Thursday, February 18, 2010
Obama faces mid-term humiliation after Senate exodus
President Barack Obama is facing humiliation in this year's mid-term elections after a wave of desertions by Democratic senators who have retreated from tough challenges for their seats from a resurgent Republican party.
There was speculation on Tuesday that the next to join an exodus ahead of the November elections could be Blanche Lincoln, who represents the conservative southern state of Arkansas and is behind every putative Republican challenger in opinon polls.
The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is meanwhile trailing all his potential Republican opponents in his state of Nevada, and even Mr Obama's old Senate seat in Illinois is expected to be close run.
The White House was rocked on Monday by the announcement by Evan Bayh, a popular, centrist senator from Indiana, who became the fifth senator to confirm he will not run for re-election. The latest speculation of more senators coming forward will only add to President Obama's woes and raise the prospect his party could lose its majority in Congress.
The emerging consensus in Washington is now that the Democrats have only a 50-50 chance of keeping control of the Senate, where they currently hold 59 out of the 100 seats, in what would be a stunning reversal of fortune after the party's clean sweep in 2008.
It has already lost the 60-strong majority that automatically overrode procedural blocks, after little known Republican Scott Brown last month captured a Massachusetts seat held by the late Edward Kennedy for 47 years.
Other Democrats are expected to withdraw from fray before deadlines fall for standing in the midterms, when 33 Senate seats and all 435 House of Representative seats will be contested.
The ruling party's vulnerability was further underlined on Tuesday when Frank Lautenberg, the 86-year-old senator for New Jersey, collapsed at his home and was hospitalised for the treatment of an ulcer. News of his collapse served as a reminder of the frail health of other senators, such as Robert Byrd, at 92 the oldest and longest serving member of the Senate, and Arlen Specter, an 80-year-old cancer and brain tumour survivor who faces a gruelling re-election battle in Pennsylvania.
Mr Bayh blamed his departure on a deep disillusion with the partisan gridlock in the Senate that he said failed to put nation over party.
Other Democrats have simply lacked the stomach for the fight, amid public upset over job losses, spiraling federal deficits and spending, huge bonuses awarded to executives of bailed-out financial institutions and Washington's yearlong and so far fruitless pre-occupation with health care.
Senator Byron Dorgan has announced he will run again in North Dakota - where Democrats have yet to find a replacement candidate - while the party failed to recruit its top candidate in Delaware when Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau eschewed a run for the seat long held by his father.
Democrats have a 255-178 edge in the House of Representatives, but more retirements are expected among 49 Democrats from districts, mainly in the South, that supported Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008.
"It hasn't been a lot of fun for centrist Democrats," said John Feehery, a Republican strategist. "They get a lot of heat back in their states on spending and health care and you have to be a true believer in the president's agenda to stick this out and a lot of them are not true believers. To put your family through the stress of another campaign if you don't have the fire in your belly is a big deal."
Obama's addled national security advisor and his hatred of dissent
"Politics should never get in the way of national security," wrote John Brennan, the White House's shockingly political deputy national security advisor. His USA Today Op-Ed article last week set off a firestorm inside the Beltway by essentially accusing critics of administration policy of deliberately lying -- "misrepresenting the facts to score political points, instead of coming together to keep us safe" -- and aiding and abetting al-Qaeda: "Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda." ...
For the record, I basically agree with Brennan's critics. The Obama administration's explanations for how it's treated the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day bombing and how it dealt with the civilian trial for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda terrorists have been incoherent and amateurish....
Let's assume Brennan's right about President Obama's critics -- that, for political reasons, they're distorting the facts of how the Christmas Day suspect was handled. Would that help al-Qaeda? That would depend on what direction the critics are pushing the administration, wouldn't it? In this case, critics are demanding more diligence and hawkishness against al-Qaeda. That helps our enemies?
And lying in itself isn't aid and comfort to the enemy. John F. Kennedy successfully misrepresented the facts about the "missile gap" in 1960, in a hawkish direction. But I'm not sure it helped the Soviets. I'm not defending lying -- and Brennan offers no good evidence on that score. I'm just trying to unpack his argument. As with his boss, it seems Brennan's real objection is to inconvenient criticism, and he's willing to use any rhetorical weapon near to hand to delegitimize it. That's why he suggests criticism is driven by partisanship. But, again, partisanship is one of the necessary antibodies of a healthy democracy.
No one likes partisan asininity, never mind dishonesty, but politics are supposed to be messy. In Federalist 51, James Madison famously wrote about how "ambition must be made to counteract ambition." That's what "playing politics" usually amounts to. Like the seeming chaos of the market, the hurly-burly of politics is how we sort things out. The result is often healthier than the process would suggest.
As the Washington Post's Fred Hiatt recently noted, partisanship defined the debate over port security during the Bush years. Democrats in Congress harped on the Bush "failure" to achieve the impossible goal of inspecting every cargo container. Now that Obama has adopted the Bush policy, the same voices are cheering. The hypocrisy might be annoying, but the Democrats' anti-Bush partisanship also called attention to an important issue. The real danger now is that Democrats will abdicate diligent oversight out of partisan loyalty, while Republicans will ignore the issue out of fear of seeming hypocritical.
Every White House is prone to group-think. So it's no wonder that this administration has the tendency to dismiss criticism as illegitimate, partisan and even dangerous. The Bush White House certainly dabbled in this sort of thing on the grounds that there was a war on. Democrats used to take great offense, which is why they insisted dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Brennan's tantrum reveals that that talking point is a dead letter.
But I'm less concerned about that than I am about Obama's faith in something called "post-partisan politics." Politics without partisanship isn't politics. And democracy without politics isn't democracy.
But he hearts Islamists
It's bad enough that John Brennan, President Obama's national security deputy, thinks Gitmo jihadi recidivism is "not that bad." But in his talk last week with Islamic law students at New York University, Brennan made even more reckless comments about our counterterrorism programs while pandering to one of the worst Muslim grievance-mongers and sharia peddlers in America.
During the question-and-answer session, Brennan welcomed a question from Omar Shahin. He identified himself as the head of the "North American Imams Federation." What he didn't mention was his role as the chief ringleader of the infamous flying imams. You remember them: They were the six Muslim clerics whose suspicious behavior -- provocatively shouting "Allahu Akbar!" before boarding the plane, fanning out in the cabin before take-off, refusing to sit in their assigned seats, requesting seat-belt extenders, which they placed on the floor -- led to their removal by a U.S. Airways crew in 2006...
Brennan didn't appear to know who Shahin was. Somebody around him should have briefed him. Shahin's involvement in Hamas-linked charities and radical Wahhabi "youth groups" has earned the Jordanian-born naturalized citizen increased FBI scrutiny over the years. Instead, Brennan treated him as just another innocent Muslim with "reasonable" concerns about the government. "We came to this country to enjoy freedom," Shahin began with faux, flag-waving emotion. "We feel that since September 11, we aren't enjoying these values anymore. . Also, we feel that there's a big lack of trust between Muslims' community and our government. . My question: Is there anything being done by our government to rebuild this trust?"
Instead of countering the narrative, exposing Shahin's true intentions and vigorously defending America's homeland security apparatus, Brennan dutifully genuflected to the gods of political correctness. Obama, he told the militant 9/11 inside-job theorist and jihad white-washer, is "determined to put America on a strong course."
No, not a "strong course" that includes national security profiling of Islamic radicals pretending they care about our country's best interests. By "strong course," Brennan assured Shahin, he meant a course toward assuaging the civil rights groups who have objected to every security program at airports, borders, train stations and visa offices for the past nine years.
Brennan told Shahin that the post-9/11 response of the Bush administration was a "reaction some people might say was over the top in some areas" (insert indignant grievance-monger nodding and mmm-hmming here), and that "in an overabundance of caution, (we) implemented a number of security measures and activities that upon reflection now we look back, after the heat of the battle has died down a bit, we say they were excessive, OK."
It gets worse: Brennan then went on to decry the "ignorant feelings" of Americans outraged at the jihadi attacks on American soil. And then he told Shahin and the audience of Muslim students that he "was very concerned after the attack in Fort Hood as well as the December 25 attack that all of sudden there were people who went back into this fearful position that lashed out not thinking through what was reasonable and appropriate."
The Fort Hood jihadist slaughtered 14 innocent soldiers and an unborn baby after an Army career of openly threatening the lives of our soldiers, and Brennan is wringing his hands about the rest of us "lashing out" over government incompetence. He believes our true sin is not in the systemic underreacting by the military, homeland security, intel and White House officials in charge, but in the "overreacting" of the American public. With clueless capitulationists like Brennan in charge of our safety, who needs enemies?
NJ governor offers Obama an example of fiscal courage
President Obama could learn a lot about fiscal responsibility from New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The governor is making hard choices to close a $2.2 billion state budget deficit by freezing spending and erasing surpluses to meet current needs. Mr. Christie is cutting money for schools, colleges, hospitals and the New Jersey Transit system - 375 line items total. He is removing noncitizens from the state health care system and canceling a jobs program that mainly created jobs for government bureaucrats. His cuts are intended to impose efficiency and accountability on government spending, concepts people generally do not associate with New Jersey politics.
