RNC's Steele: right or wrong on Afghanistan?

RNC Chair Michael Steele’s recent comments on Afghanistan – which he derisively called “Obama’s war” while questioning the potential for victory – found pockets of support across the political spectrum.  On the left, those who oppose the war on ideological grounds agreed with Steele’s conclusions (if not his logic) that this is not a war we should be fighting.  On the more libertarian right, many who believe that America’s foreign policy is “extraconstitutional” -- overly aggressive, idealistic and beyond what the Founder’s intended -- view the Afghan campaign as a case study in federal government overreach.   If it is true that politics make strange bedfellows, Steel’s unscripted comments found a nexus of agreement from elements on the left and the right: This is a war poorly conceived, without legitimacy, and with little chance of success. I disagree with this.  While I recognize fully the difficulty of the mission, and understand that Afghanistan has been the “graveyard of empires” for a millennium or more, I also believe that Barack Obama was correct in 2008 when he called Afghanistan a war “of necessity”.  Afghanistan was the birthplace of the 9/11 attacks; the Taliban regime provided sanctuary and material support to Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and its global network of Jihadists. The initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 was a critical blow to this network, and provided the United States with both a measure of revenge and security after 9/11.  It also replaced the Taliban, a brutal fundamentalist Islamic regime that demanded strict fealty to Islamic law with a secular, Western-facing government.  To be sure, the government of Hamid Karzai is no model of Jeffersonian democracy.  But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good in this case – and Karzai is quite good when compared to the rule of his predecessor, the Taliban’s Mullah Omar.

More importantly, I reject the position taken by many libertarian-oriented conservatives that the war in Afghanistan is an example of government overreach and an unconstitutional exercise of executive power.  To be sure, there are ample grounds for a substantive debate on presidential war powers and the Constitution – a debate that has heated up significantly since 9/11.   Those who take a “strict constructionist” view see Congress’ power to declare war in Article I, Section 8 as a clear limit on the use of force: without a formal declaration of war against a defined enemy, the commitment of the U.S. military to combat is essentially proscribed.  However, the case for this is not as clear as it may seem.  During the debate on this topic at the Constitutional Convention, the Founders clearly intended for the executive as Commander in Chief to have the power to “repel sudden attacks” and, in the process of providing for the “common defense”, would be able to act swiftly and decisively in the case of a national emergency.  The Founders instinctively understood that while a check on the president’s ability to unilaterally wage war was desirable, it should not prohibit decisive action when the nation’s security was under threat.

It is my belief that not only does the executive have the power to wage war in Afghanistan without a formal declaration of war, he has the constitutional responsibility to do so.  The most important aspect of the president’s job description as found in Article II of the Constitution is in Section 2:  his role as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces.  As such, he is principally responsible for ensuring the nation’s security, and enjoys wide latitude in utilizing the military in the prosecution of U.S. foreign policy.  This has been particularly true in the latter half of the 20th century, where the U.S. has waged full-scale war in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf without a formal declaration of war.  Today, the rise of transnational terror networks and so-called “asymmetrical” warfare which targets civilians without warning has made traditional forms of extended debate on foreign policy increasingly impractical.  Terrorism and global Jihad has made traditional declarations of war truly a relic of an earlier age.

Because of this new reality, the nature of Congressional consent to military action has changed. While presidents are waging war without formal declarations, they do so also with the consent (and political cover) of Congressional approval.  Recall that on September 14, 2001 – just days after the attacks on 9/11 – the Congress passed S.J. Res. 23, which authorized the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001”.   Later, in 2002, the Congress passed the Iraq War Resolution, which gave Congressional approval for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  While short of formal declarations of war, both of these resolutions provide ample authority for the president to wage war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Contrary to the opinion of Michael Steele, this is not Obama’s war.  It is America’s war.  And the stakes could not be higher.  The elimination of a sanctuary for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is a central national security issue for our future.  One of the few correct decisions that President Obama has made since taking office is recommitting the nation to the war in Afghanistan.  His recent appointment of General David Petraeus to take command is a good step in the right direction.  Now he must renounce any time tables for withdrawal and allow the U.S. military to destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban once and for all.

The Constitution requires the federal government to provide for the common defense of the nation and its interests – principally the protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  It is hard to imagine pursuing much happiness in the aftermath of a nuclear or biological attack in Times Square carried out by radical Islamists from a base in Afghanistan.

Lest We Forget: He Won

President Obama met with Congressional Republicans yesterday with the expressed intent to listen and discuss policy differences.   As it turns out, he put on his Professor Obama demeanor and sternly wielded his hickory stick within the one-room classroom full of students of the minority party.  Early in his presidency, even back during the days when he stood before a podium adorned with an "Office of the President-Elect" seal, Mr. Obama reminded those in opposition that  he'd won the election, and thus, silence and submission was appropriate decorum for dissenters so as not to muddle the boisterous cheering and adoration of his followers. 

Much is being reported about the president's attitude yesterday during that conference with Republican House members.  He quickly called the class to order and made sure his unruly, defiant students were all facing forward, both feet on the floor, pencils put away and all eyes on him. His photo op crew was there to capture every disdainful wave of his finger, every upward tilt of his head in superiority and every word of reprimand and condemnation.  Class was in session and the GOP was about to be tutored in how to march in lockstep with the majority.  Just as many Americans disapprovingly considered the media release of his midnight salute to fallen war heroes at Dover AFB to be some type of publicity stunt, his Head Schoolmaster routine yesterday in Baltimore is also being seen as little more than a campaign stump speech.  He took it to the Republicans and he wanted his far leftie friends to know it.

During the question and answer period, Mr. Obama noted he is not an ideologue.   The president has had us fooled on that one!   After all, a majority of the electorate now considers the White House and Congress tone deaf to the will of the people.  Democrat leadership has been deliberate in excluding not just Republican input, but that of independent thinkers and some in their own party.     Meanwhile, across the nation letters are penned, emails sent and phone calls  made to this Congress and White House, demanding transparency and adherence to the Constitution.  Time and again, those voices are ignored.   In spite of a vast majority of Americans that disagree with much of the proposed health care reform legislation, Nancy Pelosi put forth a visual on Thursday of her and her cohorts pole vaulting and sky diving if need be in order to pass a bill, targeted for the president's desk. 

When the president called for ideas about health care reform during his State of the Union address, it is possible the CEO's of Safeway Food Stores and Whole Food Stores both were shaking their heads and thinking, "I tried to tell you how successful our company has been in providing quality health care to our associates at a manageable cost, but you and your Congressional majority refused to entertain any suggestions.  The Far Left recommended boycotts of our stores and we were maligned and ridiculed."  Any opposition voiced in the debate has resulted in about as much anger and personal attack as we've ever seen in modern day politics.  We will not soon forget the spectacle of the comedic junior senator from Minnesota basically telling Sen. Lieberman to sit down and shut up on the Senate floor when he respectfully requested another minute of time to express the views of his constituents.  Maybe that Saturday Night Live-type skit was the source of a good laugh in the Oval Office, but Americans were appalled.    When citizens cried foul because the AARP, insurance and pharma companies had private, closed door meetings and emerged with big smiles of support for the reform bill, they were dismissed by the president as being "all wee-weed up".  This was a new phrase in our political discourse and most didn't understand until Press Secy Gibbs graciously clarified for us by saying it is synonomous with bedwetters.   Apparently, in this era of hope and change, a president can make such remarks without reproach, because after all, he won. 

Health care reform is one of the president's premier pieces of legislation that he's determined to sign into law, forever engraving his name affectionately on the hearts of those in the progressive movement . The House bill created the first fire storm as citizens learned of cuts here, spending (and borrowing) there with lots of gray areas in between.  In one response,  the White House hosted a pathetic press conference in the Rose Garden on a fine autumn day, inviting several physicians that are also Obama supporters.  We learned later, many in attendance were not doctors at all, but rather were devoted Obama fans/SEIU activists.  The president spoke to the gathering of people, garbed in stereotypical white lab coats,  provided courtesy of the American Taxpayer.  The message was clear: "America, can't you see that your doctors support the president and Congress regarding the future of your care and access?  It is time for the public to disengage about this matter and allow the federal government to take over health care delivery.  Trust us, you''re going to love our plan.  We don't trust you to make good decisions for yourselves and your families, so we are asking you to trust us to do it for you."  The point  of that particular photo op/campaign ad/indoctrination attempt was to make sure that the average American not only stopped demanding a 'nay' vote from their House representatives, but that they simply stopped questioning the process all together.    No press coverage or photo op's were allowed for the 100,000 physicians that gathered from across the nation about the same time on the steps of the Capitol to voice their opinions.  The White House made sure that group of physicians were denied white coats and a Rose Garden reception.  They disagreed with him; their professional assessments were not valued.  After all, he won.

The president lectured and scolded Republicans yesterday and his chastisement kicked off his new direction as we head toward the November elections.  He and his Congress will now try to flip every complaint against him as being the fault of the GOP.  He knows the country is bored and annoyed with his blame game toward George W. Bush, who remains typically silent when wrongly attacked.  In Obama's America, he scorns Fox News and he sets his jaw and steels his stare at anyone that takes issue with something he says or proposes. Yes, he won in November, '08, but he is completely out of touch with middle class reality. Most Americans consider themselves conservatives, Fox News consistently has the highest ratings of all news networks. Conservative talk radio is exploding in popularity, while progressive Air America is now belly-up.   Activists, tea party patriots, independents, Republicans and conservative Democrats are not going away quietly.  House Republicans stood their ground yesterday in questioning the president. 

Maybe the president should simply remind the country that he won.

Cash in your clunky Congressman

You've seen those buy-back programs where some nanny group wants to get guns off the streets by buying them back. One such program offered $250 per gun, no questions asked. (Since you can buy a new gun for less than that, a couple gun dealers showed up with their trunks full of cheap new guns to sell back at $250 a pop.) Just this past Halloween, a group of dentists even offered a candy buy-back program. But we face a danger greater than guns, or even sugar. Let’s go after the real danger on the streets. So I'm announcing the first

Congressional Buy-Back Program

Sponsored by CUSS and CRAP

CUSS (Citizens United for Safe Streets) and CRAP (Committee to Restore America’s Peace)

1. Who: Any registered voter may exchange their Congressman for cash.

2. What: Any member of Congress is eligible for buy-back, regardless of original selling price.

3. How much: it may seem like a problem deciding how much cash to offer to anyone who brings their Congressman in for redemption. But just like the gun buy-back programs, the cash offered need not bear any relationship to the actual value of the item, and in fact, a higher price will yield better results. So, let’s not be stingy here. We will offer a cash payment that is well above the actual worth of even the best Congressman. We suggest $10 for Representatives and $20 for Senators. Any residual bribes found on the person of the Congressman may be retained by the voter.

4. Limit: One per voter.

5. When: ASAP, especially before the next session of Congress.

Additional rules: As soon as Congress gets wind of this buy-back program, we expect many of them to go into hiding. So to improve the effectiveness of the program, we have analyzed actual features of successful gun buy-back programs in order to adapt them to our Congressional Buy-Back Program.

6. “Only weapons in working order will be accepted.” This presents a real challenge to adapt to Congressmen. In testing a small sample of Congressmen, we found none of them were in working condition. So we will accept all Congressmen, no questions asked.

7. “The MPDC works with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to trace the weapons and track their involvement with previously unsolved crimes.” This should be relatively easy; we can to use The Congressional Record to track the Congressmen’s previous criminal activity.

8. “All the weapons accumulated during gun buy-backs in DC are melted down and destroyed at an area foundry.” There might be environmental problems caused by dumping Congressmen into a foundry, so we will simply export them to France, which will raise the average IQ of both countries.

9. “No identification required.” This means you, not your Congressman. We may still require your Congressman to have valid ID or a passport (see #8 above).

10. “No gun dealers.” Since the people who regularly buy and sell guns are ineligible for gun buy-backs, we think, to be fair, we will have to declare lobbyists ineligible to sell back a Congressman.

11. “Those turning in weapons are granted amnesty from any gun possession charges that might apply.” Any voter who turns in a Congressman will be granted amnesty from such charges as tampering with the witless or obstructing injustice or transporting a moron across state lines.

12. “The program will not accept BB guns, air pistols, long guns and replicas.” Genuine elected Congressmen only, please. No coroners or school board members.

13. “Guns brought by car must be transported in the trunk and unloaded, and placed in a plastic or paper bag or shoe box.” This makes sense. We think Congressmen can be safely transported in the same manner.

14. “Bury our guns, not our people!” Burying Congressmen requires a hazardous waste permit from the EPA, which would take too long. We think the France option will work fine. However, as a back-up option, we have arranged for a 1-to-1 swap as Gitmo is emptied.

