Free Markets, Free People

Congress

Governing By Expert

On last night’s podcast, Dale and I discussed the rise of a soft tyranny and expansion of the regulatory state in this country. Pres. Obama has, on more than one occasion, unilaterally declared the power to pick and choose what laws to enforce, or to simply change the way they are enforced, without any consequences (i.e. checks and/or balances). He’s not the first POTUS to act that way (albeit the most brazen about it), and probably won’t be the last.

The primary reason he, or any other POTUS, is even able to act this way is because of the massive regulatory apparatus at the disposal of the Executive branch. An apparatus created by Congress; one it seems strangely reluctant to rein in. As Kevin Williamson notes, “Barack Obama did not invent managerial liberalism,” and while his agenda is painfully horrendous, it’s “a good deal less ambitious than was Woodrow Wilson’s or Richard Nixon’s.” However, Obama has used the leeway provided by Congresses past and present to further expand the regulatory state. Williamson characterizes this as Obama’s “utterly predictable approach to domestic politics: appoint a panel of credentialed experts.”

His faith in the powers of pedigreed professionals is apparently absolute. Consider his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of which is the appointment of a committee, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the mission of which is to achieve targeted savings in Medicare without reducing the scope or quality of care. How that is to be achieved was contemplated in detail neither by the lawmakers who wrote the health-care bill nor by the president himself. But they did pay a great deal of attention to the processes touching IPAB: For example, if that committee of experts fails to achieve the demanded savings, then the ball is passed to . . . a new committee of experts, this one under the guidance of the secretary of health and human services. IPAB’s powers are nearly plenipotentiary: Its proposals, like a presidential veto, require a supermajority of Congress to be overridden.

IPAB is the most dramatic example of President Obama’s approach to government by expert decree, but much of the rest of his domestic program, from the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law to his economic agenda, is substantially similar. In total, it amounts to that fundamental transformation of American society that President Obama promised as a candidate: but instead of the new birth of hope and change, it is the transformation of a constitutional republic operating under laws passed by democratically accountable legislators into a servile nation under the management of an unaccountable administrative state. The real import of Barack Obama’s political career will be felt long after he leaves office, in the form of a permanently expanded state that is more assertive of its own interests and more ruthless in punishing its enemies. At times, he has advanced this project abetted by congressional Democrats, as with the health-care law’s investiture of extraordinary powers in the executive bureaucracy, but he also has advanced it without legislative assistance — and, more troubling still, in plain violation of the law. President Obama and his admirers choose to call this “pragmatism,” but what it is is a mild expression of totalitarianism, under which the interests of the country are conflated with those of the president’s administration and his party.

(emphasis added)

I likened the expansion and independence of the regulatory state to 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Terminator in that these things that were created to ostensibly serve in the aid of their users developed a life, mind and interests of their own, and eventually turned on the users. A perfect example would be if the IRS scandal of targeting conservatives turns out to be completely divorced of any political direction, and instead was completely self-initiated from within the department. As James Taranto often points out, that is the far scarier scenario than the one where the White House directed the agency to target its political enemies. Corrupt politicians are bad, but they are expected and can be dealt with in a summary manner. An unelected, unaccountable and extremely powerful organization exercising its own political agenda is orders of magnitude worse.

Williamson continues:

Democracy never lasts long,” [John] Adams famously said. “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” For liberal regimes, a very common starting point on the road to serfdom is the over-delegation of legislative powers to the executive. France very nearly ended up in a permanent dictatorship as a result of that error, and was spared that fate mostly by good luck and Charles de Gaulle’s patriotism. Long before she declared her infamous state of emergency, Indira Gandhi had been centralizing power in the prime minister’s office, and India was spared a permanent dictatorship only by her political miscalculation and her dynasty-minded son’s having gotten himself killed in a plane wreck. Salazar in Portugal, Austria under Dollfuss, similar stories. But the United States is not going to fall for a strongman government. Instead of delegating power to a would-be president-for-life, we delegate it to a bureaucracy-without-death. You do not need to install a dictator when you’ve already had a politically supercharged permanent bureaucracy in place for 40 years or more. As is made clear by everything from campaign donations to the IRS jihad, the bureaucracy is the Left, and the Left is the bureaucracy. Elections will be held, politicians will come and go, but if you expand the power of the bureaucracy, you expand the power of the Left, of the managers and minions who share Barack Obama’s view of the world. Barack Obama isn’t the leader of the free world; he’s the front man for the permanent bureaucracy, the smiley-face mask hiding the pitiless yawning maw of total politics.

(emphasis added)

I would add that, if the politics were reversed (i.e. “the bureaucracy is Right, and the Right is bureaucracy”) we would still have the same issue: an unaccountable power structure that invades every aspect of our lives. Coupled with a President who exercises that power based on political whims, and we have a serious issue:

The job of the president is to execute the law — that is what the executive branch is there to do. If Barack Obama had wanted to keep pursuing his career as a lawmaker, then the people of Illinois probably would have been content to preserve him in the Senate for half a century or so. As president, he has no more power to decide not to enforce the provisions of a duly enacted federal law than does John Boehner, Anthony Weiner, or Whoopi Goldberg. And unlike them, he has a constitutional duty to enforce the law.

So, one might ask (as Dale did last night), why isn’t the President being impeached for dereliction of duty? Partisan politics is one answer (see, e.g., the failure of the Clinton impeachment). A lack of will is another. Perhaps the simplest answer, however, is that Congress is quite complicit in this expansion and abuse of the regulatory state:

Congress’s supine ceding of its powers, and the Obama administration’s usurpation of both legal and extralegal powers, is worrisome. But what is particularly disturbing is the quiet, polite, workaday manner with which the administration goes about its business — and with which the American public accepts it. As Christopher Hitchens once put it, “The essence of tyranny is not iron law; it is capricious law.”

[snip]

Barack Obama’s administration is unmoored from the institutions that have long kept the imperial tendencies of the American presidency in check. That is partly the fault of Congress, which has punted too many of its legislative responsibilities to the president’s army of faceless regulators, but it is in no small part the result of an intentional strategy on the part of the administration. He has spent the past five years methodically testing the limits of what he can get away with, like one of those crafty velociraptors testing the electric fence in Jurassic Park. Barack Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, and he knows that he cannot make recess appointments when Congress is not in recess. He knows that his HHS is promulgating regulations that conflict with federal statutes. He knows that he is not constitutionally empowered to pick and choose which laws will be enforced. This is a might-makes-right presidency, and if Barack Obama has been from time to time muddled and contradictory, he has been clear on the point that he has no intention of being limited by something so trivial as the law.

I agree with Williamson that Obama has pushed the limits, but I think he lets Congress off the hook too easily. Every POTUS presses the limits. Indeed, Williamson provides the example of Nixon’s abuses, and even compares Obama favorably: “… it is impossible to imagine President Obama making the announcement that President Richard Nixon did on August 15, 1971: ‘I am today ordering a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States.'” Williamson notes that Nixon was able to make that announcement because of power invested in him by Congress. Just as Obama has been entrusted with incredible power via such instruments as the IPAB which requires a super-majority of Congress to override its decisions. While Obama is bad, clearly the issue here is that Congress isn’t doing its job either.

Recall that in Federalist #51, James Madison explained that the way the Constitution controls the new federal government, such that “the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights”, was to divide the different departments in a way that each had interests sufficiently distinct from one another so as to provide an incentive for each to jealously guard those interests and maintain their power. This system of checks and balances was meant to prevent consolidation of power in any one part of the government.

The problem we seem to have run into since then is when the two most powerful departments combine their interests and secret away their combined powers in an unaccountable regulatory apparatus, safe from the will of the electorate. That the office of POTUS would be willing to do this is to be expected, and indeed is a large part of why there was much resistance to its creation. However, that Congress has done so much to aid and abet the effort is contemptible. Unless and until Congress rights the balance, and vigorously pursues its checking role, the problem will only worsen.

Again, if ObamaCare is so great, why doesn’t anyone want it? And why are the “elite” being exempted?

The latest proof of its undesirability comes from … Congressional staffers.  I mentioned this before.  They, like the IRS, want no part of this costly boondoggle.

