Advertisements

Guns and Tears and Shady Statistics

One hardly knows where to begin grousing about that awful speech President Barack Obama gave about guns Tuesday. There was the usual annoyingly self-referential style, the same old calls for respectful argument and the same old slurs against those disagree with him, typically distorted statistics, yet more executive actions that override duly passed and signed laws, the predictable bad policies billed as “common sense,” the obligatory assurances that he believes in the Second Amendment and the rest of all that constitutional stuff, and he even threw in a couple of tears to make it seems as he cares.
Perhaps the most galling thing about the speech was that Obama chose to give it in the first place. He had a chance to persuade the public to persuade their legislators to pass his favored gun control laws when his fanatically loyal party controlled both chambers of Congress, and then again when the major media were crusading for more gun regulations after the mass shooting at a Connecticut school, and at this point we suspect that most Americans would prefer to hear what their president is doing about the inflamed Middle East or the sputtering economy or the rapidly accumulating national debt or almost anything other than some pointless gun control rules that only the most rule-abiding gun owners will abide.
We say “rules” rather than “laws” because there are already laws that quite specifically define who is a gun dealer and thus has to conduct background checks and obey other existing laws, and Obama’s executive action extends that definition to anyone who wants to sell his brother-in-law an old handgun. The extra-constitutional power grab is all the more offensive because it is unlikely to prevent any criminal or mentally ill person from acquiring a gun, and is more likely to prevent a law-abiding citizen from acquiring a weapon needed for self-defense. By now such rule by presidential fiat is taken for granted, and even some Republicans seem eager to wield such newfound imperial powers, but one can hope that some outrage about it still persists.
How insulting, too, that Obama would shed few a tears over the deaths that his policies won’t prevent. About two-thirds of those 30,000 gun deaths that Obama lamented are suicides, so as long as there are poisons and razor blades and tall buildings and gas ovens and rope and other means of self-inflicted death no amount of gun control will stop those, and we can’t recall when Obama has never spoken about the largely white and middle aged suicide problem. Another phony-baloney statistic that Obama offered was about Connecticut’s 40 percent decrease in gun deaths since it passed laws similar to what he has proposed, which is true enough but best understood in context of the unmentioned fact that the national homicide rate has declined 50 percent in that time while gun ownership has increased as substantially. He also mentioned an increase in Missouri’s homicide rate after loosening its gun laws, but neglected to say anything about the spike in the St. Louis area’s murders since the “Black Lives Matter” movement sent the police there into retreat. Nor did he mention the interesting statistic that his own Justice Department has had 38 percent fewer convictions on existing duly passed and signed gun laws than the gun-crazy Bush administration, and of course he once again didn’t say anything about alarming rate of murders in Chicago, the community he once organized and is now under the imperial control of his former chief of staff.
Don’t worry about slippery slope toward even more draconian gun restrictions, though, because Obama once again went through the “ritual” — his own term — of assuring the American people that he was a former adjunct professor of constitutional law and is sure enough committed to the Second Amendment. He didn’t say “If you like you guns, you can keep your guns,” but it had the same suspicious ring to it. It’s enough to make one cry, even if you’re not the lachrymose type like former House Speaker John Boehner, who was laughed at by the same people who were choked up by Obama’s tears, but we react more in anger than in sorrow.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

