Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 27 Jun 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the week’s events.

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6.9 million registered to vote in two or more states

Before this slips into the abyss of news ignored by the establishment media –  One of the things we’ve talked about persistently in the past is the integrity of the voting system.  If there is no integrity, if people believe the vote is manipulated or doesn’t reflect the true will of the people, they’re likely to not participate and certainly won’t trust any results from such a system.

We’ve talked about voter I.D. and how easy it is to get and how the left’s arguments amount to “much ado about nothing” when they try to claim it is an onerous requirement that disenfranchises the poor and minorities.  Nonsense.

They’ve also tried to pretend there is no such thing as voter fraud as well.  And, of course, we’ve pointed out any number of instances where there were people who committed voter fraud.  Like double voting.  Being registered in two different states and voting in each (one by going to the polls and one by absentee ballot).   Again, the left claims that even if that does happen the numbers just aren’t that significant.

Well, how about these numbers:

Some 6.9 million Americans are registered to vote in two or more states, according to a report obtained by Watchdog.org.

“Our nation’s voter rolls are a mess,” says Catherine Engelbrecht, president of the election-watch group True The Vote.

“Sensible approaches to roll maintenance are fought tooth and nail by radical special interests who can use the duplicity in the system to their advantage,” she said.

The latest interstate voter cross check tallied 6,951,484 overlapping voter registrations, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

The cross-check program involves only 28 states and does not include the three largest: California, Texas and Florida.

Like everything else government does, it’s managed to make an unholy mess of the voting system.  No potential for fraud in those numbers is there?  And, of course, even though the technology exists, it requires an outside organization to bring this to light, because apparently, like the IRS, the IT capability of government in this arena resides somewhere in the era of the 1980s.

How do you stop double voting with voter ID, when one is absentee?  You require the voter to produce a copy of the voter ID and mail it with the ballot or the ballot is invalid.  The voter ID, of course, will have the state of residence on it.  That will stop all but the most hardcore double voters out there.  Once you make them put a name and a pic, etc., with an official ballot, even if they have two IDs, you have evidence of willful fraud if they vote twice.  Then you prosecute.  Yeah, you have to enforce the law (something that seems to be beyond this administration’s abilities).  But actually enforcing it as well as setting up a system that catches double registrations, etc. tied in with voter ID would actually give confidence to voters that the vote they cast did indeed have some significance and that the government actually was concerned with insuring the integrity of the system.

Which brings us back to the left who view moves such as this (even with many states already requiring voter ID for many past elections and doing just fine with it)  as an attempt at disenfranchisement.  As you consider the merits of the two arguments you realize that the argument against voter ID has very little “merit”.    In fact, you could certainly conceive of a reason the left doesn’t want this to come about.  Kind a reminds me of the joke  that goes, “my grandfather voted Republican in every election until he died.  Now he votes Democrat”.

Hopefully, when sanity and common sense prevail, we’ll see a voting system that you can rely on to be reflective of the real will of the people, not the manipulated nonsense the left prefers.

~McQ

Economic Statistics for 26 May 14

Personal income rose 0.4% in May, while personal spending rose 0.2%. The May PCE Price index rose 0.2% at both the headline and core level. On a year-over-year basis, the PCE Price index is up and up 1.5% less food and energy.

The Kansas City Fed manufacturing index fell from 10 in May to 6 in June.

Weekly initial jobless claims fell 2,000 to 312,000. The 4-week average rose 3,000 to 314,250. Continuing claims rose 12,000 to 2.571 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index is unchanged at 37.1 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $0.2 billion last week, with total assets of $4.368 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $9.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $4.3 billion in the latest week.


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Big lies, small lies and lies in truth

This administration excels at ‘The Big Lie”.     Probably most hereabouts are familiar with that idea – tell any lie long enough and people just accept it as true.  Biggest lie I can think of – that Barack Obama was ever qualified to be President of the United States.   But there he is, sitting in the Oval Office, golfing at Andrews, picking out the spot for his legacy of lies “Liebrary”.   Red lines that the world drew, recoveries that aren’t, a recession that never went away,  actually a depression but who’s counting, unemployment that gets better by getting worse, pivots to the economy, which is where he pivots in some other way to destroy it through executive signings or approved executive branch regulations.

Birthed in lies, raised in lies, campaigned in lies, elected in lies and serving daily in lines.   Non-stop lying.  About the only thing he doesn’t lie about is that he likes to golf.

