If Only Obama Knew

Will Rogers used to preface his humorous observations on the political scene by stating that “All I know is what I read in the papers,” which always got a big laugh back in the Great Depression days, and it’s still a good line for a folksy humorist. President Barack Obama is fond of the same disclaimer, however, but it doesn’t suit his job as well.
The latest development that the president only became aware of by reading the morning papers was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account. The practice posed a security risk, kept records from public scrutiny, and seems in violation of federal regulations, so we can only imagine the the president’s alarm upon learning about such a serious matter. One might wonder how the president failed to notice it during the four Clinton served as his Secretary of State, during which time one can only assume there was some e-mail communication between the two, but so far no one in the press has been so rude as to ask about it. If they ever do, the president will probably have to await the morning papers to learn of his response.
If not for the press, a number of serious situations might have entirely escaped the president’s attention. The invaluable Sheryl Atkisson, demonstrating again the lese majeste that led to her departure from CBS News, has helpfully compiled a list of seven other times that the president professed to be shocked by press accounts of major stories. It starts way back in the early days of the Obama administration with Air Force One buzzing the State of Liberty and frightening the understandably skittish New Yorkers, continues with the Fast and Furious gun-running scheme at the Department of Justice, then the sex scandal involving Central Intelligence Agency director Gen. David Petraeus, and of course the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups, then the seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters, then the National Security Agency’s spying on foreign leaders, and then the phony record keeping to cover up the substandard care being provided by the Veterans Administration. One of the commenters at Atkisson’s site mentions several more, including the problems leading up to the disastrous roll-out of the Obamacare web site, but they’re too numerous mention.
That portion of the public still devoted to the president seems willing to give him a pass on these problems, since he presumably didn’t know they were going on would surely have done something about it if he did, but the rest of us are entitled to some concern about his inability to keep abreast of what’s going on in his government. We suppose the president can’t keep up on everything, what with all the golfing and fund-raising and appeasing his job entails, but Air Force One and the DOJ and the CIA and the IRS and the NSA and the VA and the State Department are all under the purview of the executive brand and ultimately the responsibility of the chief executive. We can’t recall the heads of any high officials rolling for their failure to notify the president of the major developments unfolding on his watch, except for former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, who also seemed surprised to find out about that Obamacare web site, and the president never seems at all embarrassed to say that some ink-stained wretches who have to file Freedom of Information Act requests and wait to get their phone calls returned and accept “no comments” on the first many tries somehow knew better than the president what was going on in the executive branch.
Perhaps the president was aware of these many problems as they occurred but was unable or unwilling to deal with them, but if so that is a problem. Perhaps the government is simply too vast for any one person to know what it is up to, but if so that’s also a problem, and one that the president seems determined to compound by vastly expanding both the government and the executive branch’s control over it. The biggest problem is that if you only know what you read in the papers, you don’t know much.

– 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

Meanwhile, Back in the Economy

You might not have noticed, given the lack of attention paid by most of the media, but the great Obama economic boom came to an end last week.
After all the gloating that followed the relatively robust 5 percent growth in gross domestic product in the third quarter the fourth quarter numbers came in at at a disappointing 2.6 percent, and when you add in the negative first quarter that was blamed on cold weather and the increased Obamacare spending that was actually a drag on the economy but was counted as a boon and transferred to that reputedly roaring third quarter, along with the lukewarm rest of the year, it all comes out to a mere 2.4 percent growth for the year. It’s not recessionary like the last months of the Bush administration, but nothing to brag about, despite all the bragging that the president and a few of our more liberal Facebook friends were doing after that 5 percent figure hit the news, which probably explains why so little attention has been paid by the media.
The occasional stories that have appeared take care to quote economists who predict the coming year will at last achieve that elusive 3 percent GDP increase, which was considered treading water during past Republican administrations but is now regarded as a miracle on par with a Soviet five-year plan, and they tend to point out that 2.6 percent growth would be considered a godsend in Europe and offer the excuse of China’s slowing growth, but we doubt it will convince anyone that America’s economy is roaring along. Nor do we expect that the Democrats who have long championed European and Chinese style governance will reap much political benefit from the uptick, which can more plausibly explained by the oil boom that the administration has resisted, a point that will be unavoidably highlighted after Obama’s expected veto of an expected bill that would hasten construction of the XL Keystone pipe, and to Republican restraints on governmental control of the economy in general.
The president will continue to insist that his policies of higher taxes on the wealthy and increased government spending for the rest have delivered that tantalizing 2.6 percent growth rate, and will surely surge past that elusive 3 percent figure this year, and much of the media will be eager to reiterate the message. Anyone old enough to recall the 7 percent figures of the Reagan years will be skeptical, though, and even the youngsters will wonder why the country isn’t doing better. As much as we hate to bad-mouth the American economy, even during a Democratic administration, we don’t expect that Hillary Clinton or anyone else the Democrats might put up will be able to run on the party’s economic record even in the far-off year of ’16.

