Our Whiny President

The front page of today’s New York Times features an article titled Paths to War, Then and Now, Haunt Obama. It is an exercise in journalism as a hall of mirrors. The article, by Peter Baker, is “based on interviews with 10 people who spoke with [Obama] in the days leading up to his speech Wednesday night.” These conversations occurred on two occasions: a dinner at the White House for “a group of foreign policy experts and former government officials,” and a separate discussion with a “group of columnists and magazine writers.” Baker’s article includes extensive quotes by President Obama, about which he writes, “[i]n quoting his private remarks, the people were recalling what he said from their best memories.” Yet Obama’s statements are placed in quotation marks, which under normal rules of journalism means that they are exact quotes, not paraphrases.

Baker tells us further that “three New York Times columnists and an editorial writer were among those invited” to the meeting with journalists, but those colleagues are not sources for his article. Why not? Did they decline the president’s invitation? Baker doesn’t suggest that they did. Then, were they unwilling to talk to Baker? If four representatives of the Times actually attended one of the sessions, what sense does it make for a fifth Times employee, who was not present, to write an article about the meetings? Why don’t the ones who were there tell us what they heard?

President Obama conducted these sessions in order to put himself in a positive light. He invited political supporters who, it is safe to assume, also wanted him to make him look good. These supporters shared their impressions with a reporter for the newspaper that, more than any other, is a slavish follower of President Obama. Given that context, one expects pro-Obama spin, like this:

The president they described was calm and confident, well versed on the complexities of the ISIS challenge and in no evident rush to end the discussions. A briefing book sat in front of him during the second of the sessions, but he never opened it.

And yet, the principal impression one takes away from the story is of the president’s whininess. He seems to take it as a personal affront that Islamic terrorists have disrupted the torpor of his second term, and have even required him to make a decision to use military force. A recurring theme is Obama’s belief that he is unpopular because Americans just don’t appreciate how deliberate, how careful, how nuanced–how smart, in a word–he is:

He would not rush to war. He would be deliberate.

“But I’m aware I pay a political price for that,” he said.


[Obama displayed] prickliness as he mocked critics of his more reticent approach to the exercise of American power.

“Oh, it’s a shame when you have a wan, diffident, professorial president with no foreign policy other than ‘don’t do stupid things,’” guests recalled him saying, sarcastically imitating his adversaries. “I do not make apologies for being careful in these areas, even if it doesn’t make for good theater.”

I don’t recall anyone asking Obama to apologize for being careful, but that apparently is how he interprets criticism of his inept foreign policies. More whining:

It was clear to the guests how aware Mr. Obama was of the critics who have charged him with demonstrating a lack of leadership. He brought up the criticism more than once with an edge of resentment in his voice.

“He’s definitely feeling it,” said one guest. At one point, Mr. Obama noted acidly that President Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon only to have hundreds of them killed in a terrorist attack because of terrible planning, and then withdrew the remaining ones, leaving behind a civil war that lasted years. But Reagan, he noted, is hailed as a titan striding the earth.

Well, Reagan won the cold war and contributed mightily to the downfall of the Soviet Union. If Obama can win the war against Muslim terrorists, we will hail him as a titan striding the earth, too. Only Obama doesn’t seem to understand that we are in a war against Muslim terrorists, so he isn’t likely to win it, any more than Jimmy Carter could win the cold war when he thought we had an “inordinate fear of Communism.”

Some of those who attended the sessions whined on Obama’s behalf:

“He’s not a softy,” Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter and attended the dinner Monday, said of Mr. Obama. “I think part of the problem with some of his critics is they think he’s a softy. He’s not a softy. But he’s a person who tries to think through these events so you can draw some long-term conclusions.”

That’s our Barry, just too thoughtful for his own good! Remember those kids in elementary school who said they weren’t doing well because they were too smart for the classes? I never thought I would see that level of delusion in a president of the United States.

One comes away from Baker’s account with the sense what what really offends Obama about ISIS is that the terrorist group has forced him to make a decision:

Mr. Haass said attention to nuance was a double-edged attribute. “This is someone who, more than most in the political world, is comfortable in the gray rather than the black and white,” he said. “So many other people in the political world do operate in the black and white and are more quote-unquote decisive, and that’s a mixed blessing. He clearly falls on the side of those who are slow or reluctant to decide because deciding often forces you into a more one-sided position than you’re comfortable with.”

Note what a harsh indictment of President Obama that statement is: Obama is “reluctant to decide” because “deciding often forces you into a more one-sided position than you’re comfortable with.” Of course it does! Before you decide, you can ponder the pros and cons, the one hand and the other hand, the various shades of gray, and leave it at that.

But when you decide, you have to choose: to go to war; to bomb; to take a side; to incur casualties; to face the consequences. When a president makes hard choices that involve life and death, in all likelihood he will be “force[d] into a more one-sided position than [he is] comfortable with.” It is always more comfortable to stay on the fence. But making tough decisions, knowing that there are pros and cons, that every course is perilous, and that the consequences of any decision will be mixed, is what we have presidents for. After nearly six years, Barack Obama still doesn’t seem to understand that.