So who rides to the rescue?  Why Mr. ObamaCare himself, even while he’s telling the rest of us poor, ignorant schlubs how much we’re going to enjoy his legislative legacy:

Members of Congress and Hill staffers will not lose their healthcare subsidies from the government when Obamacare is implemented because of an exception proposed Wednesday by the Office of Personnel Management.

Under the current system, the government covers most of the cost of healthcare premiums for members and their staffers. But an amendment to the Affordable Care Act — proposed by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley — threw those subsidies into question saying that members and staff must enter into the exchanges or be covered by insurance “created” by law.

The potential for staff losing the subsidies led to concerns of “brain drain” from the Hill if staffers left as a result of the increased costs.

We could use a good “brain drain” from the population that has helped bring us this debacle that even they don’t want. But on to the good part … relatively speaking:

Last week, when President Barack Obama came to the Hill to meet with Senate Democrats, he informed them that he would personally get involved to sort out the confusion, and the White House said that OPM would issue guidelines this week.

The guidelines, released Wednesday, allow for members and staff to retain their subsidies from the government, an exception in exchange for giving up “premium tax credits” that they would otherwise be eligible for under Obamacare.

This is what our government has become … the dispenser of favors to the politically favored. Apparently Congress is “too important to fail” and they don’t want to be losing all those brilliant folks who, over the years, have brought us to this state of affairs.

And yet there are fools who will defend this sort of favoritism.  Because, you know, government is just a big candy machine for some … if you have the right coins.

~McQ

What if Obama can’t lead?

That’s the question headlining a Ron Fournier article in National Journal.  My first reaction was to laugh out loud.  My second reaction was to wonder why it has taken all this time for someone in the press to actually ask that question.

The evidence of his lack of leadership has been on the table for 4 plus years.  And for me that’s a double edged sword.  On the one side, I’m happy he’s such a dismal leader because it limits what he can destroy.  On the other side, especially the policy side both foreign and domestic, it has led to a decline in almost all areas.  A decline a real leader will have to address when Obama is finally relegated to history. 

Anyway, here’s Fournier’s take:

In March, a reporter asked Obama why he didn’t lock congressional leaders in a room until they agreed on a budget deal. Obama’s answer was based on two assumptions. First, that his opinion is supreme. Second, he can’t break the logjam. What a remarkable combination of arrogance and impotence.

"I am not a dictator. I’m the president," he said. "I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that’s been floating around Washington; that somehow, even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree I’m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right."

Obama could still do great things. But not if he and his advisers underestimate a president’s powers, and don’t know how to exploit them. Not if his sympathizers give Obama cover by minimizing his influence. Cover to fail. Not if the president himself is outwardly and boundlessly dismissive of his critics, telling The New York Times, "I’m not concerned about their opinions."

To say the situation is intractable seems akin to waving a white flag over a polarized capital: Republicans suck. We can’t deal with them. Let’s quit.

I’m afraid they have quit—all of them, on both sides. At the White House and in Congress, most Democrats and Republicans have abandoned hope of fixing the nation’s problems. If leadership was merely about speaking to the converted, winning fights and positioning for blame, America would be in great hands. But it’s not.

Well I’m not so sure they’ve quit … or at least Obama hasn’t quit. He has no desire to persuade or do the hard work of  a leader and work with Congress.   Instead, where he’s headed does give lie to his claim of not being dictator.  That’s precisely what he’d prefer to be.  And Daniel Henninger brings you that bit of insight:

Please don’t complain later that you didn’t see it coming. As always, Mr. Obama states publicly what his intentions are. He is doing that now. Toward the end of his speech last week in Jacksonville, Fla., he said: "So where I can act on my own, I’m going to act on my own. I won’t wait for Congress." (Applause.)

The July 24 speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., has at least four references to his intent to act on his own authority, as he interprets it: "That means whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I’ll use it." (Applause.) And: "We’re going to do everything we can, wherever we can, with or without Congress."

Every president since George Washington has felt frustration with the American system’s impediments to change. This president is done with Congress.

The political left, historically inclined by ideological belief to public policy that is imposed rather than legislated, will support Mr. Obama’s expansion of authority. The rest of us should not.

And Obama is engaged in the systematic demonization of the other two coequal branches of government in order to sway the public toward his dictatorial inclinations:

To create public support for so much unilateral authority, Mr. Obama needs to lessen support for the other two branches of government—Congress and the judiciary. He is doing that.

Mr. Obama and his supporters in the punditocracy are defending this escalation by arguing that Congress is "gridlocked." But don’t overstate that low congressional approval rating. This is the one branch that represents the views of all Americans. It’s gridlocked because voters are.

Take a closer look at the Galesburg and Jacksonville speeches. Mr. Obama doesn’t merely criticize Congress. He mocks it repeatedly. Washington "ignored" problems. It "made things worse." It "manufactures" crises and "phony scandals." He is persuading his audiences to set Congress aside and let him act.

So too the judiciary. During his 2010 State of the Union speech, Mr. Obama denounced the Supreme Court Justices in front of him. The National Labor Relations Board has continued to issue orders despite two federal court rulings forbidding it to do so. Attorney General Eric Holder says he will use a different section of the Voting Rights Act to impose requirements on Southern states that the Supreme Court ruled illegal. Mr. Obama’s repeated flouting of the judiciary and its decisions are undermining its institutional authority, as intended.

Clearly, Obama’s arrogance leads him to believe that a ruler is what we need, not a president.  And he’s up for that job, because it doesn’t brook interference and it doesn’t require leadership.  Tyranny is the the usual place people who couldn’t lead an alcoholic to a bar end up.  And we’re watching that happen now. 

Henninger ends his piece with a final, ironic quote:

"To ensure that no person or group would amass too much power, the founders established a government in which the powers to create, implement, and adjudicate laws were separated. Each branch of government is balanced by powers in the other two coequal branches." Source: The White House website of President Barack Obama.

Our Constitutional scholar is now involved in a process to wreck that balance and enhance executive powers to the point that he really doesn’t need Congress or the courts.  And a compliant media along will the left will do everything in their power to enable the transition.  Because their ideas and ideology would never pass the test of a real democracy and they have little chance of persuading the population to go along with them.  So imposition is truly the only route open.  That’s precisely what you’re going to see in Obama’s remaining years as president.  Executive imposition of his version of laws or, if you prefer, a brand of executive lawlessness unprecedented in our history.

But then, that’s what dictators do, isn’t it?

~McQ

Did Republicans cave to avoid the “nuclear option” in the Senate?

Jonathan Chait certainly thinks so:

Unlike the last time Democrats threatened to change the Senate rules, and backed down without winning anything, this time they won something important: They broke Senate Republicans’ ability to hold presidential appointments hostage. It’s a total victory for the Democrats.

In fact, Chait says the bottom line is this:

Democrats had proposed to change the Senate’s rules to prevent filibusters on executive branch nominations (but not to ban filibusters of legislation or judicial nominees). They’ve won.

However:

Republicans got one face-saving concession: Democrats have to pick new names for the NLRB. This became an issue because Obama tried to execute an end-run around Congress by appointing them to their positions when Congress was functionally, though not technically, in recess, and was struck down by the Republican-controlled D.C. circuit court.

You can obviously tell which side Chait comes down on if you didn’t know before.   The D.C. circuit court struck it down not because it is “Republican-controlled” but because the appointments were Constitutionally illegal. By the way, so did the Third circuit court.

But it leaves us with a very interesting question.  If the Democrats agreed to have two new appointments made to the NLRB, aren’t they at least tacitly admitting the current two appointments are illegal?  And if so, what does that make any rulings the current NLRB made during that time it was illegally constituted?  Common sense says those rulings should be invalidated, don’t you think?  And that’s what Cablevision is still asking.  It was one of the companies this illegally constituted board issued a ruling against:

“The role of Congress is to ensure a balanced NLRB and the Obama Administration bypassed Congress in order to stack the NLRB in favor of Big Labor. Two different federal courts — the D.C. Circuit and the Third Circuit — have established that the NLRB is illegally constituted and has no authority to take action. The NLRB continues to ignore these rulings, and we ask the Supreme Court to compel the NLRB to immediately halt its unlawful proceedings against Cablevision.”

Will anyone address this?  Will anyone actually take action to annul these rulings from an illegally constituted board? Or, as usual, will we see it ignored, the injustice shrugged off and the usual lack of accountability further enshrined in our political culture?

~McQ

Reid under pressure to use “nuclear option” to limit minority party power (update)

You remember the post I did about the presidential appointments to the NLRB that were deemed by all but the Democrats to be illegal?

Well, there’s a move afoot to use what is being referred to as the “nuclear option” to fix that.  The Washington Examiner explains:

Senate Democrats are considering invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” which would curb the minority party’s use of the filibuster and prevent Republicans from blocking presidential nominations.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., signaled privately to President Obama that he may change Senate rules this month so it would take only 51 votes – instead of the current 60 – to approve judicial and executive branch nominees.

Democrats now control 55 Senate votes. Republicans have 45, but the GOP often still asserts itself by using the filibuster to keep nominations or legislation from coming to a vote.

Republicans charge that imposing the nuclear option would virtually eliminate the minority party’s chief means of keeping the majority in check and jeopardize any potential bipartisan agreements on top-priority legislation, including immigration reform, the budget and tax reform.

So, what would happen in the case of the NLRB appointments?  If Reid (who by the way, adamantly opposed such a rule change when he was in the minority and spoke eloquently  – well as eloquently as is possible for Harry Reid – about how it destroyed the rights of the minority) does this, then 51 Democrats will dutifully line up and “legalize” the NLRB without the minority party having had any voice in the matter.

That’s not how our republic was supposed to function.  In fact, our founders were just as adamant as Reid was previously about minority rights.  James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, “the great danger in republics is that the majority will not respect the rights of minority.” President Thomas Jeffersonproclaimed in his first inaugural address, “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.”

Reid, of course, now believes that to be poppycock.  Instead he’d prefer that the minority simply hush and let he and the Democrats appoint whomever they wish whenever they wish.  Of course, we all know how quickly his position would change should he suddenly become the minority leader again.  And that should tell you all you need to know about why this is a terrible idea and one that he nor the Democrats would stand for were they on the other side of the line.

But then, political expediency seems to trump statesmanship today and we’re all the worse for it.

UPDATE: Ah, the other shoe drops:

The Hill reports: “The nuclear option strategy is gaining momentum in the Senate in part because of growing pressure from organized labor, which wants Reid to break the impasse over the NLRB.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka … will call for rules changes at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank, Wednesday morning.”

Payoff time.

~McQ

Congress? Who needs Congress? And the Constitution? Forget about it

That’s preciesly what this administration and president have done. Bypassed Congress and trashed the Constitution:

The employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act contains no provision allowing the president to suspend, delay or repeal it. Section 1513(d) states in no uncertain terms that “The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.” Imagine the outcry if Mitt Romney had been elected president and simply refused to enforce the whole of ObamaCare.

This is not the first time Mr. Obama has suspended the operation of statutes by executive decree, but it is the most barefaced. In June of last year, for example, the administration stopped initiating deportation proceedings against some 800,000 illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16, lived here at least five years, and met a variety of other criteria. This was after Congress refused to enact the Dream Act, which would have allowed these individuals to stay in accordance with these conditions. Earlier in 2012, the president effectively replaced congressional requirements governing state compliance under the No Child Left Behind Act with new ones crafted by his administration.

The president defended his suspension of the immigration laws as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. He defended his amending of No Child Left Behind as an exercise of authority in the statute to waive certain requirements. The administration has yet to offer a legal justification for last week’s suspension of the employer mandate.

There’s even talk of impeachment, although you know that will go nowhere (see my last post).  No one has the stomach to really enforce any rules up there and that goes for both sides.  But, as the Constitutional scholar that wrote the above points out, the Constitution pointedly charges the executive with “the faithful enforcement of the law”.  In fact it is his or her constitutional duty.

The Supreme Court has been pretty clear on this too.

Of all the stretches of executive power Americans have seen in the past few years, the president’s unilateral suspension of statutes may have the most disturbing long-term effects. As the Supreme Court said long ago (Kendall v. United States, 1838), allowing the president to refuse to enforce statutes passed by Congress “would be clothing the president with a power to control the legislation of congress, and paralyze the administration of justice.”

And that’s pretty much where this is headed.  We are being subjected to the arbitrary enforcement of law.  The rule of men.  In the case of the statutes for ObamaCare, it’s because of politics.  That’s why you hear no outraged voiced by Democrats.  They will benefit electorally by not having to face the uproar sure to come with it’s implementation should that happen before the 2014 midterms.  However, as noted above, if Mitt Romney had been elected and was the one doing this, Democrats would be squealing like stuck Constitutional hogs.

Another recent example of Obama’s arrogance is his “recess that wasn’t a recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.  How can anyone have confidence in the rulings of the NLRB when it appears to have been illegally constituted – another arrogant example of ignoring the lines between executive and legislative power.  If a board is illegal, how are its rulings enforceable?

These are important questions that demand an answer.   Instead, they’re ignored, the corruption and arrogance grows and we’re subjected to arbitrary rule with no check.

If I’m not mistaken, we once based a revolution on those sorts of abuses.

~McQ

NLRB appointments indicative of Obama’s desire for executive rule

Here’s a story not getting much attention, but is indicative of how President Obama tends to use executive power when he can’t get his way with Congress.  Rule by executive fiat.

What am I talking about?  As you may recall, Obama made appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) during a supposed Congressional recess.  Except it wasn’t really a recess.  Congress was not between sessions (that constitutes a recess), but was instead it was on an intrasession break, one of many Congress takes during any session.  Never have those been considered recesses of the type in which recess appointments could be legally made.

That is until this administration.  That’s precisely how the vacant slots on the NLRB were filled with Obama appointees.

Enter Cablevision.

Over the past year, Cablevision has been in the midst of a brutal public battle with the Communication Workers of America over pay for technicians and allegations of union-busting. In May, Cablevision sought the intervention of an appeals court to stay proceedings at the NLRB, and now, the company is hoping that the high court will take up the issue of the NLRB’s authority.

The point, of course, isn’t particularly about the dispute.  It’s one in a long line of management and labor disputes. The question is whether or not the NLRB is legally constituted given the way the appointments were made.  It’s about the rule of law.  When citizens see the government flout the law or ignore it, it doesn’t set a good precedent.  Yet that’s precisely what has happened in this case.

And that’s what Cablevision is questioning.  How is there legitimacy in an illegally appointed board?   And why, should their rulings be obeyed, given the circumstances of the board’s recent constitution. Here’s the point:

“The role of Congress is to ensure a balanced NLRB and the Obama Administration bypassed Congress in order to stack the NLRB in favor of Big Labor. Two different federal courts — the D.C. Circuit and the Third Circuit — have established that the NLRB is illegally constituted and has no authority to take action. The NLRB continues to ignore these rulings, and we ask the Supreme Court to compel the NLRB to immediately halt its unlawful proceedings against Cablevision.”

Shades of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela – Chavez kept the institutions of a democracy, but he packed them with his loyal appointees that shared the same ideology and agenda.  With what has happened with the IRS and the EPA, etc, that’s not as big a stretch as one might imagine.

~McQ

Remembering the promises, looking at reality

You remember the grand promises a certain candidate made in 2008.  And in the area of foreign policy he told us how huge a mess it was and how he was going to clean it up and how the world would love us again.  He was going to “reset” relations with Russia and get us out of all these wars.  Oh, and of course, solve the problems in the Middle East.

Yeah, that was then and this is reality:

The [Middle East] is unraveling and American policy is in deep disarray. Our strategic options are getting worse, and the stakes are getting higher. When former President Bill Clinton is warning that his successor risks looking “lame” or like a “wuss” or a “total fool,” it’s a safe bet that the Kremlin and Tehran aren’t impressed by White House statements. Meanwhile the Obama administration seems to be locked into a sterile, short-term policy approach driven by domestic considerations; it is following the path of least resistance to a place that in the end will please no one and is increasingly likely to lead to strategic disaster.

An insightful article by the Democratic-leaning Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg offers a deeply unsettling view of a Syria foreign policy process gone off the rails. If Goldberg has the story right—and he usually does—Secretary Kerry and the bulk of the White House security team want the President to authorize a no-fly zone and other strong measures in Syria, in part because they fear that American dithering in Syria is empowering the hardliners in Tehran and that by avoiding a small war in Syria now the White House risks a much uglier confrontation with Iran not all that far in the future. But the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs wants nothing to do with it, pointing to the difficulties and costs of the military mission.

And rightfully so.  It has also really “reset” relations with Russia … to the Cold War era.  Well done, Mr. President.   But that’s not the real problem is it?  It is how we got in this mess in the first place: Amateur Hour at the White House:

As Goldberg tells it, the biggest problem for the administration is that its early aggressive, poorly judged rhetoric that Assad “must” go now makes it impossible to avoid Obama’s looking like an irresolute bluffer if the Butcher stays put. This is the conclusion, anyway, that both Russia and Iran will draw, and they will respond by pushing the US along other fronts as well.

This is an entirely self-created problem; there was absolutely no objective reason for the administration to lay those markers on the table. There was no requirement in America’s foreign policy that the administration bounce in with the categorical demand that Assad step down.

That is absolutely correct.  But as is mentioned further on it was fighting for re-election and didn’t what there to be a wimp factor.  As usual, politics trumped what was best for the nation.

So in every real way, this administration has lived up to few if any of it’s grand promises of 2008.  In fact, if truth be told, the honeymoon is over with Europe.  The proof, as they say, is in the turnout:

When John F. Kennedy delivered his “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate on June 26, 1963, 450,000 people flocked to hear him. Fifty years later a far more subdued invitation-only crowd of 4,500 showed up to hear Barack Obama speak at the same location in Berlin. As The National Journal noted, “he didn’t come away with much, winning just a smattering of applause from a crowd that was one-hundredth the size of JFK’s,” and far smaller than the 200,000 boisterous Germans who had listened to his 2008 address as a presidential candidate.

As for the Middle East … well there’s no love lost there either.  This administration has fumbled everything to do with the region during it’s tenure and has no one to blame but themselves. They’ve totally and without any help, managed to bottom out our image in the area in the same way they’ve bottomed out the economy.  If this guy isn’t the worst president with the worst team we’ve ever had inflicted on us … twice … then I don’t know who might be.   And don’t even get me started on the “leadership” in Congress – from both parties.  They’re absolutely the worst yet.  That may come as small consolation to the administration, but the combination of the two is killing us.

~McQ

We can’t have ObamaCare effect these folks – they’re “federal employees” for heaven sake!

When I read articles like this they infuriate me.

Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.

The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.

Why?  Because there doesn’t seem to be any ability to relate their problem with the problems they’ve imposed on business through their ramming through this horrific legislation we call “ObamaCare”.  Even with the effects beginning to be understood, like that above, they don’t get it:

Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat in leadership when the law passed, said he thinks the problem will be resolved.

“If not, I think we should begin an immediate amicus brief to say, ‘Listen this is simply not fair to these employees,’” Larson told POLITICO. “They are federal employees.”

But apparently it is “fair” to the employees of business who, in some cases, will see 100% plus increases in their premiums.  It only becomes a problem when it effects who?  Why, ‘federal employees’, of course.  You know, our so-called “public servants”.  And then, apparently, only that subset of federal employees that work for Congress.  They seem oblivious to the fact that the same thing is happening in thousands of places and effecting multi-thousands of businesses.  Freakin’ clueless.

Even as mad as this made me, I got a chuckle out of this:

If the issue isn’t resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.

Talk about silver linings to storm clouds.

~McQ

How bad do you have to be NOT to be hired?

I wondered, when Barack Obama was re-elected, how bad you had to be to be fired.  Apparently worse than Obama, if that’s possible.

Now, with the confirmation of Chuck Hagel – another politician who has never run a large or complex organization and who was abysmal in his confirmation hearings – I have to wonder how bad you have to be NOT to be hired.

Apparently, worse than Chuck Hagel, if that’s possible:

Republicans siding with Democrats, the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Chuck Hagel as President Obama’s secretary of defense, a nomination that drew strong opposition within the Republican former senator’s own party, with some troubled by past statements on Israel and Iran.

GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Mike Johanns, (Nebr.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.) supported Hagel in the 58-41 vote. No Democrats opposed him.

Again, let down by the GOP (the ‘good old boy club’ just couldn’t say no to a former member).

Anyone seeing a pattern here?

~McQ