Ross Douthat writes…
— The Weekly Standard (@weeklystandard) March 9, 2015
US labor participation is back to 1978 lows. 62.7% in December. pic.twitter.com/ZpGCcoJWMN
— Matt Phillips (@MatthewPhillips) January 9, 2015
Fred Barnes writes: President Obama is famous for proclaiming a “pivot” to a new issue—to the economy, to jobs, to Asia. By my count he has announced more than 20 pivots during his presidency, invariably to matters that bring political benefits and away from those that don’t.
The story of this year’s campaign in the dozen or so races that will decide who controls the Senate is uncomplicated. Republicans have a single talking point: Their Democratic opponents are partisan clones of Mr. Obama. Democrats often rely on one response: Pivot to an issue that has nothing to do with the president.
The pivot strategy has also been a major feature of Democratic campaigns that conclude with Tuesday’s midterm election. And it is understandable why Democrats have employed it. Redirection is the best response they could come up with to the Republican charge that they are closely tied to Mr. Obama and his policies.
“Watching Democrats struggle to escape Mr. Obama’s ideological grip was the most fascinating aspect of the campaign. They have tried everything from identifying with prominent Republicans to openly rejecting Mr. Obama.”
Democrats would rather not discuss their relationship with the president, much less dwell on it. He is unpopular and so are his major policies (ObamaCare, national security, the economy). So candidates pivot to another issue. We saw this strategy at work in Louisiana’s Senate race last week. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu , trailing Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy in most polls, suddenly raised the explosive issues of racism and sexism. She insisted that racism makes Mr. Obama unpopular in Louisiana and sexism causes her re-election to be a struggle.
“Over the weekend, Mr. Obama was still trying to pivot, this time to make the campaign agenda more liberal.”
Pivoting can be a clever strategy—when it works. And no Democrat has been more effective at adopting it than Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Six months ago, she was viewed as vulnerable, even doomed. Not only had she voted for the president’s health-care law, but she had also declared publicly that North Carolinians could keep their current insurance policies and doctors. For a while, she hid from reporters to avoid talking about her vote. Read the rest of this entry »
Poll reveals Hispanics’ declining faith in Democratic Party… http://t.co/Bzf2l4rpzd
— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) October 28, 2014
At some point, a compendium of condemnations against the Obama administration’s record of media transparency (actually, opacity) must be assembled. Notable quotations in this vein come from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who said, “It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering”; New York Times reporter James Risen, who said, “I think Obama hates the press”; and CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, who said, “This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”
“It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering.”
— Jill Abramson
USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page has added a sharper edge to this set of knives. Speaking Saturday at a White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) seminar, Page called the current White House not only “more restrictive” but also “more dangerous” to the press than any other in history, a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” in a violation of the Espionage Act.
The WHCA convened the event both to strategize over how to open up the byways of the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history, as well as to compare war stories on the many ways in which it is not. Peter Baker, the veteran Washington reporter from the New York Times, provided perhaps the best instance of White House-administered madness. In covering a breaking story recently, Baker received a note from a White House handler indicating that President Obama had been briefed on the matter in question.
That information came to Baker “on background.” The gist: Not from me — a meeting has occurred..
Other gripes: Correspondents took aim at large-scale “deep background” briefings — attended by up to 40-odd reporters — at which ground rules specify no names for the officials in attendance and no quotations of anything they say. ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl spoke of covering the Boston Marathon bombings. As the story developed, Karl noted that the White House wasn’t giving out any information at all. So he went around it and found out that the feds were sending their high-value interrogation team to Boston. “No way I would have gotten that out of the White House,” said Karl. Read the rest of this entry »
Judicial Watch: Obama Asserts Fast and Furious Executive Privilege Claim for Holder’s Wife
Judicial Watch announced today that it received from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) a “Vaughn index” detailing records about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. The index was forced out of the Obama administration thanks to JW’s June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent September 2012 FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510)). A federal court had ordered the production over the objections of the Obama Justice Department.
“This is the first time that the Obama administration has provided a detailed listing of all records being withheld from Congress and the American people about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal.”
[Check out John’s Fund’s book, authored with Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky: “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department“]
The document details the Attorney General Holder’s personal involvement in managing the Justice Department’s strategy on media and Congressional investigations into the Fast and Furious scandal.
Notably, the document discloses that emails between Attorney General Holder and his wife Sharon Malone – as well as his mother – are being withheld under an extraordinary claim of executive privilege as well as a dubious claim of deliberative process privilege under the Freedom of Information Act. The “First Lady of the Justice Department” is a physician and not a government employee.
“The 1307-page ‘draft’ Vaughn index was emailed to Judicial Watch at 8:34 p.m. last night, a few hours before a federal court-ordered deadline. In its cover letter, the Department of Justice asserts that all of the responsive records described in the index are ‘subject to the assertion of executive privilege’.”
This is the first time that the Obama administration has provided a detailed listing of all records being withheld from Congress and the American people about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal. The 1307-page “draft” Vaughn index was emailed to Judicial Watch at 8:34 p.m. last night, a few hours before a federal court-ordered deadline. In its cover letter, the Department of Justice asserts that all of the responsive records described in the index are “subject to the assertion of executive privilege.”
“A week before the contempt finding, to protect Holder from criminal prosecution and stave off the contempt vote, President Obama asserted executive privilege over the Fast and Furious records the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed eight months earlier.”
The Vaughn index explains 15,662 documents. Typically, a Vaughn index must: (1) identify each record withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption. Read the rest of this entry »
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama made a rare appearance on the campaign trail on Sunday with a rally to support the Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland, but early departures of crowd members while he spoke underscored his continuing unpopularity.
With approval levels hovering around record lows, Obama has spent most of his campaign-related efforts this year raising money for struggling Democrats, who risk losing control of the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 midterm election. Read the rest of this entry »
Hiding Politically Unpopular Policies from Voters, Obama Puts Top Priorities in their Proper Place: The Back of the BusPosted: October 18, 2014
“This whole place is paralyzed. Everything was kicked down the road.”
President Obama is taking time out from his much-trumpeted “year of action” to observe a period more important to his Democratic allies in Congress: the season of campaigning.
One by one, the Obama administration is setting aside key priorities, in the hope that voters won’t do the same to his fellow Democrats.
“We wish they would be as good as their rhetoric. We want them to step up and deliver. If they don’t, who’s going to?”
— Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch
Immigration reform, once deemed a pressing back-to-school item, will wait at least until the winter holidays.
Enrollment in Obamacare will start six weeks later than last year.
The climate will warm at the same rate, with new regulations pending. [Reality check: Globe hasn’t warmed in 19 years]
“It looks like the president and the Democrats are playing politics with people’s lives.”
— Frank Sharry, America’s Voice, one of many pro-amnesty, open-borders pressure groups.
The latest addition to the not-to-do list came this week, when the White House put off an announcement on the president’s nominee for attorney general, a pick he has been privately thinking about a long time.
White House aides smile and defend the strategy, saying privately that they’re trying to be sensitive to the concerns of Democrats, especially senators in tough election races.
“He promised me a dollhouse. Democrats are playing politics with everything! I hate Obama!”
— Daughter of celebrity Obama fundraiser
The White House is trying to avoid being held responsible for Democrats losing control of the Senate in the midterm election in three weeks, especially when administration officials still hope to get a few things done during the final two years of Obama’s presidency and will need help from Democrats who remain in office. Read the rest of this entry »
Headline corrected! Where do we begin? A brief scan of media reactions offers some clues. For example, The Hill Just Can’t Figure Out Where Obama Went Wrong. Surely, Obama’s Low Approval Ratings Can’t Be Blamed On Any Scandal, can it? When did Obama check out? Obama never checked in. As an exercise in reality-denial, The Hill gives us a textbook instruction manual for how to write about a controversial topic without saying anything that might reflect too badly on anyone, or offend anyone in power. Though to be fair, it’s not a bad article, on second reading. It has a few pithy quotes.
