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For Some Reason

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Yesterday, the House voted to extend the legal ability for the Export-Import Bank to run . . . for another nine months. The people’s legislature passed the “stop-gap” measure, 319-108, with both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition.

Just last month, President Obama expressed dismay that Republicans would be against it.

“For some reason,” he intoned, “right now the House Republicans have decided that we shouldn’t do this. . . .” He pretended to incredulity and puzzlement. He gave the usual reasoning for the subsidized financial guarantees, and insisted that “every country does this.”

“When,” he asked, “did that become something that Republicans opposed?”

Obama could’ve asked all those members of his own party who opposed it.

But then, he could have asked himself. Back in 2008, he very clearly put the Ex-Im Bank on the theoretical chopping block. Candidate Obama gave the big business bank up as a program that “didn’t work” and one that had become “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”

So why the change of mind, Mr. Obama?

Has the Ex-Im ceased being a fund for corporate welfare?

No. It’s still there, propping up big businesses doing business abroad — indeed, multinationals abroad, the kind of companies that Obama’s Occupier friends despise so deeply.

What has changed? He’s in power, now. And that power derives from the mighty federal purse, filled by taxing hundreds of millions of Americans, and used to give hundreds of millions and billions in benefits to the few, the insiders.

President Obama and the congressional leadership of both parties are tighter than ever with special interests.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

If DADOOJ Existed

Monday, August 18th, 2014

The important group Democrats Against Democratic Obstruction of Justice (DADOOJ) has yet to be formed to denounce ongoing cover-ups by the Obama administration.

If a DADOOJ did exist, though, its two or three members would surely cite a recent Hill column by Rick Manning, “More lost emails—When will Democrats have enough?

Manning, of Americans for Limited Government, notes that some twenty different Obama administration officials have “lost”/destroyed congressionally requested email records. He echoes Darrell Issa, the exasperated chairman of the House Committee on Oversight who says it “defies logic that so many senior administration officials were found to have ignored federal record-keeping requirements only after Congress asked to see their emails.”

What we have here, concurs Manning, is “coordinated and condoned cover-up,” not massive coincidence of careless keystrokes. So why aren’t any prominent Democrats expressing outrage at this “affront to our constitutional system,” and demanding answers? During the Watergate scandal, at least a few Republicans soon joined calls for the Republican president to come clean. Today, though, Dems are mute en masse.

Investigators should find a way to raid the offices of the IRS, DOJ and so forth; don’t just solicit cooperation. Confiscate or clone drives and servers so we can do some exhaustive forensics on the zeroes and ones. If we look real hard — maybe even not that hard — we’ll find the missing email.

I offer this proposal gratis as the first item for the DADOOJ advocacy agenda.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Wrong Lesson Learned

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Last week’s interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman brought a rare admission from President Barack Obama.

Friedman asked, “What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned doing foreign policy?”

“I’ll give you an example of a lesson I had to learn that still has, you know, ramifications to this day,” Obama replied, “and that is our participation in the coalition that overthrew Gaddafi in Libya.”

The president was quick to defend the “lead from behind” 2011 intervention, itself, as “the right thing to do,” because “had we not intervened, it’s likely that Libya would be Syria, right?”

Or Iraq, perhaps?

He decided to attack Libya militarily, Mr. Obama went on to explain, precisely “because Gaddafi was not going to be able to contain what had been unleashed there” (via the Arab Spring) and thus, “there would be more death, more disruption, more destruction.”

Does that make any sense? Was Gaddafi’s inability to wield more complete and total power over his rivals within the country plausibly be the rationale behind the NATO intervention?

In acknowledging his error, the president said, “What is also true is, I think we underestimated . . . the need to come in full force — if you’re going to do this. Then it’s the day after Gaddafi’s gone, when everyone’s feeling good, everybody’s holding up posters saying ‘Thank You, America!’ At that moment, there has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies that don’t have any civic traditions.”

Of course, it isn’t possible to “re-build” that which you admit never existed.

And it isn’t the role of the U.S. Government.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Foreign Policy Evacuation?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Last week, the United States closed and shuttered the embassy in Tripoli, Libya, evacuating from the country its personnel — 158 diplomats and 60 Marines. Fighting between two rival militias reportedly got so close that the embassy was actually being hit by stray small arms fire.

I certainly don’t object to the decision to pull people out. Seems prudent, especially in light of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans, including our ambassador, dead.

But the protective move sends an unmistakable signal about Libya and US foreign policy. Obama’s 2011 military intervention into Libya via NATO — famously promoted as “leading from behind” — has clearly and obviously failed.

Libya is in chaos, unsafe for Americans . . . or Libyans.

President Obama is hardly the sole leader deserving blame. Military campaigns launched by President Bush, who led from in front, haven’t worked, either.

After years of “pacifying” Iraq, at the cost of thousands of American lives, and building up Iraq’s military forces, the Iraqi army disintegrated at the first sign of conflict. The Iraqi government remains thoroughly corrupt.

Sadly, the same fate awaits the end of our nation-building stint in Afghanistan. A recent Washington Post story quoted Sgt. Kenneth Ventrice, a veteran of three tours in Iraq and now serving his second in Afghanistan, saying, “It’s going to fall a lot faster than Iraq did.”

These foreign interventions are failures.

But the biggest failure? Not to learn from our mistakes.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Mr. Majesty

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Are American presidents becoming (or have they long since become) tantamount to elected kings?

Cato Institute scholar Gene Healy has penned volumes about the super-sized presidency (The Cult of the Presidency and False Idol: Barack Obama and the Continuing Cult of the Presidency, for two). So he’s well-qualified to assess conservative law professor F.H. Buckley’s Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America.

Buckley both credits our Constitution for protecting our liberty and indicts it for fostering the modern assaults on that liberty.

Our government has lapsed into an “elective monarchy,” which also afflicts parliamentary systems but to which presidential systems are especially susceptible. For “presidentialism fosters the rise of Crown government.” It “encourages messianism by making the head of government the head of state,” insulating him from legislative accountability and making it harder to remove him.

Though Healy finds the argument well-defended in many respects, he isn’t entirely convinced. He’d like more evidence, for example, that parliamentary systems are as better equipped to reverse big and bad policies as they are at imposing them.

I’ll let these two argue the nuances regarding which form of out-of-control national government is most dangerously constituted. We can be grateful, at least, that our own elected king is curbed by term limits much less easily shucked than has proved the case in other presidentially governed countries.

Like these others, we may have an elected monarch. But, pre- and post-FDR, he is not a monarch-for-life. Not yet.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Do Not Pass Dumb, Do Not Collect Your Wits

Friday, June 13th, 2014

In the empire of fibs and euphemisms, the person who re-asserts the bald truth can find himself excoriated not merely as a traitor to All That Is Good And True and Beautiful, but scorned as a crazed lunatic and all-around dangerous fellow.

After economist David Brat defeated the House Majority Leader this week, folks left, right and center set themselves to poring through the professor’s writings for any juicy tidbit to get excited about. The drollest kerfuffle was over this:

If you refuse to pay your taxes, you will lose. You will go to jail, and if you fight, you will lose. The government holds a monopoly on violence. Any law that we vote for is ultimately backed by the full force of our government and military.

Max Weber: 1864-1920Charles Cooke defended Brat from the New York Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, and Politico’s Ben White, all dismissive or worse. And then, for the real meat of the frenzy,  “[a]s is its wont, the progressive blogosphere lost its collective marbles too: One contributor sardonically described Brat’s claim as a ‘doozy,’ while another contended that such opinions were sufficient for ‘one to question his, shall we say, cognitive coherence.’”

Cooke’s point is that Brat’s thesis is obviously true.

But it’s more than that. This notion that governments claim a monopoly on the use of force is non-controversial. It was defined neatly in almost those very words by the near-universally respected sociologist Max Weber. A long time ago.

And, news to progressives with short attention spans, Barack Obama also stated this as a bedrock truth: “What essentially sets a nation-state apart . . . is the monopoly on violence.”

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Legal, Shmegal

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Lots of unanswered questions about the prisoner swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

Will negotiating this swap cause more Americans to be taken prisoner?

Did Sgt. Bergdahl desert his unit five years ago? Was he responsible for the deaths of other soldiers who had to search for him in dangerous terrain?

“[Bergdahl] served with honor and distinction,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the media.

How dangerous are the five released prisoners? Can we be confident they won’t return to the battlefield?

Only one question has been clearly answered: the Administration broke the law.

By law, the president must notify Congress 30 days before the release of anyone held at Gitmo. Obama didn’t do so.

“Oh I think he clearly broke the law,” said CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “The law says 30 days notice. He didn’t give 30 days notice.”

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley concurred, telling CNN, “I don’t think there’s much debate that they’re in violation of the law.”

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), a former Ambassador to the United Nations, admitted as much, but called the law “impractical,” asking, “What is [Obama] supposed to do, give them 30 days?”

Well, yes.

The law, after all, was passed by a Republican House and Democratic Senate, and signed by Obama himself.

The president added a signing statement, at the time, expressing his view that Congress didn’t have the power to so limit him. Obama, like his predecessor, ignores the law, pretending that a president’s signing statement is an all-powerful pocket veto.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.