Tag: Barack Obama

Bad Plebs! Bad bad plebs!

So last night was a big deal for the Republicans. In the Senate, they surged to 52 seats, with one run-off (Louisiana) and two races that are too close to call (Alaska and Virginia). We’re probably looking at 53-54 seat majority. They will probably also gain about ten seats in the House. They won governor’s mansions in Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts. They lost Pennsylvania mostly because Corbett was extremely unpopular (and deservedly so).

On ballot initiatives, fetal personhood was rejected in two states, legal pot won in two states (and fell shy of supermajority in Florida). Minimum wage hikes also passed in four states.

Anyway, the best part of any election is always the rending of garments, gnashing of teeth and making of excuses by the losing side. Here are just a few things I have learned since the Republicans won the election last night, with my responses in italics:

We shouldn’t be having midterms anyway (For example, the 2006 midterm: WTF?).

The Republicans only won because of evil dirty money (The Republican spending advantage was about 10%. Democrats raised nearly $2 billion in campaign funds).

The Republicans only won because young people didn’t turn out (This is what happens when you confuse the Cult of Obama with a Permanent Democractic Majority).

The Republicans only won because they suppressed the black vote (The Republicans also elected the South’s first black senator in South Carolina).

This was not a rejection of any liberal ideas. (If you identify liberal issues solely by the ones that are popular, sure. But while the public may broadly agree with the Democrats on some specific issues, they disagree with massively with the Democrats’ performance.)

Republicans only won because the adopted liberal positions. (You should read that article, because it basically agrees with everything we’ve been saying: that Democratic policies harm the causes they supposedly support.)

Republicans only won because of redistricting (Apparently, you can redistrict states now).

Democrats only lost because of hate and racism (That’s half true. People do hate $18 trillion in debt and skyrocketing insurance rates).

Republicans only won because the map was unfavorable (It’s the same map Democrats won on six years ago.).

The next few are from various comments sections and I’ll just throw up there for the LOLs:

Republicans only won because we don’t have mandatory voting. Republicans won because of the skewed the polls, making Democrats overconfident. Democrats lost because they didn’t run on their awesome liberal record. Republicans won because they lied about Obama’s record. Republicans won because they had more virgins to sacrifice to the great electoral god, Gerrymaunderkin.

Ok, I made that last one up.

For what it’s worth, I think Republicans won for a variety of reasons. They put together a broader and more appealing party; they stayed away from divisive issues and concentrated on the economy; they let the Democrats beclown themselves. But mostly, I think, it was simple fatigue. The country is tired of Barack Obama. It is tired of Nancy Pelosi. It is tired of Harry Reid. Hell, I’m tired of blogging about them. These three clowns have dominated our politics for almost a decade now and the American people are tired of them. They aren’t over-eager for the Republicans. But the new faces of the GOP — Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Scott Walker, John Kasich, etc. — are certainly a lot less depressing than the Democrats.

Sneaking and Peaking

Holy crap:

One of the more controversial provisions of the Patriot Act was to broaden the “sneak-and-peek” power for federal law enforcement officials. The provision allows investigators to conduct searches without informing the target of the search. We were assured at the time that this was an essential law enforcement tool that would be used only to protect the country from terrorism. Supporters argued that it was critical that investigators be allowed to look into the lives and finances of suspected terrorists without tipping off those terrorists to the fact that they were under investigation.

More than a decade later, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published an analysis on use of the sneak-and-peek power. Just as critics predicted, it’s now a ubiquitous part of federal law enforcement.

According to the EFF, there were over eleven thousand sneak and peek requests in 2013. Of those, only half a percent were terrorism cases. The vast majority were for drug investigations with the remainder for other non-terrorism criminality.

This is the reason why, however much I have criticized Bush for his War on Terror excesses, Barack Obama has been far far worse. It’s not just that sneak-and-peak requests have tripled under his watch. It’s not just the massive expansion of the drone war. It’s not just the explosion of surveillance. It’s that he has now given the bipartisan kiss of approval to all of this. Bush may have started the War on Terror, but Barack Obama has cemented it in place to an excess that would make John Ashcroft blush (Ashcroft, whom you may remember as a favored whipping boy of Democratic pseudo-civil libertarians, refused to extend the domestic surveillance program).

Radley has a few lessons we should learn from this. You should really read the whole thing. Here’s the most important:

Law-and-order politicians and many (but not all) law enforcement and national security officials see the Bill of Rights not as the foundation of a free society but as an obstacle that prevents them from doing their jobs. Keep this in mind when they use a national emergency to argue for exceptions to those rights.

We can not rely on politicians to defend our civil liberties. We must actively use them and defend them. And any intrusion into our liberty must be opposed, no matter what crisis is at hand. If we don’t defend or liberty, who will?

Punting Power

This is pure BS:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told This Week he’d “bring the Congress back” to vote on a new resolution authorizing military force against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but only if President Barack Obama requested one. Congress has received heaps of criticism for staying out of town during the airstrikes against ISIS, with some suggesting they’re happy to avoid a contentious vote on the issue.

Boehner reprised his line that typically the president initiated the resolution, a position of faux-politesse that the Daily Show already mocked last week. This led George Sephanopoulos [sic] to wonder if Boehner was avoiding the vote because it might split his party ahead of the midterms, something he said was whispered to ABC News political reporter Jeff Zeleny.

Boehner further opines that the existing AUMF is enough for Obama to act on.

One of the reasons Barack Obama has been allowed to usurp so much power is because Congress has allowed him to. Almost all legislative powers reside with Congress, yet they stand around while he rules by executive order, rewrites the laws to his purpose and starts wars on his own. The war-making power lies with Congress. Yet, for the second time, they are allowing the President to start bombing another country. Yes, the President is supposed to ask for their authorization. But they are supposed to assert their authority on this. They should be meeting right now either to give the President the authority to attack Syria or to refuse it. And if he won’t comply, they can exercise the power of the purse to cut the funding.

Stephanopoulos sideswipes the issue by noting this would potentially split the Republican Party. There is a significant fraction that would oppose this but they are still a small minority. The real issue is that the Republicans — like everyone else — have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, ISIS is horrific: a radical Islamist regime that is imposing severe sharia over the regions they control, murdering ethnic and religious minorities and spreading terror over the region. On the other hand, do we really need another boondoggle in the Middle East? Do we really want to spend the treasure and lives needed, even assuming we can destroy ISIS?

It’s a hard debate. I can see why Congress wants to avoid it. But having hard debates is part of their fucking job description. The Civil Rights debate was hard too. So was the Vietnam War. Balancing the budget in the 90’s was hard. But those Congresses argued, debated and eventually voted. They did their job. And they were held responsible for it, a nation that terrifies our current leaders.

This is pure cowardice. It’s the same cowardice the Congress showed in 2003 when, rather than declare war on Iraq, they punted that authority to the President. They didn’t want to oppose it. But they didn’t want to take responsibility if it went wrong. And sure enough, when it went wrong, the Democrats said, “Well, we didn’t declare war on Iraq; we left that decision to Bush!”

Make a decision, guys. Have the debate. We’re dropping bombs on two countries and have over four hundred boots on the ground. If this goes wrong, it’s still on you for failing to stop it. Get your lazy asses back to Washington and do your damned job.

Bombing Iraq Again

We’re at war in Iraq again. In an effort to prevent the brutal genocide of the Yazidi religious minority by ISIS, we began dropping humanitarian supplies on the refugees. That has now escalated to bombing of ISIS artillery. Right now, Obama is promising the engagement will be “limited”. We will see.

The CIA Lies … Again

I’m away again this week, but thought I’d pop and note that the CIA, which previously pretended they weren’t spying on the Senate, did recently admit that they were spying on the Senate as the Senate prepared their report on the CIA’s torture program. This confirms my earlier judgement that the CIA is yet another rogue agency with a lying director, a distinction it now share’s with Obama’s NSA, IRS, DHS, ATF and Justice Department. I thus expect him to respond with the same lack of action.

The refusal of Obama to hold the members of these agencies accountable for their abuses tells you all you need to know about what he thinks of their actions.

Update: Sullivan:

Either the rule of law applies to the CIA or it doesn’t. And it’s now absolutely clear that it doesn’t. The agency can lie to the public; it can spy on the Senate; it can destroy the evidence of its war crimes; it can lie to its superiors about its torture techniques; it can lie about the results of those techniques. No one will ever be held to account. It is inconceivable that the United States would take this permissive position on torture with any other country or regime.

The Impeachment Canard

Over the course of Obama’s Presidency, there have been occasional rumblings to impeach him. These rumblings got a little attention a few weeks ago when Sarah Palin — who has no official position with the GOP — called for Obama to be impeached. But for the most part, the idea is being ignored. Conservatives are well aware that Democrats control enough of the Senate to block anything and that an impeachment fight would do little to benefit the country or them (even assuming appropriate “high crimes and misdemeanors” could be identified to fit the bill). You can peruse Hot Air, NRO, The Daily Caller, Town Hall … you’ll find little apart from shrugging. Conservative just aren’t that obsessed with the idea.