It’s Still Mount McKinley To Us

By the standards of President Barack Obama’s many outrages, his decision to re-name Mount McKinley isn’t very consequential. Still, it’s infuriating for a variety of reasons.
There’s the fact he did it by executive action, for one thing. Mount McKinley was so named by an act of Congress, and signed into law by a predecessor president, and under our constitutional system presidents aren’t supposed to be able to unilaterally repeal laws. This president obviously believes otherwise, as already shown by his executive actions on illegal immigration and other matters, and that is a problem of the greatest consequence.
We’re also appalled that the memory of President William McKinley, who was a vastly better President than Obama, is being quite officially dis-honored. McKinley inherited office during an economic depression and led the country to unprecedented prosperity, was victorious in the Spanish-American War, and never asserted the unilateral power to repeal laws. He probably would have accomplished even greater things if he hadn’t hadn’t been assassinated by a crazed anarchist early in his second term, which at this point is rarely taught in schools, and the now-faint memory of that tragedy also deserves the honor that Obama presumes to withdraw.
McKinley was a successful and much beloved Republican president, though, and it’s all the more galling that this surely had something to do with it. One strains to imagine Obama ever withdrawing an honorific from any Democratic president, and we note that his Treasury Secretary has even chosen to withdraw the staunch abolitionist but notoriously capitalist Alexander Hamilton from his place of honor on the ten dollar bill, rather than the slave-holding and Indian-persecuting but Democratic Party-founding Andrew Jackson from his spot on the twenty, so there’s also the added stench of rank and most petty partisanship.
The new name for the mountain is Denali, which is the old name that indigenous Alaskans use, but this exquisite sensitivity to the special interests of an ethnic identity group also rankles. The area surrounding Mount McKinley is already acknowledged as the Denali National Park, the indigenous Alaskans have always been free to call the mountain whatever they wish, just as native New Yorkers still refer to John F. Kennedy Airport as Idlewild and we Kansans call the river running nearby our home the “Ar-Kansas” rather than the “Arkan-saw,” and there’s no reason the rest of the country should cease it’s admittedly mostly unknown homage to McKinley. The same impulse to impose a guilt-ridden revisionist history on the public is driving Hamilton off the ten spot in order to make room for a woman or a person of color or best of all a woman of color, and it’s erasing the Confederate battle flag from the roof of the “Dukes of Hazards” muscle car, and it’s appetite for destruction is such that won’t be satisfied until every vestige of such dead white, male, and rock-ribbedly Republicans as McKinley are long forgotten.
What can be done by executive action can presumably be undone by more sensible executive actions, at least, so one can hope that someone more along the lines of William McKinley will come along next year and start getting some un-doing done. In the meantime, it’s still Mount McKinley to us.

— Bud Norman

The Conventional Wisdom and Its Pitfalls

One should always be skeptical of the conventional wisdom, or at least occasionally reconsider it. Not so long ago it was hard to find a poll or pundit best-selling non-fiction publication that didn’t proclaim the Republican party’s opposition to unrestrained illegal immigration and discomfort with ethnic identity politics in general and certain queasiness about abortion and noticeable reluctance to embrace same-sex marriage would lead to its demise, what with the changing demographics and the hip young voters and the arc of history bending toward liberalism and all, but for the moment all of these issues seem to be working against the Democrats.
One day after the Republicans in Congress held hearings featuring the heartbreaking testimony of several Americans whose beloved family members have been killed by illegal immigrants, President Barack Obama expanded his executive actions to exempt an estimated 80 percent of the nation’s illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation. The president’s actions were explained in the usual terms of compassion, of course, but the lack of compassion for those murdered and rape and robbed by the more unsavory of those illegal immigrants has not gone unnoticed. Certainly not in Texas, where the Department of Public Safety has counted 611,234 crimes, including 2,993 murders, committed by illegal aliens since Obama took office, dreary enough numbers that are understated because they only include those illegal aliens who were previously fingerprinted by state and federal authorities. Among the national total of people killed by illegal immigrants is the young Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed while walking in the “sanctuary city” of San Francisco by an illegal immigrant with multiple felony convictions, and although no one in the administration has even spoken her name, except for a Department of Homeland Security official who mispronounced it, the president has announced his intention to veto a bill that would withhold federal funds from the “sanctuary cities” that protect the likes of her murderer. The polls and pundits and best-selling non-fiction publications will be hard-pressed to explain how the Democrats derive any advantage from this.
So far the main beneficiary seems to be Republican contender Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality-show star and noxious blowhard, whose outspoken and wildly overstated insistence that every illegal immigrant has murderous and rapine intent has drawn all the media attention and thus propelled him to the top of all those questionable polls in the Republican nomination race, but we expect that some other candidate with similar but more carefully spoken views will eventually prevail and enjoy the same political benefits. Throw in the effect that illegal immigration is almost certainly having on the wages of low-skilled and unskilled workers, the added strain on an already overwhelmed social welfare system, and the inevitable consequences of modern liberalism’s insistence that the broader society assimilate to the new arrivals rather than the other way around, and the Democrats, who have lately been talking a lot about the wages of unskilled workers and the need for a more generous welfare system and communitarian values, seem to have chosen the weakest of all possible positions on the issue.
There’s always the race issue to be played, of course, but that’s also lately become more complicated. Those low-skilled and unskilled laborers whose wages are depressed by illegal immigration are inordinately black, and several of the families who gave those heartbreaking testimonies about their loved ones who were murdered by illegal immigrants were also black, and the lily-white contenders for the Democratic nomination are already having a hard time dealing with a “Black Lives Matter” movement that will boo a candidate off a stage for suggesting that other lives matter at all, and given the temporary racial make-up of the country it’s hard to see how the Democratic Party’s attempts to divide the country will add up to an electoral majority. Throw in the Democrats’ staunch defense of affirmative action policies that punish Asian-Americans for their education efforts, along with the economic and quality-of-life effects their policies have on native-born Hispanics and blacks as well as whites, and Donald Trump won’t be the only the Republican contender savvy enough to question the conventional wisdom.
Meanwhile, the country remains as divided as ever on the question of abortion, and the hidden-camera accounts of Planned Parenthood officials sipping wine and supping at fine restaurants as they negotiate the price of aborted fetuses can only push public opinion in the Republicans’ direction, and the rest of those social issues that were supposed spell the Republicans’ demise are also working out contrary to the conventional wisdom. Three separate polls taken since the Supreme Court’s decree that same-sex marriage was somehow intended by the 18th Century ratifiers of the Constitution, just like the right to a first trimester abortion, all show a decline in support for the decision as well as a marked increase in support for the right of businesses to refuse participate in same-sex nuptials. The Democrats can claim the cause of tolerance, but until they’re willing to tolerate any dissent on these issues the claim will be unconvincing.
The Republicans can still easily lose the advantage, especially if they nominate a real estate mogul and reality-show star and obvious buffoon such as Trump, but it won’t be because they’ve stuck to principles more timeless than the conventional wisdom.