– Bud Norman

The End-of-the-Year Clearance Sale

The news is still on vacation, even if the working stiffs are back on the job and hoping to get another four-day weekend out of the last of the holidays, and the pundits are left with their usual year-end wrap-ups or predictions for the coming twelve months. The predictions are rarely useful, and always put forth with confidence that they will be long forgotten by the time they do not come to pass, but there’s something to be said for taking a brief look back at the year’s events.
Looking back on a year such as 2014 feels uncomfortably like Lot’s wife looking back on burning Sodom, but it is almost worth being turned into a pillar of salt to recall what seemed temporarily important during all those black-letter days on the calendar. So many stories mesmerize the public for a few news cycles, then suddenly vanish as thoroughly and mysteriously as that missing Malaysian airliner that was all the talk a few months back, and it is good to reminded of the ones that still matter. Those girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria are still in the most horrible sort of captivity, despite the flurry of hashtags that well-intentioned and utterly ineffectual westerners sent out for they disappeared from the headlines. Russia is still control of a large chunk of what used to be Ukraine, the Islamic State is still mass-murdering in much of what used to be Syria and Iraq, Iran is still progressing steadily toward nuclear weapons and talks about it are still ongoing, and China is still making trouble for all its neighbors. Further infuriating relegations about the Internal Revenue Service are coming out, Obamacare is still a mess, those many tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America who showed up last summer are still in the public’s care somewhere or another, a memorandum or executive order or some strange constitutional go-around are still inviting a few million more illegal immigrants, the labor participation rate remain low and the number of people dependent on government assistance remains high, and Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress are still going to be installed in a few long days because the public was fuming about it all less than two months ago.
The year-end wrap-ups are hard to reconcile with the popular predictions, but the press will press on. Since the mid-term elections, which were so far back it was almost two months ago, the prevailing storyline has been that happy days are here again and that the president is going to reap the popularity and the Republicans will be sorry they ever messed with him. Such giddy optimism is all the rage now, but we’re going to stick with our old-fashioned gloom and doom. There’s nothing the press can do about the international situation except avert its gaze, the Obamacare rate hikes will arrive in the nation’s mailboxes even the media does avert its gaze, the Republican majorities in Congress will be able to force the media gaze on the IRS and any other scandals that pop up, the government’s restraints on the economy will still be apparent to the industries driving those suspicious but hopeful statistics that the press are touting, and that illegal immigration policy that the press is calling a great political victory remains unpopular in a highly motivating way. It all seems rather messy at the moment, and we expect that will continue for a while.
Which is not to venture any prediction, mind you, other than that some things will get worse and some things will get better. That prediction has never yet made us look foolish, so we will go that far.

