The New Congress

Bill CassidyThe 2014 Senate elections are now complete. On Saturday, Republican Bill Cassidy defeated incumbent Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu 56-44%. Landrieu had served as a senator for eighteen years; now she will have to find out what the private sector is like, pretty much for the first time in her life. Don’t feel too sorry for her, though; she comes from a political family with deep ties to the corridors of power. She won’t exactly go hungry.

Cassidy, who is currently a congressman and who is a medical doctor, in an interview yesterday, said his top priority was to do something about Obamacare, which he believes is a complete failure. His addition to the Senate now puts the new Senate, which will be seated in January, at 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats, a stark reversal of the last eight years.

Martha McSallyOne House seat remains to be called. In Arizona, Republican challenger Martha McSally is leading incumbent Democrat Ron Barber by a mere 161 votes, so a recount is underway. Barring any political shenanigans, it appears McSally, a retired Air Force pilot, will win. That would give the Republicans the greatest majority they’ve had in the House since the 1928 election.

Now, the real question: What will Republicans do with control of both houses of Congress? Will they stand firm on principle or cave? Will they show the nation they can lead in a new direction or will they go along with the occupant of the White House just to get along?

I never expect everything to go the way I think it should politically, but I do expect improvement after this last round of elections. Pray for wisdom and stiff spines.

A Year of Action?

Today’s commentary will be brief, and will serve as an addendum to yesterday’s concern over President Obama’s stated goal to act unilaterally to force through his agenda. He proclaimed this will be a “year of action.” Well, the cartoonists have picked up on that phrase rather quickly.

Executive Order

I love how the following cartoon captures the true spirit of the declaration:

Year of Action

Of course, Congress may not take this lying down. They may want a part of the action also:

Action Figures

“Sigh”

Three Branches, Not One

Most political commentators, whether liberal or conservative, have formed a consensus about the latest State of the Union Address: it was too long and it is not going to go down in history as memorable. What we heard is what I anticipated—the same old thing we’ve heard for five years, topped off with a hubris that leaves one shaking one’s head over how anyone can come across as that arrogant.

Amidst all the foolish and/or dangerous comments and ideas in the address, none is more pernicious than the reaffirmation that this president will do whatever it takes to advance his agenda. He won’t let little things like the Constitution or the rule of law stand in his way. If Congress won’t act, he boldly declares, he will do all within his power to act unilaterally. Actually, he has no “power” to do so; he has no authority to act on his own without the legislative branch. No matter how low an opinion anyone may have of Congress, it’s important to respect the fact that Congress, not the president, is the branch that makes the laws. President Obama doesn’t like that fact:

Eliminating Legislative

The third branch of government, the judicial, is also rather unwieldy; one never knows if it will back his agenda or not. Ideally, he would like to ignore it as well:

Firewood

The Founders had a word for this; they called it tyranny. Obama can’t do everything he seeks to do, but the overall damage can be pretty devastating. My prayer is that this nation will survive the next three years.

The Gates Book

Robert Gates is a man who has served faithfully on defense issues in administrations from Nixon to the present one. He has worked with both Republican and Democrat presidents and has built a reputation of steadfastness and integrity respected by both sides of the political world. He has now decided to let his thoughts out on what it was like to be secretary of defense for both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

DutyGates’s new book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, has just become available. I haven’t read it yet so can’t comment on the contents entirely; I plan to get it soon. However, tantalizing bits from the book have been released over the past week, and those excerpts have caused quite a stir.

People who know him and his reputation are surprised that he is so open with his views now that he has left office with no expectation of returning to the fray. According to reports, the book paints a picture of President Obama that is not very flattering overall. Gates credits the president with courage for deciding to take out Osama bin Laden, but expresses dismay at the constant intrusion of political considerations into the decisionmaking.