The Democrats Escalate Their War On Free Speech

On Thursday, Harry Reid brought SJ Res 19, to repeal the heart of the First Amendment, to the Senate floor for a vote. The result must be considered stunning by all Americans who value their freedoms. Every Senate Democrat–every one, a 54-vote majority–voted for First Amendment repeal. Here is the roll call of infamy; click to enlarge:

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.03.47 PM

The Democrats pretend that this was merely a vote to reverse the demonized Citizens United decision. That claim is ridiculous. This is what the Udall amendment (the revised version that the Senate voted on) actually says:

Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

Note that under the amendment, Congress could both “regulate” and “set reasonable limits on” raising and spending money on elections. The power to “regulate” is not qualified by any other term of the amendment except Section 3, which means that a Democratic Congress would have the power to regulate campaign spending by prohibiting all spending on behalf of Republican candidates, or in opposition to Democratic candidates. Ridiculous! you might say–that would obviously be unconstitutional. Not any more it wouldn’t be; not if the Democrats get their way. The First Amendment would be repealed as it relates to politics.

Why have the Democrats pushed the Udall amendment, knowing that it can’t possibly pass? They are playing a long game, I think. Historically, the idea of repealing the First Amendment would have been unthinkable. The purpose of the Udall amendment, I believe, is to mainstream what has always, until now, been inconceivable. The public is being accustomed to the idea that the First Amendment might be repealed–not flag burning and nude dancing, but the innermost core of the amendment, supporting and opposing candidates in elections–and if the Democrats ever have the votes, it will be.

At National Review, Kevin Williamson ties the Udall amendment to the Democrats’ broader effort to criminalize opposition to its agenda:

Democrats pushing the measure to repeal free speech pretend that it is a campaign-finance measure, but the only criteria it establishes for Congress to ban an advertisement — or a book, or a film, or a television show, or a magazine — is that money is expended in an attempt to influence a political outcome. Under those rules, the Ohio Inquisition’s successful move to ban billboards critical of an embattled Democratic congressman would have been totally acceptable under the provisions of a gutted First Amendment.

The Ohio Inquisition, and the Minnesota Inquisition, and Harry Reid’s war on the First Amendment are hardly isolated episodes. …
The same Texas prosecutor behind the indictments of Governor Perry and Mr. Hall was also behind the indictments of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representative Tom DeLay, both of which ultimately were laughed out of court. The point of these indictments is not to obtain convictions; the prosecutor did not even present a case against Senator Hutchison when the matter came to trial. And the point of the Ohio Inquisition was never to achieve a legal victory against the Susan B. Anthony List: The point was to bully the group, and the billboard company, into remaining silent and forgoing criticism of Democratic candidates. In that, the censors were successful: SBA List won in court, but those billboards never went up.

Likewise, the point of indicting Governor Perry and Mr. Hall is not to send either man to jail, but to harass them, to bully them, to bankrupt them if possible, and to keep them from functioning as effective critics of entrenched Democratic political interests.

The only thing stopping federal authorities from suffocating free speech — not only by independent groups such as the SBA List, but by individuals, trade groups, National Review, and the New York Times — is the First Amendment.

And Harry Reid wants to gut it. Figure out why that is and you’ll know everything you need to know about the Democratic party, which with each passing day functions less and less like a political party and more like a crime syndicate.

To my knowledge, not a single Democrat, either inside or outside of the Senate, has spoken up in opposition to that party’s war on free speech.

HRC, in Mandela’s footsteps

Those of us who lived through the Clinton administration may have forgotten how acrid was the atmosphere. One of its features was the administration’s pervasive untruth. Reading Michael Isikoff’s book Uncovering Clinton, to take just one small example, one begins to understand that everyone around the Clintons, including the journalists who covered them, understands the basics of their marital arrangement, yet remained (and remains) silent about it. Who are we to judge? And the Clintons are sort of like Franklin and Eleanor, right?

The title of Isikoff’s book was a pun. Isikoff was the guy who uncovered the Lewinsky story as a reporter for Newsweek. When Newsweek sat on the story, Matt Drudge blasted it out there on the Drudge Report and undercut the regime of silence. Isikoff was credited with uncovering the scandal, and the title referred in part to his role exposing it.

Uncovering Clinton also referred in part to not covering Clinton. Iksikoff begins the book with an assessment of the knowledge of key players about Clinton’s behavior and their tacit cooperation with it. (I was subsequently told by a prominent reporter who “covered” Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign what he saw of Clinton’s way with women in front of others on the campaign trail that year.) Although the names have changed, I believe the media enablers continue their uncoverage of the Clintons to this day.

The arrangement continues, of course, along with the suffocating falsity in which it is embedded. With the coming presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, we are in for megadoses of more of the same.

