The Bigger Picture

Dorothy:         I don’t like this forest! It’s dark and creepy!

Scarecrow:     Of course I don’t know, but I think it’ll get darker before it gets lighter.

Dorothy:         Do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals?

Tin Man:        Mmmmmmm.  We might.

Scarecrow:     Animals that—that eat straw?

Tin Man:        Some, but mostly lions, and tigers, and bears.

                        —Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and Jack Haley as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz

 

Oh, my.

Those of you who have been following the news—at least as it gets reported by outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report—are aware that the Benghazi fiasco has resurfaced.  In the wake of fresh emails released after a court order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Judicial Watch, House Speaker John Boehner has finally moved to convene a special committee to investigate the administration’s response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  I will touch more on that below, but it occurs to me that there is a broader issue here.

One of the hazards of focusing so much on the news of the day—and, I suppose, a collateral benefit to the administration of having serial scandals—is we tend to forget the news of yesterday.  In so doing, we lose the forest—the broader pattern of behavior—for the trees.  More importantly, we tend not to inquire about the underlying reason for that pattern.

We don’t ask why.

Rewind to October 2008.  Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, talking about bringing “a new era of responsibility and accountability . . . to Washington.”  It was an old message for him.  At a September 4, 2007 roundtable conference in New Hampshire, Obama lamented the “culture of corrosive politics,” and then not only called for more trust and accountability, but touted the pursuit of those virtues in government as his raison d’être:

“The American people want to trust in our government again—we just need a government that will trust in us.  And making government accountable to the people isn’t just a cause of this campaign—it’s been a cause of my life for two decades.” (emphasis mine)

Ah.  So we’re to believe that Barack Obama spent 20 years of his life—when he wasn’t “organizing communities,” collecting a paycheck for being on sabbatical to write the first of two audacious autobiographies about a life with zero substantive accomplishments, and voting “present” in the Illinois State Senate—crusading for government transparency and accountability.

Oh, OK.

As President, Obama signed a directive to the heads of all executive departments proclaiming a new era of government transparency and accountability:

“My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.  Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government . . . Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.”

Let’s leave for another time the terrifying implications of a Chief Executive who chooses to capitalize “Government,” but not “citizens.”  What’s important for our purposes here is to note that this President has repeatedly and for years emphasized the importance of, and his claimed commitment to, government transparency and accountability.  And lest we get caught up in some Clintonian semantic debate, Obama was clear that what he meant by that was providing information to the public about what the government is doing, if for no other reason than “[i]nformation maintained by the Federal Government (again, his caps, not mine) is a national asset”—in other words, he knows that that information belongs to you.

With that backdrop, let’s return to the issue of Benghazi.  It has been 603 days since the attacks, and the President of the United States still hasn’t substantively addressed the American people about it.  He also has yet to explain where he was or what he was doing during the 10-12 hours the two attacks were taking place, despite having been informed within 2 hours after the first attack began that it was happening, and that it was a coordinated military-style terrorist assault.  We know from others where Obama wasn’t, and what he wasn’t doing: he wasn’t in the Situation Room, and he wasn’t on the phone with his Secretaries of Defense or State, or with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff inquiring as to what was going on.

We now know from the emails finally released to Judicial Watch last week that the bullcrap tale about protests and a YouTube video then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice took to the Sunday talk shows a few days after the attacks came from the White House’s political spinsters.  My question is this: why did it take a Judicial Watch lawsuit to secure the release of that document?  It’s been the subject of a Congressional subpoena for nearly two years, but was withheld after persons unnamed retroactively changed its status to “classified” (and by the way, look for yourself and see if you can figure out just what about that email merits a “classified” designation).  Why does Judicial Watch now have more information than Congress?

While you’re chewing on that, recall that on November 9, 2012 the House Foreign Affairs committee asked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify on the Benghazi matter, which she refused to do.  It took a subpoena and nearly three months to get her on the record, and even then she hemmed, hawed, whined, and ultimately ran out the clock without providing any substantive information.  This week, current Secretary of State John Kerry likewise refused to honor a subpoena to appear before Congress to discuss the administration’s response.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration has persistently refused to turn over documents, and has blocked access to witnesses.

Why?

This is not an isolated occurrence.

Congress has been trying for years to get information about Operation Fast & Furious, the botched gun-running sting that led to the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  The Department of Justice has stonewalled the production of documents, eventually hiding behind a bogus claim of “executive privilege.”  Attorney General Eric Holder was caught lying about when he learned of the program, and was ultimately held in contempt of Congress after repeatedly changing his story and withholding documents.  Other DOJ officials have pled the Fifth and refused to testify.

The IRS got caught targeting conservative political groups for delay or denial of tax-exempt status, and sharing taxpayer information with Democrats, then got caught lying about the issue being isolated to low-level line workers in Cincinnati.  Then-IRS official Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights by making a self-serving opening statement, then pled the Fifth and refused to testify—twice.  She has also been held in contempt of Congress.

FUBARCare is, well, FUBAR.  Yet when called earlier this month to testify about it before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Heath, and Human Resources, outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. . . you guessed it . . . refused to testify, even as she delays her “retirement” just long enough to qualify for lifetime federal pension benefits.

Obama administration officials use personal email accounts for official communication so they can shield it from FOIA requests and subpoenas, which can only reach their official public email accounts.

For all of Obama’s bluster about being all about government transparency and accountability, we know nothing about what this administration is doing, and they not only refuse to tell us, but they arrogantly flip us the bird in the process.  And if they manage to hold out long enough, if we continue to ask questions we then face juvenile retorts of “Dude, this was like, two years ago.” The President doesn’t take serious questions from the press.  His administration officials refuse to release documents or testify before Congress, and conduct untold amounts of official business in inaccessible private shadows.  Everything seems calculated to hide, divert, or delay any attempt to learn what is going on.

Meanwhile NSA is tapping your phones (gonna be different this time) and the federal government is watching you through drones, while non-military agencies of the federal government arm themselves to the teeth with no explanation.

Why?  Why is the government going to such lengths to avoid telling anyone (except Vladimir Putin—how does that extra “flexibility after the election” look now?) anything about what it’s doing?  And why is almost no one asking why?  The press won’t do it.  Hell, the GOP will barely do it anymore.  Why?

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Edwards:       Drop the weapon and put your hands on your head.

K:                    I warned him.

Edwards:       Drop the weapon!

K:                    You warned him.

Edwards:       Don’t make me kill you.

Jeebs:              You insensitive prick!  Don’t you know how much that stings!

—Will Smith as Edwards, Tommy Lee Jones as K, and Tony Shalhoub as Jack Jeebs in Men In Black

OK, everybody who’s surprised by the colossal failure of the rollout of FUBARCare raise your hand.

Mr. Obama, you can put yours down.

Amazingly, the Progressives are still trying with a straight face to defend this thing, and some are even having the brass stones to blame Republicans for the problems.  But by now it is impossible for any remotely rational person not to see what a pack of lies this has been:

But the FUBARCare debacle over the last week is hardly surprising; to the contrary, it was utterly predictable, because it is merely the most recent illustration of this Administration’s consistent display of incompetence and deceit.  Indeed, is there anything this Administration has touched that hasn’t turned out to be a gigantic steaming pile of cow flop covered with (f)lies?

Afghanistan

The primary goal of our military involvement in Afghanistan was to “get” Osama Bin Laden.  That was achieved—in Pakistan—on May 2, 2011, over two and a half years ago, yet Americans are still dying in Afghanistan.  At last count, over 700 Americans—more than during the entire Bush administration—have been killed there since Bin Laden’s death.  Why?  Perhaps if Obama attended a security briefing once in awhile he’d be aware that our armed forces are still engaged in that theater.

Benghazi

On September 11, 2012, four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in a series of military-style assaults on our consulate—sovereign U.S. soil—in Benghazi, Libya.  Although Stevens had repeatedly warned of the deteriorating situation and requested additional security, although escalating incidents over the preceding several months had led the British to close their facility, and although the 9/11 anniversary posed an obvious symbolic targeting date, the Administration refused to bolster security and left the diplomatic personnel in place.  Although the President knew about the attacks less than 90 minutes after they began, and although they took place over a period of some nine hours as the President and his staff watched in real time via surveillance drone, the President did nothing.  That weekend, Obama sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice all over the Sunday talk shows with a series of talking points blaming a silly internet video when they knew it was an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist assault, while he ran around to multiple campaign fundraisers.  Obama later pledged to hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice, yet to date the only person jailed as a result has been the producer of the irrelevant internet film (who just recently got out of prison); no one in Libya has been arrested, and the Benghazi raid isn’t even among the crimes for which the Administration is offering a reward for information.

Economy and Budget

We’ve been told for several years now that we’re in a “recovery” from the Bush recession.  Obama has repeatedly said that he was focused like a laser on jobs, and that he “will not rest” until everyone has one.  Yet as of September, a full ten million people have left the workforce since Obama took office.  Workforce participation is now at a paltry 63%.  A recent Census Bureau report counts more people receiving means-tested government benefits (read: welfare) than with full-time jobs.  Meanwhile the national debt now exceeds $17 trillion, nearly double what it was when Obama took office (just under $10 trillion), Obama is continuing to spend at around a $4 trillion/year clip, and Harry Reid says “everybody” wants to pay more in taxes.

This is some rescue.

Fast & Furious

On December 14, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in a gun battle with Mexican drug runners.  Guns used in the fight were traced back to Operation Fast & Furious, a Justice Department action in which illegal guns were deliberately permitted to be sold and transported outside the U.S. in an effort to track them to Mexican cartels.  Despite multiple memos and emails to Attorney General Eric Holder mentioning the program—including some from before Terry’s murder—Holder has steadfastly denied (read: lied) knowing anything about it.  Since then, he and the President have spent the better part of the last three years doing everything possible to avoid providing Congress, the American people, or the Terry family any information about it.

Government “Investments”

Obama the investment banker, in his infinite wisdom, illegally diverted $80 billion in TARP bailout money effectively to nationalize GM and Chrysler.  On the GM side alone, taxpayers are still out nearly $20 billion, and the GM stock still held by the government would have to triple in value for John Q. Public just to break even.  To put that in perspective, the first time in our entire history that the total federal budget reached $20 billion was 1942, and here we’re talking about the loss on a single piece of a single program.  Meanwhile as I have reported previously, Obama’s Energy Department has lost billions making high-risk loans to unproven “green energy” firms—many, not coincidentally, owned by huge Obama donors—that have gone belly-up.  And the few jobs “created” through the bailout and loans have in large part been overseas.  Not a particularly good rate of return.

IRS & NSA

When the IRS hasn’t been gearing up to serve as the jack-booted enforcers of FUBARCare, it turns out they’ve been selectively targeting conservative political groups to delay or deny them tax-exempt status.  Originally passed off as the isolated action of a couple of rogue low-level employees in Cincinnati, it is becoming increasingly clear that this was actually a deliberate program to weaponize the IRS as a political tool for the Left, overseen at the highest levels.  Meanwhile, we’re learning that the NSA has been—without a warrant—effectively spying on millions of innocent private U.S. citizens.  Once again, however, the Administration absolutely refuses to discuss either issue with Congress or the American people.

World Image

Obama took office pledging to restore America’s image in the world.  Then in his first official act, he embarked on a global apology tour, basically denouncing everything America has ever been or done.  Since then, he has displayed a breathtaking lack of leadership in the Middle East, he’s been horrifyingly weak in dealing with Russia, and he’s alienated and offended our European and Western Hemisphere allies by repeatedly getting caught spying on them (compounded by the fact that he never sits down with those leaders one-on-one to foster those relationships).  The Saudis have recently severed diplomatic ties.  And Obama’s relationship with Israel is so deteriorated that one suspects the only circumstance in which he wouldn’t piss on Benjamin Netanyahu is if the Prime Minister were on fire.  If there is left any nation that would count us as a friend, or at least acknowledge any respect for us, I don’t know who that would be.

At this point the grim reality has to be inescapable.  Even the true believers on the Left can’t avoid recognizing—without engaging in an unconscionable self-fraud—that this President is an embarrassingly epic failure.  He has accomplished exactly nothing positive, and the level of arrogance, ignorance, incompetence, and paranoia that permeates this Administration is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  At the end of the day, we’re left with nothing but angry lectures, empty platitudes, cheesy staged political stunts, fundraisers, and golf.

And lies.  Upon lies.  Upon lies.

This is what you get when you elect a community organizer with literally zero real-world experience, whose sole drivers are a blind adherence to radical ideology, and a limitless thirst to erect a monument to his own ego, real-world results and consequences be damned.

Some of us tried to tell you . . .

Gun Control Irony

“This is gonna work.  It’s a movie, I’m a good guy, this has got to work . . . I’m a comedy sidekick . . . Oh, sh#t! I’m a comedy sidekick! IT’S NOT GONNA WORK!”

            —Austin O’Brien as Danny Madigan in Last Action Hero

 

Does the guy ever give the politicking a rest?  Is there anything he won’t try to exploit for his political agenda?

Last Monday a disgruntled and apparently disturbed Aaron Alexis entered the Navy Yard complex in Washington, D.C., and killed twelve people before being killed himself in a gun battle with police.  President Obama went ahead with a previously-scheduled press address set for the purpose of bashing Congressional Republicans over budget issues while the shooting was still in progress.  He did take a brief minute from his pre-prepared remarks to acknowledge the tragedy, but even then he couldn’t refrain from waxing political, lamenting “yet another mass shooting.”

The victims’ bodies weren’t yet cold, and Obama was already setting up to use their deaths to push for gun control.

On Sunday he was at it again, this time cynically using a memorial service with the victims’ familes as a political pulpit, saying that the need for gun control “ought to obsess us.”  He went on to call for correction of laws that fail “to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people.” Clearly someone is obsessed with something.

This is beyond tasteless.  It is one thing to use the incident as anecdotal evidence in support of a political argument.  It is quite another to co-opt a funeral in order to make the point.  I mean, really?  Can’t you let these people grieve without turning their grieving into a political stage?  There is nothing about Obama’s gun control pitch that couldn’t have waited until Monday, and his insistence on using the families’ sorrow for gross political theatrics was at best callous and crass.

Same as it ever was.

It is more than a little ironic to hear cries for more laws to keep guns away from “criminals and dangerous people” coming from an administration responsible for Operation Fast & Furious, in which the Justice Department deliberately allowed thousands of guns, including .50 caliber sniper rifles and AK-47s, to flow into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, ultimately leading to the murder of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry.  This is also the same administration that recently waived federal law so it could supply weapons to rebel forces in Syria that it has openly admitted include elements of al-Qaeda (of course, you won’t see anything about that in the mainstream media).

Apparently drug lords and terrorists are neither criminals, nor dangerous.  But you, American Citizen, are.

And that’s not the end of the irony.  The President wants to use the Navy Yard incident as the impetus for more gun control, and presumably the logic is that more stringent legislation in the form of bans or background check requirements (or both) would have prevented it (and thus enacting it now will prevent similar tragedies in the future).  But the Navy Yard incident is a curious gun control poster child indeed, because the shooting took place in the District of Columbia, where guns are already effectively banned.  All guns—handguns, rifles, shotguns—must be registered with the D.C. police, and possession requires a separate permit, training, and qualifying exam.  You can’t even transport legally-owned guns through the District; just ask Army Lieutenant Augustine Kim, who had his gun collection—secured in his trunk as required under federal law—confiscated by D.C. police when he stopped at Walter Reed Hospital for treatment of battle wounds. 

Moreover, contrary to initial reports from a media rabid to take the bait and link the shooting to the evils of “assault weapons,” the Navy Yard killer did not have an AR-15; he had a shotgun, the very weapon Genius Joe Biden told us last spring was all you legitimately needed to own. 

Just stand on the balcony and fire a couple of blasts from a double-barrel (of course, then you have to stop and reload).

The Navy Yard killer had also obviously passed the background checks necessary to join the U.S. Navy, and later to gain admittance to the Navy Yard as a civilian contractor.  So it is not clear to me what sort of additional “gun control” legislation we should be obsessed to enact in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting; guns were already banned in D.C., and the shooter’s background had already been looked into.  Neither measure prevented the tragedy.    

Furthering the irony, Obama’s comments Sunday came on the heels of an incident in Obama’s hometown of Chicago Thursday night in which gang members opened fire on a pickup basketball game, wounding thirteen—something he has curiously not mentioned at all.  The weapon of choice there appears to have been a “military grade” AK-47, a gun already requiring a federal class III permit to own—which virtually no one has—and already illegal to possess in Chicago even with the federal permit.  So like the Navy Yard shootings, the Chicago shootings took place in a locale that already has some of the most stringent gun restrictions in the country, and in the Chicago case including an outright ban of the specific weapon used.  And one suspects that gang members aren’t ones to stand on ceremony when it comes to submitting to registration and background check requirements.

The Navy Yard and recent Chicago shootings demonstrate that gun control laws won’t and can’t stop these sorts of tragedies.  Criminals—by definition (something oddly lost on the intellectuals on the Left)—do not abide by laws, so the idea that adding another law, whether in the form of a ban or a background check or registration requirement (all of which were already in place in both D.C. and Chicago), is going to stop them from what they intend to do is folly.  While I have some sympathy for the argument that we need more stringent vetting to ensure that the insane do not gain access to guns, I am very leery of a mechanism that ultimately puts peoples’ Constitutional rights at the mercy of someone else’s subjective judgment; what happens when an anti-gun zealot gets himself appointed head of the psychiatric review board and suddenly every applicant is ab initio found to be criminally insane precisely because they submitted a gun application?

It is worth keeping in mind—as Glenn Beck points out so well in his new book Control—despite media hysteria and sensationalism creating the impression of an epidemic of mass shootings, incidents of this nature are in fact extremely rare.  Nor are they unique to the “gun-crazed” culture of the U.S.; they can and do happen elsewhere, even in places that practice the strict gun control Obama and others advocate here.  Crazy people will always be with us, and sometimes they’re dangerous.  I’ve made this point before: Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with $250 of fertilizer.  You simply can’t legislate away the dangers of insanity and evil.

Gun control laws do not stop bad guys with guns.  Good guys with guns do. 

Who’s Who In Syria?

 

You love me, but you don’t know who I am

I’m torn between this life I lead and where I stand

And you love me, but you don’t know who I am

So let me go, let me go

            —3 Doors Down, Let Me Go

 

Consider this as the Obama administration is preparing to begin military intervention in the civil war in Syria.

Last week the New York Times published a piece telling the story of Matthew Schrier, an American free-lance photojournalist imprisoned for seven months in Syria.  Schrier was attempting to travel to the city of Aleppo when his cab was stopped and he was taken into custody.  He was told he was on trial before an Islamic court, but was not told what the charges against him were.  His prison guards looted his bank accounts and shopped in his name on eBay.  They hacked his email account and sent messages to his mother.  They beat him so badly he could not walk, and he could regularly hear the screams of other prisoners being similarly beaten.

Rusty, isn’t this why we have to go in and get rid of Assad?

The problem is, Schrier was a captive/victim of rebel forces, not the Assad regime.  And his story highlights the basic problem with the administration’s blindfolded and naive policy in the Middle East:  it’s a dangerous game to go picking winners and losers when you don’t really know who the combatants are, because it’s nearly impossible to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.  Yet the administration has for some time verbally supported the rebels in Syria, even if it doesn’t know exactly who the rebels are or what (if anything) they represent. 

But the current positioning of naval assets to launch strikes into Syria represents a new escalation of involvement.  Ostensibly, any strikes would be in retaliation for what we’re told is Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Haven’t we heard the whole crusade-against-WMDs tale before?

The administration assures us that it’s virtually certain that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons last week, killing between 300 and 1300 people, depending on who you ask.  Of course, we’ve previously seen dubious and even false claims of this nature before.  Secretary of State John Kerry—he of the “seared—searedin me” memory† of being in Cambodia in Christmas 1968, except that it didn’t happen—tells us it is “undeniable,” but offers no proof other than his say-so.  And, conveniently, we’re already being warned that the actual evidence to support the allegation that (a) chemical weapons were used, and (b) it was Assad’s forces that used them may have been destroyed.  So we’re left to accept on faith this administration’s claim that military intervention in someone else’s civil war in which we do not know who the combatants are is justified because the administration says one side has used WMDs.

At least Bush 43 made some attempt to demonstrate his case for moving into Iraq.

