Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Titanic Fall (Sinking) of the Obama Legend

The stunning decline of Barack Obama: 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency is in meltdown

By Nile Gardiner


August 12, 2010

The last few weeks have been a nightmare for President Obama, in a summer of discontent in the United States which has deeply unsettled the ruling liberal elites, so much so that even the Left has begun to turn against the White House. While the anti-establishment Tea Party movement has gained significant ground and is now a rising and powerful political force to be reckoned with, many of the president’s own supporters as well as independents are rapidly losing faith in Barack Obama, with open warfare breaking out between the White House and the left-wing of the Democratic Party. While conservatism in America grows stronger by the day, the forces of liberalism are growing increasingly weaker and divided.

Against this backdrop, the president’s approval ratings have been sliding dramatically all summer, with the latest Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll of US voters dropping to minus 22 points, the lowest point so far for Barack Obama since taking office. While just 24 per cent of American voters strongly approve of the president’s job performance, almost twice that number, 46 per cent, strongly disapprove. According to Rasmussen, 65 per cent of voters believe the United States is going down the wrong track, including 70 per cent of independents.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls now has President Obama at over 50 per cent disapproval, a remarkably high figure for a president just 18 months into his first term. Strikingly, the latest USA Today/Gallup survey has the President on just 41 per cent approval, with 53 per cent disapproving.

Related link: The Obama presidency increasingly resembles a modern-day Ancien Régime

There are an array of reasons behind the stunning decline and political fall of President Obama, chief among them fears over the current state of the US economy, with widespread concern over high levels of unemployment, the unstable housing market, and above all the towering budget deficit. Americans are increasingly rejecting President Obama’s big government solutions to America’s economic woes, which many fear will lead to the United States sharing the same fate as Greece.

Growing disillusionment with the Obama administration’s handling of the economy as well as health care and immigration has gone hand in hand with mounting unhappiness with the President’s aloof and imperial style of leadership, and a growing perception that he is out of touch with ordinary Americans, especially at a time of significant economic pain. Barack Obama’s striking absence of natural leadership ability (and blatant lack of experience) has played a big part in undermining his credibility with the US public, with his lacklustre handling of the Gulf oil spill coming under particularly intense fire.

On the national security and foreign policy front, President Obama has not fared any better. His leadership on the war in Afghanistan has been confused and at times lacking in conviction, and seemingly dictated by domestic political priorities rather than military and strategic goals. His overall foreign policy has been an appalling mess, with his flawed strategy of engagement of hostile regimes spectacularly backfiring. And as for the War on Terror, his administration has not even acknowledged it is fighting one.

Can it get any worse for President Obama? Undoubtedly yes. Here are 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency is in serious trouble, and why its prospects are unlikely to improve between now and the November mid-terms.

1. The Obama presidency is out of touch with the American people

In a previous post I noted how the Obama presidency increasingly resembles a modern-day Ancien Régime, extravagant, decaying and out of touch with ordinary Americans. The First Lady’s ill-conceived trip to Spain at a time of widespread economic hardship was symbolic of a White House that barely gives a second thought to public opinion on many issues, and frequently projects a distinctly elitist image. The “let them eat cake” approach didn’t play well over two centuries ago, and it won’t succeed today.


2. Most Americans don’t have confidence in the president’s leadership

This deficit of trust in Obama’s leadership is central to his decline. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, “nearly six in ten voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country”, and two thirds “say they are disillusioned with or angry about the way the federal government is working.” The poll showed that a staggering 58 per cent of Americans say they do not have confidence in the president’s decision-making, with just 42 per cent saying they do.

3. Obama fails to inspire

In contrast to the soaring rhetoric of his 2004 Convention speech in Boston which succeeded in impressing millions of television viewers at the time, America is no longer inspired by Barack Obama’s flat, monotonous and often dull presidential speeches and statements delivered via teleprompter. From his extraordinarily uninspiring Afghanistan speech at West Point to his flat State of the Union address, President Obama has failed to touch the heart of America. Even Jimmy Carter was more moving.

4. The United States is drowning in debt

The Congressional Budget Office Long-Term Budget Outlook offers a frightening picture of the scale of America’s national debt. Under its alternative fiscal scenario, the CBO projects that US debt could rise to 87 percent of GDP by 2020, 109 percent by 2025, and 185 percent in 2035. While much of Europe, led by Britain and Germany, are aggressively cutting their deficits, the Obama administration is actively growing America’s debt, and has no plan in place to avert a looming Greek-style financial crisis.