While he contends that political influences weren’t necessarily the final determining factor in military and defense decisions, he was startled by what a powerful role they played, especially when dealing with the security of the nation. He writes of overhearing both Obama and Hillary Clinton admitting to opposing Bush’s surge in Iraq for purely political reasons. He says the only real passion he ever saw Obama exhibit on military matters was the push to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And he was astonished that Obama didn’t trust any of the leading generals on the ground in Afghanistan and only agreed to some type of surge there halfheartedly. In fact, he says Obama didn’t really expect it to work, but did it anyway with no enthusiasm.

Change Subject

Gates has far kinder words for Bush, considering him a man of integrity who sought to do what was best for the country’s security. But he is quite harsh, apparently, on congressional leaders in both parties who, he believes, are more concerned with preening before television cameras for their own political fortunes rather than being serious about defense policies.

Interestingly, these excerpts show he has considerable disdain for VP Biden; Gates opines that Biden has been wrong about every foreign policy issue during his entire four decades in Washington:

Streak Continues

That’s about all I should say at this point. When I get the chance to read the book for myself, I’ll have a more solid basis for further comment. Yet what we already know is pretty damaging to an administration that has been rather adept at damaging itself in almost every endeavor it has attempted. Except for some specific anecdotes, perhaps the question we should really ask is whether Gates is telling us anything we didn’t know from our own observations. But even if all he has given us is confirmation of the obvious, that’s still a public service.

Challenging the Status Quo

As I write my post this morning, the Senate is poised to pass a budget deal crafted by Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Patty Murray. It is being hailed in some quarters as a sign of bipartisanship and progress, but is it really? I listened to Ryan explain why this is a good deal—no tax increases;  return of some sequester cuts to the military; deficit reduction down the road. I’ve listened to the critique of the deal—it includes more spending now and those reductions are far down the road, thereby increasing the deficit in the short run; no guarantee that a future Congress will keep this deal when the spending is set to go down; military veterans taking a hit on their pensions, even those who were wounded in action; no one else in the federal government affected in the same way as these veterans because their pensions remain untouched, so this once again penalizes those who lay their lives on the line for us.

When I first heard it explained, I hadn’t yet known about the downside of the bill. I wonder how many of those in the House of Representatives who voted in favor of it—the majority of Republicans included—really understood the ramifications. Were they hearing all the facts ahead of time?

New Budget Deal

Now, I know one overriding reason why many Republicans jumped on board with this, even some who have steadfastly resisted bills like this in the past—they are nearly petrified by the political fallout of another looming battle over the budget for which they will get blamed if we have another government “shutdown,” better described as a “slimdown.” One has to wonder why this deal would look so good to them if not for that fear. Surely, by now, they should realize they can’t trust the Democrats to uphold their side of the bargain:

Deficit Reduction

There are good people on that side of the debate who say that by putting this budget mess aside, we can concentrate on stopping Obamacare by offering an alternative. I hope so. Yet the Republican leadership doesn’t seem to be able to create unity around one solid proposal. It’s time for genuine leadership to emerge. This deal, in my view, does nothing to allay the major concerns going forward:

Budget Compromise

I, and many others out here in the hinterlands, are seeking bold leadership that will challenge the status quo. Yes, I understand political realities, but those realities will never change until courage comes front and center.

As a historian, I try to draw lessons from our past. I recall that Ronald Reagan was despised by the Republican party establishment back in the 1970s. They said he wasn’t realistic, he was too confrontational, too conservative to be elected. He went on to win two smashing victories, revived the economy, and forced the Soviet Union to the bargaining table, which eventually led to the downfall of the Evil Empire. The establishment was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

 

Principled Opposition to Obamacare

All the angst over the government “slimdown” and the debt ceiling has not completely overshadowed the Obamacare rollout disaster, but it hasn’t received the full attention it deserves. Three years after Democrats figured out a way to coerce 60 votes in the Senate to get this thing passed, it still isn’t ready for prime time.

The website for the program is a complete mess; when people are able to access it, they’re stunned by the sticker price of the options available. There’s really no good reason for any young person to sign up for it, yet their participation is the only way it can conceivably work. The whole enterprise has become laughable, showcasing how little competence exists in the administration. Once again, all we’re offered is hope and change.

Christening

We’re also seeing all the long-term effects begin to surface. Various medical clinics across the country are starting to lay off personnel. Reports of doctors planning to curtail their practice or retire are becoming more common. And of course we’ve already seen many businesses either drop employees, cut back their hours, or decide to stop offering insurance plans of their own. That means more people will be forced into the Obamacare monster:

A Beaut

Frankly, I don’t think “progressives”—and I use that term loosely—really are all that interested in people’s healthcare. They’re far more fascinated with the prospects of controlling people’s lives. What we’re seeing now with the Obamacare rollout shouldn’t surprise anyone. Principled people already knew it wouldn’t work as advertised, simply because socialism never works as advertised.

Those in Congress who are faithfully pointing out the principled reasons for opposition to this misnamed Affordable Care Act are routinely dismissed as obstructionists. Well, we have an obligation to do our best to obstruct policies that are bent on destruction. Obamacare is one of the most blatantly destructive acts ever passed by any Congress in our history. It needs to be dismantled while there’s still time to do so.

The Obama Narrative

I like the new word being used to replace “shutdown” with regard to what’s happening at the federal level; some are now referring to it as the government “slimdown.” That’s really more accurate. Basic necessities continue because tax revenues have not stopped flowing into the federal coffers. So decisions have to be made to cut back on nonessential services. What this shows us is how much of the activity of the government is nonessential. Unfortunately, Vice President Biden is still drawing his salary.

Sorry about that. I’ll get serious now.

WWII MemorialDid you read about or see video of what occurred at the WWII Memorial in DC yesterday? The Obama administration shut it down, so no one was supposed to visit it. If you’ve ever seen that memorial, you realize it’s out in the open on the Mall. It doesn’t require any special service for people to view it. It’s no different than walking past any monument. A group of WWII veterans had been flown to DC to commemorate their service by visiting this memorial. They were barred from entering it. That was one of the dumbest moves by an administration that specializes in dumb moves. The group, with an assist from Congressman Steve King of Iowa and others, removed the barriers and walked through the memorial anyway.

Normally, I want people to respect the rule of law, but this administrative fiat was foolish, and trying to keep this group away from the memorial was asinine. Kudos to those who ignored the makeshift barriers.

As usual, Republicans have been blamed by the media for this “slimdown.” Yet if you watched closely the machinations, you realize both sides have positions to which they wish to hold firm. For Republicans, it’s the desire to stall the disaster known as Obamacare; for Democrats, it’s the insistence that this unpopular law go forward without any reconsideration. The final appeal of House Republicans was to have a conference with Senate Democrats to iron out the differences. Their appeal was refused. Where is the real obstructionism in this case?

Inflexible

I thought negotiation was a normal part of politics. It certainly is in the international realm, so why not here?

Today's Schedule

What Democrats refuse to acknowledge is that the laughably named Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable, and that it is increasingly unpopular, and not only with those on the other end of the political spectrum:

Isn't the Tea Party

Yesterday marked the beginning of the Obamacare exchanges:

O'Care Start

Well, it was supposed to be the beginning, but this bureaucratic nightmare was largely unavailable to anyone who tried to access it online. I guess there are a few “glitches” to be worked out:

Crank to Start

We need a clear understanding of the dangers facing us as a nation. Yet what do we hear from this administration?

Greatest Threat

They even go one step further:

White House Tells You

I just saw the following in an e-mail sent by a friend. I think it captures the worldview of those currently in charge of our federal government:

Cruz-Hasan

When this becomes the narrative, we’re not in a good place. The president and his party need to be called out on this. Will the mainstream media do it? Of course not. That’s why the responsibility for informing the public rests on those of us who have opportunities to get out the truth. That’s why I write every day. If we are faithful to our call to disseminate truth, we can make a difference.