Monday, July 07, 2014

Cruising the Web

Bill Schneider points out something that the Republicans shouldn't forget in the midst of GOP triumphalism about their chances this fall. It was always going to be a good opportunity for Republicans in Senate races this year since they would be facing many Democrats who got elected in the 2008 euphoria over Obama's election. But 2016 may well be the reverse as Republican Senators who were elected in the very successful for Republicans 2010 contests. That is the beauty of our system. Elections may sway in one party's direction one election, but things tend to even out eventually.

Eli Lake has a good analysis about why the Obama administration did nothing in the face of all sorts of warnings about the growing strength of ISIS. Like many of the problems facing us around the world, there were no good options. But that doesn't mean that doing nothing was the best of all the bad choices.

The WSJ has an interesting method of using Amazon's statistics from Kindle books to determine which book is the most unread book of the year. This year's winner among books that people seem to purchase, but not get very far in reading is Thomas Piketty's, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

It's amazing how much like those 19th century nativists decrying the influence of Catholics in America some liberals are sound these days as they pick out that the five justices who formed the majority in the Hobby Lobby decision are Catholics. Suddenly, Catholic-bashing is creeping into liberal analysis of Supreme Court decisions that liberals don't like. It really has been amusing to hear all these nice liberals bemoaning the use of the Religious Freedom Reformation Act when it was a law passed with near unanimity and signed into law with great self congratulation by Hillary Clinton's husband. Suddenly, liberals no longer like the idea of finding a balance between the reach of the federal government and people's individual religious beliefs if it interferes with their desired policy goals.

And all this for the goal of forcing employers to provide employees free contraceptives. It has always struck me as rather strange that that is the one prescription that the administration wants to insist should be provided at no cast to insured employees. Think of all the possible medicines that they could have chosen to be provided for free - prescriptions for heart problems, cancer, diabetes, asthma, HIV, or psychiatric treatments. But none of those were considered worthy of mandating that they be provided free of cost. Only contraceptives. Not covered with a deductible or for a certain percentage. Nope, absolutely free. I would love to have a reporter ask Obama why didn't they have similar mandates for other medical needs? I think it was all done deliberately so that they could take advantage of the opposition that they knew would arise in order to gin up their phony cries about a war on women.

Ross Douthat has a typically thoughtful column about the dangers of what would happen if liberals were successful in their push against religious groups with whom they disagree. He starts out by describing a company that liberals should be cheering.
There are, however, exceptions: companies that still have a sense of business as a moral calling, which can be held up as examples to shame the bottom-liners.

One such company was hailed last year by the left-wing policy website Demos “for thumbing its nose at the conventional wisdom that success in the retail industry” requires paying “bargain-basement wages.” A retail chain with nearly 600 stores and 13,000 workers, this business sets its lowest full-time wage at $15 an hour, and raised wages steadily through the stagnant postrecession years. (Its do-gooder policies also include donating 10 percent of its profits to charity and giving all employees Sunday off.) And the chain is thriving commercially — offering, as Demos put it, a clear example of how “doing good for workers can also mean doing good for business.”
That company is Hobby Lobby. But liberals can't cheer any more for that company because they disagree with the company's position on four contraceptives. Douthat sees the dangers if liberals have their way in their battles against such religiously motivated companies.
But this isn’t just a point about the company’s particular virtues. The entire conflict between religious liberty and cultural liberalism has created an interesting situation in our politics: The political left is expending a remarkable amount of energy trying to fine, vilify and bring to heel organizations — charities, hospitals, schools and mission-infused businesses — whose commitments they might under other circumstances extol.

So the recent Supreme Court ruling offers a chance, after the hysteria cools and the Taliban hypotheticals grow stale, for liberals to pause and consider the long-term implications of this culture-war campaign.

Historically, support for religious liberty in the United States has rested on pragmatic as well as philosophical foundations. From de Tocqueville’s America to Eisenhower’s, there has been a sense — not universal but widespread — that religious pluralism has broad social benefits, and that the wider society has a practical interest, within reason, in allowing religious communities to pursue moral ends as they see fit.

But in the past, tensions over pluralism’s proper scope usually occurred when a specific faith — Catholicism and Mormonism, notably — unsettled or challenged the mostly Protestant majority. Today, the potential tensions are much broader, because the goals of postsexual revolution liberalism are at odds with the official beliefs of almost every traditional religious body, be it Mormon or Muslim, Eastern Orthodox or Orthodox Jewish, Calvinist or Catholic.

If liberals so desire, this division could lead to constant conflict, in which just about every project conservative believers undertake is gradually threatened with regulation enforcing liberal norms. The health coverage offered by religious employers; the activity of religious groups on college campuses; the treatments offered by religious hospitals; the subject matter taught in religious schools ... the battlegrounds are legion.

And liberals seem to be preparing the ground for this kind of expansive conflict — by making sharp distinctions (as the White House’s mandate exemptions did) between the liberties of congregations and the liberties of other religious organizations, by implying that religion’s “free exercise” is confined to liturgy and prayer, and by suggesting (as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did in her Hobby Lobby dissent) that religious groups serve only their co-believers, not the common good.

That last idea, bizarre to anyone who’s visited a soup kitchen, could easily be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Insist that for legal purposes there’s no such thing as a religiously motivated business, and you will get fewer religiously motivated business owners — and more chain stores that happily cover Plan B but pay significantly lower wages. Pressure religious hospitals to perform abortions or sex-reassignment surgery (or some eugenic breakthrough, down the road), and you’ll eventually get fewer religious hospitals — and probably less charity care and a more zealous focus on the bottom line. Tell religious charities they have legal rights only insofar as they serve their co-religionists, and you’ll see the scope of their endeavors contract.

Jonah Goldberg ponders why so many liberals, after having had control of the presidency for more than five years, just don't seem to like America or Americans all that much.

Dana Milbank has a quite inane column about how, if the GOP gains control of the Senate, it would be the saving of the Obama presidency because the Republicans would be more likely to compromise with Obama if they had complete control of Congress. He seems to forget that such compromises would require an executive interested in finding compromises. Obama has never demonstrated that he has that desire.

writing in The Hill, notes how far Obama's rhetoric has come from those halcyon days when he could stir audience by telling us that “There's not a liberal America and a conservative America. There's the United States of America.”"

Jonathan Turley examines how Obama's unwillingness to compromise has led to the President's making weak claims of executive powers and his subsequent trimming at the hands of the Supreme Court.
The political slogan of “no compromise” has migrated into legal strategy with disastrous results. That is precisely what happened in the recess appointments decision in NLRB vs. Canning. I testified on the President’s recess appointments in Congress after they were made and said that the nominations in my view were flagrantly unconstitutional.

The fact that the administration decided to force a confrontation on such a weak case shows not just a lack of judgment but a cavalier attitude towards the costs of such losses. While he clearly has authority to set enforcement priorities in areas like immigration law, Obama has repeatedly stepped well over the line of separation.

These acts of defiance of Congress often come with chest-pounding acclaim, but they also come with costs. For example, by violating the Constitution on recess appointments, a huge array of rulings out of the National Labor Relations Board could be invalid — creating havoc in the area.

Likewise, the President’s recent loss in the Hobby Lobby case, regarding contraception provisions of Obamacare, will require huge changes in such coverage . In a case that may be issued any day now in Halbig vs. Burwell, the D.C. Circuit could strike down another unilateral policy on tax credits under Obamacare that would mean that the administration wrongly committed billions of dollars without authority. That decision could jeopardize the very viability of health-care reform.

In our system, there is no license to go it alone. Rather, the Republic’s democratic architecture requires compromise. The process is designed to moderate legislation and create a broader consensus in support of these laws.

Nor is congressional refusal to act on a particular prescription of how to fix the economy or repair immigration laws an excuse. Sometimes the country (and by extension Congress) is divided.

When that happens, less gets done. The Framers understood such times. They lived in such a time.

While Obama did not create the uber-presidency, he has pushed it to a new level of autonomy and authority. It is a model that Democrats may soon regret. Just as Obama has unilaterally rewritten federal laws and ordered the nonenforcement of others, the next President could use the same authority to gut environmental or employment discrimination laws. An uber-President is only liberating when he is your uber-President.

That overreach explains why this administration has already suffered setbacks in a remarkable 20 unanimous Supreme Court decisions. Read the list. Some of the bizarre claims of government power that the Obama administration has been making have been so egregious that not even the most liberal justices, not even those Obama himself appointed, have been able to support the Holder Justice Department's positions.
Typically, the Justice Department does very well before the Supreme Court. Holder has made that a losing record.
That’s because, as legal scholar Ilya Shapiro says, the administration has “relied on outlandish legal theories that pushed a constitutional interpretation of extreme federal power.”

Holder and Obama have argued that we as Americans don’t have the right to free speech, the right to privacy, the right to due process or the freedom of religion.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court has become the last defense for those who still believe in those rights.

John Hawkins tries to explain to minorities that conservatives don't hate them. I'm afraid he argues in vain.

Matt Lewis finds a good metaphor for the Obama presidency: "The trailers were great, but the movie was horrible." For example, Peter Sullivan, writing in The Hill, notes how far Obama's rhetoric has come from those halcyon days when he could stir audience by telling us that “There's not a liberal America and a conservative America. There's the United States of America.”

Scott Johnson highlights another entry into the catalog of the "epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer." Now the NYT seems to have also caught on.