Views on the News

Views on the News*

June 8, 2013


Obama's re-election stirred grand expectations, but these have disappeared as first term problems catch up with him and scandals erode his credibility.  The re-election heralded a new liberal era, or so it was claimed.  His victory was said to reflect ideological, cultural and demographic trends that could keep Democrats in the majority for years to come.  Now, six months later, the Obama administration is in an unexpected and sharp state of decline.  Obama has little influence on Congress.  His Presidency has no theme.  He pivots nervously from issue to issue.  What there is of an Obama agenda consists of leftovers from his first term or proposals that he failed to emphasize in his re-election campaign and thus have practically no chance of passage.  Congressional Republicans neither trust nor fear the President, and Democrats on Capitol Hill, to whom Obama has never been close, have grown leery of him.  The Obama breakdown was not caused by the trio of scandals: Benghazi, IRS, Justice Department, now confronting the President.  The decline preceded them.  It's the result of what Obama did in his first term, during the campaign and in the two months following his re-election.  However the scandals have worsened his plight and made recovery next to impossible.  To be clear, the two problems, the decline and the scandals, are different matters. The scandals have not been linked directly to the President.  They are vexing to the administration, but they are not the source of its current impotence.  Instead, Obama's power and influence have been sapped as a direct result of his own choices and decisions.  In his first term, when Democrats controlled the House and Senate, Obama ignored Republicans because he didn't need their votes to pass the $800 billion stimulus, the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) and Dodd-Frank, with its fresh wave of Wall Street regulations.  Then, after Republicans captured the House in the 2010 midterm election, his efforts to reach agreements with them proved futile.  It is a deadlock born largely of the President's resolve to push an agenda for which he has no clear national consensus.  In other words, Obama is too liberal to find common ground with Republicans.  He's paying the price for a re-election campaign that was based on attacking his opponent, Mitt Romney, and not much else.  Obama's top priority now, and apparently his only priority, is a political objective: winning the House in 2014 while retaining control of the Senate.

(“The Decline of the Obama Presidency” by Fred Barnes dated June 2, 2013 published by The Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324412604578519482313147400.html )

It is appropriate that the worst scandal of the Obama administration, the IRS targeting of conservatives, is a scandal of administrators and bureaucrats, of otherwise faceless people endowed with immense power over their fellow citizens and running free of serious oversight from elected officials.  They are the shock troops of the vast bureaucratic apparatus of the federal government.  Its growth has been one of President Obama’s chief goals, and the one he has had the most success in achieving.  He has greatly enhanced the reach and power of regulatory agencies that are an inherent offense against self-government, even when they aren’t enforcing the law in a biased way.  The administration’s corruption isn’t bags of cash or lies about interns; it is the distortion of our form of government by sidestepping democratic procedures and accountability and vesting authority in bureaucrats.  The regulatory state has three hallmarks: 1) Congress delegates lawmaking to the agencies by giving them massive discretion in implementing the vaguest of mandates; 2) there are no constraints on their effective spending power since the costs of their rules “are borne almost entirely by the private sector;” and 3) they enjoy “relative insulation from public debate and criticism.”  Needless to say, this is not how American government is supposed to work. It reflects the mindset of the Progressives rather than the Founders.  The Constitution was designed to make lawmaking cumbersome, representative, and consensual; the regulatory agency was a workaround, designed to make lawmaking efficient, specialized, and purposeful.  It was a way to accommodate growing demands for government intervention in the face of the constitutional bias for limited government.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that the IRS scandal is organically connected to the President’s signature initiative, ObamaCare.  Sarah Hall Ingram had been commissioner of the tax exempt and government entities division of the IRS, and now is in charge of the ObamaCare office at the IRS.  Looked at from one angle, ObamaCare is less a health-care law than an expansion of IRS power.  Meanwhile, Congress works on the next sprawling enterprise it wants to set in motion and hand over to the administrative state, because in Washington, the power of the administrative state always grows

(“The Lois Lerner State” by Rich Lawry dated May 31, 2013 published by Real Clear Politics at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/05/31/the_lois_lerner_state_118627.html )

Barack Obama may hold the record for persistent media reports that his shaky recovery was finally showing signs of strength, as the President's economic cheerleading squad applauded new data showing housing prices hitting the highest level in five years, rising consumer confidence and a bullish stock market rally that pushed the Dow to record highs.  Once again, the news media's euphoria was splashed across the front pages of the nation's newspapers and led the TV nightly news shows.  Surely this really was a turning point for the economy, they said.  This time, it's turned the corner for good and there's no turning back.  We've heard this fairy tale so many times before, only to see an over-regulated, over-taxed, big spending, deficit-ridden Obama economy turn back into a pumpkin of frightening statistics: anemic job creation, slower economic growth, stagnant wages, weak capital investment, a shrinking labor force, high gas prices, and a health care law that threatens to kill small business job creation.  The President, proudly pointing to monthly job creation numbers (no matter how weak the job numbers were), told us in 2012 that "we're making progress" and the economy is coming back.  More than 24 million Americans were unemployed, underemployed at the beginning of last year or had given up looking for work, pushing the real jobless rate to nearly 15%.  By the end of 2012, the economy was barely growing by 0.4% in the fourth quarter.  It crept up to around 2.5% in the first three months of this year, but some economists were forecasting slower growth between April and June.  The rising home sales do not reflect a truly large base of ordinary homebuyers, some of whom now own homes that are under water and have little or no equity to use for another down payment on a new home purchase.  Even with the rising home prices in the first quarter, 44% of American homeowners were holding mortgages that were greater than their home was worth.  Then there is the "bubble" factor: home prices are rising from rock bottom levels after the crushing housing debacle in 2008.  Left out of most euphoric home sales reports is the fact that home prices were still well below their 2006 highs by at least 28%.  Meanwhile U.S. homeownership is at its lowest rate in years and is shrinking.  Still, home sales are rising, although there will be ups and downs in their overall numbers in the months to come.  Whether the upward rise in sales and prices remains to be seen.  High unemployment still looms over the economy at 7.5%, and the latest mediocre jobs figures suggest we are not going to see major changes on that front anytime soon.  The Obama economy produced only 165,000 jobs in April, far below what is needed to bring the jobless rate down to more normal levels in the next several years.  So it's a little premature to be popping champagne corks on the basis of rising home prices because this is an economy that is still in recovery.

(“Don’t Pop the Champagne Corks Yet, the Obama Economy Remains in Critical Condition” by Donald Lambro dated May 31, 2013 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/donaldlambro/2013/05/31/title-n1609435 )

We don’t need to wonder what fascism would be like if comes to America, because a version of fascism is already here.  Fascism is a totalitarian political system, in which an all-powerful central government directs a nation's economy.  Virtually no aspect of society is independent of the state, which is a one-party regime, dominated by an omniscient leader.  Although heavily influenced by populistic themes, fascist ideology is at once anti-democratic and collectivist.  At first blush, the American variety of fascism is different.  For one thing, the traditional institutions associated with government in the United States are still in place.  Sadly, however, the primary principles of American governance, especially limited government, federalism, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and so on, have been severely compromised.  Ours has become a system of virtually limitless central governmental power.  Whatever one thinks of the IRS and Justice Department scandals their common theme is that the federal government can do anything it wishes.  Think back to Barack Obama's comment that the main problem with the Constitution is that it is a charter of "negative liberties," because it primarily specifies what government cannot do to people.  The Obamians want a charter of "positive liberties"; they want an organic law asserting what government can do to -- oops, sorry -- for people.  Progressivism is a harbinger of fascist collectivism. Omnipotent central government, economic regulation, sometimes known as "crony capitalism," redistribution of wealth; all these are consistent with fascism.  The distinction between progressives' notion of democracy and totalitarianism blurs.  Even though neither uses the term "fascism" -- two slender books present evidence buttressing the assertion that a version of fascism has come to America.  The first is Angelo Codevilla's The Ruling Class (2010), which argues that a relatively small proportion of the populace, "the ruling class," governs the rest of the population, a.k.a. "the country class."  The ruling class is America's elite, and their desires dictate what government does.  The second is Nicholas Eberstadt's A Nation of Takers (2012), which claims that a large proportion of the population -- sometimes approaching half -- receives some kind of government benefit. Instead of sturdy self-reliance, we confront the spectacle of a sizable slice of the public "gaming the system" to "qualify" for government benefits for which they might not be entitled.  The Ruling Class illustrates how the country is already governed by a tiny slice of the populace, ruling in their own interests. A Nation of Takers shows that, because they are already so dependent on government, millions of ordinary people lack the resources and the inclination to oppose government diktats.  Fascism is already here and the question is can anything be done to at least ameliorate fascism’s impact?

(“Fascism in America” by Richard Winchester dated June 4, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/06/fascism_in_america.html )


Politicians only know one response to Islamic terrorism and that is to wall off that vast majority of Muslims who did not actually commit the act from those who actually did those things using action and inaction as the defining line between the extremists and the moderates.  The problem is that to Muslims, Jihad isn’t an act of violence; it’s an act of faith.  Islamic terrorism isn’t a crime.  It’s a form of religious warfare that goes back all the way to its founding.  Islam sanctifies crime and violence and elevates them to acts of worship and that is why its acts of terror cannot and do not occur in isolation.  Terrorism is a communal activity that takes place within the context of an Islamic manifest destiny. The terrorist does not kill for himself; he takes the lives of others and offers his own life in the name of a historical idea of theocracy and supremacy.  The distinction between action and inaction is meaningless.  It’s the distinctions between active support, passive support and direct opposition that matter: those Muslims who support both the ends and the means of Muslim terrorism are active supporters; those who support the ends of Islamic theocracy, but not the means of Islamic terrorism, can be labeled passive supporters; and the tiny minority of secular extremists who oppose both the ends and the means are the direct opposition.  While not all Muslims support every act of terror, nearly all Muslims support some acts of terror.  They define acts that they disapprove of as terrorism and acts that they approve of as resistance which makes the formal condemnations of terrorism by Muslim groups completely meaningless since each condemnation only applies to a specific case and that’s even if you take the condemnations at face value.

(“The Extremist Moderates and the Moderate Extremists” by Daniel Greenfield dated June 2, 2013 published by Canada Free Press at http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/55609 )

Captives of political correctness, our governments cater to radical immigrant tantrums as our leaders contort the truth to deny the existence of Islamist terrorism, and meanwhile, our Middle Eastern “allies” and foes alike eradicate thousands of years of Jewish and Christian heritage. Our diplomats treat the persecution as a minor embarrassment, best ignored.  Except for Israel and the rarest exceptions elsewhere, Jews are already gone from the realms that nurtured them since the early years of their faith.  Today, estimates put the Christian population of the region at under 5% and sinking rapidly, and only that high because of the 9 million Copts who remain, for now, in Egypt.  The Christian population of Iraq has fallen by two-thirds over 10 years.  The most ferocious elements in the Syrian insurgency see no place for Christians in Syria’s future.  Even Jordan, struggling to appease its own Islamists, has cracked down on Christian activities.  The Jews, of course, are already long gone.  Middle East history shroud this story in lies to excuse ourselves from taking a stand, even accepting the preposterous Arab claim that Muslim failures today are the fault of the Crusades, a brief interlude when Christians occupied a coastal strip hardly larger than Israel.  In fact, it was the Mongols, then the Muslim Turks, who shattered Arab civilization, and as for conquests, Muslims occupied Spain in all or part for 800 years, and brutalized the Balkans for half a millennium. The Crusades were hardly a burp.  Meanwhile, Islam is on the ropes.  What we’ve seen in the pogroms and outright genocides over the last 150 years has been the spleen of a once-triumphant faith whose practices and values can’t compete in the modern age.  Consider today’s Middle East, apart from Israel.  Despite the massive influx of oil wealth, there isn’t one world-class university.  Nothing of quality or technological complexity is manufactured between Morocco and Pakistan.  Not even Saudi Arabia has first-rate health-care.  Research is nil.  Patent applications are statistically zero.  Women are regarded as lesser beings, wasting half of the region’s human capital.  Not one Arab society’s a meritocracy. And corruption cripples all.  If Islamist fanatics succeed in driving all minorities from the region, they’d be left with a human wasteland of comprehensive failure, seething with hatred and uncontainable violence.  The self-segregation of the Islamic heartlands would be a tragedy for humanity, but, above all, for Muslims.  The Middle East is self-destructive, morally brittle and falling ever further behind a world that’s charging ahead.  Islamists can’t even get terrorism right. So they turn on the weak in their midst, the last minorities.  The initial wave of destruction and slaughter began almost a millennium ago, when the Muslim world first felt itself under threat.  More recently, as the West shot to power (thanks to science, learning, hard work, religious tolerance and organization), the creaking Ottoman Empire could not shake off its centuries-old stupor to keep up.  Enraged by failure, the Ottomans turned on their most-productive minorities, whose successes outraged yesteryear’s fanatics.  Beginning in the 1880s and accelerating in the 1890s, pogroms against Armenian Christians stunned Western witnesses.  It was genocide. At least a million Armenians were systematically exterminated… although not without being tortured, raped, starved and death-marched first.  Nor did the slaughters stop there. In British-created Iraq, massacres of Christians recurred from 1933 to 1961.  City names we know from our recent wars, such as Mosul, Basra or Tikrit, once were centers of Christian culture, with bishops, cathedrals and monasteries famous for learning.  Gone, and the last pale ghosts, those Christians holding on to homes their blood knew for 20 centuries, are soon to go.  Christians worship freely in Israel, so why tell the Israelis they should “return Palestinian land” after Muslims seized the homes that sheltered Jews for 3,000 years?  Explain to Jews why their temples were profaned and obliterated by the adherents of that “religion of peace.”  The real tragedy for the Arabs in the last century was that the most-backward, intolerant and indolent Arabs, primitive tribesmen, got most of the oil wealth and used it to spread their Wahhabi cult throughout the Islamic world.  The intellectuals in the great Arab cities never had a chance.  No one’s standing up for the Middle East’s tormented Christians now, or for the last handful of Jews left beyond Israel.

(“Middle east genocide” by Ralph Peters dated June 1, 2013 published by New York Post at http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/middle_east_genocide_CYyETqFc0LgMfoQUbYXzWM )


* 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:

·  Politics at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/intro/politics.php


David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY