During his press conference today, President Obama repeatedly invoked the theme of leadership. “Leaders lead,” he helpfully informed. “Leaders rise to the occasion,” he added. They are willing to make “tough decisions,” to “do the tough things” and to “do the responsible thing.” By the end I was reminded by the line from Emerson: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”
The reality is that Mr. Obama has provided very nearly the opposite of leadership. He has not only refused to tackle entitlement reform during his presidency; he has attacked those who do, employing dishonest arguments that are at this stage are almost impossible to keep track of.
My seven-year-old son loves to play what he calls “imagination games.” It allows him to pretend to be whatever he wants to be – a superhero, a warrior, a secret agent, and so forth. To see that trait in a young boy is sweet; to see it in president of the United States is somewhat disconcerting. And for a president who inhabits an imaginary world to lecture all the rest of us about his virtues adds to the oddity of the whole thing.
In his inaugural address Mr. Obama said, “the time has come to set aside childish things.”
Amen to that.
During his press conference today, President Obama tried as best he could to avoid using the term “tax increase.” He favors a “balanced approach that looks at everything.” He wants “revenue in the mix.” He wants to “eliminate subsidies” for using company planes or discovering oil and gas. He wants to reduce “spending in the tax code,” etc.
It is reminiscent of the ObamaCare debate, when Obama assured George Stephanopoulos the penalty enforcing the individual mandate was not a “tax.” Currently, he is defending ObamaCare in the courts by arguing it is an exercise of the federal taxing power. ObamaCare also included a “Medicare contribution” that was not a contribution and had nothing to do with Medicare.
So do not worry about ObamaRevenueMix. If you like your existing money, you can keep it! If you are not a millionaire or billionaire, do not worry. The administration wants a trillion more dollars withdrawn from the private economy, and the economic consequences will be felt only by the targeted few. It is just a balanced approach.
George Orwell, your office is trying to reach you. Again.
A Senate resolution warning the Palestinian Authority that attempts to seek a statehood vote at the UN will put its U.S. aid at risk passed unanimously yesterday, after hitting a minor speed-bump on Monday.
The resolution was put forward by Sens. Ben Cardin and Susan Collins, and co-sponsored by 88 senators. In addition to threatening aid cuts, it also condemned the Hamas-Fatah unity government agreement. Here is the text of the legislation:
A resolution reaffirming the commitment of the United States to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, reaffirming opposition to the inclusion of Hamas in a unity government unless it is willing to accept peace with Israel and renounce violence, and declaring that Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of a state outside direct negotiations demonstrates absence of a good faith commitment to peace negotiations, and will have implications for continued United States aid.
The resolution was first introduced as a unanimous consent item on Monday, a process by which all senators have to approve of a bill in order for it to go through. While it didn’t pass the first time, it ended up receiving unanimous support yesterday.
AIPAC, which lobbied for the resolution, praised the outcome in a press statement today, saying the “measure ‘reaffirms’ U.S. law that prohibits American assistance to a Palestinian Authority that ‘shares power with Hamas unless that Authority and all of its ministers publicly accept the right of Israel to exist and all prior agreements and understandings with the governments of the United States and Israel.’”
AIPAC is correct the resolution is a good start, though it would be even better to hear a strong affirmation of its message from President Obama.
After months of waiting to see whether air power alone would be enough to decide things in Libya, the French government has apparently decided to up the ante in the confrontation with dictator Muammar Qaddafi. This development, which was first reported by Le Figaro and since picked up by the New York Times and other papers, represents a slight escalation in the three-month-old conflict. A French military spokesman said they had “airdropped arms and ammunition several times, including assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and launchers” to rebel forces.
NATO clearly is hoping the Libyan dissidents will now be strong enough to overcome Qaddafi’s forces hit hard by air strikes. Apparently, the turnaround in the fighting in which government troops went from being on the offensive to losing ground in the past few weeks coincided with the French arms drop to the rebels.
But the rebels still have a long way to go before they roust Qaddafi out of Tripoli. Given the fact they were barely able to hold onto their eastern strongholds prior to being given these weapons, the quality of their ragtag army is still very much in doubt. Though the rebels and some NATO sources have continuously predicted the imminent collapse of the Qaddafi regime ever since the foreign intervention began, the dictator still sits in his capital and has control over a diminished but still potent army.
With President Obama still intent on avoiding direct American participation in the fighting and with Congress nipping at his heels over the administration’s refusal to comply with the War Powers Act, there’s little doubt NATO is desperate to end this stalemate one way or the other. However, it may take more than a cargo of small arms to finally topple Qaddafi. That leaves the onus on the coalition to redouble its efforts to either decapitate his regime from the air or to start delivering even more firepower to the rebels. Both courses of action are potentially dangerous, especially since we still don’t know much about the opposition. But the idea the situation will soon resolve itself without further tough decisions by the West may be nothing more than wishful thinking.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is headed to California this week for meetings with business leaders and legislators that are doing nothing to quell speculation about a possible presidential run. According to the Washington Post, this is his second trip to California in three weeks. The question is whether these jaunts mean he is still testing the waters for a possible try at the Republican presidential nomination, or if they indicate he has already decided to do so and is in full pre-campaign mode raising money and gathering future endorsements.
For Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel, there’s no doubt about the answer to that question: “I sense that he is beyond considering running for president. He is now planning to run for president,” asserted Steel. That has yet to be proved, but Republicans like Steel can be forgiven for jumping to conclusions. Perry’s recent travels and statements have had all the earmarks of a presidential flirtation.
Of course, GOP activists who have spent much of the past year waiting for the perfect candidate to parachute into the race have been disappointed before. The buzz about Perry is highly reminiscent of the media swoon over Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who also spent the weeks preceding his announcement he wasn’t running acting very much like a man who had every intention of entering the race. Unlike Daniels, Perry’s indecision does not appear to be linked to misgivings on the part of his family. But the longer the Texas governor keeps his party waiting, the more many activists and donors may be inclined to think he really isn’t interested and commit themselves to candidates who need no coaxing.
During his press conference today, President Obama urged Congress to pass three trade deals with South Korea, Columbia and Panama, saying these agreements would help create jobs.
“I think these trade deals will be important,” said Obama, when he was asked what the government could do to encourage job creation. “The reason I want to get these trade deals done is because you see a whole bunch of Korean cars here in the United States and you don’t see any American cars in Korea.”
These deals — which actually were inked during the Bush administration — are quite promising. But for all of the president’s urgency, you’d never guess he (and Senate Democrats) have been the ones holding up them for months. In fact, one of the reasons why lawmakers haven’t approved the trade agreements yet is because Obama only sent them to Congress yesterday.
So why the delay? Apparently it was because Obama refused to go forward with the deals unless Republicans agreed to tack on an unrelated and exorbitantly-priced worker-retraining program to the legislation. Despite the GOP’s reluctance over the price tag, the stalemate was finally broken yesterday, and the program will be included in the legislation.
So all of Obama’s eagerness to finish these trade agreements might have been more appropriate months ago, when he was the one holding up the job-creating legislation.
First climate change advocates attempted to smear skeptics as akin to flat-Earthers, and since that tactic has failed, they’re playing the victimization card. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which promotes the idea of anthropogenic global warming, released a statement yesterday alleging Freedom of Information Act requests and other legal challenges have created a “hostile environment” for climate scientists, and may lead to a “chilling effect” at research institutions.
“Reports of harassment, death threats, and legal challenges [emphasis mine] have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and makes it difficult for factual information and scientific analyses to reach policymakers and the public,” reads the statement. “This both impedes the progress of science and interferes with the application of science to the solution of global problems.”
The AAAS seems to be particularly concerned with FOIA requests against climate scientists. During the past few years, these requests have helped expose information that severely discredited the global warming advocacy movement. Read More
President Obama didn’t cast much light on the war in Afghanistan in his press conference today, but it was interesting to note how uncomfortable he was when asked whether America’s goal there was “victory.”
Obama said his goal was “success,” not “victory.” According to the president, success could be defined by stopping more al-Qaeda terror attacks on the United States and the creation of an Afghan government that could defend itself. But “victory” doesn’t interest him. He says we’re in a position to radically draw down our forces in Afghanistan because of our “success” there. The problem is that by settling for an outcome in which the Taliban is still in the field and undefeated, Obama’s withdrawal policy is setting up the possibility all of the achievements U.S. troops have made since the surge began in 2009 could be lost.
The president seems to think talking about “victory” is macho posturing his administration is too mature to engage in. But the allure of “victory” has nothing to do with chest beating and everything to do with ensuring your opponents do not recover from setbacks and ultimately prevail. Victory means the enemy can no longer effectively fight, let alone win.
The president seems to want to simultaneously get credit for opposing further fighting in Afghanistan while also taking credit for “success” there. Perhaps Obama thinks if defeat happens after U.S. troops withdraw, it won’t go on his permanent record. The problem is the only alternative to “victory” is eventual defeat.
In his press conference today, President Obama threw down a challenge to Republicans over the debt limit. When asked how he could hope for a resolution to the current stalemate that could pass Congress when he is insisting a deal must include tax hikes the GOP oppose, Obama made it clear he thinks the Republican leadership will fold like a cheap suit.
As far as the president is concerned, the Republican position is “not sustainable.” His idea of “a balanced approach” involves minimal spending cuts along with a raft of soak-the-rich proposals he believes are good political weapons. Obama repeated again and again the issue was a matter of taking scholarships away from kids, eliminating research on food safety and health care for the elderly in order to continue giving, “millionaires and billionaires” and oil companies tax cuts on their “private corporate jets.”
While the president started off his talk by saying he was interested in reviewing government regulations of business that inhibit growth, not only could he not name a single regulation he doesn’t like, it’s clear the entire focus of his approach to both the deficit and the economic downturn is based on hostility toward the private sector. The president may think most Americans agree with him rich people should have their taxes raised, but he seems to be unaware of the link between job creation and the level of taxation on businesses and business owners.
The reason why the GOP position on debt limit negotiation is sustainable is that raising taxes on the private sector in the middle of an economic downturn with rising unemployment is a recipe for disaster. Speaker John Boehner not only knows he would face a full-scale revolt among his members if he does back down to the president, he also understands doing so would be bad for the economy.
Though the president continually bragged about how he had faced down his own constituency by embracing some minimal cuts in entitlements, he is still most comfortable when he is playing the class warfare card. Indeed, that seems to be the only card in his hand. Talking about private jets and oil companies may seem like a good re-election strategy, but it does nothing for the economy. The president needs to understand resentment of the wealthy won’t do anything about the rising unemployment numbers that are making Obama’s re-election an increasingly shaky bet.
You know the Republican presidential race has changed when you start seeing headlines wondering “How To Stop Bachmann.” That was the title of a Jonathan Chait piece in the New Republic yesterday that came only a day after Ed Kilgore wrote on the same site asking whether Bachmann could “Survive Being Taken Seriously?”
The reason for this hysteria can be found in the poll numbers that demonstrate the Minnesota congresswoman has evolved in the last month from a marginal player in the GOP presidential race to a major contender. The latest such survey came from the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling that shows Bachmann leading in both Oregon and Montana. While it was possible to rationalize her surge in Iowa, a state where Christian conservative activists have always been highly influential and where she has some roots, it is difficult to dismiss her lead in Oregon.
The question for the moment is how seriously to take these polls.
Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard zeroes in on what appears to be an effort by the White House to mislead the public about the President’s decision to withdraw more than 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by next September.
During a June 22 briefing on Afghanistan, a senior Administration aide told reporters, “The president’s decision was fully within the range of options that were presented to him and has the full support of his national security team.”
Now fast forward to yesterday, when Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, nominated to replace General David Petraeus as head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged that President Obama’s decision to draw down 10,000 troops by the end of this year and the rest of the surge forces by September 2012 was not one of the options proposed to the president by Gen. Petraeus.
In response to questioning from Senator Lindsey Graham, Allen testified Obama’s decision on the pace and size of of Afghanistan withdrawals was “a more aggressive option than that which was presented.” Senator Graham then pressed for clarification. “My question is: Was that a option?” To which General Allen replied, “It was not.”
There are two things going on here.
One is the president’s “strategy” was essentially made up on the back of an envelope, divorced from military considerations, and based almost entirely on the politics of Obama’s re-election, all of which are disgraceful enough. Beyond that, though, the administration appears to have dissembled in order to justify the president’s decision, hoping to add the appearance of military support to his terribly unwise plan.
There may be a more innocent explanation for what happened. But the burden is now on the White House to reveal the full story. And I hope the press corps is as aggressive with Obama as they would have been with his predecessor on this matter. It’s a big deal.
That advice shouldn’t be too hard to follow, considering President Obama’s economic approval rating is at a record low. But the president has been touting his job creation “successes” during his stump speeches, as Time magazine notes. Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg tells the magazine this strategy could end up backfiring on Obama:
“No one is going to give you much credit for what you have done for this recovery,” says Greenberg, who has been testing messages in focus groups and polls for Democrats to use in the coming election. “Saying the economy is starting to make progress is bad.” …
When Greenberg tested messages trumpeting the recent rebound, or blaming the economy on Republican mismanagement before 2008, the results were dismal, he says. Voters did not want to hear it. They responded more positively to messages about long-term fixes, like rebuilding the middle class and taking on China, or moving beyond the politics of blame.
This raises some serious problems for Obama’s reelection campaign. It’s been clear for awhile blaming the Republicans for the economic crisis is a poor strategy, but at least that would allow the president to avoid discussing his own failure to reboot the economy. Messages about long-term solutions are great, but the American people have given Obama the past few years to implement these fixes. If he has these solutions, why hasn’t he gone ahead with them? And why should we trust him if his previous policies haven’t worked?
