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Archive for May, 2012

Obama in Afghanistan

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

President Obama descended into Afghanistan under the cover of darkness last week and gave speeches addressed to the American public, the Afghans, and our troops. It was a shameful, clearly political performance. James Carafano, in an article printed on May 1, 2012 in the Foundry, his conservative policy news blog from the Heritage Foundation, summed it up extremely well. Here it is:

This week, the President marked the death of Osama bin Laden with a self-congratulatory campaign ad. If Lincoln had spent the entire Gettysburg Address talking about himself, it wouldn’t have been quite that crass. Now, the President zips to Afghanistan—coincidentally on the anniversary of the Seal Team Six raid.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R–CA) wryly noted that the visit came “[a]fter nearly a year of not speaking about the war and 17 months of not visiting the war zone.”

Obama’s remarks from “an undisclosed location” at Bagram Air Base included a few zingers that leave one wondering if all the speechwriters have left to join the campaign staff.

The biggest “I can’t believe he said that” moment had to be “We can see the light of a new day on the horizon.” Okay, so at least he didn’t declare it was “a light at the end of the tunnel.” Different metaphor—but it still had that used car salesman feel.

What the President did not discuss is how he has made a muddle of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan since day one. After dawdling for months before making his “decisive” decision, Obama promptly gave the commanders on the ground about half the troops they requested, and he gave them about half the time they said they needed before he started drawing down the troops. In his speech tonight, the President declared that the U.S. needs “a clear timeline to wind down the war.” Coincidentally, like his surprise trip to Kabul, the timeline just happened to fit with his reelection campaign.

The President’s object lesson in self-congratulatory speechwriting obscured the only real ray of light in his dismal Afghan policy: the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). As Heritage regional expert Lisa Curtis wrote, “[t]he agreement will both demonstrate to the Afghans that the U.S. will remain committed to the country long after 2014 and provide a framework for the U.S. to maintain a residual presence to train Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism missions.” In other words, while the President has put all the success in Afghanistan in jeopardy by hastily heading for the exit, there is a framework that would allow the U.S. to go back in and fix it—so we don’t just wind up back where we started on September 10, 2001.

Political Origins

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Political Origins

This little bit of humor (that nevertheless contains certain truths) was sent to me by my good friend Dan Garshman. I thought it deserved wider dissemination in this otherwise grim political season.

Origin of Left and Right

I have often wondered why it is that Conservatives are called the “right”
and Liberals are called the “left.”

By chance, I stumbled upon this verse in the Bible:

“The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
but the heart of the fool to the left.”
Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV)

Thus sayeth the Lord. Amen.

Can’t get any simpler than that.

Spelling Lesson

The last four letters in American……….I Can
The last four letters in Republican…….I Can
The last four letters in Democrats………Rats

End of lesson. Test to follow in November, 2012.

Remember, November is to be set aside as rodent extermination month.

Examination of a Failed Administration 2009-2012

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Each Friday morning, Seth Leibsohn is the guest host on the Bill Bennett Morning in America radio talk show. It is one of the more cerebral talk shows on radio today. It lacks the sturm und drang of many of the other shows. And each Friday morning, Leibsohn begins with a monologue. On May 4, 2012 he produced one which I thought was most compelling–––a dissection of the       3-1/2 years of the multiple failures of the Obama administration and a call to America to wake up to these failures and to vote accordingly in November.

Time To Wake Up
May 4, 2012
As Broadcast on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America
By Seth Leibsohn

A lifetime of welfare dependency. A capitulation to enemies that has come back to haunt us. A human rights fiasco.  An economy with no promise. That is what we see this week from President Barack Obama both in his campaign for re-election and in his policies.