Though overdue, it’s the kind of question that haunted the G.W. Bush’s unpopular presidency, but for Obama’s predecessor, those loaded questions began moments after he was inaugurated, rather than held back for six years. And the answers were far less forgiving. The writers–blinded by GOP distrust reinforced by institutional bias–were often a lot less rational.
[Order Panetta’s “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace“ from Amazon.com]
For Obama, an honest account of “what went wrong?” would (and has, and will, for decades) fill mountains of books, exceeding the storage capacity of Amazon warehouses worldwide. We can look forward to an avalanche of unreadable academic literature, notes from unattended think-tank symposiums, and stacks of unsold finger-pointing White House staff (see above) autobiographies…
We deserve better. It has potential! It could inspire crime thrillers, Shakespearean tragedies, comic books, horror movies, and for future generations, Epic Decline-of-Empire postmortems! Truly, the question posed here is impossible to address adequately in anything less than 30 volumes. My modest headline correction offers a manageable approach. We’re not aiming for a Pulitzer here, just tryin’ to make a deadline.
Fewer than two years ago, President Obama was elected handily to his second term, becoming the first Democrat since FDR to twice win an outright majority of the popular vote.
Now, Democrats in competitive Senate races hope he stays as far away as possible, previous heartlands of support such as Iowa have turned against him and his approval ratings are languishing in the low 40s — sometimes lower.
“He should say ‘Look, all three of us now face the same choice. … Do we want to spend the next two years messaging and preparing for 2016 or would we like to spend a few months legislating?’ ”
Political observers, from former Obama aides to staffers who served in previous administrations, say something is going to have to change if the president is to achieve anything at all in his last two years in office.
“I’m still struggling to figure this out. I think a lot of it boils down to this mindset that, ‘we all have the answers and we’re smarter than everybody else and we can do this.’ ”
— Unamed former administration official
“It is a near metaphysical certainty that in his last two years, he’ll confront the same House he has in the last four years,” said William Galston, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution who served as an adviser to former President Clinton during his White House years.
“So the question is, how are they going to deal with that? If they deal with the same House in the same way, they’ll get the same results.”
Galston advised a different approach. Obama would be “well-advised” to reach out to the Republican congressional leadership immediately after the midterm elections, he said, and should resist the temptation to dig deeper into a partisan trench. Read the rest of this entry »
For The Washington Post, Andrea Peterson reports: The Obama administration is secretly negotiating a treaty that could have significant effects on domestic law. Officially, it’s a “free trade” treaty among Pacific rim countries, but a section of the draft agreement leaked in 2011 suggested that it will require signers, including the United States, to make significant changes to copyright law and enforcement measures.
“…it seems strange for the Times to be opining on a treaty the public hasn’t gotten to see yet. If the Times has gotten a leaked copy of the report, it should publish it so the public can make up its own mind.”
Strangely, the administration seems to be encouraging the public to have a debate on the treaty before they know what’s in it. The Office of the United States Trade Representative has solicited comments about the treaty on its Web site, but there is no particularly detailed information about the content of the agreement, or a draft of the current version of the proposal. Read the rest of this entry »
President Obama laid out “a mighty ambitious goal” when he said he would destroy the Islamic State, and thus far his strategy has been ineffective, says the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward on Fox News Sunday.
“This is a mess. Obama’s clearly gone through a wake-up call — he’s got to come up with something to do here.”
Failure Upon Failure
Stephen F. Hayes writes: A year before his first inauguration, Barack Obama laid out the objective of his presidency: to renew faith and trust in activist government and transform the country. In an hourlong interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal on January 16, 2008, Obama said that his campaign was already “shifting the political paradigm” and promised that his presidency would do the same.
“Journalists not only swallowed this legend, many of them promoted it. Obama didn’t appear ideological to influential political reporters because they shared his views. He wasn’t liberal, he was right.”
