The Obama Watch

The Obama Watch

Looking Ahead to 2015

By 6.12.14

The Revolution of ’94 saw Bill Clinton staring down the cannons of righteous Republican fury. However, Clinton’s clashes with a Republican Congress resulted in an era of economic expansion and fiscal responsibility. Obama may be faced with such a Congress himself, the results of which may be ominous.

Clinton faced numerous disadvantages in his confrontation with this Republican majority. His policy and political missteps had delivered control of the House and the Senate to Republicans for the first time in almost 50 years. He confronted this Congress for the next six years, losing frequently and ultimately facing impeachment. However, Clinton’s apparent disadvantages propelled him to a favorably viewed presidency. If faced with a Republican Congress himself, Obama could have more trouble.

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The Prisoner Swap Deal

By 6.10.14

People are arguing about what the United States got out of the deal that swapped five top level terrorist leaders for one American soldier who was, at best, absent from his post in a war zone. Soldiers who served in the same unit with him call him a deserter. The key to this deal, however, is less likely to be what the United States got out of the deal than it is about what Barack Obama got out of the deal. If nothing else, it instantly got the veterans’ hospitals scandals off the front pages of newspapers and pushed these scandals aside on television news programs.

It was a clear winner for Barack Obama. And that may be all that matters to Barack Obama.

People who are questioning the president’s competence seem not to want to believe that any President of the United States would knowingly damage this country’s interests.

One of the problems of many fundamentally decent people is that they find it hard to understand people who are not fundamentally decent, or whose moral compass points in a different direction from theirs.

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Amateur Hour

By 6.4.14

The Obama administration presented the release of Bowe Bergdahl as an indisputably glorious moment for the country. Amidst the celebration on Saturday, Obama didn’t bother to mention that Bergdahl was a deserter. Obama considered the swap of five of the most dangerous terrorists of the Taliban for Bergdahl worthy of a Rose Garden ceremony. Even for the release of a decorated soldier, that would have been a dubious idea, given the shocking, precedent-breaking character of such a trade. But for Bergdahl, whose story of desertion and possible treachery and collaboration grows more troubling with each new report, a Rose Garden ceremony seems almost like a parody of liberalism.

Obama administration officials, straining to defend the trade, noted that the Israelis have occasionally released Palestinian prisoners for hostages. But one can’t imagine the Israelis ever executing such a trade for a deserter whose actions caused the deaths of soldiers (the number keeps climbing in press reports) who conducted a long and risky search for him.

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The Obama Watch

Inveterate Carelessness

By 6.2.14

Sez I: If they would do the decent thing,
And shield the missis and the little ’uns,
Why, even I might shout “God save the King,”
And face the chances of them ’ungry guns.
But we’ve got three, another on the way;
It’s that wot makes me snarl and set me jor:
The wife and nippers, wot of ’em, I say,
If I gets knocked out in this blasted war?
Gets proper busted by a shell,
But… wot the ’ell, Bill? Wot the ’ell?

Ay, wot the ’ell’s the use of all this talk?
To-day some boys in blue was passin’ me,
And some of ’em they ‘ad no legs to walk,
And some of ’em they ‘ad no eyes to see.
And — well, I couldn’t look ‘em in the face,
And so I’m goin’, goin’ to declare
I’m under forty-one and take me place
To face the music with the bunch out there.
A fool, you say! Maybe you’re right.
I’ll ’ave no peace unless I fight.
I’ve ceased to think; I only know
I’ve gotta go, Bill, gotta go.
— “The Volunteer”
Robert William Service

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The Fourth Branch of Government

By 5.28.14

Preferring to look ignorant rather than irresponsible, President Obama said last week that he only recently learned of scandals at the Department of Veteran Affairs through news reports. He spoke of the problems at the department as if they had blindsided him, despite the fact that as a candidate in 2008 he railed against the “the broken bureaucracy of the V.A.” and decried outrageous delays in treatment for veterans.

He didn’t need news reports to inform him of the depth of the department’s flaws; he could have reviewed his own campaign speeches. His long familiarity with the department’s problems gave his press conference last week an air of adding insult to injury. Somehow he was at once aware of the department’s deplorable condition and unaware of it.

Obama doesn’t mind appearing as the hapless spectator on the sidelines of his government if that saves him from the charge of dereliction of duty about a known problem. Yet the plight of veterans at the hands of indifferent bureaucrats clearly lost its urgency for him once the 2008 campaign ended and only now resumes urgency for him as an annoying political problem.

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The Obama Coalition Is About to Come Apart

By 5.16.14

For the past decade the Democrats have managed to defy gravity by bolting together an unlikely coalition of the richest and poorest Americans. It’s no secret. Ever since President Bush’s re-election in 2004, the pattern has been clear. People making above $100,000 and below $40,000 vote Democratic. The people in the middle vote Republican.

But now that top-bottom coalition is about to come apart, or lose its majority status at least. And the issue will be one that may loom larger than the debacle of Obamacare — the Keystone Pipeline.

Forget all that business about Barack Obama being the first African-American President, the child of poverty and discrimination who fought his way to the top through sheer brilliance and doggedness. Sure African-Americans vote 90 percent for him and form an indispensable part of his coalition. But Obama hasn’t done a thing for them since taking office except increase unemployment.

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Downplaying Jihadism

By 5.14.14

President Obama’s aversion to any perceived “war on Islam” has consistently led his administration to downplay the problem of jihad. Its outrage over the abductions of hundreds of young women in Nigeria by the jihadist organization Boko Haram hasn’t changed that stance. The State Department is still reluctant to make mention of Boko Haram’s Islamic character. Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department hesitated to label the group even a terrorist organization, despite its long catalogue of terrorist acts.

This reticence came at a time when Obama officials had no problem accusing Christians of waging a “war on women” for merely resisting Obamacare’s free contraceptives mandate. Obama is willing to indulge war-on-women rhetoric for such imaginary offenses, but he doesn’t dare accuse Islam of waging a war on women for real ones.

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Tim Geithner’s True Lies

By 5.13.14

Instead of Stress Test, perhaps Tim Geithner should have borrowed the title for his memoirs from that old Arnold Schwarzenegger flick — True Lies.

Hello? Can you say “pattern”?

Former Obama Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner had nothing — so far as we know — to do with Benghazi.

Yet here is Geithner, with his new book Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises:

The White House wanted Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to lie on Sunday talk shows to downplay the part Social Security played in driving the deficit, it was revealed today.

Geithner writes in his memoir Stress Test, out today, that the White House communications director asked him to downplay the long term cost of Social Security spending to mollify the Democratic Party's base.

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The Hollowing-Out of Obama’s Coalition

By 5.8.14

When rating Obama, Independents are now far closer to Republicans’ views than to Democrats’. This pronounced change in Independents’ sentiment is not only a major reason behind the president’s favorability fall, but should be Democrats’ chief concern in it. If maintained. Independents’ shift would have significant implications for this November’s election — as well as for the one two years later.

Last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll (national sample of 1,000 adults, MOE +/-3.5%, released 4/29) showed Obama reaching a new all-time low in job performance, with just 41% approving and 52% disapproving. Obama hitting another low is not surprising this year — which has seen this happen regularly — but how the president did it, is.

To attain even his low 41% approval rating, Obama needed an overwhelmingly positive approval rating of 74%-22% from Democrat respondents. He needed it to offset Republican respondents’ even more pronounced low rating of 12%-82%. Obama also needed heavy Democrat support to offset Independent respondents’ negative 33%-59% job performance rating. 

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Light at the End of the Tunnel

By 5.7.14

Conservatives need to wake up and start thinking past the rapidly passing age of Obama. Increasingly likely every day is that voters this November will remove Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. By electing a new Republican Senate majority, the voters will also render Barack Obama a lame duck, one of the lamest in history, as he will have no prayer of getting any of his legislative proposals — increasingly recognized as hard left — through Congress. (Despite his early national rhetoric, Obama doesn’t do bipartisanship.)

That new Republican Senate majority will also be a new check and balance on Obama’s appointment of federal judges, reversing the effect of the Reid rule change eliminating Republican judicial filibusters. That is especially crucial given that the five remaining Reagan/Bush appointees on the Court constitute the slimmest of majorities, with a couple of occasionally weak sisters among them. If just one of these five is replaced by another Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor, the resulting shift from a Reagan majority on the Court to an Obama one would mean a longer-term Obama transformation of America.

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