Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cruising the Web

Daniel Henninger explores the similarities between the President's approach to Obamacare and making a deal with Iran on nuclear weapons.
Next Tuesday is the deadline for completing the “political” terms of an agreement with Iran. “Technical” details arrive in June. From news reporting on the negotiations, it appears the agreement is turning into a virtual Rube Goldberg machine, a patchwork of fixes that its creators will claim somehow limits Iran’s nuclear breakout period to “a year.” Which is to say, it’s going to be another ObamaCare, a poorly designed mega-project others will have to clean up later.

Just as ObamaCare was a massive entitlement program enacted with no Republican support (unlike Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid), the administration’s major arms-control agreement is bypassing a traditional vote in the Senate. Instead, it will get rubber-stamp approval by, of all things, the U.N. Security Council.

Can anyone feign surprise that this has produced a political reaction in the Senate? The heavily bipartisan Corker-Menendez bill, which would require the deal to be submitted to Congress and which the White House has denounced, is a few votes away from a veto-proof majority.

Political legitimacy is the coin of the realm in the American system. It is why every U.S. president in the postwar era, except this one, has worked so hard to assemble opposition support for his projects. Without it, any initiative will remain politically vulnerable....

In fact, Presidents Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan all submitted major arms-control treaties and agreements for Senate approval. They did so to give their work political credibility with the American people and indeed the world. But somehow Mr. Obama believes he has an exemption from the basics of U.S. politics. So we wake up one day to find he is substituting the judgment of the Security Council, with such famous allies as Russia and China, for consent from the U.S. Senate. Result: an arms deal as politically flaccid as ObamaCare.

After the Affordable Care Act became a one-party law, many governors refused to participate. A mirror-image opt-out from the Iran deal is emerging now among the most significant nations of the Middle East....

Whether in domestic or foreign policy, Mr. Obama’s modus operandi is the same: Structure the issue as a choice between what he wants to do and an unacceptable extreme. The result, not surprisingly, is to choke off any possibility of building useful political coalitions from the outset.

With health care, the whole of GOP alternatives was “nothing new.” With Iran, it’s Mr. Obama’s deal or a “rush to war.” You get two political options: Salute or shut up.

As important as the constitutional issues raised by Mr. Obama’s unilateral authority is the political damage he has done to traditional relationships between the presidency and the institutions his methods have marginalized.

So why do the Democrats have such a weak bench?
It has long been observed that Bill Clinton started the process by placing his own political needs—and boy, did he have needs—above the needs of his party. The Clintons were always so consumed in building up themselves that they couldn’t spare any effort to build up allies and successors, and they always kept their supporters scrambling to construct ad hoc lines of defense against the latest scandal. Thus the situation today, where there’s the Clinton machine, and outside of it there’s nothing.

Barack Obama continued this hollowing out, but for different reasons—and with more complicity from his party. He and Democratic leaders in Congress made the decision to sacrifice their congressional majorities in order to shove through a series of deeply unpopular initiatives—ObamaCare, and more recently his executive orders on issues like immigration. The backlash from the public didn’t just take away the Democrats’ majorities. It specifically swept away the moderate Democrats from places like the South, leaving the Democrats with leaders who are deeply entrenched in far-left redoubts like Boston and San Francisco but who have no track record of appealing to voters anywhere else in the country.

What they may not have anticipated is how badly this would hit them on the state level, where they have been wiped out in the statehouses. This further weakens the bench by ending the career of many a young Democratic politician before it even begins. It’s like a big league baseball team trying to recruit players without access to the “farm teams” where rising stars can gain experience and demonstrate their talent. And as with the effect on Congress, this specifically deprives the Democrats of talent outside a narrow demographic that dominates big cities and the coasts.

Michael Barone suggests this effect: “The geographically clustered Obama coalition—blacks, Hispanics (in some states), gentry liberals—tends to elect officeholders with little incentive to compile records that would make them competitive in target states and capable of winning crossover votes.”

....If we look at all these factors, the common theme is that the Democrats have been undone by their most basic priority. Their lust for aggrandizing more power to government—increasing its scope, its cost, its reach, and its centralization—has undermined their ability to gain and hold the majorities necessary to wield that power. It was more important to them to push through a big new entitlement than to listen to the voters. It was more important for them to recruit what they believed would be a solid far-left bloc of minority constituencies than to show anything but contempt for those backward rednecks in the heartland. It was more important for them to aggrandize the power of a central individual (or couple) than to build a broad nationwide base of leadership. And it is more important for them to be reactionary guardians of the welfare and regulatory state than to contemplate any reform of it.

Call this the Paradox of Power. To the extent Democrats have hollowed out their party, it is because their greed for more government power has undermined their ability to hold on to it.

But of course. Having made buying health insurance mandatory, President Obama now seeks to make voting mandatory. If his side is going to lose because their voters don't turn out, why not force them to turn out? Sure, if some poorer, younger, less-educated voters can't be persuaded to turn out and vote for Democrats who yearn to mandate more benefits for those same voters, why not fine them if they don't turn out?

It's along the same lines as the IRS now going after certain political nonprofits which, despite the scandal the IRS has endured of targeting conservatives, the IRS chief wants to increase its actions against disfavored nonprofits.

China reveals its military organization for cyberattacks. Not that this is any surprise, but it is interesting that they're so open about it.
A high-level Chinese military organization has for the first time formally acknowledged that the country’s military and its intelligence community have specialized units for waging war on computer networks.

China’s hacking exploits, particularly those aimed at stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies, have been well known for years, and a source of constant tension between Washington and Beijing. But Chinese officials have routinely dismissed allegations that they spy on American corporations or have the ability to damage critical infrastructure, such as electrical power grids and gas pipelines, via cyber attacks.

Now it appears that China has dropped the charade. “This is the first time we’ve seen an explicit acknowledgement of the existence of China’s secretive cyber-warfare forces from the Chinese side,” says Joe McReynolds, who researches the country’s network warfare strategy, doctrine, and capabilities at the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis.