House Republicans Vote to Take Obama to Court

Today, the House voted 225-201, nearly along party lines, to authorize litigation against President Obama. This is the long-awaited challenge to Obama’s usurpation of power via executive decree. The vote was on House Resolution 676. Here is the text of the resolution:

Bills 113hres676rh

House leadership decided to focus the resolution only on Obama’s actions with respect to Obamacare. This seems counter-intuitive; I would think it would be helpful to show a pattern of disregard for the law. In the case of this administration, that would be easy to do. But the Washington Examiner reports Congressman Pete Sessions’ rationale for the resolution’s narrow focus:

“We have chosen to bring this legislation to sue the president over his selective implementation of the Affordable Care Act because it is the option most likely to clear the legal hurdlers necessary to restore the balance of power,” Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said.

No doubt a lot of thought went into that choice. I assume the House leadership also has a plan to get a decision in their lawsuit before Obama leaves office, but that won’t be easy.

Lost in the Democrats’ yammering about politics and the appalling cost of the lawsuit–the first time in some years the Democrats have worried about the cost of anything, which in this case is de minimis–is that Obama’s violation of the Constitution is undeniable. Article II does not authorize the President to rule by decree, or to nullify federal laws that displease him. Obama has obviously acted unconstitutionally by changing the Obamacare statute by decree–repeatedly–and, even more seriously, by gutting the nation’s immigration laws. Rather than “tak[ing] care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as is his constitutional duty, Obama has repeatedly undermined and even nullified the country’s laws. We have never had a president like him before; let’s hope we never have one again.

The Democrats have been raising money for some time on the threat of a lawsuit against Obama, but that is rather small beer. What they really want is impeachment. So they slyly characterize the lawsuit as a step toward impeachment, without any explanation of why that should be the case. I get three or four fundraising emails from the Democrats every day, talking about the imminent threat of impeachment. I have reproduced a few of them here. In fact, no serious Republican is talking about impeaching Obama, and there is zero chance of any such move in the House. (Unless, of course, Obama does something really bizarre.) But for the Democrats, money is pretty much everything, and impeachment is catnip to their base. So every day, they try to keep the idea of impeachment alive.

Grabien compiled this amusing montage of Democrats desperately trying to promote the impeachment of President Obama as a political threat. Grabien titles the clip: “Democrats not letting impeachment dream die.”

I don’t know. The Democrats understand their base better than I do. But can it possibly be a good idea to tell your party’s members–three times a day!–that the leader of their party is in danger of being impeached? That doesn’t seem like good publicity to me, but maybe I’m just behind the times. At least when it comes to fundraising.

Breaking: The (Leftist) Billionaire Boys Club

This afternoon there’s an important update on the story of the epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer, the billionaire promising to spend $100 million on behalf of Democrats, and John’s long analysis of the Democracy Alliance.

Senate Report copyThe Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have released a new report entitled The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA (PDF link).  The report gives the lie to the frequent hysteria over the Koch brothers, as it shows the extent of deeply politicized left-wing philanthropy dwarfs in amount and reach anything the Kochs and their friends carry on—often skirting the edge of the law regulating charitable activity.  The money flowing into the environmental establishment is massive and centrally coordinated.

One of the more striking findings of the report is not so much that billionaires like Steyer provide lavish funding, but how rich so many environmental organizations are.  Check out the assets values displayed in this table:

Green Assets copy

Just one organization on that list—the Natural Resources Defense Council—has a larger annual budget than all of the major conservatives think tanks combined, for all purposes.  This is what makes the constant whining about “climate skeptics” so incredible.

More significant than the dollars involved (I’m not sure I’d lump in funding of the Nature Conservancy, for example, with the climatistas on the list) is the details of how leftist foundations work hand in glove with the Obama Administration.