You’ll forgive us if we’re just a wee bit skeptical at this point of anything anyone in this administration says:

  • It has yet to tell the truth about Benghazi, and has gone to some lengths to stonewall, obfuscate, and outright cover it up;
  • It has yet to tell the truth about Fast & Furious, and has gone to some lengths to stonewall, obfuscate, and outright cover it up;
  • It has yet to tell the truth about NSA spying, and has gone to some lengths to stonewall, obfuscate, and outright cover it up;
  • It has yet to tell the truth about the IRS being deployed as a political weapon against conservative groups, and has gone to some lengths to stonewall, obfuscate, and outright cover it up;
  • It lied about the practical and fiscal effects of Obamacare (“if you like your coverage/doctor you can keep it,” “I won’t sign anything that adds one dime to the deficit,” “premiums will go down under Obamacare”).

For those of you true believers, recall that Obama promised you he’d end the war in Afghanistan, and close Guantanamo Bay, neither of which has come to pass.  In fact, I defy you to give me a single example of anything over the last six or seven years on which this administration has told the truth or kept its promise, other than the promise to enact “fundamental change,” (and notice they never told you what that change was going to be).  And now Obama wants us to take him at his word that new military intervention in Syria is justified.

Trust me.

The fact of the matter is this administration has been consistently and spectacularly on the wrong side when it comes to sticking its nose in to pick winners and losers in the rash of civil wars in the Middle East.  The situation is not better, and U.S. interests are not more secure as a result of Obama’s support of rebels in Libya and Egypt; Libya turned a relatively benign but stable regime into a chaotic maelstrom of fundamentalism, ultimately costing the lives of four Americans in the military-style assault on our diplomatic compound in Benghazi, and in Egypt a stable and pro-U.S. regime was replaced with an unstable soup of military control and Islamist extremism.  In both instances, the administration seems to have been woefully ignorant as to just what they would be getting as a result of regime change.  And in the one instance where there was a clear “bad guy” to remove that would have resulted in real and positive change for American interests in the region—Iran 2009—the administration did . . . nothing.

Obama has made no case for intervention in Syria.  He has offered no explanation as to what risk of harm the Assad regime posed or poses to American interests or those of any of our allies;  Assad never threatened the U.S. or Israel.  Indeed, I don’t recall that Obama’s made any effort at all to communicate to his employers—the American public—what’s going on, why it matters, and what he proposes doing.  It is impossible for this administration to make an intelligent choice in taking sides, because when it doesn’t and can’t know who the players are or what they represent, it can’t know on which side U.S. interest—if any—lies.

I hear the human rights argument.  But it is not our business—nor is it a legitimate function of the federal government under our Constitution—to be the world’s policeman, particularly if it’s going to involve the expenditure of vast amounts of taxpayer money or cost so much as a single American life.  Otherwise, why aren’t we also deploying to Sudan, Somalia, Burma, the Philippines, Kashmir, Balochistan, Nigeria, Yemen, and the many other places around the globe where there are ongoing armed domestic conflicts?

And the stakes are much, much higher this time.  Nobody was really all that bent over American involvement in Libya and Egypt.  But Syria’s different.  They are a client state of Iran, and pretty chummy with Russia.  One suspects Vladimir Putin is itching for a chance to assert himself on the global stage, and you know he’s morally certain that when push comes to shove, our Commander-in-Chief is a pussy.  Iran and Syria have both made clear that they will respond to a U.S. attack by retaliating against Israel.  All three of them know perfectly well that the American public does not have the stomach or attention span for a fresh military engagement in the Middle East.  This isn’t the time or place to be provoking either the Russians or the Iranians, especially with so little U.S. upside, if any.

At the end of the day, the conflict in Syria is a civil war.  It’s their fight, and they need to be left to fight it, particularly when we can’t possibly have enough information to take sides.

_______________

† Ironically, when Kerry said this in 1986, he was giving a speech denouncing U.S. military involvement overseas when the White House wasn’t—in his view—telling the American people the truth about it.

No Real Bias For Action

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

            —William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 

Once again, President Obama has demonstrated that he’s all political style, and zero substance.

On Wednesday—once again emphasizing the urgent need to take decisive action to save lives—he announced a series of executive actions he is undertaking unilaterally to reduce gun violence.  Further highlighting the importance that we do this to protect the safety of children, and in an impossibly cynical and sophomoric bit of political showmanship, he surrounded himself on stage with a bunch of grade-schoolers.  We have to do this for the kids.

It’s too bad that the executive orders he signed have essentially nothing to do with preventing gun violence.

Consistent with everything else this man has said over the last four years, the list—up to 23 items from the advertised 19—is chock full of vague platitudes like “launch a national dialogue . . . on mental health.”  What the hell does that mean?  In all, there were five items relating to data sharing and tracing (i.e., knowing which law-abiding citizens have guns, and where they go after a crime has been committed) two on research, two on safety standards and practices, and one each on the prosecution of gun crimes (again, after  the crime has already been committed) and administrative matters.  In fairness, three items related to training and response plans for law enforcement and school officials, although query how that’s in any way a legitimate federal responsibility or even prerogative.  But a whopping FIVE—basically a quarter of the entire list—dealt with issuing or clarifying new regulations under Obamacare.

Health care regulations are going to prevent gun crimes?  Really?

In all, roughly half the list dealt with tracking law-abiding citizens and the unconstitutional health care law.  Not surprisingly, Wednesday’s actions also included some $4.5 billion in new spendingBy all means throw some money at the issue.  Among the whoppers in the spending are $150 million for new school resource and guidance counselors, $50 million for schools to create “safer and more nurturing” environments, and $50 million to train social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals.  I guess we’re now turning these people into either the new gun-control enforcers or at least government informants; they’ll eventually be subject to liability if they fail to turn someone in and that person later shoots someone.  Worse, the prospect that they in their sole judgment have the power to put people under federal scrutiny has to have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to go seek help when they need it.  Sounds like a positive step, doesn’t it?

Like so much from this President, Wednesday’s announcements contained a lot of noise, but at the end of the day didn’t do much.  I suppose I should be thankful that, at least for now, Obama has kept his exercise of Imperial authority to a relatively modest level on this issue.  On the whole it’s a bunch of nothing at least as it relates to the stated goal of actually preventing gun violence.  But at least he acted, and he did so within a month of the school shootings in Connecticut.

And boy, did it make for good political TV.

But contrast his swift, if meaningless, action in this instance with some other notable issues facing his administration.

It’s been now five years, and he has never presented Congress with a meaningful budget.  What little effort he has made in this regard has been routinely and unanimously rejected even by his own party.  Given his current insistence that Congress must raise the debt ceiling yet again and do so without placing any contingencies concerning reducing future spending, one begins to suspect that the underlying problem may be he has absolutely no idea what a budget is.

It’s been 129 days since the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked in what now appears to have been a large military-style assault.  Four Americans were killed while the White House and/or CIA watched live via spy drone.  These were Americans that, unlike the children in Connecticut, actually were the federal government’s—and, more to the point, this Administration’s—responsibility.  Obama’s own State Department put these people in harm’s way, and kept them there despite obvious warning signs and repeated pleas for help.  Yet for all his talk about the urgency to take action to save even one life, President Obama hasn’t even had the temerity to address the nation on what happened.  Not exactly a bias for action there.

It’s been over two years since federal agent Brian Terry was killed near the Mexican border; yet another dead American.  Ironically, in this instance not only was Terry’s safety the responsibility of the federal government, but he was killed by guns; guns allowed into the hands of Mexican gangsters by this Administration.  Yet there’s still been no real explanation to the American public or to the Terry family, and no real fallout from the incident.

We are still in Afghanistan with no mission, even though Osama Bin Laden was killed nearly two years ago.  Meanwhile, over 1500 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan during Obama’s four years and three weeks on the job.  That’s nearly three times more than killed during the entire eight years of the Bush administration, in half the time.  Indeed, just in the time since Bin Laden’s death, the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan has nearly matched the total Bush-era fatalities (606 vs. 630).

This guy is all about what makes him look good, and nothing more.  For all his flowery talk about saving lives, the actions he took Wednesday have little to do with that.  When it’s been time to face up to real issues in a substantive way, particularly when there’s no good political theater to be had, he’s a complete no-show.  Even on other issues when there’s been real action he could legitimately take to save American lives, if it won’t make him look good on TV, he’d rather just wait out the news cycle and hope everyone moves on to American Idol and forgets about it.

At least his handicap is going down.

It Only Hurts Me When I Cry

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
            —Queen Gertrude in Hamlet
My, my, my.  Things in the most transparent of all transparent and accountable administrations just got a little more opaque and a little less, well, accountable.
On Wednesday President Obama granted Attorney General Eric Holder’s request to invoke executive privilege to avoid disclosing documents being sought by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee relating to the investigation of Operation Fast & Furious.  As we touched on last last Monday, at issue are some 1,300 documents dating from February 2011 forward that the Committee has been trying to see since last October.  Holder tries to make that and the 7,600 pages already provided sound like a monumental effort.  As a commercial litigator, I can tell you it’s not.  A standard banker’s box (the roughly 16 x 20 inch box commonly used for storing and transporting documents) holds about 2,000 pages.  So the DOJ’s production to date consists of a grand total of less than four boxes; you will find at least that many on the floor in any associate’s office at any decent-sized law firm.  Over my nearly two decades in litigation practice, it was not uncommon to see document productions a couple of orders of magnitude larger.  1,300 documents is nothing.  Yet the Attorney General has delayed, redirected, and outright refused to comply with the subpoena (although in fairness he did sit down with Committee Chair Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) to discuss the documents off the record). 
But Obama’s jumping into the fray with Wednesday’s privilege claim raises interesting questions.
First, where has this claim been for the last 8-9 months?  If these documents are properly covered by executive privilege, why was that privilege only invoked on the eve of Holder facing a possible contempt of Congress charge?  In litigation, a privilege that isn’t timely asserted is waived.  The documents are either privileged, or they’re not.  If the privilege applied, it has applied all along.  And it’s more than passing curious that although as recently as Tuesday night neither Holder nor Obama had said so much as “boo” about asserting any privilege, by Wednesday morning Holder had a detailed eight page, single spaced letter to the President setting out his legal research supporting the claim and asking the President to do it; the President had read it, presumably digested it and maybe even discussed it with the Attorney General or with White House counsel, and made the decision to act on it; and the Department of Justice had a four page, single spaced letter to Representative Issa informing him of Obama’s decision to invoke the privilege and explaining Holder’s version of events.  Of course, I’m just speculating, but having been around a legal opinion letter or fifty in my time, I know they typically don’t come to pass overnight; one suspects Holder and Obama have been holding this in their back pocket for some time.  Why are we only seeing it now?
Second, the executive privilege exists to protect candor in the executive’s deliberative process.  In other words, we want to ensure that the President receives the most candid internal discussion and advice in the course of his decision making, and without the privilege his advisors might be more guarded and less helpful than they might otherwise be.  If that’s so, then how can these documents be covered by the executive privilege if Holder had to write to tell Obama what they were, and affirmatively ask Obama to claim the privilege?  That is, if they were truly part of executive decision-making, shouldn’t the executive already know what those documents are and be seeking on his own to claim the privilege?
Third, to what “deliberative process” do these documents pertain, and more importantly, of what vital national security interest are they such that they need to be protected (a point then-Senator Obama made on national TV in criticizing the Bush administration’s invocation of the privilege)?  Fast & Furious, an operation even Holder has publicly admitted was a “mistake” that “should never have happened,” is over.  It’s not an ongoing project.  Moreover, the documents at issue don’t deal with the operation itself, and thus should have no implications in terms of jeopardizing personnel or current law enforcement activities.
In his letter to the President justifying his request that Obama claim the privilege, Holder throws the phrase “deliberative process” around like so much candy, because he knows it is the touchstone for the legal standard governing whether the privilege applies.  But he uses it with no mooring to any substantive executive branch activity, instead apparently assuming that if he just uses the phrase enough times, it will be accepted as the truth.  The best Holder can do is claim that the documents from February 2011 forward deal with executive branch deliberations over how to respond to the media and to the Congressional inquiry.  In other words, they are documents not about the administration’s policy or the law enforcement project, but on how the administration was going to cover its ass once Fast & Furious became public. 
Given that the Justice Department originally told Congress on February 4, 2011 that there was no Fast & Furious—a representation Holder has since had to admit was “incorrect” (read: an outright lie), the administration’s response IS the issue.  The salient point Representative Issa has been trying to get at for months has been who knew about the operation and when, and why was Congress originally told it didn’t exist (not coincidentally, essentially the same questions asked of the Nixon administration with respect to Watergate; the difference here is we have at least one dead American as a direct result of the activity the administration initially denied even took place).  The documents Holder, and now Obama, are withholding go directly to those questions.
Fourth, and most importantly, why are Holder and Obama going to such lengths to prevent these documents from seeing the light of day?  What’s in those documents that is so vital they not be turned over to Congress?  We are repeatedly told not to worry about it because the DOJ’s Inspector General is investigating, but of course that’s like the wolf telling you not to worry about that incident in the chicken coop because the fox is looking into it.  Oh, OK.  Meanwhile, every time Issa’s committee presses further, Holder’s and the DOJ’s story changes; Wednesday, the DOJ was forced to retract Holder’s recent testimony in which he attempted—erroneously and with no evidence—to claim that the Bush administration was briefed on a similar sting called Operation Wide Receiver.  If there’s nothing nefarious going on, why all the secrecy, and why can’t they keep their tale straight?  Why are they crying unless the questions hurt?
And why do they have to keep trying to blame Bush?
Assuming Obama and Holder are both clean on this, there’s no reason for them to resist turning these things over, and indeed doing so would presumably have demonstrated that very fact, and thus long ago ended any political mileage for Representative Issa to gain by continuing to investigate.  Yet the family of slain Border Agent Brian Terry and the American people remain with no answers as to who in this most transparent of all transparent administrations is to be accountable.
They and we deserve better. 