Benghazi, IRS, Fast and Furious, Affordable Health Care, closing Guantanamo, gay marriage, jihad is workplace violence.  It’s not always ‘himself’ lying, sometimes it’s his executive organizations, his spokesmen, his fawning press.   But it’s HIS administration, these therefore become his lies.

Lies to enemies, lies to allies, lies to ‘friends’, lies to detractors, lies to supporters.

Small lies, well, every day.  A small lie gets them through this press conference, this question or that question, this news cycle.   Sometimes we’ll have to visit it again, let’s see, oh, right, the GDP was down to a 1 percent growth, oh, and we had Obamacare’s increased spending on those who hadn’t been previously insured to thank for that.     Until yesterday when that lie had to be revised, and the lie about Obamacare’s increased spending turned into a lie that Obamacare actually caused a decrease in healthcare spending.   Yeah, small lies, we’ll see them again, contorted, changed, history ignored and altered.  Things they said before ‘forgotten’ by them, by the media, by us as they trot out the new lie.  They’ll become big lies if we keep worrying at them.   Quit asking.

The lies evolve, sometimes they just drop them and come up with a completely new lie – it was riot in Benghazi caused by a video that grew to an attack on the embassy, we never said it wasn’t terrorism, we caught the mastermind!  It was two rogue agents in Cincinnati that were trying to be more efficient, the dog ate our emails at the IRS, oh, and now the dog wandered over to the neighboring offices at the EPA and had a late night snack.

The original lies generally suck, they do however seem to pass muster for the low info voters, for people who might read the first paragraph of the headlines.  They do the job they’re supposed to do, provide a little cover till they can refine the lies.  But they only need to refine the lies if someone asks for clarification of course.  Any lying 5 year old understands you don’t elaborate on the lie if you aren’t pushed with further questions.

Like lies presented in truths so we can move past a lie that’s really important to the problem they’re willing to cop to for the moment.  The art of distracting us from a lie by handing us lies wrapped in truth.

Emails: IRS official sought audit of GOP senator

Oh, that’s bad….but it appears to be the truth.  That’s good, truth is good, good we found this out, not much there, ask the NY Times, this is just another Republican attempt to pump up a scandal I’m sure.

“Congressional investigators say they uncovered emails Wednesday showing that a former Internal Revenue Service official at the heart of the tea party investigation sought an audit involving a Republican senator in 2012.

The emails show former IRS official Lois Lerner mistakenly received an invitation to an event that was meant to go to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.”

And there, in the first two paragraphs, presented as ‘truth’, is your bold faced lie (made bold and italic by yours truly).

She mistakenly received an invitation for Senator Grassley?

Why?  How?   because the sender had Lerner’s address and Grassley’s address on a dropdown and moused to the wrong one?

Because Grassley ‘sounds’ like Lerner and the autoaddress feature used Lerner instead of Grassley?

Uh, because someone interrupted the writer and he accidentally typed LOIS.LERNER@IRS.GOV instead of SEN.CHARLES.GRASSLEY@USSENATE.GOV and hit SEND?

Wow.  Look ma, the dog ate our emails, and the organizer for a Republican campaign event’s dog accidentally sent Lois Lerner at IRS an invitation intended for US Senator Charles Grassley that Lois might review to consider launching an investigation over.

Phew, good thing that guy Matthew Giuliano waved her off from doing anything with that ‘mistakenly received’ email.

“This kind of thing fuels the deep concerns many people have about political targeting by the IRS and by officials at the highest levels,” Grassley said. “It’s very troubling that a simple clerical mix-up could get a taxpayer immediately referred for an IRS exam without any due diligence from agency officials.”

This kind of thing?   ‘Simple clerical mixup’   Words fail me.   Et tu Chuck?   Seriously?

You mean how an email went mysteriously to LOIS.LERNER@RECTALEXAMSAREUS.GOV,  her email address,  for her review,  ‘by mistake’?

No, you mean the IRS rectal exam that might have been started as a result of her completely innocent receipt of an email intended for a US Senator.

But there wasn’t any exam, so yeah! NO HARM DONE!!!!  No harm, no foul.   Prove the harm!  None!  Matthew Giuliano at the IRS did his job, the IRS did it’s job!  Now go away you scandal mongering racist conservatives!

So don’t ask how she got that invitation, but rest assured, there was no mistake involved.  Remain confident if you ask, they’ll refine this blatant lie.