– Bud Norman

Strange Bedfellows

Try as we might, we can’t make any sense of this so-called “Cromnibus” budget deal that might or might not have been passed and signed into law by the time you read this. None of the smart publications that had confidently reported it would pass in routine fashion seem to be able to make any of sense of it, or even explain why it has been called “Cromnibus,” and of course no one in congress has offered a plausible explanation for what’s going on. We suspect there just isn’t much sense to be made of it.
Still, it makes for an interesting spectacle. The $1.1 trillion, 1,600-page bill was said to be a bipartisan compromise with something for everyone to like, just what all the pundits are saying the public is yearning for, so of course some on both sides of the aisle found something to dislike. Conservatives had no problem finding plenty to hate among the $1.1 trillion and 1,600 pages, including such outrages as a year’s worth of money to continue implementing the wildly unpopular Obamacare law at whatever pace the president chooses and a couple of month’s of funding for the Department of Homeland Security of all people to carry out the president’s unwise and unconstitutional and even more wildly unpopular decree to grant amnesty to several million illegal immigrants. Liberals had to dig deeper into such a complete Republican capitulation to find something they didn’t like, but eventually came up with a a couple of provisions that would amend the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law to allow federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives in some convoluted way or another and increased the limits on campaign contributions. This was sufficient for a minority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats to hold up passage of the bill in the House until late Thursday night, and a similar coalition might also prove troublesome in the Democrat-controlled Senate today.
This unlikely convergence of the rabid Tea Party right and loony left-wing progressives is fun to watch, at least, and one can hope that it might even save the country from all the stupid ideas that are found in the moderate middle and therefore funded by the bill. In any event, it has at least revealed some interesting fissures within both parties. House Speaker John Boehner was using whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, but his promises to start getting tough about illegal immigration once the calvary of the soon-to-be-installed Republican majority in the Senate is installed and that couple of months of funding for DHS has passed was not believed by the party’s base , who flooded the congressional phone lines and stiffened the spines of the numerous Republicans who voted no. The president also used whatever clout he has left with his party to win passage of the bill, which didn’t stop the Associated Press from describing how that Republicans had “muscled” the bill through the House, but among those who ignored his advice were the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and Rep. Maxine Waters from the same Compton that Niggaz With Attitude came straight outta. Leading the Democratic charge against the bill in the upper chamber is Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is widely touted as a more left-wing alternative to Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee, and it will be fascinating to find out what would-be presidential candidates among the Republicans will buck the GOP’s increasingly reviled leadership.
The best guess is that the lousy deal winds up passing more or less intact, though, and that what’s left of the combined clout of the president and the Republican congressional leadership will prevail. The alternative seems to be not funding the government at all, which for some reason remains even more unpopular that a lousy deal full of Obamacare and illegal immigrants and those nasty bankers and big-money donors getting their way. The Republicans took a hit in the polls with the last government shutdown, even if it had happily dissipated by the time the mid-term elections rolled around, and that was over something as comprehensibly outrageous as Obamacare, so they’ll pull out all the stops to make sure that doesn’t happen again even if it’s about something more comprehensibly outrageous than those millions of illegal immigrants. The Democrats’ fondness for government makes even the most limited and unnoticeable government shutdowns unthinkable, and we can’t see them taking the responsibility for a government shutdown over something incomprehensible and probably sensible as allowing federally-insured banks to trade in certain sorts of derivatives according to some convoluted system.
The fissures will remain, though, and it will be interesting to see what seismic rumblings they produce once the lame duck congress has been retired. Rep. Waters told her fellow delegates “don’t be intimidated by Obama,” showing some attitude of her own, and we expect the president will be increasingly un-intimidating to many other Democrats as his final term plays out and his poll numbers dip with every veto of a popular bill passed by the Republican congress. If the Republican leadership doesn’t get those bills passed, and do a far better job of thwarting the president’s authority and dismantling his legislative legacy than they’v done in this lame duck session, challenging their authority will not only be easy but necessary for political survival from the pitchfork-bearing base.

