Views on the News

Views on the News*

May 24, 2014


The last eight months have battered the Obama administration, from the botched rollout of the health-care website to the VA scandal, events are now cementing certain impressions about Obama.  The most damaging impression is that Obama is unusually, even epically, incompetent.  That is not news to some of us, but it seems to be a conclusion more and more people are drawing.  The emerging narrative of Barack Obama is that he is a rare political talent but a disaster when it comes to actually governing.  The list of his failures is nothing short of staggering, from shovel-ready jobs that weren’t so shovel ready to the failures of healthcare.gov to the VA debacle.  Unfortunately it also includes the President’s failure to tame the debt, lower poverty, decrease income inequality, and increase job creation.  He promised to close Guantanamo Bay and didn’t.  His administration promised to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a civilian jury in New York but they were forced to recant due to outrage in his own party. Early on in his administration Obama put his prestige on the line to secure the Olympics for Chicago in 2016 and he failed.  Overseas Obama’s failures include the Russian “reset” and Syrian “red lines” to Iran’s Green Revolution, the Egyptian overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, and Libya post-Gaddafi.  The first American ambassador since the 1970s was murdered after requests for greater security for the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi were denied.  The President has strained relations extending from Canada to Germany, from Israel to Afghanistan to Poland and the Czech Republic to many others.  All from a man who promised to heal the planet and slow the rise of the oceans.  Meanwhile, the White House response to everything from the VA and IRS scandals to the seizure of AP phone records by the DOJ is that it learned about them from press reports.  More and more Obama speaks as if he’s a passive actor, a bystander in his own administration, an MSNBC commentator speaking about events he has no real control over.  We’ve learned that his skill sets are far more oriented toward community organizing than they are to governing, because on every front, Obama is overmatched by events and is so obviously in over his head.

(“The New Obama Narrative: Epic Incompetence” by Peter Wehner dated May 21, 2014 published by Commentary Magazine at http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/05/21/the-new-obama-narrative-epic-incompetence/ )

The public’s judgment of President Obama is that his performance in office is not so great.  Nearly every opinion poll shows that more Americans disapprove of how he’s doing his job than approve, and sometimes the gap between disapprove and approve is more than 10 percentage points.  Public opinion isn’t the only way to assess a President’s effectiveness.  Fred Greenstein, a scholar of the Presidency at Princeton, came up with six “qualities that bear on presidential performance,” which may be subjective and open to disagreement, they’re non-ideological, nonpartisan, and offer a useful way to judge Presidents:

·    Effectiveness as a political communicator. Some in the political community and the press regard Obama as an eloquent communicator, but they’re wrong.  He’s become windy, boring, whiny, and unpersuasive.  The bully pulpit isn’t what it once was as a vehicle to rally the public, but other vehicles are available, such as the media.  The problem is Obama thinks the press is puerile and annoying, so he rarely conducts Presidential press conferences.  One reason for the failure of Obama’s speeches is their sameness.   He thinks the public loves his agenda (minimum wage hike, more money for infrastructure, etc.), blames Republicans for blocking it, and uses rhetorical devices such as straw men.

·    Organizational capacity. This isn’t an Obama strength, since he rarely seems to be on top of events. The VA scandal caught him by surprise. He had no idea the rollout of ObamaCare might be disastrous.  Second terms are often populated by second-rate advisers, and Obama’s is no exception. The biggest problem is lack of competence and Obama has trouble firing the duds, perhaps out of fear that it would reflect badly on him.

·    Political skill. Any politician who wins a Presidential election is smart, deft, and cunning, but prevailing in Washington takes more than just those skills.  Obama succeeded in his first two years, enacting ObamaCare, a “stimulus,” and a federal takeover of student loans.  Any President would have succeeded with majorities in Congress as large as Obama had.  Since then, with Republicans controlling the House, he’s fared miserably.  Obama doesn’t get along with those who disagree with him.  He lacks a knack for crafting compromises, which is another way of saying he doesn’t know how to lead in strained circumstances.

·    Vision. Obama has a left-wing vision: He’s for raising taxes, redistributing the wealth, giving federal regulators and bureaucrats more power than they’ve ever dreamed of, and reducing America’s sway in the world.  For all his complaints about gridlock, he’s achieved a good bit of this. He wants the national political discussion to focus on race, poverty, sexism, and fairness.  Obama can inspire the left (but only the left), but he hasn’t mastered how to market his vision to a majority of Americans.

·    Cognitive style. This is the ability to collect, analyze, absorb, and process information.  Obama prides himself on his ability to understand both sides of any issue.  Obama lacks strategic intelligence.

·    Emotional intelligence. It’s one of Obama’s strengths and far more important than it sounds.  Obama may golf a lot, take many vacations, and have a streak of narcissism, but emotionally impaired? I don’t think so.

The six qualities for judging a President simply confirm the public’s opinion of Obama: As President, he’s not so good.

(“A Performance Review” by Fred Barnes dated June 2, 2014 published by The Weekly Standard at http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/performance-review_793503.html )


If you watch the news, you mostly see violence, disasters, danger which some call it "fear porn" or "pessimism porn."  If a plane crashes or disappears, that's news, but the fact that millions of planes arrive safely is a miracle, but it's not news.  So we soak in disasters and warnings about the next one: bird flu, global warming, potential terrorism.  Yet time and again, humanity survived doomsday.  Not just survived, we flourish. Population increases, yet famine becomes rarer.  More energy is used, yet the environment gets cleaner. Innovation and trade keep improving our lives.  Over the past 40 years, murder dropped by 40%, rape by 80%, and, outside of war zones, Islamic terrorism claims fewer than 400 lives a year.  The last decade saw the fewest lives claimed in war since record keeping began.  One unnecessary death is tragic, but the big picture is good news.  Evolution programmed us to pay attention to problems.  Good news often happens slowly.  The media miss it.  There is, however, one big problem that threatens our future: the political class. Politicians offer us unsustainable debt and incomprehensible regulations.  So far the economy has survived that because of "permission-less innovation."  No one got approval from Washington to do Google searches, create Facebook profiles, or invent apps for Apple.  If they did, they probably would never have happened.  Progress now depends on innovators finding customers faster than sleepy politicians can regulate. Better to beg forgiveness later than ask permission now. By the time bureaucrats wake up, entrepreneurs have lots of happy customers who lobby for the survival of those businesses. 

(“Good News: The Bad News is Overhyped” by John Stossel dated May 21, 2014 published by Reason at http://reason.com/archives/2014/05/21/good-news-for-optimists )

In order to effectively decimate and destroy a country, its Middle Class must be thoroughly eradicated, according to the infamous Soviet-style Communist Saul Alinsky who wrote extensively about it in his book Rules for Radicals.  Barack Hussein Obama is an admirer of Alinsky and his work and actually taught ’the Alinsky Method’ to students during his days as a radical community organizer.   In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky wrote that it would be difficult to destroy the Middle Class in the USA because it was too well educated.  So the largely leftists government (“public”) school system set to the task of dumbing-down its students.  Another of Obama’s idols seems to be Richard Cloward and Frances Piven, who developed the strategy of bringing down the USA via a systematic overwhelming of virtually all of its systems but, specifically, economics.  They spoke of giving almost unlimited benefits to people in order to create a welfare state and collapse the system when it ran out of money… which it inevitably would with more people on welfare than are working to support them.  Today, in US government schools both Marxist and Islamic propaganda are regularly taught and the curricula for these are growing markedly.  Common Core, often referred to as “Communist Core,” has also made rapid progress in our school systems by promoting the false notion that it raises the standards for American students.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  No society, or country, has ever withstood a total economic, political and cultural upheaval.  Most notably, the ancient Roman Empire experienced it and this quickly led to its downfall.  In the US today, our traditional Biblically-based cultural norms are being thrown out by an increasingly suppressive federal government despite the will of the people.  Obama has effectively, with a do-nothing Congress, destroyed the US economic system and most corporations immediately bought into it!  We are now on the cusp of collapse.  Obama and his cronies spend on everything but this country and its people…all meant to destroy the economy and collapse the system.  Obama’s minions are faking and lying about anything and everything.  Unemployment figures are bogus, job creation figures are lies and inflation is felt by everyone except the government.  Obama appears to be winning on each and every one of his fronts.  Why?  Because NO ONE is really opposing him!  States are now the only hope we have to survive, which is the reason the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were written in the manner they were.  Under this Republic‘s Constitution, the States and the people, NOT the federal government, have the real powers, so it’s time to use the power we have as a hammer against the Obama police state or lose it forever. 

(“Obama Syndicate Assaulting Americans from every angle” by Sher Zieve dated May 19, 2014 published by Canada Free Press at http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/63184 )


Fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson had proposed legislation for a Great Society that would end poverty and racial injustice, “rebuild the entire urban United States,” fend off “boredom and restlessness,” slake “the hunger for community,” and enhance “the meaning of our lives.”  In 1964, 76% of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; but today only 19% do.  The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; but the latter is one consequence of his doing so.  LBJ remains, regarding government’s role, the most consequential 20th-century President.  When Johnson became President in 1963, Social Security was America’s only nationwide social program.  His programs put the nation on the path to the present, in which changed social norms (dependency on government has been de-stigmatized) have changed America’s national character.  Between 1959 and 1966, before the War on Poverty was implemented, the percentage of Americans living in poverty plunged by about one-third, from 22.4% to 14.7%, slightly lower than in 2012.  However the poverty rate is misleading because government transfer payments have made income levels and consumption levels significantly different.  Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, disability payments, heating assistance, and other entitlements have made income a poor predictor of spending power for lower-income groups.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan called attention to family disintegration among African Americans in 1965.  The “tangle of pathologies” now ensnares all races and ethnicities, includes welfare dependency and “flight from work.”  29% of Americans, about 47% of blacks and 48% of Hispanics live in households receiving means-tested benefits.  The proportion of men 20 and older who are employed has almost steadily dropped since the start of the War on Poverty, falling from 80.6% in 1964 to 67.6% 50 years later.  Work, self-reliance, and independence are essential to the culture of freedom.  For every adult man ages 20 to 64 who is between jobs and looking for work, more than three are neither working nor seeking work, a trend that began with the Great Society.  Out-of-wedlock births increased from 7.7% in 1965 to more than 40% in 2012, including 72% of black babies.  LBJ’s starkly bifurcated legacy includes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the tragic aftermath of much of his other works.  It is not a coincidence that male flight from work and family breakdown have coincided with Great Society policies, and that dependence on government is more widespread and more habitual than ever.

(“What LBJ Wrought” by George Will dated May 18, 2014 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/article/378225/what-lbj-wrought-george-will )

Obama had declared victory against an enemy that the United States wasn’t fighting while losing a war to an enemy that the United States was fighting, and meanwhile his own people were telling him that Al Qaeda had not been defeated.  When asked about al-Qaeda’s demise National Intelligence Director James Clapper said, “No. It is morphing and franchising itself, not only here but in other areas of the world.”  Obama has chosen not to listen.  By narrowly defining Al Qaeda as a small number of leaders and fighters in pre-existing war zones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, he and his White House staffers were making it easier to claim victory while ignoring the threat from expanding groups such as Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.  Obama’s policy snapshot of Al Qaeda in which Osama bin Laden was still a menace and Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan were the biggest threat to America was a decade out of date.  In his Mission Accomplished speech, Obama said that the core of Al Qaeda was no longer a threat. ”They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston.”  Al Qaeda’s core might not have directed either attack, though it’s possible it did, but both attacks emerged from its strategy of building up local franchises and training lone wolf attackers over the internet.  What Obama was celebrating as proof of his victory over Al Qaeda actually reflected his failure to understand and prepare for Al Qaeda’s next move.  Obama warned against “a boundless global war on terror’”, but a boundless global war had been Bin Laden’s strategy all along.  Al Qaeda was never meant to be a bunch of fighters running around caves in Afghanistan.  It was and is an international network of cells, militias and individuals financed by international donors.  Al Qaeda was never bound by Obama’s insistence on limiting the war to the same locations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Al Qaeda could and would spring up anywhere there was an opportunity.  Boko Haram was one of the many dragon’s teeth sown by Osama bin Laden.  The delay in making that connection and putting Boko Haram on the terror list was caused by a White House which insisted on the distinction between core Al Qaeda and everything else. Meanwhile US intelligence agencies were warning that Al Qaeda was a global network that was no longer dependent on a central leadership.  It was Obama’s intervention that allowed Al Qaeda to seize portions of Libya, murder four Americans and attempt to seize Mali. Obama’s confused and incoherent policy in Syria, where Al Qaeda dominates the opposition, nearly led him to engage in another disastrous regime change intervention that would have turned over a country with WMDs and the remnants of a recent nuclear program to Al Qaeda.  Obama tried to limit the scope of the War on Terror by maintaining rigid boundaries between core Al Qaeda and its affiliates and between its open affiliates and its covert affiliates, which served his political purposes by allowing him to declare victory, but his word games did not change the nature of Al Qaeda.  It only blinded the United States to its next move.  To claim victory, Obama had to define Al Qaeda as narrowly as possible, while Al Qaeda was defining itself as broadly as possible in order to actually win on the battlefield.  He pivoted to Afghanistan to finish what he claimed Bush had left undone.  He went after Bin Laden to arrest him and try him in a civilian court in order to end the military tribunals.  Instead of fighting to defeat Al Qaeda, he was working to defeat Bush’s policies.  Like most critics of American foreign policy, Obama found it difficult to take Al Qaeda seriously on its own terms.  Instead he viewed Al Qaeda as extremists who could only be defeated by isolating them with a more understanding foreign policy that would address Muslim grievances and empower political Islam.  So instead of defeating Al Qaeda, Obama helped it achieve its goals.  The distinction between political Islam and Islamic terrorists, like the distinction between core Al Qaeda and its affiliates or between its open affiliates and fellow Jihadists, was always fluid, but Obama’s insistence on the absoluteness of these distinctions is why he lost and why Al Qaeda is winning.

(“Obama Lost the War on Al Qaeda, While Claiming to Have Won It” by Daniel Greenfield dated May 20, 2014 published by Front Page Magazine at http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/dgreenfield/obama-lost-the-war-on-al-qaeda-while-claiming-to-have-won-it/ )


* There is so much published each week that unless you search for it, you will miss important breaking news.  I try to package the best of this information into my “Views on the News” each Saturday morning.  Updates have been made this week to the following issue sections:

·  Family at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/family.php

·  Welfare at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/welfare.php


David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY