PRESIDENT – TED CRUZ
U.S. Senator/Former Texas Solicitor General/Former Director Of The Office Of Policy Planning For The Federal Trade Commission/Former Associate Deputy Attorney General For The U.S. Department Of Justice/Former Domestic Policy Advisor To U.S. President George W. Bush For The 2000 Bush-Cheney Campaign/Former Adjunct Professor Of Law At The University Of Texas School Of Law, Austin/Attorney
VICE PRESIDENT – SCOTT WALKER
Wisconsin Governor/Former Wisconsin State Assemblyman/Former Milwaukee County Executive/Former Marketer And Fundraiser For The American Red Cross
CHIEF OF STAFF – MARK LEVIN
President Of The Landmark Legal Foundation/Former Associate Director Of Presidential Personnel For The Reagan Administration/Former Deputy Assistant Secretary For Elementary And Secondary Education At The U.S. Department Of Education/Former Deputy Solicitor At The U.S. Department Of The Interior/Former Chief Of Staff To Attorney General Edwin Meese/Talk Raido Host/Historian/Author/Attorney
ATTORNEY GENERAL – TREY GOWDY
U.S. Congressman/Former District Attorney For South Carolina’s Seventh Judicial Circuit/Former Federal Prosecutor With The U.S. Attorney For The District Of South Carolina/Former Law Clerk For John P. Gardner On The South Carolina Court Of Appeals And United States District Court Judge Ross Anderson/Attorney
SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY – FRANK GAFFNEY
Founder And President Of The Center For Security Policy/Founder Of The Set America Free Coalition/Former Deputy Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Nuclear Forces And Arms Control Policy/Former Assistant Secretary Of Defense For International Security Policy/Former Senate Armed Services Committee Staff Member/Talk Radio Host/Producer/Columnist/Author
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE – STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL
Retired United States Army Four-Star General/Former Commander Of International Security Assistance Force/Former Commander Of U.S. Forces Afghanistan/Former Director Of Joint Staff/ Former Commander Of Joint Special Operations Command
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE – KEITH ALEXANDER
United States Army Four-Star General/Director Of The National Security Agency/Chief Of The Central Security Service/Commander Of The United States Cyber Command/Former Deputy Chief Of Staff, G-2, U.S. Army
SECRETARY OF STATE – JOHN BOLTON
Former Ambassador To The United Nations/Former Assistant Secretary For International Organization Affairs At The Department Of State/Former Assistant Attorney General At The Department Of Justice/Former Assistant Administrator For Program And Policy Coordination At The U.S. Agency For International Development/Former General Counsel At The U.S. Agency For International Development/Attorney
CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE – MARK THORNTON
Senior Fellow At The Ludwig Von Mises Institute/Book Review Editor Of The Quarterly Journal Of Austrian Economics/Former Editor Of The Austrian Economics Newsletter/Editorial Board Member Of The Journal Of Libertarian Studies/Former Economics Professor At Auburn University At Montgomery And Trinity University In Texas/Former Assistant Superintendent Of Banking And Economic Adviser To Alabama Governor Fob James/Author
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY – THOMAS SOWELL
Senior Fellow At The Hoover Institution At Stanford University/Former Professor Of Economics At Howard University, Rutgers University, Cornell University, Brandeis University, Amherst College And UCLA/Former Fellow At The Center For Advanced Study In The Behavioral Sciences At Stanford University/Former Project Director At The Urban Institute/Columnist/Author
DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET – NEWT GINGRICH
Former Speaker Of The U.S. House Of Representatives/Architect Of The ‘Contract With America’/Former House Minority Whip/Former Time Magazine ‘Man Of The Year’/Former Assistant Professor Of History And Geography At West Georgia College/Founder And Chairman Of American Solutions For Winning The Future And The Center For Health Transformation/Founder Of The Conservative Opportunity Society/Distinguished Visiting Scholar And Professor At The United States Air Force’s Air University And The National Defense University/Member Of The Council On Foreign Relations/Guiding Coalition Member Of The Project On National Security Reform/Founder And Chairman Of Gingrich Productions/Political Consultant/Historian/Lecturer/Author
SECRETARY OF ENERGY – REX TILLERSON
Chairman, President And CEO Of Exxon Mobil Corporation/Engineer/Trustee For The Center For Strategic And International Studies And The American Petroleum Institute/Former President Of Exxon Yemen Inc And Esso Exploration And Production Khorat Incorporated/Former Vice President Of Exxon Ventures/Former President Of Exxon Neftegas Limited/Former Executive Vice President Of ExxonMobil Development Company
SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR – SARAH PALIN
Former Alaska Governor/Former Wasilla Mayor/Former Wasilla City Councilwoman/Former Chairwoman Of The Alaska Oil And Gas Conservation Commission/Former Head Of The Fellowship Of Christian Athletes/Former Sportscaster For KTUU-TV And KTVA-TV/Former Sports Reporter For The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman/Former Miss Wasilla/Political Commentator/Author
SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS – ALLEN WEST
Former U.S. Congressman/Retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel/Former Military Professional Resources Incorporated Adviser To The Afghan National Army/Former U.S. History Teacher And Track And Field Coach At Deerfield Beach High School, Deerfield Beach, Florida/Founder Of The Allen West Guardian Fund And The Allen West Foundation/Political Commentator/Columnist/Author
UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE – TERRY MILLER
Director Of The Center For International Trade And Economics/Kolokotrones Fellow In Economic Freedom At The Heritage Foundation/Editor Of The Annual Index Of Economic Freedom/Former Ambassador To The United Nations Economic And Social Council/Former Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State For Economic And Global Issues/Former Director Of The Office Of Agricultural And Textile Trade/Former Director Of The Office Of Human Rights, Social And Refugee Affairs/Former Director Of Economic And Development Affairs At The Bureau Of International Organisations/Former Head Of The U.S. Observer Mission To The U.N. Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organization/Former Head Of The U.S. Delegation To The U.N. Conference On Trade And Development/Former Lead Negotiator For The Monterrey Consensus On Financing For Development/Columnist
DIRECTOR OF IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT – JOE ARPAIO
Sheriff Of Maricopa County, Arizona/Former Military Policeman In The U.S Army/Former Police Officer In Las Vegas, Nevada/Former Special Agent With The Federal Bureau Of Narcotics (Later DEA)/Former Head Of The DEA’s Arizona Branch/Author
SURGEON GENERAL – BEN CARSON
Former Director Of Pediatric Neurosurgery And Professor Of Neurosurgery, Oncology, Plastic Surgery And Pediatrics At Johns Hopkins Hospital/Former Co-Director Of The Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center/Recipient Of The Presidential Medal Of Freedom/Member Of The American Academy Of Achievement And The Horatio Alger Association Of Distinguished Americans/Recipient Of The Jefferson Award For Greatest Public Service Benefiting The Disadvantaged/Member Of The National Academy Of Sciences Institute Of Medicine/Holder Of 38 Honorary Doctorate Degrees/Columnist/Political Commentator/Author
SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION – TED HOUGHTON
Chairman Of The Texas Transportation Commission/Former Member Of The El Paso School Land Board/Former Member Of The El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board/Former Member Of The El Paso Rapid Transit Board/Former Vice President And Chairman Of The El Paso Public Relations And Communications Committee/Former Treasurer Of The El Paso Political Action Committee/Former Member Of The El Paso Electric Company Board Of Directors/Former President Of The Sun Bowl Association/Former Member Of The 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee
SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES – PAMELA PAULK
Senior Vice President For Human Resources For The Johns Hopkins Health System And Johns Hopkins Medicine/Co-Founder And President Of The Baltimore Alliance For Careers In Healthcare/President Of The Baltimore Community Mediation Board Of Directors/Member Of The Baltimore Employee Health Plan Board Of Directors/Member Of The Baltimore Leadership Class Of 2000/Member Of The Baltimore Workforce Investment Board/Former Director Of Operations Integration For The Johns Hopkins Health System/Former Interim Director For Johns Hopkins Home Care Group/Former Vice President Of Johns Hopkins International Global Services/Former National Consultant And Senior Vice President Of Operations For A Private Psychiatric Practice
PRESS SECRETARY – BILL WHITTLE
Co-founder Of Declaration Entertainment/Director/Screenwriter/Editor/Narrator/Political Commentator/Columnist/Pilot/Video Blogger/Author
SECRETARY OF FREE MARKET CAPITALISM – ARTHUR BROOKS
President Of The American Enterprise Institute/Curry Scholar In Free Enterprise At The American Enterprise Institute/Former Professor Of Business, Economics, Social Entrepreneurship And Government At Syracuse University/Former Professor Of Public Administration At Syracuse University/Former Associate Professor At Syracuse University Maxwell School Of Citizenship And Public Affairs/Former Associate Professor At Syracuse University Whitman School Of Management/Former Assistant Professor Of Public Administration And Economics At Georgia State University/Former Doctoral Fellow And Consultant At The RAND Corporation/Former Professor Of French Horn At Lynn University Harid Conservatory Of Music/Former Classical French Hornist/Economist/Columnist/Author
DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT DOWNSIZING – THOMAS SCHATZ
President Of Citizens Against Government Waste And Its Lobbying Affiliate The Council For Citizens Against Government Waste/Former Legislative Director For Congressman Hamilton Fish Jr./Spokesman/Attorney/Columnist
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
SECRETARY OF LABOR
SECRETARY OF EDUCATION
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE
SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS
Why are we even talking about taking military action in Syria? What is that military action supposed to accomplish? And what is the probability that it will in fact accomplish whatever that unknown goal might be?
What is painfully clear from President Obama’s actions, inactions, and delays is that he is more or less playing by ear what specifically he is going to do, and when. He is telling us more about what he is not going to do – that he will not put “boots on the ground,” for example – than about what he will do.
All this is happening a year after issuing an ultimatum to the Bashar Assad regime in Syria against the use of chemical or biological weapons. When the president of the United States issues an ultimatum to another sovereign nation, he should know in advance what he is going to do if that ultimatum is rejected.
But that is not the way Barack Obama operates. Like so many people who are masters of lofty words, he does not pay nearly as much attention to mundane realities. Campaigning is his strong suit. Governing is not.
With the mainstream media ready to ooh and aah over his rhetoric, and pass over in silence his policy disasters as president, Obama is home free as far as domestic politics is concerned. But, on the world stage, neither America’s enemies nor her allies are hypnotized by his words or his image.
Nations that have to decide whether to ally themselves with us or with our enemies understand that they are making life-and-death decisions. It is not about rhetoric, image, or symbolism. It is about whether nations can count on the realism, wisdom, and dependability of the American government.
Make no mistake about it, Barack Obama is a very clever man. But cleverness is not wisdom, or even common sense.
When he was in the Senate, Obama – along with Senators Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, and Hillary Clinton – was critical of the Bush administration for not being favorable to the Assad regime.
Hillary Clinton said that she and other lawmakers who visited Assad considered him a “reformer.” Back in 2007, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, both Senator Biden and Senator Hagel chided her for not being more ready to negotiate with Assad.
Senator John Kerry in 2009 said, “Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”
Some people said that having Joe Biden as vice president meant that President Obama had someone with many years of foreign-policy experience. What they ignored was that Biden had decades of experience being wrong on foreign-policy issues time and time again.
Biden opposed President Ronald Reagan’s military buildup that countered the Soviet Union’s buildup and helped bring about both the end of the Cold War and the end of the Soviet Union. General David Petraeus’s “surge” strategy that greatly reduced the terrorist attacks in Iraq was opposed in 2007 by Senator Biden, who said, “We need to stop the surge and start to get our troops out.”
Senator Hillary Clinton not only opposed the surge from the outset, she was among those who refused to believe that it had succeeded, even after all the hard evidence had convinced most other people.
The grim reality is that the people in key positions to shape our foreign policy during the Obama administration – the president, the vice president, two secretaries of state, and the current secretary of defense – all have a track record of grossly misconceiving the issues, our enemies, and our national interest.
This is the administration that is now asking for a blank check from Congress to take unspecified military action to achieve unspecified goals. “Military action” is a polite phrase for killing people. It would be nice to believe that this has some purpose other than saving Barack Obama from political embarrassment after he issued an ultimatum without having thought through what he would do if that ultimatum was ignored.
He has the authority to take military action if he wants to. The question is whether he can sucker the Republicans into giving him political cover by pre-approving his unknown actions and unknown goals.
‘The genius of you Americans,” the Arab-nationalist and one-time president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, once explained, “is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them which we are missing.”
I’ve long taken patriotic pride in such statements of befuddlement from foreigners. America is a gloriously complicated thing. We often confuse our national creeds for universal principles. We are a Jacksonian people (that’s Andrew Jackson, in case you were wondering) in love with Jeffersonian ideals and legalistically committed to Madisonian mechanisms. Like a guard dog that would rather not leave the porch, we are quick to anger but not necessarily quick to fight, and we are just as eager to forgive.
So from the vantage point of foreign brutes, bullies, and buffoons, it’s understandable that America’s methods could be confused for stupidity. This is why I love the old expression, “America can choke on a gnat, but swallow a tiger whole.”
So I am trying very hard to hold onto this perspective as I watch the president of the United States behave in a way you don’t have to be a pan-Arab autocrat to think is incredibly stupid.
Where to begin? Perhaps with Obama’s initial refusal to support the moderate rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, a puppet of Iran and bagman for Hezbollah. Or we might start with Obama’s refusal to support the Green Movement in Iran, which sought to overthrow the Iranian regime, which would have been a triumph for both our principles and our national interests.
These were odd choices, particularly given his decision to help depose Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, an indisputably evil man, but also a dictator who posed no threat, who abided by our demands to relinquish WMDs, and whose domestic death toll was a tiny fraction of Assad’s.
“We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy… where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government” was Obama’s justification for an attack on Libya – without congressional approval. But when Assad killed tenfold as many men, women, and children, Obama refused to act for nearly two years. And when he finally decided it was imperative to attack Assad – after the dictator crossed a chemical-weapons “red line” drawn by Obama himself – he suddenly discovered the need for congressional authorization.
Obama doesn’t believe he needs authorization from Congress to strike Syria, he just wants it. He’s like a kid desperate for a prom date, but too vain to admit it. In Libya, Obama had the U.N. and NATO on each arm, so he didn’t bother with asking the dog on Capitol Hill for a date. But now, faced with the prospect of going it alone, he’s in effect telling Congress, “Hey, it’s not like I need your company, but you’d be crazy not to go to war with me.”
Whoops. As even Nancy Pelosi’s own grandkid now knows, we mustn’t call it a war. “The president is not asking you to go to war,” Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress. He’s merely asking them to authorize a sustained cruise-missile attack on military installations to “degrade” the regime’s “capabilities.”
But, according to Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey, no one has asked the military to do anything that might change the “momentum” of the Syrian civil war. This is like saying you’re going to attack a runaway car barreling toward a crowd of kids, but do nothing to actually, you know, slow it down. What good does it do to trash the radio and rip out the cup holders on an out-of-control car?
Meanwhile, according to numerous accounts, Assad is moving military assets into civilian areas and civilians into military areas, even as the Obama administration insists it makes no difference militarily to wait for Congress to debate. That’s not just stupid; it’s an outright lie that will be fact-checked with blood.
I understand the attraction the buddy system has for a man who, as a state legislator, perfected the art of voting “present” on hard questions. But it’s hard to see this as anything other than rank political cowardice.
The buck stopped with Truman. For Obama, the buck is kryptonite.
In Stockholm on Wednesday, the president said that the credibility of the world, America, Congress, and the international community is on the line. Everybody is on the hook for his red line, except for the one person who actually drew it.
I’d love to see the genius in that argument, but it looks like clear-cut stupidity to me.
Oh, how I long for the days when liberals wailed that “the rest of the world” hated America, rather than now, when the rest of the world laughs at us.
With the vast majority of Americans opposing a strike against Syria, President Obama has requested that Congress vote on his powers as commander in chief under the Constitution. The president doesn’t need congressional approval to shoot a few missiles into Syria, nor – amazingly – has he said he’ll abide by such a vote, anyway.
Why is Congress even having a vote? This is nothing but a fig leaf to cover Obama’s own idiotic “red line” ultimatum to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on chemical weapons. The Nobel Peace Prize winner needs to get Congress on the record so that whatever happens, the media can blame Republicans.
No Republican who thinks seriously about America’s national security interests – by which I mean to exclude John McCain and Lindsey Graham – can support Obama’s “plan” to shoot blindly into this hornet’s nest.
It would be completely different if we knew with absolute certainty that Assad was responsible for chemical attacks on his own people. (I’m still waiting to see if it was a Syrian upset about a YouTube video.)
It would be different if instead of killing a few hundred civilians, Assad had killed 5,000 civilians with poison gas in a single day, as well as tens of thousands more with chemical weapons in the past few decades.
It would be different if Assad were known to torture his own people, administer summary executions, rapes, burnings and electric shocks, often in front of the victim’s wife or children.
It would be different if Assad had acted aggressively toward the United States itself, perhaps attempting to assassinate a former U.S. president or giving shelter to terrorists who had struck within the U.S. – someone like Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood terrorist.
It would be different if Assad were stirring up trouble in the entire Middle East by, for example, paying bounties to the families of suicide bombers in other countries.
It would also be different if we could be sure that intervention in Syria would not lead to a multi-nation conflagration.
It would be different if we knew that any action against Syria would not put al-Qaida or the Muslim Brotherhood in power, but rather would result in a functioning, peaceful democracy.
And it would be different if an attack on Syria would so terrify other dictators in the region that they would instantly give up their WMDs – say, Iran abandoning its nuclear program.
If all of that were true, this would be a military intervention worth supporting!
All of that was true about Iraq, but the Democrats hysterically opposed that war. They opposed it even after all this was known to be true – indeed, especially after it was known to be true! The loudest opponent was Barack Obama.
President Saddam Hussein of Iraq had attempted to assassinate former president George H.W. Bush. He gave shelter to Abdul Rahman Yasin, a conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He paid bounties to the families of suicide bombers in Israel.
Soon after Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi was so terrified of an attack on his own country, he voluntarily relinquished his WMDs – which turned out to be far more extensive than previously imagined.
Al-Qaida not only did not take over Iraq, but got its butt handed to it in Iraq, where the U.S. and its allies killed thousands of al-Qaida fighters, including the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Iraq became the first genuine Arab democracy, holding several elections and presiding over a trial of Saddam Hussein.
Does anyone imagine that any of this would result from an Obama-led operation in Syria? How did his interventions work out in Egypt and Libya?
As for chemical weapons – the casus belli for the current drums of war – in a matter of hours on March 16, 1988, Saddam Hussein slaughtered roughly 5,000 Kurdish civilians in Halabja with mustard, sarin and VX gas. The victims blistered, vomited or laughed hysterically before dropping dead. Thousands more would die later from the after-effects of these poisons.
Saddam launched nearly two dozen more chemical attacks on the Kurds, resulting in at least 50,000 deaths, perhaps three times that many. That’s to say nothing of the tens of thousands of Iranians Saddam killed with poison gas. Indeed, in making the case against Assad recently, Secretary of State John Kerry said his use of chemical weapons put him in the same league as “Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.”
Not even close – but may we ask why Kerry sneered at the war that removed such a monster as Hussein?
There were endless United Nations reports and resolutions both establishing that Saddam had used chemical weapons and calling on him to give them up. (For the eighth billionth time, we did find chemical weapons in Iraq, just no “stockpiles.” Those had been moved before the war, according to Saddam’s own general, Georges Sada – to Syria.)
On far less evidence, our current president accuses Assad of using chemical weapons against a fraction of the civilians provably murdered with poison gas by Saddam Hussein. So why did Obama angrily denounce the military operation that removed Hussein? Why did he call that a “war of choice”?
Obama says Assad – unlike that great statesman Saddam Hussein – has posed “a challenge to the world.” But the world disagrees. Even our usual ally, Britain, disagrees. So Obama demands the United States act alone to stop a dictator, who – compared to Saddam – is a piker.
At this point, Assad is at least 49,000 dead bodies short of the good cause the Iraq War was, even if chemical weapons had been the only reason to take out Saddam Hussein.
Congress should reject President Obama’s appeal for authorization to attack Syria in retaliation for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Just as state Sen. Barack Obama opposed the use of force resolution against Saddam Hussein in 2002, Congress should turn aside the president’s appeal to attack now that his particular “red line” has been crossed in Syria. If he was against drawing the line against Hussein, what is the need to draw the line with Bashar Assad?
In “The Great Deformation,” former Budget Director David Stockman writes eloquently about the costs of a “welfare” and a “warfare” state, noting that they both drain our national economy – the warfare state particularly. With our economy trembling on the brink of a major crash, in the opinion of many economists, this is no time for another expensive military operation.
Above all, it is wrong to commit our nation’s military to a confused and contradictory conflict. How can we fight when The Wall Street Journal attributes to a Pentagon official the fear that “the wrong groups in the opposition would be able to take advantage of [an American bombing campaign]?” He said that the administration did not want to topple Assad from power – just to punish him for using gas.
This kind of half-in, half-out mission is exactly the kind of intervention we must avoid. It creates its own momentum and leads to ever greater involvement, regardless of the initial intent.
Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has said that we would become “al Qaeda’s airforce” should we attack Assad. The evidence is overwhelming that al Qaeda is the alternative to Assad in Syria. The illusion of a liberal, democratic alternative is as ephemeral in Syria as it has proven to be in Egypt. In bombing Assad, we would inevitably become involved on the wrong side of a civil war. Not that Assad is the right side; there is no right side, and we should stay out.
Why is the president asking for congressional approval of his intervention? Is it a sudden concern for the limitations of executive power? Or is it a desire to use the gas episode to get a Gulf of Tonkin-style open-ended OK for intervention in this civil war? Could it be related to his desire to appease the Saudi monarchy by backing the rebels that Riyadh desperately wants to win?
We must all step back, at this juncture, and question what five decades of war have accomplished. Vietnam was, unquestionably, a total waste of men, money and political credibility. We lost, and we would have accomplished nothing had we won. The fall of the Soviet Empire would not have been hastened one day by defeat or advanced one day by victory. The war between China and Vietnam within years of the end of U.S. involvement showed how flawed the domino theory really was.
The first Gulf War, obviously, achieved nothing. It left Hussein in power and we had to go in again. The second Gulf War is increasingly appearing to be destructive in its impact. We seem to have succeeded only in giving Iran a staunch ally in the Middle East. The recent killing of 52 Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf – the sanctuary we established for opponents of the Ayatollah – reportedly by Iraqi forces, shows how flawed our involvement was.
The Afghan War has degraded al Qaeda’s ability to fight, but the broader effort at nation-building has only really propped up a regime that non-governmental organization Transparency International rates as the second most corrupt on Earth.
Libya? The jury is still out, but the activity of al Qaeda there, as evidenced by the Benghazi raid, indicates it may have a similarly disappointing outcome.
It is plainly time to say no. It is time to heed the warning of President Eisenhower against limited wars, unbalanced budgets and the military industrial complex.
Syria is, indeed, the time to draw a red line. But the line should be against military adventures.
Early signs say it will be hard for President Obama to win congressional authorization for military action in Syria. That could change; lawmakers might re-write the president’s draft authorization into something they can live with, ultimately allowing Obama to go forward. But whatever happens, Republicans have a compelling case for rejecting the president’s request. Based on off-the-record conversations with some of them, this is it:
1) The chemical weapons evidence. The Obama administration appears to believe that conclusive proof that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians creates an unassailable case for U.S. intervention. A few lawmakers will likely challenge whether the proof is really conclusive. But a far larger number will accept the evidence that Assad used chemical weapons – and still reject intervention.
Those lawmakers will argue that Obama did not intervene when Assad used conventional weapons to slaughter thousands of innocent people; the death toll in the two-and-and-half-year civil war is put at 100,000. What is different now? They will also point to the various atrocities and human rights violations around the world in which the United States has not intervened. American involvement, they will argue, should be contingent on a genuine U.S. national security interest, not the simple fact that an awful thing has been done.