— Bud Norman

On Sanctuary Cities and Senseless Murders

When an innocent young woman is randomly murdered by an illegal immigrant with multiple felony convictions, who despite was living in San Francisco despite multiple deportations because it is sanctimoniously a “sanctuary” city that will not cooperate with any attempt at enforcing immigration law, it is hard for those of who advocate the strictest possible enforcement of immigration law to avoid the tempting political implications of such a tragedy. We had resolved to keep a respectful silence on the matter, in deference to the apparently fine and lovely young woman who was killed, and being ever mindful that the complicated issues involved require more dispassionate consideration that such tragedies allow, but we cannot let it go unremarked that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest could not resist the temptation to blame the murder on those of us who advocated the strictest possible enforcement of immigration law.
Such an obviously counter-intuitive slur takes some doing, the administration’s spokesman made either a joshing or earnest attempt. He explained that the president’s y’all come immigration policies, which have been enacted through executive authority that the president spent the first five years of his presidency insisting he did not have the power enact, were mainly intended to ensure “we were focusing our law enforcement efforts on those individuals who pose a genuine threat. Alas, Earnest explained, due to factors apparently still beyond the president’s control, “Too often we see those limited law enforcement resources to be focused on breaking up families.” This situation is inconsistent with the president’s values, Earnest earnestly asserts, and if you’re still wondering why the president hasn’t been able to fix this awful situation it’s because “these efforts would be significantly augmented had Republicans not blocked comprehensive immigration reform.” He also had the gall to say “I recognize people will want to play politics on this,” and then the even greater and more irony-infused gall to go on to say “But the fact is that the president has done everything within his power to make sure we are focusing our law enforcement resources on criminals and those who pose a threat to public safety and it’s because of Republicans that we have not been able to make the kind of investment that we’d like to make in securing our border and making our communities safe.”
So far as we can gather from the news reports and YouTube videos, Earnest didn’t have any similar criticisms of the City of San Francisco, whose stated municipal policy is to not cooperate and actively interfere with any efforts to enforce immigration law, no matter of many felony convictions might have at long last aroused the attention of the federal authorities, or Rep. Nancy Pelosi or any other of the hippie-dippie but reliably Democratic leaders of that sanctimoniously tolerant town. The blame of course entirely lies with that pesky opposition party and its racist knee-jerk reaction to the president’s principled proposal to unilaterally re-write immigration law and allow in many hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, including trainloads of unaccompanied minors from the worst slums of Central America, most of whom didn’t bother to show up at their deportation hearings, but also give him a few more billions of dollars to make sure they’re all good and hard-working and law-abiding types who will fill the tax coffers and keep your pool clean and never commit a horrible crime. If only those darned Republicans and the enforce-the-law-dammit crowd hadn’t slowed the administration’s progress, and if only all the arguments about the cultural and economic and political consequences of an historically unprecedented wave of immigration hadn’t been made, we all surely would have had filled tax coffers and clean pools and no crime.
We won’t lower ourselves to Josh Earnest’s level by suggesting that the policies those Republicans fought for would have prevented this tragedy, or get into the arguments about immigration that are best considered dispassionately, but we will assert that those of us who advocate the strictest possible enforcement of immigration law are not responsible, and that we grieve for this outcome.

— 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

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

The Next Two Years of Nothing to Do

With Republicans firmly in control of both chambers of congress and a Democrat still wielding a veto pen in the White House there is little chance of the federal government getting anything done during the next two years, which is fine by us. Inaction will be much preferable to all the things the Democrats got done when they controlled everything, and it should provide a political advantage to the Republicans.
The newly-elected Republican majority should be able to quickly pass a number of bills that the four-year-old Republican majority in the House has already approved, all of them with enough poll-tested popularity to make a veto politically problematic for the president, and the even the most dutifully partisan scribes will be hard-pressed to explain how the party that just racked up the impressive wins in the mid-term elections is thwarting the will of the people. There’s talk that a first volley will be a green light for the XL Keystone Pipeline, which everyone except for a few extreme environmentalists thinks is a good idea and long overdue, and even if the president is forced to sign it he’ll endure the resentment and reduced fund-raising of those few extreme environmentalists and get little credit from the rest of the country in exchange. An all-out repeal of Obamacare would be a futile if satisfyingly symbolic gesture without the 61 votes required to override a veto, and would stir up an unnecessary fuss over the one two items within the law’s thousands of pages that enjoy popularity among the more misinformed portions of the population, but piecemeal repeal of he law’s most troublesome and obviously stupid provisions should knock a few points off the president’s approval ratings every time he vetoes one of them. There are enough of those troublesome and obviously stupid provisions that the Republicans should have him down to zero in short order, but we’d urge that they continue the practice nonetheless. A much needed overhaul of the tax system would also be futile and afford an opportunity to bamboozle the uniformed, but the tax laws include enough obvious and undeniable trouble and stupidity that the Republicans should be able to score similar points with a series of slight reforms, with a corporate tax rate that imposes a competitive disadvantage on every American business in global markets an excellent place to start, and relief from the carbon regulations championed by the aforementioned few environmental extremists are just of many pro-growth proposals that will at least draw attention to the president’s unpopular positions.
A steady stream of obligatory news stories about these bills would quickly dispute the president’s cliches of a “do-nothing congress” and a “party of no,” but the Republicans could also benefit from what they don’t do and when they say “no.” Voting for budgets small than the presidents inevitably lavish proposals won’t cost any popular support, and we can’t think of any pending Democratic proposals that cannot be opposed without offending anyone other minimum-wage workers and ineligible voters and a few environmental extremists. More aggressive joint committee investigations into the scandals surrounding Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service, just about everything in the Department and Justice, and numerous other overlooked stories is also a good idea, not just for an easily forgivable spite but because the serious nature of these matters demands investigation and public attention. The Democrats who survived Tuesday’s mid-terms owe no favors to the president, whose insistence on making the election a referendum on his own unpopular policies was a godsend to the Republicans, and the congressionally-passed will in many cases even have a claim to bipartisanship.
Meanwhile, the president will get things done by executive action. Amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and economically damaging regulations intended to prevent the climate from changing will prove unpopular, and the extra-constitutional way they are imposed will also prove unpopular, but at this point the very lame president seems quite unconcerned about public opinion or his party’s political fortunes. Any congressional efforts to thwart such actions by withholding funding or anything else at hand will please a large majority of the public, even if the resulting court battles stretch out long past the president’s final term, and will leave the next Democratic presidential with some difficult explaining to do. If the president finds it too bothersome to deal with an oppositional congress he might choose to focus his attention on foreign policy, where the constitution does allow him some leeway, but that’s likely to redound to the Republicans’ benefit as well.
The inevitable gridlock will delay for two years the tax cuts and deregulation and downsizing of everything except a military that desperately needs some additional funding, but if the Republicans continue their recent uncharacteristic savviness it might make all those things possible after one more election cycle. Tuesday’s election produced a strong slate of Republican candidates, the likely Democratic candidate is an aging and increasingly unpopular woman who is insuperable from the previous administration’s disastrous foreign policy and redistributionist economic theories, and if the government doesn’t do anything in the next two years it won’t do anything to change the minds that voted for solid Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Leap years always bring in the uniformed voters gullible to scare stories about wars on women and lynch mobs and cuts to Social Security, and demographic trends and an entrenched liberal news and entertainment media establishment and a growing number of people dependent on government support all make presidential elections difficult for Republicans, but the next two years of inaction could level the playing field.

— Bud Norman