In one shocking example, the Committee learned of an arrangement between the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) and EPA where RFF agreed to pay the salary of Shalini Vajjhala, then an employee at the nonprofit organization Resources for the Future, to work at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). According to internal EPA documents, this arrangement benefited EPA as Vajjhala would have the opportunity to, “stake our claim there” – where “our” is the EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs and “there” refers to the White House. . .

In another outrageous email exchange, former Assistant Administrator for the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, Michelle DePass, and “Richard Windsor,” former Administrator Jackson’s alias, strategize over how best to leverage a public appearance before the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA). Reproduced in full, the email exchange states:

EPA email copy

The report goes on to detail the revolving door between activists and government agencies.  There’s lots more, especially about the growing effort by leftist foundations to strangle hydraulic fracturing that is key to natural gas production—the single best energy story of the last decade that has done more to reduce carbon emissions than all the windmills and solar panels the greens worship.  No good deed goes unpunished.

The Evil Empire Is Back

So Obama, ever the bright and prompt one when it comes to foreign affairs, has declared the Soviet Union Russia to be in violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty—Ronald Reagan’s famous “zero option.”  The violation occurred in 2009.  Guess it would have got in the way of that whole “reset” thing to have brought it up at the time.

Adelman Cover copyAs it happens, I’m working on a new essay for a forthcoming academic book on the latest scholarship about the end of the Cold War, and along the way I’m reading Ken Adelman’s Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War.  I quite agree with Ken on the thesis of his subtitle, and even though he was in Reykjavik as Reagan’s director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the State Department, I think he misses a couple of the fine points that occurred during the one-on-one sessions Reagan and Gorbachev had, and which appear more clearly in the more complete Russian transcript of those remarkable sessions.  But that’s a minor point; Ken is an excellent writer with keen perceptions of things.  When I delved through the oral histories of the Reagan Administration at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, I found Ken’s to be one of the most interesting ones.

There’s one passage in Ken’s book that is worth noting in light of the news of the current Russian treaty violation, describing a last-minute hitch in the INF Treaty that I’d never heard before:

Like many things after Reykjavik—including Reagan’s exhortation to “tear down this Wall” and the completion of the treaty itself—this East Room [signing] ceremony nearly didn’t happen.  A glitch had suddenly arisen earlier that day.

Under the treaty terms, each side had to furnish a photograph of its missile, so the other could know what to identify during its monitoring.  Someone noticed that the Soviets had presented us with a photo of the canister in which the missile is stored—which looks like any missile canister—and not the missile itself, which has distinctive features.  When [George] Shultz raised the matter, [Soviet Foreign Minister] Shevardnadze claimed that there was no photo of the missile anywhere, only of its canister.

Even with so much at stake—the East Room ceremony having already been prepared, the guests about to arrive—Reagan decided to hold firm.  He felt if they welshed on this peripheral provision, they would welsh later on more major matters.

We all held our breaths, waiting to see whether everything we had worked so hard to accomplish over the past fourteen months would be torpedoed at the last minute for want of a snapshot.  But within the hour, the Soviets found that there was a photo of the missile after all.  A faxed version was presented to us mid-morning—some three hours before the ceremony was to begin—with the actual photo arriving the next day.  Once that crisis was resolved, the signing ceremony was good to go.

No doubt you spotted the key phrase here: “Reagan decided to hold firm.”  When you are able to hold firm, you get photos like this:

Reagan Gorbachev copy

But when you’re Obama, and you don’t hold firm on anything (his “red line” marker must be filled with invisible ink) you get photos like this:

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Hillary Clinton and the decision to intervene in Libya

Hillary Clinton has been working full-time to control the story of her time as Secretary of State. That was the point of her clunky, largely unread book, and the point of her awkward, gaffe-laden book tour.

Clinton argues (plausibly) that she wanted a more activist approach to Syria than that served up by her boss. She argues (implausibly) that she wasn’t really sold on the “reset” with Russia.