– Bud Norman

The Calm on the Day After

By longstanding tradition there is no news worth writing about on the day after Thanksgiving, and this is probably for the best. Between the lingering soporific effects of the turkey and the noisome distraction of the disconcertingly premature Christmas music that is already on the radio it would be difficult to deal with a real issue. The networks and newspapers will make do with sordid tales about the Black Friday shoppers rioting at the local mall, and the anti-coroporate moralists will recoil at the sight and the economists will be watching to see what it portends for the all-important holiday season in the retail sector, but otherwise the most significant news is to be found on the sports pages.
More ambitious pundits will seize this opportunity to run something so profoundly all-encompassing and not tied to a specific story that it has long been in the drawer awaiting a slow enough news day, or perhaps something they came up with in a moment of holiday-inspired reflection, but we have neither to offer. The most interesting thing we’ve come across is the estimable Gertrude Himmelfarb’s reflections on Matthew Arnold’s 1869 treatise “Culture and Anarchy,” which contains some fascinating observations on the Hellenistic and Hebraic traditions in western civilization, but the jokes it suggested were too earthy and ethnic. An early winter has chilled our ambition, and although we could come up with something sympathetic about the stranded travelers at the snowbound airports or something sarcastic about global warming we’re too darned cold to muster the effort. A snowstorm and a holiday and the presence of heavily armed National Guardsmen seem to have quelled the rioting in Ferguson, and unless the Justice Department is inclined to further placate the mob with a civil rights prosecution we’ll be glad to have heard the last of that story. The president’s outrageous executive action to legalize a few million illegal immigrants will soon be back in the news, but until the Republican congressional majorities are sworn in early next year there won’t be much to say about it except that we’re still outraged. Around there are plenty of worrisome developments rom China to Russia to the Middle East, but except for the Islamic State being on the verge of another major victory in Iraq and Iran getting another six months of nuclear weapons developments there is nothing to vie with those Black Friday shoppers for news space. Economic mediocrity and Obamacare and assorted political scandals are still afoot, along with the usual misbehavior in the entertainment industry, but nothing that violates the longstanding tradition of no news on the day after Thanksgiving.
Give thanks for that, and let drowsy sense of gratitude linger for another day or so, and stay away from those Black Friday sales. Real issues will intrude through the Christmas music soon, and the same old battles will still need to be fought, and it might help to be rested.

