It’s hard to think of an appropriate sports metaphor to extend that of the NY Times headlines that basically stated that the Democrats have benched Obama, and turned to Hillary as the effective leader of their party. After all, she was precisely that – or more specifically the Clintons had been since 1992 – until Obama suddenly upstaged her in 2007 – 2008. Former star rookie replaced by former Coach’s wife? The left has no one left to turn to but Hillary. Her voting record as senator suggests she is a somewhat hawkish liberal, but who else can they turn to? Perhaps Elizabeth Warren, and stories have circulated in the last few months that Obama himself might consider backing the senior Senator from Massachusetts, as he feels she would be more activist and left-leaning and Hillary more of a pragmatic centrist. But given the president’s isolation, (one wonders if he actually wandered over to the bench himself, or up into the stands, or out into the parking lot, rather than being benched by his party), will Obama’s possible support of an Elizabeth Warren run for president make much of a difference? It certainly wouldn’t unite his own party, and would be one more barb between himself and the Clintons.
Time will tell on that one, but Obama’s isolation seems to be growing by the day. Whether he has the inclination to attempt to recognize and fix some of the shortcomings of his administration is a question for Hillary’s team who have to somehow rescue their party’s legacy before November, 2016. But then again, Obama’s isolation can be seen directly as a product of the Clinton’s return to center-stage politics and they seem to be not at all unhappy – to not say joyful – about the President’s sorry state in the polls. One nasty night in November in a few weeks, and then the Dems can really start cleaning house and prepare the way for the returning royalty. They seem certain that they – Hillary and Bill we have to start saying now – can regain the balance and drive the party completely lacks and whip things into shape. The GOP, once they have counted up their seats in the Senate, will need to move with purpose and ideas to make sure Hill & Bill don’t make hay by dancing on a sitting president’s grave come this November.
As a recent Gallup poll demonstrates, voter opposition to Obama is at a 16 year high, when comparing those who want to send a message opposing the president at 32%, against those who wished to send a message of support, at 20%. That’s noticably worse than what Clinton faced in 98 in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. So in a perverse sort of logic, we now have Clinton working the stumps in Arkansas to desperately separate Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor from the president. Unfortunately for Pryor, his Republican challenger Tom Cotton has managed to use Pryor’s voting record – he voted 93% of the time with the Obama’s proposals according to Cotton – to keep precious little daylight between the sitting Arkansas senator and Obama. In Arkansas, Obama’s job approval rating is at 31% with a disapproval rating of 62%. While the race for senator in Arkansas is reasonably close, Cotton is clearly ahead in a majority of the polls and seems to have numbers that are very solid and are holding up well in the final weeks leading up to November. By using Pryor’s voting record as a proxy for the Democratic senator’s approval of the job Obama is doing, he has forged an effective rhetorical weapon that he uses every time he hits the stage during the final run of his campaign to unseat Pryor. In a state with a 31% approval rating, where in the world can you find someone who gives Obama a 93% approval rating? That’s how Cotton starts off most speeches and it certainly seems to play very well in Arkansas.
Mark Pryor is, of course, the son of former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator David Hampton Pryor, who served in the US Senate from 1979 until 1997. He is currently considered one of the more vulnerable candidates in the upcoming elections and maybe Arkansas is more than ready for a change. Tom Cotton, the son of Vietnam veteran, and a veteran himself with several decorated tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, is also a Harvard educated lawyer. To say he is an achiever is an understatement. With Tea Party ties and also the support of John McCain as well as Mitt Romney, he has built up solid relations within the GOP within a relatively short time. His famous letter – it was an email in fact, sent by the young lieutenant – to the NY Times, calling for charges of treason to be laid against reporters that revealed key details of a secret program against terrorist financial backers, has been used against him when he first ran for a House seat in 2010. It did not work, and despite the discomfort certain defenders of the 1st amendment might feel, it was a legitimate criticism of an editorial decision that likely ended up compromising the program itself, and costing lives. Lives like those of the soldiers under Tom Cotton’s command. What he wrote in that email is what many felt at the time, whether a majority or not. It was a bold and risky, even intemperate act to send that email, and it shows something about who Tom Cotton is. We will likely be finding out a lot more about who Tom Cotton is and what he believes over the following years.
With a jacket in one had and a cup of coffee in the other, President Obama disembarked Marine One, and raised his cup-o-joe to the saluting Marine. A pitiful display of our Commander in Chief. No, he never served in the military, but he is the Commander in Chief who is the leader of our military, and they deserve more respect than that. The behavior displays a lack of respect to his position as POTUS, so how are people supposed to respect his position when he doesn’t even show respect for it?
The White House shared a video of the moment as Obama was returning from a United Nations meeting in regards to Climate Change and airstrikes in Syria. Is it proper respect and etiquette for the President to salute? Yes. However, in this case he would’ve been better off not saluting at all. This isn’t something that politically biased to a party, or something dems will accuse FOX news for blowing out of proportion. Democrats, Republicans and others just aren’t impressed with this display. Bottom line, the President should be ashamed.
It appears that President Obama now has a plan of sorts to deal with IS in Iraq and Syria. On the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, Obama delivered an address on IS and what actions the U.S. will take to counter it. I had low hopes for the speech and as anticipated, I was let down by it. In presenting his plan he prioritized rhetoric over details and answers to questions while doing little to instill confidence that he truly believed in what he was suggesting. Now it would appear that we are engaging in a half-hearted attempt to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS, a campaign that might extend into the next presidency. The plan is unrealistic, simplistic, and is a poorly crafted attempt to rectify the failure of this administration to generate a strategy against dealing with a group we’ve been fully aware for over a year.
I find the strategy put forth by the president as completely lacking. There are too many questions that remain unanswered while the plan itself seems simplistic and poorly conceived. One of my biggest problems is the military strategy. There is an absolute reluctance and opposition on the part of the president and many of the American people for the use of ground forces regardless if they are in combat or not. Obama insists that the eventual 1,000 troops we are sending will only advise and train the Iraqi military. Various analysts though have suggested that the troops sent are too few and upwards of 10,000 troops will be needed for such activities to be successful. To that end, our campaign against IS depends on using the forces of Iraq, militia groups, and Syrian rebel groups as our ground troops, all of whom have already proven to be less than capable of meeting this threat.
Our primary military contribution to the operation will be airpower. Airstrikes as they are being conducted now against IS in what is a piecemeal manner will not bring about the groups destruction. Airpower would have made a major difference when then ISIS was on the offensive and convoys were travelling in the open desert between cities. Now we are forced to engage a group no longer in the open but that is blending in with civilians in cities and towns. Our intelligence estimates on IS are sorely lacking and this will further hamper destroying them; just recently the CIA revealed that it had grossly underestimated the number of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria. When you are conducting an aerial campaign it tends to help when you can identify targets and know critical information about your enemy. It seems though that we know little about IS and as a result airstrikes will continue to be against targets as they present themselves rather than being truly focused. Prepare to be awed by videos of $60,000+ missiles being used to destroy random pickup trucks and tents while the administration insists that we have the upper hand.
Then there is the problem with arming and providing more assistance to moderate Syrian opposition groups which is part of Obamas plan. Just weeks ago Obama considered such a move as “fantasy” arguing that arming who are essentially “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth” would make little difference in the fight against Assad. Well now that’s no longer the case; never mind that the moderate rebels also have to contend with fanatical IS fighters in addition to government forces. Then there is difficulty in choosing who to provide assistance as there is a history of groups we supported later turning on us. Also weapons we provide to supposedly moderate groups have a habit of falling into the hands of the enemy. Lastly there is the complexity of the situation itself in Syria; a conflict between the government, moderate opposition, and IS fanatics all of whom are backed by different actors internationally. Are we arming moderates to fight just IS or also Assad? What if IS is defeated and Assad is still in power, do we abandon the moderates or do we become militarily engaged against him as well?
Finally there is the issue of time and what will happen if IS is ultimately destroyed. Already the White House has said the campaign against IS might take three years, mind you a three year military campaign against a group the president earlier this year termed a “JV” basketball team. Now the situation might play out radically different. Sunni groups that had allied themselves with ISIS in a move that was seen by some to have been meant as a political message to the government, are now ready to fight against IS. The Iraqi military and the Kurds might successfully rally and go on a full offensive against IS. There is that chance that IS might be defeated by mid-2015, anything is possible. Regardless, if this administration is serious about defeating IS don’t say it can take three years because it looks like we aren’t serious. Furthermore how far have we planned this because I highly doubt that we will be able to just extract ourselves from this easily. Upon defeating IS we might be setting ourselves up for a military confrontation with Syria or the Kurds might push for greater independence from Baghdad; in either case we will remain heavily involved.
I want to see IS absolutely liquidated but that doesn’t mean I will support a plan that I don’t believe in. What has been proposed is a military strategy that is watered down to be politically acceptable and to reduce the footprint of U.S. involvement. Remember, Obama ended the war in Iraq and it is no doubt hurting him that we are returning to Iraq. If you engage in military conflict you do it to win, not a partial but an absolute victory; this plan speaks of an absolute victory but it doesn’t portray the realistic ways and means to achieve it. Furthermore I feel it is too open-ended and leaves us open to a military confrontation with Assad in Syria. I firmly believe IS must be dealt with though I would rather take the time now to create an effective strategy rather than rushing in with one that is so lacking.
Rates are going up for Obamacare. What a surprise. The Affordable Care Act has as its goals, increasing coverage, reducing costs, improving affordability, and increasing the quality of healthcare. This is an absurd mixture of conflicting goals; but you can’t say that because it’s health care. Even under the – somewhat – more efficient system of private insurance, these goals imply trade-offs. There is no way around this fact in the real world. No amount of intelligent organization – leaving aside the fact that the ACA is less of an improvement and more of an added layer of bureaucratic complexity – can erase this trade-off. How can you possibly increase the quality of healthcare for millions of Americans and not pay for it? How can you increase coverage for patients who either couldn’t afford or were seen as high risk by insurers and not have rate increases to cover at least some of the added cost?
Well you do it by a delicate balancing act that inevitably ends up landing on its backside. The two forces at work here, in economic terms, are pooling and moral hazard. At one end of the spectrum, with a free market solution, insurers are drawn to pooling as the more profitable strategy: lower-risk, healthier patients are accepted while higher risk patients are either not accepted or must pay much higher rates. Moral hazard in this case is very low; patients will not over consume health care services and clog the system. At the other end you have a single payer system that funtions with rationing; you need a hip replacement? WeÂ´ll wait a few years and see if you die first to save on costs. There is little pooling, everyone is in the same state-run boat and have to wait their turn to one day hopefully get the treatment they need. Except government officials of course, who seem to get prompt attention under any system. Moral hazard, the wasteful use of resources because there are no disincentives against wasteful or risky behavior, is very high in this case.
Most health care systems in the developed world are some mixture of these two. That means trade-offs, and managing those trade-offs to produce the result aimed for is no easy matter. In the case of Obamacare, patients are passive recipients. In free market solutions, like those proposed by Dr. Ben Carson, patients can take charge of their health the same way people have learned to do with their retirement savings. It still leaves the problem of catastrophe insurance – a bad accident, a fatal disease – and that is where state subsidies should really focus. But when you launch a boat as big as Obamacare, added decks inevitably get built. The result is titanic, but rather than an iceberg that will sink you in the blink of an eye, what you get is a slowly sinking ship that has to bailed out – both by taxpayers and Obamacare users themselves. Rates are going up? No kidding.
House Republicans want to ensure that the $3.7 billion package that is being requested by President Obama to deal with the border crisis is focused on border security measures and does not end up being a blank check that can be spent on anything from daycare for recently arrived illegal minors to the construction of lavish detention centers where the minors would be cared for before being placed with their supposed families in the US. Their counter proposal could theorectically be married with the original legislation that was supposed to deal with sex-trafficking of minors, and ended up having, as they say, unintended consequences. Will the House and Obama be able to agree on some sort of package?
A study by MacGillivray and Smith at NYU on agent-specific punishments examines how conditional punishment strategies make cooperation between states possible. In other words, if America conditions its punishment of a rougue state on that state removing its leader, it incentivizes the rouge state to replace its leader and change its policies. It depends on the long-term gains of cooperating outweighing the short-term benefits of exploiting the partner, i.e. America. The problem with the border crisis is how to decide who is the agent that you should direct your punishment against. Is it the government of Mexico, or El Salvador, or Guatemala, or Honduras? Is it the smugglers, of people, drugs, or weapons, that work the southern border? Or is the agent, if you are a member of the House majority, the administration and its various departments?
To expect cooperation from Mexico or any Central American state on controlling illegal immigration is a non-starter. They conveniently define away illegal immigration as undocumented workers and they tout the rights they should have. That leaves two possible agents: the smugglers, or the administration itself. In this case, maybe House Republicans are already following a conditional-punishment strategy on both levels. Beefing up border security means getting serious with the coyotes that run people, narcotics, and weapons over the border. Withholding approval of the emergency package means letting Obama know that the House wants to be sure the money will be spent on things that solve the crisis and don’t encourage further illegal minors to try their luck at the border. The House should use it’s financial levers to ensure this package helps and does not make things worse. If that involves sending clear messages about consequences to the White House, all the better.
Now after well over a week since the prisoner swap story over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl story broke, the Obama administration has decided to shift responsibility for it to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. After Hagel stated that the decision had been made by a group, the White House is now claiming that he “signed off” on the deal to hand the Sgt. over in exchange for the five Taliban prisoners. Now by law, Secretary of Defense Hagel is required to sign off on such a deal but I get the distinct impression that the administration is using Hagel as a scapegoat in light of the backlash it has received concerning the swap from all political corners. Regardless of how people might feel about Hagel and his policies and views, it is downright disrespectful and shameful for the administration to throw him under the bus this way.
I still have many questions over the story of Sgt. Bergdahl but I will reserve judgment on them until more information is released to the public and an investigation is conducted. I refuse to condemn the man and his plight over the past 5 years until the truth is revealed. What I will not stand for though is a man such as Secretary of Defense Hagel receiving the full brunt of criticism for this exchange before a full investigation is carried out. Fault Hagel for multiple defense-related issues that one might not agree with but to have him take the fall for this administration to save President Obama’s approval ratings from further falling is disgusting.
Secretary of Defense Hagel was brought into this administration under many questions from the right. For starters, he was a Republican who during his Senate tenure was very outspoken against the war in Iraq during the Bush administration, a position which failed to earn him any points in the heart of conservatives or those Americans interested in an active foreign policy. During his confirmation hearings in the Senate last year though, he for the most part faced criticism over his failure to adopt a highly supportive position on Israel and a hawkish stance on Iran; it was perhaps this issue that drew the most criticism of him and not issues that truly affect the U.S. military such as the dangerous increase in suicides or our declining technological advantage against certain possible future opponents.
Whatever the case, Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Since then, Hagel has been accused of directly downsizing the U.S. military to dangerous levels, reducing the security of Israel, and caving into the Russians and Chinese to the detriment of U.S. security among other things. Now, while it may be true that SoD Hagel has supported positions that have played into these negatives, he isn’t the executive who signs off on them. While the SoD is “the principal assistant to the President in all matters relating to Department of Defense” large issues are not handled independently of the president. Don’t think for a second that the SoD operates in a closed environment.
Now to believe that the POTUS wasn’t highly involved in the Bergdahl exchange as this was the first time in how long that the U.S. has conducted a prisoner swap is absurd. Regardless, despite however you feel about the swap, one must accept the fact that it wasn’t solely the result of a decision made by the SoD but of multiple administration officials and at the top, the POTUS himself. Ever since the swap though, public approval of it has rapidly deteriorated as more negative information has emerged. Unfortunately for SoD Hagel, as public disapproval has mounted, so has the blame by the administration for the prisoner swap transitioned from the POTUS to Hagel.
Now I accept the fact that as a member of the public I’m not privy to all the information that is available and the absolute truth might never be known. Regardless whatever the situation concerning Bergdahl may be, it’s the approval granted by the POTUS and not SoD Hagel that secured his release. I for one am sick and tired of this administration and president deflecting blame for every action it takes and placing it on a subordinate. When will this administration adopt the policy of the “buck stops here” rather than always conveniently seeking out a scapegoat.
Alfonso Aguilar, ex Chief of US Office of Citizenship under George W. Bush, has criticized President Obama’s unwillingness to explain his deportation numbers, which are robustly high according to the Administration, That is, when Obama is speaking to a more conservative audience. What the President doesn’t do is explain the deportations to a Democratic, read Hispanic, audience. Aguilar is executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, launched in 2010 by the American Principles Project and focused on developing conservative grass roots movements in the Hispanic community. They have a five part immigration strategy: strengthening border security, a guest worker program that is generous, the promotion of patriotic assimilation, giving priority to criminal cases in domestic enforcement, and legalizing illegal immigrants but with a penalty attached rather than out and out amnesty. That’s an impressive agenda, and it throws up some interesting ideas but one of the main problems is where do you start? Which one comes first or do you try all 5 at once?
This is no easy matter, nor should it be. The aim of their reform has to be stemming the flow of illegals across the border and it makes sense to have a multi-pronged attack that makes it tougher to sneak across the border and lowers incentives to do so illegally. Tighter border security is obvious but how to spend an increased budget to get that done is key. A guest worker program depends on what business needs and wants but it also should depend on what registered voters want. How generous should it be while still claiming to be conservative? Patriotic assimilation seems tautological; shouldn’t all assimilation produce patriots who love the country they have chosen to move to? Whatever their creed or ideology? Well no, but that unfortunately is for another topic. Giving police the resources, legal as well as material, to pursue criminals who cross the border seems painfully obvious, but again necessary to state explicitly in these times. Legalizing with a penalty seems a tricky balance to achieve in practice but is far better than outright amnesty.
So Aguilar’s group has a plan that may help but implementing it will be difficult and most difficult of all, just like the difficulties the President is avoiding, will be convincing conservatives and Hispanics that it is a worthwhile solution in the quest for immigration reform. Let’s hope that the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles continues to make the hard choices when speaking to their own community.
You can’t help but come away energized after listening to Ben Carson. Energized, not necessarily empowered. His clear and convincing proposal to provide an alternative to Obama’s healthcare plan starts with Health Care Savings Accounts, HSA’s, and makes us realize that the viewer can control his or her medical care to a much greater extent than many think possible. By providing that crucial supplement to a High-Deductible Health Plan, or HDHP, an HSA gives the taxpayer control. Not big government, not big insurance. How much to set side, how and where to spend it: you decide that. You take it from job to job and you roll over any unused amounts at year end. Yes, health is unpredictable and serious illness can be very costly. That’s why HDHP plans exist to essentially provide catastrophic insurance and there are still government and other options to cover any expenses left over. We have accepted the change from defined benefit to defined contributions when it comes to pension plans. And despite a financial crisis and a long recession, that process continues. The problem of making an informed choice applies both in pension plans and HSA’s and likely overwhelms many. But ask yourself; do you want an insurance bureaucrat or government employee limiting your choices or do you want to educate yourself about the options and make a reasonably informed choice? That is taking charge, and that is energizing.
But not necessarily empowering. Where does the term empowering come from? It seems to have its birth in social activism of a century ago, and that means the hard left in most cases. The term was coined in a book by Barbara H (not Barbara Probst Solomon) Solomon, Black Empowerment, published in 1976. In other words, the term empowerment comes from various applications of marxist liberation theory and how it was applied to gender and race and sexual orientation and other groups by left wing radicals trying to find their place in the 70′s. The term appears here to stay as it is adopted in a wider variety of settings, among corporate stakeholders, to use one example. Dr. Ben Carson does not need reminding of any of this; he will surely use the term empowerment. When he does, it means something very different from radical sociologists trying to gain converts. Few of us can match the talents of a brilliant mind like his. But we can share his faith that each of us can work towards solving the challenges in our lives. Reading up a little on his site, SaveOurHealthcare.org is one good one way to start. Dr. Ben Carson, take back empowerment! For all of us.
The Senate’s quality of equal representation is a problem for President Obama. All the voters in New York and California, presumed liberal and Democrats in the majority by the frustrated Commander In Chief, only get two senators each. Just like Alaska or Wyoming, the latter state being the example Obama used at a fundraiser in Chicago this past week. Does the President feel that all that gridlock would magically unwind if Senate seats were apportioned by population, making the upper chamber more like the House of Representatives? One hopes his frustrations wouldn’t lead him that far, but it is clear that he is certainly not beyond criticising the Founding Fathers, and especially Roger Sherman, the man most responsible for the Connecticut or Great Compromise of 1787.
To resolve the split among states between the Virginia plan, which favored delegates based on a state’s population, and the New Jersey plan, which favored an equal number of delegates, the idea was arrived at to split what was to have been a single chamber into two houses. The lower chamber would have proportional representation and the upper, equal representation. The authors of this compromise were Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth. Roger Sherman’s life is not merely inspriing, it is astonishing. A self-taught man who established himself at a young age in commerce and local politics in Connecticut, he was asked to read for the bar exam and ended up as justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut from which he departed to join Congress. He is the only person to sign The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Association, The Articles of Confederation and The United States Constitution. He is,of course, a Founding Father and the internal checks and balances between the House of Representatives and the Senate are, in part, the work of his practicality and genius. The Constitution stands over two centuries later as a shimmering example of men like Roger Sherman and their genius, while other attempts at forging Democratic Representative Governments around the world have risen and fallen or collapsed before they could even get a good start.
Roger Sherman’s father, a parish minister whose personal library was the intellectual food for his son’s journey and who died long before he could witness his achievements, was educated at Harvard. Obama had to read some history while at Harvard we can presume. While complaining at that fundraiser in Chicago, perhaps he forgot Thomas Jeffreson’s famous words of introduction, ” This is Roger Sherman, of Connectict, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.”
The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, more commonly known as Boko Haram has thrust itself into the media spotlight as of late with its kidnapping of over 230 schoolgirls. This group seeks to end Westernization (while using weapons that are products of the west) in a region encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger while working towards installing a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia. I’m the type that believes in respecting the ideals of any group, even those that I’m opposed to because who am I to judge the beliefs of others; in this case though, I see this as a particularly despicable group of animals. As a sign of solidarity with the girls, First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted a photo of her holding a sign saying “#BringBackOurGirls.” You tell them First Lady!
So why were these girls captured by this ever so noble group? Well its leader, Abubakar Shekau believes that girls should be denied an education and should instead be married even as young as nine. Since these poor girls defied that, they should now be sold into slavery as Shekau states “slavery is allowed in my religion.” Even sadder, most of these girls are not Muslim but Christian and one must fear ultimately what their fate will be. And this violence isn’t new for them. Driven by fanatics, they’ve killed over 10,000 Muslims and Christians in the past decade in their quest to create a state that contributes nothing to society as a whole.