Obama is in a bind for 2012. Without being able to point to accomplishments in office, it will be difficult for him to make the case for reelection. And focusing solely on solutions for the future doesn’t seem logical either, considering the president hasn’t succeeded at getting us out of our current crisis. While Greenberg’s polling seems to suggest forward-looking messaging is the best strategy for Obama, simply arguing he’ll do better next time just doesn’t seem convincing to voters.
This is from the Toronto Sun:
Fred Seaman worked alongside the music legend from 1979 to Lennon’s death at the end of 1980 and he reveals the star was a Ronald Reagan fan who enjoyed arguing with left-wing radicals who reminded him of his former self.
In new documentary Beatles Stories, Seaman tells filmmaker Seth Swirsky Lennon wasn’t the peace-loving militant fans thought he was while he was his assistant.
He says, “John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter.
“He’d met Reagan back, I think, in the 70s at some sporting event… Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young (peace) demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that… He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.
“I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who’s an old-time communist… He enjoyed really provoking my uncle… Maybe he was being provocative… but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.
“He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he’d been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy’s naivete.”
Three years later, Bob Dylan found his inner Zionist hawk with the song “Neighborhood Bully.”
It’s bad enough Representative Dennis Kucinich ran off to visit Syria’s mass-murdering tyrant Bashar al-Assad while pools of blood are still warm on the streets. Now stories are appearing in Syria’s state-run media portraying our silliest Congressman as a mouthpiece for the dictatorship.
“There are some who want to give a wrong picture about what is going on in Syria,” he said, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency, which is, I have to point out, beyond unreliable and unprofessional. “President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians,” he also supposedly said, though I doubt very much he actually did. SANA also claims he said, “President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his effort towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this.”
I’d say he sounds like a hostage, but there’s little chance those words are actually his. Syrian “journalism” is hardly more reality-based than North Korea’s official state broadcasts, so let’s just assume for now the only part of the story that’s true is the part where Kucinich took a plane to Damascus. That doesn’t mean he’s off the hook. Any foreign policy adviser familiar with the region could have warned him he’d be used by the regime, and Assad’s media minions are shameless professional fantasists.
I’m sure he means well and wishes we could all just get along, but he won’t make the Middle East a better place with this kind of stunt. Millions of Syrian citizens are well aware an elected U.S. official just met with their butcher, and now they’re being told Assad has a supportive friend in our Congress. That Kucinich likely blundered into his role as a mass-murderer’s prop rather than consciously choosing it does not change the fact that is what he has become.
The Syrian regime has been wooing useful Western idiots to its capital for decades. That Assad can still pull this off even while the Obama administration talks about filing war crimes charges shows there’s a virtually limitless supply of unteachable people at the highest levels of our government who simply have no idea what a monster looks like when they see one.
It takes a lot to pry most American Jews away from their traditional loyalty to the Democratic Party. But give Barack Obama credit. In just two and a half years in office, he has managed to achieve just that. Though the rumblings about Jewish unhappiness with the president’s policy of pressure against Israel have been getting more noticeable with each fight the administration picks with the Jewish state, the last month has been the worst yet. And, as Politico reports today, the cracks in the heretofore solidly partisan wall of Jewish support for the Democrats are starting to widen.
The Politico feature largely concentrates on interviews done with Jewish Dems in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and what Ben Smith heard can’t be encouraging for Obama supporters. Fundraising is being affected with even those organizing pro-Obama events admitting to Politico they won’t meet their goals. The open talk of defection to the Republicans next year is getting loud enough that even the most rabidly partisan Democrats have been forced to take notice. Though they claim most Jews will never vote for a Republican, the dissatisfaction with Obama is no longer confined to the right. Even liberal Jews are starting to question why the president seems more inclined to get tough with America’s ally than with foes such as Syria.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich has issued a statement in response to his quotes in the Syrian Arab News Agency, and says he was misquoted.
Here is his statement, and my response. I am not convinced Kucinich was misquoted, however.
On any number of occasions, congressmen, diplomats, and politicians who have visited dictators have made ingratiating statements in the privacy of palace parlors that they believed would never be repeated. Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie, for example, was much too deferential to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the run-up to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. While ambassador to Egypt, Frank Ricciardone gave new meaning to sycophancy. Former Representative Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) visited Libya and was videotaped praising Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi several years ago.
The issue, however, is not whether Kucinich was misquoted or is simply embarrassed to have his quotes repeated. Whenever an official visits a murderous dictator, he or she can count on the fact the dictator is going to use his presence to imply an endorsement and to take the wind out of the opposition’s sails. Sometimes engagement can do far more harm than good. Visiting al-Assad as the Western-educated eye doctor mows down Syrians on the street demonstrates horrible judgment and a poor reflection of the self-described peace movement.