Loose Canons

Loose Canons

Obama’s Assault on the First Amendment

By 2.24.14

The First Amendment provides that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or of the press. That, in the view of President Obama, is no limitation on his ability to make such laws, even indirectly, through executive branch rules and regulations.

Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, the IRS discriminated against conservative groups in investigating, delaying and denying the tax-exempt status many had applied for in order to do what similar organizations do on the left side of the political equation. It was enough for Obama’s operatives in the IRS to detect the use of words such as “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in a group’s name for it to be subjected to this discrimination.

When IRS official Lois Lerner was called to testify about this practice before a House committee, she took the Fifth. And during the Super Bowl halftime show, Obama told Bill O’Reilly there wasn’t a trace of corruption in the IRS’s conduct.

Last November, the IRS proposed a change to the tax regulations that would institutionalize this discrimination.

Loose Canons

Obama’s Binge Diplomacy

By 2.17.14

Like a college student losing a weekend inside a tequila bottle, President Obama is going to lose the next month or more in another diplomatic binge. He has lined up a string of summit meetings with Middle Eastern leaders that will put his best foot back between his molars. Perhaps he will succeed for a time, but only in steering the media’s attention away from Obamacare and the latest rope-a-dope he’s pulled on Boehner and McConnell.

In the next weeks, Obama is going to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Saudi King Abdullah, and several other Middle Eastern heads of state. There’s little hope that he will do any good on any front, though he seems poised to poison a few more wells.

Loose Canons

Low Tech Terror on the Grid

By 2.10.14

Sometime before April 16, 2013, one or more people scouted the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s high-voltage Metcalf substation off Highway 101 near San Jose, California. They went around the unmanned power station at a range of 40-60 yards, marking places from which the transformers’ cooling fins were clearly visible through the chain-link fence with piles of stones.

According to a Wall Street Journal report last week, at about 1 a.m. on that April 16, someone cut the telephone lines going to the substation’s location in a manner calculated to be hard to repair. Within about another thirty minutes, shooters took positions by the stone piles and — on a flashlight signal — opened fire. The firing — over about a twenty-minute period, apparently using AK-47 rifles (identified by the empty shell casings in 7.62x39 caliber left behind) — aimed 120 shots at the cooling fins on the transformers, scoring 110 hits. Another flashlight signal called a cease-fire. The shooters were gone long before the first police arrived.

Loose Canons

A Secretary at War With Himself

By 2.7.14

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War
By Robert Gates
(Knopf, 618 pages, $35)

Robert Gates’s memoir, Duty, bridges the gap between the Bush-era memoirs of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Tony Blair and the Obama era. Gates, perhaps the ultimate Washington insider, is the only defense secretary ever to be held over from one administration to another.

Gates gives little insight about himself and if you read Duty, you will come away with many nagging thoughts about unanswered questions.

Having served eight presidents in various national security positions including as Director of Central Intelligence for Bush 41, Gates was serving contentedly as president of Texas A&M when the call came asking him if he would consider becoming Bush 43’s secretary of defense upon the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Though reluctant to take the job, Gates nevertheless answered the call to duty.

Loose Canons

Debbie Does USAF

By 2.3.14

Poor Deborah Lee James. She’s only been Secretary of the Air Force for about six weeks but she’s been handed the problems of a huge cheating scandal, a $400 billion fighter aircraft that can’t fly in combat and an air force that not only has made some enormous mistakes in the past decade, but seems eager to make another by retiring an attack aircraft the force can’t do without.

She’s a natural for the job, at least by Obama administration standards. She spent 20 years of her 30-year career as a House Armed Services Committee staffer and a Clinton administration Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. Her last ten years were spent at SAIC (a large Beltway consulting firm). She’s not a warrior by any standard, but she reportedly met one once. It’s not your father’s Air Force anymore (or mine, for that matter).

The question is whether her qualifications and experience will enable James to deal with some enormous challenges that face the force. So far, the outlook is pretty bleak.

Loose Canons

Steamroller SOTU

By 1.27.14

If you’re feeling a bit sick to your stomach, it’s probably not due to global warming or the flu. Tomorrow night Congress will hold its annual pep rally for President Obama’s agenda called the State of the Union address. It will be long, tedious, and over-filled with applause lines designed to get Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Chris Matthews to stand up and cheer. But it’s one of those rare Obama speeches that we need to listen to, not just hear. Because we are about to be steamrolled.

This year’s event will be worse than usual, almost certainly not featuring fun counterpoints such as Cong. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” shout or Justice Alito mouthing “not true” at Obama when he makes his rhetorical points. The only things we can be certain of won’t amuse, just abuse.

Loose Canons

Israel to Kerry: Back Off

By 1.20.14

April is the deadline John Kerry has set for himself. By then he aims to negotiate a peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He’s been at it for six months, to the dismay of pretty much everyone, especially the Israelis.

Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon blew his stack at Kerry. Yaalon said, in conversations with American and Israeli officials, that Kerry “operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.” He added, “The American plan for security arrangements that was shown to us isn’t worth the paper it was written on.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded, saying “The remarks of the Israeli defense minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate especially in light of everything that the United States is doing to support Israeli’s security needs.” You can read that two ways. What Yaalon said in characterizing Kerry and his actions is entirely accurate.

Loose Canons

Obama ‘Reforms’ the NSA

By 1.17.14

You might think that in the sixth year of his presidency, Barack Obama would no longer be blaming George Bush for everything that is wrong in the world. And you’d be wrong, as he proved in another tiresome speech this morning.

For about fifty minutes, Obama droned on, telling us how he would use his administrative powers (and possibly work with Congress) to “reform” the intelligence gathering activities of the NSA and, presumably, the rest of the intelligence community. He began by lecturing us (for those who didn’t pay attention in fourth grade or see the Disney movie about “Johnny Tremain,” Paul Revere and the “Sons of Liberty”) about the history of American intelligence gathering. Most important to him, Obama told us that the “worst abuses” occurred before he became president.

Loose Canons

Gatesgate and Other SGO

By 1.13.14

In Nixonian terms, Robert Gates’s memoir Duty would already be labeled “Gatesgate” if the revelations in it were half as good as the reports of them are. Add to that the dissolution of Iraq, Ed Gillespie’s imminent Senate candidacy and a tinge of GW Bridge envy and you have a lot of SGO for a month that’s only half-over.

(For those just joining us, “SGO” is the comprehensively useful acronym invented by my friend and former SEAL Al Clark. It means “s*** goin’ on” which is as good a shorthand for politics as anyone can devise.)

The Economist seems to have captured the moment in its editorial cartoon this week. In the foreground, de facto Secretary of State Dennis Rodman is handing a “Happy Birthday” balloon to Kim Jong-un. In the background stands Barack Obama asking angrily how he can respond to amateurs messing around in foreign affairs. Next to him stands Bob Gates, saying “You could write a book.”

Loose Canons

So Many Intolerable Lies

By 1.6.14

Two events last week — one an announcement by the Marine Corps, the other speeches at the inauguration of New York City's new mayor — illustrated vividly how President Obama and his media cohort have so narrowed  the boundaries of political speech that we no longer believe we can challenge outright lies.

Among the lies we’ve become inured to is that women can perform every job a man can, including those of combat infantryman and special operators. We’ve also been told the lie that the injection of women into combat arms has no effect on the warrior culture. The liberals insist that the culture isn’t of any value to combat effectiveness regardless of what the warriors themselves say.

And we have relied on the promises made by all of the military leaders, including the Marines, that they’d never diminish the physical standards that any prospective warrior had to meet simply to allow women into combat arms.