Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jack Reed

RE: The Tax Issue Is Back

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

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The Fullest Extent of the Law

Peter, your post “Alice in Wonderland Justice” reminds me of the old Marx Brothers routine in which Chico is standing trial and discovers that Groucho will be the judge, prosecutor, and defense lawyer. Chico asks how there can be such a procedure, and Groucho answers: “That way we can prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Obama administration is presumably bringing terrorists to trial in New York on an assumption that not only is there proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but also that even if the defendants were acquitted, or the jury hung, or subpoenaed Bush administration officials refused to testify, or a judge ruled that the trial cannot continue after the prosecution refuses to disclose national-security secrets, the defendants will still not be allowed to go free — hence Democratic Sen. Jack Reed’s confident assertion that “international law” will permit the defendants’ continued detention after trial, regardless of its result.

If the trial turns into a soap box — with a worldwide megaphone — to castigate the Bush administration for its wartime detention policies, or to illustrate the dark night of America before Obama, it will be a fringe benefit (or perhaps even the main purpose) of the fail-safe legal proceeding — an opportunity effectively to place officials of the Bush administration in the dock and to apologize again for what came before Hope and Change.

It will be a (Groucho) Marxist procedure for the defendants (because they will not go free no matter what the verdict) and a show trial for Obama’s political opponents, conducted in order to satisfy his “base.” It will be cynical political process masquerading as the fullest extent of the law.

Peter, your post “Alice in Wonderland Justice” reminds me of the old Marx Brothers routine in which Chico is standing trial and discovers that Groucho will be the judge, prosecutor, and defense lawyer. Chico asks how there can be such a procedure, and Groucho answers: “That way we can prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Obama administration is presumably bringing terrorists to trial in New York on an assumption that not only is there proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but also that even if the defendants were acquitted, or the jury hung, or subpoenaed Bush administration officials refused to testify, or a judge ruled that the trial cannot continue after the prosecution refuses to disclose national-security secrets, the defendants will still not be allowed to go free — hence Democratic Sen. Jack Reed’s confident assertion that “international law” will permit the defendants’ continued detention after trial, regardless of its result.

If the trial turns into a soap box — with a worldwide megaphone — to castigate the Bush administration for its wartime detention policies, or to illustrate the dark night of America before Obama, it will be a fringe benefit (or perhaps even the main purpose) of the fail-safe legal proceeding — an opportunity effectively to place officials of the Bush administration in the dock and to apologize again for what came before Hope and Change.

It will be a (Groucho) Marxist procedure for the defendants (because they will not go free no matter what the verdict) and a show trial for Obama’s political opponents, conducted in order to satisfy his “base.” It will be cynical political process masquerading as the fullest extent of the law.

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Alice in Wonderland Justice

The decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a federal courthouse in Manhattan, where he and his four co-conspirators will receive the full array of rights enjoyed by American citizens, will show the world that our system of justice is an enlightened model for the rest of the world. It will “vindicate this country’s basic values” and “stand as a symbol in the world of something different from what the terrorists represent.” We will be adhering to the “rule of law.” Or so Obama defenders argue.

But imagine KSM being found not guilty, which is a possibility. What happens then? According to Democratic Senator Jack Reed, “under basic principles of international law, as long as these individuals pose a threat, they can be detained, and they will.” Come again? You mean if KSM is acquitted he will still be detained? Yes indeed, according to Senator Reed. He will not be released, “because under the principle of preventive detention, which is recognized during hostilities,” we can continue to hold KSM.

Well, now. It seems to me as though President Obama and Attorney General Holder need to be asked whether they agree with Senator Reed. If not — if they believe that the proud, self-confessed mastermind of the deadliest attack in history on the American homeland should be able to walk free if acquitted in this trial — then Obama and Holder should certainly say so. If KSM were acquitted, the president and his attorney general should proclaim from the rooftops that Mohammed is a free man, found innocent in a civilian court of law, and then allow voters to render a judgment on their decision.

If, on the other hand, Obama and Holder agree with Senator Reed, they should state that as well.

