The Obama Watch

The Obama Watch

Obama Slams the Door on Congress

By 1.29.15

Obama has effectively slammed the door on his last two years in office. In last week’s State of the Union, he explicitly, implicitly, and thoroughly rebuffed everyone who does not agree with him. In contrast to what many have said, his dismissal went beyond being partisan to being personal.

To understand what Obama did in his latest State of the Union, we must appreciate that these addresses are far more than speeches, they are events. Other than the parties’ presidential convention acceptance speeches and Inaugural addresses, this is the nation‘s biggest political platform. Only the president gets this unique opportunity, and he gets it just once a year.

Occasionally the event is heightened further by the circumstances surrounding it. This was such a year. Republicans now fully control Congress and Obama enters his presidency’s final stretch. Obama had the opportunity to formally set the tone, for both the remainder of his presidency and Washington’s new political dynamic. Instead of setting it, he lowered it — and with it, expectations for what Washington can accomplish over the next two years.

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The President’s ‘Yo Mama’ Diplomacy

By 1.28.15

“Yo mama” (from urbandictionary.com):

A term that precedes an inventive insult to the other person’s mother. 1. “Yo mama” so fat, she have to go downstairs sideways. 2. “Yo mama” so fat when she sits on a rainbow skittles fall out.

Back in the days when guys in the ‘hood actually respected their moms, these words were an invitation to fight, notes the Urban Dictionary. Presumably, the Bloods and the Crips (are these guys still around or am I dating myself?) shouted insults at each other until someone started shooting. Remember the World Cup soccer game in the summer of ’06 when Italy’s Materazzi called France’s Zidane something like “son of a terrorist whore” and Zidane’s headbutting response incurred a penalty that caused France to lose the Cup?

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Delayed Reaction

By 1.23.15

It took me a couple of days to summon the strength to watch President Obama’s seventh State of the Union Address (the sixth if you don’t count his 2009 address to a joint session of Congress); the speech was an hour-long exercise in deception, hypocrisy, and narcissism — which is to say it was more of the same from the most insular and self-absorbed politician of our generation, a man who never stops campaigning.

Within the first seconds of his long-winded address, the president, missing only a cone-shaped hat and a magic wand in his attempt to recast reality, said that while the first part of the 21st century was replete with terrorism and economic turmoil, “tonight, we turn the page.”

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Obama’s Strange Iran Negotiations

By 1.20.15

Two senators, Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Bob Menendez, have authored a bill to impose tougher economic sanctions on Iran if it ultimately refuses to honor the demands of the international community as regards its nuclear weapons program. President Barack Obama has now pledged to veto that bill. A few points to consider before trying to make sense of this news:

1. Obama himself has said inducing Iran to surrender its capability to produce nuclear weapons will be a difficult task; an understatement if ever there was one.

2. We are to believe that sanctions can work as a means of harnessing the behavior of an irrational actor like Iran, and we’re told specifically that sanctions helped bring the Iranians to the negotiating table.

3. States like Iran — ones that are unburdened by the niceties of Western diplomacy — negotiate on the basis of ruthless pressure. We saw an example of this when the Cubans used an imprisoned American aid worker as a hostage to secure favorable negotiating terms. To sit down across the negotiating table from such people requires the willingness to apply hard pressure in kind.

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What Was the President Thinking?

By 1.14.15

If there were one word to describe President Obama’s behavior in office, particularly in foreign affairs, it might be “detached.” It is hard to know his thought process in not attending the massive rally against Islamist jihad and anti-Semitism in Paris earlier this week — when 40 world leaders including President Francois Hollande of France, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas took to the streets of Paris to protest the barbarism of those forces. They joined up to three million people according to a French media estimate. One can only speculate as to President Obama’s reasoning, but some logic might go like this:

Those world leaders are not my peers. I have no peers. I am the president of the United States. I do not walk arm in arm with anyone. I do not like those optics. I will not compete on the world stage with other heads of state. I am not Charlie either. I am Barack Obama. Je suis Barack Obama.

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New Year’s Irresolution

By 1.13.15

President Barack Obama’s absence from the great gathering in Paris of national leaders from other countries, to show their solidarity with France in its opposition to Islamic terrorists, was another sign of the Obama administration’s continuing irresolution in the face of terror.

Even the recent courageous message of Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, calling on his fellow Muslims around the world to “revolutionize” the interpretation of Islam, to make it more compatible with peaceful relations with other peoples, put no steel in the spine of Barack Obama.

From his earliest days in the White House, our president has downplayed the terrorist threat from Islamic extremists. He declared victory as he pulled American troops out of Iraq, setting the stage for a huge defeat when ISIS moved in to create their own new government, on both Iraqi and Syrian soil — while committing atrocities against men, women, and children not seen since the days of the Nazis.

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Mr. Obama, Meet General de Gaulle

By 1.12.15

“I am France.”

So spoke General Charles de Gaulle to British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax in1941. At the time France was under the control of the treacherous Vichy French, the puppets of the Nazis, the latter having invaded France in May of 1940. With Adolf Hitler himself personally appearing in Paris to inspect his new conquest. de Gaulle had refused to bow to Hitler, instead going across the Channel to Britain and presenting himself to the British government and anybody else who cared to listen (there weren’t many) not just as the legitimate head of what was quickly known as “Free France.” For de Gaulle that was not even close to the reality of what he represented. As he made plain to Halifax, de Gaulle saw himself — then and always — as France.

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Was Glenn Beck Right About Obama?

By 12.30.14

Was Glenn Beck right?

Back there in the mists of 2009, then-Fox TV host Glenn Beck caught heat for saying: “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture,” adding “I don’t know what it is.” 

Later, Politico reported it this way:

Following up on Beck’s ridiculous claim, Fox’s Brian Kilmeade pointed out that Obama is surrounded by white advisers like David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, and Rahm Emanuel. 

“I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people,” Beck said. “I’m saying he has a problem. He has a — this guy is, I believe, a racist.”

Down the road a year later Beck recanted, as noted here in the New York Daily News

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I’m Not Proud That We Elected Obama

By 12.22.14

In an interview that was broadcast last night on 60 Minutes, retiring Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn proclaimed, “I’m proud of our country for electing Barack Obama.”

Senator Coburn is to be admired for his years as a watchdog on the spending habits of Congress and bureaucrats in the federal government. While I was certainly well aware of Coburn’s friendship with Obama, which developed when they were in the Senate, I am nevertheless disappointed to hear that he is proud this country elected Barack Obama to the White House.

Senator Coburn might very well love Barack Obama as a man and with it the content of his character. Alas, I do not love Barack Obama much less admire his character. I’m not proud that we elected Barack Obama to be President of the United States.

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Cuba Quizás, Yankee Quizás

By 12.19.14

The world has come a long way since the chant during the Cold War, “Cuba Sí, Yankee No.” Now it could be better written and translated into English as “Cuba Maybe, Yankee Maybe.” But President Obama has picked yet another fight.

Sidestepping Congress as with immigration policy and modifications to Obamacare, the president has used the element of surprise to begin restoration of relations with Cuba, a nation treated as a pariah for over fifty years. As that country has been designated as a supporter of terrorism by the Department of State, it would have been wiser to allow Congress to vet the wisdom of restoring relations with Cuba — an ally of Russia and previously the Soviet Union for decades.

Still reeling from a humiliating defeat of his party in the polls and the capture of the Senate by Republicans, the president is trying to reassert himself and construct an agenda that he thinks he can control. He has certainly caught the opposition off balance.  Like immigration, the White House may try to position this as an effort to economically benefit the Latino population, although Cuban-Americans are comparatively affluent with an emphasis on the professions.

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