You know who is obsessed with the idea? Liberals:

Consider, for example, the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words database, which tracks words spoken in the House and Senate. So far in July, there have been 10 mentions of the term “impeachment” in Congress and four others of the term “impeach.” Eleven of the 14 mentions have been made by Democratic rather than Republican members of Congress, however.

Impeachment chatter has also become common on cable news. On Fox News this month, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, called for Obama’s impeachment, for instance. But for every mention of impeachment on Fox News in July, there have been five on liberal-leaning MSNBC.

In July, Fox News mentioned impeachment 95 times, or about three times a day. MSNBC mentioned it 448 times. And the trend was only going up at the end of the month.

Now why is this becoming such a big thing among liberals? Well, need you ask:

The Democrats’ congressional campaign arm pulled in $2.1 million in online donations over the weekend — the best four-day haul of the current election cycle — largely propelled by fundraising pitches tied to speculation that House Republicans could pursue the impeachment of President Obama.

Democrats have consistently used impeachment — a prospect that has been floated by several prominent conservatives but has not been embraced by most of the Republican establishment — to fill their campaign coffers, and their polling has shown that fear of an impeachment attempt as well as the House GOP’s efforts to sue Obama have the potential to drive midterm voter turnout on the left.

Ding! Or maybe I should say “Ka-ching!”

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course. For as long as I can remember, the Democrats have run on the platform that the evil Republicans are going to take away social security, gut Medicare, start World War III, send your job to Mexico, destroy the environment, impeach Obama and cancel Arrested Development. Fear is what they do; security is what they offer. And both are lies.

Now the Democrats and their defenders will point out that it was Republicans who first raised this idea. And that’s true. But the GOP leadership and most conservative pundits almost immediately dismissed it. The Democrats will also point out that the GOP made a potential impeachment of Bush an issue in 2006. That’s also true. But as Silver points out, the disparity in concern over the issue wasn’t nearly as dramatic (374 mentions for Fox against 206 for MSNBC over the first seven months of the year). Nor did it reach fever pitch this call has. Moreover, the Democrats actually introduced articles of impeachment against Bush in 2008, something I don’t see the Republicans doing any time soon.

It tells you how thin the veneer of confidence is among Democrats that the mere whisper of impeachment from a Fox News pundit can send them into this kind of tizzy. It’s going to be very ugly when they lose power.

Republicans Also Responsible for Obama’s High School Grades

The Brookings Institute came out with a study last week that looks at failures by the federal government. It concludes what we’ve talked about many times: that the federal government is fumbling the ball more and more often:

The federal government is failing now more than ever. That’s the conclusion of a unique taxonomy of federal ball-dropping just released by Paul C. Light, a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The study tracks the growing failure rate through the past five presidents. While many factors contribute to the generally increasing frequency of bureaucratic failures, the fluctuating numbers do reflect on an administration’s overall managerial competence. Light believes that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush led especially competent White House teams. Reagan, his study shows, averaged 1.6 failures per year during the final part of his term.

On the other hand, George W. Bush’s administration was the most failure-ridden of them all. W. averaged 3.1 failures per year – overseeing more than twice as many annual failures as his father.

Of course, by Light’s account Obama isn’t looking too hot either – he’s currently running 2.9 failures per year, with a little over two years two go. “Good government is not just a function of good laws, it’s also a function a faithful execution,” he said. In that area, President Obama does not get good grades. “Probably the lowest of any post-war president,” said Light in an interview. “I’d give him a C- on attentiveness, and a D on reform.”

In the report, Light writes that Obama promised reform and modernization but “he never followed through. He was either too distracted to concentrate, too bored by the nitty gritty of management or too frightened of the Republican backlash to make the effort needed to make big government work.”

First of all, I’ll say right out that I am dubious of this “study”. It seems to consist mainly of scouring the news for bad things and blaming them on the government. There is little rhyme or reason to it. The Navy Yard shooting is listed as a government failure, for example, while the S&P credit downgrade is not.

That aside, I think his basic conclusions is correct, give or take a few failures. This Administration is showing a staggering incompetence at executing even the most basic functions of government. They are light years behind Reagan or Bush 41 or Clinton. The reason is what I’ve said for a long time: a President has to be more than just a good speaker with some ideas. He has to be … an executive. He had to run the government.

It’s true that the government wasn’t running terribly well when Obama came into office. I agree with Light’s assessment of the Bush 43 Administration as incompetent. But all Presidential administrations inherit problems. All government agencies accumulate cruft over the years that impedes their functioning. Good Presidents — Reagan, Clinton, Bush 41, Eisenhower — understand that you have to periodically overhaul government agencies or they get bogged down in their own red tape. Obama has done none of this. He’s just given the government more and more and more to do and then acted all surprised when it can’t do it.

However … Light simply can’t resist the Cult of Obama. In the end, the real villains out there are .. brace yourself … Republicans. Some of this is the usual blame of the previous Administration (although Bush apparently take all the blame for 9/11 even though he was only nine months into office and the only prior warning was a vague assessment that Al-Qaeda was going to strike in the US). But there’s also this:

Republicans exploited the Democratic cowardice by doing everything in their power to undermine performance. They stonewalled needed policy changes, and made implementation of new programs as difficult as possible; they cut budgets, staffs, and collateral capacity to a minimum, proving the adage that the logical extension of doing more with less is doing everything with nothing; they used the presidential appointments process to decapitate key agencies, and appointed more than their share of unqualified executives; and they muddied mission, tolerated unethical conduct, and gamed the performance measure process to guarantee failing scores for as many government policies as possible.

This is … not to put too fine a point on it … bullshit. Almost all of Obama’s failure are his own damned fault. Very few can be pinned on Republican obstructionism or Democratic “cowardice” (Democrat cowardice being defined as a refusal to enact the most radical far Left agenda imaginable). Let’s go through the Obama failures they list one by one and see where the blame lies:

  • The Deep Water Horizon Spill. It has been fashionable for people to blame this on “deregulation” or regulatory capture. Even if that were true, Obama had been President for two years and had appointed his own people to run federal agencies. But it’s not true. The Deepwater Horizon Study Group — based out of that bastion of conservative ideology UC Berkeley — concluded that it was BP’s fault for being lax on safety and not meeting existing standards for safety. This was a corporation cutting corners in appalling ways. There’s no regulatory regime on Earth that could oversee every single aspect of an oil company’s platform.
  • The Boston Marathon Bombing, the Fort Hood Shooting, the Undie Bomber. In all three cases, there was prior warning that something bad was going to happen. And in all three cases this was ignored. But to blame this on “cutting budgets” is mind-boggling. Homeland security is one of the most massively overfunded agencies in the government. The WaPo itself did an expose on just how much money is being poured into national security.
  • Benghazi. Budget cuts did not cause the Benghazi debacle. The State Department ignoring warnings about a dangerous volatile situation. And then they compounded their error by trying to pretend it was a spontaneous protest that no one could have foreseen. Every investigation has concluded that this was the result of State Department incompetence, not evil Republican budget-cutting.
  • The Navy yard Shooting. I’m not sure how any government program — other than seizing all the guns in the country — would stop a nut from smuggling a gun into a building and blowing people away.
  • Healthcare.gov. This one was all on Obama. They bid it out to a shaky company, lied about how well it was going and then launched a flaky buggy website rather than wait a few months to fix it to avoid any political heat.
  • The VA Scandal. This problem has been building for a long time, long before any mythical Republican obstructionism. And Obama had six years of warnings about it and did nothing.
  • Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion. The liberals were blaming this on deregulation before the debris even hit the ground. And the investigation has concluded that regulations were lax. But they also criticized the company for cutting corners and criticized local and state regulators for dropping the ball. And again, it’s not like Obama demanded more funds to inspect fertilizer plants.
  • Secret Service Columbia Hooker Scandal. The only scandal here is that the agents tried to stiff some legal sex workers out of their money. This was not because of a lack of oversight or budget cuts.
  • IRS scandal. This wasn’t a lack of money, despite desperate attempts by such as Vox to argue that it was. It’s true that the IRS didn’t have the resources to thoroughly investigate all the 501(c)(4) groups applying for status. But they responded to this not with random investigations but by targeting groups that they thought opposed the President. This was abuse of the system by the supposed overseers. And we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it.
  • NSA Leaks. This is a scandal and not the NSA’s abusive programs? In any case, the NSA does not lack for funding and Obama has resisted any attempts at more thorough oversight.
  • Chevy Cobalt recalls. Can’t pin this one on Republicans. They’re not the ones who put together this “controlled bankruptcy”.
  • General Services Administration Conference: You may remember this one: the GSA blew $800,000 on a Vegas luxury trip. The thing is … the GSA are the government’s overseers. This isn’t a matter of budget cuts. This is a matter of quis custodiet ipsos custodes? That’s supposed to be Obama or his cabinet.
  • Operation Fast and Furious. Yeah, Republican were all about gun-walking.
  • I would add one more to that list: the Border Crisis. The Border Patrol are overwhelmed by the current crisis and the problem throws its roots down in long-term policy. However, Obama wasn’t exactly screaming for more resources or demanding changes in the law. If anything, he’s neglected the border and ignored the exploding violence in Central America.