What should be done? The options at least for the United States are limited. We are providing assistance in finding the abducted girls while military assistance is off the table unless requested by the Nigerian government, a government which mind you had advanced warning of the attack but was unable to respond. Furthermore, morale in the Nigerian army is low; just recently, Nigerian troops fired on a Major General who was blamed for a Boko Haram ambush that killed several Nigerian soldiers. The international community, in the west has been increasing its support against Boko Haram while several high profile Muslim groups and leaders have condemned the group as misguided and acting in contradiction to Islam. Indeed, it has been reported that this group operates with relatively little external support or connections to other Islamic terrorist groups.
So what we have are a group of absolutely crazed fanatics, operating in contradiction to Islam who are either driven by blood lust or borderline intelligence or both. Absolutely disgusting. Now as for the First Lady, her tweet is part of a global campaign for the group to let these girls go. I’m sorry, but a tweet doesn’t cut it in this case. Despite our options being limited, I believe the First Lady can do far more than a simple tweet. Bear in mind, she is the mother of two young girls who are currently in school. I’m tired of this Administration screaming about how we must be respectful to others and that we must be more diplomatic; what we need to do is stop mincing our words. This is a group that deserves neither; what it deserves is to be liquidated. A tweet more along those lines I believe is what this situation calls for.
My thoughts and prayers are with these poor girls and their families. A truly heinous event.
Last week, Vice President Biden was talking tough in the Ukraine. He called on Russia to get the pro-Russian militias in East Ukraine to leave the buildings that they are occupying. Otherwise, Russia might find itself “isolated”. Is Putin shaking in his KGB boots? Hardly. When not making harsh statements about possible military action in the neighboring state, where Russian forces are already at work by all indications, he’s on the phone with President Obama. So as the VP gets as blunt as a European diplomat during the Balkans War, the President negotiates with Putin, or at least chats on the phone with him. In this political theatre — There are real deaths occurring in Donetsk as this theatre plays out — does anyone believe that Russia will adhere to the frayed, if not collapsed, Geneva Accord?
One is sorely tempted to ask: what would President Reagan have done? But perhaps we need to turn to another leader that Reagan surely admired. What would Churchill have done? What is happening in East Ukraine seems to resemble the late forties and the Soviet occupation of Europe, all over again. Donetsk is not Berlin or Prague, but it is a sovereign state under siege if not yet invasion by Russia, where Putin’s ambition to recreate some form of the Soviet Union if not the Warsaw Pact is fairly clear. By the late forties Churchill was out of power and had lost the battle with Roosevelt over whether to confront their former wartime ally. The Iron Curtain had fallen and Operation Unthinkable, the British code name for a planned war with the Soviets, had been shelved. It would have been costly in life and treasure and would have prolonged the war, but might have freed Eastern Europe from Soviet occupation. Does 2014 resemble 1946? That would be dramatic, but Europe’s willingness to stand up to Putin seems to depend on how much gas flows from East to West. In other words, no one wants to confront Putin. There is no Churchill, or Pope John Paul II, or Thatcher, and the best we can hope for is that the ties of commerce and trade that bind Russia with her neighbors to the West will ultimately force Putin and his wealthy backers to show some restraint. And for that, we have President Reagan to thank, who turned the world back towards freedom and achieved what most at the time had believed impossible: he took on the Soviets and won.
In Maryland, the rollout of Obamacare has people rolling up their sleeves and swinging, verbally, at each other. Both people in this case happen to be Democrats, contenders for Governor in the state’s Democratic primary at the end of June. Apparently the rollout was way less than smooth in Maryland where they decided to replace the technology with that used in Connecticut. Douglas Ganser, the state’s Attorney General, derided his opponent, the state’s Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, as not having had a “real job” and presumably not being up to the task of running Maryland and its troubled rollout of Obamacare. The fact that the Lt. Gov. is an attorney wasn’t what got Ganser all fussy and in a fingerpointing mood; Anthony Brown is also an Iraq veteran who, despite serving his country in a war zone, has never had an honest job according to the Attorney General who attacked Brown’s ads where his service is mentioned.
Veteran’s groups are not impressed; Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org called on Ganser to “stop smearing those of us who served in Iraq as not having had a ‘real job’”. Behind the indefensible attack by Ganser is a desperation to prove that he can successfully manage the botched rollout, which the Lt. Gov. was in part responsable for, and prove to his state that Douglas Ganser is the one to bring them Obamacare. Rather than think about changing the act itself, we have ugly smear tactics by the Attorney General. Doing so, he can then win the primary, win the vote, and tinker with Obamacare once safely in office. Having served the country in a warzone, often performing highly complex tasks in an environment that goes way beyond stress, however, is not an asset apparently. Not when wrestling with botched rollouts in Maryland.
Friday morning, embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced she would step down from her post. In response President Obama lauded her accomplishments and claimed due to her work with the ACA, she’s earned the right to retire. Hmm, in the private sector she would’ve been canned months ago.
True Sebelius has done some beneficial things in the healthcare field but her tenure as HHS Secretary will be remembered for one thing, the botched rollout of the ACA. Now she did lead up the roll out of the ACA and oversaw it so one can say the blame for its numerous problems can be placed squarely on her shoulders. I for one disagree to a point on that. The blame should be shared by those subordinates who failed to fulfill their duties, her for failing to run a tighter ship, and the President for failing to further reign in what is the hallmark of his administration.
Sebelius is credited with helping to rectify the problems initially encountered with Healthcare.gov but the problems initially faced should never have been of the magnitude they were. It is unfathomable how the ACA, a sweeping government program that is costing so much and effects so many can be so poorly implemented. I’m not even talking about the actual substance of the ACA which is another story, instead the actual public unveiling. If the government can’t even effectively unveil a series of websites and state exchanges for a program of such great importance and set to cost trillions, imagine how haphazard lesser programs are handled.
And then to hear the President go on about how he will miss her advice and friendship. Oh really. From summer 2010 to two months after the rollout of the ACA, November 2013, the two failed to meet even once for a one-on-one discussion according to the White House calendar. Now I understand when leaders place faith in people and leave them to their own devices. The problem though is this is not just some government program, it’s the Presidents hallmark law. Where was the interest? Furthermore, the President waits until two months after its initial roll out to have a personal meeting. Yes communication was had through different mediums but in all honesty, this required the down to earth discussions that can only be had, through one-on-one meetings.
Rightfully so, much blame has been and will continue to be placed on Sibelius for the disastrous roll out of the ACA. But remember one thing, just as much blame should be placed on her superior, the President for allowing this to happen. Instead of doing the right thing and listening to his advisors, he chose to keep her on so as to not have the Administration appear to be in the midst of a civil war. My memory of this debacle will not be of the mistakes of Sibelius but of the lack of leadership.
The Danger of Underestimating Putin
Conspicuously molding himself into a Tsarist-Soviet-Capitalist hybrid, Vladimir Putin is pushing his greedy agenda as far as it can go, and the combined US and EU sanctions are merely a tickle on his grasping hand.
In some ways Russia isn’t what it used to be, and we don’t ever want to see that despotic regime of automatons again, but in other ways Russia is the same icy behemoth dealt with by President Roosevelt on down. Cold, calculating and single-minded. They couldn’t have picked a better leader (lest we forget, he spent his formative years as a KGB agent specializing in grooming agents to infiltrate the US).
Obama’s missteps aside, generations needs to remember what the Soviet Empire was and what the former-Soviet Empire is capable of. The country has changed since the days of glasnost and perestrioka, certainly, but those missiles are still buried in the tundra and its boomer subs still slouch beneath the seas. As a recent Russian news anchor reminded us, they still have the power to turn us into radioactive dust. Younger generations need to be reminded of this, perhaps by a national airing of The Day After.
Today, too many Americans have an image of Russia as a capitalist democracy wrapped in Cyrillic lettering. That’s far from the reality. Its government censors the news to such a point that news isn’t news, it’s propaganda masked as news (which is far more dangerous than simple propaganda).
I’m not saying a full-on US military intervention is the key, because a war with Russia can only end badly for both sides. But limp-wristed sanctions aimed at key Russians that reduce their wealth from $8 billion to $7 billion isn’t going to drop this new Berlin Wall. In fact, that reaction is exactly what Putin bet on when he first moved into the Crimea and staged its elections.
If it was that easy to take Crimea, why not move into the rest of the Ukraine? The only thing stopping him in a bickering boardroom full of aging bureaucrats, dead set at keeping the peace at any cost, even if that means allowing Putin to restore the Soviet Union piece-by-piece.
Today, President Obama took it upon himself and his pen to sign an order raising the minimum wage for federal worker to $10.10. He said, “Nobody who works full time should have to live in poverty,” adding, “While Congress decides what it’s going to do . . . today I’m going to do what I can to help raise working Americans’ wages.”
Without any regard to Congress, the president explained his decision, “Wherever I can act on my own without Congress, by using my pen to take executive actions . . . that’s what I’m going to do.”
Flashback to 2008, Obama tells America, “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not going through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.”
Pot meet Kettle. We can’t go back, but we can’t forget all of these un-truths moving forward. Obama, Biden, Clinton have got to go. It’s difficult to wrap my head around the fact that people re-elected him. The more people see how much hasn’t changed at all or changed for the better, is an opportunity to redirect the future. Obama’s statements today are perfect example of this.
The Obama Administration nearly spiked the proverbial football when Osama Bin Laden was killed in the Seal Team 6 Raid. Short of dancing in front of the cameras and shouting, the President insinuated that terrorism was, by all accounts, dead and gone. Yet, the Benghazi Attacks through a wrench of sorts into this narrative. Though the Administration scrambled to blame a video against Islam as the main source of the conflict, this could not have been farther from the truth and ultimately the true story was revealed (much to their chagrin). The day our diplomatic personnel were killed in Benghazi, terrorism showed its hand and shouted to the President that though one leader was dead… like cockroaches…their were more waiting to scurry out and do harm to the American people around the world.
The President seemed to handle the situation in Benghazi well…. And by well I mean horribly. Practically ignoring the situation in the Middle East and failing to acknowledge with any type of sincerity that this was a planned and not spur of the moment attack, President Obama barely recognized that there was anything worth investigating. New inquiries into the attacks by those who are refusing to let the truth die at the hands of a careless president have revealed that the leader of the free world was more than just ignorant of the depth of the problem but may be taking a backseat in seeking justice as well.
Investigators are asking why the President and his minions at the State Department failed to put the Benghazi suspect on the terrorist watch list. The cash for justice program has helped to bring numerous perpetrators of violence and terror to justice and yet, the President has failed to ensure that such a move to the list was taken care of. Sure, it’s not solely his responsibility but a bit of pressure for movement wouldn’t hurt… would it?
Generally speaking, there are certain social etiquette rules that aren’t to be broken. When you’re POTUS, there are even higher social standards. Unless you’re as arrogant and egotistical as Barack Obama.
In this photo you our shamless President taking a “selfie” with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa. You don’t take photos at a funeral, nonetheless a selfie. I don’t care who you are.
If this were a video Obama would be saying, “Awesome! Make sure you tag me on Facebook, and check us in at Mandela’s funeral!” Right when you think our President couldn’t be any more pretentious … he goes and does this to totally redeem himself!
The Obama Administration has staked their claim on the importance and need of the Obamacare legislation. Reform the healthcare system, they said. Make it better, they touted. Keep your insurance, the exclaimed. Yet, as many of us warned and others ignored, the large piece of legislation is falling far short of the expectations it was given and even farther away from the perceived feather in the cap that Obama was hoping for.
Negative news of Obamacare’s problems continues to rain down on the Administration. The plan, which was said to be a source of hope for those without insurance as well as those looking to lower their premiums, is not doing any of what it was said to achieve. The majority of those who have signed up and spoken about their experience have said that they are seeing a sharp rise in costs. Further, there are more and more employers dropping their current plans in order to push people toward the Obamacare free exchange. The promise of “if you like it, you can keep it” is not at all representative of reality and, as such, is faltering in achieving the goals that the Obama Administration had wanted. Or maybe they had not wanted reality to be as pleasant as they themselves said.
Further complicating this already bad situation is the lack of technological efficiency of the healthcare.gov website. Kathleen Sebelius, much to her own chagrin, has had to head to Capitol Hill to defend or explain the problems of what was supposed to be the easy way to sign up for the exchange. Only six people, it is being reported, were able to sign up on the website the first day and only thousands more have been able to do so in the month since its inception. So much for creating an easy system Mr. Obama… maybe it’s now time to do the thing that you loathe more than anything else in the world: be humble and apologize. But, I won’t hold my breath.
President Obama is having to admit this week, or at least through surrogates, that he may have had some inkling that millions of Americans would lose their health insurance when Obamacare was enacted. With an austere, almost callous way, Democrats are saying that they recognize that the shift in healthcare mandates, laws, and structures will lead people away from their current care and onto a different system. What is surprising, however, is the unapologetic nature of the President and his Administration for what is essentially lying to the American people. Upon greater reflection, maybe it isn’t surprising at all.
The President has an ego, there is no doubt, and it is not unheard of for a President or powerful politician to carry with them this approach to life. Yet, what is so amazing is the brazen way with which he approaches this ego, demonstrating it at every turn. There is no “I’m sorry for lying” or even an “oh I feel badly.” There is no feigned sincerity or admission of culpability. His ego is his leader and he has no problem falling in lockstep with his own ambitions, regardless of who they may hurt.
Obamacare is a disaster, that is known to most everyone, even the President himself has to know. Yet, it will be enacted and pushed through in the coming years, regardless of whom it hurts. The President doesn’t care if the legislation is right. He cares that he gets what he wants and doesn’t back down. Compromise or even self-reflection is not in the cards for this man and anyone who has even vaguely followed his career will see that. Still, though, it would be nice if for a moment he realized he may have made a mistake and that he needs time to reevaluate the positions he takes. Chances are, though, this will just be another rammed piece of messed up legislation that hurts more than it helps and the President will refrain from caring once again.