Let’s begin with a lifetime of welfare dependency.  The Obama campaign unveiled a campaign slide show entitled “The Life of Julia” this week.  I guess Barack Obama likes to make composites of women because here is another one, what he and his campaign view as the typical American woman.  Here is how the slide show is introduced:  “Take a look at how President Obama’s policies help one woman over her lifetime—and how Mitt Romney would change her story.”  Fine, we go to the first slide—don’t worry, I’ll go no further.  We have baby Julia and the slide says “Under President Obama: Julia is enrolled in a Head Start program to help get her ready for school. Because of steps President Obama has taken to improve programs like this one, Julia joins thousands of students across the country who will start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.”  Then, it says “The Romney Ryan budget would cut Head Start,” etcetera, etcetera.

Let’s stop right there.  Why does the Obama campaign begin and suppose we all will gel to, affiliate, and associate with, or be a child in need of Head Start?  Head Start is a Great Society program for disadvantaged children—a several billion dollar program for, well, not-the-average American. At least not now.  So why do we start with this person?  Here’s why, to quote another keen observer of this: The President and his left-wing view of the world think of a woman and think “a woman can live her entire life by leaning on government intervention, dependency and other people’s money rather than her own initiative or hard work.”  They truly believe living off the government, by the government, and from the government is the best way to live.  And of course a program like Head Start has tens of thousands of government employees, don’t forget that.

But what many don’t know is that Head Start is an abject failure.  Study after study has shown its ineffectiveness and, sometimes even, harm.  Here’s just one, as summarized by the Heritage Foundation: A scientifically rigorous evaluation called the 2010 Head Start Impact Study found the program “ineffective at providing a boost to children while in kindergarten and the first grade,” the years Head Start is geared toward.  Just a little more:

For the four-year-old group, access to the program failed to raise the cognitive abilities of Head Start participants on 41 measures compared to similarly situated children who were not allowed access to Head Start. Specifically, the language skills, literacy, math skills, and school performance of the participating children failed to improve.

Alarmingly, access to Head Start for the three-year-old group actually had a harmful effect on the teacher-assessed math ability of these children once they entered kindergarten. Teachers reported that non-participating children were more prepared in math skills than those children who participated in Head Start. Head Start failed to have an impact on the 40 other measures.

The Heritage analysis concludes if there’s one anti-poverty education program that should be cut, it’s Head Start.  But the left presupposes American women in it.  Why?  Margaret Thatcher put her finger on this kind of thinking, this ideology (a word we will come back to), if you will.  She said this kind of welfare state thinking is the “debilitating concept of the all-powerful state which takes too much from you to do too much for you, constantly substituting the politicians’ view of what the people should have for the people’s own view of what they want.”

Is Head Start something we should want?  A billions dollar program that doesn’t work but does make a discipline of government dependence and government employment?  According to the Obama team, the answer is yes.

Another headline: “Russia’s top military officer has threatened to carry out a pre-emptive strike on U.S.-led NATO missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe if Washington goes ahead with its controversial plan to build a missile shield.”  This is the very shield President Obama is now proposing because he thought dismantling the Missile Defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, which he did, would satisfy the Russians.  That, obviously, was not the case.  President Obama upset and weakened our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic, we now see, for no benefit at all.  And in appeasing the Russians then, by throwing our allies overboard, we showed no strength or resolve to the Russians so they can today feel free to cavalierly threaten pre-emptive strikes against us again—as if this were 1961 all over again.

And, this week, we also have another human rights fiasco.  The New York Times headline today “Dissident’s Plea for Protection From China Deepens Crisis.”  CNN puts it this way:  “Chen case is another human rights issue for Obama.”  Staying with CNN a moment, here is how their story opens:

Iran, Syria and now China. President Barack Obama faces a third front of vulnerability on his administration’s record of defending human rights with the muddled situation involving activist Chen Guangcheng.
With his re-election campaign just hitting full stride, Obama hoped to capitalize on foreign policy successes such as last year’s raid that killed Osama bin Laden to blunt Republican attacks on the sluggish U.S. economic recovery.