Right now Obama and Holder, in saying they are answering the “call to justice and fairness,” take great pride in presenting themselves as committed to equal justice under the law. That they are willing to try KSM in a civilian court is supposedly proof of their enlightened worldview. Except that if President Obama and Attorney General Holder agree with Senator Reed, it is all a fiction: If KSM is acquitted, he will not walk the streets of New York City or of any other place. He will be detained. The verdict in his trial will be rendered inoperative. And the justice and fairness that Obama and Holder speak about will turn out to be quite different from what most people who are praising Obama’s decision have in mind. The “rule of law” our president and his attorney general hope to showcase will actually be a game that has been rigged at the outset. It will be Alice in Wonderland justice (first the verdict, then the trial; and if the trial turns out differently from what you had hoped, ignore the verdict). If that’s the case, then what Obama and Holder are doing will turn out to be a very dangerous stunt done only for optics. Their actions will be revealed as cynical and misleading. And engaging in this charade in order to impress the rest of the world will do significant harm to our nation.

Every month the Obama administration seems to outdo itself in terms of making terribly unwise decisions. This one ranks high among them. It will add another damaging brushstroke to the Obama canvas. The current administration is revealing itself one act at a time; the curtain is being pulled back on it one decision at a time. The liberal, and in some cases the radical, actions of the Obama administration are piling up like cars in a rush-hour traffic accident. But a day of reckoning will come, I suspect; first to Mr. Obama’s party, and then to Mr. Obama himself.

The decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a federal courthouse in Manhattan, where he and his four co-conspirators will receive the full array of rights enjoyed by American citizens, will show the world that our system of justice is an enlightened model for the rest of the world. It will “vindicate this country’s basic values” and “stand as a symbol in the world of something different from what the terrorists represent.” We will be adhering to the “rule of law.” Or so Obama defenders argue.

But imagine KSM being found not guilty, which is a possibility. What happens then? According to Democratic Senator Jack Reed, “under basic principles of international law, as long as these individuals pose a threat, they can be detained, and they will.” Come again? You mean if KSM is acquitted he will still be detained? Yes indeed, according to Senator Reed. He will not be released, “because under the principle of preventive detention, which is recognized during hostilities,” we can continue to hold KSM.

Well, now. It seems to me as though President Obama and Attorney General Holder need to be asked whether they agree with Senator Reed. If not — if they believe that the proud, self-confessed mastermind of the deadliest attack in history on the American homeland should be able to walk free if acquitted in this trial — then Obama and Holder should certainly say so. If KSM were acquitted, the president and his attorney general should proclaim from the rooftops that Mohammed is a free man, found innocent in a civilian court of law, and then allow voters to render a judgment on their decision.

If, on the other hand, Obama and Holder agree with Senator Reed, they should state that as well.

Right now Obama and Holder, in saying they are answering the “call to justice and fairness,” take great pride in presenting themselves as committed to equal justice under the law. That they are willing to try KSM in a civilian court is supposedly proof of their enlightened worldview. Except that if President Obama and Attorney General Holder agree with Senator Reed, it is all a fiction: If KSM is acquitted, he will not walk the streets of New York City or of any other place. He will be detained. The verdict in his trial will be rendered inoperative. And the justice and fairness that Obama and Holder speak about will turn out to be quite different from what most people who are praising Obama’s decision have in mind. The “rule of law” our president and his attorney general hope to showcase will actually be a game that has been rigged at the outset. It will be Alice in Wonderland justice (first the verdict, then the trial; and if the trial turns out differently from what you had hoped, ignore the verdict). If that’s the case, then what Obama and Holder are doing will turn out to be a very dangerous stunt done only for optics. Their actions will be revealed as cynical and misleading. And engaging in this charade in order to impress the rest of the world will do significant harm to our nation.

Every month the Obama administration seems to outdo itself in terms of making terribly unwise decisions. This one ranks high among them. It will add another damaging brushstroke to the Obama canvas. The current administration is revealing itself one act at a time; the curtain is being pulled back on it one decision at a time. The liberal, and in some cases the radical, actions of the Obama administration are piling up like cars in a rush-hour traffic accident. But a day of reckoning will come, I suspect; first to Mr. Obama’s party, and then to Mr. Obama himself.

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