– Bud Norman

Shedding the Corporate Label

If there’s one thing that the more fervent sort of modern liberal hates more than capitalism itself, it’s a corporation. Whenever a modern liberal spits out the word  it sounds as if he thinks the longstanding legal tradition of incorporation is some sort of pact with Satan. If there’s one thing a modern liberal hates more than a corporation it’s a Republican, but we think the Grand Old Party can use some of that anti-corporate fervor in its favor on a few important issues.
This counter-intuitive notion came to us while poring through a recent issue of The New the York Times, of all things. The Gray Lady has been uncharacteristically feisty lately, with such lese majeste as to remind its readers that the president has often been on the record declaring his newly pronounced illegal immigration policy unconstitutional, and she even went so far as to run an article damning Obamacare. That grenade of heresy was lobbed from the left, criticizing the law’s rather cozy relationship with the evil insurance companies that the left had cast as the mustache-twirling villains in the melodrama that played out as the health care law was being forced down the public’s figurative and literal throats, but there’s no reason those on the right shouldn’t share in the outrage. The more righteous of the right have long insisted that government should favor no special business interest, whether incorporated or doing business by any other legal arrangement, but rather enforce a level playing field of ruthlessly efficient and red-in-tooth-and-claw competition. What The New York Times convincingly describes is lobbyist-negotiated, government-regulated, taxpayer-funded crony capitalism, and if there’s one thing the modern conservative hates more than socialism itself it is crony capitalism.
A constitutionally old-fashioned sense of civil discourse usually prevents a true conservative from employing such strong language, but in other contexts the modern liberal will call such economic policies “fascism.” Back in the bad old days of George W. Bush our liberal friends were constantly telling us how fascism merged corporate and government power, just like some tax break that the oil companies were getting or that no-bid contract for Halliburton, and they really seemed to believe that we were living under the reign of another Il Duce. We found it odd that their objection to fascism was not  based on its authoritarian insistence on conformity but rather what the more up-to-date academic liberals call “industrial policy,” and were always skeptical of their apparent belief that Mussolini lived in constant fear of the industrialists’ goons rapping that midnight knock on his door rather than the other way around, and can’t help noticing that their outrage about those tax breaks and no-bid contracts has greatly diminished since Bush left office, but perhaps they can be made to see that Obamacare is about as cozy a relationship between corporations and government as American history provides. We’re talking insurance companies, after all, and by now it will be hard for the left to write them a more friendly role in its ongoing melodrama.
Back in that brief, heated moment when Obamacare was being debated the right found the insurance industry a sympathetic character in the play, but it can easily be recast in the continuing conservative narrative. We initially argued that the industry’s 4 percent profit margin was not at all obscene, and certainly less than what the bureaucratic bloat of the federal government would inevitably suck out of expenditures on health care, but no longer felt any obligation to defend them when they signed on to new rules that exempted them from the market forces that had kept those profit margins low relative to other industries. A generous interpretation would be that in the national insanity following the great “hope and change” election of ’08 the insurers feared a single-payer or full-blown national health system would tie them to a metaphorical railroad track and thus felt compelled to sign on to anything that would prolong their survival, which we must admit did not seem at all far-fetched, but that’s no reason the right should hesitate to throw them back into that ferocious pit of pure capitalism. The always-feisty Washington Examiner warns that the insurance companies will resist any Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare, but this will only provide the Republicans with a villain that even the modern liberal will boo and hiss in their telling of the long, sad story. They might not like the ending where the insurance companies go back to their piggish 4 percent profit margins and people who like their plans get to keep their plans, but even the liberals should prefer that to the bigger profits and promises of bail-outs under a system that would have surely been fascism if the Republicans had created it.
Selective corporate-bashing could benefit the Republicans elsewhere, as well. All Republican efforts to resist Obama’s outrageous refusal to execute federal immigration laws should include some mention of the powerful corporate interests which will benefit as well as and emphasis on the low-wage workers who will suffer. The waste of public funds on various “green energy” boondoggles should emphasize the incorporated but otherwise politically correct fat cats who are cashing in without providing any of the tangible benefits of those oil men. Countless state and local issues, such as that city-subsidized hotel referendum they peddled here in Wichita a couple of years ago, could unite the anti-corporate and anti-crony-capitalist constituencies in opposition. If the public can be made to understand that the comic agitprop of Jon Stewart and his late-night ilk and the usual fare of The New York Times and those up-to-date academic liberals are products of corporate America that would also be helpful.
The Republicans should resist the label of the party of of corporate America, and should continue to purge their ranks of those corporate-financed office-holders who make it plausible, but allow the Democrats to be the anti-corporate party. Those people who voluntary work for or buy from a corporation are going to be at least somewhat wary of a party intent on the destruction of corporate America, and they are probably a large portion of the population. A party of capitalism, which neither favors nor disfavors any of those corporations fighting it out in a ferocious pit of competition where the lowest profit margin survives, might even have some perverse appeal to even the most anti-corporate modern liberal.