5. Obama’s Big Government message is falling flat

The relentless emphasis on bailouts and stimulus spending has done little to spur economic growth or create jobs, but has greatly advanced the power of the federal government in America. This is not an approach that is proving popular with the American public, and even most European governments have long ditched this tax and spend approach to saving their own economies.

6. Obama’s support for socialised health care is a huge political mistake

In an extraordinary act of political Harakiri, President Obama leant his full support to the hugely controversial, unpopular and divisive health care reform bill, with a monstrous price tag of $940 billion, whose repeal is now supported by 55 per cent of likely US voters. As I wrote at the time of its passing, the legislation is “a great leap forward by the United States towards a European-style vision of universal health care, which will only lead to soaring costs, higher taxes, and a surge in red tape for small businesses. This reckless legislation dramatically expands the power of the state over the lives of individuals, and could not be further from the vision of America’s founding fathers.”

7. Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill has been weak-kneed and indecisive

While much of the spilled oil in the Gulf has now been thankfully cleared up, the political damage for the White House will be long-lasting. Instead of showing real leadership on the matter by acing decisively and drawing upon offers of international support, the Obama administration settled on a more convenient strategy of relentlessly bashing an Anglo-American company while largely sitting on its hands. Significantly, a poll of Louisiana voters gave George W. Bush higher marks for his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with 62 percent disapproving of Obama’s performance on the Gulf oil spill.

8. US foreign policy is an embarrassing mess under the Obama administration

It is hard to think of a single foreign policy success for the Obama administration, but there have been plenty of missteps which have weakened American global power as well as the standing of the United States. The surrender to Moscow on Third Site missile defence, the failure to aggressively stand up to Iran’s nuclear programme, the decision to side with ousted Marxists in Honduras, the slap in the face for Great Britain over the Falklands, have all contributed to the image of a US administration completely out of its depth in international affairs. The Obama administration’s high risk strategy of appeasing America’s enemies while kicking traditional US allies has only succeeded in weakening the United States while strengthening her adversaries.

9. President Obama is muddled and confused on national security

From the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the War on Terror, President Obama’s leadership has often been muddled and confused. On Afghanistan he rightly sent tens of thousands of additional troops to the battlefield. At the same time however he bizarrely announced a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces beginning in July 2011, handing the initiative to the Taliban. On Iraq he has announced an end to combat operations and the withdrawal of all but 50,000 troops despite a recent upsurge in terrorist violence and political instability, and without the Iraqi military and police ready to take over. In addition he has ditched the concept of a War on Terror, replacing it with an Overseas Contingency Operation, hardly the right message to send in the midst of a long-war against Al-Qaeda.

10. Obama doesn’t believe in American greatness

Barack Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and has made apologising for his country into an art form. In a speech to the United Nations last September he stated that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.” It is difficult to see how a US president who holds these views and does not even accept America’s greatness in history can actually lead the world’s only superpower with force and conviction.

[See Obama's Mea Culpa Madness: Both Ineffective & Unsupported by the Majority of Americans, ITSSD Journal on Pathological Communalism (July 25, 2009) at: ].

There is a distinctly Titanic-like feel to the Obama presidency and it’s not hard to see why. The most left-wing president in modern American history has tried to force a highly interventionist, government-driven agenda that runs counter to the principles of free enterprise, individual freedom, and limited government that have made the United States the greatest power in the world, and the freest nation on earth.

This, combined with weak leadership both at home and abroad against the backdrop of tremendous economic uncertainty in an increasingly dangerous world, has contributed to a spectacular political collapse for a president once thought to be invincible. America at its core remains a deeply conservative nation, which cherishes its traditions and founding principles. President Obama is increasingly out of step with the American people, by advancing policies that undermine the United States as a global power, while undercutting America’s deep-seated love for freedom.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Obama's Recess Appointment of Berwick to head Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Flouts, Circumvents & Undermines the US Constitution?

Berwick: Bigger Than Kagan - If the American people want the health-care world Dr. Berwick wishes to give them, that's their choice. But they must be given that choice.

By Daniel Henninger

Wall Street Journal

Wonder Land

July 15, 2010

Barack Obama's incredible "recess appointment" [ON JULY 7, 2010 - DURING THE JULY 5-11 HOUSE and SENATE CONGRESSIONAL RECESS - See: ] of Dr. Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is probably the most significant domestic-policy personnel decision in a generation. It is more important to the direction of the country than Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court.

The court's decisions are subject to the tempering influence of nine competing minds. Dr. Berwick would direct an agency that has a budget bigger than the Pentagon. Decisions by the CMS shape American medicine.

Dr. Berwick's ideas on the design and purpose of the U.S. system of medicine aren't merely about "change." They would be revolutionary.

One may agree with these views or not, but for the president to tell the American people they have to simply accept this through anything so flaccid as a recess appointment is beyond outrageous. It isn't acceptable.

The Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, was taken aback at the end-around: "Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power."

Let's look, then, at what President Obama won't let the American electorate hear Dr. Berwick say in front of a committee of Congress. These excerpts are from past speeches and articles by Dr. Berwick:

"I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do."

"You cap your health care budget, and you make the political and economic choices you need to make to keep affordability within reach."

"Please don't put your faith in market forces. It's a popular idea: that Adam Smith's invisible hand would do a better job of designing care than leaders with plans can."

"Indeed, the Holy Grail of universal coverage in the United States may remain out of reach unless, through rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest, we can reduce per capita costs."

"It may therefore be necessary to set a legislative target for the growth of spending at 1.5 percentage points below currently projected increases and to grant the federal government the authority to reduce updates in Medicare fees if the target is exceeded."

"About 8% of GDP is plenty for 'best known' care."

"A progressive policy regime will control and rationalize financing—control supply."


There is no need to rehearse the analogies in literature and social thought that Dr. Berwick's ideas summon. That the Obama White House would try to push this past public scrutiny with a recess appointment says more about Barack Obama than it does Dr. Berwick.

Vilifying Dr. Berwick alone for his views is in a way beside the point. Within Mr. Obama's circle they all think like this. Defeat Dr. Berwick, and they will send up 50 more who would pursue the same goals.

If the American people want the world Dr. Berwick wishes to give them, that's their choice. But they must be given that choice with full, televised confirmation hearings.

Barack Obama, Donald Berwick and the rest may fancy themselves philosopher kings who know what we need without the need to inform or persuade us first. That's not how it works here. That is Sen. Baucus's point.

It should be clear why Berwick is bigger than Kagan. We need a large public debate over these views, over what Mr. Obama has said his health plan would and would not do. We need to find out if every Democrat in Congress and every Democrat writing newspaper columns and blogs agrees with Dr. Berwick about clinical and individual autonomy and about leaders with plans.

Then we need to build an election around whether we want to go down the road Dr. Berwick has planned for us, or start dismantling the one that President Obama paved through Congress on a partisan vote.


Obamacare preys on the young, flouts the Constitution

Examiner Editorial

September 20, 2009

Ask the Obama administration why it is pushing legislation to conscript the young, and it will likely deny doing any such thing. But how else to describe individual mandates, the latest twist in the White House's nationalized health care scheme?

It's bad enough that the federal government is expanding its own power in telling citizens that they absolutely must pay for health insurance, like it or not. The most sinister element is that politically unpopular tax increases can be delayed or minimized by taking healthy young people and shoehorning them into a massive entitlement system. The youngest taxpayers would have to swallow their mandated insurance like bad medicine.

We've seen this movie before with Social Security, which has been in a perpetual state of crisis for years and for President George W. Bush became the third rail of politics. Why would Congress want to impose another similarly disastrous scheme on the American people? Probably because it's the only way to ensure the support of special interests in the pursuit of universal health care. Forcing everyone to purchase insurance from government-approved plans would be a boon for the industry: It's not so much guaranteed coverage as it is guaranteed profits.

Too bad for Democrats, there's a higher authority than America's Health Insurance Plans -- the U.S. Constitution. David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Friday that constitutional limitations on congressional power prohibit Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.'s, most recent plan.

If the legislative branch wants to remake or reform the health care industry, it must do so according to the Commerce Clause. Regulation can occur only when activities are shown to substantially affect interstate commerce. And charging people to opt out of a federal imposition is mere euphemism for regulating every American into performing what the government wants him to do. With that precedent set, "Congress could evade all constitutional limits by 'taxing' anyone who doesn't follow an order of any kind."

Not that Americans are counting on Democrats to follow the rules anyway. The financial crisis has seen to it that politicians will stop at no law, no limitation on power, to look like they're solving problems. It's only natural when they don't think the American people can solve their own.


Is Government Health Care Constitutional? The right to privacy conflicts with rationing and regulation.

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed

June 22, 2009

Is a government-dominated health-care system unconstitutional? A strong case can be made for that proposition, based on the same "right to privacy" that underlies such landmark Supreme Court decisions as Roe v. Wade.

The details of this year's health-care reform bill are still being hammered out. But the end result is sure to be byzantine in complexity. Washington will have immense say over how, when and through whom Americans are treated. Moreover, despite the administration's public pronouncements about painless cuts in wasteful spending, only the most credulous believe that some form of government-directed health-care rationing can be avoided as a means of controlling costs.

The Supreme Court created the right to privacy in the 1960s and used it to strike down a series of state and federal regulations of personal (mostly sexual) conduct. This line of cases began with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 (involving marital birth control), and includes the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

The court's underlying rationale was not abortion-specific. Rather, the justices posited a constitutionally mandated zone of personal privacy that must remain free of government regulation, except in the most exceptional circumstances. As the court explained in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), "these matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life."

It is, of course, difficult to imagine choices more "central to personal dignity and autonomy" than measures to be taken for the prevention and treatment of disease -- measures that may be essential to preserve or extend life itself. Indeed, when the overwhelming moral issues that surround the abortion question are stripped away, what is left is a medical procedure determined to be "necessary" by an expectant mother and her physician.

If the government cannot proscribe -- or even "unduly burden," to use another of the Supreme Court's analytical frameworks -- access to abortion, how can it proscribe access to other medical procedures, including transplants, corrective or restorative surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, or a myriad of other health services that individuals may need or desire?

This type of "burden" analysis will be especially problematic for a national health system because, in the health area, proper care often depends upon an individual's unique physical and even genetic history and characteristics. One size clearly does not fit all, but that is the very essence of governmental regulation -- to impose a regularity (if not uniformity) in the application of governmental power and the dispersal of its largess. Taking key decisions away from patient and physician, or otherwise limiting their available choices, will render any new system constitutionally vulnerable.

It is true, of course, that forms of rationing already exist in our current system. No one who has experienced the marked reluctance to treat aggressively lethal illnesses in the elderly can doubt that. However, what may be permissible for private actors -- including doctors and insurance companies -- is not necessarily lawful when done by the government.

Obviously, the government does not have to pay for any and all services individual citizens may desire. And simply refusing to approve a procedure or treatment under applicable reimbursement rules, as under the government-run Medicare and Medicaid, does not make the system unconstitutional. But if over time, as many critics fear, a "public option" health insurance plan turns into what amounts to a single-payer system, the constitutional issues regarding treatment and reimbursement decisions will be manifold.

The same will be true of a quasi-private system where the government claims a large role in defining acceptable health-insurance coverage and treatments. There will be all sorts of "undue burdens" on the rights of patients to receive the care they may want. Then the litigation will begin.

Anyone who imagines that Congress can simply avoid the constitutional issues -- and lawsuits -- by withdrawing federal court jurisdiction over the new health system must think again. A brief review of the Supreme Court's recent war-on-terror decisions, brought by or on behalf of detained enemy combatants, will disabuse that notion. This area of governmental authority was once nearly immune from judicial intervention. Over the past five years, however, the Supreme Court (supposedly the nonpolitical branch) has unapologetically transformed itself into a full-fledged, policy-making partner with the president and Congress.

In the process, the justices blew past specific congressional efforts to limit their jurisdiction and involvement like a hot rod in the desert. Questions of basic constitutionality (however the court may define them) cannot now be shielded from judicial review.

It is, of course, impossible to predict how and when the courts will ultimately rule on the new health system. Much depends on the details and the extent to which reasonable and practical private alternatives to the national plan remain. In crafting the law, however, its White House and congressional sponsors must keep privacy -- that near absolute right to personal autonomy they have so often praised and promoted -- squarely before them. The only thing that is certain today is that the courts, and not Congress, will have the last word.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey worked in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Recess Appointments: Frequently Asked Questions
By Henry B. Hogue
Analyst in American National Government Government and Finance Division
CRS Report for Congress #RS21308
March 12, 2008

Under the Constitution (Article II, Section 2, clause 2), the President and the Senate share the power to make appointments to high-level policy-making positions in federal departments, agencies, boards, and commissions. Generally, the President nominates individuals to these positions, and the Senate must confirm them before he can appoint them to office. The Constitution also provides an exception to this process. When the Senate is in recess, the President may make a temporary appointment, called a recess appointment, to any such position without Senate approval (Article II, Section 2, clause 3).

