Criticism of Obama is OK, But We Draw the Line at Unfairness to Barney Fife

We have long been critics of Barack Obama, sometimes harsh ones. But we have always tried to be fair. So when unfairness comes to light, we feel obliged to object to it.

That happened yesterday when Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert lit into Obama for his incompetent foreign policy. The Daily Mail has the story:

Lawmakers are fuming over President Barack Obama’s admission on Thursday that his White House lacks a strategy for dealing with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Syria….

And as House and Senate members piled on with sharp criticism, a former senior aide to a retired defense secretary told MailOnline that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are “seeing red” and “spitting nails” following Obama’s candid admission.

“They’re losing confidence in their mission,” said the long-time Pentagon insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “When the president doesn’t know what direction to point people in, all his advisers can do is guess at what he wants. That’s not good.”

Those criticisms are entirely justified. Pretty much everyone who isn’t a paid Democratic Party operative, or an unpaid operative like a reporter or editor, sees Obama’s paralysis in the face of ISIS and similar terrorist groups as a disastrous failure.

Most of what Congressman Gohmert said about Obama’s foreign policy was right on point:

“I don’t know where he’s getting his information,” said Gohmert. “Maybe it’s CIA Director [John] Brennan who said earlier this year that ‘No, these guys don’t want a caliphate.’

“He must have his head buried in a hole somewhere on the first green.”

That is a fair and rather mild comment on Obama’s ineptitude. But this is where Congressman Gohmert went astray:

Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert told Fox News on Thursday that Obama articulated “a pitiful foreign policy, and Barney Fife is in charge.”

This is, I think, deeply unfair to Barney Fife. Those who watched Andy of Mayberry many years ago recall Barney as the nervous, seemingly ineffectual deputy sheriff who could never do anything right. And yet…there was more to Barney than that. He may have been confused at times, but he was no dummy. And he may have been nervous, but he was no coward. Take this clip, for instance:

To put Barack Obama in the same category as Barney Fife is deeply insulting to Fife. Therefore, we must protest. Has Barack Obama ever shown the courage and moral clarity that Fife exhibits in that brief video? No.

So: if you want to criticize the Obama administration, go right ahead. They have it coming. But leave Barney Fife out of it: we should be so lucky as to have him for a president.

Advice on Strategy From Dilbert

President Obama can’t come up with a strategy to deal with ISIS. It’s just so…complicated. Here’s an idea: how about if we kill them?

I don’t suppose Obama will go with that one. But hey: even Dilbert has a better grasp of strategy than our clueless president:

DilbertStrategy07

OK, it may not be optimal, but it’s better than anything the Obama administration has come up with!

Imminent Terror Warning: Is It Time For a Strategy Yet? [Updated]

It was revealed today that Islamic terrorist groups are operating in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and that federal agencies have issued a warning of an “imminent terrorist attack on the border”:

Islamic terrorist groups are operating in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle born improvised explosive devices (VBIED). High-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources have confirmed to Judicial Watch that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border has been issued. Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense agencies have all been placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning this imminent terrorist threat.

Specifically, Judicial Watch sources reveal that the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is confirmed to now be operating in Juarez, a famously crime-infested narcotics hotbed situated across from El Paso, Texas. Violent crimes are so rampant in Juarez that the U.S. State Department has issued a number of travel warnings for anyone planning to go there. The last one was issued just a few days ago.

Intelligence officials have picked up radio talk and chatter indicating that the terrorist groups are going to “carry out an attack on the border,” according to one JW source. “It’s coming very soon,” according to this high-level source, who clearly identified the groups planning the plots as “ISIS and Al Qaeda.” An attack is so imminent that the commanding general at Ft. Bliss, the U.S. Army post in El Paso, is being briefed, another source confirms.

So, I don’t know, not that there’s any hurry or anything, but maybe the Obama administration should start thinking about a strategy to defeat ISIS?

The administration is obviously stung by President Obama’s repeated admission, yesterday, that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to deal with ISIS. Today White House spokesman Josh Earnest went on MSNBC to explain that, sure, we have a strategy–God only knows what it is–but we are waiting for a few final pieces to fall into place. Or something like that. Apparently the military is the holdup. Whatever. Earnest can’t sell that even on MSNBC; Chuck Todd looks on with amused contempt, then cuts away for an interview of sorts with someone named Savannah Guthrie, apparently a higher priority:

Never have we seen such a clown show. But when the next terrorist attack strikes, no one will be laughing.

