Friday, March 25, 2016

Cruising the Web

Charles Krauthammer ponders what he calls the "ideological holiday" that President Obama is on. I agree totally that the President didn't need to come home from Cuba when news of the Brussels bombing broke. But he could have altered his schedule so that he wasn't laughing in the stands and doing the wave at a basketball game in Cuba or doing the tango in Argentina. This goes beyond being a matter of optics, but it is also a matter of taste and an appreciation for the dignity of his office and what his actions say to the rest of the world.
Nonetheless, Obama could have done without the baseball. What kind of message does it send to be yukking it up with Raúl even as Belgian authorities are picking body parts off the floor of the Brussels airport?

Obama came into office believing that we had vastly exaggerated the threat of terrorism and allowed it to pervert both our values and our foreign policy. He declared a unilateral end to the global war on terror and has downplayed the threat ever since. He frequently reminds aides, reports Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, that more Americans die annually of bathtub accidents.

It’s now been seven years. The real world has stubbornly refused to accommodate Obama’s pacific dreams. The Islamic State has grown from JV team to worldwide threat, operating from Libya to Afghanistan, Sinai to Belgium. It is well into the infiltration phase of its European campaign, with 500 trained and hardened cadres in place among the estimated 5,000 jihadists returned from the Middle East. The increasing tempo and sophistication of its operations suggest that it may be poised for a continent-wide guerrilla campaign.

In the face of this, Obama remains inert, unmoved, displaying a neglect and insouciance that borders on denial. His nonreaction to the Belgian massacre — his 34-minute speech in Havana devoted 51 seconds to Brussels — left the world as stunned as it was after the Paris massacre, when Obama did nothing. Worse, at his now notorious November news conference in Turkey, his only show of passion regarding Paris was to berate Islamophobes.

David Axelrod called Obama’s response “tone-deaf.” But that misses the point. This is more than a mere mistake of presentation. Remember his reaction to the beheading of the American journalist James Foley? Obama made a statement expressing his sympathies — and then jumped onto his golf cart for a round of 18.

He later told Chuck Todd that this was a mistake. “Part of this job is also the theater of it,” he explained, “it’s not something that always comes naturally to me.” As if postponing a bucolic recreation was a required piece of political playacting rather than a president’s natural reaction — a mixture of shock and sorrow — to the terrible death of a citizen he could not save.

It’s not as if Obama is so super cool that he never shows emotion. Just a few months ago, he teared up when speaking about the Sandy Hook school shooting. That was the work of a psychotic. But when speaking about the work of Islamist terrorists, he offers flat perfunctory words.

I cannot fathom why. Perhaps having long seen himself uniquely qualified by background and history to make peace between Islam and the West, to now recognize how badly things have gone on his watch is to admit both failure and the impossible grandiosity of his original pretensions.

Whatever the reason, he seems genuinely unmoved by a menace the rest of the world views, correctly, with horror and increasing apprehension. He’s been in office seven years, yet seems utterly fixed on his campaign promises and pre-presidential obsessions: shutting down Gitmo, rapprochement with Iran, engagement with tyrants (hence Havana), making the oceans recede (hence the Paris climate trip). Next we’ll see yet another useless Washington “summit” on yet another Obama idee fixe: eliminating nuclear materials.

With the world on fire, the American president goes on ideological holiday. As was said of the Bourbons: “They have learned nothing and have forgotten nothing.”

Glenn Reynolds contemplates the fundamental truth in Bill Clinton's words on Monday when he contrasted what his wife would do for the country to end "the awful legacy of the last eight years." The Clinton campaign has twisted itself into knots to try to say that he wasn't talking about President Obama, but the Republican congress, as if Hillary would have any better relations with the people that she has said she's proud of being her enemies. But this was a Kinsley gaffe. Barack Obama's presidency has been awful for United States foreign policy. Think of how he disparaged ISIS as a "jayvee team."
Well, for a jayvee team, they’ve done a lot of damage, in the Middle East and beyond, and it’s in large part because of Obama’s premature withdrawal from Iraq, which fulfilled a political promise, but which had the effect of squandering a decade of blood and treasure, and costing many thousands of lives.

As late as 2010, things were going sufficiently well in Iraq that the Obama Administration was bragging about what a huge success they had going there. But in his 2008 campaign, Obama had promised to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, and so it was essential that he do so before 2012, or his antiwar supporters would complain. So Obama pulled out. And that was a mistake.

As journalist Bob Woodward observed: “Look, Obama does not like war. But as you look back on this, the argument from the military was, let's keep 10,000, 15,000 troops there as an insurance policy. And we all know insurance policies make sense. We have 30,000 troops or more in South Korea still 65 years or so after the war. When you are a superpower, you have to buy these insurance policies. And he didn't in this case.”

