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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’
September 6th, 2013 at 2:31 am
Syrian Resolution Looks Doomed to Failure
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Earlier today, Rick Klein, Political Director for ABC News, tweeted out that 217 members of the House of Representatives have gone on record “as likely to oppose authorizing military force against Syria,” giving those opposed to the resolution a majority in the lower chamber (if we have any pedants in the audience shouting about the fact that it takes 218 to reach a majority, note that Alabama and Massachusetts both currently have one vacant seat).

Now, “likely to oppose” isn’t the same thing as definitely voting no, but anyone who’s staking out territory this early in the process is disproportionately likely to to stick to his guns. And it’s clear that the momentum on this is all going in one direction — and it’s not the president’s.

That’s remarkable, but not particularly surprising. Sometimes you can get a member to vote against his political interest for the sake of ideology. Sometimes you can get him to vote against his ideology for the sake of his political interest. But when both are imperiled simultaneously, the whipping gets much harder. That’s precisely the case with a potential military offensive that polls terribly and hits intellectual pressure points for liberals and conservatives alike.

One dispiriting aspect of this debate is the chorus of conservative voices such as Jennifer Rubin, Hugh Hewitt, and Bret Stephens who’ve conflated opposition to feckless, limited airstrikes in Syria with “isolationism.” It may be fair to say that nearly all isolationists are opposed to taking action in Syria. It does not follow, however, that all who are opposed to taking action in Syria are isolationists. The scope of opposition is far too large to be constituted entirely (or even primarily) of those opposed to American action overseas in all but the most limited circumstances.

I suspect that there are a fair number of conservatives like me — as far removed from the reflexive international reticence of Rand Paul as we are from John McCain’s “anytime, anywhere, for any reason” school of intervention — who just don’t see the strategic payoff here, especially given the manner in which the Obama Administration would be likely to conduct the fight.

America has played too fast and loose with defining our national security interests in recent years. Doing so again — especially when it’s clear that the Obama Administration has no plan that will actually result in a change of circumstances on the ground in Syria — is an exercise in futility. The measure deserves defeat.

September 4th, 2013 at 6:16 pm
Senate Lying to Self with ‘Tailored’ Syria Resolution

A highly regarded separation of powers expert says the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s oddly worded resolution to authorize military force in Syria might be more expansive than its drafters intend, according to the Washington Times.

At issue is the resolution’s use of the words “limited and tailored” in the phrase giving President Barack Obama power “to use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria…”

Louis Fisher, a former long-time expert at the Congressional Research Service and author of a leading treatise on presidential war powers, says the word choice is unprecedented and could be so vague that it creates space for an escalation.

“What could possibly be the meaning of ‘limited and tailored’? I doubt if I’ve ever seen the word ‘tailored’ in a bill,” Fisher told the paper. “Even if the ‘intent’ of Congress is a limited war, war has its own momentum.”

In other words, use of the word ‘tailored’ in the resolution can mean anything to the clever lawyers who will twist it however they please, so in reality that word, and any limiting effect it is designed to have, is meaningless.

It is impossible for me to imagine that the people drafting this resolution don’t know this. Therefore, it seems almost certain that the underlying intent here is to sound like they are limiting the President’s options while in fact not doing so at all.

If we’re going to bomb Syria then we are going to war with Syria. If that’s in America’s national security interest, Congress should declare it in unambiguous language.

To my mind it’s better to do nothing than to say something that means nothing.

Otherwise, Congress is just lying to itself so that it can act outraged when the President uses the resolution to wage a war the Senate and House impliedly authorized.

September 4th, 2013 at 1:09 pm
Obama’s Syria Policy Incoherent at Home and Abroad

McClatchy news ran a piece yesterday describing how President Barack Obama’s seeming indecision on striking Syria is being interpreted by Middle Easterners.

“Obama’s abrupt decision on Saturday to delay the strikes that seemed just hours away is being seen in the region as the latest confirmation of an incoherent U.S. approach of mixed messages and unfulfilled threats that have driven America’s standing to a new low,” the paper said, citing numerous interviews with Syrian rebels and others.

The confusion wasn’t helped during Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There, the Vietnam veteran and anti-war hero did an about-face. Without a hint of irony he argued that in asking for congressional approval to fire missiles at Syria “President Obama is not asking America to go to war.”