2) The blank check problem. Lots of lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, believe Obama’s draft resolution gives the president too much power. The draft would grant Obama the authority to use armed force “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in connection with weapons of mass destruction in Syria, for the purpose of preventing the future use or spread of those weapons, or, more generally, protecting the U.S. and its allies.
For many lawmakers, that’s too broad a mandate. But a significant number of members might reject even a narrowed version of the resolution on the grounds that, once the use of force is authorized, Congress as a practical matter will have little control over how the president exercises it.
3) The nature of the Syrian opposition. Many Republicans will never be convinced the U.S. can come to the aid of good rebels in Syria without also helping bad rebels in Syria. It’s just too complicated, they believe, and there are simply too many bad guys. Why risk aiding al Qaeda or its affiliates? These Republicans remain unconvinced by arguments from fellow GOP lawmakers like John McCain, who point out that in the Libyan operation the U.S. essentially set up a safe area for good rebels in Benghazi. Given what happened later in that Libyan city, the skeptics will remain unconvinced.
4) The lack of confidence in Barack Obama. There’s no doubt the president has been extremely reluctant to take action in Syria. He also showed terrible judgment by painting himself into a corner with his 2012 “red line” comments on chemical weapons. For those reasons, and more, some Republicans will argue that they simply cannot entrust special warmaking powers to a president who they believe is not competent to use them.
5) The “first to die” dilemma. Some Republicans are so war-weary that they would be loathe to authorize any military action in the absence of an actual attack on the United States. When Sen. Rand Paul re-phrased John Kerry’s words from Vietnam – Kerry famously asked, “How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?” which Paul changed to “How do you ask a man to be the first to die for a mistake?” – the senator from Kentucky was signaling that there is virtually no way lawmakers like him will ever support a Syrian initiative.
How many Republicans hold some or all of these beliefs? Quite a few. Perhaps in anticipation of a close vote, a new argument is circulating among pro-interventionists which says that protecting the prerogatives of future presidents is so important that Republicans should support Obama’s Syrian action even if there is no good case for doing so.
Rejecting Obama could permanently weaken the presidency, argues political scientist James Ceaser in an article cited by influential conservative commentator William Kristol. Therefore, Republicans should vote to authorize force “even if they think that the president’s policy will prove ineffective, do no good, waste money, or entail unforeseen risks…even if they think he has gotten the nation into this situation by blunders, fecklessness, arrogance, or naiveté; and…even if, and especially, if they have no confidence in his judgment.”
That will be a very hard sell for Republicans. In the end, many will carefully consider all the evidence and then vote their instincts. And that will mean a vote against Barack Obama.
Sen. Bob Corker: “What is it you’re seeking?”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.”
- Senate hearing on the use of force in Syria, Sept. 3
We have a problem. The president proposes attacking Syria, and his top military officer cannot tell you the objective. Does the commander in chief know his own objective? Why, yes. “A shot across the bow,” explained Barack Obama.
Now, a shot across the bow is a warning. Its purpose is to say: Cease and desist, or the next shot will sink you. But Obama has already told the world – and Bashar al-Assad in particular – that there will be no next shot. He has insisted time and again that the operation will be finite and highly limited. Take the shot, kill some fish, go home.
What then is the purpose? Dempsey hasn’t a clue, but Secretary of State John Kerry says it will uphold and proclaim a norm and thus deter future use of chemical weapons. With a few Tomahawk missiles? Hitting sites that, thanks to the administration having leaked the target list, have already been scrubbed of important military assets?
This is risible. If anything, a pinprick from which Assad emerges unscathed would simply enhance his stature and vindicate his conduct.
Deterrence depends entirely on perception, and the perception in the Middle East is universal: Obama wants no part of Syria.
Assad has to go, says Obama, and then lifts not a finger for two years. Obama lays down a “red line,” and then ignores it. Shamed finally by a massive poison gas attack, he sends Kerry to make an impassioned case for righteous and urgent retaliation – and the very next day, Obama undermines everything by declaring an indefinite timeout to seek congressional approval.
This stunning zigzag, following months of hesitation, ambivalence, contradiction and studied delay, left our regional allies shocked and our enemies gleeful. I had strongly advocated going to Congress. But it was inconceivable that, instead of recalling Congress to emergency session, Obama would simply place everything in suspension while Congress finished its Labor Day barbecues and he flew off to Stockholm and St. Petersburg. So much for the fierce urgency of enforcing an international taboo and speaking for the dead children of Damascus.
Here’s how deterrence works in the Middle East. Syria, long committed to the destruction of Israel, has not engaged Israel militarily in 30 years. Why? Because it recognizes Israel as a serious adversary with serious policies.
This year alone, Israel has four times conducted airstrikes in Syria. No Syrian response. How did Israel get away with it? Israel had announced that it would not tolerate Assad acquiring or transferring to Hezbollah advanced weaponry. No grandiloquent speeches by the Israeli foreign minister. No leaked target lists. Indeed, the Israelis didn’t acknowledge the strikes even after they had carried them out. Unlike the American president, they have no interest in basking in perceived toughness. They care only about effect. They care about just one audience – the party to be deterred, namely Assad and his allies.
Assad knows who did it. He didn’t have to see the Israeli prime minister preening about it on world television.
And yet here is Obama, having yet done nothing but hesitate, threaten, retract and wander about the stage, claiming Wednesday in Sweden to be the conscience of the world, upholding not his own red line but the world’s. And, incidentally, Congress’s – a transparent attempt at offloading responsibility.
What should Congress do?
To his dovish base, Obama insists on how limited and militarily marginal the strike will be. To undecided hawks such as Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are prepared to support a policy that would really alter the course of the civil war, he vaguely promises the opposite – to degrade Assad’s military while upgrading that of the resistance.
Problem is, Obama promised U.S. weaponry three months ago and not a rifle has arrived. This time around, what seems in the making is a mere pinprick, designed to be, one U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times, “just muscular enough not to get mocked.”
That’s why Dempsey is so glum. That’s why U.S. allies are so stunned. There’s no strategy, no purpose here other than helping Obama escape self-inflicted humiliation.
This is deeply unserious. Unless Obama can show the country that his don’t-mock-me airstrike is, in fact, part of a serious strategic plan, Congress should vote no.
John McCain changed the administration’s authorization resolution to include, mirabile dictu, a U.S. strategy in Syria: to alter the military equation (against Assad). Unfortunately, Obama is not known for being bound by what Congress passes (see, for example: health care, employer mandate).
When Obama tells the nation what he told McCain and Lindsey Graham in private – that he plans to degrade Assad’s forces, upgrade the resistance and alter the balance of forces – Congress might well consider authorizing the use of force. But until then, it’s no.
I see the Obama “reset” is going so swimmingly that the president is now threatening to go to war against a dictator who gassed his own people. Don’t worry, this isn’t anything like the dictator who gassed his own people that the discredited warmonger Bush spent 2002 and early 2003 staggering ever more punchily around the country inveighing against. The 2003 dictator who gassed his own people was the leader of the Baath Party of Iraq. The 2013 dictator who gassed his own people is the leader of the Baath Party of Syria. Whole other ball of wax. The administration’s ingenious plan is to lose this war in far less time than we usually take. In the unimprovable formulation of an unnamed official speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the White House is carefully calibrating a military action “just muscular enough not to get mocked.”
That would make a great caption for a Vanity Fair photo shoot of Obama gamboling in the surf at Martha’s Vineyard, but as a military strategy it’s not exactly Alexander the Great or the Duke of Wellington. And it’s trickier than it sounds: I’m sure Miley’s choreographer assured her she was “just muscular enough not to get mocked,” and one wouldn’t want to see the United States reduced to twerking arrhythmically to no avail in front of an unimpressed Bashar Assad’s Robin Thicke. Okay, okay, that metaphor’s as thinly stretched as Miley’s talent, so what does unmockable musculature boil down to? From the New York Times: “A wide range of officials characterize the action under consideration as ‘limited,’ perhaps lasting no more than a day or two.”
Yeah, I know, that’s what Edward III said about the Hundred Years’ War. But Obama seems to mean it:
An American official said that the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets. Perhaps two to three missiles would be aimed at each site.
Got that? So, if you’re a Syrian air-base commander, you might want to think about moving those Russian helicopters, or at least yourself – perhaps to that black-eyed cutie’s apartment, above the restaurant where the kibbeh with the pomegranate sauce is to die for, just for the night, until the Great Satan has twerked his ordnance at you twice or thrice and gone away to threaten the Yemenis or Somalis or whoever’s next.
In the world’s most legalistic culture, it was perhaps inevitable that battle plans would eventually be treated under courtroom discovery rules and have to be disclosed to the other side in your pre-war statement. But in this case it doesn’t seem to be impressing anyone. Like his patrons in Tehran and Moscow, Assad’s reaction to American threats is to double up with laughter and say, “Bring it, twerkypants.” Headline from Friday’s Guardian in London: “Syria: ‘Napalm’ Bomb Dropped on School Playground, BBC Claims” – which, if true, suggests that even a blood-soaked mass murderer is not without a sense of humor. Napalm, eh? There’s a word I haven’t heard since, oh, 40 years ago or thereabouts, somewhere in the general vicinity of southeast Asia.
The BBC footage is grisly; the British media have been far more invested in the Syrian civil war than their U.S. colleagues. But what’s the net effect of all the harrowing human-interest stories? This week, David Cameron recalled Parliament from its summer recess to permit the people’s representatives to express their support for the impending attack. Instead, for the first time since the British defeat at Yorktown in 1782, the House of Commons voted to deny Her Majesty’s Government the use of force. Under the Obama “reset,” even the Coalition of the Willing is unwilling. “It’s clear to me that the British Parliament and the British people do not wish to see military action,” said the prime minister. So the Brits are out, and, if he goes at all, Obama will be waging war without even Austin Powers’s Union Jack fig leaf.
“This House will not fight for king and country”? Not exactly. What the British people are sick of, quite reasonably enough, is ineffectual warmongering, whether in the cause of Blairite liberal interventionism or of Bush’s big-power assertiveness. The problem with the American way of war is that, technologically, it can’t lose, but, in every other sense, it can’t win. No one in his right mind wants to get into a tank battle or a naval bombardment with the guys responsible for over 40 percent of the planet’s military expenditures. Which is why these days there aren’t a lot of tank battles. The consummate interventionist Robert Kagan wrote in his recent book that the American military “remains unmatched.” It’s unmatched in the sense that the only guy in town with a tennis racket isn’t going to be playing a lot of tennis matches. But the object of war, in Liddell Hart’s famous distillation, is not to destroy the enemy’s tanks (or Russian helicopters) but his will. And on that front America loses, always. The “unmatched” superpower cannot impose its will on Kabul kleptocrats, Pashtun goatherds, Egyptian generals, or Benghazi militia. There is no reason to believe Syria would be an exception to this rule. America’s inability to win ought to be a burning national question, but it’s not even being asked.
Let us stipulate that many of those war-weary masses are ignorant and myopic. But at a certain level they grasp something that their leaders don’t: For a quarter-century, from Kuwait to Kosovo to Kandahar, the civilized world has gone to war only in order to save or liberate Muslims. The Pentagon is little more than central dispatch for the U.S. military’s Muslim Fast Squad. And what do we have to show for it? Liberating Syria isn’t like liberating the Netherlands: In the Middle East, the enemy of our enemy is also our enemy. Yes, those BBC images of schoolchildren with burning flesh are heart-rending. So we’ll get rid of Assad and install the local branch of al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or whatever plucky neophyte democrat makes it to the presidential palace first – and then, instead of napalmed schoolyards, there will be, as in Egypt, burning Christian churches and women raped for going uncovered.
So what do we want in Syria? Obama can’t say, other than for him to look muscular without being mocked, like a camp bodybuilder admiring himself in the gym mirror.
Oh, well. If the British won’t be along for the ride, the French are apparently still in. What was the old gag from a decade ago during those interminable U.N. resolutions with Chirac saying “Non!” every time? Ah, yes: “Going to war without the French is like going hunting without an accordion.” Oddly enough, the worst setback for the Islamic imperialists in recent years has been President Hollande’s intervention in Mali, where, unlike the money-no-object Pentagon, the French troops had such undernourished supply lines that they had to hitch a ride to the war on C-17 transports from the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force. And yet they won – insofar as anyone ever really wins on that benighted sod.
Meanwhile, the hyperpower is going to war because Obama wandered off prompter and accidentally made a threat. So he has to make good on it, or America will lose its credibility. But he only wants to make good on it in a perfunctory and ineffectual way. So America will lose its credibility anyway.
Maybe it’s time to learn the accordion…
Barack Obama knows that America’s military is a big stick, but unfortunately Roosevelt’s advice about speaking softly doesn’t seem to have stuck. Because Barack Obama recklessly shot off his mouth about a “red line” in Syria, he’s demanding that our nation insert itself into a civil war between terrorist groups, both of which have chemical weapons, to protect his ego. Happily, the American people recognize what a foolish move this would be. A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that only 9% of Americans currently support bombing Syria. This is why Barack Obama has punted his Syrian War to Congress. He’s hoping that it’ll be foolish enough to vote in favor of war to give him the political cover he needs to bomb. Not only should Congress vote against the war in Syria, if Obama bombs that country anyway, Congress should immediately cut off funds for the war and move to impeach him. Why?
1) We don’t have a son-of-a-b*tch in Syria. During the Cold War, America used to semi-regularly ally itself with some rather unsavory leaders and groups. The oft repeated rationale for supporting a dictator in those days was, “He may be a son-of-a-b*tch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.” In other words, both sides are bad guys, but this bad guy would work with us instead of the Soviets. In this case, we don’t have a dog in the fight. It’s a civil war between two groups that both despise us and will continue to hate us. Why risk American blood and treasure for people who will hate our guts no matter what we do?
2) Why act as Al-Qaeda’s Air Force? Barack Obama is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even he should know that Al-Qaeda attacked America on 9/11. Well now, Bin Laden’s boys are teamed up with the rebels that are fighting Bashar al-Assad. We just spent a decade killing as many members of Al-Qaeda as humanly possible in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; so how much sense does it make for Barack Obama to help Al-Qaeda take over Syria by bombing Bashar al-Assad? Bashar al-Assad may be our enemy, but we should be thrilled he’s killing Al-Qaeda and getting more of his terrorist pals in Hezbollah offed in the process.
3) What makes anyone think Obama can pull this off with no repercussions? What is there in Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House that makes anyone think he’s likely to handle this well? The fact that he didn’t kill a drone program George W. Bush set up? Because he was too distracted playing cards with Reggie Love to screw up killing Osama Bin Laden? Bush essentially won Iraq and Obama screwed up pulling out of that country and has put a hard-earned victory at risk. He’s also on track to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Afghanistan. His incompetence got Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya. In Egypt, Obama helped get rid of a relatively friendly dictator in favor of anti-American, pro-terrorist theocrats who lasted just over a year before they were thrown out of power by an Egyptian public that seems to hate Obama almost as much as the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet, we now think Obama is going to insert himself into a terrorist-heavy civil war in the Middle East without creating as many problems as he solves? That’s like emptying a box of live spiders in a teenage girl’s slumber party and not expecting any screaming.
4) It invites retaliation from Iran and Hezbollah. Many conservatives believe that if we have a choice between bombing Iran or letting it acquire nuclear weapons, we’d be better off to bomb Iran. However, that is supposed to be a last resort after every other measure has failed. Given that Iran and Hezbollah are actively supporting Bashar al-Assad, bombing him means actively opposing both of them in a war. Could they retaliate against us with terrorist attacks? That’s certainly possible. Will they go after Israel to get at us? That’s highly likely. Will Israel respond to those attacks? Yes, Israel will. Could this set off a larger regional war? Again, that’s certainly possible. While Iran and Hezbollah have much more to fear from us than we do from them, you don’t walk up and kick a bee hive just because President Prissy Pants has worked himself into a huff.