Lies hidden in truths, lies in your face.   Every week, every year, the most transparently lying to us administration in our history.

Obama’s administration lies again.   Hi-ho Silver.

UPDATE

In case you’re wondering why the lie might matter and why ‘mistaken receipt’  of the email for which Lois Lerner considered the possibility of investigation is important.  Because, you see, if Lois Lerner had Senator Grassley’s email invitation through some method other than ‘accidental receipt’, she, and the person who sent it to her, may have broken Federal laws.

Since the  Constitution didn’t foresee email, there is no guarantee of it’s privacy.   So in 1986 Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy act, which established provisions for privacy rights of people using electronic devices.  The way I read it, under the act it is a crime for someone to read or disclose  the contents of email communications (let alone decide to launch an IRS tax audit) if it’s not addressed to them.

“General Statement of the Law

The law regards each of these situations as distinct.

  1. Interception of e-mail during transmission is prohibited by federal wiretap statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2510-2521 and also some state wiretap statutes. The federal statutes were amended in 1986 by Title I of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to include e-mail.
  2. Reading e-mail during storage on a computer system is prohibited by federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2701-2711, Title II of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), provided that the system is “providing an electronic communication service to the public.” This means, among other things, that your e-mail messages are confidential when stored on a computer owned by an ISP that offers to any member of the public the ability to send e-mail and you pay for the account yourself. But there is no protection in 18 U.S.C. § 2702 for e-mail stored on a computer system operated by a corporation primarily for its own business communications. So, if you send e-mail to a company (e.g., jdoe@ibm.com) and the e-mail is stored on that company’s computer, you have no privacy rights under this statute.
  3. The recipient of e-mail is generally free to share the information in the e-mail with anyone, subject to legal obligations that are mentioned later in this paper.

Reading e-mail that is stored on a computer is not an “interception” under 18 U.S.C. § 2510, et seq., because an interception must be contemporaneous with the transmission of the message between different locations. Steve Jackson Games v. U.S. Secret Service, 816 F.Supp. 432, 442 (W.D.Tex. 1993), aff’d, 36 F.3d 457, 460 (5thCir. 1994). This holding has been accepted in several subsequent cases, including Wesley College v. Pitts, 974 F.Supp. 375, 384-390 (D.Del. 1997); U.S. v. Moriarty, 962 F.Supp. 217, 221 (D.Mass. 1997); Bohach v. City of Reno, 932 F.Supp. 1232, 1235-36 (D.Nev. 1996).”

See below – it’s a fine line if some ‘unknown’ person made a copy and passed it on to Lerner.  The person who passes it on originally may have broken the law since passing on such an email seems like it could constitute ‘disclosure’.  Unless of course it pertains to evidence of a criminal activity….

“One court noted that there is a loophole in Title II of the ECPA, where an unknown person can make a copy of e-mail and give it away, then other people who do not provide an electronic communication service can lawfully make a further distribution of copies of that private e-mail. Wesley College v. Pitts, 974 F.Supp. 375, 389 (D.Del. 1997).

In the special case of e-mail that contains evidence of criminal activity, there is no protection for the confidentiality of the message when the recipient discloses the contents of a communication to law enforcement agents or to a criminal trial. U.S. v. White, 401 U.S. 745 (1971)(no violation of Fourth Amendment when defendant spoke to informant who had concealed microphone and transmitter); Hoffa v. U.S., 385 U.S. 293 (1966)(statements made by Hoffa to undercover informant not protected by Fourth Amendment). Furthermore, there is no protection under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for production of documents at a criminal trial, U.S. v. Doe, 465 U.S. 605 (1984). In summary, the author of an e-mail message generally can not prevent disclosure of the message by the recipient.”

I’ll let the legal experts, some here assembled, discuss the possibilities.   The idea that she mistakenly received it however, smells of pure fabrication.

UPDATE (the second)

It appears that the actual invitation WAS through snail mail, making Grassley’s acceptance that some clerical error genuinely occurred valid.

AllahPundit on HOTAIR covers it.

Not a lie then if there’s real paper on this – and not Lerner’s fault if she opened a letter addressed to her with contents intended for someone else.

What she did with it afterwards, well……..

I’m assuming that we’re not talking .PDF files here, attached to mails, and that we’re really talking a hand delivered stamped envelope carried by the United States Postal service which was addressed to Lois Lerner, with contents for Charles Grassley….

Certainly the flow of e-mails in this link indicates the second go round, the correction of recipients, was done via .PDF.

If you read it, you’ll see the clarification and embarrassment from the sender.

One odd thing….can anyone fathom the end of the PS comment at the end of the correct sending exchange between ‘Dawn’ and Matthew?

Should we get the sense they don’t know each other, or didn’t prior to a phone call he made to clarify and correct?

“Still, it will be an easy commute?

Economic Statistics for 24-25 Jun 14

The State Street Investor Confidence Index was unchanged at 119.5 in June.

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index slowed to 3 in June versus 7 in May.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose to 85.2 in June–a recovery high–from a revised 82.2 in May.

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index slowed to 3 in June versus 7 in May.

New home sales in May jumped 18.6% to a far-better-than-expected 504,000 annual rate.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 0.2% in April. The index was 10.8% higher on a year-over-year basis. The FHFA purchase only house price index was unchanged in April, but up 5.95 on a year-over-year basis.

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 3.3% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales increase of 2.0%, and a 4.1% increase on a year-over-year basis.

The Commerce Department’s final GDP revision for the 1st Quarter of 2014 was a shockingly negative -2.9% annualized decline. The GDP Price index, however, rose 1.3%, annualized.

Durable goods orders fell -1.0% in May, well below expectations. Less transportation, orders fell -0.1%.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell 1.0% last week, with purchases and refinancings both down 1.0%.


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The bureaucratic state

While the enemies of freedom certainly are made up of politicians who would limit or take away your freedom, probably the most insidious of those enemies is the bureaucrat. As we’ve seen for decades, politicians come and go, but bureaucracies run the day to day machine of government. And as we’re seeing right now with the IRS, they’re both unelected and unaccountable, despite the volume of the outrage.

But remember, on the political side of this, one of the goals of the current administration was to help us believe that “big government” was a good thing … much better for many things than the private markets out there. One of the goals of ObamaCare was to take a giant step toward fully government run, single payer health care. But we’ve been feeding you stories for years about how badly the UK’s NHS performs and we’ve also pointed out that theirs isn’t an “exception” to the rule. If there is a rule, it is the rule of bureaucracies which says they exist to expand and protect themselves and really don’t much care about the original mission, in terms of performance. However, they’ll do just about anything to protect themselves. As I pointed out yesterday, the IRS director has committed himself to one of the most improbable stories about the fate of Lois Lerner’s emails since Bill Clinton uttered his infamous “I didn’t have sex with that woman …”. Everyone in the room knew he had. Everyone. And everyone in the Congressional hearing, including the witness, knew that his excuse for the loss of those emails was bogus.

Back to the point about “big government” being the best way to go and the liberal wet dream of government run health care (single payer) becoming reality. If, in fact, we want the American version of the NHS, we simply need to look at the only government run health care system in the America – VA (yes, I realize the military also runs a “single payer” system, but it isn’t set up for long care, etc – it’s a necessity that goes with the job). And what do we find in VA? Well check this out and tell me it doesn’t remind you of some of the horror stories you’ve seen from NHS. As you’ll see, it could very well be the NHS. As you’ll also see, the fault lies where? With the uncaring bureaucracy that has grown up around this system and its abuses are now coming to light:

Two psychiatric patients at a veterans facility in Brockton received no regular evaluations of their condition for years, part of a “troubling pattern of deficient patient care” that federal investigators say they have confirmed at veterans health care facilities nationwide.

One of the neglected patients at the Brockton Community Living Center who had been admitted for “significant and chronic mental health issues” was living in the 106-bed facility for eight years before he received his first psychiatric evaluation, investigators reported.

The other unidentified patient, although he was classified as 100 percent mentally disabled due to his military service, had only a single “psychiatric note” placed in his medical file between 2005 and 2013.

Let me make a prediction – as they get more and more into this, they’ll find this is just the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”. Of course, making such a prediction is certainly no high-risk venture.  Just look around you and take a gander at how well Leviathan is doing on almost any front.  Let’s just say “poorly” would be a compliment.  Justice?  Trashed.  Political influence of agencies?  See IRS.  See the misnamed Justice Department.  Bureaucratic overreach – see EPA and others.  Criminal incompetence?  See VA.   Etc.