Instead, the President was “asking only for the power to make clear, to make certain, that the United States means what we say,” when the Commander-in-Chief threatens military force.

But the fact remains that firing missiles into another country is an act of war, a fact that didn’t escape Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) before heading into the hearing.

“This is the most serious policy decision any senator will make,” reports the Daily Caller. “Authorizing the use of military force is, let’s face it, is a declaration of war against another country, no matter how limited it is, that’s what it is.”

Kudos to Senator Corker for saying the truth out loud. He understands the real world consequences of this decision, as do the Syrian rebels, Syrian President Bashar Assad and every other sentient being paying attention.

So far, the Obama administration is doing itself no favors by pushing forward an ad hoc, incoherent rationale for bombing a government whose actions – while immoral and deplorable – don’t necessarily threaten America’s national security interests.

August 30th, 2013 at 6:00 pm
The Hollywood Slander of Ronald Reagan
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Ronald Reagan may have been the only American president to emerge from Tinseltown (excepting the fact that Barack Obama is clearly a character created by Aaron Sorkin), but that hasn’t inspired any loyalty. The new movie, The Butler, is rife with mischaracterizations of racial progress in America (as ably pointed out by Richard Epstein for the Hoover Institution) — and it’s especially unkind to the Gipper. As Steve Hayward, Paul Kengor, Craig Shirley, and Kiron Skinner — Reagan biographers all — note in today’s Washington Post, Reagan demonstrated a lifetime’s worth of tolerance and enlightenment on racial issues.

One of the film’s larger errors is an implicit assertion that Reagan opposed economic sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa out of simple indifference to black suffering. But as his chroniclers note, the reality is much more complicated:

The unfairness of this scene can be demonstrated by any number of historical facts. In June 1981, still recovering from an assassination attempt, Reagan sent his closest foreign policy aide, William Clark, on his first official trip; it was to South Africa to express America’s disapproval. An unsmiling Clark told Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha to his face that the new president and administration “abhorred apartheid.” Clark walked out on Botha.

While accurate in depicting Reagan’s opposition to sanctions against South Africa, “The Butler” does not explain why he opposed them. Reagan saw sanctions as harmful to the poorest South Africans: millions of blacks living in dire poverty. He also feared that the apartheid regime could be replaced by a Marxist/totalitarian one allied with the Soviet Union and Cuba and that communism would spread throughout the continent. South Africa’s blacks were denied rights under apartheid, but communism would mean no freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, conscience, emigration, travel or even property for anyone. Moreover, in communist nations such as Cambodia and Ethi­o­pia, people had been slaughtered and starved on mass scales. Nearly a dozen nations had become part of the Soviet orbit in the immediate years before Reagan became president. He didn’t want South Africa to undergo the same catastrophe.

Reagan adopted a policy of “constructive engagement,” seeking to keep South Africa in the anti-Soviet faction while encouraging the country toward black-majority rule — no easy feat. In one of his finest speeches, he told the United Nations on Sept. 24, 1984, that it was “a moral imperative that South Africa’s racial policies evolve peacefully but decisively toward . . . justice, liberty and human dignity.” Among his administration’s successes was the Angola-Namibia agreement, which led to the withdrawal of the white South African regime from Namibia and paved the way for that nation’s independence.

Moral preening is always easiest when one bears no responsibility for the consequences. Statesmen weigh trade-offs. Ronald Reagan knew that. Thanks to the current situation in Syria, Barack Obama is about to get a master’s class on the topic.

August 28th, 2013 at 4:54 pm
The ObamaCare Delay that Could be Fatal

No, I don’t mean news of yet another delay in the controversial health law’s implementation – this time a Reuters report that the Health and Human Services department is pushing back by two weeks its timetable for finalizing deals with health insurance companies.

I mean today’s announcement that former President Bill Clinton is being tasked with explaining what’s so great about ObamaCare to the country. Clinton’s speech next week is being billed as the first of several high-profile speeches designed to sell the law to the 54 percent of Americans who don’t like it.

To be sure, if anybody in politics can make this train wreck look good, it’s Bill Clinton. But why would President Obama wait till now, after three-and-a-half years of public relations futility, to bring in his party’s best spokesman?

Simple: With just over a month to go before ObamaCare’s enrollment begins the president and his administration are in full-blown panic mode. Nothing is on schedule. Their multi-million dollar ad campaign may not attract enough people to enroll. And, oh yeah, we’re about to intervene in Syria’s civil war.