...What Is the Purpose of a Recess Appointment? The Constitution states that “[t]he President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session” (Article 2, Section 2, clause 3). The records of debate at the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist Papers provide little evidence of the framers’ intentions in the recess appointment clause. Opinions by later Attorneys General, however, suggested that the clause was meant to allow the President to maintain the continuity of administrative government through the temporary filling of offices during periods when the Senate was not in session, at which time his nominees could not be considered or confirmed.1 This interpretation was bolstered by the fact that both Houses of Congress had relatively short sessions and long recesses between sessions during the early years of the Republic. In fact, until the beginning of the 20th century, Congress was, on average, in session less than half the year. Throughout the history of the republic, Presidents have also sometimes used the recess appointment power for political reasons. For example, recess appointments enable the President to temporarily install an appointee who probably would not be confirmed by the Senate.(p. CRS-1)
...What Is a “Recess”? Generally, a recess is a break in House or Senate proceedings. Neither House may take a break of more than three days without the consent of the other.6 Such consent is usually provided through a concurrent resolution.7 A recess within a session is referred to as an intrasession recess. In recent decades, Congress has typically adjourned for 5-11 intrasession recesses of more than three days, usually in conjunction with national holidays. The break between the end of one session and the beginning of the next is referred to as an intersession recess. In recent decades, each Congress has consisted of two 9-12 month sessions separated by an intersession recess. The period between the second session of one Congress and the first session of the following Congress is also an intersession recess. (p. CRS-2)

...How Long Must the Senate Be in Recess Before a President May Make a Recess Appointment? The Constitution does not specify the length of time that the Senate must be in recess before the President may make a recess appointment. Over the last century, as shorter recesses have become more commonplace, the Department of Justice has offered differing views on this issue. Most recently, in 1993, a Justice Department brief implied that the President may make a recess appointment during a recess of more than three days.9 On at least three occasions, the Senate has used procedural tools to prevent the occurrence of a recess of more than three days for the stated purpose of preventing such appointments: the 2007 Thanksgiving holiday period,10 the period between the first and second sessions of the 110th Congress,11 and the 2008 Presidents Day holiday period.12 In each of these cases, the Senate met in pro forma sessions (during which no business was to be conducted) every three or four days over the course of what otherwise would have been a longer Senate recess. The President made no recess appointments during these periods.

Although President Theodore Roosevelt once made recess appointments during an intersession recess of less than one day, the shortest recess during which appointments have been made during the past 20 years was 9 days. Appointments made during short recesses (less than 30 days) have sometimes aroused controversy, and they may involve a political cost for the President. Controversy has been particularly acute in instances when Senators perceived that the President was using the recess appointment process to circumvent the confirmation process for a nominee who was opposed in the Senate. (p. CRS-3)
...What Constitutes a “Vacancy”? Historically, questions have arisen about the meaning of the constitutional phrase “Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate.” Does “happen” mean “exist” or “occur”?
The first meaning would allow the President to make recess appointments to any position that became vacant prior to the recess and continued to be vacant during the recess, as well as positions that became vacant during the recess.
The second meaning would allow recess appointments only to positions that became vacant during the recess. Although this question was a source of controversy in the early 19th century, Attorneys General and courts have now long supported the first, broader interpretation of the phrase.13

A second question regarding the meaning of “Vacancies” arises in connection with recess appointments to fixed-term positions, such as those often associated with regulatory boards and commissions. In order to promote continuity of operations, Congress has often included “holdover” provisions in the statutory language creating such positions. The question then arises whether or not a position is vacant, for the purposes of a recess appointment, if an individual is continuing to serve, under a holdover provision, past the end of his or her term. The courts have varied in their rulings on this matter, and it has not been settled definitively by an appellate court. Based on decisions to date, however, the answer appears to hinge on the specific language of the holdover provision. For example, if the language is mandatory (the officeholder “shall continue to serve after the expiration of his term”), rather than permissive (“may continue to serve”), the position has been seen by the courts as not vacant, and therefore not available for a recess appointment.14 When the provision includes a specific time limit for the holdover, such as one year, the position has also been seen as not vacant.15