UPDATE: The Department of Homeland Security and the White House have denied that they are aware of a threat from ISIS originating in Mexico. Judicial Watch stands by its sources.

From the land of sky blue waters

Sometimes it seems that Minnesota is ground zero in the war against terrorism. The problem is that we’re on the wrong side. This week we learned that two men identified as Minnesotans had died fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and now is such a time. Reporting from ground zero, we pause to ask what is happening here?

One of the two — Abdiraaman Muhumed — was a Somali Muslim. He is one of several such “Minnesotans” to have departed Minnesota to fight with Islamic terrorists. The other reported to have died — the inauspiciously named Douglas McAuthur McCain — was a former Minnesota resident by way of Chicago and a Muslim convert. He was a friend of another such Muslim convert — Troy Kastigar. McCain and Kastigar were classmates at Robbinsdale high schools. Their path to Islam is not clear, but it undoubtedly originated in Minnesota, from which they joined several other “Minnesotans” who following a similar path to jihad. McCain reportedly moved in to live Kastigar in 2000-2001. One infers that McCain followed Kastigar’s path, Kastigar enlisting in al Shabab and McCain in IS. Among the common denominators were their friendship in Minneapolis, their conversion to Islam and their pursuit of jihad.

According to the Star Tribune, they both converted to Islam in early adulthood. The Star Tribune also reports without explanation that Kastigar “went by the nickname Abdirahman.” Before he blew himself up for jihad, Kastigar appeared in the al Shabab recruiting video featuring jihadists from Minnesota. The New York Times circles around McCain and gets approximately nowhere.

This much we have on good authority. The Minnesota connection to the jihad phenomenon “began in 2007 with the young Somali men traveling from Minnesota to Somalia,” according to the director of the local FBI Chief Divison Counsel quoted by ABC News. “In Somalia, it started as a nationalistic call…[but] we’ve now seen where some individuals perhaps are not interested or not inclined to travel to Somalia, [they] start to branch out to other hot spots around the globe, obviously Syria being among them.”

“Nationalistic” is a euphemism. For “nationalistic,” read “religious.” And the problem is growing. To borrow the cliché invoking dots, Michael Walsh connects them here.

As I have noted here several times, and I am repeating myself now, Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the United States. We know amazingly little about them, probably because we are afraid to ask the relevant questions. We know they are mostly Muslim — we can see the hijabs, we are familiar with the many local controversies to which their faith has given rise over the past 10 years — but are they loyal residents or citizens of the United States? In the conflict between the United States and the Islamist forces with which we are contending, whose side are they on?

Only three years ago a terror trial in Minneapolis concluded with a raft of guilty verdicts that raised serious questions of loyalty. The two defendants were women convicted of charges including conspiracy to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, of providing support, and of lying to the FBI. The “terrorist organization” was al Shabab.

The ringleader was not exactly remorseful after the jury returned its guilty verdicts. According to a contemporaneous AP report, she stood before the judge and stated through an interpreter: “I am very happy.” She added that she knew she was going to heaven. As I noted here at the time, she may be going to heaven, but she’ll be stopping off in prison first. As for the rest of us, she advised: “You will go to hell.” The feeling was mutual.

I have been told by law enforcement authorities that the investigation leading to the 2011 trial has consumed the local FBI office for the past seven years. The investigation also resulted in a string of guilty pleas (at least one such plea dating back as far 2009) involving local Somali men supporting al Shabab. Investigators believe at least 21 Somali men have left Minnesota to join al Shabab. We’re a little concerned the that the departed jihadists might choose to return to Minnesota and continue the jihad.

What about the rest of the local Somali community? Members of the local Somali community materialized at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis to support the women at trial, but not because they held the charges to be unfounded. The members of the local Somali community appearing at the courthouse never bothered to cite any evidence of innocence. The question was beside the point. No voice expressly spoke up on behalf of law-abidingness or loyalty to the United States.

In the National Affairs essay “The Muslim-American muddle,” Peter Skerry expressly raised the question of loyalty in the context of America’s Muslim population in general. The essay is by turns infuriating and illuminating, but at least it licensed inquiry into the question.