When CNN says you have a muddled situation, a sluggish economy, and points out that you are using the killing of bin Laden as a political ploy, all in two sentences, you have a problem.  CNN could have gone on to add Sudan and so many other places—do people even know that Islamist Northern Sudan is bombing the South of Sudan again?  We’ll leave that for another day so surfeited are we just now with Iran, Syria, Egypt, China, Russia, Venezuela, and other places that have become both more dangerous to us on President Obama’s watch and less solvable due to President Obama’s policies and ideology.

It should actually be no surprise that we have muddled the human rights case of a Chinese dissident and human rights lawyer.  This administration has shown from year one it doesn’t know what human rights abuses are.  It was Obama’s very own Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner who told Chinese officials two years ago during a human rights summit that our two countries both have work to do.  The AP reported that in discussing human rights with China, Posner “raised on his own” Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law as part of our own dark record.  Yes: the very law the Supreme Court, and even its liberals, seem to be in support of.  As Arizona is to illegal immigrants, China is to killing of millions of citizens.  It’s all the same moral plane according to this administration.

Just as the Mullahs in Iran were on the same moral plane as the citizens of Iran when President Obama sent a new year’s message to the leaders and citizens of Iran in the same message, saying our two countries both had the same hopes and dreams—the problem was one country’s rulers shoots people in the streets and the other’s does not, and the dissidents in the first country heard from the leader of the second only support for those who were doing the shooting, totally ignoring (and killing off) their pleas for help.

When you do not understand human rights you do not know how to work for them.  Ideology is what is behind this, it’s an ideology that cares more about diplomacy and negotiations for the sake of diplomacy and negotiations over the actual God-given rights of people and human beings.  It’s what somebody smart once said of the UN:  The UN cares about lines and maps, it doesn’t care about people.  And that’s the same exact ideology that makes a compulsion, a talisman, of government programs whether they work for people, for human beings, or whether they fail them.

It’s an ideology, at center, that puts the state above the person.

And it is that ideology that is the exact opposite of our Founding where the state was to be the servant of the person because the person, the human, was given rights by God and created the state, not the other way around where the state created the person and made the person subservient to it.  Remember the words: “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

When you understand our Founding and the appropriate human relationship to government, you understand human rights.  When you do not understand our Founding, you cannot understand human rights because the state, in that case, not the person, is the entity of preferred status and your mission is to protect and defend the state, not the individual or the human.

It is this same ideology that is driving our economic stagnation.  Here’s all I need to know about this, because it’s the example that reveals both President Obama’s view of America at the same time it reveals his view about economics.  When he was in France three years ago and asked whether he believed in American exceptionalism he said “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”  Two socialist economies, one a complete basket case based on out-of-control, cradle-to-grave spending where the state takes too much from you in order to do too much for you.  When asked about American greatness, his mind went to a comparison with Greece.

So today, as a result of no reduction in spending and no plan to inspire growth and prosperity, we will get a jobs report whose numbers will not decrease the unemployment rate.  And, thus, we will hear pleas for more spending and even more taxes, and we will hear nothing about how to inspire, energize, and promote small business or private sector growth.

Why is this all of a piece with a blinding ideology?  Bill Bennett likes to quote the philosopher Hanna Arendt as saying there is nothing so blinding as ideology.  He’s right to do so.  Arendt wrote more on this in her book on Totalitarianism, saying “all ideologies contain totalitarian elements.”  Why do they?  She gave several reasons, the most important, she wrote, was “ideological thinking becomes independent of all experience from which it cannot learn anything new.”

And that is President Obama.  An ideologue who sees states and statism, governments and governmental programs, not humans and not individuals and not humans and individuals who can operate free of the state but must instead be cared for by it.  He was trained in this school of thought, a school of thought that taught America (and thus America’s Founding) was responsible for the ills of the world.  And so a changed or, in his words, “fundamentally transformed” America would (independent of all experience) put us on the path of curing the world.  Thus, no exceptionalism. Thus, more capitulation to, rather than standing up to, tyrants. Thus, more statism and less individualism and free enterprise.  Thus, more welfare. Thus, more government control and less individual rights.

