Monday, November 24, 2014
Explaining Away Obama
by Victor Davis Hanson
by Victor Davis Hanson
The only mystery about the last six years is how much lasting damage has been done to the American experiment, at home and abroad. Our federal agencies are now an alphabet soup of incompetence and corruption . How does the IRS ever quite recover? Will the Secret Service always be seen as veritable Keystone Cops? Is the GSA now a reckless party-time organization ? Is the EPA institutionalized as a rogue appendage of the radical green movement with a director who dabbles in online pseudonyms? Do we accept that the Justice Department dispenses injustice or that the VA can be a lethal institution for our patriots? Is NASA now a Muslim outreach megaphone  as we hire Russia, the loser of the space race, to rocket us into orbit?
Will anyone again ever believe a U.S. red line, step-over line, or deadline? Will Iran ever accept that it should not have a bomb or fear the consequences of trying to get one? Is Iraq (omnis effusus labor) a sort of rescued Eurydice that was abruptly lost on the trek up from the Underworld? Will Afghanistan become Saigon, 1975? How could Putin ever again be worried about offending a U.S. president, or could China or North Korea? Are we now always to be allies of Islamist Turkey and indifferent to its enemies like our once-allied Kurds, Cypriots, Greeks, and Israelis?
Will the economy ever again grow as it should? Will disability, food stamp, and welfare recipients jump back into the workforce should we frack on federal lands, build the Keystone pipeline or quit berating private enterprise?
Every statistic that Obama has produced on Obamacare enrollment , deportation, unemployment and GDP growth is in some ways a lie. Almost everything he has said about granting amnesty was untrue, from his own contradictions  to the congressionally sanctioned small amnesties of prior presidents. Almost every time Obama steps to the lectern we expect two things: he will lecture us on our moral failings and what he will say will be abjectly untrue.
I hope we can all recover, but it would require an honest autopsy of a failed presidency. So far, progressives assume that the media and Obama’s whining, blame-gaming and finger pointing can somehow return him back to a 50% approval rate and perhaps even a face-saving legacy. The result is that progressives, the media, and the Obama cohort have promulgated an entire series of excuses for what is a failed tenure like few any in the last century.
George W. Bush is blamed by the administration for all its woes and not mentioned for any of its inheritances that proved salutary. The economy is said to be Bush’s fault, without recognition that Bush assumed the presidency during the Clinton recession. Also, Obama did not enter office during the meltdown of September 2008 but over four months later, when the economy was stabilizing; the recession was officially declared over  before Obama’s first six months in office.
Nor do we remember that what caused the Wall Street/Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac implosion was not Bush’s policies per se, but rather all sorts of larger forces. Clintontites (was there a Clintonite who did not cash in with a rich brief tenure at federal mortgage agencies?) milked the system  under the guise of liberal caring to expand housing; the Congressional Black Caucus damned the auditors of Franklin Raines and equated worries over unqualified subprime mortgages with racism. The deregulation of the mortgage industry was brought on by both parties in the 1990s.
Bush was blamed for Iraq, and he was certainly responsible for invading and, at great cost in blood and treasure, securing Iraq. But Iraq by 2009 was quiet and by 2011, in the words of Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama, stable, secure and likely to be a great achievement. Relations with Russia were already reset by Bush for Putin’s going into Georgia. Obama reset that reset , and so followed Crimea, Ukraine, and what next? Obama took Bush’s green-lighted gas and oil revolution, stopped new fracking on federal lands, iced the Keystone pipeline and then bragged about greater carbon fuel production that came despite not because of his efforts. Same with the war on terror: trash the “Bush-Cheney” protocols, and then either expand or embrace all of them. What works against terrorists Bush had already established, what did not – civil trials for terrorists, swaps like the Bergdahl deal, euphemisms like workplace violence and man-caused disasters — were Obama’s.
But even Obama found that scapegoating Bush grew stale after six years. Now the media’s new phraseology is the “Bush-Obama years,” to suggest that Obama was overwhelmed by the economy, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the partisan culture wars, and thus inevitably would become as unpopular as Bush. This variant is more subtle than Bush Derangement Syndrome in that it both blames Bush for the bad 14 years, and yet suggests there are large cosmic forces that now explain Obama’s own growing unpopularity.
The House Republicans
A second whine focuses on the House Republicans, who came to power only in January 2011. This gripe is an especially odd excuse for Obama’s failures for a variety of reasons. He pushed though Obamacare in 2009 without needing any of them; no one was bothered on the left by the fact Obama did not worry much that he lacked a single Republican vote for the Affordable Care Act. His large majorities in a Democratic Congress until January 2011, coupled with media obsequiousness and high polls, granted Obama power not seen since the reelection of LBJ in 1964. The failure to pass cap-and-trade and amnesty was an in-house Democratic problem, given fears that to do either would mean doom at the polls. How odd that the anti-terrorism protocols, the drilling on private lands, and the mandatory cuts — issues Republican exerted pressure on – are precisely those few areas where Obama now brags of success.
There is a variant of the House Republican scapegoating called the “Tea Party did it,” as if all those tired of new and often disingenuous taxes and Obamacare represented some elemental racist hatred  that was unleashed against the president, stymieing his otherwise successful trajectory. This, too, is nonsense. Take the charge of so-called Tea Party extremism: shutting down the government to stop insane borrowing? Obama should have approved because he did just that — as a senator voting to shut down the government rather than expand the debt ceiling. Loud demonstrations? The Tea Party assemblies were somnolent compared to the viciousness of the anti-war protestors between 2005-8 or what we have seen in Ferguson. Criticize a sitting president? Again the Tea Party seems docile compared to what Democrats said of Bush. Obama himself, remember, trashed Bush serially, alleging that he was an unconsititouanl president and reckless spendthrift, while assuring the country that the surge would not only fail, but also make things worse. Just as Bush did not cause Obama’s failure, neither did the House and the Tea Party.
“They” and “It”
All sorts of existential enemies conspire against Barack Obama. Sometimes it is a tsunami or the advent of the ATM machine that slows the economy. Sometimes mysterious people freelance without Obama’s knowledge. Obama assures us that he had no clue about Lois Lerner, and when he did there was not even a smidgeon of corruption. He was just briefed about the apparently total stranger Jonathan Gruber, who accidently found his way into the Oval Office. Kathleen Sebelius apparently on her own sabotaged Obamacare, not the president who inspired it. Steven Chu one day just disappeared. So did Lisa Jackson and Hilda Solis, these latter two on the way out of the administration a bit ahead of a posse of auditors. Fast and Furious also spontaneously occurred. Lying about Benghazi was due to the fog of war. The moment one of Obama’s disastrous scandals begins to destroy things, some obscure assistant, some unknown natural force must be blamed for such undermining of hope and change without His knowledge.
Racism, as Eric Holder and Obama have winked and nodded at, is supposed to have caused Obama’s failure. Everyone from Morgan Freeman to the Jimmy Carter has lectured us that Obama is a victim of white racism, in a way I suppose could not possibly explain the venom once shown to Condoleezza Rice or Clarence Thomas. How was Sen. Tim Scott reelected by a wider margin than was Lindsey Graham, and in South Carolina — the birthplace of the old secession? Was it racism, reverse racism, reverse-reverse racism?
If Barack Obama counted up all the times virulent racists blocked his ambitions, and stymied his efforts due to his race, and then collated them against how many times — at Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard; and in Chicago, Springfield and Washington — his performance was not strictly evaluated on its merits or lack of, I think the verdict would not be so favorable. Obama was nominated, elected, and reelected not despite the work of racists, but in part because he and his associates so brilliantly played the race card.
Finally we are told Obama is failing because the presidency has now become unworkable in the 21st century. The economy is supposedly inherently and permanently stuck at 1-2% GDP growth. Congress is dysfunctional in a structural sense. The people are forever polarized. The Internet and social media have all made it impossible for anyone to govern.
Obama is a new victim of existential forces that require us to rethink the presidency itself. In lieu of chronicling Obama’s disasters, we are instead lectured to radically change the system: why not one six-year presidential term? Or the end of the Electoral College? Or let us ensure that IDs are never required to vote — anything to free Obama from institutional chains that make it impossible for a president to be free to govern anymore.
That whine, too, is a fraud. Compared to what Lincoln faced in 1861, or Roosevelt in late 1941, or Truman in 1950, or, yes, Bush in 2001, Obama’s challenges are relatively modest. Government is not working because Obama subverted entire cabinet agencies and federal bureaucracies — from Homeland Security to NASA to Justice — to make them tools of larger efforts to advance the Obama multicultural therapeutic message rather than to honor and keep faith with their traditional agendas.