Indeed, Skerry took the question seriously and provided evidence supporting the concerns of “alarmists,” noting the striking absence of any acknowledged tie to the United States on the part of important Muslim organizations. Skerry contrasted “complacent elites” with “alarmist populists.” I would place Skerry on the complacent side of the divide and myself on the alarmist side, although Skerry placed himself (of course) in the middle as the voice of reason mediating between the two camps. But Skerry concludes the essay on what I would characterize as an alarmist (i.e., realistic) note.

Along the way, Skerry seemed to me to treat several basic issues (including assimilation) in a conclusory and question-begging fashion. He cited the naturalization of Muslim immigrants and their involvement in American politics, supporting Democrats, as factors supporting (I will say) complacency. Yet the two defendants in the Minneapolis terror trial were both naturalized citizens. And CAIR has formed a fruitful alliance with Democrats going back to its days as a Hamas front group (Skerry suggests that those days are behind it). Skerry rightly observed: “It is astonishing, given th[e history of CAIR], that the mainstream American media should routinely describe CAIR as ‘a Muslim civil rights organization.’”

Skerry failed to raise the question whether the immigration spigot should remain open while we sort out the serious issues that he addressed in his essay. The question didn’t even seem to cross his mind. In any event, Skerry’s essay badly needs to be updated. In the meantime, we can only try to be clear about what is happening here.

Poll: Obama receives more than twice as much strong disapproval as strong approval

The latest Gallup poll on President Obama job performance is out. At the top line, things could be worse for the president and his party. 44 percent approve of his performance, while 53 percent disapprove.

That’s considerably worse than in the run-up to the 2010 election, and certainly cause for concern among Democrats. But Dems won’t be surprised by this split which, as I said, could be worse.

The intensity numbers, however, are terrible for Obama and the Dems. 39 percent of Americans (essentially 2 in 5) say they strongly disapprove of the president’s performance. Only 17 percent say they strongly approve. In mid-2010, the split was adverse to Obama, but far less so. 34 percent strongly disapproved, compared to 27 percent who strongly approved.

Obama’s current standing with independents is terrible. He’s underwater on the approve/disapprove axis at 39-54. And only 11 percent of independents say they strongly approve, compared to 39 percent who say they strongly disapprove.

So much for claims that Obama is the victim of Republican partisanship. Independents are disgusted with him too.

What does this mean for November? Big trouble for Democrats, one would imagine. As Gallup politely puts it, “the intensity of opinions about the president could affect. . .the forthcoming midterm election.”

Dear Dean Wippman

The University of Minnesota is another brick in the wall of the institutional left that holds Minnesota under its thumb. The university has done and continues to do some great things, but in many ways it remains an enemy of the ordinary citizen seeking to get on with his life. Its outré history faculty, to take just one example, is among the vanguard of anti-Israel, pro-Hamas supporters, and they’re not too crazy about the United States either.

I am a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and grateful for the education I received there, but along with the university as a whole it too is a big part of the problem. Under the leadership of deep thinking social planner Myron Orfield — he knows what is best for us and he means to give it to us good and hard — the law school hosts the blandly named Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity (formerly known with somewhat more candor as the Institute on Race and Poverty) that is the cockpit from which the regional planning assault is conducted in and on Minnesota. Without it, I doubt that Minnesota would be among the featured attractions in Stanley Kurtz’s Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.

This is how the institute describes its mission: “The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity investigates the ways that laws, policies and practices affect development patterns in U.S. metropolitan regions, with a particular focus on the growing social and economic disparities within these areas. Through top-level scholarship, mapping and advocacy, the Institute provides the resources that policymakers, planning officials and community organizations need to address reform in taxation, land use, housing, metropolitan governance and education.” I trust readers can translate that for themselves, but Kurtz, Katherine Kersten, and Paul Mirengoff have provided considerable assistance.

Given the existing malignancy that the institute represents, I was deeply disappointed to receive in the mail this week the announcement of a new law school project supporting illegal immigration. It is creatively named the Center for New Americans. Its mission “is to expand urgently needed legal services for noncitizens, pursue litigation that will improve our nation’s immigration laws, and educate noncitizens about their rights.” Its “partners,” of course, include the Minnesota’s three biggest law firms.

The announcement I received was an invitation to the center’s kickoff program at the law school on September 30. The program is a discussion among like-minded speakers consistent, shall we say, with the center’s mission.

David Wippman is the dean of the law school. I wrote him to express my disappointment with the program and the center. There is nothing remarkable about the messages we exchanged, but I thought readers might be interested in seeing what Dean Wippman had to say. I wrote:

Dear Dean Wippman: I recently researched and wrote an article on the wave of illegal Central American immigrants with which we are contending at the moment. The article appeared in the July 21 issue of the Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/disorder-border_796395.html). Through my work researching and writing the article, I got to know something about the issues raised by the current wave of illegal immigrants beyond the headlines.

I am so disappointed to learn of the law school’s new Center for New Americans project via the mailing announcing the September 30 event launch program at the law school. I am even more disappointed to see that the program launching the project includes no element of diversity of opinion on the subject. It seems to me that the program poorly represents the many sided nature of the issues involved and therefore detracts from the law school’s standing as something other than a partisan institution.

Very truly yours,
Scott W. Johnson ’79

Dean Wippman responded:

Dear Scott,

Thanks for your email and your candor. I understand that there are a wide range of views regarding immigration and I agree we should expose our students to a diverse set of viewpoints on that and other issues. I am convinced that the Center for New Americans is a great resource for the School and for the community. It substantially increases the number of clinic slots we can offer to students (though we still can’t meet the full demand for clinics). Our students have been enthusiastic about the opportunities the Center provides. The Center provides much needed legal services in collaboration with our partner organizations and it already has a case scheduled for argument before the US Supreme Court. The program launch is intended to highlight our collaborative model and so has several guest speakers from our non-profit partner organizations. I hope you will join us for the launch event; you could then speak directly to the Center director and faculty

Best regards,
David

I wrote back:

Dear Dean Wippman: I appreciate your gracious response. The opportunity to come talk with the protagonists is not what I had in mind, but I appreciate your pointing that out as well. When the law school has a program including discussion of the problems raised by the continuing flood of illegal immigration for American citizens, please keep me in mind. I would love to attend.

I had meant to add that my wife Sally (’80) is a legal immigrant and naturalized citizen from Peru. We went through the naturalization process together. That has given me some understanding of the system and the issues as well.

Thanks again.

Scott

I will leave Dean Wippman with the last word: “Thanks, Scott. I hope I will have the chance to meet both you and Sally some time soon.”

Rubio flips again on immigration

Sen. Marco Rubio says that if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the immigration reform bill that Rubio sponsored last year to the floor for a vote now, he would vote against it. Rubio explained that passing his immigration bill wouldn’t be productive, and thus the vote would only be for show.

But if “unproductive” and “show votes” automatically deserved a “no,” our solons would rarely vote “yes.” If his bill was meritorious last year, as Rubio believed, it is meritorious now, and should be treated accordingly.

Rubio also claims that he doesn’t regret his support for his immigration reform bill last year, but it’s pretty clear that he does. After all, that bill turned out (thankfully) to be unproductive.

More importantly, if Rubio hadn’t supported amnesty-style comprehensive immigration reform, he would probably be the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. At a minimum, he wouldn’t feel compelled to fast talk his way out of the political damage he inflicted on himself by leading the charge for amnesty.

Amnesty-style comprehensive reform isn’t the only immigration issue as to which Rubio is flipping. There is also the matter of “dreamers.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that Rubio says he wants to end a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gives safe harbor and work permits to some people brought to the U.S. as children. During a speech earlier this week, he told young illegal immigrants that they are hurting their cause.

We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws. You’re doing harm to your own cause because you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States.

Rubio then waited while security escorted the “dreamers” out of the room.

Rubio took a very different approach during a 2012 event. At that time, according to the Journal, Rubio responded to “dreamers” by saying:

These young people are very brave to be here today. They raise a very legitimate issue. I don’t want them to leave. I want them to stay.

Rubio explained this about face by complaining that the “dreamers” aren’t giving him enough credit for trying to help him. As Sonny Corleone would say, he “is taking this very personal.”

The first law of holes dictates that Rubio stop digging. But presidential politics are impelling him to violate that law.

When Rubio surveys the potential presidential field, he surely sees that no Republican stands out. Why else would we be hearing so much talk about another Mitt Romney bid?

In addition, Rubio surely remembers that, not long ago, he stood out. Couple this with the fact that, like Barack Obama, Rubio seems to have infinite faith in his ability to talk his way out of tight spots, and you get the embarrassment of his latest immigration squirming.

It may well cause some conservatives to take another look at Rubio. But when I look at him, I continue to see a politician whom it is difficult to trust.

For more on the tortured history of Rubio on immigration, see here, here, and here.