Brilliant Disguise

Now you play the loving woman
I’ll play the faithful man
But just don’t look too close, baby
Into the palm of my hand
            —Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Brilliant Disguise
In October 2008, then-Senator and Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama campaigned on the premise that “we need to end an era in Washington where accountability’s been absent.”  He followed that up in January 2009, shortly after taking office, by signing an executive order setting ethics guidelines for his administration, promising “a new era of openness,” and that “[t]ransparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
Amazingly, he even said these things with a straight face.
Fast forward to 2012, where Attorney General Eric Holder last week was once again hauled before Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House Judiciary Committee on Department of Justice Oversight.  Holder claimed that a series of 2010 emails did not in fact pertain to the disastrous Operation Fast & Furious, but instead to the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver, despite the fact that the emails repeatedly and specifically referred to “Fast & Furious” and “F and F”.
These aren’t the ‘droids you’re looking for.
To reset the issue, in December 2010 U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry was murdered in Arizona.  Guns linked to the killing were traced to Mexican drug cartels, which had acquired the guns from weapons smugglers in the United States.  The Department of Justice had the opportunity to intercept the guns, but under Operation Fast & Furious the guns were allowed to “walk” in an effort to track where the smugglers’ traffic was going.  Representative Issa has been trying for over a year to get to the bottom of who was responsible for this.  Although Holder has admitted that the program was unacceptable and should never have happened, no one has yet been held accountable for it, and the DOJ has given Issa little but the finger in his quest to obtain information.
For all the trumpeting about this administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability, all evidence is they’re much more interested in deflecting blame and covering their asses than in getting to the truth:
February 2011:  DOJ sends a letter responding to an inquiry from Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) of the Senate Judiciary Committee effectively denying the existence of any “gunwalking” operations, and claiming that every effort was being made to prevent the traffic of guns into Mexico. 
Doesn’t exist.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.
May 2011:  When the February letter unraveled and the existence of Fast and Furious became too well-documented to deny, Holder admits that the February letter was “inaccurate,” but testifies before Issa’s committee that he didn’t know anything about it, and had only learned of the existenceof Fast & Furious “for the first time over the last few weeks.” 
OK, maybe it existed, but we only found out about it around April of 2011.     
November 2011: Confronted with yet another set of documents clearly demonstrating earlier knowledge than he previously disclosed, Holder admits that he probably should have said “couple of months” instead of “last few weeks” when he testified in May.  His defense against the documents?  They consisted of reports he couldn’t possibly be expected to have read. 
Um, maybe we actually knew about it in February or March of 2011.
So what about these new emails?  They consist of a string from late October 2010—i.e., before Brian Terry was killed—in which not only is Fast & Furious repeatedly mentioned by name, but the topic of conversation was how much flak the administration was going to catch over “gunwalking” when the operation became public, which was expected to be soon.  More importantly, the emails were between Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, and James Trusty, at the time the Principal Deputy Chief for Litigation.  These aren’t field personnel in Arizona—these are people with the Justice Department in D.C.  So we have people fairly high up in the DOJ considering the degree to which there needed to be damage control over Fast & Furious becoming public.  They knew the operation’s name and its nature.
Does this mean Attorney General Holder knew about the operation that far back?  Not necessarily.
But it begs the question why he keeps dodging the issue and changing his testimony as to when he did know.  More importantly, why does he keep getting all indignant about being dragged back before Issa’s committee instead of getting to the bottom of who in DOJ did know about it and firing them?  This would have been over months ago had he done that.
But he hasn’t.  And he won’t.
Instead he tries to claim that “Fast & Furious” isn’t talking about Fast & Furious, it’s talking about George Bush.
What?  This man is the Attorney General of the United States, and that’s the best he can come up with?
Once again, we see there is simply no substance to this administration.  From the top down, they are almost without exception completely out of their depth, which is why they are reduced to cheap semantic games and sophomoric political pranks.  You thought it depends on your definition of “is” was bad?  These people think it’s all a big game, that if they just wink and smile  they can say anything and it’ll all be OK.
Smile and wave, boys.  Just smile and wave.
Consider that this President has attended 191 fundraising events through early March of this year.  He’s played 93 rounds of golf—an average of right at one every two weeks.  His bi-monthly vacations—transportation courtesy Air Force One, sometimes with a separate private 747 for the Mrs.—to ritzy playgrounds for the uber-wealthy are well-documented.  Less well-known, although Mark Levin frequently reads from these on his syndicated radio show, Obama’s published schedule almost invariably shows his work day beginning no earlier than 10:00 a.m. and ending by 4:30 p.m. (when he has anything scheduled at all).  Meanwhile, he hasn’t submitted a single serious budget since taking office; his last two budgets have failed to net even a single aye vote, even from the Democrats.  Other than Obamacare—which he’s about to lose in the Supreme Court—he hasn’t managed to enact a single significant initiative, despite having a sympathetic supermajority in both houses of Congress for two years of his presidency.  The President screams bloody murder when members of Congress on both sides of the aisle question where the New York Times keeps getting its steady diet of classified intelligence information, yet doesn’t even say boo when the Russians are shipping materiel to Iran for its nuclear program.
He’s been all about being the President instead of doing the job of the President.  He has plenty of time to make NC-17 jokes about his wifehello, NOW, anyone home?but no time to order his attorney general to get to the bottom of who is responsible for an official DOJ program that has been directly linked to the death of a federal border agent.  I guess it’s a matter of priorities.
This was supposed to be the most transparent and accountable administration of all time.  Yet with Fast & Furious, it has stonewalled and dodged an investigation that it should have been leading itself.  Ironically, while it’s been doing everything it can to prevent anyone from looking under the skirt on this, I see it’s been accumulating a terrifyingly detailed cache of information about you, from what you read, to where you shop, who your friends are, and how you vote. 
This administration is transparent, all right.  We may have just misunderstood which direction the two-way mirror runs.

Transparency And Accountability

And you want her
And she wants you
And no one, no one,
no one ever is to blame.
—Howard Jones, No One Is To Blame
Can no one in this administration accept responsibility for anything?  Can no one even answer a damn question?
Getting a do-over on his testimony before the Congressional committee investigating Operation Fast & Furious, Attorney General Eric Holder continued with his Teflon “I didn’t know” defense.  Although he admitted that the operation was “unacceptable” and “should never have happened,” Holder declined to apologize for it, and nowhere in his testimony did he even suggest that he as the top man in the Department of Justice should be held accountable for any of it.  Despite acknowledging that his department’s February letter to Congress explaining that every effort was being made to intercept illegal gun trafficking into Mexico was “inaccurate,” nowhere in his testimony did he suggest that he had any responsibility for misleading Congress.  Even though Holder said he “certainly regrets” the fact that at least two of the weapons ATF let go as part of Fast & Furious wound up at the crime scene where Border Agent Brian Terry was murdered, he hasn’t bothered to contact the Terry family, and even went as far in his testimony to complain that it is “not fair” to link Terry’s murder to the flawed gunwalking program.
Holder complained that inquiries into when, exactly, he knew what was going on—he’s now admitted in the face of considerable documentary evidence that his May testimony that he only learned about Fast & Furious “for the first time over the last few weeks” could probably have been modified to say “a couple of months”—are an inappropriate distraction from the real issue of stopping the flow of guns.  Holder complained that it’s really Congress that’s to blame by not providing ATF with more support.  Reliable Leftist Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) even began setting up the tired old “blame Bush” defense, sending a letter to the Inspector General asking whether the Justice Department probe would also be including similar programs conducted during the Bush administration.
Are there any adults in this administration at all?
We’ve seen a similar pattern of denials and deflections in the continuing saga of Solyndra.  No one in the Obama administration has been willing to stand up and say “that was a mistake, and it’s on me.”  Along with all the stonewalling of Congressional requests for information, there’s been no effort to accept responsibility or to admit that the loan program was being administered by green energy zealots who lacked the qualifications and intellectual detachment necessary to be making those kinds of financial decisions.  Obama has flippantly characterized it as a necessary bet, where we all knew some loans weren’t going to work out.  Hey, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose—you pays your money and you takes your chances.  The problem, of course, is we’re not talking about dropping $1,000 on a 30-1 longshot at the track, or losing $10,000 on a commodity futures contract; we’re talking about a $530 million loss of taxpayer funds.
In one instance we have a dead American law enforcement officer, and thousands of weapons now in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.  In the other instance we have hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars funneled to a soon-to-be-bankrupt firm owned by major Obama contributors without adequate financial review.  In both instances we see the administration going to some lengths to resist Congressional inquiries into what the hell happened.  And in neither case has anyone stepped up to accept responsibility, and basically no one has resigned or been fired.  Oh to be sure, Jonathan Silver, the head of the Energy Department’s loan office—the subagency through which the Solyndra loans were run—resigned in October, but his departure was previously planned to take effect when the loan program itself expired at the end of September.
This is particularly interesting in the Fast & Furious situation.  It is all too obvious that the program—which involved deliberately letting large quantities of guns cross the border into Mexico in the hopes of them creating a trail of bread crumbs that would lead ATF to the major drug cartels—was colossally inappropriate from its inception.  As the documents laying out the details and the level of higher-echelon involvement within the Department of Justice have come to light, even AG Holder has had to admit that the program was a bad, bad idea.
Unacceptable.  Should never have happened.  
But this leaves us with a dilemma:  either Holder is lying and he knew about the program (and thus at least tacitly authorized it), or Holder is telling the truth and he didn’t know.  If he did know, the only decent thing for him to do is to admit it, accept responsibility, and resign.  That obviously hasn’t happened, and there is no sign that it’s about to any time soon.  Obama has steadfastly stood by his AG, which makes you wonder what dirt Holder has on Obama that Obama’s grandmother didn’t. 
If Holder did not know about it, as he continues to insist is the case, surely he will acknowledge that it is something he should have beentold about—presumably he would then have stopped it—and wasn’t.  If that is the situation, then what you have are rogue elements (or people in decision-making positions who lack the judgment of your average 8-year-old) within the ATF or elsewhere in the Department of Justice, and they should be fired.  But not only has that not happened, the supervisors responsible for running Fast & Furious—William McMahon, William Newell and David Voth—were actually reassigned (some say “promoted”–I’ll leave that to others) in August.  The one exception was U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who resigned after being questioned by congressional investigators. 
The obvious question is why has there been so little fallout?
If Fast & Furious was as unacceptable as Eric Holder now admits it was, and if he and the President are as clean on it as they insist they are, there is no reason not to have had a massive housecleaning over it.  That’s what being accountable is.  But as Lyndon Johnson once said of J. Edgar Hoover, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”  The only conceivable reason not to have fired everyone in a leadership position associated with Operation Fast & Furious is to keep them—and most importantly, their mouths—under control, lest they point out the skeletons and implicate Holder and the President.
Newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama told his staff on January 21, 2009:  “The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable.  And the way to make government accountable is to make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re being made, and whether their interests are being well-served.”
Right, Mr. President.

A Portrait Of Incompetency

 
“You left Claire for Frisbee the Dog?  Frank, let me sum this up for you:  you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you want, and you don’t know what the hell is going on!”
—David Johansen as The Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged
Don’t look now, but the Peter Principle may have finally achieved its ultimate manifestation. 
I suppose we really shouldn’t be surprised when we elect as our Commander-In-Chief a man with literally no substantive job experience.  Oh, I guess he did author an autobiography, which was pretty audacious for a 34 year old with no meaningful life experience or achievements:  absentee junior associate, “community organizer,” part-time law professor, and incomplete-term legislator. 
Present.
But I don’t think anyone, even the major-league talk radio guys, could have imagined the level of incompetency in this administration would be this spectacular, and this pervasive.  Consider just what we’ve seen in the last few months:
  • Operation Fast & Furious, in which the Justice Department deliberately permitted thousands of illegal guns to be trafficked to Mexican drug cartels, some of which ended up back in the U.S. where they were used to murder Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  Dozens of documents now reveal that information about this project was made available at least as high up as Attorney General Eric Holder, who either (a) in fact knew about and authorized this colossally stupid program (and is now lying about it), (b) could have known about it but didn’t bother to read the reports (Holder’s story now), or (c) really doesn’t have any idea or control over what is going on at DOJ.
  • The Solyndra (and Tesla Motors, and Beacon Power, etc.) “green energy” loan debacle, where the physics-professor-headed Department of Energy guaranteed $535 million in loans to a fledgling company in an unproven startup industry, and did so over the skepticism—if not outright objection—of those charged with doing the financial review of that deal, only to see it go bankrupt almost to the day when the financial experts predicted it would.  
  • Stimulus and the proposed Son of Stimulus, with the economy remaining stagnant and unemployment chronically stuck above 9%, despite Obama’s promises that with Stimulus I it would remain below 8%.  In response to the obvious failure, Obama offered the juvenile quip back in June that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”  Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so surprised at the gulf between his “shovel-ready” promises and reality if he or anyone in his administration had any experience or background relevant to administering any of the tasks he is purporting to undertake.
But let’s look at some of the recent issues in the Middle East, where Thomas Friedman and others have been proclaiming Obama to be an unqualified success.
Over the weekend, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization voted overwhelmingly to grant the Palestinian Authority full membership.  It did so over the U.S.’ “nay” vote, and despite federal law requiring the U.S. to withdraw its funding of the group (22% of UNESCO’s total budget) as a consequence.  While meaningless in and of itself, the vote clothes the Palestinians with an increasing degree of international legitimacy, and gives considerable momentum to their bid last month for full recognition by the U.N. proper.
It is worth noting that the Palestinians’ statehood recognition request to the U.N. was in itself made over the U.S.’ objection and in spite of a threatened U.S. veto in the Security Council.  In both instances, if Obama and the State Department have been doing any work with the relevant players to see that it never came to a public game of chicken that hasn’t been apparent.  What has been apparent has been nearly three years of publicly undermining Israel’s negotiating position, and inexplicably backhanding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for all the world to see.  The result is an embarrassing and dangerous standoff that the U.S. will ultimately lose, and it will be Israel that pays the price.
Paralleling the apparent inaction, non-communication, and ally-abandonment that have been the hallmarks of the administration’s “policy” in Israel, it was revealed last week that as the relationship with the new leadership in Iraq has soured over the timing and scope of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, neither Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden—supposedly the administration’s point man on the issue—had any communications with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki since February.  None.  Nada.  Zero.  Scratch.  Zilch.  Other than to tell him unilaterally on October 21 that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn by the end of the year—information made known to all the world, including those potential enemies who would most profit from that knowledge—there wasn’t so much as a phone call.
And you thought Obama was treating Bibi like his bitch.
We’ve seen the Obama administration cheer on the so-called “Arab Spring,” and even supply military assistance to the rebels in Libya (query how many grieving Iranian mothers and students-cum-political prisoners are left to wonder where the hell this pro-regime change policy was two years ago).  But has Obama had any idea what was going to rise to fill the resulting void?  In Tunisia, the “free elections” Obama has so loudly praised have resulted in the election of an Islamist regime that is now implementing Sharia law.  In Egypt, following the removal of reliable U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak—again with Obama waving his pom-poms on the sidelinesanti-Christian violence is now rampant, and elections next month threaten to yield the same result as in Tunisia, with the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood poised to play a significant role, if not gain outright power.  Ditto Libya, where the death of Mohammar Qaddafi has opened the door for a more Islamic fundamentalist (read: radical jihadi) regime to take hold.  God only knows what the end game will look like in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Oman, Jordan, etc.—the track record in those places where it’s already played out, however, doesn’t look very rosy.
Be careful what you wish for/ ‘cause you just might get it all/ You just might get it all.
Meanwhile, our relationship with former “ally” Pakistan has deteriorated to the point that even U.S.-installed Afghan leader Mohammed Karzai has pledged support for Pakistan should it come to a war with the U.S.  I had no idea we were at the point of even discussing a conflict with Pakistan, much less choosing sides.


And, of course, there is the well-documented situation in Iran, where Mahmoud Ahmedinedjad has as a publicly stated policy goal the elimination of Israel.  Ahmedinedjad, who is now armed with cruise missiles and is not far from obtaining nukes.  Ahmedinedjad, who earlier this summer announced the Iranian navy would soon be patrolling just off U.S. watersan announcement met with essentially no reaction by the White House.  More sanctions, maybe a request for a U.N. resolution.


That’s bold leadership, Mr. President.  Bold, indeed.
Across the board, it appears this President spends more time and effort on his March Madness bracket than he does actually grasping and taking on the foreign policy issues we face.  He has failed to take an active leadership role, and failed to assess adequately the consequences of events playing out one way versus the other—a failing he shares with both Bush administrations, by the way.  And when he has taken action it has been to tip his hand, unnecessarily concede negotiating positions, or to show outright weakness.  The level of ignorance and/or naïveté in this administration is mind-boggling; the degree to which this President is simply a pussy is frightening.
What’s it going to be like 6-12 months from now (especially if by then it appears that Obama is likely to win re-election), with virtually no U.S. troop presence in the Middle East?  What’s it going to be like with at best no Arab check on Iran, or at worst universal Arab support for Iran?  How emboldened will Ahmedinedjad be then?      
I can only pray we’ll find a successor to Reagan’s mantle in time.
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Keystone XL Pipeline Watch: 68 days since final State Department Report, with still no action by the White House
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Editor’s Note:  I will be traveling on business the remainder of this week, and may be unable to post.  Thanks for your patience, and I look forward to getting back.

You Always Hurt the One You Love

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Pogo cartoonist Walt Kelly

I don’t know if others are picking up on this story, but the government’s efforts to defend everyone and everything but Americans continue.

Recall that we recently learned that Brian Terry—the Border Agent murdered in December—was killed by guns linked to the botched Operation Fast & Furious, which allowed a huge cache of guns to be transferred illegally to a Mexican drug cartel.  As reported yesterday at foxnews.com, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona has opposed a motion by the Terry family to qualify as “crime victims” in the case against Jamie Avila, the man accused of purchasing those guns.  Under the Crime Victims Rights Act, the family of a deceased victim has the right to participate in legal proceedings by communicating with prosecutors, receiving information, and being heard by the court.  Such motions are routine, and government opposition is rare.  And yet, there’s the federal government telling the Terry family no.
I seem to recall something about one of the fundamental purposes of the federal government being to protect us from foreign and domestic threats:
WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to . . . establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence . . . and secure the Blessings of Liberty . . .
Yet at every turn, we see this government falling all over itself to defend and confer rights upon the criminal and foreign, while attacking and criminalizing the citizenry.
How did we get this ass-backward?
Consider the Terry case in the context of some of the other things we’ve seen from Washington in recent years:
·         Actively suing Arizona to stop it from taking steps to enforce the federal government’s own border protection laws that the government isn’t enforcing itself;
·         Conferring U.S. criminal defense rights, including Miranda warnings, free defense counsel, and U.S. criminal trials upon combat prisoners who aren’t citizens, and who in many cases have never even set foot in the U.S.;
·         Providing military support to defend rebels in Libya, while refusing to prosecute Voting Rights Act violations here;
·         Molesting old ladies and children at airports, while refusing to engage in any effort to apply what is undeniably known to identify likely actual terror threats.
This government spends more time and effort investigating steroids in baseball and collusion in college football than it does actually standing up for its own citizens on their own home turf. 
It’s more than passing strange that the U.S. Attorney’s office now refusing to permit the Terry family to participate as crime victims is the very same one that led the botched Operation Fast & Furious in the first place.  That operation is under heavy scrutiny, and is likely to have considerable light shone on it in the Avila case. 
To be fair, the U.S. Attorney’s office may be technically correct on the law.  The Crime Victims Rights Act only applies to a victim or a deceased victim’s family that have been directly and proximately harmed by the violation at issue.  Avila isn’t being prosecuted for Terry’s murder, he’s being prosecuted for illegally dealing in the guns.  While those guns were used to kill Terry, the illegal sale and transportation of those guns isn’t a direct cause of his death; his murderers would in all likelihood have had other guns even if the illegal trade never took place.
But that’s missing the point.  There is a difference between what the U.S. Attorney’s office can do, and what it should do.  That it may have a technically valid objection ignores the fact that the Terry family’s motion is one that is almost invariably unopposed.  It’s a simple matter of respect and helping bring a sense of closure to crime victims and their families.  Which begs the question: Why is it being opposed here?
The only conceivable reason is CYA.  This is not just a matter of embarrassment for the U.S. Attorney, but there is a real prospect of civil liability for the government and those involved should the Terry family pursue a wrongful death action.  Allowing them to participate in the Avila case under the Crime Victims Rights Act might give them access to information that could brighten the spotlight on the bungling of Operation Fast & Furious, and possibly fuel their case against the government.
And there’s the rub.  Recall the Obama Administration’s zeal to keep a “boot on the neck” of BP and others to hold them responsible and accountable for correcting damage caused by the Deep Water Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico.  Well, where is that same sense of responsibility here?  The decision to oppose the Terry family’s crime victim motion can only be understood as signaling that the government will take whatever measures it can to avoid responsibility and accountability for Terry’s death. 
Once again, the government is choosing sides, and it’s never with the American Citizen.