As to Libya, Clinton’s priority must be to duck, to the extent possible, the political fallout from the killing of our ambassador and three other Americans by terrorists in Benghazi.

But what about the larger policy that led to Benghazi — our decision to engage militarily on behalf of the rebels in Libya? Juxtaposed not only with the Benghazi killings but also our embarrassing evacuation and abandonment of the United States Embassy in Tripoli, that decision raises key questions for Clinton.

The main questions are: (1) where did she stand on the question of intervening in Libya’s civil war and (2) what was her larger strategic vision for Libya.

Joseph Miller — the pen name for a high ranking Defense Department official — provides answers. According to Miller, writing in the Daily Caller, Clinton led the charge to intervene in Libya, but lacked any strategic plan beyond making sure that no bloodbath occurred for which she could be blamed.

As to the decision to intervene, Miller writes:

From the onset of the Libyan civil war, both the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency determined that there was no discernible U.S. national security interest in Libya. Accordingly, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and then-Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta advised against U.S. military intervention in Libya. . . .

At the time, their collective advice did not fall on deaf ears as, by all accounts, Obama was also not keen to take military action. However, it has been well documented that the president was swayed by then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-Special Assistant to the President Samantha Power to do just that.

Clinton argued passionately in favor of military intervention to prevent additional civilian casualties at the hands of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, describes his failure to intervene in the Rwanda genocide as the lowest moment of his presidency.

Bearing that in mind, Secretary Clinton did not want a similar event to occur on her watch as secretary of state, because she intended to run for the presidency in 2016 and didn’t want to give her challengers any ammunition to use against her. So, she decided to push for action despite the advice against doing so by her colleagues at CIA and the Pentagon.

Intervening in Libya might have been a defensible course of action if the U.S. had a sound plan for what would happen after the rebels succeeded. Having pushed for intervention, Clinton had a duty to formulate such a plan. According to Miller, she presented none:

Clinton’s State Department lacked a plan, and remained woefully underprepared and under-resourced, to assist the post-Gadhafi government in Libya with either nation- or state-building.

This is incredible, as Democrats have spent the last 10 years lambasting the former Bush administration for failing to have a post-invasion plan for Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Only in this case, it is even more [incredible] because both Obama and Clinton had the hindsight of the failures of Iraq. . . .

Why did Clinton insist on intervening, yet fail to offer a follow-up plan? Miller explains:

So long as the U.S. military prevented further civilian casualties, the failure of the overall U.S. policy in Libya would be someone else’s fault, as she knew her time in the administration was rapidly coming to a close as she prepared for her almost-certain presidential run.

This is speculation, of course. But it’s difficult to discern a better explanation.

Clinton’s gambit would have worked for her politically had it not been for the Benghazi attacks. I can’t think of a clearer case of chickens coming home to roost.

Tweeting Jake Tapper

We think more highly of Jake Tapper than we do of the standard cable talking head, and I follow him on Twitter, but his take on the current Hamas-Israel conflict demonstrates his limitations in a big way. Yesterday he tweeted out a sympathetic Hamas propaganda point: “More Palestinian children killed in last 3 wks than Israeli troops killed in military ops since 2006.”

Maybe, but it’s a point that reflects Hamas’s criminal use of human shields as a means of war. It is therefore moronic. Even discounting Hamas’s use of human shields, however, Hamas’s civilian death statistics should not be taken at face value. They are a carefully nurtured tool of war.

Citing Bret Stephens’s Wall Street Journal column addressing this issue (“Palestine makes you dumb,” behind the Journal’s annoying subscription paywall), I tried to make this point in my own way and Tapper responded: “[W]e report UN figures. Are Israeli casualty figures propaganda?” Stephens takes up this point, but Tapper apparently ain’t got time to read. It is that response to which I replied: “You know the answer to that question. That is pathetic.”

The exchange partially appears below. I believe it is fully accessible here.

In truth, I believe that official Israeli spokesmen including those working on behalf of the IDF have proved themselves a more reliable source of news and information regarding this conflict than CNN.

Ms. Hillary’s pinpoint strikes

In an interview with Jorge Ramos Fusion TV, Ms. Hillary was asked about civilian deaths in Gaza. Hamas treats civilian death statistics as propaganda and carefully nurtures them. They are treated as gospel and routinely recited by the media without reservation.

Bret Stephens took up the issue in an important Wall Street Journal column yesterday, addressing the officials and policymakers who use the statistics to criticize Israel or promote a ceasefire or the like. Stephens’s column is “Palestine makes you dumb” (behind the Journal’s annoying subscription paywall but accessible via Google).

In the video below, Ms. Hillary touches all the bases in her response.

Hamas intended to provoke Israel. That’s why they started firing the rockets again. Good explanation!

Ms. Hillary takes credit for having engineered the previous Hamas-Israel ceasefire that lasted….until now, when it didn’t.

An accomplishment, at last! Ms. Hillary engineered a ceasefire that lasted until a time of Hamas’s choosing.

Hamas “had its back against the wall, and then started firing missiles.”

Israel has the right to defend itself, obviously.

Israel discovered the tunnel networks. Civilian deaths are heartbreaking. Hamas embeds its men and materiel in civilian areas. Israel sends warnings. Conflicts will produce civilian casualties, so we need a ceasefire as soon as possible.

I would say that Israel therefore needs to crush Hamas as soon as possible, but that is one base Hillary won’t touch.

And she ain’t a military planner, but part of it is that Gaza is “a pretty small place,” so…you know….Gaza puts its leadership in civilian areas. (Left unsaid: Like the basement of Al Shifa Hospital.)

Hillary Matters For America is on the case and emails this quote, for the exculpatory “context.” Ms. Hillary speaks:

I’m not a military planner, but Hamas puts its missiles — its rockets in civilian areas. Part of it is that Gaza’s pretty small and it’s very densely populated. They put their command and control of Hamas military leaders in those civilian areas. Israel, I know, has sent warnings and tried to get people to move, but in any kind of conflict there are going to be civilian casualties, and we need to try to get to a cease-fire as soon as possible.

Video via Washington Free Beacon.

The Great War and Modern Memory

Fussell Cover copyYesterday was the 100th anniversary of Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war on Serbia—the official beginning of hostilities of what became World War I.  There’s a ton of new books about the Great War (as it was called before the sequel caused a re-numbering), but in many ways my favorite remains Paul Fussell’s treatment of the literary legacy of the war from the 1970s, The Great War and Modern Memory.

A few excerpts from the early, scene-setting parts of the book:

Irony is the attendant of hope, and the fuel of hope is innocence.  One reason the Great War was more ironic than any other is that its beginning was more innocent.  “Never again such innocence,” observes Philip Larkin, who has found himself curiously drawn to regard with a wondering tenderness not merely the victimized creatures of the nearby Second World War but the innocents of the remote Great War, those sweet, generous people who pressed forward and all but solicited their own destruction. . .

The certainties were intact.  Britain had not known a major war for a century, and on the Continent, as A.J. P. Taylor points out, “there had been no war between the Great Powers since 1871.  No man in the prime of life knew what war was like.  All imagined that it would be an affair of great marches and great battles, quickly decided.”

Furthermore, the Great War was perhaps the last to be conceived as taking place within a seamless, purposeful “history” involving a coherent stream of time running from past through present to future. . .

For the modern imagination that last summer has assumed the status of a permanent symbol for anything innocently but irrecoverably lost. . .

Out of the world of summer, 1914, marched a unique generation.  It believed in Progress and Art and in no way doubted the benignity of technology.  The word machine was not yet invariably coupled with the word gun.

More as we go, perhaps, through the centennials of all the Great War’s milestones.

See my previous post about Churchill’s account of that last summer here.

And see my obituary notice of Paul Fussell from 2012 here.