Monthly Archives: May 2013
The Obama administration is hemorrhaging credibility. His speech at the National Defense University was meant to help that. It was a moment in the national spotlight, a Memorial Day weekend speech that was supposed to set the tone for the weekend news cycle. A speech meant to bolster the Obama image to those losing faith in the promised hope and change that seem to elude his oversight. But many people were unimpressed, and the defining moment in the speech was not a policy, but a protestor.“We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.”
This really depends on how you define torture. When making this change President Obama required that all interrogations follow the guidelines of the Army Field Manual. The thing is, when the Justice Department reviewed the manual, it recommended no changes be made for the administration that was “banning” torture. Now this is not to say the situation has not improved, but many still argue that the Army Field Manual has “torture loopholes” that have been and continue to be exploited under the Obama administration.“Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.”
Many military experts contradict this claim. While most of the senior Al Qaeda leadership is dead, we have precious little information (at least publically) about whether or not others were promoted to senior leadership to fill the spots of those killed. Moreover, the Haqqani network, an Al Qaeda affiliate is alive and strong in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, and there is much to suggest that after our combat mission in Afghanistan ends next year Al Qaeda and the Taliban will return to the new and vulnerable Afghanistan from the mountainous border regions they now inhabit.“And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based.”
This statement is mostly true, but it is misleading and deceptive, and one a President should be clearer about. Most of the Al Qaeda operations have been in other nations, true, but the President seems to suggest this is their goal; their “focus”. If a terror organization is focused on their own region, this would suggest that American and western targets are secondary, and that we are safer because of that. Local terrorists are not local by choice, but by limitation. While the Obama administration deserves much credit–which I happily and thankfully give them–for these limitations, given the chance, as President Obama states in his speech, these terrorists “right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first.” America is the pinnacle Al Qaeda and many other terror organizations focus, and President Obama should not assert a false sense of security by suggesting otherwise.“[W]e’ll face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives — perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks — launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations. So that’s the current threat — lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.”
This statement is a resounding truth. Nothing like 9/11 has happened on any other day before or after that tragic morning. So long as we keep our intelligence and surveillance active, this type of attack is, though possible, difficult approaching impossible. However, the intelligence community is not perfect, and no one can guarantee it will not happen again, but it would take another perfect storm, so to speak. You and I, sitting in our comfortable homes in America, are more likely to be killed by dogs than terrorists.“Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.”
While this is also true, there is no mention of the civilian life lost to drone strikes. Patriotslog overall is a supporter of drone use in combat, though I would like to see more prudence than the Obama administration has shown in their drone use. Drones do save more lives then they end, even when civilians are taken into account. But a perfectly honest President would have addressed civilian collateral damage. This seems to suggest drones only save lives.“Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.”
This is the perfect factual and legal justification for drone strikes. Completely true, and eloquently stated.“Over the last four years, my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists –- insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability.”
Evidence shows that, though legal and justified as stated above, drone use by the Obama administration has been reckless. The err has not been on the side of caution, but action under President Obama. This is why there have been so many reports of civilian casualties.“…by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we’ve made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.”
To reduce the need is a very vague goal; particularly when one considers the lack of information we have on what current operational numbers actually are. This statement is nothing but a spoonful of sugar to those who oppose drones unless we get specific information on how much and to what level the administration intends to reduce strikes.“And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.”
As stated before, the default seems to be on the side of action, not caution. Leaked information shows the disturbing reality of the default use of drones by this administration.“To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties — not just in our cities at home and our facilities abroad, but also in the very places like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu where terrorists seek a foothold. Remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes. So doing nothing is not an option.”
This is perhaps the most important statement in the entire speech. Terrorism kills more Muslims, by a huge proportion, than it does westerners. It is a weekly, sometimes daily it seems, event that a downtown bombing in an Afghan or Iraqi town kills scores of innocent Muslim civilians. “I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion we need to have about a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy — because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe.” This message should be the core of our counterterrorism approach. Public relations are as important, or more so, than military force. Without drone strikes, without American soldiers, without military force, many, many more Muslim civilians would die.“So it is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths or less likely to create enemies in the Muslim world.”
This is true. Studies have concluded that the two major causes of anger toward the United States from Islamic communities and from Islamic extremists are the feeling that we occupy their land, and our alliance with Israel. While drones are beginning to have this same effect, if we can convey the message that they will ultimately save lives, drone strikes can result in less civilian deaths and create less enemies.“The very precision of drone strikes and the necessary secrecy often involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism.”
What you don’t realize is that President Obama actually finished this statement with a silent parenthetical “trust me on this one, I am speaking from experience.” Drone strikes have been the default; not that that is necessarily a bad thing, as long as caution and prudence is used, which appears not to be the case with this administration.“This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt and Tunisia and Libya–because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists. We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating the extremist elements.”
So far, supporting revolutions has not worked out well for us. Iran and Afghanistan are the most convincing examples. Substituting stability for democracy is not always the best choice. The extremist elements in Syria will continue fighting long after the revolution is over until they gain power. Fighting against Assad may come back to haunt us as was the case in Benghazi. Egypt used to be an ally, now they are an unstable wildcard, as are Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan. Iran is a flat out enemy now. Picking sides in a civil war or revolution has rarely turned out well for the United States, and it may not turn out well in Syria.“Thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home.”
