Tag: Barack Obama

Ferguson in Perspective: Jason Riley Tells Hard Truths

 

I am not in a position to judge whether Darren Wilson handled himself properly in his confrontation with Michael Brown. It is clear enough that Brown was a punk — the sort of dope-head thug who would forcibly rob a convenience store. And the story told by Wilson is plausible enough: that Brown was walking in the middle of the street and interfering with traffic; that, when told to move to the sidewalk, he balked; that, when Wilson began to get out of his car, Brown shoved the door back against the policeman, grappled for his gun, and ran; and that he later turned around and charged Wilson. But, of course, this story may not be entirely true, and Wilson may have overreacted.

But even if Wilson is at fault — and I am well aware that policemen can be trigger-happy and that, in a crunch, they can easily get rattled, misjudge, and overreact — what happened in Ferguson that night (as opposed to succeeding nights) was, from a political perspective, inconsequential. As Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal courageously points out in the video posted below, African-Americans make up 13% of the American population and 50% of the homicide victims, but very, very few of the African-Americans who are killed in this country die at the hands of white policemen. In fact, 90% of the African-Americans who are murdered in the United States are murdered by their fellow African-Americans. What happened in Ferguson was a relatively rare event that may or may not tell us something about Darren Wilson and the police force of St. Louis County. But it tells us nothing about white racism in the nation as a whole and next to nothing about discrimination against American blacks.

Liberal Outrage Over Tyrants

 

Recep_Tayyip_ErdoganAll things are not necessarily equal when it comes to tyrants and liberals. Turkey has just elected a new president, or more accurately, they had their first popular election for that office, and moved their prime minister into that position. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been acting a little power hungry lately, and decided that he wanted to be president, and expand the powers of that office to meet his desires. For better or worse, the people of Turkey have obliged him. Because he’s backed by mostly conservative Sunni Muslims, it won’t be surprising if in the coming months we’ll see liberal foreign policy wonks talking about how bad this is. They’ll be right, but probably for the wrong reasons.

Cenk Sidar offered a very interesting pre-election analysis of the situation in Turkey at ForeignPolicy.com, particularly through a thumbnail sketch of the Erdogan administration. The first statement of interest had to do with Erdogan’s attitude about the system of checks and balances in the Turkish government.

Lately, Erdogan has shown little interest in preserving a system based on checks and balances and the separation of powers. The prime minister’s harsh crackdown on his political opponents and his combative rhetoric strongly suggest that he would like to see Turkey become a decidedly illiberal democracy, one in which he and his party can use the mandate of the ballot box to rule as they please, with little or no consideration of dissenting views.

A World Disappointed: Obama, the ‘Lightworker’ of 2008, Turns Out to Be a Low-Watt President

 

rolling_stone_obamaBack in the summer of 2008, I remember asking my liberal friends if they were put off, even a little bit, about how Barack Obama wasn’t just admired, but nearly worshiped.

A normal American, I said, thinks it’s creepy that his fellow “free citizens” produce iconography like this, or this, or this. That’s the kind of stuff produced by artists in totalitarian societies, usually against their will. Yet some Americans did it willingly in 2008.

A normal American thinks it’s chilling to discover that public school teachers are drilling children to sing songs in praise of a complete stranger — a politician about whom we knew so little, and who had accomplished exactly nothing of consequence in his public life.

Wanted: A Jealous Congress

 

One of the more depressing aspects of recent constitutional history is the decline in institutional opposition between the branches of our Federal government.

Institutional opposition stems from the separation of powers described in the Constitution, in which the three branches of government exist as separate and co-equal institutions, each with their own prerogatives and responsibilities.  If Congress were, for instance, to negotiate a treaty directly with a foreign power, the President should oppose the action on the grounds that Congress has usurped his rightful authority.  Likewise, if the President attempted to take out a loan on behalf of the country, Congress should should rightly raise Hell.  Whether the president and congress* agree on the substance of these issues should be irrelevant; the point is that each is wrongly poaching on the other’s territory.

The 80s Called

 

ronald-reagan-bear

A popular debate tactic for Team Chicago in the election of 2012 was to paint Mitt Romney as an Etch a Sketch candidate eager to return the world to a Cold War stalemate even as he warned of the serious consequences of an administration more interested in counting spilled toothpicks. Barack Obama addressing growing threats in Moscow, Iran, Afghanistan, the West Bank, and Central America took a back seat to hilarious one-liners referencing Gordon Gekko and Ivan Drago.

Except Mitt Romney was right and everyone now knows he was right.

Member Post

 

President Obama, boasting that he would flout the Constitution by circumventing the will of Congress, once boasted that he had “a pen and a phone.” I just watched a very interesting movie, “Saving Lincoln,” which I received aa year ago after giving the film makers $25 on kickstarter.com. What can I say, I am sucker […]

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Member Post

 

Do you think we are witnessing the rise of a cult of personality around Obama? From Wikipedia: A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and at times, worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise…  Preview Open

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Member Post

 

Quoting from the Wall Street Journal: President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to stem the surge in children and families from Central America illegally crossing the U.S. border, with most of the money to be spent on detention facilities to hold the migrants. Preview Open

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Bad President, No Biscuit

 

The Constitution is a brilliant document in its way, but the current administration has amply demonstrated one of its weaknesses. For all its careful separation of powers, the Constitution provides no punishment for disobedient executives short of the nuclear option (impeachment). But impeachment is so drastic (and destabilizing for the country) that Congress will always be reluctant to pursue it. And, as any criminologist can tell you, the worst way to regulate bad behavior is through huge punishments that are inconsistently applied. People with poor impulse control can’t be expected to engage in that sort of long-term planning. (I might get caught, I might end up incarcerated for 30 years, I might be impeached, etc.)

When you have a willful child in the Oval Office, bad things will happen. But if Congress wants to motivate the president to obey the laws, threatening to impeach him probably won’t be the ticket. He needs swift, immediate punishments that are manageable enough to be consistently applied. So, for example:

How Impeachment Has Changed

 

ClintonLet me add one more note to my discussion with Peter about the legality of how President Obama has handled the Bowe Bergdahl situation. Peter wrote in response to yesterday’s post:

What I find staggering, though–and I suppose this is really something I should have known, but then Obama has never been president before, has he?–what I find staggering is that when the President of the United States engages in genuine lawlessness, no one can take him to court. Obama enforces ObamaCare selectively, ignores the requirement to report to Congress before releasing prisoners, and permits the IRS to engage in political vendettas…and all Congress can do is hold hearings and sputter.  Either that or resort to the very blunt instruments of withholding appropriations or–dare one breathe the word?–introducing resolutions of impeachment.

Can this be so, Professor Yoo?

Saving Ukraine … with Night Vision Goggles

 

shutterstock_31342912President Obama’s National Security Council has announced the allocation of $5 million for Ukraine amid the ongoing armed conflict in the southeastern part of the country, money that’s going to go to the purchase of things like night vision and body armor. This gesture is similar to the announcement after Crimea’s annexation that several hundred U.S. troops would take part in maneuvers in Poland and the Baltic States.

If Ukraine uses the entire $5 million to buy top- of-the-line night vision goggles, its hard-pressed army could get exactly 556 pairs … to fight a Russian mercenary army that numbers in the thousands.

Perhaps the president kept the number small so as not to upset Vladimir Putin? Do we still need his help in finding solutions to Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear weapon? Doesn’t Obama understand that the U.S. is already blamed in Russian propaganda for being behind the whole Ukraine mess? If we’re going to be vilified either way, why not give poor Ukraine some assistance worthy of the name?

On Bergdahl, Obama Made the Least Bad Choice

 

ObamaBerghdalPresident Obama has come under enormous criticism for his handling of the repatriation of Sgt Bergdahl. As always, he couldn’t help but do it in the most grandstanding way possible. The central decision, though, was the best of a bad set of choices. I’m not convinced by any of the arguments that I’ve seen here or elsewhere on the web that he could have done this much differently.

