Suing the President

Liberals are in typical scoffing and mocking mode about the House pursuing a lawsuit against President Obama for failure to execute the laws faithfully, another example of the situational ethics of liberalism as well as their contempt for the separation of powers and the Constitution itself.  Liberals never thought it odd when members of Congress attempted to sue both Presidents Bush (unsuccessfully) for violating the War Powers Act, or President Clinton (successfully) over the line item veto, or President Reagan (successfully) over the first iteration of the Gramm-Rudman Act.

To be sure, most attempts of individual members of Congress to sue the president are unsuccessful for lack of standing, which is what makes the current legal strategy—usually the kind of creative reading of the law that liberals love everywhere else—so plausible.  Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner observed the other day that the theory is attracting support from across the spectrum of ideological opinion among the law professoriate.  But the real laurels should go to Elizabeth Price Foley, who explained in a hearing of the House Rules Committee last week just why this lawsuit can go forward and is likely to succeed on the merits (just 7 minutes long):

Exit question for liberals: If you don’t like the House lawsuit, would you prefer impeachment instead?

Hamas presents

The invaluable MEMRI supplies the subtitles for the video of Hamas at work underground; the video was recently broadcast on Al-Jazeera TV in Qatar and Al-Quds TV in Lebanon. In the footage, as Stuart Winer notes in the Times of Israel story on the video, heavily armed masked men in camouflage can be seen making their way through the narrow tunnels. The video’s narrator claims that they are on their way to carry out a “military operation against the occupation forces.” The excitement mounts.

If there was a military operation, it would have been directed against Israeli civilians (the “occupiers”) rather than against the IDF (“occupation forces”). That’s just the way they roll and it is chilling.

It takes some creativity to endow terror tunnels with glamor as Hamas continues its advances in violating the laws of war and civilized norms, all in the name of Allah, of course. Check it out.

The Nutroots Are Worried, And We Have the Answer

The Washington Post noticed a couple days ago that a lot of liberals are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the prospect of Hillary as their candidate.  (And don’t miss this poll that Politico says will make Democrats panic about Hillary’s prospects.)  Anyway, the Post:

Even as Hillary Rodham Clinton looms as the overwhelming favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, the party’s base is stirring for a primary fight. There’s a pining for someone else, and a medley of ambitious Democrats are making moves — many of them previously unreported — to position themselves to perhaps be that someone.

Right now the flavor of the month is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Nick Gillespie of ReasonTV directs our attention to this “Godawful” video, “Run, Liz, Run,” that you really do have to see, not to believe (just 2:30 long):

Catchy little tune, don’t you think?  Gives a bad name to earworms everywhere.  (In case of emergency, click here to get it out of your head.  Guaranteed to do the trick.)

But buried down in the Post story is this little gem that I strongly suspect will turn out to be the surprise story (to everyone but me) of the 2016 cycle:

One Democrat who knows a thing or two about insurgent campaigns, former senator Gary Hart of Colorado, said he intends to huddle with California Gov. Jerry Brown at their upcoming Yale Law School reunion (Class of 1964) to chat about the possibility of Brown running for the White House.

“Don’t rule out my law school classmate,” said Hart, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1984 and 1988. “If you pay attention to his career, you see that he does very unexpected things.”

Brown is on course, alas, to being re-elected by a landslide in California in November, and I’ll bet the Brown-for-President talk will begin by sundown the next day.

Should We Feel Sorry for Obama?

Whenever a Democratic president gets into trouble, the predictable chorus starts up: The job of President of the United States is just too difficult for anyone to master.

Today’s winner is Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, who phones in the following:

It’s Virtually Impossible to Be a Successful Modern President

Being president is the most powerful job in the world. At which you will almost certainly fail. . .

. . . it’s hard to see how Obama could be considered “successful” even if he hadn’t made the various mistakes — in governance and the politics of politics — that he did.  His presidency began at a time not only of unprecedented polarization in Congress and the country but also at a moment in which a president’s ability to bend the country to his will had reached a low ebb.

The complete article gets no better, and dwells on excessive partisanship, modern 24/7 media and social media, etc.

This is hardly a new theme, but as I say it always seems to arise when Democratic presidents get in trouble, and because it is a basic rule that no facts can be inconvenient for liberalism, it is necessary to recur to the old standby that the American presidency is just gosh darn too hard for anyone to perform adequately.  This is usually followed by suggestions that what the president needs is—wait for it!—more power.  How convenient.

Harken back to 1980, and an excerpt from my Age of Reagan:

The popular historian Barbara Tuchman expressed the thinking of the intellectual elite: “The job of President is too difficult for any single person because of the complexity of the problems and the size of government.  Maybe some form of plural executive is needed, such as they have in Switzerland.” U.S. News and World Report wondered: “Perhaps the burdens have become so great that, over time, no President will be judged adequate in the eyes of most voters.” Columnist Joseph Kraft wrote on election eve: “As the country goes to the polls in the 47th national election, the Presidency as an institution is in trouble.  It has become, as Vice President Mondale said in a recent interview, the ‘fire hydrant of the nation.’”  Newsweek echoed this sentiment: “The Presidency has in some measure defeated the last five men who have held it—and has persuaded some of the people who served them that it is in danger of becoming a game nobody can win. . . the job as now constituted is or is becoming impossible, no matter who holds it.”

Political scientist Theodore Lowi concurred: “The presidency has become an impossible job. . . because the presidency has become too big, even for the likes of FDR.” Elsewhere Lowi wrote that “The probability of [presidential] failure is always tending toward 100 percent.”  James MacGregor Burns, author of The Deadlock of Democracy, wrote: “The greatest problem of America in modern times is the despair and disillusion of thoughtful people with the apparent incapacity to solve our problems under and antiquated governmental system, booby-trapped with vetoes, and a purposely designed self-limiting division of power.” Everett Carll Ladd wrote in Fortune magazine that “The experience of recent years strongly suggests that personal ability and character, while vitally important, are insufficient to assure success to a contemporary presidency.  For the institutional setting quite simply has become adverse.  A kind of ‘vicious circle’ of declining performance has been initiated.”  The big question, for Ladd, was: “Can anybody do it?”  Surveying the field of candidates who wanted to succeed Jimmy Carter, Ladd thought not, and worried about the implications: “The consequences of yet one more failure in this unique office would impose appalling stress on the whole political system.” Like Tuchman, Ladd thought the office was no longer equal to the times.  “The institutional resources available to the President, relative to what he is expected to do, remain seriously deficient.”

People stopped saying this about halfway through Reagan’s presidency.  Maybe there’s a substantive reason for that.  Notice how all the elite complaints about the problems of the presidency always abstract from the substantive views and actions of the occupant.  The possibility that maybe we have a crappy president never seems to enter into consideration.

And remember this operating rule: Pay no attention to elite liberals when they trot out their complaints about the inadequacy of our constitutional republic, and their suggestions for reform that always, by some strange coincidence, would increase their influence in the corridors of power.

UPDATE: Brit Hume made a nice shout out for this post on the Kelly File on Fox News tonight.  Watch the segment here.

Israel seems ready to tune John Kerry out

In his recent “hot mic” moment, John Kerry responded to news of civilian deaths in Gaza with these words:

It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation. Hell of a pinpoint operation. We’ve got to get over there. I think we ought to go tonight.

The truth is that Kerry’s desire to “get over” to the Middle East has nothing to do with any lack of precision in Israel’s military operations. Kerry lives to inject himself into international disputes. The civilian deaths are just an excuse; a disabled dog would have served just as nicely.

Unfortunately for this would-be shuttle diplomat, Kerry has worn out his welcome in Israel. The Times of Israel reports:

Michael Oren, who until recently served as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, said Monday that US envoy John Kerry was coming to the region despite Sunday’s hot-mic incident, making it clear that he had not been invited. . . .It was plain from those remarks that Kerry decided on his own to come to the region, Oren said, rather than being invited to do so.

In comments to Channel 2 on Monday afternoon, Oren cited the Obama administration’s strained relations with Egypt, and the “tension” in ties between the US and Israel. To Israel’s chagrin, he said, America has consequently not been able to play a more constructive role in this crisis, whereas previous administrations had been able to do so in past crises.

He commented on the way the Administration handled the Arab spring, the blame it placed on Israel for the failure of the peace process, and the US’s strained ties with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Oren is hardly the only knowledgeable Israeli who feels this way:

Oren’s comments followed remarks Sunday by Channel 2′s veteran Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari, who said that as far as Israel is concerned, the secretary of state’s ceasefire trip was premature “and bad for Israel,” and that he should have left it to the Egyptians to lead the ceasefire effort. Ya’ari said many people, “including senior American officials,” tried to convey this to Kerry.

This marks the continuing trend of the Obama administration “to give credit” to the Muslim Brotherhood, in this case Hamas, Ya’ari said, except that now it’s graver, because “we’re in a war.”

Israel has long been the only important nation that takes the Obama administration seriously. The rest of the world does what it wants, but Israel foregoes building needed housing, engages in futile “peace” talks, apologizes to Turkey when the apology should have run the other, etc. — all against its better judgment and only because the U.S. wants it to.

