that they have adjourned to separate locations to discuss their strategies for the current legislative session. At the Democratic gathering President Barack Obama was vowing to “play offense,” while the reports from the Republican meeting suggest they’re in retreat in every sense of the word.
It remains to be seen how offensive Obama can be, even after all these years, but there’s no doubting that his boast to the Democratic congressional caucus’s confab at a Baltimore Hilton is more than just bluster. Leaks from the closed-door session indicate the president plans to veto an inevitable bill that would at long last allow construction of the XL Keystone Pipeline, as well as expected legislation imposing new economic sanctions on Iran to protest its continued efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, and both threats further confirm that Obama is in the “what the heck” stage of his presidency. Nixing the pipeline eliminates jobs, inhibits the oil boom that Obama has long resisted but now claims credit for, further annoys a Canadian government that will eventually wind up selling its oil to China, and will only compound any environmental damage to the earth when that carbon-emitting communist country gets its hands on the stuff. Obama would clearly prefer to continue the endless negotiations with Iran on a friendly basis while it builds a nuclear arsenal, and would reportedly rather impose sanctions on Israel on for building apartments to accommodate all the new arrivals from France and other increasingly Islamist countries, but the previous round of economic penalties was the only reason Iran even bothered to indulge the administration in its fanciful notions of a negotiated settlement of the issue. Both positions are so obviously wrong that even the general public can see it, which will matter more to the Democrats running for re-election or higher office in ’16 than it does to Obama, but we expect that the party’s usual discipline will prevail.

The Republicans, who have met in the charming little chocolate-making town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, are reportedly trying to work out their well-publicized intra-party squabbles. They seem sufficiently unified on the XL Keystone and Iran, and have a shot at prying enough poll-watching Democrats away to override a veto, but even if they fall short of the needed 60 votes at least they’re willing to inflict the political damage on the opposition with these and other popular proposals. The potential to set the party up for more significant victories down the road is there, and we are heartened to see the Republicans willing to seize it, but there’s also a worrisome possibility they will squander other opportunities.
On the immigration issue, where the House of Representatives has also challenged the president’s constitutionally dubious executive order to grant temporary amnesty to five million or so illegal immigrants, the most hopeful word from the summit is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that “We’re going to try to pass it, we’ll see what happens, if we’re unable to do that, we’ll let you know what comes next.” Even by McConnell’s standards of equivocation, this is not reassuring. Allowing five million illegal immigrants to stay and inviting a few million more to try their luck is also unpopular, but shutting down the Department of Homeland Security and allowing the mainstream media explain why entails significant political risks for the Republicans, so it is a tricky proposition to win a showdown. The Republican leadership has already pledged that it won’t resort to any drastic measures such as a partial temporary shut-down of the government, however, and it’s hard to see how anything less could pose a sufficient threat to the president’s rapidly expanding power.
We note that the Republicans’ retreat will include religious services, and find no mention in any of the press reports of such activities planned at the Democrats’ retreat, so at least the Republicans have a prayer.

– Bud Norman

The Border Battle Begins

The Republicans showed some fight on the issue of illegal immigration Wednesday, with a majority of the House of Representatives voting to withhold funding for the Department of Homeland Security to enact President Barack Obama’s executive orders granting amnesty to an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants, and we were glad to see it. Their efforts might yet prove futile, given the longer terms and weaker wills in the Senate and the full fury of the open borders lobby and the way Obama usually gets away with these things, but we’re heartened by the feistiness.
House Speaker John Boehner, long derided by the more robustly conservative members of his party as too accommodating to the president, even delivered a full-throated denunciation of Obama’s extra-constitutional attempts to re-write immigration that the most rabid right-wing radio talker would be hard-pressed to top. The speech cited the 22 separate occasions when Obama clearly stated that he did not have the legal authority to issue the executive orders being contested, noting that Obama has “ignored the people, ignored the constitution, and even his own past statements.” Although 26 Republicans helped the Democrats defeat an amendment that would have blocked an executive order deferring deportations of illegal immigrants who arrived here as children, and another seven bolted on an amendment to delay “immigration priorities,” the watered-down version got unified party support. There won’t be such unity in the Senate, where several Republicans have a long history of sharing the party’s big business wing’s preference for cheaper labor, but the House vote represents an overwhelming consensus among the grassroots that could jam the congressional phone lines and mailboxes and thus force a majority to go along.
Everyone expects the bill will be further watered down in the Senate, though, and even the weakest brew is likely to result in a veto that even the most improbably unified Republican party does not have the votes to override. The Republicans could still prevail by withholding funding for the Department of Homeland Security, but that would severely test any politician’s feistiness. Already The New York Times is describing the House vote as “approving legislation that would revoke legal protections for millions of unauthorized immigrants, including children, and put them at risk of deportation,” and the National Journal was making much of those “moderates” and “centrists” among the Republicans who voted against the amendments and worrying that the majority Republican position “could imperil their re-elections in 2016.” The Times cannot explain how an executive order to negate existing law is a “legal protection” for “unauthorized immigrants,” nor can The National Journal explain why the terms “moderate” and “centrist” enjoy such a positive connotation as they intend, and they don’t want to mention those dissenting Republicans would only imperil their re-election chances because they Represent majority-Latino districts that are never supposed to vote for Republicans in the first place, but it’s an indication of how a shut-down of the Department of Homeland Security would play out in the press.
The Republicans will happily cough up some generous amount to fund all of the department’s vital anti-terrorism functions, just not the parts that would invite millions more illegal immigrants and perhaps a few terrorists to happily traipse across the southern border, and this should prove a politically advantageous position. The Third World’s unfettered access to the United States of America is not widely popular, even in those Latino-majority districts that have unaccountably elected Republican representatives, and revanchist groups such as La Raza and the owners of companies reliant on cheap unskilled labor do not constitute a majority of the voting public. That tale about racist Republicans picking on poor brown children will be oft-told, however, and the president does have a way of getting away with these things.
This will all take weeks or maybe months to sort out, and we’ll keep attuned to the latest developments. In the meantime, we’re hoping for more Republican feistiness.

– Bud Norman

This Time In Paris

The President of the United States once declared to the United Nations that “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam,” and a group of terrorists made the point more emphatically on Wednesday when they killed 12 people at the office of a French publication that had dared to print cartoons they considered slanderous to their Islamic faith. They might yet be proved right, but one can hope that the resistance will continue.
The murders in Paris are only the latest atrocities in a longstanding war against anyone making critical comments regarding anything Islamic, which began during Mohammad’s lifetime and has been especially troublesome since the fatwa was issued by the mullahs of Iran against Salman Rushdie in 1989. Since then the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh has been brutally murdered, the publishers of a Danish publication have gone in hiding, riots have raged through Egypt over a rarely seen YouTube video, and now 12 brave Frenchmen are dead. The response from the same western civilization that once protected free speech as a foremost value has thus far been acquiescent. The Dutch politician Geert Wilders was tried under his country’s restrictive “hate speech” laws for questioning the wisdom of unfettered immigration from Muslim countries, the masterful essayist Mark Steyn has found himself on trial before a Canadian “Human Rights Commission,” and Van Gogh’s courageously outspoken collaborator Aayan Hirsi Ali has been forced to leave the country for America and been banned from the graduation ceremonies of this country, where the maker of that rarely seen YouTube video was also sent to prison on questionable parole violations after the government officially condemned his views and falsely blamed him for the murder of four Americans at a consulate in Libya. The same American government questioned the judgment of that French publication for offending Muslim sensibilities, too, and has made a habit of declaring every act of Islamist terror “un-Islamic.”
This time around the response has been somewhat more forceful, with the President calling the attack “cowardly” and “evil” and appropriately offering America’s condolences and assistance, but there was no mention of anything to do with Islam, and his spokesman’s earlier statements even avoided the word “terrorism.” The Secretary of State went so far as to mention “extremism,” but neglected to mention exactly what was being brought to an extreme. After his previous equivocations France’s President Francois Hollande went with “cowardly” and upped that to “an act of exceptional barbarism,” but said nothing to suggest that the “no-go zones” where Islamist rule prevails on French soil would be invaded, or offered any assurances that might stem the tide of Jewish immigration from France that will soon it leave it virtually Judenrein, and there was the usual speculation that the disreputable parties of the nativist right would benefit from the failure of the reputable parties to acknowledge that this has anything to do with Islam. Those brave artists and journalists and intelligentsia across the western world who pride themselves on their withering attacks against Christianity or Judaism of capitalism or civilization or anything else that won’t provoke a violent reprisal are thus far eerily silent.
There are reports of large demonstrations across Europe protesting this outrage in Paris, which follow even earlier reports of growing resistance throughout the continent to the notion that the future must not belong to those who would slander the Prophet of Islam by disagreeing with anything his more irrational adherents might now choose to believe. If the popular sentiment is still strong enough perhaps the most disreputable parties won’t be empowered to deal with the problem, but both here and in Europe a frank acknowledgement of reality must become respectable. The terrorists who struck in Paris and are itching to strike here won’t be deterred until they understand that they cannot impose their will on the world, and that the future belongs to those who have a better idea.

– Bud Norman


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