If Clinton gets any traction with his speeches it will be of limited value because so much of the public’s mind has been made up in the years since the law was passed. Prior to that, who knows? As a matter of Politics 101, failing to use such a successful political spokesman strikes me as a huge wasted opportunity. Of all the delays with ObamaCare, putting off Clinton’s rhetorical talents may be the most fatal to the law because – perhaps – they could have done so much to keep it alive.

August 23rd, 2013 at 5:39 pm
Why College Prices Keep Going Up
Posted by Troy Senik Print

A few weeks ago, I wrote here about the fact that Congress’ ‘fix’ to interest rates on college loans was small potatoes compared to the rapid inflation in the underlying principal. Moreover, I noted, most of President Obama’s proposals for making higher education more affordable have the economics precisely backwards. Today, AEI’s Richard Vedder sounds a similar note over at Bloomberg:

The president’s proposal has one very bad idea: a forgiveness boon for those paying off loans right now. The proposal, limiting loan payments to 10 percent of income, potentially relieves millions of students from repaying part of their obligation. So why not major in fields the economy values least — anthropology or drama instead of engineering or math — if you don’t have to worry about earning enough to pay off your student loans over a certain period?

The idea simply raises incentives for future students to borrow more money, if they know their obligation to pay it back is capped. That, in turn, allows colleges to keep raising costs.

Obama proposes to ignore or worsen the root cause of much of the explosion in student costs: the federal financial assistance programs that encourage schools to raise costs and that haven’t achieved their goals of providing college access to low-income Americans.

As Vedder notes, virtually all of our federal policy on higher education (and most of the policy proposals that have any traction at the moment) generate precisely these kind of perverse incentives. Recommended reading.

August 22nd, 2013 at 5:14 pm
Rubio to House GOP: ‘Obama Will Legalize Immigrants If Senate Bill Not Passed’

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is using an interesting tactic to get House Republicans to pass his immigration reform bill – Scare them with threats of a lawless presidency.

“I believe this president will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, he will be tempted to issue an executive order as he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen,” the presumptive 2016 presidential candidate told a Florida radio station last week.

In effect, Rubio is telling House Republicans – opponents of his pathway to citizenship plan for illegal immigrants – that unless they pass the Senate Gang of Eight’s bad bill President Barack Obama will enlarge his controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Brought to life last year via executive order, Obama directed immigration agents to put illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children at the bottom of the deportation list. The policy also makes available temporary work visas to those covered.

But Rubio, a University of Miami law school graduate and former Speaker of the Florida House, has his eyes on the wrong target.

For one thing, not even the liberal academics that provided cover for the president’s unilateral and unprecedented action think Obama has the power to defer action on every illegal immigrant.

“The justifications for DACA made clear that this is not a situation where the president can reduce overall enforcement of immigration laws. He can just redirect it in certain ways,” former principal deputy attorney general and current University of Virginia law professor David A. Martin told the Washington Post.

And even if President Obama did decide not to enforce any immigration laws, why is his lawlessness an argument against Republicans? Wouldn’t the proper response to an expanded abuse of presidential power be to oppose the president?

Yet it seems like Rubio is giving Obama a pass while preemptively blaming House Republicans for future bad acts the president may commit.

Only in a place like Washington does that kind of logic make sense. If Rubio really believes that the President of the United States won’t be constrained by the separation of powers and the rule of law, then the object of his anger should be directed at the White House, not Republicans in the House of Representatives.

August 21st, 2013 at 5:18 pm
Spouses Losing Doctors & Insurance under ObamaCare

News broke today that the United Parcel Service (UPS) is dropping an estimated 15,000 spouses of its non-union employees from the company’s health insurance plan – largely because of ObamaCare.

Doing so will save UPS around $60 million a year.

Under the health law, working spouses who have access to medical insurance from another employer don’t have to be covered.

The UPS memo explaining the decision cites ObamaCare’s stepped-up coverage requirements as playing a big role, reports Kaiser Health News.

Costly benefits such as the law’s “ban on annual and lifetime coverage limits and its requirement to cover dependent children up to age 26” will raise the cost of premiums for employers.

Eliminating coverage for working spouses is one of the few ways companies can rein in costs while still complying with the law.

But along with losing access to their current doctor networks and benefits, UPS’s soon-to-be-severed working spouses will also likely pay more for health insurance.

“The $500 in-network family deductible for UPS’s basic plan, for example, is less than the nationwide average of $733,” says Kaiser.

Remember that oft-repeated line from President Barack Obama in 2009 that if you like your current doctor and insurance plan you will be able to keep them after ObamaCare goes into effect in 2014?

Fast forward to today, and reality is singing a very different tune.

August 15th, 2013 at 8:34 pm
The Lawless Presidency, Continued
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I’ve  written here several times before about the increasingly lawless shape that the Obama Administration has taken in recent years — whether it’s making recess appointments when Congress is still in session, exempting its friends from Obamacare, or trying to make the DREAM Act law via executive order, the reflexive contempt for the separation of powers is regularly apparent. Now, two more items on that front.

First, our friend John Yoo, writing alongside John Bolton at National Review, notes Obama’s decision to bypass Congress’s authority over international treaties in pursuit of a nuclear arms reduction deal with Russia:

The Constitution, however, still stands athwart Obama’s rush to a nuclear-free utopia. Article II, Section 2 declares that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties,” but only if “two thirds of the Senators present concur.” President Obama’s last nuclear-reduction pact, the 2011 New START Treaty with Russia, cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal to dangerously low levels, 750 strategic delivery systems and 1,550 warheads. It passed the Senate by a vote of 71–26, but only after breaking a filibuster with 67 votes, not one to spare.

Uncertain it can persuade a dozen Republicans to err again, the administration is considering a Russian deal without Senate approval. According to his spokesman, Secretary of State Kerry told senators that they “would be consulted as we moved forward into discussions with the Russian Federation, but did not indicate that the administration had decided to codify any results in a treaty.” Unnamed administration officials say Washington and Moscow could engage in reciprocal weapons cuts without a written agreement.

Those unnamed Administration officials are right, of course. There’d be nothing to prevent the two countries from coincidentally reducing stockpiles at the same time. At that point, however, it’s not a treaty, it’s a handshake promise, which sort of defeats the whole purpose. Given that international law is basically fictive, however, even a real treaty wouldn’t be particularly enforceable (especially with the roguish Putin), so we need not lose too much sleep over this one.

Then, this tidbit from the Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama is looking to unilaterally impose a $5-per-year tax on all cellphone users to avoid asking a recalcitrant Congress for funding.

The Washington Post first reported the story Tuesday.

The Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency headed by three Obama appointees, would collect the tax, tacking on an additional charge to devices already subject to local, state and federal fees, along with sales taxes…

Deputy White House press secretary John Earnest denied that the move was an “end run” around Congress in a press briefing Wednesday, but added that Congress’s “dysfunctional” state could justify an executive override.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a lot of action in Congress, so the president has advocated an administrative, unilateral action to get this done,” Ernest said.

In my column this week, I compared Obama to his progressive forebear, Woodrow Wilson. This only strengthens the case. Wilson, as you can read here, would have been an enthusiastic cheerleader for precisely this kind of executive chutzpah.

August 5th, 2013 at 10:28 am
Ramirez Cartoon: ‘But I Gave You My Flexibility…’
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 2nd, 2013 at 12:08 pm
Obama Saves Congress from ObamaCare

In a last ditch effort to shield Members of Congress and their staff members from having to pay the same outrageous premiums set to hit everyday Americans under ObamaCare, President Obama personally intervened to ensure that the government would instead pay the bill.

The deal preserves a 75 percent contribution by the federal government for Congress and its staff toward the price of the new, costlier health insurance premiums available under ObamaCare, according to Politico.

The decision flies in the face of an amendment attached to ObamaCare that requires Congress and staff to use the same health insurance exchanges as everyone else with the same rules. Until today, that meant that a person’s salary – from a Senator’s to an entry-level staff member’s – would determine whether a person qualifies for a federal subsidy and if so for how much.

But now we see that, once again, Congress and this President are choosing to operate by a different set of rules than the ones they enforce on everyone else.

July 26th, 2013 at 1:49 pm
Killing … with Kindness
Posted by Troy Senik Print

We’ve all had the experience. You’re at a social gathering or a meeting with someone you don’t particularly care for and you offer up a totally insincere nicety just because it seems like the civil thing to do. But while that may be an isolated, awkward moment for you, what I’ve just described represents the lion’s share of the practice of diplomacy.

There’s blowing smoke, however, and then there’s actively distorting the truth. That latter category is where President Obama’s remarks while hosting Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang yesterday fall. In his brief comments to the press following the meeting, Obama felt the need to note that Ho Chi Minh, the country’s former communist dictator, “was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson.”

Now, Ho did indeed invoke Jefferson and the rhetoric of the founding, but it shouldn’t exactly come as news to anybody that communist tyrants’ actions didn’t always match up with their rhetoric. How many “people’s republics,” after all, spent most of their time slaughtering the very ‘people’ they were supposedly organized to empower? As Chris Stirewalt notes for Fox News:

While Jefferson did get pretty fired up about “the blood of tyrants,” it’s hard to see how the Sage of Monticello inspired the murderous career of the Vietnamese dictator. Ho famously slaughtered his opponents, including the infamous butchery of peasant farmers who resisted his brutal taxation in the early days of Ho’s regime. Not particularly Jeffersonian.

Estimates run as high as half-a-million killed in Ho’s effort to consolidate power after his communist forces drove the French out of Indochina. The killing of landlords and bourgeois-class merchants was famous even in its day and since then has been documented in even more horrifying detail.

And those who carried his banner forward following his death in 1969 – he remains “Uncle Ho” even to this day – built upon his brutal regime. Following the final U.S. retreat from Vietnam untold thousands of Vietnamese, deemed collaborators by the regime, were put to death. He and his Leninist regime used V.I. Lenin’s tactics: murder, terror and “reeducation” to obtain, maintain and expand power.
OK, I get it. Sometimes being president requires you to find something nice to say in situations where there’s no real justification for it. But surely we can draw the line at anything that puts an even slightly positive gloss on a murderous regime that sent so many innocents to an early grave.
July 24th, 2013 at 5:45 pm
If You’ve Lost Dana Milbank …
Posted by Troy Senik Print

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank is usually a reliable source of center-left hackery, so it bears noting when even he can’t react to a new Obama Administration PR push with anything other than a 650-word eye roll. From his column in today’s Post, reacting to the president’s new agenda of economic speeches (the first of which was given earlier today in Illinois):

… [E]ven a reincarnated Steve Jobs would have trouble marketing this turkey: How can the president make news, and remake the agenda, by delivering the same message he gave in 2005? He’s even giving the speech from the same place, Galesburg, Ill.

White House officials say this will show Obama’s consistency. “We plead guilty to the charge that there is a thematic continuity that exists between the speech the president will give in Galesburg, at Knox College on Wednesday, and his speech in Osawatomie [Kansas, in 2011] and his speech back at Knox College in 2005,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Yes, but this also risks sending the signal that, just six months into his second term, Obama is fresh out of ideas. There’s little hope of getting Congress to act on major initiatives and little appetite in the White House to fight for bold new legislation that is likely to fail. And so the president, it seems, is going into reruns.

I’m actually inclined to go a little easier on the president in terms of analysis while being more damning in the conclusion I draw.

‘Thematic consistency’ makes sense if you’ve got a persistent ideology. This president clearly does on economic issues: intemperate Keynesianism seasoned in rhetorical class resentment.

He’s had half a decade to put that theory into practice — in circumstances sufficiently dire that you can’t rationalize away failure — and it just … doesn’t … work. New ideas would require him to reevaluate first principles, unraveling his entire political philosophy. Is he out of ideas? No, just an ideologue who can’t come to grips with the fact that his worldview has failed the acid test of reality.

July 23rd, 2013 at 6:40 pm
Scott Walker: The Anti-Obama

In his column last week, Troy identified Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as perhaps the best potential Republican presidential candidate to correct for Barack Obama’s deficiencies.

In an editorial by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, we have even more proof.

One of Walker’s first acts as governor was to sign into a law a series of big changes on how public employee unions operate. The three biggest were limits on collective bargaining, requiring unions to recertify each year and prohibiting automatic collection of union dues.

According to analysis by the paper, in the two years since the law passed the Milwaukee affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees “has gone from more than 9,000 members and income exceeding $7 million in 2010 to about 3,500 members and a deep deficit by the end of last year.”