I don’t doubt that Obama browbeats Israel in part because he doesn’t much like the Jewish State. But I also suspect he does so because Israel is one of the very few nations that still listens to him.

A president has to be able to throw his weight around somewhere.

But now it looks like Obama and Kerry have gone to the well once too often. As Oren makes clear, the Obama administration “has. . .not been able to play a more constructive role in this crisis” because it has forfeited its credibility with the key players, the first and foremost of which is Israel itself.

As John says, “Israel’s best course is simply to ignore Obama and his messenger, John Kerry. Thanks to the track record of these two, Israel may finally do just that.

On Gaza, Obama Contradicts Himself

This morning President Obama commented on both Gaza and the shooting down of the Malaysian airplane; you can read his remarks here. On Gaza, the President began with this:

I want to note that Secretary Kerry has departed for the Middle East. As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas. And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.

That is correct. And in order to do more damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, Israel needs to continue its operation. Only on the ground can Israel dismantle Hamas’s tunnel network and capture or destroy a substantial proportion of Hamas’s rockets. If Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas’s rocket and tunnel attacks, as Obama acknowledges, then it has a right to continue its current operation until its goals have been achieved.

But Obama immediately turns on a dime and contradicts the implication of what he has just said:

I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.

So Secretary Kerry will meet with allies and partners. I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The work will not be easy. Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved.

Israel certainly has a strategic issue involved: how to defend itself against Hamas’s terrorist attacks. Does Obama think that Hamas also has legitimate strategic issues at stake? If so, what are they?

Nevertheless, I’ve asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities. We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed.

But as long as Hamas uses Gaza’s civilians as human shields, civilian casualties are the inevitable consequence of Israel taking steps to defend itself against Hamas’s terrorist attacks. Calling for a cease fire–an end to all defensive measures by Israel–in effect sides with Hamas, and if heeded, would make it impossible for Israel to achieve what Obama concedes is its legitimate and critically important purpose. To be consistent, Obama should be calling on Hamas to turn over its rockets and stop putting the citizens of Gaza in danger for the sake of anti-Israel photo ops.

But of course Obama won’t say that. Israel’s best course is simply to ignore him and his messenger, John Kerry.

George Will and the narcissistic view of American foreign policy

Scott did an excellent job of responding to George Will’s defense of diplomacy as the proper response to Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Scott is particularly persuasive in answering Will’s claim that “United States policy has taught certain regimes the importance of having nuclear weapons.” It would be interesting to know just how pacific U.S. policy would have to be in order to unteach the importance of having nukes.

Will has fallen, quite uncharacteristically, into the narcissistic view of American foreign relations. This approach deems the perfectly normal actions and desires of other countries to be a reflection of American conduct.

Worse yet, in the case of Iran, Will has gotten the effect, if any, of the American conduct he alludes to exactly wrong.

Other things being equal, any foreign power with aggressive territorial and/or ideological ambitions would like to have nuclear weapons. And any such foreign power with substantial resources and firm control over its population will be strongly tempted to pursue their acquisition.

Having nuclear weapons serves many purposes other than dissuading America from imposing regime change. For example, as Scott points out, obtaining nuclear weapons would help preserve the rule of the mullahs in Iran quite apart from anything the U.S. might do to bring about regime change. (There has been plenty of regime change in the Middle East lately; the U.S. has had little to do with almost all of it). In addition, nukes would enhance Iran’s regional dominance and enable the mullahs to threaten, if not attack, Israel.

What could teach Iran the importance of not having nukes? Probably nothing at this juncture.

But there is evidence that a decade ago, U.S. policy may well have made Iran think twice about obtaining them. In a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the CIA concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 (when the U.S. invaded Iraq), and that program remained frozen.

The second conclusion, that Iran’s nuclear program was frozen as of 2007, is highly dubious. But the finding that the program was halted for a time in 2003, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, is plausible. And we know that Qaddafi halted his nuclear program at that time in response to our action in Iraq.

In sum, adversaries like Iran have compelling reasons to develop nuclear weapons that have nothing to do with “United States policy.” But our policy — that is, our military action, not our diplomacy — can help persuade our adversaries not to proceed down that road.

This doesn’t mean that the U.S. should start wars for that purpose. It does mean that the credible threat of military action against Iran’s nuclear capacity (whether by Israel, the U.S., or both) is the only policy tool that might deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. And military action itself is the only policy tool that might prevent them from doing so if they aren’t deterred.

Whether the U.S. should be willing to take military action — willingness being the prerequisite for a credible threat — or should instead be content to rely on a policy of “containment and deterrence” is a difficult question. Specious claims that the U.S. has “taught” certain regimes the value of having nuclear weapons are the enemy of clear thinking about that question.