5) It’s not in our national interest to bomb Syria. Costly though it may have been, it was in our national interest to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan over 9/11 and to target an aggressive enemy of America like Saddam Hussein in Iraq. That being said, had we known in advance how long our troops would be stuck in Iraq, it’s highly doubtful that we would have ever invaded. On the other hand, what’s the rationale for bombing the side that’s fighting Al-Qaeda in Syria? Both sides hate America. Both sides cooperate with terrorists. If anything, since Al-Qaeda is determined to kill Americans and Assad is not, the current dictator in charge is probably the lesser of two evils. Moreover, encouraging other nations to join us in imposing harsh sanctions on Syria would be just as effective as bombing when it comes to discouraging the use of WMDs without being as provocative. So, what argument is left? Are we supposed to bomb Syria to avoid looking “weak?” Well, if people have that impression, they can ask Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and Anwar al-Awlaki what they think about that if they’re willing to search through the bowels of hell long enough to find them.
Just when I thought the George Zimmerman “trial” couldn’t sink any lower, the prosecutorial limbo dancers of the State of Florida magnificently lowered their own bar in the final moments of their cable-news celebrity.
In real justice systems, the state decides what crime has been committed and charges somebody with it. In the Zimmerman trial, the state’s “theory of the case” is that it has no theory of the case: Might be murder, might be manslaughter, might be aggravated assault, might be a zillion other things, but it’s something. If you’re a juror, feel free to convict George Zimmerman of whatever floats your boat.
Nailing a guy on something, anything, is a time-honored American tradition: If you can’t get Al Capone on the Valentine’s Day massacre, get him on his taxes. Americans seem to have a sneaky admiration for this sort of thing, notwithstanding that, as we now know, the government is happy to get lots of other people on their taxes, too. Ever since the president of the United States (a man so cautious and deferential to legal niceties that he can’t tell you whether the Egyptian army removing the elected head of state counts as a military coup until his advisors have finished looking into the matter) breezily declared that if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon, ever since the U.S. Department of so-called Justice dispatched something called its “Community Relations Services” to Florida to help organize anti-Zimmerman rallies at taxpayer expense, ever since the politically savvy governor appointed a “special prosecutor” and the deplorably unsavvy Sanford Police Chief was eased out, the full panoply of state power has been deployed to nail Zimmerman on anything.
How difficult can that be in a country in which a Hispanic Obama voter can be instantly transformed into the poster boy for white racism? Who ya gonna believe – Al Sharpton or your lying eyes? As closing arguments began on Thursday, the prosecutors asked the judge to drop the aggravated assault charge and instruct the jury on felony murder committed in the course of child abuse. Felony murder is a murder that occurs during a felony, and, according to the prosecution’s theory du jour, the felony George Zimmerman was engaged in that night was “child abuse,” on the grounds that Trayvon Martin, when he began beating up Zimmerman, was 17-years-old. This will come as news to most casual observers of the case, who’ve only seen young Trayvon in that beatific photo of him as a 12-year-old.
In that one pitiful closing moment, the case achieved its sublime reductio ad absurdum: After a year’s labors, after spending a million bucks, after calling a legion of risible witnesses, even after the lead prosecutor dragged in a department store mannequin and personally straddled it on the floor of the court, the state is back to where it all began – the ancient snapshot of a smiling middle-schooler that so beguiled American news editors, Trayvon Martin apparently being the only teenager in America to have gone entirely unphotographed in the second decade of the 21st century. And, if Trayvon is a child, his malefactor is by logical extension a child abuser.
Needless to say, even in a nutso jurisdiction like Florida, the crime of “child abuse” was never intended to cover a wizened old granny kicking the ankle of the punk who’s mugging her a week before his 18th birthday. But, if ‘aggravated pedophilia’ is what it takes to fry that puffy white cracker’s butt, so be it.
If, for the purposes of American show trials, a Hispanic who voted for a black president can be instantly transformed into a white racist, there’s no reason why he can’t be a child abuser, too. The defense was notified of this novel development, on which the prosecution (judging by the volume of precedents assembled) had been working for weeks or more likely months, at 7:30 that morning. If you know your Magna Carta, you’ll be aware that “no official shall place a man on trial… without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.” But the rights enjoyed by free men in the England of King John in 1215 are harder to come by in the State of Florida eight centuries later.
So the prosecutors decided, the day before the case went to the jury, that Zimmerman was engaged in an act of child abuse that had somehow got a bit out of hand: no “credible witnesses” to this charge had been presented in the preceding weeks, but hey, what the hell? Opposing counsel, taking the reasonable position that they’d shown up to defend Mr. Zimmerman of murder and had had no idea until that morning that he was also on trial for child abuse, check bouncing, jaywalking, an expired fishing license, or whatever other accusation took the fancy of the State of Florida, asked for time to research the relevant case law. Judge Debra Nelson gave them until 1 p.m. At that point, it was 10.30 a.m. By the time the genius jurist had returned to the bench, she had reconsidered, and decided that “child abuse” would be a reach too far, even for her disgraceful court.
The defining characteristic of English law is its distribution of power between prosecutor, judge and jury. This delicate balance has been utterly corrupted in the United States to the point where today at the federal level there is a conviction rate of over 90 percent, which would impress Mubarak and the House of Saud, if not quite yet, Kim Jong-Un. American prosecutors have an unhealthy and disreputable addiction to what I called, at the conclusion of the trial of my old boss Conrad Black six years ago, “countless counts.” In Conrad’s case, he was charged originally with 17 crimes, three of which were dropped by the opening of the trial and another halfway through, leaving 13 for the jury, nine of which they found the defendant not guilty of, bringing it down to four, one of which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional and the remaining three of which they vacated, only to have two of them reinstated by the lower appeals court. In other words, the prosecution lost 88 percent of the case, but the 12 percent they won was enough to destroy Conrad Black’s life.
Multiple charges tend, through sheer weight of numbers, to favor a result in which the jury convict on some and acquit on others and then tell themselves that they’ve reached a “moderate” “compromise” as befits the reasonable persons they assuredly are. It is, of course, not reasonable. Indeed, the notion of a “compromise” between conviction and acquittal is a dagger at the heart of justice. It’s the repugnant “plea bargain” in reverse, but this time to bargain with the jury: okay, we threw the book at him and it went nowhere, so why don’t we all agree to settle? In Sanford, the state’s second closing “argument” to the strange, shrunken semi-jury of strikingly unrepresentative peers – facts, shmacts, who really knows? Vote with your hearts – brilliantly dispenses with the need for a “case” at all.
We have been warned that in the event of an acquittal there could be riots. My own feeling is that the Allegedly Reverend Al Sharpton, now somewhat emaciated and underbouffed from his Tawana Brawley heyday, is not the Tahrir Square-scale race-baiting huckster he once was.
But if Floridians are of a mind to let off a little steam, they might usefully burn down the Sanford courthouse and salt the earth. The justice system revealed by this squalid trial is worth rioting over.
Barack Obama has never been clear on the distinction between sovereign and servant, between the American people and those, including himself, elected to do the people’s business. We saw that yet again this week with the president’s unilateral rewrite of the Bataan Death March known as the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. For this president, laws are not binding expressions of the popular will, but trifling recommendations to be ignored when expedient.
The collapse of law – not just Obamacare but law in general – is the Obama administration’s most egregious scandal. With the IRS here, Benghazi there, and Eric Holder’s institutionalized malevolence crowding the middle, it gets little direct attention. Perhaps it is so ubiquitous, so quotidian, that we’ve become inured to it.
As if more evidence were needed about the tragedy of black education, Rachel Jeantel, a witness for the prosecution in the George Zimmerman murder trial, put a face on it for the nation to see. Some of that evidence unfolded when Zimmerman’s defense attorney asked 19-year-old Jeantel to read a letter that she allegedly had written to Trayvon Martin’s mother. She responded that she doesn’t read cursive, and that’s in addition to her poor grammar, syntax and communication skills.
Jeantel is a senior at Miami Norland Senior High School. How in the world did she manage to become a 12th-grader without being able to read cursive writing? That’s a skill one would expect from a fourth-grader. Jeantel is by no means an exception at her school.
I would like to declare a war on women – namely, all those cringe-inducing ninnies who lust after every celebrity criminal defendant with big muscles, tattoos, puppy-dog eyes or Hollywood hair.
You know who I’m talking about, right? America’s Bad Boy groupies. They’re on the courthouse steps with their “Free Jahar” signs, cooing over how “hot” and “cute” the bloodstained Boston Marathon bombing suspect is. He “can blow me up with babies,” one moral reprobate quipped shortly after his capture. “I’m not gonna lie, the second bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is hot. #sorrynotsorry,” another young girl boasted.
When do insensitive words destroy reputations?
It all depends.
Celebrity chef Paula Deen was dropped by her TV network, her publisher, and many of her corporate partners after she testified in a legal deposition that she used the N-word some 30 years ago. The deposition was made in a lawsuit against Deen and her brother over allegations of sexual and racial harassment.
Actor Alec Baldwin recently let loose with a barrage of homophobic crudities. Unlike Deen, Baldwin spewed his epithets in the present. He tweeted them publicly, along with threats of physical violence. So far he has avoided Paula Deen’s ignominious fate.
I am so old that I can remember when most of the people promoting race hate were white.
Apparently other Americans also recognize that the sources of racism are different today from what they were in the past. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 31 percent of blacks think that most blacks are racists, while 24 percent of blacks think that most whites are racist.
The difference between these percentages is not great, but it is remarkable nevertheless. After all, generations of blacks fought the white racism from which they suffered for so long. If many blacks themselves now think that most other blacks are racist, that is startling.
President Obama wants to make government “smarter.” Who could disagree with that? After all, it’s unlikely that even the biggest fans of big government believe the way government does what it does is the very best, very smartest way imaginable. Whether you’re an anarchist, a Leninist, or somewhere in between, everyone can agree that Uncle Sam could afford a few more IQ points.
Let’s put it another way. If government is going to do X, it should do X the smartest way possible. On that proposition both Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party agree.
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If you like how the Obama administration’s multibillion-dollar “investments” in bankrupt solar companies have turned out, you’ll love the latest federal loan program to nowhere. It’s the Obamacare loyalty rewards program for progressives.
To appease liberal Democrats pushing for the so-called “public option” (the full frontal government takeover of our health care system), the White House settled for the creation of a $6 billion network of nonprofit “CO-OPs” that will “compete” with private insurers. It’s socialized medicine through the side door. House Republicans sliced about $2 billion from the slush fund in last spring’s budget deal and proclaimed the program dead. Hardly.
On Wednesday, the White House trumpeted the release of nearly $700 million in taxpayer-funded low-interest loans for seven CO-OPs in eight states. Administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the fund will pour more money into CO-OP plans nationwide throughout the next year. In 2014, according to Washington bureaucrats, the plans will be offered on the federally approved and federally monitored state health exchange “marketplace.”
Some marketplace. Given how Team Obama has dispensed special Obamacare waivers to scores of campaign donors, it’s a sure bet the CO-OP/exchange mechanism will be brazenly rigged against non-subsidized, for-profit insurers. And against taxpayers. Obama health officials assure us that there will be an “early warning system” in place before loan recipients get into financial trouble. But we know from the half-billion-dollar Solyndra scam that when this administration sees red flags, it’s full speed ahead.
In fact, the Obamacare CO-OP overseers already predict a nearly 40 percent default rate for the loans, according to Kaiser Health. Welcome to the Chicago-on-the-Potomac reverse rule of holes: When you’re in one, keep digging.
So, who are the lucky winners of the Obamacare slush fund lottery? Freelancers CO-OP of New Jersey, New Mexico Health Connections, Midwest Members Health in Iowa and Nebraska, Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative in Wisconsin, Freelancers CO-OP of Oregon, Montana Health Cooperative, and Freelancers Health Service Corporation in New York.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the Freelancers Union – the largest CO-OP loan beneficiary to date, with a total $341 million subsidy – is a left-wing outfit founded by a self-described “labor entrepreneur” and MacArthur “genius.” Sara Horowitz has already snagged countless grants from the city and state of New York, the liberal Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Horowitz and Obama served together, along with former green jobs czar Van Jones, as advisers for the progressive think tank Demos – which in turn partnered with fraud-ridden community organizers ACORN and Project Vote. She also runs a political action committee called “Working Today” that crusades for an expanded government safety net. Crowing about the CO-OP loan from her fellow progressive warrior, Horowitz exulted: “It’s like venture capital for health care.” Or more accurately, to borrow South Carolina GOP Sen. Jim DeMint’s phrase, venture socialism.
While Horowitz plots to rope in 200,000 new clients, existing customers protested in The New York Times over lousy customer service and abrupt changes that resulted in “higher premiums, higher deductibles and more holes than their current plans.” Horowitz is more preoccupied with ensuring that the “social-purpose company” meets social and environmental justice goals than with customer needs.
Another of the Obamacare slush fund winners, Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative in Wisconsin, scooped up a $56.4 million federal loan. The group describes itself as a “coalition of religious groups and other organizations.” Its pedigree is much more radical than that. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted, Common Ground “is the Milwaukee affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, founded in 1940 by Saul Alinsky, a famed community organizer and author of ‘Rules for Radicals.’ The organization, based in Chicago, bills itself as the oldest and largest community organizing network.”
The Industrial Areas Foundation was funded largely by the Gamaliel Foundation, which employed Obama in Chicago. As I first reported in 2009, Gamaliel’s Gregory Galluzzo wrote that he “met with Barack on a regular basis,” that Obama “acknowledged publicly that he had been the director of a Gamaliel affiliate,” and that “we are honored and blessed by the connection between Barack and Gamaliel.” No kidding. As Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson put it: “These grants/loans reek of political payola.”
Cronies reap. Taxpayers weep.
We have officially lost our minds.
The New York Times reports that President Obama has sent a formal letter of apology to Afghanistan’s ingrate president, Hamid Karzai, for the burning of Korans at a U.S. military base. The only upside of the apology is that it appears (based on the Times account) to be couched as coming personally from our blindly Islamophilic president – “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident… I extend to you and the Afghani people my sincere apologies.” It is not couched as an apology from the American people, whose frame of mind will be outrage, not contrition, as the facts become more widely known.
The facts are that the Korans were seized at a jail because jihadists imprisoned there were using them not for prayer but to communicate incendiary messages.
CNN’s John King did his best the other night, producing a question from one of his viewers:
“Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why?”
To their credit, no Republican candidate was inclined to accept the premise of the question. King might have done better to put the issue to Danica Patrick. For some reason, Michelle Fields of the Daily Caller sought the views of the NASCAR driver and Sports Illustrated swimwear model about “the Obama administration’s dictate that religious employers provide health-care plans that cover contraceptives.” Miss Patrick, a practicing Catholic, gave the perfect citizen’s response for the Age of Obama:
“I leave it up to the government to make good decisions for Americans.”
During a recent Fox News Channel debate about the Obama administration’s tax policies, Democrat Bob Beckel raised the issue of “fairness.”
He pointed out that a child born to a poor woman in the Bronx enters the world with far worse prospects than a child born to an affluent couple in Connecticut.
No one can deny that. The relevant question, however, is: How does allowing politicians to take more money in taxes from successful people, to squander in ways that will improve their own reelection prospects, make anything more “fair” for others?
Even if additional tax revenue all went to poor single mothers – which it will not – the multiple problems of children raised by poor single mothers would not be cured by throwing money at them.
As gas nears $5-a-gallon out west, the president, who has cancelled a key pipeline and frozen federal leases from Alaska to the East Coast, teaches us about American algae potential, in the way he used to emphasize the importance of tire pressure and “tune-ups.” He castigates the opposition for making political hay out of bad news, in the way he routinely did as a senator in compiling the most partisan voting record in the Senate. Energy Secretary Chu cannot and will not say a word about soaring gas prices, since he is on record not so long ago hoping that they might double – that is, get to $8- to 10-a-gallon as they are in Europe. The Energy Department can do almost everything Americans don’t want, but not the single thing they do want.