    Look over that list. Maybe you can shade some blame on Republicans for the fertilizer plant explosion or the VA scandal. Both of those problems long pre-date Obama. But even in those two cases, it wasn’t like he was screaming for more resources to deal with them. He has neglected the basic oversight duties of the government and then, when it literally blows up, tries to blame it on Republicans.

    But even punting those two, almost all of Obama’s failure are the result of incompetence or idiocy by members of the Administration. Almost none were a result of Republicans “gutting” spending and oversight or intimidating the President. They are the result of a disorganized bumbling Administration that can’t manage the basic functions of government but is constantly coming up with new ones for it to try out.

    Going Dark For A Week

    So I’m off to the Land of the Big Sky tomorrow, heading out to Montana to visit some relatives. I will also be spending some time seeing Yellowstone and other national treasures before Obama leaves us all completely skint. That means I’ll go mostly dark for the next ten days: few if any posts or tweets. What little time I have for computers is going to be spent writing.

    The one topic I did not get into but wanted to was the growing crisis at our border. I can only say that I agree with a of what Doug Mataconis says here. This is not a club for the parties to beat each other with over the issue of illegal immigration. This is a refugee crisis: parents sending their children to America in the desperate hope of avoiding a growing horror of drug violence in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Most of these people are showing at border checkpoints and asking for asylum, not trying to sneak in. These are minors faced with the choice of joining in the violence or being a victim of it. There are no easy solutions to this. We simply can’t open our borders to hundreds of thousands of minors.

    The situation has has been exacerbated, as bad situations usually are, by idiotic laws. In this case a Bush-era law that, in an effort to combat human trafficking, decreed that unaccompanied minors could not just simply be sent back; and an Obama-era law that was targeted at Mexican children but has given Central Americans the impression that children can easily get asylum here. Those laws needs to be changed and more resources need to devoted to the problem. Our border patrol are simply overwhelmed. But I expect nothing to be done because Congress and the President would rather argue about unrelated issues.

    While I’m away, I expect the usual week from our political system: Obama will screw up again or some scandal news will emerge so that the MSM can ignore it; any good economic news will be attributed to Obama while bad news will be blamed on “austerity”; any setback in the Culture Wars — no matter what — will be attributed to the Hobby Lobby decision. Paul Krugman will say something smug and dumb. And Vox will there to Voxsplain how we really don’t understand the issues anyway.

    Such is life in the political blogosphere. It will be good to have a week to clean out my mental spark plugs.

    Barack Obama: TV Genius

    What the heck?

    It seems like there are as many Emmy categories as television programs — and at least one of them is big enough to include President Obama.

    Obama’s appearance this year on Between Two Ferns — a Web-based parody talk show hosted by comedian Zach Galifianakis — was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program.

    The president did the program in an effort to reach young people about signing up for health insurance.

    Obama, Galifianakis, and Between Two Ferns are competing for an Emmy in an eclectic category that includes mini-episodes of the sitcom Parks and Rec as well as the Super Bowl halftime show.

    I actually have never watched that episode of Between Two Ferns or any episode of it since a) I have no need to see Barack Obama flog his policies; b) I’m not a fan of Galifianakis. Maybe it’s the most brilliant thing ever; I can’t say. And it’s only an Emmy, an award that means less than Montpelier Dogcatcher of the Year.

    But … come. On. What other undeserved awards need to be showered on this man? He’s already won a Nobel Peace Prize for … gracing with planet with his presence. And he won a Grammy Award for managing to read his book all the way through. Should he win a Hugo for the science fiction that is his NASA policy? A Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 2015 budget proposal? An Academy Award for Best Actor for all the times he’s pretended he only found out about a scandal when it was “on the news”?

    The hero worship of this man in some sectors is truly deranged.

    Obamanomics On the March

    The economy contracted almost three percent in the first quarter, the worst quarter since the end of the Great Recession. Maybe it’s a blip, but that is a scary number. I’m sure the Obama defenders will blame it on the cold weather but I’m pretty sure we had cold weather in the past. Eventually, this will be Bush’s fault. Or “austerity”.

    This is horrible news, whatever your politics. While I oppose Obama, I want the country to do well. But we may be staring down a double dip recession.

    Update: Before the liberal spin master get in, keep in mind that we just remade a quarter of our economy with Obamacare. Seven million people changed insurance or bought insurance. The idea that this has nothing to do with the GDP strain credulity.