So far Walker’s law has translated into savings of $110 for Milwaukee taxpayers, says a new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Let’s see, budget-busting president or belt-tightening governor? Maybe, just maybe, America will get to make a sensible choice in 2016.

July 11th, 2013 at 2:39 pm
Boehner: Delay the Employer and Individual Mandates

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is using a populist line of attack to show how delaying ObamaCare’s employer mandate will harm individuals and families that don’t get an exemption, according to Politico.

“If you’re a software company making billions in profits, you’re exempt from Obamacare next year,” he said. “But if you’re a 28-year-old struggling to pay off your student loans, you’re not.”

“If you’re a big bank or financial company, you don’t have to comply with Obamcare,” Boehner added. “But if you’re a single parent trying to make ends meet, there’s no exemption for you.”

To level the playing field, Boehner is scheduling back-to-back floor votes in the House next week to delay both the employer and the individual mandate. The move would pose a dilemma for Democrats looking to support President Barack Obama’s policy, but unable to justify exempting businesses but not families and individuals too.

This strikes me as a good strategy. It’s past time for Democrats to own ObamaCare and all its flaws.

July 9th, 2013 at 1:33 pm
ObamaCare’s Impact on Immigration Reform

The best indicator of what someone will do tomorrow is what they’re doing today.

Applying this principle to the Obama administration’s abuse of power regarding the implementation of ObamaCare, key members of the House GOP see no reason to expect a different outcome with comprehensive immigration reform.

Conn Carroll summarizes the growing sentiment:

“They have shown no respect for traditional Constitutional separation of powers,” Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., told National Review’s John Fund about the impact of the ObamaCare delays on the immigration debate, “and that makes it difficult to pass laws where the fear is that they will simply ignore the parts they don’t like.”

Carroll goes on to write that, “Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who is on the House Judiciary Committee and had been a member of a bipartisan group working on immigration reform, echoed Roe’s concerns on Meet the Press. ‘In fact, if you look at this ObamaCare debacle that they have right now, this administration is actually deciding when and where to actually enforce the law. And that’s what some of us in the House are concerned about. If you give to this administration the authority to decide when they’re going to enforce the law, how they’re going to enforce the law… what’s going to happen is that we’re going to give legalization to 11 million people and Janet Napolitano is going to come to Congress and tell us that the border is already secure and nothing else needs to happen.’”

That’s exactly right. Members of Congress can negotiate all they want among themselves about a pathway to citizenship, security triggers and the like, but unless there is a change in the current president’s management style, all such agreements and understandings are worthless. As President Obama clearly showed by suspending enforcement of ObamaCare’s employer mandate last week, the law as written is merely a starting point for executive policy making.

June 27th, 2013 at 2:13 pm
Puncturing Liberal Climate Change Pretension in a Single Tweet
Posted by Troy Senik Print

In my column this week, I take aim at President Obama’s announcement earlier this week that he’s unilaterally moving the EPA towards forcing carbon emission reductions on coal producers. Of course, this will impact the job prospects of precisely the sort of everymen that liberals claim to champion, an observation rendered beautifully concise by Rupert Darwall writing at the Prospect blog:

A brilliant tweet at the time of the Thatcher funeral encapsulates the left’s ideological confusion—being in favour of coal miners and against what they mined.

June 26th, 2013 at 12:36 am
Obama’s Climate Change Condescension
Posted by Troy Senik Print

If you missed President Obama’s big climate change speech at Georgetown University earlier today, count yourself lucky. At this point, one has to assume that the White House speechwriters are making his remarks this dreary as an intentional means of keeping the public away from the content (in this case, a huge push to regulate carbon emissions from coal plants — the nation’s cheapest and most widespread source of electricity).

Two things stood out from the remarks:

1. Obama is all in on executive power. In the same week that the Supreme Court announced that they’re going to take up the President’s patently unconstitutional recess appointments to the NLRB, here he was once again bypassing Congress and the public. Obama is proposing nothing less than a reordering of our energy economy (let’s not forget his 2008 campaign trail promise to bankrupt coal producers) — and he’s doing it all through executive directives to the EPA. Congress had the chance to pass cap and trade back in the first two years of this Administration and they couldn’t get it done despite the fact that Democrats controlled both houses. Part of the reason: there was a Treasury Department analysis at the time that said passage would be tantamount to a 15 percent income tax increase. The people and their elected representatives have spoken. The President has ignored them.

2. Obama’s condescension towards climate change skeptics (such as yours truly) is astonishing. While the left has a tendency to boast about their reverence for science, they don’t seem to have much respect for the process of critical inquiry that the process requires. Obama today referred to climate skeptics as “members of the flat earth society” (ah yes, the man who was going to heal our national wounds). Just once, I’d like to see someone on the left acknowledge the fact that you can’t get to the virtues of widespread carbon reduction without going through a series of increasingly specific propositions, all of which are subject to some measure of debate:

– Climate change is occurring

– Climate change will produce significant negative effects on humanity

– Climate change is, at least in part, caused by human activity

– There are actions we can take to reduce the prospect of climate change

– The benefits of those actions outweigh the costs

– There are not other policies available with a superior cost-benefit ratio

Perhaps the president has already answered these questions in his own head, but he’s been remarkably mum about them publicly. My guess is that the glib insult is a way of obscuring the fact that he has no real responses.

June 14th, 2013 at 8:12 pm
How the Russians Roll Us
Posted by Troy Senik Print

John Bolton has a characteristically clear-minded op-ed just out in the Wall Street Journal about Russia’s antagonistic position vis-a-vis our interests in Syria. Quoth the former UN Ambassador:

Since Syria’s civil war began, Mr. Obama has insisted, contrary to fact, that the U.S. and Russia have a common interest in resolving the crisis and stabilizing the Middle East. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent efforts to secure Russian co-sponsorship of a peace conference, at which Washington will push for Assad’s ouster, reflect Mr. Obama’s illusion.

The objective evidence consistently demonstrates that Russia has no interest whatever in eliminating its only remaining Arab ally. Moscow’s military and financial assistance to Damascus continues undiminished, along with its hold on the Cold War-era Tartus naval base, strategically positioned on Syria’s Mediterranean coast—but now facing only a phantom U.S. Sixth Fleet. Despite the hoopla surrounding the announcement of the proposed peace talks, their starting date, attendees, agenda and prospects all remain uncertain.

Most dramatically, Russia last month reaffirmed its commitment to deliver sophisticated S-300 air-defense missile systems to Assad. Although Israeli leaders have played down the sale’s significance, this combination of advanced radars and missiles, which can defeat any non-stealthy aircraft (and Israel does not now have stealth planes), could change the strategic balance in Syria as well as in Lebanon and Iran—to Israel’s detriment and ours.

These are not, needless to say the actions of a friend.

Scratch the surface a bit and you’ll see the folly not only of the Obama Administration’s Russian “reset” policy, but also of every one of our “peace through vacuous niceties” diplomatic endeavors, whether in the former Soviet Union, China, or the Muslim world.

Our differences are not the product of misunderstandings. All international conflict does not stem from a global game of telephone gone horribly wrong. States and certain non-state actors (such as terrorists) rationally pursue their interests, which are defined both in material terms (economic advantage, balance of power considerations) and ideological ones. If those interests are fundamentally incompatible, no measure of sweet reason will make them otherwise. In the case of Russia, which defines one of its imperatives as checking American power wherever it can, that is precisely the case.

May 28th, 2013 at 6:00 pm
Senate Republicans Petition Supreme Court to Smack Down Obama’s NLRB Appointments

It looks like there could be a Supreme Court showdown over whether President Barack Obama violated the Constitution when he appointed members to the National Labor Relations Board back in January.

All 45 Senate Republicans have filed a friend of the court brief asking the justices to uphold the D.C. and Second Court’s rulings that the president did just that. The Obama administration, of course, disagrees and wants to high court to reverse.

The constitutional question to be answered is whether the Senate or the President gets to decide when the former is in recess, and thus when the President can make recess appointments to bypass the Constitution’s advice and consent requirement.

Important? You betcha.

As the NLRB case shows, if the President gets to decide when the Senate is in recess then the advice and consent requirement becomes effectively a voluntary procedural hoop that the President can choose to ignore whenever a nominee can’t get the necessary votes for confirmation. Such a development would effectively nullify the Senate’s only real quality control measure in staffing the executive branch.

There’s also an added bonus. If the Court accepts the case, it will be one of the few decisions that deal with actual constitutional text, instead of the “penumbras” and other implied meanings that the justices have imported over the years.

Then again, that may be why this case gets snubbed.

H/T: Politico