Let the Battles Begin

Gas prices are falling. The unemployment rate is slowly dropping. If you don’t see the underlying problems that are ongoing, you might think things are turning a corner. Yet when an unemployment rate falls, is it because the economy is robust, or have people taken themselves out of the job market? Hint: it’s the latter. Our workforce is at its lowest ebb in decades. When you lose hope finding a job, you fall back on the government, which is exactly where this administration wants you.

But if you’re counting on always being part of the safety net, don’t get too comfortable:

My Plan

About those wonderful new numbers at the gas pump, ask yourself just what the president has done to achieve this. Has he opened up new oil exploration? Remember, this is the man who refuses to go forward with the Keystone Pipeline. What we have to realize is that even when the government does its best to impede recovery, there are times when market forces create a better situation anyway. Yet that won’t stop Obama from taking credit, despite the evidence to the contrary:

Policies Working

The new Congress meets today to get set up and running. Both houses are now controlled by Republicans. I’m withholding judgment on their performance until I actually can evaluate their performance. They need to remember their primary task:

Dusting Off

It’s time to start observing this document again, and by observing I mean following it. That’s going to be the yardstick by which I do my evaluation.

Obama is going to double down on executive actions, and he threatens to use the veto for anything that comes across his desk that he doesn’t like. Will Republicans pass decent bills and then get enough Democrat support to override his vetoes? The battles have only begun. Let them come, I say–let them come.

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.