His model would be Ronald Reagan, who “put us on a fundamentally different path,” in a way that distinguished him from leaders who were content merely to occupy the office. “I think that Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not. And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”
If Reagan sought to minimize the role of government in the lives of Americans, Obama set out to do the opposite. “We’ve had a federal government that I think has gotten worn down and ineffective over the course of the Bush administration, partly because philosophically this administration did not believe in government as an agent of change,” he complained.
“I want to make government cool again,” he said.
“When he’s not on the golf course, the president seems to spend most of his time fundraising for vulnerable Democrats, threatening executive action on those things he can’t accomplish by leading, and working to minimize crises of his own making. This is a failed presidency.”
Obama believed in government, and he was confident that his election would signal that the American people were ready to believe again, too.
“Rather than restore faith in government, the Obama presidency has all but destroyed it.”
As we approach the sixth anniversary of his election, the Obama presidency is in tatters. Obama’s policies, foreign and domestic, are widely seen as failed or failing. His approval rating is near its lowest point. Obama’s base of support is loyal and fierce and shrinking. Much of the country sees him as incompetent or untrustworthy, and government, far from being “cool,” is a joke on good days and a threat on bad ones.
“We waited too long. We let the Islamic State build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria…”
“I noticed that two of his secretaries of defense, after they got out of office, were very critical of the lack of positive action on the part of the president.”
“But Jimmy…wait…please…I know…I…it’s…but…”
On that magical night, for the New York Times, on November 4th, 2008, Adam Nagourney wrote:
Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.
“The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis — a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country.”
“…nothing short of a phenomenon, drawing huge crowds epitomized by the tens of thousands of people who turned out to hear Mr. Obama’s victory speech…”
But it was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation’s fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago…
To the very end, Mr. McCain’s campaign was eclipsed by an opponent who was nothing short of a phenomenon, drawing huge crowds epitomized by the tens of thousands of people who turned out to hear Mr. Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” said Mr. Obama, standing before a huge wooden lectern with a row of American flags at his back, casting his eyes to a crowd that stretched far into the Chicago night…
Good times, good times. Fast forward to October. 7, 2014.
For the New York Times, Jonathan Martin reports:
In This Election, Obama’s Party Benches Him
CHICAGO — When he soared to victory by almost 10 million votes in 2008, President Obama won in states like Virginia that Democratic candidates had not captured since 1964. He was trumpeted as a transformational leader who remade American politics by creating a new electoral map and a diverse voter coalition to shape the Democratic Party for the 21st century.
“But for now he has been reduced to something else: an isolated political figure who is viewed as a liability to Democrats in the very states where voters by the thousands had once stood to cheer him.”
“As November nears, Mr. Obama and his loyalists are being forced to reconcile that it is not only Democrats in conservative-leaning states, like Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who are avoiding him.”
Hmm…A repudiation of a historically unpopular Democrat president and his economic and foreign policies?
“Abroad, in the vacuum that we created by Obama’s retreat, more aggressive, more wicked, in fact some of the worst people on earth have filled it in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq. Putin’s on the march in eastern Europe. Everybody senses America is not there.”
From The Corner, a clip from this evening’s Special Report. Harsh words from long-time Washington D.C. insider Dr. Krauthammer:
“Domestically, the great idea of expansion of government and new entitlements and all this — this is a crisis of competence. The IRS, the VA, the Secret Service… all of these agencies that we had trust in, under this administration are showing how badly government is run.”
There “is a sense in the country,” says Charles Krauthammer, “that we have a presidency that is falling apart” — call it a “crisis of competence.”
[Charles Krauthammer’s bestselling book “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics” is available at Amazon.com]
On Special Report, the panelist explained how chaos abroad and at home — much of it caused by the decisions of the current administration — is giving Americans reason to worry.
“You combine them, and you get a sense that things are out of control.”
Eric Holder has announced that he will be stepping down as attorney general as soon as a replacement can be named. And already, National Journal notes that with Holder’s departure, President Obama will be losing one of his few friends in Washington.
“…Holder’s role has been not so much law enforcement as ‘scandal-goalie,’ ensuring that whatever comes out in the news or in congressional investigations, no one in the government will go to jail…”
[Glenn Reynolds‘ book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]
As the article by George Condon notes, in choosing a friend, Obama was following in the footsteps of presidents going all the way back to George Washington, who named Revolutionary War comrades-in-arms to the slot.
“Writing in Above The Law, Tamara Tabo notes that Holder’s stonewalling, which led him to be the first attorney general ever found in contempt of Congress, has poisoned relations between the Justice Department and legislators, ensuring a rocky reception for whoever Obama names next.”
John F. Kennedy named his brother Robert to be attorney general, and Richard Nixon named his law partner, John Mitchell. In many ways, this makes sense: The attorney general of the United States is at the top of the law enforcement apparatus, and in that position, you want someone you can trust.
The idea that the Ferguson riots were the result of a predatory police force tantamount to sectarian murderers in the Middle East is a poisonous calumny. The threat to America’s blacks comes almost exclusively from other blacks, not from the police.
President Obama has announced to the world that America’s police officers are as disruptive to civil society as Middle Eastern beheaders and Russian-backed rebels.
“Obama is right about one thing: the world did take notice of the Ferguson riots, which were covered obsessively by CNN International, desperate to play up every wisp of alleged racism it could find.”
…Even a local newspaper in Salzburg, Austria, carried a fawning profile of America’s first black attorney general, Eric Holder, and his fight against police racism.
“This last Saturday, a 14-year-old girl was killed on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey, in a drive-by gang shooting. She is the sixth homicide death in the area since a 12-year-old girl was shot in the head while riding a scooter in July…Obama and Eric Holder will have nothing to say about these homicides…”
All the more important, then, for Obama to set the record straight. The idea that the Ferguson riots were the result of a predatory police force tantamount to sectarian murderers in the Middle East is a poisonous calumny. The threat to America’s blacks comes almost exclusively from other blacks, not from the police.
“…In fact, the only government representatives who work day in and day out to stop the black bloodbath are police officers.”
Every year, thousands of African Americans are gunned down by other African Americans, with no attention from the media and local government officials. The homicide death rate for blacks in Los Angeles, for example, like in most other American cities, is ten times that for whites.
“Few are the departments that don’t try to forge bonds with their communities but their officers are still met with resistance, abuse, and hatred from criminals and their associates, and from ordinary people who have been fed a steady diet of anti-police propaganda.”
It’s not whites or police officers who are gunning down black Angelenos, it’s other blacks, killing in cold blood, also at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic homicide commission combined. Read the rest of this entry »
Max Boot writes: Last week brought a reminder of what the United States has lost since Bob Gates and Leon Panetta left the Obama cabinet. Both are straight shooters with a centrist, hardheaded sensibility.
“What happened? How did the centrist Obama of his early years in office give way to the dovish Obama of more recent times? “
Panetta has been making headlines with his criticism of Obama on 60 Minutes for pulling out of Iraq too soon (“I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq”) and not doing more early on to aid the Syrian opposition (“we pay the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS”).
“Obama suffers from the not uncommon defect of the intellectually able: He imagines that he is always the smartest guy in the room and thus has trouble taking advice that does not accord with his own predilections.”
Meanwhile, Gates has been critical of Obama for prohibiting U.S. “boots on the ground” to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: “The reality is, they’re not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own,” he told CBS This Morning. “So there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [the United States won’t put boots on the ground], the president, in effect, traps himself.”
[Check out Max Boot’s “Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present” at Amazon.com]
In retrospect, it is clear, the first Obama term—when Gates was at Defense (followed by Panetta), Panetta at CIA (followed by General David Petraeus), Hillary Clinton at State, Admiral Mike Mullen at the Joint Chiefs, and retired General Jim Jones at the National Security Council—was a golden age (by Obama standards) when there were grown-ups more or less in charge of U.S. foreign policy. Obama at first tended to accede to the advice of his more seasoned foreign policy hands because as a first-term senator he was acutely aware of his own lack of experience or credibility in the field. Read the rest of this entry »