Americans are going to have to make a choice and they’re going to have to make it quickly.  The bureaucratic state or the state of freedom.  Some would argue that we’re at the tipping point.  Some argue we’re beyond it.  That we’re looking at our future and the future is all down hill as the bureaucratic state transitions from servant to master.  Unelected, unaccountable and, frankly, uncaring – except to further its existence.

~McQ

Bald faced lies are okay if you’re from the government

The arrogant jerk that is the commissioner of the IRS typifies the type person who hasn’t and never will understand the term ‘public servant’.  He’s a bureaucrat, through and through, and he runs an agency which would never accept the asinine answer to the lost emails that he’s proffered to Congress. But he expects you to accept it without question because, well, because he said so.

Anyone with the IQ of a tea cup knows that emails don’t just reside on “hard drives”. They know that servers are involved. And competent companies and bureaucracies use systems that are redundant and back each other up (like RAID). No company OR agency of any size or worth would be without such a system.

But the arrogant prick that is the director of the IRS sits smugly before Congress and takes offense at being called a liar when he puts the excuse forward that he has. John Hideraker over at PowerLine points out something that you might not have known:

It has emerged over the last few days that at the time of Lois Lerner’s hard drive crash, the IRS had a contract with a company called Sonasoft (“Email archiving done right.”) Sonasoft promoted its relationship with the IRS in 2009: “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to backup their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your servers?”

So why doesn’t that solve the problem of the missing IRS emails? Because the IRS canceled its contract with Sonasoft in September 2011, a couple of months after Lerner’s hard drive crash. Everyone seems to assume that Sonasoft would have deleted whatever information it had gotten from the IRS at that time. That is certainly a logical assumption; in fact, it would make sense to require Sonasoft to get rid of any customer’s data once the business relationship ends. But it wouldn’t hurt for a House committee to lay a subpoena on Sonasoft to learn more about the IRS’s dealings with that company and make certain that it doesn’t still have any IRS records.

Two observations about the Sonasoft story: first, the IRS’s cancellation of the Sonasoft contract occurred in the context of a $1.8 billion annual budget for information services, plus $330 million annually for “business systems modernization.” All of that, and the IRS couldn’t afford an email archiving service? Not only that, it had to recycle its backup tapes to save money? Ridiculous.

Sure is convenient though, isn’t it?

An analogy as to how outrageous and unbelievable this all is comes from Kyle Smith:

To understand the latest outrage in the IRS scandal, mull over what might happen if regulators found significant evidence to implicate Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in an insider trading scheme.

Let’s say Blankfein asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to answer any questions. Say Goldman was subpoenaed to provide all of Blankfein’s e-mails. Goldman replied that, instead of complying with the subpoena, it was itself reviewing the e-mails in question and was considering which ones to release.

Now imagine that, nearly a year later, Goldman admitted that it had not, in fact, reviewed the e-mails in question, because they had been lost in a computer crash two months before it claimed to be reviewing them. Imagine Goldman also said copies of the e-mails were lost, because while under subpoena it had destroyed the “backup tapes” (whatever those are) that held them and that it had also thrown away Blankfein’s actual hard drive.

The thing about dogs eating homework is, it could actually happen. This can’t. . . . Lerner wouldn’t have pleaded the Fifth unless she had reason to believe that there was potential illegality and it could be tied to her.

This is in-your-face corruption. This is a bureaucracy saying “screw you” and smugly looking on as you voice your outrage knowing full well nothing will happen to them. Unaccountable and unrepentant … the true face of big government.

~McQ

Trying to rewrite history … again

Even the Washington Post has a problem swallowing the latest Obama attempt at rewriting history (with the usual motive of passing off the blame to someone or something else).  As usual, Obama is trying to have it both ways while waving away his culpability in the problems and deaths now taking place in Iraq:

President Obama surprised a few people during a news conference Thursday by claiming that the 2011 decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, a politically popular move on the eve of an election year, was made entirely by his Iraqi counterpart. The implication ran counter to a number of claims that Obama has made in the past, most notably during a tight campaign season two years ago, when he suggested that it was his decision to leave Iraq and end an unpopular war.

His remarks, coming as an Islamist insurgency seizes territory across northern Iraq and threatens the central government, recalled key moments in his reelection race when he called his opponent hopelessly out of step with Middle East realities for wanting to keep U.S. forces in the still-fragile country America had invaded nearly a decade earlier.

In the 2012 campaign’s stretch, Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney met inside the performing arts center of Lynn University for the last of three presidential debates. The race remained close, and in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA-run annex in Benghazi, Libya, the Romney team saw foreign policy as an area of potential vulnerability for the incumbent. The debate focused on the issue.

For much of that election year, Obama had included a line of celebration in his standard stump speech, one that among an electorate exhausted by more than a decade of war always drew a rousing applause: “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq,” Obama proclaimed in Bowling Green, Ohio, in September 2012, and did nearly every day after until the election. “We did.”

For Obama, who four years earlier had distinguished himself from Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton through his opposition to the war in Iraq, the fact he had withdrawn all U.S. forces from the country was a problem solved and a political chip to be cashed in come November.

It was also a way to once again draw contrasts with Romney, who criticized Obama for failing to secure a so-called status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. The agreement would have granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution to all U.S. troops in country after 2011. Reaching such a deal — a political risk for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — would have allowed a contingent of several thousand U.S. troops to remain, largely to help with training and specific counter-terrorism operations.

“With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement,” Romney told Obama as the two convened on the Lynn University campus in Boca Raton, Fla., that October evening. “That’s not true,” Obama interjected. “Oh, you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?” Romney asked as an argument ensued. “No,” Obama said. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”

On Thursday, Obama addressed reporters in the White House Briefing Room about Iraq’s latest crisis. “Do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq? Any regrets about that decision in 2011?” a reporter asked. “Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me,” Obama said. “That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”

While the last statement is technically true, it’s because the Obama administration had engineered it to be that way.  They knew full well how all of our other Status of Forces Agreements were done and deliberately included conditions and a step that was unnecessary that all but guaranteed rejection by the Iraqi government.

Here’s a little history of the time (written in October of 2011):

Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not. Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The administration didn’t even open talks on renewing the Status of Forces Agreement until this summer, a few months before U.S. troops would have to start shuttering their remaining bases to pull out by Dec. 31. The previous agreement, in 2008, took a year to negotiate.

The recent negotiations were jinxed from the start by the insistence of State Department and Pentagon lawyers that any immunity provisions be ratified by the Iraqi parliament—something that the U.S. hadn’t insisted on in 2008 and that would be almost impossible to get today. In many other countries, including throughout the Arab world, U.S. personnel operate under a Memorandum of Understanding that doesn’t require parliamentary ratification. Why not in Iraq? Mr. Obama could have chosen to override the lawyers’ excessive demands, but he didn’t.

He also undercut his own negotiating team by regularly bragging—in political speeches delivered while talks were ongoing—of his plans to “end” the “war in Iraq.” Even more damaging was his August decision to commit only 3,000 to 5,000 troops to a possible mission in Iraq post-2011. This was far below the number judged necessary by our military commanders. They had asked for nearly 20,000 personnel to carry out counterterrorist operations, support American diplomats, and provide training and support to the Iraqi security forces. That figure was whittled down by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to 10,000, which they judged to be the absolute minimum needed.

The Iraqis knew about these estimates: U.S. military commanders had communicated them directly to Iraqi leaders. Prime Minister Maliki was said (by those who had talked to him) to privately support such a troop commitment, and almost all Iraqi political leaders—representing every major faction except for the rabidly anti-American Sadrists—assented on Aug. 2 to opening negotiations on that basis.

When the White House then said it would consent to no more than 5,000 troops—a number that may not even have been able to adequately defend itself, much less carry out other missions—the Iraqis understandably figured that the U.S. wasn’t serious about a continued commitment. Iraqi political leaders may have been willing to risk a domestic backlash to support a substantial commitment of 10,000 or more troops. They were not willing to stick their necks out for such a puny force. Hence the breakdown of talks.

So the talks on SOFA broke down giving Obama a reason to “end the war” and to blame the breakdown on Iraq and Iraq’s government.  Perfect.

And now we see the result.  He has someone to blame the problem on even as the history of how and why what happened happened seems to be lost in the mist.  This was a deliberately staged and engineered outcome.  By making an unacceptable offer and requiring other than the leadership of Iraq to endorse the deal, they knew it would fail.  And that means the usual … another of our allies thrown under the bus.  Yes, Maliki isn’t any bargain.  And yes, he’s done as poor a job with Iraq as Obama has done in America.  But there are two people that should be under the bus, and we all know who the second one is.

Don’t let him rewrite this bit of history to his advantage.

~McQ

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