The past week was not a good one for those who care about personal liberty and restraining the expanding power of the federal government. Chief Justice John Roberts’ perplexing and contradictory opinion upholding ObamaCare was a discouraging blow to those who had assumed the Court would uphold its responsibility to defend the Constitution. However, as Americans prepare to celebrate the birthday of our republic, it is an appropriate moment to remember that while the battle to preserve our freedoms requires constant vigilance, it is not a fight that is anywhere close to being conclusively lost. The genius of our framers was that they designed a political system which was set up to frustrate the efforts of those who would attempt radical political departures from the values that are dear to Americans. Though ObamaCare will be a critical step in the wrong direction, the final answer belongs not to the Court, but to the people.
In the past two years, there has been a remarkable revival of a constituency dedicated to defending the cause of individual freedom. Though the Tea Party has been subjected to unprecedented abuse, it helped change the nature of the national conversation about the entire spectrum of topics dealing with the power of government. In a separate though not unrelated battle, the Catholic Church and its friends have, when confronted with intolerable intrusions into its liberty of conscience, spoken up and actively resisted the imposition of the HHS Mandate that would force it to fund activities that contradict the teachings of their faith. Rather than acquiesce to restrictions on religious freedom, people of faith are refusing to knuckle under the dictates of the federal government.
All of this reminds us that while democracy may be a difficult and often frustrating system of government, it is not a spectator sport.
At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Anderson compiled two lists ranking the 10 best presidents and 10 worst presidents, based on the net opinions of likely voters in the latest Newsweek/Daily Beast poll. Both are worth reading. President Obama comes in second on the “worst president” list, right after George W. Bush. Richard Nixon is rated the third worst and Jimmy Carter is fourth.
But any conservatives tempted to gloat about Obama’s low score might want to reconsider. The real story here is that likely voters are appallingly bad at ranking presidents, and, in a just world, would be discouraged from getting anywhere near a voting booth. Brace yourself before reading their list of the 10 best presidents:
It seems safe to say that no Supreme Court decision has ever been extolled more effusively by its admirers than the ObamaCare one, notwithstanding the fact that it was — in the words of the admirers — based on an unpersuasive argument whose coherence is easy to question.
Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker described Chief Justice Roberts upholding ObamaCare under the “tax” argument as a “singular act of courage” — although Toobin admitted, “[f]rankly, that argument is not a persuasive one.” Jeffrey Rosen at The New Republic described the chief justice’s action as an admirable legal “twistification,” comparable to those of Chief Justice John Marshall — even though it “would be easy, of course, to question the coherence of the combination of legal arguments that Roberts embraced.” Unpersuasive, incoherent, but what an act of courage!
There is something about conservatives using the word “freedom” that drives the left insane. Maybe because progressives like to see themselves as champions of the people, fighting against the system, rather than what they actually are: statists, attempting to impose their beliefs on individuals through government power.
At the Huffington Post, AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka reimagines the concept of “freedom” today in a column that is just as Orwellian as you would think (h/t Washington Examiner):
I do believe that freedom isn’t free — but today the corporate and political right wing is trying to cheapen this truly American value. They’ve been cynically using the word “freedom” to rally the American public against its own best interests.
When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, Sarah Palin tweeted, “Obama lies; freedom dies.”
She’s referring, I guess, to the freedom to go without health care when you’re sick.
In its otherwise positive decision, the Supreme Court gave states the “freedom” to deny Medicaid coverage to their poorest residents — even though the federal government would pick up the tab.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker received the National Rifle Association’s “Defender of Freedom” award recently. I guess they meant Gov. Walker is defending teachers’ freedom from joining with coworkers to bargain fairly about things like class size. …
Let’s call this right-wing “freedom” catch phrase what it really is: a grossly political strategy to dupe the public, which holds the word “freedom” as something sacred.
This Independence Day, I say let’s go back to a truer use of the word “freedom.” Let’s start with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. I would add the freedom to bargain collectively.
So it appears the standoff which led to the closing of the NATO supply line through Pakistan in November has finally been resolved. After resisting offering an apology for an incident in which a cross-border firefight led to the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has finally delivered language that would satisfy Pakistan. As she said in a statement:
“I once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November. I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”
We interrupt our commentary on the looming defense sequestration–which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called a potential “disaster”–to note that our most stalwart ally, Great Britain, is also hollowing out its armed forces.
The honorary colonel of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, which is set to lose a battalion as part of the continuing downsizing, has written a letter to the chief of the general staff blasting the decision: “If challenged or scrutinized by, for example the media, it cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option.” In all, five British infantry battalions are being eliminated, with the loss of 12,000 soldiers.
When Newt Gingrich led the Republicans back to power on Capitol Hill during Bill Clinton’s first midterms, the revolutionaries came with a famous to-do list. But the most successful item on that list by far was almost certainly their ability to get welfare reform enacted with a Democratic president. Such congressional victories are rare; this one remains celebrated by both parties. So it was an odd feeling for former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson in 2007 when he ran for the GOP presidential nomination and seemed unable to get any traction with his reform credentials.
Gingrich may have passed welfare reform, and Clinton may have signed it, but Thompson enabled both. No one carried the ball farther down the field on welfare reform than Thompson did as governor of Wisconsin. He also wasted no time in reminding voters that he passed the nation’s first school vouchers program to include private schools. But if Thompson is far from the spotlight, even as these issues crop up once again, he can take solace in the fact that his state remains front and center in just about every major reform fight. In fact, when conservatives talk about states being “laboratories of democracy,” they seem to have Wisconsin in mind.
The Hill reports President Obama will kick off his jobs-focused “Betting on America” bus tour this week, an odd choice of timing considering the dreary economic news out today and the likelihood of another bad jobs report on Friday. The real question is whether Obama will at least use an American-built bus this time around?
President Obama’s campaign is tagging his two-day bus trip in the Midwest later this week the “Betting on America” tour, an opportunity for the campaign to push its economic message against Mitt Romney in two key swing states.
In a statement released Tuesday, the campaign said the president intended to “talk about his efforts over the last three years to get our economy back on track, doubling down on American workers by saving the auto industry, investing in manufacturing and bringing jobs back to America,” as he travels through northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
I take no joy from being proven right, but it appears that I–and other advocates of a continued American military presence in Iraq–were right to warn of the dangers of withdrawal. The Associated Press reports from Baghdad:
June was the second-deadliest month since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in mid-December as insurgents exploited the political struggles between the country’s ethnic and sectarian factions. More significant than the numbers was the fact that insurgents appeared able to sustain the level of violence over a longer period than usual. There was a major deadly bombing or shooting rampage almost every three days, many targeting Shiite pilgrims.
The violence has brought the weakness of Iraq’s security apparatus into sharp focus even as deepening political divisions dim the prospects that the country will emerge as a stable democracy after decades of war and dictatorship.
In the last year as Democrats have tried to oppose all efforts to ensure the integrity of the vote in the fall election, they have derided voter ID laws as not only racist in motivation but also unnecessary. Though the basic proposition that anyone who shows up at the polls ought to be able to prove they are who they say they are and are registered voters seems like common sense, liberals have claimed such measures are utterly superfluous because voter fraud is not a problem in the United States. And because there is no problem to be fixed, any effort that might stop those not qualified to vote from casting ballots is, they claim, rooted in prejudice and aimed at “suppressing” the minority vote. One would think that the long history of election fraud in this country which dates back to the colonial era and was a staple of machine politics in the 20th century would have caused Democrats to stop making such weak claims. But they are undaunted and have even gone so far as to assert that efforts to hold Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for his failures and stonewalling in the Fast and Furious scandal are evidence of the Republicans’ desire to get back at him for opposing voter ID laws.
But in case the Democrats needed a reminder about why voter integrity laws are necessary, they have just gotten one from a stalwart of the Congressional Black Caucus and a leading opponent of such measures. Charles Rangel’s “victory” in the Democratic primary in which he sought to ensure for himself a 22nd consecutive term in Congress from New York is being disputed by his opponent, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who claims what took place last week was a “phantom election” in which Board of Elections officials may have “hidden” votes. Ironically, Espaillat also claims that not only is the vote count in question but that Rangel’s forces may have suppressed the Hispanic vote by reassigning bilingual poll watchers and turning some voters away by requesting they identify themselves.
In his Washington Post column, Michael Gerson writes this:
Even in a short time, Roberts’ decision has not worn well. What initially seemed wise now smacks of mere cleverness—less a judge’s prudence than a lawyer’s trick. To find the health care law constitutional, Roberts reimagined it. It was outcome-based jurisprudence, even if the intended outcome was institutional harmony. It was an act of judicial arrogance, even in the cause of judicial deference. And it raises deeper concerns. Unmoored from a reasonable interpretation of the law, institutionalism easily becomes the creed of the philosopher-king—hovering above the balance of powers, tinkering benevolently here and there, instead of living within the constraints of the system.
Mike is right on every particular. What Chief Justice Roberts did was supremely arrogant and unwise. Whatever motivated Roberts—he would undoubtedly insist it was his high-minded concern for the legitimacy of the Court; his critics would say it was his concern for winning the favor of the New York Times—he embraced a role that simply was not his to assume.
It’s no secret that the country’s most famous Choom Gang member has been making a play for the stoner demographic, particularly in Colorado. Democrats hope a marijuana legalization ballot initiative in the swing state will draw young liberal-leaning voters to the polls, on the assumption that they’ll vote Obama. Still, many could actually end up voting third party — particularly because the Obama administration has dutifully carried on the “drug war” decried by libertarians.
Obama apparently wants to let these voters know he’ll have much more flexibility on these issues after the election. At GQ, Marc Ambinder transmits the message:
According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War.
Don’t expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn’t expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all. …
Beyond that, since the United States isn’t about to legalize or regulate the illegal narcotics markets, the best thing a president can do may be what Obama winds up doing if he gets re-elected: using the bully pulpit to draw attention to the issue.
But he won’t do so before November.
With the tightening of international sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, there are some hopeful signs the pain being inflicted on the Islamist regime may have serious repercussions. As Amotz Asa-El writes in the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, the continued fall of oil prices despite the cuts in Iranian exports is a hopeful sign as is the regime’s admission that their output is dropping. More importantly, the hyperinflation afflicting Iran’s economy is causing unrest in Tehran, raising hopes the sanctions are destabilizing the country and calling into question the ability of the ayatollah’s government to hang on. All this could generate another rebuke from the Iranian people at the next scheduled presidential election next year that would create even more problems than the revolt that popped up when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rigged the vote in 2009.
But optimism about the impact the sanctions will have on Iran is not the same thing as an assurance they cannot endure them. As the Iranian attitude during the three rounds of the P5+1 talks with the West has illustrated, the ayatollahs are still under the impression that the pain inflicted on their people will not be enough to either topple the regime or bring the country to a standstill. Though Iran’s feeble attempt to flex its muscles in response to the sanctions by threatening oil tanker traffic in the Gulf of Hormuz isn’t scaring anyone — least of all the United States which is reinforcing its own naval presence in the region to remind the Iranians of their weakness — there is no reason to assume their belief they can hang on while continuing their progress toward the nuclear goal is not valid.
The only consolation left to conservatives after Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ puzzling decision to uphold ObamaCare was that Republican nominee Mitt Romney could have used the labeling of the bill’s individual mandate as a tax to hammer the president this fall on what many in the GOP have labeled as a huge tax increase on the American people. But yesterday, top Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom, the man who gave the Democrats the epithet “etch-a-sketch” with which to label his boss, stepped in it again. Fehrnstrom told MSNBC that the former Massachusetts governor doesn’t think the mandate is a tax, a point that dovetails nicely with Democratic talking points about the issue and flatly contradicts what most Republicans have been saying about it.
In his defense, Fehrnstrom was saying that Romney agreed with Justice Scalia’s dissent which, had it been joined by Roberts, would have struck down ObamaCare as unconstitutional and which dismissed the argument that it was a tax. But by rejecting the opening offered to the GOP by the Court, Romney has undermined the contrast between the two parties on the issue. If, as the Weekly Standard wrote, ObamaCare offered the Republican challenger “a hanging curveball waiting to be hit out of the park,” Romney may have just whiffed on it.
This is the first genuine misstep by the Romney campaign after months of behaving like a smoothly run machine destined for victory. But even worse than that is the obvious suspicion that the problem here is a desire on Romney’s part to cover his tracks on his Massachusetts health care bill — because the “penalties” in Romney’s bill can also be branded as a tax — and a sign he won’t be able to take advantage of the president’s vulnerability.