– Bud Norman

The Audacity of the Last Two Years

The president is going ahead with his long-threatened executive action on illegal immigration, and it’s going to be awful. Amnesty under any name for millions of illegal immigrants will only encourage millions more to flood an already glutted unskilled labor market and further burden already strained education and welfare and penal institutions, doing it by executive action will further weaken already tenuous constitutional restraints on presidential power, and if it works as the president plans it will sign up several million more voters for the rest of his awful transformative agenda.
Even with newly elected majorities in both chambers of Congress the Republicans are unlikely to be able to do anything about it, and we are not confident that the courts will even attempt to offer any relief, so our only consolation is that the president’s already low level of popularity will further decline. Not that he cares, having entered the what-the-hell portion of presidency when he can at last unleash his inner radical and stop pretending to care what the squares think, but we can hope that the disrepute he is bringing to liberalism will pay some dividends down the road. The president might think that he can sell his disastrous ends and unconstitutional means to a gullible public, given his unaccountable yet undying faith in his rhetorical skills and the undeniable evidence of the public’s gullibility in that past two presidential contests, but he’s likely to have no more success than he did with Obamacare or the mid-term Democratic candidates or any of his numerous other lost causes.
One needn’t consult the many public opinion polls to know that there is no great clamoring in America for millions more illiterate, unskilled, non-English-speaking refugees from the most dysfunctional neighborhoods of the Third World, nor for a Philosopher-King form of government. These ideas have a certain appeal to an unlikely coalition of rich businessmen with an economic interest in keeping lower-tier wages low, socialistic types whose championing of the poor brown folk serves their heroic self-images, and Latinos whose sense of racial solidarity supersedes their more patriotic impulses, but they comprise a distinct minority of Americans. The rest of the country, including most of the blacks and many of the Latinos who have been such reliable Democratic voters, are more concerned about the lower wages and higher social costs and cultural frictions that are bound to be exacerbated by the president’s action.
Back when the president was obliged to pretend to care what the squares think, he admitted “Not all these fears are irrational.” In that awful “Audacity of Hope” book that launched his first presidential campaign, he also wrote “The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen in this country for over a century. If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefit for the economy as a whole — especially by keeping our workforce young, in contrast to an increasingly geriatric Europe and Japan — it also threatens to further depress the wages of blue collar workers and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.” He also wrote “There’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our southern border — a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before.” The oh-so-cosmpolitan president even acknowledged those inevitable cultural frictions we mentioned, writing that “Native-born Americans suspect that it is they, and not the immigrant, who are being forced to adapt. And if I’m honest with myself, I must admit that I’m not entirely immune to such nativist sentiments. When I see Mexican flags waved at a pro-immigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”
Then again, the president has also stated on numerous occasions that he has no constitutional authority to take the actions that he will announce tonight. He has apparently changed his mind, as we are certain that the constitution has not changed, but he will have some difficulty refuting his more sensible past arguments.
He can count on some help from the press, judging by an ABC news radio report we just heard that led with the dubious claim that the president would be acting “as past Republican presidents have,” and NBC’s embarrassed insistence that its own polling a sizable number of skeptical Latinos was not reliable, but there have already been some notable defections from the ranks. The New York Times has noted the president’s previous interpretation of his constitutional powers, The Washington Post has acknowledged the planned executive action would “expand the authority of the executive branch into murky, uncharted water,” USA Today was openly skeptical of the president’s claim that this “position hasn’t changed,” and the Associated Press has reminded its readers that a referendum to deny drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants passed by a 68-to-32 margin even in such a hippie-dippy state as Oregon. Local media will eventually be obliged to report on the budget crises at the local welfare agencies and the scuffles at the local schools and the rest of the local problems that will be too glaring to ignore without losing the last shreds of credibility, and even the most blissfully uninformed will be reading their paychecks.
There might also some be defections from the Democratic ranks in Congress. The Huffington Post reported that soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urged the president to wait until December in vain hopes of some congressional solution that he might concoct the before the Republican majority is installed, then reported that he apparently figured out that the existing House majority had been the roadblock all along and was urging the president to “go big,” and we suspect a similar ambivalence among the rest of his recently-shellacked Democratic party. The thought of those additional votes is surely tempting, and there’s also the financial support of those rich businessmen with an economic interest in keeping wages low, as well the temptingly heroic-self image of being a champion of poor brown folk, but those votes might not make it to the polls for several years and in the meantime they’ve surely seen the polls and heard the deafening lack of clamoring for millions more illiterate, unskilled, non-English-speaking immigrants from the most dysfunctional neighborhoods of the Third World. Party loyalty will probably prevail, as the Democrats are a remarkably disciplined lot, but we can hope that a few Representatives and maybe a Senator from the more sensible portions of the country will panic and jump ship.
A few Democrats broke ranks over the wildly popular XL Keystone Pipeline project, most notably Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu in a desperate bid to stave off the wrath of her voters in a run-off election, but not enough to get the necessary lame-duck super-majority, so when the bill passes overwhelmingly in the first days of the next Congress the president will assume all the public’s wrath with his veto. Recent remarks by an irksome professor and upcoming rate increases will make poll-tested reforms in Obamacare all the more popular, and the president’s inevitable vetoes will be correspondingly unpopular. Failure to ratify a lousy treaty with the Iranians will also prove popular, joint investigations made possible the Republican majorities can easily come up with some damaging revelations about the Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi and any number of other scandals, and absent any Republican overreach or excessive caution or other missteps it’s hard to see anything on the horizon that redounds to the president’s political benefit. At some point, every Democrat contending for any office with have to come up with a pitch that they’re somehow different from the president.
That pitch has to be carefully worded so as not to offend the president’s die-hard faithful, which denies the Democrats the pleasures and political benefits of the full-throated denunciations that every Republican candidate will be shouting, but at least it will also have to be more in tune with the majority of the country. We’ll be interested to hear what it is. Two more years of the what-the-hell presidency of an unleashed radical is bound to engender some suspicion of unfettered liberalism, and so far the Democrats seem to the gamut from the Hillary CLinton left to the left-of-Hillary Clinton left, so there’s at least some hope that the Republicans can successfully present a conservative alternative if the country last another couple years. If they do he’ll probably reverse the current president’s executive orders, and not be bound by the law that a more savvy and less power-hungry predecessor could have finagled out of the weak-kneed Republican leaders and their rich businessmen contributors or pushed through when his party had all the power but the president had a reelection campaign in front of him, which would be a nice denouement to this whole sordid affair.

