Presidency

BHO 2010 echoes FDR 1938

When praising his own “accomplishments” Barack Obama has an unusual fondness for the word “unprecedented” though invariably his assertions lack any historical validity. In contrast the voters of Massachusetts can now claim an accomplishment that entirely justifies the use of that word. To find an event in American history reasonably comparable in character and impact to the Massachusetts Earthquake we must go all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court. That is the last-perhaps the only- time in our history that a President commanding huge congressional majorities sought with breathtaking arrogance to redesign the constitutional, social and economic foundations of the country and was stunningly defeated by the very people who long had been his party’s staunchest supporters.

With a righteousness and sense of invincibility engendered by three consecutive triumphal election cycles that had given him and his party an extraordinary dominance Roosevelt sought to demonize the “nine old men” of the Supreme Court who had the temerity to strike down key elements of the New Deal as unconstitutional. With little consultation outside his inner circle and apparent indifference to how such a radical move would be received in the country Roosevelt advanced sweeping legislation that would increase the membership of the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen and replace lifetime appointment with mandatory retirement ages, moves which would enable him to swiftly “pack” the Court with hand-picked minions.

It was at this point that ordinary Americans and several key Democratic leaders like Montana’s Senator Burton K. Wheeler decided that Roosevelt’s radical power grab was going too far and actively threatened the nation’s hallowed Constitutional traditions. The Court “packing” scheme was decisively defeated in the Congress and the final political result was the Democratic Party losing seven Senate and 80 House seats in the 1938 mid-term elections.

That was America’s last peacetime election before World War II restored the country’s economy, ended the Great Depression, and redeemed the political fortunes and historical reputation of Franklin Roosevelt. Nonetheless 1937 remains a decisive turning point in American history when the overarching ambition of a well-intended but tone deaf President were dramatically rebuffed by a most unlikely combination of opponents who read the national mood far better than he.

The week that saw the unbelievably improbable election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts also witnessed the startling collapse of the recently “inevitable” Obamacare legislation, and the absolute implosion of the Democratic Party in a tawdry spectacle of shock, fear, anger, finger-pointing, pseudo-contrition, confusion, chaos, and general cluelessness.

Not in living memory has a dominant political party been so devastated, so quickly by a single wildly unpredictable event.

It is easier to search the past for perspective on this American melodrama, than to divine its future conclusion. Much will turn on the choices made by the Democratic Party. Will there be a Clintonesque dash to the center, (“the end of big government and welfare as we know it”) by a President in hot pursuit of re-election?

Or, will the Party in certain knowledge that it will never again enjoy such Congressional dominance heed the frenzied howls of its far left and “double-down” on the strategies of bigger government, redistributionist legislation, and intolerable taxation that have so alienated the public?

Rational calculation would seem to demand the former direction, but in critical degree today’s Democratic Party is far more radical than the Party that was dethroned in 1994. The dominant Furies that energize and fund the Democrats are of an ideologically obsessed mindset unlike anything that ever before captured control of a major American political party.

President Obama’s utterances since the upheaval are suggestive of self-pity and delusion. Excusing his inattentiveness because he was “so busy getting stuff done” and then claiming that both he and Scott Brown were elected by the same anger at George Bush bespeaks a man quite out of touch with reality. His lame attempt at populism-Let’s punish those greedy bankers- is nothing but the class warfare and general assault on capitalism that has been the thinly disguised agenda of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Axis from the beginning. What’s new is that now the American people know it and are determined with their votes to decisively defeat it.

Income redistribution at U.S. expense

Many of us are still stunned that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize even though he has no accomplishments to this credit beyond his major difference of opinion with his predecessor, if not practically every American president. He is determined to make amends for our nation’s sins by apologizing for them in speeches given abroad, as well as changing public policies to bring the nation in alignment with his thinking. In the text of the Nobel Peace Prize Citation, Obama is lauded for his efforts for promoting nuclear disarmament and combating "global warming," but I was particularly struck by this passage:

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

Let’s unpack that paragraph. Not for a moment forgetting that our President still has no significant accomplishments to his credit, let us take seriously his current hold on "the world’s attention." Obama is believed to agree with the "values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population." Judging from other statements in the Text, that would be the aspiration for democracy and human rights.