PsychologiesHillary We get a preview of coming attractions in reports of an interview with Ms. Hillary for the October cover story of Psychologies magazine (I’ve never heard of it either), as reported in the British press. The Telegraph and Daily Mail headlines don’t say it all, but they say about as much as we need: “Hillary held truth and reconciliation hearing over Bill’s affair” (Telegraph) and “Hillary Clinton says Bill was subjected to South Africa-style hearings in order to work through his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky” (Daily Mail).

According to the articles, Ms. Hillary claims to have convened “South Africa-style” truth-and-reconciliation proceedings akin to those convened by Nelson Mandela to overcome the effects of the apartheid regime. Ms. Hillary explains that she was inspired by Mandela and that she had to invoke the truth-and-reconciliation process with Mr. Bill to avoid a mental “prison” for the rest of her life. Now she is free.

Who comes up with this stuff?

Lest we forget, when it served the purposes of the left, Mr. Bill was declared our first (metaphorical) black president by Toni Morrison in the New Yorker. This was before Obama became our first mixed-race president and New Yorker editor David Remnick took up the apostle’s mantle.

Ms. Hillary now casts Mr. Bill in the role of one of the masters of apartheid and herself in the role of Mandela. It’s all in a good cause, of course, as was the proclamation of Mr. Bill as our first black president, and no one is now about to disrupt the forces of history, let alone those of truth and reconciliation.

In Gaza, the work continues

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is one of the genocidal terrorist groups operating out of Gaza. I forgot to mention last week, consistent with the teaching of Imam Obama, that — along with the Islamic State, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Hamas — they are not Islamic.

The invaluable MEMRI has posted the video “New Tunnels in Gaza” as featured on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV this past September 4. There is a lot of talk of Allah and the prophet and so on, and the man from Al-Jazeera is pretty excited about the whole thing, but don’t be misled: Not Islamic.

ISIS beheads British aid worker

ISIS has released a video of the execution of British aid worker David Haines. The video shows Haines in the now familiar orange jump-suit kneeling beside a terrorist who speaks with the same London accent as the executioner of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

The executioner tells British Prime Minister David Cameron that the killing is retribution for his “evil alliance with America, which continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq.” He also threatens to kill another British hostage, Alan Henning.

Cameron said of the execution, “This is a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker. It is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude.” He vowed to “do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.”

I hope that by “these murderers” Cameron means the whole of ISIS. To focus on bringing specific individuals like the executioner to justice would be like going after the pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor. ISIS is an army and a would-be State. It should be dealt with accordingly.

Britain has so far declined to participate in air strikes against ISIS, limiting its involvement to sending arms to Kurdish forces and providing intelligence. Perhaps now it will be moved to undertake direct military involvement.

Haines, age 44, is the father of two, including a four year-old daughter. A veteran of the Royal Air Force, he was working for the French humanitarian agency ACTED, applying his expertise to provide aid to people living in the midst of war. Before going to Iraq, he provided humanitarian services in the Balkans and Africa.

Ein Klein Nichtmusik

We took early notice here a couple days ago in “Full Frontal Environmentalism” of Naomi Klein’s forthcoming book This Changes Everything. We may need to start a running series here about Klein, as the left is clearly trying to create a publishing sensation akin to Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century and Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge. (By the way, did you happen to catch that Amazon’s Kindle folks leaked the data that most readers of Piketty on Kindle stop reading by page 26? I suspect something similar will occur with Perlstein.) Klein has received lavish pre-publication notices in such important policy journals as Vogue. (And you didn’t think climate change was an important issue for the fashion industry!)

We already know what this is all about, but let’s keep a log. Klein appearsa in the Canadian news magazine MacLean’s today. Read the whole thing if you have time, but my favorite part of the Q & A is this:

MacLean’s: Can you give an example of the kinds of action you see as necessary?

Klein: In Germany, you see a very rapid rise of renewables. That gives me a lot of hope. Germany is a country Canadians can relate to: the economy is not that different from ours. They have managed a dramatic energy transition, starting from six per cent of their energy from renewables. Now they’re at 25 per cent with a goal of 60 per cent.

MacLean’s: And yet emissions are actually up.

Heh. MacLean’s obviously doesn’t know you aren’t supposed to ask embarrassing follow up questions like that. (Never mind that Klein’s figures for German renewables are nonsense.) Klein’s weak answer:

Klein: Angela Merkel is not simultaneously standing up to the coal lobby.

Really: All you need to do is say “nicht” to coal and the world will stop warming? What a charmed life the climatistas lead.

As I say, this book rollout is going to be fun to watch. “Late capitalism”? More like late climate change-ism.

The Law of Supply and Demand In One Venn Diagram

No one expects consistency from a liberal. Why? Here is just one example: liberals recognize the law of supply of demand, or not, at will, based not on logic but on ideological preferences. Coyote Blog illustrates the point amusingly with this Venn diagram, which has the added virtue of ridiculing Paul Krugman. Click to enlarge: