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Posts For: November 14, 2009

The President Who Grovels

Could someone in the Chief of Protocol’s Office at the State Department please tell Barack Obama that heads of state do not bow to other heads of state? And for the head of state of the country founded on the idea that “all men are created equal,” that goes double.

When Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the White House denied it: “It wasn’t a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah,” said one aide. As a commentator on CNN said, “Ray Charles could see that he bowed.” (h/t PowerLine)

Now he has bowed, extravagantly, to Emperor Akihito of Japan. The Los Angeles Times called it a “wow bow” in its headline and asked “How low will he go?”

President Obama goes abroad apologizing for the supposed sins of a country that defended and extended freedom around the world at a staggering cost in lives and treasure and then grovels before the man whose country has yet to apologize for the Rape of Nanking.

As my mother used to say, “Pardon me while I throw up.”

Could someone in the Chief of Protocol’s Office at the State Department please tell Barack Obama that heads of state do not bow to other heads of state? And for the head of state of the country founded on the idea that “all men are created equal,” that goes double.

When Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the White House denied it: “It wasn’t a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he’s taller than King Abdullah,” said one aide. As a commentator on CNN said, “Ray Charles could see that he bowed.” (h/t PowerLine)

Now he has bowed, extravagantly, to Emperor Akihito of Japan. The Los Angeles Times called it a “wow bow” in its headline and asked “How low will he go?”

President Obama goes abroad apologizing for the supposed sins of a country that defended and extended freedom around the world at a staggering cost in lives and treasure and then grovels before the man whose country has yet to apologize for the Rape of Nanking.

As my mother used to say, “Pardon me while I throw up.”

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See What I Mean?

The New York Times this morning has a front-page story on the difficulty of balancing New York State’s budget, which is gushing red ink. The governor, David Paterson, called the legislature into session this week and delivered an address to both houses, asking — begging, really — for serious budget cuts to cover a $3 billion deficit in this year’s budget and far larger deficits in future years.

Good luck with that, governor. As the Times explains:

Gov. David A. Paterson is imploring the Legislature to finally reckon with the state’s ugly financial reality.

But first the governor must reckon with the likes of Senator Carl Kruger.

Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has amassed a campaign war chest of $2.1 million, in part because of generous contributions from his labor union allies.

Despite a deficit of more than $3 billion, Mr. Kruger has threatened to block any significant cuts to health care and education, the biggest spending areas in the budget. He has presented his own budget plan, which has startled even Albany veterans for its reliance on one-time maneuvers and financial gimmickry.

Last week, the state’s most powerful union, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, had a rally in Albany, with 2,000 people screaming for no cuts. The SEIU and other public-service unions don’t hesitate to launch aggressive TV-advertising campaigns against politicians who do not toe the union line, while donating generously to the campaign war chests of those who do, such as Senator Kruger. The taxpayers have no means to push back, since the legislature is thoroughly gerrymandered. As a result, politicians take the path of least resistance: like Kruger, they prefer to use creative accounting to get around the state constitution’s requirement that the expense budget be balanced, rather than face fiscal reality. This, of course, simply makes the problem worse in the future, as more and more of today’s budget is funded with tomorrow’s money.

The Times has finally woken up to the fact that gerrymandering is an affront to the very principle of democratic government. And unless it and the rest of the New York media world finally acknowledge that allowing politicians to keep the state’s books as they please guarantees gimmickry instead of hard choices, disaster is inevitable. Like every corporation in the country, governments need the discipline that comes from having to adhere to rigorous accounting principles, and relying on independent accountants to ensure that they do.

The New York Times this morning has a front-page story on the difficulty of balancing New York State’s budget, which is gushing red ink. The governor, David Paterson, called the legislature into session this week and delivered an address to both houses, asking — begging, really — for serious budget cuts to cover a $3 billion deficit in this year’s budget and far larger deficits in future years.

Good luck with that, governor. As the Times explains:

Gov. David A. Paterson is imploring the Legislature to finally reckon with the state’s ugly financial reality.

But first the governor must reckon with the likes of Senator Carl Kruger.

Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has amassed a campaign war chest of $2.1 million, in part because of generous contributions from his labor union allies.

Despite a deficit of more than $3 billion, Mr. Kruger has threatened to block any significant cuts to health care and education, the biggest spending areas in the budget. He has presented his own budget plan, which has startled even Albany veterans for its reliance on one-time maneuvers and financial gimmickry.

Last week, the state’s most powerful union, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, had a rally in Albany, with 2,000 people screaming for no cuts. The SEIU and other public-service unions don’t hesitate to launch aggressive TV-advertising campaigns against politicians who do not toe the union line, while donating generously to the campaign war chests of those who do, such as Senator Kruger. The taxpayers have no means to push back, since the legislature is thoroughly gerrymandered. As a result, politicians take the path of least resistance: like Kruger, they prefer to use creative accounting to get around the state constitution’s requirement that the expense budget be balanced, rather than face fiscal reality. This, of course, simply makes the problem worse in the future, as more and more of today’s budget is funded with tomorrow’s money.

The Times has finally woken up to the fact that gerrymandering is an affront to the very principle of democratic government. And unless it and the rest of the New York media world finally acknowledge that allowing politicians to keep the state’s books as they please guarantees gimmickry instead of hard choices, disaster is inevitable. Like every corporation in the country, governments need the discipline that comes from having to adhere to rigorous accounting principles, and relying on independent accountants to ensure that they do.

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Now It Is Clear

Bill Kristol observes that Obama’s tenure is proving even worse than many conservatives had expected. (“His dithering on Afghanistan is deplorable, his appeasing of Iran disgraceful, his trying to heap new burdens on a struggling economy destructive. Add to this his sending Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a circus-like court trial.”) He asks what the “loyal opposition” should do:

Oppose Obama’s destructive proposals (health care, cap and trade) and try to defeat them. Expose the foolishness of Obama’s ineffective policies (the stimulus, cash for clunkers) and show the American people their failure. And try to influence Obama’s policy choices by persuasion (Afghanistan), embarrassment (political correctness in the fight against jihadists), or legislation (Guantánamo), so as to minimize the damage done to the country on his watch.

In other words, be the movement of “no.” We had an interesting but highly unproductive argument at the end of the 2008 within conservative ranks. Throw out social conservatives! No, banish squishy liberals! Return to first principles. No, that’ll be the ticket to nowhere — innovate and problem-solve. On it went, based on nothing but the pundits’ own preferences and hunches. It had an air of unreality, for the discussion ignored the context, which, in fairness to those partaking in the debate, had yet to unfold.

Now it has unfolded. We know what Obamaism looks like. On the domestic side, it is liberal statism: higher taxes, mammoth bureaucracies, and a vortex of government regulation that sucks up private enterprise and transforms business decisions into political ones. It comes with an ungracious and sneering contempt for opposition. On the international scene, we have the intersection of incompetence and folly, with a strong element of cynicism. The Obami have deployed aggressive and losing gambits (Honduras and the Middle East), betrayed friends (Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic), snubbed allies (the Churchill bust goes home), thrown ourselves at the feet of adversaries (Russia, Iran), jettisoned human rights and the defense of democracy (Burma, Sudan, Iran), projected angst-ridden indecision (Afghanistan-war formulation), damaged our fighting ability (defense cuts and missile-defense withdrawal), and shown deference to debased institutions (the UN). Most alarmingly, Obama and his attorney general have scarred and scared our intelligence community and placed Lefty pie-in-the-sky moralizing above the safety of Americans (trying KSM, closing Guantanamo, and halting enhanced interrogations).

And so what should conservatives be doing? Well now it’s obvious — oppose, obstruct, warn, and cajole. There aren’t many weapons at conservatives’ disposal, but there are some. And the greatest is to be found in the reservoir of common sense and decency of the America people, who, when stirred, have risen up to oppose pernicious legislation and those whom they mistakenly trusted to behave in a responsible fashion. As Kristol points out, three years is a long time, but the congressional elections are approaching and the argument has begun. And now conservatives know precisely what must be done: as best they are able, slow and stop Obamaism until reinforcements arrive and the voters can render their verdict.

Bill Kristol observes that Obama’s tenure is proving even worse than many conservatives had expected. (“His dithering on Afghanistan is deplorable, his appeasing of Iran disgraceful, his trying to heap new burdens on a struggling economy destructive. Add to this his sending Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a circus-like court trial.”) He asks what the “loyal opposition” should do:

Oppose Obama’s destructive proposals (health care, cap and trade) and try to defeat them. Expose the foolishness of Obama’s ineffective policies (the stimulus, cash for clunkers) and show the American people their failure. And try to influence Obama’s policy choices by persuasion (Afghanistan), embarrassment (political correctness in the fight against jihadists), or legislation (Guantánamo), so as to minimize the damage done to the country on his watch.

In other words, be the movement of “no.” We had an interesting but highly unproductive argument at the end of the 2008 within conservative ranks. Throw out social conservatives! No, banish squishy liberals! Return to first principles. No, that’ll be the ticket to nowhere — innovate and problem-solve. On it went, based on nothing but the pundits’ own preferences and hunches. It had an air of unreality, for the discussion ignored the context, which, in fairness to those partaking in the debate, had yet to unfold.

Now it has unfolded. We know what Obamaism looks like. On the domestic side, it is liberal statism: higher taxes, mammoth bureaucracies, and a vortex of government regulation that sucks up private enterprise and transforms business decisions into political ones. It comes with an ungracious and sneering contempt for opposition. On the international scene, we have the intersection of incompetence and folly, with a strong element of cynicism. The Obami have deployed aggressive and losing gambits (Honduras and the Middle East), betrayed friends (Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic), snubbed allies (the Churchill bust goes home), thrown ourselves at the feet of adversaries (Russia, Iran), jettisoned human rights and the defense of democracy (Burma, Sudan, Iran), projected angst-ridden indecision (Afghanistan-war formulation), damaged our fighting ability (defense cuts and missile-defense withdrawal), and shown deference to debased institutions (the UN). Most alarmingly, Obama and his attorney general have scarred and scared our intelligence community and placed Lefty pie-in-the-sky moralizing above the safety of Americans (trying KSM, closing Guantanamo, and halting enhanced interrogations).

And so what should conservatives be doing? Well now it’s obvious — oppose, obstruct, warn, and cajole. There aren’t many weapons at conservatives’ disposal, but there are some. And the greatest is to be found in the reservoir of common sense and decency of the America people, who, when stirred, have risen up to oppose pernicious legislation and those whom they mistakenly trusted to behave in a responsible fashion. As Kristol points out, three years is a long time, but the congressional elections are approaching and the argument has begun. And now conservatives know precisely what must be done: as best they are able, slow and stop Obamaism until reinforcements arrive and the voters can render their verdict.

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Don’t Like Much of Anything

Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen find that “10.2% unemployment is a significant political event for President Barack Obama” that “could well usher in a particularly serious crisis for his political standing, influence and ability to advance his agenda.” They note that his current approval ratings are already low for a new president and suggest they will keep declining:

In a Rasmussen Reports poll taken after the House of Representatives passed health-care reform by the narrowest of margins last Saturday night, 54% of likely voters say they are opposed to the plan with only 45% in favor. Furthermore, in the all-important category of unaffiliated voters, 58% oppose the bill. That’s one of the reasons why so many moderate Democratic House members opposed it.

The CNN poll also shows that in addition to health care, a majority of Americans disapprove of how Mr. Obama is handling the economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, unemployment, illegal immigration and the federal budget deficit. Put simply, there isn’t a critical problem facing the country on which the president has positive ratings.

The bottom line is that the voters don’t like what Obama is doing and are unlikely to continue to give him the benefit of the doubt or, as he is wont to do, blame George W. Bush for all our ills. Therefore, Rasmussen and Schoen conclude, “unless Mr. Obama changes his approach and starts governing in a more fiscally conservative, bipartisan manner, the independents that provided his margin of victory in 2008 and gave the Democrats control of Congress will likely swing back to the Republicans, putting Democratic control of Congress in real jeopardy.”

Moreover, this analysis does not account for voters’ concerns on national security. While the economy and health care still occupy the top spots on the list of voters’ concerns, foreign-policy crises, failures, and missteps have helped fell more than one president and may do so again. In addition, when the president is not on the ballot, it is sometimes his party’s congressional incumbents who bear the brunt of voters’ anger. In 2006, with the Iraq war at a low ebb, the public returned Democrats to control of the House, signifying their displeasure with a conflict that was going badly and a president who had not yet made a decision to reverse our fortunes.

Will the public take kindly to the spectacle of the 9/11 mastermind in a three-ring judicial circus in New York? Will the voters become alarmed as Iran proceeds on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons and rogue states begin to test and challenge the U.S.? One senses that foreign policy — from the failed settlement-freeze gambit to the excruciating Afghanistan-war seminars — has the Obami tied up in knots. As Americans increasingly sense that events are spinning out of control, they too may want to send a message: don’t close Guantanamo, don’t try terrorists in the U.S., and get tough with our foes. If so, voters will have another cluster of reasons to make a change in Washington.

Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen find that “10.2% unemployment is a significant political event for President Barack Obama” that “could well usher in a particularly serious crisis for his political standing, influence and ability to advance his agenda.” They note that his current approval ratings are already low for a new president and suggest they will keep declining:

In a Rasmussen Reports poll taken after the House of Representatives passed health-care reform by the narrowest of margins last Saturday night, 54% of likely voters say they are opposed to the plan with only 45% in favor. Furthermore, in the all-important category of unaffiliated voters, 58% oppose the bill. That’s one of the reasons why so many moderate Democratic House members opposed it.

The CNN poll also shows that in addition to health care, a majority of Americans disapprove of how Mr. Obama is handling the economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, unemployment, illegal immigration and the federal budget deficit. Put simply, there isn’t a critical problem facing the country on which the president has positive ratings.

The bottom line is that the voters don’t like what Obama is doing and are unlikely to continue to give him the benefit of the doubt or, as he is wont to do, blame George W. Bush for all our ills. Therefore, Rasmussen and Schoen conclude, “unless Mr. Obama changes his approach and starts governing in a more fiscally conservative, bipartisan manner, the independents that provided his margin of victory in 2008 and gave the Democrats control of Congress will likely swing back to the Republicans, putting Democratic control of Congress in real jeopardy.”

Moreover, this analysis does not account for voters’ concerns on national security. While the economy and health care still occupy the top spots on the list of voters’ concerns, foreign-policy crises, failures, and missteps have helped fell more than one president and may do so again. In addition, when the president is not on the ballot, it is sometimes his party’s congressional incumbents who bear the brunt of voters’ anger. In 2006, with the Iraq war at a low ebb, the public returned Democrats to control of the House, signifying their displeasure with a conflict that was going badly and a president who had not yet made a decision to reverse our fortunes.

Will the public take kindly to the spectacle of the 9/11 mastermind in a three-ring judicial circus in New York? Will the voters become alarmed as Iran proceeds on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons and rogue states begin to test and challenge the U.S.? One senses that foreign policy — from the failed settlement-freeze gambit to the excruciating Afghanistan-war seminars — has the Obami tied up in knots. As Americans increasingly sense that events are spinning out of control, they too may want to send a message: don’t close Guantanamo, don’t try terrorists in the U.S., and get tough with our foes. If so, voters will have another cluster of reasons to make a change in Washington.

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Not What He Needs

The Washington Post‘s reports:

By selecting Bob Bauer to be his new White House counsel, President Obama on Friday tapped a tough political warrior with deep partisan ties to serve as his official legal adviser on some of the country’s most highly charged and difficult issues.

The decision to replace Gregory B. Craig with Bauer was a jolt to some who said his background — as a streetwise election law attorney representing Democratic candidates for decades — is hardly preparation for the complex domestic and international legal questions that will cross his desk.

This is not a positive development. If one were to make a list of what the president needs more of, one might say grown-up counsel, mature wise men willing to tell him he’s wrong, or someone who understands the views and concerns of those not in his thrall. But  increasing the number of hyper-partisan advisers low on real expertise would not be on it.

To the contrary, we already have David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel making hash of  our Israel policy and gumming up the decision-making on Guantanamo. And Justice is being run by Eric Holder, the man who can’t say no to any item on the netroot wish list. We could do without, and the president could do without, another vitriolic figure whose prime focus has been on beating the other guys. But that’s exactly what Obama’s chosen, and it speaks volumes about the increasingly bitter, partisan tone and outlook of his administration.

The Washington Post‘s reports:

By selecting Bob Bauer to be his new White House counsel, President Obama on Friday tapped a tough political warrior with deep partisan ties to serve as his official legal adviser on some of the country’s most highly charged and difficult issues.

The decision to replace Gregory B. Craig with Bauer was a jolt to some who said his background — as a streetwise election law attorney representing Democratic candidates for decades — is hardly preparation for the complex domestic and international legal questions that will cross his desk.

This is not a positive development. If one were to make a list of what the president needs more of, one might say grown-up counsel, mature wise men willing to tell him he’s wrong, or someone who understands the views and concerns of those not in his thrall. But  increasing the number of hyper-partisan advisers low on real expertise would not be on it.

To the contrary, we already have David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel making hash of  our Israel policy and gumming up the decision-making on Guantanamo. And Justice is being run by Eric Holder, the man who can’t say no to any item on the netroot wish list. We could do without, and the president could do without, another vitriolic figure whose prime focus has been on beating the other guys. But that’s exactly what Obama’s chosen, and it speaks volumes about the increasingly bitter, partisan tone and outlook of his administration.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Rep. Peter King calls moving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. for trial the “worst decision by a U.S. president in history.”

