Tag: obama

Obama Whacks Russia

By comparison of Obama to Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather is looking more and more apt:

President Barack Obama took unprecedented steps Thursday to retaliate against alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, prompting vows from Russian authorities that Moscow will respond in kind.

The administration described Russia’s involvement as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities” and sanctioned six Russian individuals and five Russian entities, as well as ordering dozens of Russian diplomats to leave the country. This is the first time the names of Russian officials involved in the hacking have become public on the sanctions list.

Obama said 35 Russian diplomats have been ordered to leave the country and two Russian compounds are being closed under Thursday’s actions.

“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government,” a White House statement said. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

According to statements from the White House and the Treasury Department, the government has sanctioned nine entities and individuals over their alleged interference in the election: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s operations. The US also sanctioned two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.

I think this is appropriate, assuming the CIA is correct about Russian interference. The point is not that Russia “won” the election for Trump. The point is that they are sewing doubt and discord and trying to humiliate the US. It also, again, is about boxing Trump into a corner where he will have to actively lift the sanctions if he wants to kiss Putin’s butt.

The Obama-Israel Kerfuffle

The last week has been a bit fraught for US-Israeli relations. Last week, the US abstained from, rather than veto, a UN resolution condemning settlements in the West Bank. The US has abstained from or even supported condemnations of Israel before. But this one was unusually harsh. The Administration’s actions were condemned by Israel and Trump. Israel began expansion of the settlements in retaliation. And, today, Kerry gave a speech blasting the settlements as a threat to peace.

The Right Wing has gone with their default explanation (encouraged by Netanyahu) that Obama just hates Israel. If so, this hatred is hard to see. Obama has continued to give Israel $3 billion a year in military aide, was practically the only leader to support them during the War on Hamas and has, until now, blocked any UN actions against them. There is a profound disagreement between Obama and Israel on the Iran Deal. But the GOP seems to think that the proper relationship with Israel is to give them money, support everything they do and maybe go to war with Iran. As often I disagree with Obama’s foreign policy (such as it is), the alternative the GOP seems to prefer is just as silly. And let’s get some perspective here. The Administration has firmed up their opposition to the settlements which every Administration, Republican or Democrat, has opposed and which every Administration, Republican or Democrat, has seen as a problem for creating peace. Not as a big a problem as Palestine’s refusal to let Israel exist, but a problem nonetheless.

If I had to guess, I would say one of two things is going on here.

First, this may be Obama doing an end-of-the-Godfather settling of business. It’s no secret that Netanyahu has been a thorn in his side for the last eight years: opposing the Iran deal, which Obama saw a lasting legacy; expanding the settlements; meeting with the opposition party; interfering with … whatever it is Obama thinks he’s doing in Syria. So this may be one last slap in the ongoing slap fight between the two Administrations.

There’s another possibility and one I think is more likely: that Obama’s trying to tip Netanyahu out of office. Netanyahu’s approval ratings tend to be poor and he is currently mired in a corruption scandal. It’s possible that this could help tip him out of office, potentially putting someone in office who is less of a hardliner. Of course, it’a also possible it would make the Israelis rally behind him or replace him with someone who take an even harder line. But with Trump less than a month away from office, Obama might be trying to make Trump’s Israel policy, which includes moving our embassy to Jerusalem, harder to implement.

Or it may just be amateur hour. The problem with Obama’s supposed six-dimensional chess is that it’s often hard to tell the difference between six-dimensional cheese and just randomly bumbling around.

President Remembers that He’s President; Holds Press Conference

He’s using the bully pulpit on tax increases for the wealthy.  Cannot hold back this tide, guys.

First question right out of the gate: Petraeus and confidential information compromised?

Consider this your open thread on the Presidential Press Conference.  God knows when we’ll see another, if at all.

Please, please, please let secession come up…

Administration Expectations

I’m more interested in what happens after Inauguration Day than what happens on Election Day. As much as I want Obama out of office, I wonder how much it would really matter if he loses. My own sense is that his election is all about who is going to be holding the bag of shit when it finally breaks.

As I’ve said in another thread, I think Romney is going to win on Tuesday (assuming that the ballots are all counted and there aren’t any court challenges to deal with). I like Romney and even favored him in 2008. Not that I had any special love for anti-gun, big capitalist, Mormon governors from liberal states. I simply thought he was the best qualified because of his executive experience. His positions are a bit (to put it mildly) flexible and I can easily see him being a Bush-style disappointment on the domestic policy front. But I’m not here to give reasons to vote for or against him. Hal has done an utterly thorough job of it already. Obama could win too, sure. Sometimes my foresight is blinded when I confuse what is happening with what I hope will happen. It’s why I try to stay emotionally unattached. Maybe enough people believed Bill Clinton when he said at the DNC that nobody could have reversed the damage in four years and Obama will pull it together if we just give him another term.

One of these two assholes is going to win, that’s all we know. If Romney wins, he comes into office with a Democratic Senate Majority (or Minority, not sure what to expect here) Leader who has already vowed not to work with him. He will also have a hostile press that will suddenly start noticing again how jacked up our economy and foreign policy are. The potential for a quagmire is limitless. What can he do?

Obama will suffer with an uncooperative House and maybe a Senate. Reid has been, at best, unhelpful to Obama so I have to wonder how much good it would do for Democrats to hold the Senate with an Obama win. Worse, if he wins, it will because of the angry, fearmongering campaign he ran. The divisiveness is not going to fade away just because he squeaks by in a narrow win. Bush made this mistake in 2004 and paid for it dearly the minute he tried to accomplish anything. He was right that something needed to be done, but the other side found that it was better and safer to reject compromise. They turned out to be right–for their own political gain.

Traditionally, presidents in their second terms face scandals and don’t seem to accomplish much. Reagan had Iran/Contra, Clinton had his privates made public, and Bush was simply ground down by Iraq and Katrina. Obama already has Benghazi percolating, even though most of the news media is helpfully keeping the story quiet and not asking a lot of pesky questions until the election is safely over. Obama will do what what he has been doing for the past two years: throwing up executive orders with zero permanence beyond 2016. I suspect that if he wins, he’ll leave a hollow legacy and ultimately destroy the Democratic brand for at least 12 years (to the extent he hasn’t already; we’ll know soon enough).

That’s not a reason to want him to win, but it just highlights the impossibility for either one to accomplish anything with his bag of shit. That bag contains the long-awaited double-dip recession, more credit downgrades, the possibility of inflation, rising threats overseas, and on and on and on. Gridlock is great when we want to avoid the kind of populist overspending that drives us further into debt, but when the government is so dysfunctional that it refuses to pass a budget for four years even as credit agencies continue to warn it about its recklessness, we should worry.

The questions I have are:

1. Are Americans just too divided and partisan to work with those on the other side of the aisle to solve major policy problems? If so, we are well and truly fucked.

2. What sacrifices does each side need to make to effect a Great Compromise to seriously address the economic and debt crisis? I say that the GOP needs to allow some of the Bush tax cuts to expire since they’re clearly not having any stimulative effect at this point while the Democrats need to give up some of their sacred cows.

3. What the hell is it going to take to get away from this 47% vs 47% nonsense where both parties favor their base and win elections by lying to independents? Are we really that divided or is there common ground somewhere?

Recently, Matthew Dowd wrote a fantastic article about the need for a “peace accord” after the election between divided Americans and I like his thinking. We are way too obsessed with seeing points scored against the other side while ignoring the fact that nobody is driving the bus. This isn’t going to change just because Romney or Obama wins and will only get worse if the outcome is seen as questionable. Somebody needs to win BIG and it just isn’t in the cards.

But how do we do this peace accord thing? Are there any people in government/media/anywhere who have the credibility and know-how to even negotiate this? We can’t seem to quit looking past getting our team into office to realize that the people we elect aren’t governing.

I’ll do my part and turn out to vote, but I’m keeping my expectations safely low until I see evidence that the electorate even wants leadership. Right now, I’m not seeing it and that’s why we’re going to be stuck with nothing but the fool who wins.

Rahm Emanuel was right about not letting crises “go to waste” and it’s obvious that nothing is going to happen until disaster is staring us in the face. In the end, I guess I’m only voting for Romney because I’m less afraid of what he’ll do with it. Anyway, sorry to fill your weekend with darkness!

Poll Fatigue

All of the Serious Conservative Blogs have been killing me with annoyed boredom over their obsession with polls. Not since high school have I given fewer fucks about the use for math. The only thing I can tell from pollsters like Rasmussen is that Romney is either going to win in a glorious landslide or suffer a heartbreaking but very close defeat.

For my part, I think Romney will win comfortably (for whatever that’s worth; look for a post on this over the weekend). But I get that from my own sense of the country’s direction and the behavior of the two campaigns. Is Obama really defending his record? Is he laying out a coherent 2nd Term plan beyond “I’m Not Romney and Not Me From the Past Four Years Either”?

Also, I look at the most meaningful quantifiable measurement: Money! One campaign is bringing it in and spending it in states that the other won comfortably last time. The other one is taking out loans and pulling ground operations out of certain states that it won in 2008.

Polls are great for filling a slow news day, but what exactly do we get out of it that we can’t see for ourselves? When I read the comments sections on some stories about polls, I want to laugh at the people who say, “Hey, I counted X Romney signs in my neighborhood and only X Obama signs here!” Not because they’re ignorant, but because I’ve also found that to be a reliable indicator of how a state will probably vote. In 2004, I travelled the country a lot on business. I noticed the signs and accurately predicted the way each state would go except Pennsylvania. In the end, my method was more effective in identifying the winner than Zogby. It doesn’t require the hard science and money that Zogby spent either.

There’s a lot of noise out there this week and will be until Election Day. Leave the polls out of this. What do YOU see coming? I don’t care if it’s a gut feeling. Who’s going to win?

Flags of Our Fathers

You know, it never fails. Just when the Democrats have the Republicans on the ropes on the birth control thing, they remind us of just how stupid they can be:

An American flag with President Obama’s image in place of the stars flew over a Florida county’s Democrat headquarters long enough to enrage local veterans who called the altered banner “a disgrace.”

Lake County Democratic Party officials took down the flag, which flew just below a standard Old Glory on the flagpole outside headquarters in Tavares following complaints by local veterans. But merely taking it down wasn’t enough for several local veterans, who said they fought for the flag Betsy Ross made famous, not one with a politician on it.

Modifying a flag that way is, in fact, illegal, although I’ve heard of it being enforced.

I’m not going to get all harumphy about this. It crosses me as more stupid than evil. But you have to wonder what these morons were thinking. Did they think no one would notice? Did the forget that Americans kinds of like their flag? Did they forget that they live in Florida with 168 million retirees who take this stuff seriously? This is even worse than the 2008 debacle when a Democratic campaign headquarters had an image of mass murderer Che Guevara on the wall.

Honestly, who is that dumb?

Next Time, Mr. President, Just Bring A Fruit Basket

Why do the Obama’s hate the French? Could it be that since both have taken office, Sarkozy has acted more American and Obama has acted more French like?

Consensus might point to a giddy president, overseas, out of arm’s swing, just basking in the news that the leading GOP contenders are mud wrestling with each other, lending credence that Obama is always above the fray. But those that have been paying any attention at all can marvel at Obama’s ability to step on his junk, even when nobody’s watching.

This week the president is over in Cannes, France attending the latest G20 summit. We all remember how dazzling he was at last years summit, where nobody was particularly impressed with his self imposed awesomeness:

Europe spurns Obama’s plea for more spending
—–
President Obama wants to slow Europe’s headlong rush to austerity. But right now he looks like little more than a speed bump for the cutback crowd.

Yeah, the rest of the world has already figured out that all that Keynesian stuff doesn’t work, but he keeps trying.

So this year, he thought a new approach was warranted, good on him, and nothing like insulting your host endears yourself to the group:

President Obama came, he saw, he insulted.

“Obama insults Sarkozy,” blared the headline on one French website, taking umbrage at Mr. Obama’s wayward remark at the G20 summit here about the physical appearance of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr. Obama thought he was making a gentle joke about Mr. Sarkozy, host of the summit, when he congratulated Mr. Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni on the birth of their baby daughter on Oct. 19. Instead, Mr. Obama caused a minor international incident.

This diplomacy stuff is harder then giving a toast to the Queen of England.

Making a joke at the little guy’s expense, how original, what? no guy in a wheelchair you can push over?

And Michelle is no better, she don’t take a hankering to anyone upstaging her by flashing a pretty face:

Maybe tomorrow our president can walk over and give Angela Merkel a titty twist.

Wanted: BHO

Yeah, good luck with that:

[Some Majorca lawyer] lodged a written complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing the US president of breaching the Geneva Convention.

Navy Seals acting on Mr Obama’s orders shot the al-Qaeda leader dead on May 2 after storming his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In his written complaint, the Majorca-based lawyer said bin Laden should have been “pursued, arrested, tried and convicted” on behalf of “the victims of some terrible and appalling atrocities”. The killing of bin Laden was even worse as it took place in foreign territory, Pakistan, without the permission of that government, he said.

This is one of the reasons I was relieved that the US never ratified the ICC agreement. The chance that the ICC will call a trial on Obama for killing a declared enemy of the United States in battle is almost zero. But do we really want that potential hanging over their heads?

As it happens, even this complaint is garbage. Obama did pursue this man and tried to arrest him. But when you have a man whose followers frequently wire themselves with explosives, play dead in order to draw in soldiers and medics and see glorious suicide as their best option, you shoot first and ask questions later. This isn’t an instance of shooting a defenseless person in custody. This is shooting someone in a potential combat situation.

And what it really is a some lawyer trying to draw attention to himself. Well too bad, pud-knocker. I left your name out of the block quote.

War Powers? What War Powers?

I have emerged from my proposal hermitage. And in the time between now and the rapture (be sure to set your alarms!), I’m starting to wonder: does anyone give a shit about the law anymore?

President Obama may be on the brink of breaking the law.

At issue: The 1973 War Powers Act, which says if the president does not get congressional authorization 60 days after military action, the mission must stop within 30 days.

The president formally notified Congress about the mission in Libya with a letter on March 21, which makes Friday the 60-day deadline.

Administration officials don’t yet feel compelled to seek such permission and some party leaders have been satisfied with the information flow so far, but still, inaction is angering other lawmakers from both the left and the right who rarely agree on anything.

Let’s be blunt, shall we? The President is not “maybe” breaking the law; he is breaking the law. He was on shaky ground to begin with — the President should have used the War Power for rapid action and then gotten Congressional approval. But he doesn’t even seem remotely inclined to comply with the law. And our Congressional leaders can’t be bothered to press him on it. And do I even need to remind everyone that the Eeevil Tyrannical Bush complied with the War Powers Act? As has every other President? (Clinton may have broken it in Kosovo.)

Of course, they did find time to work out a deal to extend the Patriot Act, which expires in a week, for four years with zero additional oversight. When it comes to gobbling up liberties, deadlines are absolutely vital. But limiting the power of the President? Meh.

Update: The more I think about this, the more annoyed I get. We’ve gone from a situation where Congress took the War Power with the seriousness it deserves to the eve of the Iraq War, when they essentially punted any responsibility back to the President, to now, when they’re just too busy to bother.

The simply don’t want to take responsibility — either for ending our Libyan escape or continuing it. They’re happy to just blame Obama for it (as they blamed Bush for Iraq). It’s disgusting.

Update: Obama has no graciously asked Congress to authorize the war. Consider me unmollified. The President should have been seeking and Congress should have been debating this from day one.

Transparency!

Or not:

The White House Press Office has refused to give the Boston Herald full access to President Obama’s Boston fund-raiser today, in e-mails objecting to the newspaper’s front page placement of a Mitt Romney op-ed, saying pool reporters are chosen based on whether they cover the news “fairly.”

“I tend to consider the degree to which papers have demonstrated to covering the White House regularly and fairly in determining local pool reporters,” White House spokesman Matt Lehrich wrote in response to a Herald request for full access to the presidential visit.

“My point about the op-ed was not that you ran it but that it was the full front page, which excluded any coverage of the visit of a sitting US President to Boston. I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the President’s visits,” Lehrich wrote.

Shorter WH: If you don’t carry the talking points and push the agenda, but only point out that we are playing people, we don’t want you here. Now get with the program or else! Seriously, can you imagine the outcry if Bush had pulled a stunt like this?