While it may be true that most people either enjoy or seek democracy and human rights, a majority of the world does not enjoy them or is likely to. Democratic republics are to be found mostly in Europe and North America, with a scattering of them in Latin America and Asia. The only reliably democratic regime in the Middle East is Israel, which for its virtues has earned the hatred of Muslim nations, and many others besides.

Russia, China and emphatically the Islamic terrorists are not fond of democracy or human rights, not to mention the rogue regimes in North Korea, Iran and Venezuela; and the Third World generally has had little or no experience with these great human goods.

So what can it mean for the President to share the "values and attitudes" of most of the world? We have already seen what this means in practice as Obama negotiates without preconditions with despots likes Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jung-Il; has appeased the Russians by abandoning missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic; asserts moral equivalence between Israeli settlements and Palestinian massacres; is trying to impose a Chavez clone as President of Honduras; and has even ended the close partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom.

I fear that many Americans’ reluctance to take seriously Obama’s "transformation" rhetoric has blunted the alarming significance of these developments. Remember that Presidential candidate Obama deplored the fact that Americans use more energy than the rest of the world, leaving out of consideration that Americans produce much more than other peoples do.

Somehow it is unjust, according to Obama, that Americans have a higher standard of living than most other nations. Obama is also troubled that some Americans make more money than others. He famously told Joe the Plumber that those who make more than a quarter of a million dollars should "spread the wealth around."

Obama does not seem to understand that when some people succeed in their businesses, they are making jobs for others, not to mention that America is an upwardly mobile society in which those who make relatively small incomes in time work their way up to higher levels. More, he has difficulty distinguishing between disparate incomes in countries that encourage free competition and those which repress it. Class distinctions are not permanent in America as they are in our largely undemocratic world.

For Obama, I believe, just as the lower incomes of some Americans justify a claim on those in higher income brackets, so does the lower standing of most of the world have a claim on the United States.

Given the "values and aspirations" of most the world, it has no difficulty with international income redistribution. It seeks to transfer our wealth to other nations that lack our productivity and, more important, our freedom. Obama obliges by imposing unsustainable social welfare spending on our people, abandoning proven oil production for costly "soft" energy, and refusing to develop nuclear energy.

Whether Obama or not succeeds in "transforming" America from a prosperous nation into a succor (pun intended) for the rest of the world, he is laying the groundwork by catering to the world’s "values and aspirations." Be prepared to be fleeced.

Trust & credibility eroding for BHO

President Obama’s poll numbers have been falling, which is to be expected in difficult economic times. It was inevitable that the President’s approval ratings would ebb from his honeymoon period after the election. Simply put: President Obama could not live up to the image that Candidate Obama created. Who could? But there is more behind the change in attitude toward the President than the laws of gravity. Americans clearly discouraged about partisanship and divisiveness, were hoping for a leader who would be the uniter Candidate Obama pledged he would be. Instead, it appears that Washington and partisanship are more divided than ever and the President is engaging in intentional misleading language for the direct purpose of legislative gain.

As I listened to the President’s health-care address to Congress, I was initially encouraged that the White House was going to work in a bipartisan fashion and introduce a bill that addressed the concerns of both sides of the debate. He specifically called to incorporate “...the best ideas of both parties.”

As his speech went on, however, I realized that President Obama was not talking about introducing a new bill, but rather, his passionate but carefully worded oration was an extremely misleading representation of HR 3200. Examples of this deceptive language include statements about no federal funding of abortion and no coverage for illegal immigrants. The President was correct in his assertions that the wording of the legislation does not specifically allow for the provisions of abortions or illegals, however, wording to specifically eliminate these provisions was removed in committee.

This delusive rhetoric creates the impression that the President is not genuine or trustful. These are critical commodities for a President, especially so early in his term.

Perhaps the biggest area of concern for this administration is its credibility on fiscal responsibility. Candidate Obama pledged to go line-by-line through the budget and eliminate waste and inefficiencies. Indeed, the President intends to pay for much of health care reform by eliminating waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. The public becomes skeptical of such overly-optimistic savings, and it begs the question why we are not pursuing these savings now? Americans are seeing the federal deficit skyrocket and they are concerned about wasteful spending. Even though Obama has spoken of fiscal discipline, thus far he has let Congress write legislation which continues the practice of debt financing and the funding of special interest waste. The President must show leadership in legislation and fiscal restraint rather than outsource these responsibilities to Congress, which has a proven lack of discipline.