And the result?  We see it all around us, here and abroad.  Even in this week’s headlines.

Lincoln said our Declaration, our Founding, provided a “maxim for free society, which could be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”

A simple question:  Is the government we have now, are the policies we have now, is the President we have now doing this?  Does he understand it? Does he believe it? Or, in his ideological fixation, is his thinking so independent of all experience such that he cannot learn anything new?  The question answers itself.  And we see the answer all around us.

A Courtroom Circus

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Yesterday, May 5, 2012, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four fellow co-conspirators in the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center were brought into a courtroom for arraignment  in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

This resulted in an hours-long spectacle in which the accused failed to respond to the judge, shouted, refused to wear headphones for translation from English to Arabic, spread out prayer rugs and prayed instead of attending to the judge and the prosecution attorneys, with one of the accused requiring restraints in a chair because of his refusal to behave. This circus was followed by hours of attempts by the defendants’ attorneys who attempted to challenge the credentials of the judge.

The entire travesty listed about nine hours. None of the accused entered a plea. The trial is to resume in mid-June.

So ––– this is the trial that Obama and his discredited attorney general, Eric Holder, wanted to hold in New York City four blocks from the World Trade Center site! Can you imagine? The chaos, with enormous crowds, an army of reporters from the United States and abroad, the families of the victims, protesters both for and against the accused –––– all with these 5 jihadists  turning the courtroom proceedings into a travesty. We should be thankful to the mayor and the people of New York City and the Congress that prevented this from happening. And once more illustrating the poor, incomprehensible thinking of Obama, Holder, the ACLU, and other irrational sorts.

Some Political Psychotherapy

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

The presidential race is now in high gear and with it a sense of foreboding, especially among Republicans. “What if he wins? Four more years of Obama? The nation will never survive!” “We’re in deep trouble. The incumbency of a president. The bully pulpit. Oh no. What’ll we do?” (I guess they’ve forgotten the losses by Carter and HWBush). I thought the following op-ed article by Peggy Noonan in the April 26, 2012 in edition of the Wall Street Journal might provide at least a modicum of hope.

A Bush League President
Republicans are aggravated by Obama. They should Cheer Up.

by: Peggy Noonan

There is every reason to be deeply skeptical of President Obama’s prospects in November.
Republicans feel an understandable anxiety about Mr. Obama’s coming campaign: It will be all slice and dice, divide and conquer, break the country into little pieces and pick up as many as you can. He’ll try to pick up college students one day and solidify environmentalist support the next, he’ll valorize this group and demonize the other. He means to gather in and hold onto all the pieces he needs, and turn them into a jagged, jangly coalition that will win it for him in November and not begin making individual demands until December.

But it still matters that the president doesn’t have a coherent agenda, or a political philosophy that is really clear to people. To the extent he has a philosophy it, tends to pop up furtively in stray comments and then go away. This is to a unique degree a presidency of inference, its overall meaning never vividly declared. In some eras, that may be a plus. In this one?

Republicans are worried about the power of incumbency, and it is a real power. Presidents command the airwaves, as they used to say. If they want to make something the focus of national discussion, they usually can, at least for a while. And this president is always out there, talking. But—and forgive me, because what I’m about to say is rude—has anyone noticed how boring he is? Plonking platitude after plonking platitude. To see Mr. Obama on the stump is to see a man at the podium who’s constantly dribbling away the punch line. He looks pleasant but lacks joy; he’s cool but lacks vigor. A lot of what he says could have been said by a president 12 or 20 years ago, little is anchored to the moment. As he makes his points he often seems distracted, as if he’s holding a private conversation in his head, noticing crowd size, for instance, and wishing the front row would start fainting again, like they used to.