No, we didn’t. In fact, as The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins reported, the White House didn’t want to make a deal to stay. Filkins, an Iraq War critic, agreed with radio host Hugh Hewitt that Obama’s withdrawal may have been "the worst strategic decision of many bad strategic decisions.”

And the consequence of that mistake was the rise of ISIL after the United States pulled out, lost influence and lost the intelligence network that it had maintained in Iraq.
On top of that, the administration has twisted and blocked intelligence to convince themselves that things are going better than they actually are.
The White House made plain to intelligence agencies that it didn’t want to hear bad news about ISIL. From low-level analysts to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, everyone knew, so it increasingly appears, that the intelligence was being politically skewed to support the Obama Administration’s preferred view that ISIL wasn’t a threat, thus justifying the pullout and Obama’s policy of inaction. The result is a "messy ... intelligence scandal," as the Observer put it, that would be a lot messier if it didn’t implicate a Democratic president that so many in the press want to protect.

And now, despite all of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize posturing, The Washington Post reports that his administration has put a lot more of our military in Iraq than it has been saying. We may have to fight the war all over again.

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The Clinton family seems determined to speak the truth about what they really think about Obama's legacy. Chelsea Clinton told a crowd that her mother would use executive action to reduce the "crushing costs" of Obamacare. As Shoshana Weissmann notes, Hillary has a history of admitting how awful Obamacare has been while still trying to claim credit for it as being based on the health care proposals she made as First Lady.
In December, Hillary admitted Obamacare turns full-time jobs into part-time jobs.

Clinton still regularly emphasizes that, "before it was called Obamacare, it was called Hillarycare, as some of you might remember."
Ed Morrissey links to a report by Robert Moffit on what has actually happened to health care costs since Obamacare after all the President's promises that his plan would bend costs down and the average family would see $2500 annually in savings in health care costs. Well, no. We are seeing just the opposite.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data show that total per capita health insurance spending will rise from $7,786 in 2016 to $11,681 in 2024. Looking at the future of employer-based health insurance costs, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that job-based premiums are poised to increase by almost 60 percent between now and 2025.
President Obama promised that Obamacare would reduce the deficit as if it were possible to expand coverage to more people while cutting spending.
Courtesy of the Affordable Care Act, public spending is outpacing private spending. For 2015, the Congressional Budget Office reports that the federal government spent a total of $936 billion on health programs (for example, Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act), a 13 percent increase over the 2014 level.

For 2015, the Congressional Budget Office reports that Medicare spending increased almost 7 percent, the fastest rate of growth since 2007; and, over the period 2013 to 2015. They also report that Medicaid spending alone jumped by 32 percent.

Medicaid is the fastest growing component of America’s poorly performing welfare state. Many Affordable Care Act advocates applaud the government’s increasing role in American health care as an indisputably good thing, but that does not bend the notorious “cost curve” downward. Nor does it guarantee value for the dollars expended, even if, as the president says, the Affordable Care Act has incorporated “ every single good idea” to do so.
So, according to her daughter, Hillary's solution to all the increased costs is for her to just use her pen and solve all the problems with some sort of executive action. Yes, because just what our economy needs is more top-down action from a know-it-all president to solve complicated markets that Obama's reform distorted and deformed just because he assumed that wise people in Washington can fix all problems with their pens. As Morrissey concludes,
And now Chelsea wants people to keep backing ObamaCare despite all of this, on the promise that more top-down executive action to further extend central control over a market will make it healthier. It’s basically the “hair of the dog” approach — drinking more alcohol to avoid getting the hangover that comes with sobriety after a binge.

And this is totally not a surprise. Judicial Watch reports that they have uncovered more emails by court order that demonstrate that Hillary Clinton has lied about her server. She swore under penalty of perjury that she has turned over all her government emails. Oops.
Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained State Department documents from February 2009 containing emails that appear to contradict statements by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that, “as far as she knew,” all of her government emails were turned over to the State Department and that she did not use her clintonemail.com email system until March 2009. The emails also contain more evidence of the battle between security officials in the State Department, National Security Administration, Clinton and her staff over attempts to obtain secure Blackberrys.
The emails concern Hillary's desire, despite the NSA's regulations and concerns for her to use her personal Blackberry to conduct secure communications. Is it just a coincidence that they didn't turn over a email thread concerning the reluctance of the NSA to allow her to conduct State business in a way that they felt was insecure?

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So what to make of John Kasich's stubborn refusal to recognize that he has no way forward mathematically to win the election? As Rich Lowry writes, despite the way in which he presents himself, Kasich has done rather abysmally.
Kasich must hold the record for the most finishes of 4 percent or below of any candidate who has persisted in saying that he expects to be his party’s nominee. He is the Harold Stassen of primary-season futility. Kasich has limped in at roughly 4 percent or lower in Alaska (4.07 percent), Alabama (4.43 percent), Arkansas (3.71 percent), Iowa (1.86 percent), Nevada (3.6 percent), Oklahoma (3.59 percent), and Texas (4.25 percent).