The President’s greatest asset -- and his albatross -- are his oratory skills. His ability to inspire people is a gift. However, it also holds him to the standard he is setting for himself and for others. If the American people believe his speeches are not genuine nor his word binding, he runs the risk of alienation and dismissal. His has inspired millions of young people previously skeptical or ambivalent to the political process. Now, many of these young people are losing faith as they see another smooth-talking politician long on rhetoric, but short on substance.

All is not lost for the President. In order for him to regain some of his popular support, and perhaps save his Presidency, he only needs to live to the standard he has set and govern to the promises he has made.

Straight talk on Gitmo, 'torture'

Last year many Americans decided to support a change in presidential administration at least partly because they believed that the United States government was running an abusive prison at Guantanamo Bay and torturing suspected Islamic terrorists. The case for both horror stories was shaky at best, and now we have an eminent biographer to thank for demolishing them once and for all. Arthur Herman, whose subjects have ranged from Winston Churchill and Mohandas Gandhi to the Scottish Enlightenment and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, has written "The Gitmo Myth and the Torture Canard" for Commentary, a monthly publication of the American Jewish Committee. In 13 densely packed pages Herman manages to discredit the liberal fantasy that has tried to pass itself off as a serious critique of the Bush Administration’s policies for dealing with America’s enemies.

President Barack Obama still has not closed the Guantanamo prison, partly because it has been no simple task to transfer dangerous men to other facilities and doubtless from the knowledge that no abuse ever took place there. The success of the campaign owes more than anything else to the efforts of the misnamed Center for Constitutional Rights, headed by Michael Ratner, which disseminated misinformation repeatedly.

In fact, only three persons were ever water boarded, a technique that falls short of torture, while the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point found that 73 percent of the detainees were a "demonstrated threat" to Americans.

It is well to remember, Herman writes, that "the detention facility was created in the wake of a declaration by Congress in September 2001 that ‘all necessary and appropriate force’ should be used ‘against those nations, organizations, or persons’ [emphasis added] responsible for the attacks of September ll."

No one had to read secret documents to learn that Gitmo inmates were accorded every courtesy (and then some) to accommodate their religious and cultural needs during their long confinement. They were so well fed they gained weight. Meanwhile, some tried to commit suicide while others threw human urine and excrement at prison guards.

Those supposedly torture-rationalizing memos written by John Yoo (for which service to his country congressional Democrats would like him prosecuted) were actually written to spell out limits so that the understandable zeal with which Central Intelligence Agency officers interrogated terrorists was tempered by constitutional and legal guidelines. As Herman observes, those memos were better characterized as anti torture, rather than pro torture.

In any case, the waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques were not used until after the memos were written. And when they were used they yielded high value information, particularly the plot to blow up airliners flying out of Los Angeles.

And remember the Abu Ghraib controversy? There was never any doubt that those abuses were entirely the work of the "night shift," as the Schlesinger Committee report concluded, not attributable to any high official of the Bush Administration, as was so often alleged. The least temperate critics were the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who said that Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers had reopened under American management, and Sen. Dick Durbin, who compared Abu Ghraib to Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago and Pol Pot’s death camps in Cambodia.

Unfortunately, the propaganda campaign influenced the federal courts, which ruled that detainees were entitled to due process rights, thereby second guessing the military judgment that men bearing arms on a battle field were necessarily enemies of the United States. Nearly 400 men have been released, Herman reports, at least 18 of which returned to the battlefield and 43 are listed as "suspected" of going back to the fight. In fact, one killed a judge in Afghanistan.

Now Attorney General Eric Holder is investigating whether CIA officers who interrogated suspects are guilty of violating the law, ignoring the fact that these men were (and are) at war with the very idea of the rule of law and therefore out of its protection.

We are in danger, in fact, of abandoning the war on terror, returning to the disastrous policy of the Clinton Administration, which treated terrorism as a nuisance rather than the full-fledged adversary of civilization that it is.

It is more than a little ironic that the same persons who are so solicitous of the nonexistent constitutional rights of our enemies have so little trouble making blank paper of the Constitution when it comes to governing American citizens who desire only to raise decent families and engage in honest commercial enterprise.