– Bud Norman

A Full Day of Outrageous Presidential Remarks

Even on the slowest news days an opinion writer can almost always count on President Barack Obama to provide some outrageous remark to fulminate about. On Monday, though, the president provided more than the usual fodder.
One hardly knows where to begin, but it might as well be with the official White House statement regarding the latest horrific beheading of an American by the Islamic State, the bloodthirsty terrorist gang that was once dismissed by the president as a “jayvee team” and is now in charge of much of Syria and prematurely-abandoned-by-America Iraq. The statement appropriately offers prayers and condolences to the victim’s family, and accurately describes the murder as “an act of pure evil,” but then veers into the most bizarre apologetics. Referring to the terror gang by its preferred acronym, and to the victim by the name he adopted during his captivity to them, the statement adds that “ISIL’s actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own.” The dubious claim that the Islamic State’s actions have nothing to do with Islam is by now an obligatory ritual that follows every act of Islamist terrorism, but that “least of all” defies any rational explanation. There’s no avoiding an implication that Muslims are far less inclined toward beheading infidels than the adherents of Judaism or Christianity or Buddhism of Hinduism or any other religion, which is clearly contradicted by copious evidence stretching from Iraq to Oklahoma, nor the conclusion that the president regards the victim’s conversion to his captor’s supposedly anti-Islamic creed as sincere. We can well understand a desire not to rile the non-beheading Muslim population, but the president’s remarks smack of a religious favoritism that is inappropriate and downright worrisome from an American leader.
Then there’s the report of the president’s advice to the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, to “stay the course.” The previously little-known St. Louis suburb has endured rioting and looting and arson and assorted acts of mayhem ever since a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, and now that it appears a grand jury which has heard all the physical evidence and eyewitness testimony will conclude that the officer acted in self-defense against a violent behemoth who attacked him and was struggling for his gun there is a legitimate concern that more rioting and looting and arson and assorted mayhem will soon follow. A generous interpretation of the president’s remarks would be that he urges them to “stay on the course” of peaceful protest, rather than the course that has been taken, but even the peaceful protestors he was addressing have stated that “Rioting and looting are the tools of those without a voice.” Better advice would be for the protestors to respect the conclusion of the grand jury, and the facts that led it to its conclusion, but apparently the president who promised a post-racial America would prefer that a majority-black town be utterly destroyed.
Slightly less irksome are the president’s disavowals of Jonathan Gruber, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economic professor who has been caught on videotape gloating about the deceptions that were used to ensure the passage of Obamacare and the stupidity of the American voters who fell for them. The president’s previous admission that he “stole liberally” from the professor is more convincing, given the $400,000 the president paid for the professor’s advice and the if-you-like-your-plan-you-can-keep-your plan deceptions that were indeed built into the law, so only the most stupid American voters are likely to be fooled once again. Given the bone-chilling weather that has arrived ahead of schedule here in Kansas we are more annoyed by the president’s boast that the Republican majorities that have been installed in both chambers of Congress by a clear majority of voters won’t be able to stop his executive orders to combat global warming, but on a day so full of outrageous remarks even that doesn’t warrant a full column.