Here then, are the complaints:

We Negotiated With Terrorists

A Pen and A Phone

 

Resolute_deskI’d like to invite my Ricochet friends to join me in a game. I’ll explain the rules in a moment, but the name of the game is “A Pen and a Phone” and it’s all about executive power. What fun is state power, after all, if you don’t use it?

In the wake of the Obamacare fiasco, Barack Obama has been blocked from passing legislation much more consequential than commemorative postage stamps and bridge renamings. It isn’t just partisan gridlock; even Democrats shy away from being his legislative water-carriers. Faced with this trend, Obama now relies on executive orders, administrative actions, creative interpretations of legislative intent, and the placement of ideological fellow-travelers throughout the government to manifest his will. He’s got a pen and a phone and a supine press corps, and he’s not afraid to use them.

This opaque and deceptive Administration knows that every excess in the use and application of executive and regulatory power draws only polite murmurs of dissent from his political and media cheerleaders. What would have resulted in howls of outrage in the Bush years is now greeted with public demurral and private encouragement.

The Truth About Ukraine

 

shutterstock_167810666Yesterday, President Obama gave a commencement address to the cadets at West Point. Here’s what he said about Ukraine:

This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions. Yesterday, I spoke to their next president. We don’t know how the situation will play out, and there will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order, working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future — without us firing a shot.

Here’s what he should have said:

Hillary’s Big Economic Speech Forgets About Obamanomics

 

052114hillary-600x298There was a weird moment during Hillary Clinton’s big-think economic speech the other day. The former Obama Secretary of State and current middle-class warrior had just finished ticking off a bunch of worrisome stats on income growth, income inequality, and social mobility. She really focused on how Canada’s middle-class is now supposedly richer than America’s in an economy with both more equality and a stronger safety net. Then Clinton continued:

That’s not how it’s supposed to be. We often think that we invented the middle-class. So what can we do about it? Of course, a lot depends on our leadership here in Washington and across our country. The 1990s taught us that even in the face of difficult, long-term economic trends, it’s possible through smart policies and sound investment to enjoy broad-based growth and shared prosperity. My husband gave a lecture at Georgetown recently …

Stop the tape. Wasn’t that the moment she was supposed to start trumpeting the achievements of the Obama administration and how Obamanomics has begun to turn around those bad trends? Shouldn’t that have been the “stay the course with Hillary” moment (assuming a 2016 White House run)? Instead, she skipped right back to Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Speak Loudly and Carry a Twig

 

shutterstock_182561723According to the Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are now 26 facilities around the country under investigation for delaying treatment and falsifying records related to veterans’ health care. Before you succumb to outrage, however, take this comfort: the President of the United States is responding to this scandal with his greatest weapon: a speech. From Fox News:

“We’ve got to do better,” Obama conceded, while indicating he wants to wait for the conclusion of internal probes before addressing whether any more top officials should resign. 

“When I hear allegations of misconduct … I will not stand for it,” Obama said. “None of us should.”

Member Post

 

In the intro to the flagship podcast, we hear Richard Nixon’s famous “I am not a crook” denial, followed by Chris Christie’s “I am not a bully.” These are great examples of how sharing the contents of a politician’s heart can leave voters with the exact opposite of the desired impression. In the immortal words […]

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Hacks and Flacks

 

Barack ObamaHaving blogged for some time now, I understand that there are partisan divisions in the political blogosphere, and I understand as well that they are here to stay. That having been said, it is worth noting—as James Oliphant does — that port-side bloggers are acting as publicity agents, apologists, and all-around hacks on behalf of the Obama Administration to a degree not seen before. Certainly, the administration of George W. Bush never benefited from the presence of a similar cyber-praetorian guard acting to advance its interests.

Read the following excerpt well, and note that there are a host of “journalists” who act more like one would expect paid White House staffers to behave. And boy, do they get the benefits that come with toeing the line:

When Jay Carney was grilled at length by Jonathan Karl of ABC News over an email outlining administration talking points in the wake of the 2012 Benghazi attack, it was not, by the reckoning of many observers, the White House press secretary’s finest hour. Carney was alternately defensive and dismissive, arguably fueling a bonfire he was trying to tamp down.