The contests that he has done best in, besides his home state, are Vermont, where he finished a close second to Trump and got eight delegates, and the District of Columbia, where he finished second behind Marco Rubio and got nine delegates. This is not exactly an electoral juggernaut.

In New Hampshire, Kasich finished a very distant second at 16 percent after doing more than 100 town halls. (His modest take on getting blown out slightly less badly by Trump than everyone else in the race: “Tonight, the light overcame the darkness.”) This was less than Jon Huntsman got in New Hampshire in 2012, before appropriately dropping out a week later.

Kasich’s finish on Western Tuesday would have been enough to embarrass any lesser mortal out of the race.

In Arizona, he finished in fourth place in a three-man race, which sounds like a setup for a bad joke. Marco Rubio had won enough of the early vote that the anemic Kasich couldn’t catch him.

In Utah, Kasich bizarrely sought to keep Ted Cruz beneath 50 percent, the threshold for winning all of the state’s delegates. Instead, he succeeded only in holding Cruz below 70 percent, while he finished second — by 52 points.
All he has to go on are polls showing that he would do better against Clinton than Cruz or Trump. Trump, despite what he likes to claim, regularly polls as losing to Hillary. Cruz polls within the margin of error. Kasich likes to pretend that he is "the adult in the race" who just doesn't resort to insults like the others. But it's all a pretense.
“We’re all made to be a part of the healing of this world,” he declared on primary night in New Hampshire, “if we would just slow down.” He also made a plea for more hugging. After his win in Ohio, he assured the nation that “our spirit is in us,” and we are “part of a giant mosaic.” Deepak Chopra might to want to volunteer to write Kasich’s Inaugural address

For all his foggy rhetoric of uplift, Kasich’s sincerity-to-sanctimony ratio is badly out of whack. Last week, Kasich made it sound as though he had just become aware of Trump’s insulting comments about women. This is impossible to believe, if for no other reason than Kasich was on the debate stage when Megyn Kelly of Fox News famously asked Trump about some of these comments.

Kasich pronounced himself “very concerned” about the remarks. “We’ll have more to say about that,” he said. OK, when? “Today is not the day.” There’s nothing worse than a self-professed healer who lacks the courage to call out the man who represents everything he should abjure in our politics.
A man who professes himself above insulting his opponents was not above saying that those who didn't like his accepting Medicaid Expansion under Obamacare should go read the Bible to know how to treat the poor as if he has some special link to God to know what the right policies should be.

If he were truly so concerned about the Bible and treating people well, he would be more concerned about Donald Trump. Kasich's quixotic race at this point is more of a vanity campaign than an actual path forward to win the nomination. The only way he could win is at a contested convention, but his presence makes it more likely that Trump could win the nomination out right.

And after indicating that maybe he would consider nominating Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, if Kasich should become president and having to walk that back, he has now said that he is open to choosing a Democrat to run on his ticket as vice president.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he isn't willing to serve as anyone's vice president, but he indicated party affiliation would not matter to him when choosing his own running mate.

After losing the Arizona primary and trailing a candidate who is no longer running for president, Kasich hit the campaign trail in Wisconsin and told voters only he could beat the Democrats in November.

He ruled out the possibility of serving with any GOP nominee, but would not oppose putting a Democrat near the top of the Republican ticket himself in November....

"If you're going to bring somebody over they need to know what you're about. And they can't spend their time trying to pick at you and undermine you because, frankly, we don't have enough time to do it," Kasich said. "Just because someone happens to be a Democrat doesn't mean they're disqualified. President Obama, he had his secretary of defense, Bob Gates, a Republican. And I think Bob did a fantastic job for him."
For a man who brags about having been at GOP conventions since 1976, doesn't he know that the convention would have to approve any vice-presidential nominee? And what are the chances that the GOP in 2016 would approve a Democrat to run on a ticket with Kasich? His words indicate the fantasy world he lives in. In that world, the contested convention turns to the guy who won only his own state and ran as squishy moderate who chastises Republican positions and then approves a Democrat to run on his all-squish ticket. It's all rainbows and unicorns for John Kasich. Unfortunately, politics takes place in the real world.

Read through this rant from Jay Cost explaining how "delusional the John Kasich campaign is." He demonstrates no understanding whatsoever of the nitty gritty details necessary for running a modern campaign. I hope Cost will write all this up as an article, but until then read the whole thread. He concludes,
Sadly, in this year, delusions and illusions seem to be the Order of the Day.

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