Monday, September 08, 2014

Cruising the Web

Chris Cillizza explains how Obama muffed his handling of the immigration issue going back to his announcement on June 30 that he expected recommendations from the heads of Homeland Security and Justice by the end of the summer as to what executive actions he could take on his own. He disregarded back then what effect his taking such action could have on this year's elections when the most vulnerable Democratic senators are not in states with large Hispanic populations that might support his move.
Obama's decision -- and the re-thinking of that decision -- on immigration will echo for many his famous/infamous declaration of a "red line" against Syria and its use of chemical weapons. In both situations, Obama imposed a set of deadlines on himself that political and policy realities eventually made meeting virtually impossible. (Sidebar: This same sort of danger in deadline/expectation setting is what brought Rick Perry low in that famous/infamous "oops" debate of the 2012 campaign. Never say you are going to name a list of things unless you know said list stone cold.)

And, in promising action prior to the election only to delay it for (at least what appears to be) largely political reasons, Obama has ensured that Republicans can keep the issue alive in the midterms no matter what. "Make no mistake: President Obama plans to grant amnesty, it's just that he will cynically wait until after the election so as not to harm Senate Democrats like Jeanne Shaheen," said former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who is challenging Shaheen this fall, in a statement Saturday morning.

President Obama has done his party no favors with how he handled the timing of his executive action on immigration. His choice to delay the announcement until after the election is the least bad option available at the moment but Obama has only himself to blame for the lack of a good choices.
Obama used to be good at the political stuff, but it's now clear that his real skill was in campaigning especially when he could contrast himself to less skilled Republican opponents. When he's alone on the stage, he seems to be increasingly inept.

And no matter how the administration tries to spin it, it's so clear that the decision to postpone action until after the election was motivated by political concerns.
President Obama’s decision to delay executive action on immigration until after the November elections was the end result of weeks of back and forth within the Democratic Party, and fears the actions would damage the party’s election prospects.

According to an activist familiar with details of the decision to delay the immigration announcement, Obama’s political advisers became concerned with internal polling in the last few weeks for a handful of states on the midterm elections.

The polling for the vulnerable Democrats was so close — two points apart — that they were afraid the announcement could “put it over the cliff.” Additionally, there was growing sentiment that the president would be blamed if they lost and even if the senators won, he might not be able to count on their support for his eventual actions after the election.
Senate Democratic campaign officials Saturday said they were not unhappy, or surprised, by the White House’s decision to put the blame on fellow Democrats for his decision. One official said that for weeks, the potential impact of the deportation executive order on a handful of tight campaigns had been on the minds of top Democrats both in the Senate and at the White House.
Of course, pro-immigration activists feel like they've been taken for granted by Obama once again. And they have, but what are they going to do about it?

Dan McLaughlin explains how and why it has become so difficult for one party to control the White House for more than eight consecutive years. I love reading analyses that combine history and politics. This is nicely done.

Check out what the National Journal identifies the ten midterm races this year that matter for 2015. They're not all Senate campaign even though that is where so much attention is focused.

Mollie Hemingway demonstrates what is so wrong with how feminists measure equality and success for women.

Stephen Hayes reports on how Obama knowingly campaigned on the decimation of al Qaeda in 2012 even though the documents obtained from the raid on Osama bin Laden reflected quite the opposite. And the CIA did its best to try to block access within the intelligence community to those documents. The fact that there are members in that community who are feeding Hayes this story demonstrates the dissatisfaction many feel about how the administration has been more interested in PR than in exploiting the information that could have been recovered from that bonanza of intelligence.

President Obama blames the media for the bad optics of his playing golf right after his making a statement on the beheading James Foley. Poor Obama. The media are so dang unfair to him. First social media make people think the world is less settled than it really is and now the press dare to make him look bad. And this statement is so very laughable as he claims that political theater is "not something that comes naturally to me." This from a man whose whole career has been built on theater and fantasy rather than reality.

John Hinderaker exposes many of the idiocies expressed by Obama in the MTP interview including his assertion that he's going to have smarter diplomacy to bridge the divide between Sunni and Shiites.
Whoa! We are going to “eliminate the schism between Sunni and Shia”? The schism that goes back to the 7th Century? And we are going to “eliminate the schism” through diplomacy? Don’t hold your breath waiting for that critical part of Obama’s “plan” to bear fruit.

And what about Syria? What are we going to do while we are working on “eliminating” the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims (in Syria, better not forget the Alawites)? The answer is simple: help the Free Syrian Army....

Obama appears completely oblivious to the fact that others have been urging his administration to aid the moderate (i.e., non-terrorist) Syrian rebels for more than a year. The West Point speech that Obama referred to was delivered in June, three months ago. What has he done since then? For more than a year, Obama has dithered while first Assad, and then ISIS have crushed the relatively pro-Western elements.

And now Obama tells us that his brand-new “plan” for Syria is to do exactly what his critics have been urging since mid-2013. Only one problem: at this late date, there doesn’t appear to be much of a moderate opposition left to equip and support.

Does Obama seriously believe that our “diplomacy” can “eliminate” more than a millennium of conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, or that we can now, magically, lend Syrian moderates such support that they will be able to overcome ISIS’s well-armed, lavishly funded and horrifically brutal army? Not to mention Assad’s forces? I don’t suppose so. I don’t think Obama means much of what he says, or that he expects his words to connect in any significant way with reality. His job is to utter the words. If reality refuses to conform, well then: so much the worse for reality.

It's been 40 years since President Ford pardoned Nixon. And that decision is looking like a wise choice through the gaze of history. One important aspect of the pardon that did not get enough attention at the time was that implied Nixon's acceptance of guilt. And something I hadn't thought about was that the pardon preserved Nixon's papers and tapes for history because Ford forced Nixon to deed those materials to the control of the government.

John Fund explores some benefits that might develop if Scotland were to vote for independence. He compares the split to the "Velvet Divorce" between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Scotland would have to take responsibility for its own economy.
Even with its oil revenue, the same phenomenon could occur in Scotland, where the ruling Scottish National party has often pursued foolish economic policies. With independence, a new government might be more realistic. A recent white paper produced by the Scottish government proposes cuts in corporate tax rates to attract business as well as a more skill-based immigration system as new policies to set in place after independence.

Scotland’s separation from Britain could also have other, mostly positive, political effects. Scotland would probably keep using the pound as its currency, which it could do with or without Britain’s permission, much as Panama and Ecuador use the U.S. dollar today. The stringent policies of the Bank of England and the loss of subsidies could push Scotland to become more fiscally responsible. “Scotland would eventually be forced into a more severe form of fiscal austerity than currently applied, giving the lie to Alex Salmond’s promise of a sort of welfare nirvana for all Scots once free of the Westminster yoke,” wrote Jeremy Warner, assistant editor of Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “For the rest of the U.K., losing relatively pro-EU Scotland would further raise the chances of eventually leaving the EU from odds on to that of a virtual certainty,” he added. The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union would be hailed by pro-freedom conservatives and would lead to a government friendlier to U.S. markets and interests.

Scottish independence would also transform the electorate in U.K. elections, with only the remaining 59 million Britons eligible to vote. Scottish voters are currently much more hostile than the U.K. electorate overall to free markets — Scots view capitalism as the basis for the Thatcher government’s decision to close unprofitable Scottish industries in the 1980s. Currently, Scotland sends only one Conservative member of parliament to Westminister. The departure of Scottish MPs from Westminster would be dramatic: If 59 Labour-party and Scottish National MPs from Scotland leave Westminster, Tories in the current House of Commons would go from being 21 seats short of a majority to having an outright 20-seat majority. “It is unlikely that without Scotland the rest of the United Kingdom would elect a majority Labour government anytime soon,” says Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute.
It's fascinating how a nationalist appeal as the Scottish independence movement has gained such popularity in what is supposed to be a post-nationalist world. Of course, if nationalism were really dead, we wouldn't be seeing Russia invade Ukraine now.

Hmm. Why would the nation's political scientists be so uninterested in the presidency of Barack Obama, surely one of the most consequential in recent years with respect to all sorts of concerns about presidential power and relations with Congress that usually engage political scientists Paul Rahe reports,
This past weekend, the American Political Science Association (ASPA) held its annual meeting in Washington, DC. It was a huge affair, involving 53 “divisions” and 60 “related groups,” and featuring more than one thousand separate panels. Here is the kicker: this year, there were no sessions at all devoted to an assessment of the foreign policy of Barack Obama, and not one panel was dedicated to an examination of Obama’s domestic policy.
It's quite a difference from the same point in Bush's presidency.
In 2006, when the second midterm elections of the George W. Bush administration were approaching, there were plenty of panels devoted to denouncing the foreign and domestic policy of the younger Bush. The fact that there was nothing on the program of this year’s APSA pertaining to the Obama administration is a sign that there is nothing good to say on the subject, nothing to celebrate, and nothing to take pride in. Left with no recourse, the academy turns silent.
William A. Jacobson explores how liberals have been attempting to use government to stifle conservative speech.
For years, there has been a multipronged attempt to drive conservative speech from the public square.

These prongs include misuse of government powers to target conservatives, attempts to keep conservative voices from being heard on mass-media outlets, and redefinition of language in order to taint conservative speech as unacceptable.

That first prong, though, the misuse of government power, has become more prevalent during the Obama era with the targeting of conservatives and particularly Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service serving as the most prominent example.
But the efforts using the IRS are just one front in this battle. And the story seems to get dirtier with every week's new revelations.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) improperly obtained donor lists from nonprofit groups as part of a “secret research project” being run by Lois Lerner and other officials....

Another email released Thursday showed that Lerner obtaining donor information from groups “was not needed across-the-board and not used in making the agency’s determination on exempt status,” according to an IRS deputy chief counsel.

I've never been a big fan of Rand Paul or his father. The focus on the foreign policy mistakes of the Obama administration are, I hope, exposing why Paul should never be president. Paul's tergiversations on what the country should do about ISIS are no more conducive to confidence than those of President Obama.
Paul's excoriation of Obama is remarkable given that only a few months ago, he explicitly defended the president and blamed ISIS' proliferation on former President George W. Bush and his gung-ho interventionism.

"I don't blame President Obama," he said in a late June appearance on Meet the Press. At the same time, he threw cold water on the idea of a U.S. military intervention, saying, "I'm not so sure where the clear-cut American interest is."

And as recently as August, Paul wrote a column arguing that hawkish interventionists had "abetted the rise of ISIS."

On the one hand, it's not surprising Paul is cribbing the administration's ideas. Grandstanding aside, almost everyone is pretty much on the same page about how to handle ISIS.

But Paul's newfound hawkishness is remarkable given his past tendency toward isolationism, which formed the heart of his unique appeal within the GOP. It was also the greatest obstacle to his winning the GOP presidential nomination in a party full of foreign policy hawks.

That dovish position grew even more problematic once Russia invaded Crimea, and once ISIS began swarming across Syria and Iraq. Though Pew last year found Americans' appetite for foreign entanglements waning, that trend has now reversed, most sharply among Republicans.

Paul is now racing to shed the "isolationist" tag that dogged his proto-presidential candidacy. His Time op-ed even bears the none-too-subtle headline, "I am not an isolationist."

But Paul is also spitting the same anti-interventionist lines that boosted him in the first place among his war-weary, libertarian faithful. Paul is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, and as a result his Time column reads like a bunch of flip-flopping nonsense.

Michael Barone offers up a great, brief historical overview of the political parties in order to explain how the Republicans got to be the party they are today and the historical forces that are setting the stage for 2014 and 2016 elections. It's a good review for anyone interested in political history. He concludes,
Much more important are the potential divisions, or at least different approaches, over which policies Republicans should pursue if and when they win majorities in both chambers and the presidency in 2016. Some clarifying debate is beginning. So-called reform conservatives are advancing policies different from those of Reagan and the Bushes, and advocates of more market-oriented healthcare provisions are advancing alternatives to Obamacare of varying boldness.

Such debates will likely migrate into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The party has a dozen or more plausible potential candidates and some of them are already offering policy proposals. The party has the advantage, lacked by George W. Bush, of facing an incumbent Democratic administration widely deemed unsuccessful; it has the handicap of facing, as Bush did not in 2000, a likely Democratic nominee who starts off running well ahead of the approval ratings of the Democratic incumbent. It has the advantage also of tending to favor policies that do not run against the grain of change in American society. Democrats have sought to build a bigger government in an Information Age that tends to favor decentralization of decision-making and disfavor centralized command-and-control apparatus.

Mainstream media will inevitably emphasize the discontentment in the Republican Party that originated in the second Bush term and flashed into prominence soon after Obama took office. It will tend to ignore the discontentment in the Democratic Party that are raging with increasing intensity. But a Republican Party that goes beyond being transfixed by arguments about the past has a chance to search, cooperatively and with respectful disagreement along the way, for policies that address genuine problems in line with conservative principles, policies that can prove politically attractive, legislatively feasible and effective in governance. That’s hard to do, but both parties have done it before, and the Republican Party, for all its internal angst, has an opportunity to do it again.

IBD presents five facts to debunk the idea that the U.S. economy has recovered.

Ben Stein ponders what we've learned this summer.
This was an educational summer. We learned this summer that when terrorists kill Jews, that’s legitimate anger and frustration. When Jews defend themselves, that’s genocide.

We learned that Europe, which Henry Ford called “that slaughterhouse of nations” or something similar, is still chock a block with anti-Semites who are wildly happy to join hands with the emerging Muslim majority in Europe to torture the Jews.

We learned that the elite media, especially the New York Times, will turn on Israel and the Jews and seek to curry favor with the enemies of Jews and of America in any way they can....

We also learned that it’s probably not a great idea to attack a policeman in his car and try to take his weapon away from him even if you are 6'4" and 300 pounds of muscle. And we learned that if the man who has this bad idea is shot by a white man, it’s cause for riots and looting. But if 15,000 black people are killed by other black people every year, that’s not worth mentioning.

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