In our Liberty Update commentary last week, we noted the many failures of Barack Obama as president…
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Stat of the Day: Terrible Deterioration of Race Relations Under Obama

In our Liberty Update commentary last week, we noted the many failures of Barack Obama as president over the past eight years.  Today, as the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a Washington Post-ABC News survey shows just how disastrously race relations have declined under his watch:

In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans think race relations are 'generally bad.' Shortly after Obama took office, that number was 22 percent. In the same time period, those who think race relations are 'generally good' plummeted from 66 percent to 32 percent." Of his failures and disastrous legacy, this may be the most depressing.…[more]

January 16, 2017 • 02:13 pm

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Terror and Honesty Print
By Troy Senik
Thursday, January 14 2010
America’s two post-9/11 commanders-in-chief are emblematic of a tendency to lie to ourselves when it makes the world seem like a more hospitable place. This trend has been alive and well in the aftermath of the foiled Christmas bombing.

From the second that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano assured Americans that “the system worked” in the aftermath of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to take down a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day, it was obvious that the national debate over terrorism was slipping down the rabbit hole to a world of talking points and wishful thinking. 
 
Not much better was President Obama’s entirely unsubstantiated declaration a few days later that Adulmutallab was “an isolated extremist.” Combined with his statement in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting – when the President said “I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts” – a bizarre picture of Obama’s temperament emerged.  The man who openly questioned the intelligence of Cambridge, Massachusetts police officers he knew virtually nothing about didn’t want to prejudge mass murderers and their would-be imitators?
 
For many on the right, this has been taken as proof that Obama is naïve. Perhaps, but unlikely. Naiveté generally owes to a lack of experience or knowledge.  That’s not Obama’s problem.  His deficiency is an impulse to react to even the most sickening acts of terrorism with lawyerly timidity.   It’s an attempt to defang cognitive dissonance, to create a rational structure for the irrational. “Surely,” one can almost hear Obama thinking, “there must be more to the story than this.”
 
To be fair to our 44th President, he’s not exactly breaking new ground.  President Bush was known to sneak in a rhetorical placebo from time to time in discussing terrorism as well. Bush was favorably inclined towards multicultural happy talk about how Islam is a “religion of peace” being perverted by radicals – which may be the case in a metaphysical sense, but has no bearing on everyday life, where Islam is functionally defined as any particular believer wants to define it. Nor were Bush’s appeals to the lack of hope in corners of the Arab world particularly perceptive.  With many terrorists nourished by wealthy families and educated at western universities, the silver bullet for Islamic extremism is unlikely to be an international social welfare program.   
 
Nearly a decade on, America’s two post-9/11 commanders-in-chief are emblematic of a tendency to lie to ourselves when it makes the world seem like a more hospitable place.  This trend has been alive and well in the aftermath of the foiled Christmas bombing.
 
First, there was the homeland security establishment’s assurances that the lessons learned from the most recent terror attempt – from the insufficiency of the terror watch list to the lack of intelligence coordination – would be immediately applied to keeping Americans safer.  What we saw instead was the same reactive kabuki that occurs in the wake of every near-miss attack. There were discussions about full-body scanners, preventing passengers from getting up during the last hour of a flight, and even forcing travelers to sit through an entire airplane trip without so much as being able to access a book. 
 
This sort of bureaucratic paper shuffling does nothing but inconvenience Americans while remaining entirely irrelevant to nabbing terrorists. If we were honest about the threat, we would engage in aggressive behavioral profiling at airports (as the Israelis do).  But we’re not, so we force everyone to take their shoes off at security and we make a show out of special screening for senior citizens, just to prove that the TSA treats everyone equally. All well and good, except for the fact that equality has no place in preventative security.  Taking the time to examine people who are obviously not threats gives a politically correct public relations campaign precedent over the responsibility for keeping Americans safe.
 
Another deception that has gained momentum is the notion that the real problem isn’t terrorism, but our reaction to it.  Some have cited Ohio State political scientist John Mueller’s estimate that “The likelihood that a person living outside a war zone will perish at the hands of an international terrorist over an eighty-year period is about one in 80,000.”  While a comforting statistic in some respects, this should be kept in context.   Those odds can only stay that low as long as potential terrorist attacks are thwarted.  And regardless of frequency, preventing the murder of innocents always ranks as a policy priority.
 
In a similar vein, Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria recently wrote, “The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn't work.”
 
This is the sort of faux-sophistication that will get you a perch at a national newsmagazine.  Despite Dr. Zakaria’s protestations, it’s doubtful that most Americans will ever attain the kind of zen that doesn’t blink at the idea of seeing an airliner blown out of the sky. The fear is a second-order effect. The real problem is when terrorists can get to the point of being able to induce the fear.
 
Finally, there’s the shopworn notion that the U.S. is only making the terrorist problem worse through our actions.  This was the rationale behind President Obama’s recent declaration that “… We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda."
 
Does Guantanamo contribute to Al Qaeda’s rage? Probably. But why? It’s certainly not because we haven’t lived up to their ideals of civil libertarianism. Rather, it’s because we have shown the will to fight back – and made their lives uncomfortable in the process. By the same token, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the predator drone strikes in Pakistan and the various operations taken against Al Qaeda throughout the world could all plausibly be cited as recruiting tools.  Generally speaking, an enemy is not supposed to like how they are treated in wartime – and they tend to get angry as a result.  But you don’t win wars by accommodating the psychological needs of your opposition.  You win them by making the cost of opposition prohibitive to the point of futility.   It’s unclear whether America can get to that place.  To even try, we’d have to start by being honest with ourselves.

Question of the Week   
Since 1950, which one of the following U.S. Presidents has appointed the greatest number of Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"In the substantive debate between the American left and right, a debate which really does exist, the basic question is 'What is the proper purpose of government?' Those who are not on the political left object to greater or lesser degrees to the redistribution of wealth from those who earned it to those who didn't. I do indeed object to a hard-working middle class (or upper-middle class or upper-…[more]
 
 
—Ross Kaminsky, The American Spectator
— Ross Kaminsky, The American Spectator
 
Liberty Poll   

Has President-elect Trump sufficiently distanced himself from his numerous international business holdings to eliminate reasonable conflict-of-interest concerns?