I listen to him closely and find myself daydreaming: This is the best-tailored president since JFK. His suits, shirts and ties are beautifully cut from fine material. This is an elegant man. But I shouldn’t be thinking about that, I should be thinking about what a powerful case he’s making for his leadership. I’m not because he’s not.

It is still so surprising that a person who seems bored by politicking has risen to the highest political office in the land. Politics is a fleshly profession, it’s all hugging, kissing, arm twisting, shaking hands. It involves contact. When you see politicians on C-Span, in the well of the House or the Senate after a vote, they’re always touching each other’s arms and shoulders. They touch each other more than actors! Bill Clinton was fleshly, and LBJ. How odd to have a Democratic president who doesn’t seem to like humans all that much.

He’s raised a lot of money, or so we keep reading. He has a sophisticated, wired, brilliant computer operation—they know how to mine Internet data and get the addresses of people who’ve never been reached by a campaign before, and how to approach them in a friendly and personal way. This is thought to be a secret weapon. I’m not so sure. All they can approach their new friends with is arguments that have already been made, the same attacks and assertions. If you have fabulous new ways to reach everyone in the world but you have little to say, does that really help you?

A while back I talked to a young man who was developing a wonderful thing for a website, a kind of constant live TV show with anyone anywhere able to join in and share opinions live, on the screen. You’re on your iPad in the train station, you log on and start talking. He was so excited at the technology, which seemed impressive. But I thought: Why do you think people will say anything interesting or important?

This is the problem of the world now: Big mic, no message. If you have nothing to say, does it matter that you have endless venues in which to say it?

The old Washington gossip was that the Obama campaign was too confident, now it is that they are nervous. The second seems true if you go by their inability, months after it was clear Mitt Romney would be running against them, to find and fix on a clear line of attack. Months ago he was the out-of-touch corporate raider. Then he was a flip-flopping weasel. They momentarily shifted to right-wing extremist. This week he seems to be a Bushite billionaire.

Will all this work? When you look at Romney you see a wealthy businessman, a Mormon of inherently moderate instinct, a person who is conservative in his personal sphere but who lives and hopes to rise in a world he well knows is not quite so tidy. He doesn’t seem extreme.
It’s interesting that the Obama campaign isn’t using what incumbent presidents always sooner or later use, either straight out or subliminally. And that is “You know me. I’ve been president for almost four years, you don’t know that other guy. In a high-stakes world do you really want someone new?”

You know why they’re not using “You know me”? Because we know him, and it’s not a plus.
Here’s one reason why. There is a growing air of incompetence around Mr. Obama’s White House. It was seen again this week in Supreme Court arguments over the administration’s challenge to Arizona’s attempted crackdown on illegal immigration. As Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News wrote, the court seemed to be disagreeing with the administration’s understanding of federal power: “Solicitor General Donald Verrilli . . . met resistance across ideological lines. . . . Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s only Hispanic and an Obama appointee, told Verrilli his argument is ‘not selling very well.’ ” This follows last month’s embarrassing showing over the constitutionality of parts of ObamaCare.

All of this looks so bush league, so scattered. Add it to the General Services Administration, to Solyndra, to the other scandals, and you get a growing sense that no one’s in charge, that the administration is paying attention to politics but not day-to-day governance. The two most public cabinet members are Eric Holder at Justice and Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security. He is overseeing the administration’s Supreme Court cases. She is in charge of being unmoved by the daily stories of Transportation Security Administration incompetence and even cruelty at our airports. Those incidents and stories continue, but if you go to the Homeland Security website, there is no mention of them. It’s as if they don’t even exist.

***
Maybe the 2012 election is simpler than we think.

It will be about Mr. Obama.

Did you like the past four years? Good, you can get four more.

Do the president and his people strike you as competent? If so, you can renew his contract, and he will renew theirs.

If you don’t want to rehire him, you will look at the other guy. Does he strike you as credible, a possible president? Then you can hire him.

Republicans should cheer up.


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved