The Enduring Truth of the Latest Outrageous Fiction

Those with a good memory for all the accumulated outrages of the past seven and a half years or so might vaguely recall the name of Jonathan Gruber, “the architect of Obamacare” who couldn’t keep himself from gloating at an academic conference about all the clever lies that were used to foist that awful law on an unwitting land. Some enterprising internet muckraker got his hands on the video of his remarks well after the fact, it gradually “went viral” on all the conservative sites at a time when the more conservative party was still firmly opposed to federal control of the health care system, and the uproar was sufficient that even the more polite media were forced to acknowledge for a brief news cycle that it really was rather outrageous. We’d almost forgotten the name ourselves, despite our good memories and constant score-keeping, but were reminded by the recent gloating of Ben Rhodes and the outrage it has produced for this brief news cycle.
Rhodes is described by even such a polite medium as The New York Times as “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru,” and he was so comfortable with the paper’s politeness that he felt free to boast that President Barack Obama’s even more catastrophic-than-Obamacare deal with Iran regarding its obvious and undeniable and still-ongoing nuclear ambitions was also sold on a pack of lies. He frankly acknowledged that the Republican argument of the moment that the election of a supposed “moderate” president didn’t mean that the hard-liners in the Iranian theocracy weren’t still in charge was entirely, and that Obama’s claim the Republicans opposed to the deal were effectively in cahoots with those hard-liners fighting their own country’s more radical elements was the sort of ingenious fiction that he once aspired to as a creative writing major.
Even such a polite medium as The New York Times couldn’t help noting that the 38-year-old “Boy Wonder of the White House” didn’t have any more applicable academic credentials to become the president’s most trusted foreign policy advisor and speechwriter other than their shared disdain of the policies of the George W. Bush administration and preference for spinning tales, and even the headlines of such usually diplomatic sources as Foreign Policy Magazine have resorted to language that we do not condone but concede is pretty much apt, and we must admit that even our more liberal counterparts once again have acknowledged that this is pretty darned outrageous.
We’d like to think that after another half year or so things will start to get better, but at this point it is a dim hope. The presumptive nominee of the putatively more conservative party lists health care as one of the core responsibilities of the federal government, and has expressed his admiration for Scotland’s totalitarian systems, but assures us it will be a great deal, believe him, and the more liberal party’s presumptive nominee is offering the suddenly seemingly plausible offer of dancing with the devil we know, and the Democrat is standing by the deal and the Republican won’t disavow the deal because promising he can out-deal the Iranian rug-merchants just as he out-dealed all his casino-and-strip-joint creditors, and both seem quite certain that their fanciful fictions can be sold to a gullible public just like the rest of the outrageous reality shows they’ve been starring in for many years.

— Bud Norman

Why We’re Voting None of the Above

No, we most assuredly will not be voting for Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat in the upcoming election.
We are irrevocably and unapologetically on the increasingly risky public record ridiculing and resisting Clinton and trying to stir up all the proper public outrage that awful woman deserves, and have been since way back when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was bragging about his friendship with her and generously contributing to her campaigns and phony-baloney “family foundation” and inviting her to his latest wedding and telling his constant interviewers that she was a “terrific woman” who was doing a “great job” as Secretary of State. We have steadfastly stood in opposition to the bossy collectivist clap-trap of her increasingly crazy party since even further back when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was testifying before Congress about the “awful” economic policies of President Ronald Reagan, and assuring his constant interviewers that he sided with the Democrats on most issues, and come November we still won’t be voting even for that Democratic and liberal but otherwise good guy we’ve known since childhood who is now somehow our state House Representative.
For the first time ever we won’t be voting for the presumptive Republican nominee at the top of the ticket, though, and thus we stand accused of somehow siding with that awful Clinton woman and the rest of her nearly-as-awful party. The charge sometimes come from people we much respect, although most frequently from people we have no use for at all, but in either case we will freely acknowledge that any vote not cast for Clinton’s most likely challenger does indeed afford her some infinitesimal advantage. Any vote for her most likely challenger is a vote for presumptive Republican nominee and erstwhile Clinton pal Donald J. Trump, however, and we hope that our most respectable critics at least will respect our reasons for never casting such a vote.
There are the policy matters, of course, even if they have largely been ignored in the ten-month-long tumult regarding Trump’s latest “Tweet,” but at this point none really make the odious Clinton any more palatable than Trump. On healthcare the presumptive Republican nominee has spoken kindly of the Canadian and British single-payer and completely socialized systems, and promises that Trumpcare will be so much better than Obamacare because he’s a frequently bankrupt but otherwise successful businessman who always makes great deals, and the presumptive Democratic nominee at least gave us a decade or so of reprieve from government-run health care because of of her neophyte political ineptitude.
Alas, for the first time in our adult lives at this point we can’t believe the presumptive Republican nominee on anything at all, which is why we won’t be voting for him even if it gives some infinitesimal contribution to the election of such an admittedly equally awful person as his former wedding guest Hillary Clinton and benefactor, even at the risk of being accused of being “establishment.” Call us old-fashioned, which we relish at this point in the godawful modern age, but in something in our Republican-in-name-only-at-this-godforsaken-point souls finds that a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-club-and-professional-wrestling-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul who trades in his wives every ten years for a newer model and mocks the handicapped and dodges the draft and denigrates the bravery of men who voluntarily served in the military and endure wartime captivity and regards women as “fat slobs” or “pieces of ass” and judges their human worth accordingly and accuses an already vanquished opponent’s father of being in on the Kennedy assassination on the basis of his buddy at the National Enquirer’s baseless accounts, or countless other outrages that we’ve taken time out from criticizing Clinton’s countless outrages to note, we simply cannot justify ever voting for such a man.

Nor does Trump much seem to want our vote. He spent Tuesday alleging the soon-to-be-vanquished-foe Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was in on the John F. Kennedy assassination, the sort of embarrassing crackpot theory you’d expect to find in The National Enquirer, which was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s source for the story,and expressing his utter contempt for all

>We’ll give due respect to any voter who votes for Trump on the excuse that he’s only voting against Clinton, who we heartedly agreed is at least every bit at sleazy and probably even more wrong on any issue what that the presumptive Republican nominee says he’s against at the moment, but we’d remind him that he’s also voting for Donald J. Trump. He’s voting for a man with no fixed political principles or apparent moral compass, who has never once in his much-ballyhooed life ever demonstrated an iota of concern for anyone but himself, and mocked those who have made far greater sacrifices for their or had sacrifices imposed upon them by the luck of life, and gloated about all the married babes he’s bagged and the business associates he’s screwed over and the politicians he’s bought off, and boasts about his penis size to compensate for the stubby fingers he’s obviously been feeling inadequate about for the past many years, and we don’t care to make constant excuses for it the next four years or so, and the fact that his most likely opponent is at least just as godawful doesn’t change the fact that you voted for this utterly vile human being.
Maybe this is the world we inhabit, and unhappy choices have to be made, but we choose not to have any part of it. There are still some promising Republicans down-ticket, at least here in Kansas, where Trump got his lying and phony orange ass kicked, and Clinton lost to that self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who at least believes his nose, and we’ll show up always to pick the best of the Republican crop, and we’ll hope for the best, and we damn sure won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton or any of those other Democrats, but we’ll take care not to vote for anybody just as awful.
There’s no telling how that might result in such an unpredictable year, and all sorts of well-respected Republicans are speculating on whether it’s best the inevitable disaster looming ahead be blamed on the Republicans who nominated Trump and somehow got him elected or on Clinton and such Republicans-in-name-only-all-of-a-sudden such who gave some infinitesimal advantage to that awful Clinton woman and allowed her surely disastrous range. In this crazy election year we dare not offer any prediction about how it might turn out, but in any case we want to at least content ourselves that we didn’t vote for any of it, no matter how that might have led to us voting for it.
In any case, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee doesn’t seem to care much what we think, which we’re sure is a large part of his appeal to all the Republican party’s Johhny-come-latelies who weren’t in. In his characteristically un-gracious victory speech upon coming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee he gloated about all the party regulars who had once dared to criticize him but now were eager to kiss his ring, and for once we have to agree with the contempt he expressed for such cowards. We’ll not be among them, and won’t give a damn if this earns his respect or a respite from lawsuits or Internal Revenue Service Audits or anything else might threaten for saying such mean and nasty things about him. He proudly boasts, as he always proudly boasts, that he can win without that significant portion of us who have always voted Republican but are no longer welcome in the party, so his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters shouldn’t have much to worry about our one meager one vote, and can be assured that while we might waste it on some third party candidate that is committed to conservative principles and basic human decencies at least we won’t waste it on Hillary.

— Bud Norman

The Sisters are Having Nun of It

The Little Sisters of the Poor had their day at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, and we wish them well for a variety of reasons.
The nuns of the venerable order are by all accounts a fine group of women who have devoted their lives to providing care for the elderly poor, and not at all the sorts who would ordinarily find themselves in any court of law, but in ordinary times the government wouldn’t be bullying them into buying contraceptive coverage in their health care plans.
As the Little Sisters have taken a vow of chastity they have no need for such coverage, and therefor object to paying for it, which strikes us as such a reasonable objection it would have ordinarily settled the matter. The notion that the government can force anyone to purchase whatever health care coverage the government deems necessary has already been settled at the Supreme Court, however, so the current case is more specific. There’s also the matter of whether people should be forced to subsidize behaviors they find morally objectionable, but that was largely unsettled by the Hobby Lobby decision, which involved some fine Protestant folks with similar objections, and the current case is unlikely to make that any clearer. Some legal legerdemain in some statement of policy authorized by some agency created and authorized to make policy under some sub-sub-section of the 2,000-plus page Obamacare law has supposedly freed the sisters from directly paying for their own contraception, but in a way that still contributes to the law’s stated objective of making contraception universally available to less chaste women. The Little Sisters of the Poor would rather not participate in that, for beliefs you might not agree with but which we think they’re perfectly entitled to hold, yet at this point it seems more likely to come down to a matter of whether the technicalities found in that 2,000-plus page and already affirmed Obamacare law allow such governmental bullying of such fine women who do all the humble work that the government somehow never gets around to.
Which is why even the most zealously secular sorts should be wishing the Little Sisters of the Poor well. What’s being challenged in the Supreme Court isn’t an act of Congress, but rather an act of an agency that was created by a Congress that hadn’t bothered to read it’s own unreadable act and probably had no idea that it would wind up with the Little Sisters of the Poor being bullied into chipping in so some less chaste women could party it up without consequence, and sooner or later that kind of government’s going to cut even the worst of us down.

— Bud Norman

What’s Not in the News

There’s not much in the news this time of year, what with all the newsmakers being off on their expensive vacations, so now is as good a time as any to take notice of what’s not there. In the eerie silence of the current news cycle we can’t help noticing that several important stories seem to have prematurely vanished.
That awful deal with the Iranian government regarding its nuclear weapons program has largely gone unmentioned since President Barack Obama announced it was done, even though that’s not the end of the story. So far as we can tell nothing has yet been signed by either side, there’s no still public agreement about what’s been agreed to, even the United Nations admits that Iran’s recent inter-continental ballistic missile test violated any understanding of agreement, despite the administration’s infuriating pleas for leniency on behalf of the totalitarian theocracy, and Congress is wisely proceeding with fresh new sanctions that disagree with the whole awful deal. Given that the deal makes an Iranian bomb inevitable, which in turn would set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and thus make Armageddon imminent, one would think this would be getting more attention.
Obamacare is just as bad as ever, too, although that’s no longer news. By now the public knows that it won’t be getting an average $2,500 a year savings and won’t be able to keep its plans or doctors and that all the other promises that were made won’t be kept, but that was already obvious when the public went ahead and re-elected Obama back in ’12 and the media are no longer obligated to mention of that. They are forced to mention that premiums are going up, more plans are set to be cancelled, the poor who were supposed to benefit are paying ever more for less coverage, major insurers are pulling out of the exchanges and leaving the rest of the suckers in the long-predicted “death spiral,” and few seem to expect the law will survive into the next decade. Even the Republican presidential candidates rarely mention Obamacare, however, and even the most conservative news media don’t seem to ask about it.
Most of those Republican candidates also go unmentioned, of course, and judging by all the “Bernie” bumper stickers we’re seeing we think there’s more going in in the Democratic race than you’d know from reading the news. Perhaps when the all the newsmakers and news reporters get back from their vacations we’ll start to find out more about Donald Trump’s latest insulting “tweet” and all the reasons that Hillary Clinton’s latest scandal isn’t really that a big deal, but we can always hope they’ll starting paying attention to other things. In some cases the silence is becoming deafening.

— Bud Norman

Bon Voyage, Boehner

We won’t have Speaker of the House John Boehner to kick around anymore, at least not after the end-of-October resignation he announced last week, and we’re glad of it. His cautious style of leadership was ill-suited to these times of constitutional crisis, as far as we are concerned, and we never did enjoy kicking him around.
Although we consider ourselves as rock-ribbed and radical as the next Republican, and are in a very confrontational mood lately, we couldn’t quite work up the same red-hot hatred for Boehner that all the right-wing radio talkers and grassroots activists seem to have cultivated. Maybe we were just suckers for the lachrymose Speaker’s compelling sob story about his rise from a humble home atop his father’s bar in a working class neighborhood to the heights of politics, or it’s that our disagreements always seemed to have less to do with his policy preferences than about the tactics best suited to achieve them, or that we well remember what it was like when San Francisco’s well-heeled Nancy Pelosi so expensively wielded the gavel. To say that Boehner represented a great improvement over his predecessor is to damn with faint praise, of course, but at least the deficits are down since to slightly less scary levels since he took over the House and there haven’t been any bills passed nearly so bad as Obamacare and the rest of what has happening when the Democrats everything, and something in our perpetually pessimistic conservative temperament makes us glad for such small favors.
Those right-wing radio talkers and grassroots activists will rightly note that cap-and-trade and open borders and Iranian nuclear bombs with a $150 billion signing bonus and all sorts of other Democratic craziness that would have passed the Reid-Pelosi Congress have nonetheless been achieved by executive action, and with only feeble resistance from the Republican majorities that were installed in congress to prevent it. This is why we’ve concluded that Boehner had to go, and that so should his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but we will concede that their leadership has at least reduced the president to executive actions that can be more easily undone by the executive actions of a new and more sensible president.
We’ll even hold out hope that Boehner’s and McConnell’s cowardly cautiousness have made it slightly more more probable that we’ll soon have a new and more sensible president. Already such still-influential press outlets as The Washington Post are gleefully fretting that the conservative elements of the Republican party that forced Boehner out and now have their sights set on McConnell “can’t govern” and will instead rashly shut down the non-essential government, which is most of it, and that all hell will surely break loose. We’re inclined to believe that there’s already far too much governance going on, that progress would be better measured by the number of laws repealed and regulations rolled back and entire agencies abolished, and that a shut-down of all of those non-essential services would be salutary, especially during the winter when few people are planning vacations in those photogenic national parks, and we’re certain that even our left-wing radical president would blink before allowing a default on the national debt, but we acknowledge that not everyone shares our rather right-wing perspective on such things.
There are only so many of us right-wing crazies out there, and a smaller number of the left-wing crazies on the other side, and therefore policy is so often decided by those uninformed voters in the middle. What little information these voters possess usually comes from the 30-second news updates that are wedged in between the latest pop tunes on the radio each hour, and that brief attention span does not take in anything more than a vague awareness that the latest spat is all about those anarchist conservatives wanting to shut the government down. The other day we heard a short National Public Radio report about the latest possibility of a government shutdown explained as the Republicans refusing to fund the women’s health care services provided by Planned Parenthood, with no mention that Planned Parenthood is mostly a network of abortionists and that a series of hidden camera videos have revealed that they routinely sell the remains of late-term fetuses and even live but promptly terminated births for profit, and one needn’t be such a jaded old pol as Boehner or McConnell to worry how a fight on such terms might end up.
Still, we hope that whoever winds up with Boehner’s job, and with good luck McConnell’s as well, is at least somewhat more daring. The last government shutdown was widely blamed on the Republicans, but ended soon enough for the party to win gains in the election, and the next one might be as well-timed. If the Republicans are willing to fund pretty much everything except Planned Parenthood all of those right-wing talkers and a few of the honest press writers might be able to persuade the public that Democrats were the ones who shut down the government for radical reasons, and people might finally notice that a government shut-down isn’t that big a deal after all, and a reasonable Republican candidate might even enjoy support from that uninformed middle as well as all the suddenly enthused right-wing crazies such as ourselves. Something in our instinctively pessimistic conservative temperament, though, urges at least a wee bit of that old establishment caution.

— Bud Norman

A Good Week for the President

This has been a good week for President Barack Obama, but not so much for the rest of the country.
The president somehow survived two scares, with the Republicans coming to the rescue to spare him the ignominy of the being the first president who failed to win congressional “fast-track” authorization to negotiate trade deals, and a couple of Republican appointees to the Supreme Court joining their Democrat-appointed colleagues to save his eponymous Obamacare law from a well-deserved blow, so of course the Democrats are already gloating about it. There are Republican arguments to be made for both developments, apparently, but we find them entirely unconvincing.
The Supreme Court case of King v. Burwell concerned a single sentence in the 2,000-plus page Obamacare law that quite explicitly specifies only people who had enrolled in an Obamacare health plan through a state-established exchange would be eligible for subsidies. Attorneys for the plaintiffs were able to argue that the legislative record and ample videotape of the law’s “architect” gloating how about they had snookered a gullible public all proved the sentence was intended to put political pressure on the states to start their own exchanges, and that the sentence does in fact explicitly specify only people who had enrolled through a state-established exchange were eligible for subsidies, while the defendant’s attorneys were reduced to arguing that c’mon, if you read a poorly-written law that was hastily forced down the throats of an unwitting public as it is written you will make a complete mess of it. Somehow Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy were swayed the latter argument, and of course all of the Democratic appointees were eager to embrace such logic, so you wind up with a 6-3 majority holding that a law doesn’t necessarily mean what it clearly says. The same argument probably won’t do you much good the next time you fail to signal a lane change, or murder someone, but that’s your fault for not being the first African-American president.
Some are arguing that decision spares the Republicans the political consequences of the complete mess that would have indeed resulted from applying the law as it was written, but given that not a single one of them voted for the damned thing, but we hold out faint hope that the Democrats who did force the damned thing down the throats of the American public would have also faced some political consequences. The Democrats are still stuck with responsibility for Obamacare, which continues to fail to live up to any of its grandiose promises and is instead causing health insurance premiums to skyrocket and the health insurance market to be increasingly dominated by a handful of corporations and doctors to be taking early retirement, and there’s still a chance that it might help the country might undo all the damage that has been done, but nonetheless we would have preferred that the Supreme Court had made the mess of its explicitly stated language more clear.
There’s also a Republican argument to be made for free trade, a principle we heartily endorse, but given the peculiar circumstances of this particular “fast-track” authorization it is not convincing. The past several Democratic and Republican administrations have already pretty much eliminated all the tariffs that once impeded international commerce, so the current debate mostly involves such “non-tariff barriers” as the disparate environmental and immigration and regulatory laws that put countries on an unequal economic footing. Given that the administration has insisted on strict secrecy regarding its negotiations, and given that the administration’s very open stands on the environment and immigration and regulations have been starkly insane, and that its negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons ambitions have been disastrously accommodating, we find no reason to hope that it can be trusted with reaching a trade deal favorable to the American average worker.
At least the Republicans can’t be accused of reflexively opposing anything the president soda because he’s the first African-American president, but of course those accusations will persist anyway. The Democrats who opposed “fast-track authorization” on purely protectionist grounds will reap the political benefits of their courageous stand against free trade, the Republicans will be tarred with some outlier presidential candidate’s ambiguous statements about the Confederate battle flag or whatever other issue the press can come up with, and next week will begin on the same unequal footing.

— Bud Norman

A Transgendered Heckle

The same Greece that was once the Cradle of Democracy is about to go bust, American troops are moving into eastern Europe as if the ’80s were calling and they wanted their foreign policy back, and the Republicans seem intent on entrusting President Barack Obama with the power to negotiate a top-secret trade deal with Asia that will allow all sorts of environmental and immigration shenanigans, but the story that caught our eye was the one about a transgendered illegal immigrant heckling a presidential speech. So far as we can determine this is the first time in the history of the republic that any president has ever been heckled by a transgendered illegal immigrant, so it seemed worth noting.
We’re not at all sure how Washington or Lincoln or Coolidge or either of the Roosevelts or any of the rest of those other archaic old white guys would have handled the situation, as it apparently never came up during their terms, but Obama responded with what strikes us as a very generous indulgence. He was addressing an “LGBT Pride” conference, the acronym referring to lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgendered persons, when a person identified as Jennicet Guttierrez started loudly shouting a demand to “release ‘LGBTQ’ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.” The added “Q” stands for “questioning,” as we understand it, although we can’t pretend to understand what “questioning” means, except for a vague sense that it’s suppose to include those who can’t quite say what they’d wind up doing if they were stranded on a desert island or given a lengthy prison sentence or found themselves in some other unusual sexual circumstance. At any rate, Obama politely implored the heckler to restrain himself or herself, whichever the case may be, and quite reasonably asserted that such behavior was impolite for an invited guest to the East Room of the White House, which he presumptively referred to as “my house.” When the heckler persisted in his or her heckling, Obama at last had his sizable security contingent remove him or her from the premises, although so far as we can glean from the press reports Obama did not have him or her removed from the country, as the law would require.
Apparently there are some 75 transgendered illegal immigrants currently being detained in America, a surprisingly large number given the famously macho cultures from which most illegal immigrants come, but even so Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Guttierrez seems to have little cause for heckling. The president has been far more indulgent toward illegal immigrants than we would prefer, or what we believe the plainly written laws would permit, and the fact that he had invited a collection of Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts to the White House, even if he did neglect to invite all those more countless Qs, suggests that he’s more or less au courant on the latest sexual fashions. Why transgendered illegal immigrants should enjoy preferential treatment over the more traditional sorts was not explained in the heckling, and neither did the heckling make a reasoned argument that America should stop enforcing its borders. Even the rest of the assembled Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts, and presumably those Qs who also somehow snuck in, helped to shout down the more au courant heckler.
The crowd’s response was probably heartening to the president, who for some reason endures more heckling from the left than the right. Except for that State of the Union address when some little-known Republican shouted “You lie” during a line about how Obamacare won’t cover illegal immigrants, which has since turned out to be an entirely accurate heckle, or Chief Justice Roberts’ silently mouthed protestation of “not true” after Obama’s verifiably not true description of the Citizen’s United decision, all of the heckling during his speeches has come from the pacifist Code Pink group or the anti-free trade labor groups or some other faction that finds him insufficiently liberal. He used to be heckled by pro-illegal immigration groups that demanded he allow open borders by executive action, and he used to try to politely quell the dissent by explaining that he had no constitutional authority to do so, but apparently there has since been some change in the Constitution that no longer makes this necessary.
Greece’s descent into bankruptcy and the revival of the Cold War and that awful free trade bill that the Republicans are signing on to are probably more important matters, but at a time when transgendered illegal immigrants are heckling the president they seem all the more unlikely to come to any happy conclusion.

— Bud Norman

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

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