As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Tag Archives: Obama

Obama Has it Right on Trade

President Obama is bucking the left wing of his party and embarking on a massive effort to secure a free trade deal for the Pacific region.

Obama has done almost nothing on trade since Inauguration Day 2009, other than convince Congress to approve a few trade deals that were mainly negotiated by Bush. The new deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is still not finished, though it was supposed to be done in 2012. But at least the president now seems to be committed to finishing it.

To complete the pact he’ll need fast track authority from Congress, which permits only an up or down vote on the agreement, without amendments. This is necessary because otherwise the deal would be tweaked endlessly, and negotiations with other countries would be impossible.

Opposing Obama is the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party and Big Labor, which has all but stopped making contributions to candidates in order to focus its money on defeating fast track.

Obama and Elizabeth Warren
Obama tries to convince Warren to support fast track by singing to her. Warren, wearing a stylish Mao suit, listens closely.
Photo by Keith Koffler

Obama seems to have shed some of his lefty persona and recognized the economic benefits of free trade, which causes America to lose some jobs in the short run but creates businesses and jobs in the long term.

What’s more, the countries that are party to the TPP – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – all have one thing in common: They’re not China. That is, this agreement would be an important national security tool for countering China’s growing aggressiveness in the region.

Unfortunately, Obama has so little sway in Congress that it may be hard for him to get this thing over the finish line. He’ll need lots of help from the Republicans he continues to blast by the day.

In the end, trade win usually win in Congress. But it takes a Herculean effort. We’ll see if Obama has it in him.

Obama: When Alinsky Becomes Machiavelli

I want to alert you to a piece the other day in the Wall Street Journal by Pete Peterson. It’s a fascinating window into what’s going on with President Obama.

Peterson, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy, argues that the Saul Alinsky acolytes have achieved power, but are still using Alinsky tactics. But these tactics, virulent and uncompromising, were meant for the oppressed. In the hands of the powerful, they are frighteningly malignant.

Alinsky has been turned on his head. And upside down, Alinsky begins to look like Machiavelli:

Alinsky promoted the few tactics available to the downtrodden: irreverence, ridicule and deception. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it,” he wrote. So the rise to power of the world’s most famous community organizer raises a question: Should Alinskyite tactics be employed by those in power, or should they be reserved for those without?

What happens when Machiavelli’s Prince reads and employs “Rules for Radicals”? In 2009 President Obama’s friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett was asked on CNN about media bias, particularly at Fox News, and she responded: “What the administration has said very clearly is that we’re going to speak truth to power.” I remember thinking: “Wait a minute, you’re the White House. You are the power” . . .

What has happened is that a generation of American politicians who came of age during Saul Alinsky’s lifetime has moved into positions of institutional power that he so often derided as “the enemy.” They are showing an inability to leave behind Alinsky’s tactics that were intended for the weak against the strong. Civil discourse and academic freedom suffer while the “Prince” becomes more powerful.

Peterson mentions the White House but focuses mainly on Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, and Grijalva’s attempt to bully and intimidate professors who question global warming by demanding to know who’s funding them, and so forth. But the far more pernicious example is President Obama, whose failure to drop the Alinskyite tactics and assume the persona of a leader is undermining our system of government.

Alinsky

Obama has made no attempt to build relationships on either side of the aisle, because that’s not what interests him. Adopting Alinksy’s strategy of brutal offense, he rammed what he could through Congress while Democrats were in charge and then reverted to unilateral assertions of power via executive action as Republicans took the House and then the Senate.

Meanwhile, the enemy, meaning Republicans, is still portrayed as “the power” – the evil foil of the supposed underdog and champion of the people, even though the underdog happens to be the president.

Republicans, Obama tell us, are tools of filthy money corrupting the system and oppressing the masses, even as Obama outraises them all. Republicans want war. They like to oppress gays, Hispanics, and blacks. They don’t care about wages, unless they’re the wages of CEOs. Republicans hate science, and want to leave the earth to broil under global warming. Republicans don’t just want to prevent women from earning equal wages, they are in fact waging a war against women. They want to deny poor people an education. They will tolerate endless gun violence because the all-powerful NRA tells them too.

You get the point. You’ve heard all this.

Sure, Democrats always say these things. But Obama has taken it to a new level, particularly for a president, questioning his opponents’ motives and eliminating the bonhomie that used to prevail and foster alliances beneath the rhetoric.

Now, the rhetoric is the reality. And that is pure Alinsky.

And faced with such unrelenting evil, as Obama thinks he is, who has the patience for such niceties as the Constitution? Checks and balances are cast aside when those checking you are not just your opponent, but the Enemies of The People.

And so Obama governs unilaterally. Because the rules for radicals are incompatible with the rules of a republic.

The Corker Cave-In

I keep reading today that the White House folded, caved, threw up the white flag, rolled over on its sword and died a humiliating death by accepting legislation by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., giving Congress “a role” in the Iran negotiations.

In this case, that’s a bit of spin that both the White House and Republicans want you to buy. Because Republicans want you to think they’ve etched out some kind of a victory over Obama, and finally stood up one of his power grabs. While the White House want to camouflage . . . its latest successful power grab.

“The Unified States Senate just capitulated to Obama,” radio host and Constitutional scholar Mark Levin said Tuesday night. “The Unified States Senate just rewrote the Treaty Provision of the Constitution.”

And he’s right. Because a treaty requires a two thirds vote by the Senate to be accepted as law. Corker’s bill turns that on its head, allowing Congress to vote down the treaty with Iran but giving Obama veto power, which must be overridden by a two thirds vote. MEANING THAT INSTEAD NEEDING TWO THIRDS OF THE SENATE FOR HIS TREATY, OBAMA ONLY NEEDS ONE THIRD.

And that’s a victory for Congress?

What Corker has done is legitimize Obama’s power grab. Congress could have instead voted this treaty down on its own and then passed legislation withholding funding for its implementation. Obama could also veto the measure withholding funds, which would require the same two-thirds override. But at least the point would have been made that he was acting unconstitutionally, and he would be on record as defying the Congress. As a practical matter, this would have made it far easier for a future president to discard the Iran deal.

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It’s true, international agreements have increasingly, over the decades, been done by executive action. But an agreement such as this – negotiated over the course of years and involving nuclear weapons for our most pernicious adversary and therefore the possible destruction of the United States – must by its nature qualify as a treaty under the Constitution, or there is no Constitution at all.

The Founders are very clear on the need for a co-equal role in such critical matters for the Senate, which was originally entrusted not just with approving treaties, but helping negotiate them too.

Levin points to Federalist No. 75 by Alexander Hamilton “The Treaty-Making Power of the Executive,” in which Hamilton asserts that no single man can be counted on as sufficiently morally pristine to be entrusted solely with such a vast power:

The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States . . .

It must indeed be clear to a demonstration that the joint possession of the power in question, by the President and Senate, would afford a greater prospect of security, than the separate possession of it by either of them.

Hamilton raises an interesting example of how allowing just the president to make treaties can go wrong:

A man raised from the station of a private citizen to the rank of chief magistrate, possessed of a moderate or slender fortune, and looking forward to a period not very remote when he may probably be obliged to return to the station from which he was taken, might sometimes be under temptations to sacrifice his duty to his interest, which it would require superlative virtue to withstand.

Hamilton’s concern here is with that a president, being only human, might be tempted to do something that would benefit him financially, since he is soon headed back to the private sector. And sure, Obama’s memoir will fetch millions and will certainly be enlivened by an Iranian nuclear arms deal.

But Hamilton could have just as easily used vainglory as he did venality as a choice of human weakness here. Obama has plenty of money, but a deficit of glory. Many believe Obama desperately wants an Iran deal to provide him with an illustrious legacy, particularly for a second term in which he has achieved nothing beyond making a mess of half the world.

With the Corker bill, he now has Congress in his pocket as he joins Iran in shredding the Constitution over a Swiss negotiating table. And in ten to 15 years, when Iran conducts its first nuclear test, Congress will have had a “role” in the tragedy.

Obama Meets With Castro

President Obama today held an historic meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro.

Obama did not inform Castro whether he would be removing Cuba from the list of terrorism sponsors, but he said he would be making a decision in the “coming days,” according to a senior administration official. The official said it was not a significant part of their discussion.

And that’s because of course he’s going to do it and everybody knows it.

There was also talk about how to expedite the opening of embassies in each country, which is not expected to be a significant problem. Other than that, it seems there was a lot of reflection on the big moment the two leaders were experiencing, and not much else.

Obama Puts an End to the Monroe Doctrine

President Obama officially closed a chapter in U.S. history that has guided presidents since nearly beginning, indicating the United States will no longer act to resist overseas influence in the Hemisphere.

Obama, who spoke Friday during a “civil society” forum in Panama City, Panama, disparaged past efforts by the United States to forestall the spread of Communism in Latin America and suggested similar missions would no longer be undertaken.

“The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past,” Obama said.

Let’s think about what Obama means here. Obama’s world view was whelped in the 1980s within Leftist universities where political science professors groaned ceaselessly about Ronald Reagan and dismissed his anti-Communism as primitive warmongering that failed to recognize the basic decency of our enemies.

When it came to Latin America, they spouted something called “Dependency Theory,” which posited that U.S. policy in the region was predicated on sucking the wealth out of smaller, less powerful nations, not preventing Soviet expansion.

This, of course, is the theory Obama embraced, viewing our “meddling” as ignoble capitalist exploitation, not a defensive parry against the Soviets.

Obama phone Castro
Obama on the phone with Raul Castro; December 16, 2014

Obama, as the Iranians have recently recognized, does not understand the evil designs of our enemies and believes in campfire singalongs rather than fighting fire with fire. Meanwhile, he suspects the motives of the United States. And so opposing Communism in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Guatemala, and anywhere else was “meddling,” notwithstanding the foreign influence behind “indigenous” Communist movements.

This foreign influence is exactly what James Monroe was trying to deflect. Monroe said:

The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety . . .

With the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

The Soviet Union was just such a power. But for Obama, Cuba, which was sustained by the Soviets, is really not much different than any other place. Obama said:

As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people -– not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity.

Today, Iran is seeking to spread its influence into Latin America, and Russia is hoping to stage a comeback.

But now, the area is off limits. To the United States, that is. Not to its enemies.

Another Command Performance Ordered Up

President and Mrs. Obama will host a tribute to Gospel music at the White House Tuesday. They’ve done this with a variety of musical genres. And they get very good seats.

From the White House:

The President and First Lady will invite music legends and top contemporary artists to the White House as part of its “In Performance at the White House” series. The event will pay tribute to the fundamental role gospel music has played in the American musical tradition and the important artists and repertoire that have marked its vibrant history. The program will include performances by Bishop Rance Allen, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Aretha Franklin, Rodney Crowell, Rhiannon Giddens, Emmylou Harris, Darlene Love, Lyle Lovett, Tamela Mann, the Morgan State University Choir, and Michelle Williams — with T Bone Burnett as executive music director and Billy Maxwell as music director. “The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House” will be broadcast Friday, June 26, 2015 at 9:00 PM ET on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings). The program will also be simulcast on TV One.

As with previous White House music events, the First Lady will host a special daytime workshop for students. The First Lady will welcome more than 130 middle school, high school and college students from across the country to take part in an interactive student workshop: “The History of Gospel Music.” Beginning at 11:00 AM in the State Dining Room, Robert Santelli, Executive Director of The GRAMMY Museum® in Los Angeles, will give participating students an overview of the origins of gospel music, discuss important artists and explore the unique elements of gospel that have inspired the sound of other American musical genres.

Two Famous Doctors Have Accused Obama of Psychopathological Behavior

Okay, they’re both Republicans. And one of them is running for president, probably. But come on, play along here.

Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer Tuesday said President Obama’s contention that Scott Walker needs to learn about foreign policy was borderline pathological, given the vast mess the president has made of the world.

Krauthammer, who is a psychiatrist, spoke on Fox:

I mean, we all know that Obama is a narcissist, but this is sort of bordering on the pathological. Given the wreckage that he has left America’s foreign policy in across the world, and I could go through the list of countries but it would take up the whole segment from all the way from Mali to what’s happening in Iran and Iraq and Syria right now. For him to be condescending to anybody on how to conduct foreign policy is quite remarkable.

Well, you do have to wonder a little bit about the reality testing of someone who thinks they’ve mastered a subject they seem to be flunking with gusto.

Meantime, a couple of weeks ago, when told Obama looks elegant and clean, Dr. Ben Carson pronounced: “Like most psychopaths. That’s why they’re successful. That’s the way they look. They all look great.”

Carson’s not a psychiatrist, but he is a neurosurgeon. He’s seen a lot of brains. Presumably, he knows what they’re thinking.

Okay, that doesn’t make any sense. But still, he’s a doctor.

Obama Enlists His Friends in the Press to Help on Iran

President Obama today met with a mostly left-leaning group of journalists from a mostly left-leaning group of publications to make his case for his Iran nuclear appeasement deal. According to The Huffington Post, the meeting was off the record, meaning that as a condition of getting in, reporters were required not to report or discussContinue Reading

Obama Reveals His Anger at His Opponents

President Obama suggested he harbors some strong hostility against those who criticize him, saying it was difficult for him to “love” them. At the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast, no less. Meanwhile, the president failed to even mention the rampant violence being committed against Christians around the world, the most notable recent example of whichContinue Reading

Obama Increasingly Compared to Chamberlain

Google “Obama” and “Chamberlain,” and you get 891,000 results. The president’s appeasement of Iran has increasingly linked him to an earlier appeaser of evil, and the comparisons could become damaging. It’s an image people can really wrap their minds around. This one, by Newt Gingrich’s American Legacy PAC, is particularly effective. Obama will either haveContinue Reading

Obama Attends Church on Easter

President Obama and his family today are making an unusual appearance in church, celebrating Easter at the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church, a two-hundred year old African America congregation in Alexandria, Virginia. From the pool report: We arrived at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria at 10:25 after an uneventful motorcade ride, with a few onlookers snapping photos as weContinue Reading

Video || Obama Does Frank Underwood

President Obama did a little imitation for April Fools day of Frank Underwood, the fictional president played by Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. I think there can be bipartisan agreement that this is not a very good impersonation. If only Obama could imitate Underwood across the table from the Iranians: “We had our ownContinue Reading