– Bud Norman

Who Are the Rubes?

Not since the late, great Milton Friedman has a professor of economics done as much to advance the conservative cause as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Jonathan Gruber. In Gruber’s case his contributions have been entirely inadvertent, but we appreciate them nonetheless.
In case you haven’t heard the nationwide grumbling, Gruber is the “architect of Obamacare” who has been caught on several different videotapes gloating about the numerous deceptions that were built into the bill in order to assure its passage. To compound the public’s outrage he has also been caught snickering about the stupidity of the average American on whose behalf he was supposedly practicing the deceptions, which neatly epitomizes the arrogance of modern liberalism, and it further exposes exactly who are the stupid Americans.
A clear majority of Americans were never fooled into thinking that Obamacare was a good idea, even as the bill was being ramrodded through the Congress by means of questionable legality, and conservatives were wise to its deceptions all along. Gruber takes a peculiar pride in the bill’s unprecedented tax on not buying health insurance being disguised as a mandate, a bit of semantic legerdemain that the Congressional Budget Office was obliged to honor lest the bill scare off even Democrats, but all along conservatives were pointing out that it made no difference to the people who would be paying the bill under either name. When the Supreme Court upheld the dangerous notion that government can compel citizens to buy something they do not want it did so on the grounds that the mandate was indeed a tax, conservatives’ only consolation was that the government had at least been forced to acknowledge its lie. Gruber also told his fellow academics that the average American was too stupid to understand that the tax on insurers would inevitably be passed along to the insured, but the very simple concept that a tax on corporations is always paid by its customers has been a staple of conservative economics since Adam Smith. Only liberals believe that corporations pay taxes, and we are grateful to Gruber for pointing out how very stupid they are to believe such nonsense.
Gruber’s kindnesses to conservatism do not end there, however. Efforts by the likes of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats to disavow their association with the professor allowed the conservative press to point out the $400,000 and the “architect of Obamacare” title he received from them, which can only stoke the indignation of the insulted American public. He also pocketed several million dollars giving advice to the states on how to deal with the law, and his videotaped instructions include repeated warnings that the law quite deliberately insists that citizens of states which do not set up their own health care exchanges will not be eligible for Obamacare’s generous subsidies. Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the King v. Burwell case, which could result in the enforcement of that provision and deny subsidies to citizens of the 37 states that declined to set up their own exchanges despite Gruber’s warnings, the administration is arguing that it was merely an unintentional typographical error and not at all the intention of Congress. The testimony of Obamacare’s acknowledged architect, along with a few other choice items from the congressional record, could effectively debunk that deception and create all sorts of welcome havoc for the law.
The formerly brilliant Gruber was also credited with creating the Obamacare-like “Romneycare” plan enacted in earlier Massachusetts, and has helpfully admitted that its brief survival was due largely to federal assistance, so his association with eponymous former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney should help the more rock-ribbed sorts of Republicans in staving off any attempt by Romney or any other northeastern moderate to win their party’s presidential nomination. Gruber might yet provide further service to the conservative cause, but his astoundingly stupid admissions that only the stupid believed the claims of Obamacare has been such a boon to the self-esteem of conservatives that he has earned our eternal gratitude. One can only hope that the liberals will take umbrage at his insults, but we suspect they’re too stupid to realize he was talking about them.

– Bud Norman

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