15. “Stolen weapons will be returned to their legal owners.” Actually, we have not seen a problem with anybody even wanting to steal a Congressman. However, some Congressmen who have been bought won’t stay bought and repeatedly resell themselves to the highest bidder. So, under the “doctrine of prior corruption” we will honor receipts for bought Congressmen based on earliest date of purchase rather than highest amount of purchase to determine legal ownership of the Congressman.

16. “Make our streets safer by taking unwanted guns off our streets.” We think that we will all be safer when we reduce the number of Congressmen roaming the streets. So, gather up your Congressmen and bring them in.

17. Critics of this buy-back point to the fact that gun buy-back programs have never shown a reduction in crime as a result. But why take the chance with something as dangerous as a Congressman? Even if only one law is prevented, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Drew Clark of Erie is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives, where he was never for sale at any price.

Constitution? What's that?

We all know that Barack Obama doesn't think much of the Constitution.  And he certainly won't let it get in the way of the government takeover of health care.Courtesy of  Kim Strassel at the WSJ today comes some insightful commentary about what we can now expect from Obama and the merry leftists in Congress. The Baucus Bill has been subject to Congress' death panel and is DOA. Baucus attempted to craft a bipartisan bill that would enjoy a modicum of Republican support, but he ultimately caved to enough liberal demands that it got sufficiently watered down to appeal to precisely nobody. The Republicans find it too costly and pernicious in its penalties and taxes, and the left finds it far to soft on the insurance companies and other villains of the health care industry. Max tried, but in the end he truly made "mischief of one kind...or another" and got promptly "eaten up".

In any event, Strassel makes the very good point that we should all prepare ourselves for a renewed leftward turn in the health care debate as our President caves to the demands of his leftist base:

...Our bipartisan White House grew weary of the bipartisan process and pressured Mr. Baucus to produce. He jettisoned his colleagues and pushed out a product that Messrs. Grassley and Enzi promptly condemned. The White House did such a good job of suggesting that Ms. Snowe was its GOP patsy—a Republican who'd vote for a ham sandwich, if only they asked—that even the miffed Maine senator has stepped back.

The result is two-fold. With no, or little, GOP support, the only way Mr. Baucus can pry his bill out of committee is to allow the left to have its way. The White House knows this, which is why the president—despite seizing on the Baucus legislation in his speech last week—is already abandoning the finance chief and his bill to the tender mercies of West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller and New York's Chuck Schumer. The White House wants a bill, any bill, and this bloc now holds all the votes in committee. Pity Mr. Baucus, who just got used.

Into the hands of Rockefeller and Schumer we fall. And you can bet that what comes now is a highly partisan bill that will attempt the "public option" in one form or another, and a price tag that will be (conservatively) in the Trillion Dollar range. Worse yet, it will be couched in all sorts of creative accounting and political double speak that the public will think its getting steak when it is really horse meat with lots of sauce on it. Those who were gullible enough to elect Mr. Obama may likely be gullible enough to take his latest sleight of hand at face value.

Worse yet, it is apparent that Obama wants a bill -- any bill -- and will do whatever is necessary to force it through, even if it involves using the reconciliation tool that requires just 51 votes instead of the 60 needed to overcome an inevitable Republican filibuster.

What has changed is Mr. Obama's determination to push a bill through, regardless of what his party, or the public, thinks. The White House will make the case to waverers that the political fallout of a health-care failure will be worse than backlash that comes with voting for a bill. Maybe. Behind that is the further threat that Dems will go this alone, via 50-vote reconciliation, if necessary.

Reconciliation was meant to be used only for finance bills, not for momentous, life-altering legislation like major health care reform. The Framers of the Constitution created a system where major political initiatives such as this would be subject to the normal process of debate, with the rights of the minority (in the form of the filibuster) in place. The system of checks and balances was put into place for a reason -- to slow down the system so that radical change would be difficult and would require the support of the minority party.

But no matter. In the power play now going on in Washington, the left wants its way no matter who gets trampled. Obama is already on record as saying that the Constitution "is an imperfect document", and this might as well apply to the rules around health care legislation as well. He, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer and the others know best, after all -- and they clearly don't care what the people think or want.

We are in for a rough ride. Keep up the pressure on your local Congressional delegation. The only chance we have is that those in Congress will care more about getting elected than actually reforming health care.

Let's make it clear that an "aye" will result in a "nay" next November.