Rudy Giuliani: “Returning some of the Guantanamo detainees to New York City for trial, specifically Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, has now brought us full circle — we have regressed to a pre-9/11 mentality with respect to Islamic extremist terrorism. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should be treated like the war criminal he is and tried in a military court. He is not just another murderer, or even a mass murderer. He murdered as part of a declared war against us — America.”

John Yoo explains: “Trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court will be an intelligence bonanza for al Qaeda, tie up our courts for years on issues best left to the president and Congress, and further cripple our intelligence agencies’ efforts to fight terrorists abroad. KSM and his co-defendants will have all of the benefits and rights that the U.S. Constitution accords those who live here, most importantly the right to demand that the government produce in open court all of the information that it has on them, and how it was obtained.”

Bill Kristol on the choice for Democrats: “The political consequences will also extend to 54 Senate Democrats who voted recently against legislation to bar such civil trials–and to Democrats in the House who will be put on the spot as well. Congress could insist on military tribunals, and indeed in the past it has provided for such tribunals. I imagine Republicans on the Hill will try to move to overrule Holder, with legislation in the Senate, and with legislation and perhaps a discharge petition in the House. Holder can take his lumps for his reckless ideological decision if he wishes. Will congressional Democrats follow him off the cliff?”

Mark Ambinder on the U.S. trial of Guantanamo terrorists: “If this is politics, it’s really dumb politics.” Well yes, the scary part is that Obama and his attorney general think this is making us safer.

Marty Peretz on Fort Hood: “It was one of thousands of bloodlettings inspired by Islamic motives over the last decades. You can now add 51 victims to the dealing death and maiming numbers inspired by the ‘great God’ invoked by Hasan as he delivered his first gunfire volley. I am afraid that even the ever-so-fair, ever-eye-averting President Obama will have to reconsider his confidently euphonious message about belief and action in the Muslim orbit.” No sign of an end to eye-averting yet.

The McCain staffers are still trashing Sarah Palin. I suspect she’ll be on another presidential campaign. Them? Not so much.

Obama is not the health-care salesman his supporters may think he is: “More Americans now say it is not the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage (50%) than say it is (47%). This is a first since Gallup began tracking this question, and a significant shift from as recently as three years ago, when two-thirds said ensuring healthcare coverage was the government’s responsibility.”

Rep. Peter King calls moving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. for trial the “worst decision by a U.S. president in history.”

Rudy Giuliani: “Returning some of the Guantanamo detainees to New York City for trial, specifically Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, has now brought us full circle — we have regressed to a pre-9/11 mentality with respect to Islamic extremist terrorism. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should be treated like the war criminal he is and tried in a military court. He is not just another murderer, or even a mass murderer. He murdered as part of a declared war against us — America.”

John Yoo explains: “Trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court will be an intelligence bonanza for al Qaeda, tie up our courts for years on issues best left to the president and Congress, and further cripple our intelligence agencies’ efforts to fight terrorists abroad. KSM and his co-defendants will have all of the benefits and rights that the U.S. Constitution accords those who live here, most importantly the right to demand that the government produce in open court all of the information that it has on them, and how it was obtained.”

Bill Kristol on the choice for Democrats: “The political consequences will also extend to 54 Senate Democrats who voted recently against legislation to bar such civil trials–and to Democrats in the House who will be put on the spot as well. Congress could insist on military tribunals, and indeed in the past it has provided for such tribunals. I imagine Republicans on the Hill will try to move to overrule Holder, with legislation in the Senate, and with legislation and perhaps a discharge petition in the House. Holder can take his lumps for his reckless ideological decision if he wishes. Will congressional Democrats follow him off the cliff?”

Mark Ambinder on the U.S. trial of Guantanamo terrorists: “If this is politics, it’s really dumb politics.” Well yes, the scary part is that Obama and his attorney general think this is making us safer.

Marty Peretz on Fort Hood: “It was one of thousands of bloodlettings inspired by Islamic motives over the last decades. You can now add 51 victims to the dealing death and maiming numbers inspired by the ‘great God’ invoked by Hasan as he delivered his first gunfire volley. I am afraid that even the ever-so-fair, ever-eye-averting President Obama will have to reconsider his confidently euphonious message about belief and action in the Muslim orbit.” No sign of an end to eye-averting yet.

The McCain staffers are still trashing Sarah Palin. I suspect she’ll be on another presidential campaign. Them? Not so much.

Obama is not the health-care salesman his supporters may think he is: “More Americans now say it is not the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage (50%) than say it is (47%). This is a first since Gallup began tracking this question, and a significant shift from as recently as three years ago, when two-thirds said ensuring healthcare coverage was the government’s responsibility.”

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