When the president uses emphatics like “really” or “actually” or “make no mistake about it, “let me be clear,” “in point of fact” or “this is unacceptable,” we know that what follows will be untrue and others will be blamed for the president’s own self-induced blunders. Like Jonathan Gruber, and his surreal statements on amnesty, Obama believes that Americans are too stupid to retrieve videos and transcripts that prove that Obama makes things up and contradicts himself serially. Or the fact that Obama believes that Americans know that he does not tell the truth and yet also sighs that there are no consequences to such presidential distortions somehow makes him think that he is all the more powerful. Blame-gaming, “scape-gloating,” and lying is one thing, but quite another is doing all that with the full knowledge that voters accept that Obama lies — and that there can be absolutely no consequences. We have reached a point in the presidency where with each news conference Obama is saying to the American people something like “I just lied to you. No one cares that I did. And because no one cares, I am going to lie to you all the more as I feel like it given your own gullibility.”
We have had storytellers and fabulists in the White House before, but rarely a president who is energized to distort the truth by the very contempt that he holds the people in.
November 24, 2014
The deadline for the Joint Plan of Action ended it seems without a final agreement between the P5+1 and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. It’s not yet clear what happens next.
“There will be some kind of extension,” says Mark Dubowitz, executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says Dubowitz, with parties reconvening in December to continue to negotiate. "Iran has 'hooked the fish' with Western negotiators so committed to negotiations that they will do whatever it takes to keep everyone at the table."
It’s useful then to see exactly what, for better or worse, has been resolved so far, either during the course of these talks or previously. According to Omri Ceren at the Israel Project, a pro-Israel public affairs organization that focuses on the Middle East, there are several issues on the table, many of which the Obama administration has already caved on.
—Sanctions. The White House is offering upfront sanctions relief that the administration says it can "snapback" if the Iranians fail to comply with their end of the bargain. However, as Dubowitz explained in congressional testimony last week, the idea that it will possible to re-impose sanctions once Iran is opened for business, is politically and economically unrealistic.
—Sunset clause. The Jerusalem Post reported that the administration has offered Iran a 10-year sunset clause, meaning that after ten years, whatever so-called permanent deal is reached comes to an end, constraints go away, and Iran is a normalized nuclear power despite the fact that, for instance, the Islamic Republic is a state sponsor of terror.
“If this is true it’s shocking,” says Dubowitz. “Congress has been talking about many decades, and the administration said 20 years. Iran asked for 3 to 7, 10 would be a significant climb down. And it means that within a decade most of the constraints would disappear and Iran will be well-positioned to develop a massive industrial-size program, which will be much more difficult to monitor, and an easier clandestine breakout route to a bomb."
—Enrichment. The administration gave up on its demands that Iran enrich no uranium at all. The Joint Plan of Action acknowledged Iran’s “right” to enrich which will allow them to close their breakout time by increasing materials to enrich. “Under several presidential administrations,” says Dubowitz, “the United States denied Iran any enrichment and now we’re haggling with them over how much uranium they get to enrich.”
—Centrifuges. The White House abandoned its demands Iran must dismantle its centrifuges. Now they must only disconnect, or unplug, them, which which will allow them to close their breakout time by making sure there is equipment on hand to do the enriching.
The Obama administration also gave up on its demand that there be no research and development of advanced centrifuges, which will allow Iran to close its breakout time by speeding up enrichment with next generation centrifuges.
—Plutonium. The administration gave up on the demand that Iran has to convert the heavy-water reactor at Arak into a light-water reactor, but Iran now refuses to budge, and the administration will instead allow an easily reversible cosmetic quick fix.
—Ballistic missiles. Several U.N Security Council resolutions (most recently UNSCR 1929) require Iran to cease all activity on its ballistic missile technology. However, it is now inconceivable that the administration will include ballistic missiles as part of the deal. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif literally laughed at White House negotiators when they suggested Iran should meet long-standing UNSC resolutions demanding a halt to proliferation-sensitive ballistic technology. As Reuters reported, “the U.S. delegation made clear that it wanted to discuss both Iran's ballistic missile program and possible military dimensions of its past nuclear research... Zarif merely laughed and ignored the remarks."
—Possible military dimensions of Iranian nuclear program, and the verification regime. Reports over the weekend suggested that the White House may have given up on demanding that Iran fully disclose its past activities, including possible military dimensions of the nuclear program. Without knowing exactly what Iran has done in the past, any post-agreement verification regime would be incapable of discerning whether or not Iran was keeping its word. The administration denied these reports.