The more Afghans kill Americans, the more the president seems to apologize for our troops disposing of confiscated Korans, desecrated by Muslim-terrorist detainees. Would that Obama talk so deferentially to Americans instead of serially emphasizing their laziness, their nativism, and their past transgressions in the Middle East.
Want to open a business in America? It isn’t easy.
In Midway, Ga., a 14-year-old girl and her 10-year-old sister sold lemonade from their front yard. Two police officers bought some. But the next day, different officers ordered them to close their stand.
Their father went to city hall to try to find out why. The clerk laughed and said she didn’t know. Eventually, Police Chief Kelly Morningstar explained, “We were not aware of how the lemonade was made, who made the lemonade and of what the lemonade was made with.”
Give me a break. If she doesn’t know, so what? But kids trying their first experiment with entrepreneurship are being shut down all over America. Officials in Hazelwood, Ill., ordered little girls to stop selling Girl Scout cookies.
If one manages to graduate from high school without the rudiments of algebra, geometry and trigonometry, there are certain relatively high-paying careers probably off-limits for life – such as careers in architecture, chemistry, computer programming, engineering, medicine and certain technical fields. For example, one might meet all of the physical requirements to be a fighter pilot, but he’s grounded if he doesn’t have enough math to understand physics, aerodynamics and navigation. Mathematical ability helps provide the disciplined structure that helps people to think, speak and write more clearly. In general, mathematics is an excellent foundation and prerequisite for study in all areas of science and engineering. So where do U.S. youngsters stand in math?
Drs. Eric Hanushek and Paul Peterson, senior fellows at the Hoover Institution, looked at the performance of our youngsters compared with their counterparts in other nations, in their Newsweek article, “Why Can’t American Students Compete?” (Aug. 28, 2011), reprinted under the title “Math Matters” in the Hoover Digest (2012).
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Governor Mitt Romney’s statement about not worrying about the poor has been treated as a gaffe in much of the media, and those in the Republican establishment who have been rushing toward endorsing his coronation as the GOP’s nominee for president – with 90 percent of the delegates still not yet chosen – have been trying to sweep his statement under the rug.
But Romney’s statement about not worrying about the poor – because they “have a very ample safety net” – was followed by a statement that was not just a slip of the tongue, and should be a defining moment in telling us about this man’s qualifications as a conservative and, what is more important, as a potential president of the United States.
Mitt Romney has come out in support of indexing the minimum-wage law, to have it rise automatically to keep pace with inflation. To many people, that would seem like a small thing that can be left for economists or statisticians to deal with.
But to people who call themselves conservatives, and aspire to public office, there is no excuse for not being aware of what a major social disaster the minimum-wage law has been for the young, the poor, and especially for young and poor blacks.
It is not written in the stars that young black males must have astronomical rates of unemployment. It is written implicitly in the minimum-wage laws.
We have gotten so used to seeing unemployment rates of 30 or 40 percent for black teenage males that it might come as a shock to many people to learn that the unemployment rate for 16- and-17-year-old black males was just under 10 percent back in 1948. Moreover, it was slightly lower than the unemployment rate for white males of the same age.
How could this be?
The economic reason is quite plain. The inflation of the 1940s had pushed money wages for even unskilled, entry-level labor above the level specified in the minimum-wage law passed ten years earlier. In other words, there was in practical effect no national minimum-wage law in the late 1940s.
My first full-time job, as a black high-school dropout in 1946, was as a lowly messenger delivering telegrams. But my starting pay was more than 50 percent above the level specified in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Liberals were of course appalled that the federal minimum-wage law had lagged so far behind inflation – and, in 1950, they began a series of escalations of the minimum-wage level over the years.
It was in the wake of these escalations that black teenage unemployment rose to levels that were three or four times the level in 1948. Even in the most prosperous years of later times, the unemployment rate for black teenage males was some multiple of what it was even in the recession year of 1949. And now it was often double the unemployment rate for white males of the same ages.
This was not the first or the last time that liberals did something that made them feel good about themselves while leaving havoc in their wake, especially among the poor whom they were supposedly helping.
For those for whom “racism” is the explanation of all racial differences, let me assure them, from personal experience, that there was not less racism in the 1940s.
For those who want to check out the statistics – and I hope that would include Mitt Romney – they can be found detailed on pages 42 to 45 of Race and Economics, by Walter Williams.
Nor are such consequences of minimum-wage laws peculiar to blacks or to the United States. In Western European countries, whose social policies liberals consider more “advanced” than our own, with more generous minimum-wage laws and other employer-mandated benefits, it has been common in even prosperous years for unemployment rates among young people to be 20 percent or higher.
The economic reason is not complicated. When you set minimum-wage levels higher than many inexperienced young people are worth, they don’t get hired. It is not rocket science.
Milton Friedman explained all this, half a century ago, in his popular little book for non-economists, Capitalism and Freedom. So have many other people. If a presidential candidate who calls himself “conservative” has still not heard of these facts, that simply shows that you can call yourself anything you want to.
President Obama and his radical feminist enforcers have had it in for Catholic medical providers from the get-go. It’s about time all people of faith fought back against this unprecedented encroachment on religious liberty. First, they came for the Catholics. Who’s next?
This weekend, Catholic bishops informed parishioners of the recent White House edict forcing religious hospitals, schools, charities and other health and social service providers to provide “free” abortifacient pills, sterilizations and contraception on demand in their insurance plans – even if it violates their moral consciences and the teachings of their churches.
Imperial regimes can crack when they are driven out of their major foreign outposts. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not only signal the liberation of Eastern Europe from Moscow. It prefigured the collapse of the Soviet Union itself just two years later.
The fall of Bashar al-Assad’s Syria could be similarly ominous for Iran. The alliance with Syria is the centerpiece of Iran’s expanding sphere of influence, a mini-Comintern that includes such clients as Iranian-armed and -directed Hezbollah, now the dominant power in Lebanon; and Hamas, which controls Gaza and threatens to take the rest of Palestine (the West Bank) from a feeble Fatah.
There’s been a heap of criticism placed upon President Barack Obama’s domestic policies that have promoted government intrusion and prolonged our fiscal crisis and his foreign policies that have emboldened our enemies. Any criticism of Obama pales in comparison with what might be said about the American people who voted him in to the nation’s highest office.
Obama’s presidency represents the first time in our history that a person could have been elected to that office who had long-standing close associations with people who hate our nation. I’m speaking of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for 20 years, who preached that blacks should sing not “God Bless America,” but “God damn America.”
As Senator Obama said during the 2008 campaign, words matter. Modern “liberalism” is strikingly illiberal; the high priests of “tolerance” are increasingly intolerant of even the mildest dissent; and those who profess to “celebrate diversity” coerce ever more ruthlessly a narrow homogeneity.
Thus, the Obama administration’s insistence that Catholic institutions must be compelled to provide free contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients. This has less to do with any utilitarian benefit a condomless janitor at a Catholic school might derive from Obamacare, and more to do with the liberal muscle of Big Tolerance enforcing one-size-fits-all diversity.
“It’s the economy, stupid,” was a useful slogan for the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign. Of course, it wasn’t really true. The Clinton campaign was about much more than the economy. It was about “ending welfare as we know it,” for example, and putting government on the side of those who “work hard and play by the rules” – all of this part of a broader redefinition of the Democratic party away from the failed liberalism of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.
And the collapse of the Bush administration in 1992 was also, as it happens, about much more than the economy, which was in fact coming back strong in the fall of that year.
There are a lot of things NOT to like about liberals, but you have to give them some credit. These are people who are badly, dangerously, and devastatingly wrong on almost every issue of consequence and yet, year after year, they hang in there at a rough parity with conservatives. So, they may do a lot wrong, but there are things we can learn from the Left.
1) Fight Harder: Liberals win a lot of battles just because they’re willing to fight harder. Look at what happened to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Komen decided not to keep giving free money to Planned Parenthood and liberals, who aren’t even willing to oppose cancer unless some babies can be aborted to even it out, raised so much hell that Komen had to engage in a public face-saving maneuver.
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