Mr. Christie is taking withering fire for his efforts, which is a knee-jerk response to making hard choices, particularly when they affect government spending that some came to view as entitlements. But he is doing what he was elected to do. Mr. Christie's rationale is that, "We cannot spend money on everything we want." It's an approach refreshing in its simplicity and common sense. Contrast Mr. Christie's efforts with the orgy of self-indulgence Mr. Obama calls a budget bill. Mr. Obama seeks drastic and unnecessary increases in federal spending, resulting in projected trillion-plus-dollar deficits for at least five years and probably beyond.
On Feb. 2 in Nashua, N.H., Mr. Obama lectured the American people on fiscal responsibility. "When times are tough, you tighten your belts," he said. "You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage." However, his budget proposal is the most fiscally irresponsible in American history. It lavishes billions of dollars on unnecessary programs, pet projects and pork for cronies. There is no belt-tightening in his reckless budget; he does not believe in budget cuts. He's the guy who can't pay his mortgage but decides to buy a boat, a sports car and a home theater and then browbeats his unemployed neighbors about doing more to make ends meet.
Mr. Obama has proposed a number of gimmicks to make himself look more responsible, such as a freeze on discretionary spending. This will affect just a minuscule part of the budget and will begin freezing only after his spending spree has been put in place, guaranteeing long-term fiscal deficits.... The contrast to Mr. Christie's fiscally responsible approach could not be more vivid. When the governor announced his budget cuts, he said, "I am not happy, but I am not afraid to make these decisions, either." Mr. Obama could use some of Mr. Christie's grit.
One more time: World War II did not bring us out of the Depression: "The misconception that World War II was a period of prosperity apparently comes from measurements such as the unemployment rate falling from an estimated range of somewhere between 9 and 15% in 1940, down to 1.2% in 1944. As Dr. Higgs points out, this is not surprising given that a total of 16 million people served in the military forces during the course of the war, and were thereby removed from the labor force. Meanwhile, industry shifted to producing vast amounts of materiel to be destroyed - planes, ships, guns, etc. If such production created prosperity, then building airplanes simply to crash them into the ocean would indeed be good economic policy. At the same time, consumer goods became largely unavailable and/or rationed, and standards of living remained quite low."
French warships for Russia: "Get ready for another Paris-Washington spat. France is close to its ambition of selling a powerful warship to Russia. We looked last October at French hopes that Moscow would order a Mistral [see pic above], a big 600-foot assault vessel that carries helicopters, tanks and troops. The deal seemed a little implausible, given that Nato states have never sold important weapons to Russia and the unease over Moscow's unfriendly behaviour towards its neighbours. Now, four months later, the sale looks imminent. And Russia wants not just one 500 million euro Mistral-class ship from the Saint Nazaire yard, but also three more to be built at their own shipyards."
Audit: Census Bureau blew millions on preparations: "The Census Bureau wasted millions of dollars in preparation for its 2010 population count, including thousands of temporary employees who picked up $300 checks without performing work and others who overbilled for travel costs. Federal investigators caution the excessive charges could multiply once the $15 billion headcount begins in earnest next month unless the agency imposes tighter spending controls, according to excerpts of a forthcoming audit obtained by The Associated Press."
WI: Atheist group sues to end ministers' tax breaks: "A nationwide atheist group is asking religious leaders to take Jesus' advice and render unto Caesar what is Caesar's - especially when it comes to taking the federal tax break on their housing. The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation says the housing exemption gives churches an unfair advantage because they can compensate their leaders with tax-free housing. Other nonprofits, such as the foundation, can't do that. So it's suing the federal government to outlaw the housing allowance. `We think the law is rotten at the core,' said co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. `It is not constitutional, it is not fair, and it is not necessary.'" [That churches are major providers of charitable services seems to be overlooked. I can't call to mind a single atheist charity]
Outnumbered men call the shots on campus sex: "In American colleges and universities, women now outnumber men by a ratio of nearly two-to-one and both the New York Times and USA Today ran recent articles about the damaging impact on campus social life. Since the more in-demand sex gets to make the rules, females give in more frequently to male demands for casual sex and multiple partners. The apparent increase in promiscuity connects directly to changing demographics. In the 1950's, men students greatly outnumbered female "co-eds" so the guys had to behave themselves if they wanted a chance to date desirable women. By the 1960's, increasing female enrollment negated the feminine advantage and campuses moved toward the quicker connections favored by most males. Now, with outnumbered men pursued by female classmates and therefore calling the shots, standards at many schools have reached new lows.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:39 AM