Now, I am not saying we should keep GTMO open; it works as an effective recruiting tool for terrorists, and we could accomplish the same goal through other prisons. However, it is hypocritical, if not downright deceitful, for President Obama to suggest that international aid is not a large expense on the budget (though he is correct, $20+ billion is around 1% of the budget) but turn around and emphasize the $150 million per year for GTMO, as if that were a large expense. There may be many reasons for closing Guantanamo Bay, but money is not one of them.
The speech seemed to be aimed at scoring political points, not real policy reform. While I think it is the best policy for America to wind down international involvement, rein in our drone trigger finger, relay a strong message that terrorism kills more Muslims than anyone else, and focus more on local terror threats the speech itself was very underwhelming. There were too few commitments, too little substance, and too many vague details to really get me excited about anything President Obama suggested he would do.
25 May 2014
Obamacare was not President Obama’s first choice; it was a submission. “The time has come for universal healthcare in America…I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next President we should have universal healthcare in this country,” he declared to the glee of liberals back in 2007 just after declaring his Presidential candidacy. But with Hillary Clinton running as such a heavy favorite at the time, how was he to know that the executive he was to hold responsible for healthcare would be himself? The Republican idea of an individual mandate, the fact that tens of millions will still be uninsured despite his claims, and the fact that even insurance companies are admitting premiums might triple, not drop by $2,500 as Obama promised, do not represent a crowning achievement–the represent a blunt and brutal failure to President Obama.
Obamacare is the mate he must wake up beside every morning reminding him he was not able to land his first choice. It was the one night stand he is not proud of, but cannot get rid of, which is exactly why he has avoided it as much as possible during his second term. But it is not just President Obama; Democrats everywhere refuse to be seen with Obamacare. Obamacare has become the mistake everyone on the left tries to forget ever happened. Realizing their one night stand may have cost them their political soul; Democrats from Max Baucus to Elizabeth Colbert Bush have taken to the microphone to try to break it off all together. Our President on the other hand, is the one who must live with Obamacare, so he remains resoundingly, blaringly, deafeningly silent.
Many in the media have asked why he does not defend Obamacare. Why is he dropping the ball on the rollout of the law? Why has there been no marketing, no public relations campaign on Obamacare? Surely it has a few good things to offer or it would not have slept its way from the dark pits of Congress up through members offices, into the hotels of the Democratic leadership, and finally into the bed of the President? (Ok, obviously that is not how a bill works, but I am sticking with my Obamacare as a prostitute metaphor. It promises great things, under delivers, leaves you with heavy regrets, makes you hope you did not catch a disease, and then charges you way more than you ever imagined for something you now realize you never wanted…seems reasonable to me.) The President should at least by talking about what Obamacare got right, right?
There are only two reasonable explanations for this: 1) President Obama believes there is a legitimate chance of gaining control of the House and keeping control of the Senate during the midterm elections and he does not want to impassion the opposition or attach Democrats to a vastly unpopular law; or 2) He still believes there might be a chance he can get universal healthcare. Given that Democrats won the 2012 elections by a margin comfortable enough to shock most political observers and give a stroke to most Republicans I have to believe it is the latter of the two. Well, that and the fact that I have been saying for over a year that Obamacare may have been designed to fail so that we have no other choice but universal healthcare. But the silence from the White House has started to make me believe that really is the plan. Now I have a legitimate opportunity to defend my theory. Of course, a House controlled by Democrats would not hurt the cause of universal healthcare either.
Healthcare premiums have not gone down at all, they have gone up $3,000 since Obamacare was signed–a $5,500 difference from the promise made during the campaign. You also pay $1 trillion more in taxes. Employers are cutting hours back to part time to avoid providing healthcare to their employees. Small businesses are refusing to hire past 49 people so they can avoid the employer provided healthcare mandate. People are losing their insurance plan–a direct contradiction of the promise, if you like your insurance plan, you will be able to keep it. “Affordable” insurance will now be defined by the head of household, possibly costing thousands to a family that will then not qualify for help. And, of course, if you do not buy insurance, the government will fine you. And I am still not even sure Nancy Pelosi knows what is in Obamacare (had to do it. It is one of my favorite quotes of all time).
I could waste your day giving many more examples, but you get the picture. Obamacare is nothing close to what we were told it will be, and Americans are not happy about it. But of course neither is Obama. Yet, all of this was so obvious to so many of us, (by us, I mean public policy junkies, not the Fox Propaganda, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter crowd) including the American Medical Association, insurance companies, and doctors, how could the administration not have seen this coming? They had to know it would happen right, right? Our government cannot be that stupid…can it? (I am only asking that rhetorically because I am not sure I want to know the real answer.)
If Obamacare is a “crowning” piece of legislation, a policy to build a legacy one, or even just a law worth more than the paper it was written on then one could reasonably expect the champion of that law to defend it, endorse it, or at least support it. Since November 6th, he has hardly even mentioned it, even when states are declaring it null and void. I understand that the debt and tax showdowns with Republicans kept him busy, but if you want to use that as an excuse you better hope Obamacare includes generous mental health provisions too—the man was able to write the law while facing a total financial meltdown, not just a manufactured political crisis; if he wanted this done, it would be done. So, because it is not, I am led to believe he does not; particularly because he never did.
During the Presidential campaign Michele Bachmann told us it was now or never to repeal Obamacare. If it was not done quickly and completely we would be stuck with it forever, she argued. While it may have just been a campaign pitch, it might be the only time President Obama ever hopes Michele Bachmann is right; it may be exactly what he is banking on.
It is tough to pull the break on a runaway locomotive with suicidal tendencies. If Obama knows, or thinks that Obamacare can never go away, at least not without major consequences, it may be in his best interest to lay low until the train jumps the track, and the only way to clean up the mess is a stronger track. Enter universal healthcare, the track he will tell you is stronger, more efficient, less expensive, and more durable than the first track he built. But proceed with caution. He used that sales pitch once before.
7 May 2013
It was much more heated than the town hall debate against Mitt Romney. “It’s not gonna happen because 90% of republicans voted against this idea” seemed to spew out of his mouth with venom and vitriol. I have never seen President Obama, or any President for that matter, as angry as he was on April 17th, in the White House Rose Garden, speaking about the Manchin Toomey Amendment to expand background checks.
Though Patriotslog has always been opposed to gun control because it does not work, we have always been in favor of expanding background checks; why would we not want to know who possesses deadly firearms? But that is not the point. By far, most Americans support expanding background checks, so I would be wasting my energy typing a few paragraphs to add to the tsunami of voices calling for their establishment. Rather, I would like to set aside a few paragraphs to talk about the politics around gun control–because they are repulsive.
In the same speech President Obama spend a few good minutes to make sure the voting people heard his message that they needed to vote against that 90% of Republicans who did not support an expansion of background checks. The entire speech was designed as a “them versus you” expose. The only positive sentence in the entire speech was telling us that 90% of Democrats voted for the bill–there was no other mention of the four Democratic Senators who voted against it. This was a clear political move for the President, and more importantly, for the Democratic Party. At no other time has President Obama taken to the podium so swiftly to rage against a failed amendment to a bill. Why now? Why with Gabby Giffords and victims of Newtown present? Well, he told you. He wants you to vote against Republicans.
Most left wingers have joined in the campaigning. It takes some real homework to find a mention of the four Democrats who voted against the amendment. But if you want to know who the Republicans are, just ask Gabby Giffords. The other day I heard a radio ad by her Super PAC Ameircans for Responsible Solutions telling me that Mitch McConnell does not listen to the people of Kentucky because he voted against expanded background checks. I took special interest in this because I was born and raised in Kentucky and I have seen all the things Senator McConnell has done for my state. Is he my favorite politician? No. However, he is not the monster Americans for Responsible solutions would have you think he is.
So I looked into these ads; as it turns out, they are being run against Republicans who voted against expanding the background checks. I have to emphasize Republican because as of my writing this sentence, there are no ads from Americans for Responsible solutions running against the four Democrats who opposed the measure. If passing the Minchin-Toomey amendment was really what Americans for Responsible Solutions wanted, it would not just be a campaign against republicans.
Of course, none of this means Republicans are noble and gallant. The right wing politics on gun control are just as gruesome. For them it all comes down to re-election as well. For many Republicans a primary election is their biggest concern. Though nearly 90% of Americans support expanded background checks, that certainly does not mean they are willing to picket Pennsylvania Avenue to get them. In many polls I have analyzed much of the 90% who support it do so passively–it is not a driving issue for them. For this reason it is much easier for a Republican to tell voters in a general election that they were defending the Second Amendment than it is for them to try to tell primary voters–typically much, much more radical than the general population–that they voted for expanded background checks.
But the gun lobby is still the elephant in the room. They may play the biggest factor in any general election. Not as powerful as it once was, the gun lobby can leverage the diminished influence by playing to the fears of radical conservatives during a primary. In 2012 alone the gun lobby spent well over $30 million. If every penny of that was spent to defeat Republican Senators up for re-election next year in their primaries it would total well over $1 million per primary: a massive amount for a primary race! Despite the limited success of gun rights groups in the general elections, cash like that would make a monumental impact in primaries. Now, the fact that the nation’s second largest gun rights group supported the expansion of background checks means not all of that would go toward defeating Senators who voted for expanded background checks, but the impact would still be enormous. These same Senators would much rather have this money spent on them and for them rather, not against them. With the likes of President Obama and Americans for Responsible Solutions trying to defeat them they will take all the help they can get.
Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican you ought to be disgusted that your party would act in so manipulative a way. Unfortunately, we have put the entire political system in the hands of two private parties whose sole purpose for existing is to gain and maintain power, no matter how manipulative their propaganda. I am not saying that there are not politicians out there who truly want expanded background checks, there certainly are, and I believe they sincerely do. I am just saying that when it comes to expanded background checks, background checks take second place.
29 April 2013