How Long Does a Recess Appointment Last? A recess appointment expires at the end of the Senate’s next session or when an individual (either the recess appointee or someone else) is nominated, confirmed, and permanently appointed to the position, whichever occurs first. In practice, this means that a recess appointment could last for almost two years. If the President makes a recess appointment between sessions (of the same or successive Congresses), that appointment will expire at the end of the following session. If he makes the appointment during a recess in the middle of a session, that appointment also will expire at the end of the following session. (p. CRS-4)
...Are There Any Legal Constraints on the President’s Recess Appointment Power? There is no qualification on the President’s “Power to fill up all Vacancies...” in the constitutional provision. Neither is there a statutory constraint on this power.
There are, however, two provisions of law that may prevent a recess appointee from being paid.
Under 5 U.S.C. § 5503(a), if the position to which the President makes a recess appointment became vacant while the Senate was in session, the recess appointee may not be paid from the Treasury until he or she is confirmed by the Senate.
The salary prohibition does not apply if (1) the vacancy arose within 30 days of the end of the session; (2) a nomination for the office (other than the nomination of someone given a recess appointment during the preceding recess) was pending when the Senate recessed; or (3) a nomination was rejected within 30 days of the end of the session and another individual was given the recess appointment. A recess appointment falling under any one of these three exceptions must be followed by a nomination to the position not later than 40 days after the beginning of the next session of the Senate.17
For this reason, when a recess appointment is made, the President generally submits a new nomination to the position even when an old nomination is pending. In addition, although a recess appointee whose nomination to a full term is subsequently rejected by the Senate may continue to serve until the end of the recess appointment, a provision routinely included in an appropriations act may prevent him or her from being paid after the rejection. (p. CRS-4)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Loss of Kennedy MA Senate Seat is a Referendum on the Democratic Majority's Runaway Control Over Two of the Three Branches of US Government For a Year

Dems cast blame at each other over Senate campaign


The Associated Press

January 19, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The buck stops ... Well, it was hard to tell just where the buck stopped Tuesday when it came to the Democratic party's loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat that had been held by Edward M. Kennedy for nearly half a century. Days before Republican state Sen. Scott Brown officially captured the seat over Democrat Martha Coakley, Washington to Boston began dodging blame and pointing fingers at each other.

Cool-headed analysis of what was driving independents from Coakley to Brown? No. The issue was who botched Democrat Martha Coakley's Senate campaign more: her state people or national Democrats.

Most spoke the classic Washington way, under the cloak of anonymity. But President Barack Obama's senior adviser took precise, public aim at Coakley's camp as Brown closed in on the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat.

"I think the White House did everything we were asked to do," David Axelrod told reporters. "Had we been asked earlier, we would have responded earlier."
But the signs had been there. In the bluest of blue states, the election was seen, at least in part, as a referendum on Obama, on health care reform, on the Democratic majority that had controlled two of three branches of government for a year.

And the Republican candidate was surging.

What of Obama himself?
The filibuster rule is the least of Democrats' problems

By Jonah Goldberg


LA Times

January 19, 2010

As of this writing, Bay State voters appear poised to do the unthinkable: elect a Republican to fill the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for nearly half a century. Even more amazing is that the Republican in question, Scott Brown, turned his campaign into a referendum on healthcare reform, the keystone of the Obama agenda and the North Star of Kennedy's career.

Even if Brown loses today, that it was even close should shake Democrats to their core. They outnumber Republicans 3 to 1 in a state Barack Obama won by 26 points. Massachusetts hasn't sent a Republican to the Senate since 1972, when Edward Brooke (the first popularly elected black senator) was reelected, and haven't sent even a nominal conservative since velociraptors roamed Beacon Hill. All this on the heels of stunning GOP gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia last fall.

It's impossible to imagine a more direct, and democratic, repudiation of Democratic governance.

Will Democrats get the message? Doubtful. It seems the only way the Democratic leadership can catch a clue is if it is hammered into their pates with a ball-peen hammer.

Over the weekend, Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York told the Wall Street Journal that if Brown wins, Democrats will race to cram the healthcare bill through while fending off Brown. "We're going to have to finish this bill and then stall the swearing-in as long as possible," Weiner said. "That's our strategy, a hurry-up-and-stall strategy."

Perhaps even more telling, Democrats are obsessively blaming their problems on the Senate's filibuster rule. Under the filibuster, it takes 60 senators to get controversial things done. As a result, many of the preferred policies of the left -- the "public option," soak-the-rich taxes, etc. -- had to be pulled out of the bill in order to win support from moderates like Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). That's how the Senate is supposed to work. It was designed to cool the passions of the more democratic House.

Nonetheless, it seems every prominent liberal pundit has come out in favor of interring this "undemocratic" impediment to unobstructed Democratic rule. They hated the filibuster before many of them even knew who Scott Brown was, but now that this alleged bumpkin from the sticks looks like he will crash his truck into healthcare reform as the "41st senator," they are becoming positively unglued.

New York Times columnist Gail Collins offered her own, aptly titled, "special rant" against the filibuster last week, bemoaning how a handful of red states can hold up the Democrats' entitlement to enact their agenda unimpeded. She points out that it would only take the senators from the 20 least populated states, representing "10.2% of the country," plus one to hold up legislation. But so what? The GOP doesn't solely represent the smallest states -- hello, Texas? -- or represent a mere 10.2% of the nation.

Regardless, the real problem with Collins' argument, and others like it, is a deep contempt for America's political system joined with an abiding sense of entitlement. "People, think about what we went through to elect a new president -- a year and a half of campaigning, three dozen debates, $1.6 billion in donations. Then the voters sent a clear, unmistakable message. Which can be totally ignored because of a parliamentary rule that allows the representatives of slightly more than 10% of the population to call the shots.

"Why isn't 90% of the country marching on the Capitol with teapots and funny hats, waving signs about the filibuster?"

What an odd way to bemoan the lack of majority rule: mocking the majority of Americans for not agreeing with you! Indeed, it seems lost on the anti-filibuster chorus that it wouldn't be so hard to have their way if what they wanted to do was actually popular (a new Democracy Corps poll finds that only one-third of respondents support Obamacare).

Now, I don't support raw majority rule or government by polling. We all agree that unelected judges should be able to buck popular sentiment when the law or the Constitution requires it. Likewise, both the House and Senate have some anti-majoritarian rules precisely because our system was designed to defend against the tyranny of majorities just as much as the tyranny of minorities. The Senate was designed so it could dilute popular passions, a point Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and other Democrats made ad nauseam just a few years ago when the GOP ran things.

As Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley is learning, the Democrats are unpopular now because they're rightly perceived as arrogant, ideological and fixated on an agenda not supported by the people. Blaming their problems on the filibuster will make them worse.



[See Janet Hook, Some Democrats want to rein in the filibuster With Republicans using endless speeches to block all manner of legislation, LA Times (Jan. 10, 2010) at: ]



Excerpts: The Senate Filibuster Debate

George Mason University’s History News Network


...From none other than Senate Majority Leader (then Senator) Harry Reid (bemoaning the potential loss of the filibuster):

… The first filibuster in the Congress happened in 1790. It was used by lawmakers from Virginia and South Carolina who were trying to prevent Philadelphia from hosting the first Congress. Since then, the filibuster has been employed hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times. It has been employed on legislative matters. It has been employed on procedural matters relating to the President's nominations for Cabinet and sub-Cabinet posts. And it has been used on judges for all those years. One scholar estimates that 20 percent of the judges nominated by Presidents have fallen by the wayside, most of them as a result of filibusters....

A conversation between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington I believe describes the Senate and our Founding Fathers' vision of this body in which we are so fortunate to serve. Jefferson asked Washington: "What is the purpose of the Senate?" Washington responded with a question of his own: "Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?" Jefferson replied: "To cool it." To which Washington said: "Even so, we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it."That is exactly what the filibuster does. It encourages moderation and consensus, gives voice to the minority so cooler heads may prevail. ...

… For 200 years, we have had the right to extended debate. It is not some ``procedural gimmick.'' It is within the vision of the Founding Fathers of this country. They did it; we didn't do it. They established a government so that no one person and no single party could have total control.

...From none other than Senator Arnold Specter (bemoaning the loss of the filibuster):

A well-known story is told about Benjamin Franklin. Upon exiting the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of a government the constitutional delegates had created. Franklin responded, ``A Republic, if you can keep it.''

In this brief response, Franklin captured the essential fragility of our great democracy. Although enshrined in a written Constitution and housed in granite buildings, our government is utterly dependent upon something far less permanent, the wisdom of its leaders. Our Founding Fathers gave us a great treasure, but like any inheritance, we pass it on to successive generations only if our generation does not squander it. If we seek to emulate the vision and restraint of Franklin and the Founding Fathers, we can hand down to our children and grandchildren the Republic they deserve, but if we turn our backs on their example, we will debase and cheapen what they have given us.

From none other than Senator Patrick Leahy (bemoaning the loss of the filibuster):

James Madison, one of the Framers of our Constitution, warned in Federalist Number 47 of the very danger that is threatening our great Nation, a threat to our freedoms from within: "[The] accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

George Washington, our great first President, reiterated the danger in his famous Farewell Address to the American People: "The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism."


Conservative and Republican Concern and Opposition to the “Nuclear Option” [ELIMINATING FILIBUSTERS]

George Will in Newsweek (December 6, 2004):

The filibuster is an important defense of minority rights, enabling democratic government to measure and respect not merely numbers but also intensity in public controversies. Filibusters enable intense minorities to slow the governmental juggernaut.

Conservatives, who do not think government is sufficiently inhibited, should cherish this blocking mechanism. And someone should puncture Republicans' current triumphalism by reminding them that someday they will again be in the minority.

The promiscuous use of filibusters, against policies as well as nominees, has trivialized the tactic. But filibusters do not forever deflect the path of democratic government. Try to name anything significant that an American majority has desired, strongly and protractedly, but has not received because of a filibuster.

Former Senators Jim McClure (R-ID) and Malcolm Wallop (R-WY) in the Wall Street Journal (March 15, 2005):

“Conservatives, in and out of the Senate, are now being assured that this extraordinary approach will not be applied to the legislative filibuster, which, in the not-so-distant past, was our only defense against the excesses of a bipartisan liberalism. There are several problems with that argument. First and foremost, as a matter of principle, we should not accept the contrary-to-fact assertion that the Senate and its rules do not continue from election to election.

Second, setting aside principle -- ouch! -- it is naive to think that what is done to the judicial filibuster will not later be done to its legislative counterpart, whether by a majority leader named Reid, or Clinton, or Kennedy.

Third, even if a senator were that naive, he or she should take a broader look at Senate procedure. The very reasons being given for allowing a 51-vote majority to shut off debate on judges apply equally well -- in fact, they apply more aptly -- to the rest of the executive calendar, of which judicial nominations are only one part. That includes all executive branch nominations, even military promotions.

“Former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) in an appearance on NPR’s The Connection (April 26, 2005):

“They [Republicans] will be out of power one day, and there’ll be tears as big as golf balls streaming down their cheeks as they look and say “we put this in motion and we’re sitting here immobilized, neutered in this game.” I can promise you.”

“But there isn’t a question in my mind that when the Republicans go out of power and they, they’re looking for a protection of minority rights, they’re going to be alarmed and saddened. So when they pull the trigger, the boomerang may not come back for a few years but when it does it will get them right in the back of the neck.”

Former Senator Bill Armstrong (R-CO) quoted in Roll Call (April 25, 2005):

“Having served in the majority and in the minority, I know that it’s worthwhile to have the minority empowered. As a conservative, I think there is a value to having a constraint on the majority.”

Former Senator David Durenberger (R-MN) writing in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (with former Vice-President Walter Mondale) (May 5, 2005):

“The American people should know that the proposed repeal of the filibuster rule for judicial nominees by majority vote will profoundly and permanently undermine the purpose of the U.S. Senate as it has stood since Thomas Jefferson first wrote the Senate's rules.”

Former Senator Charles “Mac” Matthias (R-MD) writing in the Washington Post (May 12, 2005):

“Make no mistake about it: If the Senate ever creates the precedent that, at any time, its rules are what 51 senators say they are -- without debate -- then the value of a senator's voice, vote and views, and the clout of his state, will be diminished.”

Former Congressman Mickey Edwards (R-OK) quoted in the Washington Post (May 10, 2005):

“It's a total disavowal of the basic framework of the system of government. It's much more efficient [for Bush], but our government was not designed to be efficient.”

“Every president grabs for more power. What's different to me is the acquiescence of Congress.”

Ed Rollins (former aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and H.W. Bush) quoted in the Denver Post (April 10, 2005):

“The latest gambits - DeLay's proposed inquisition of the federal judiciary and Majority Leader Bill Frist's planned attempt to change the legislative rule on filibusters to ram conservative judicial nominees through the Senate - could further polarize and alienate Americans, says Rollins.”

“’If Republicans change the filibuster rule, there will be nothing that gets done in this town for two years,’ Rollins predicts.”

"’The country is not as concerned about judges as it is about Congress showing some fiscal responsibility and doing what it is supposed to do,’ he says.”

David Hoppe (former Chief of Staff to Sen. Lott (R-MS)) in an appearance on The Journal Editorial Report on PBS (April 1, 2005):

[T]he system is broken. The question is, how do you try and fix the system. I keep going back, as I consider this, to a line from the play A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, "Richard, after you've cut down all the trees, where will you hide when the devil comes after you?"

That's the problem with the nuclear option, because it will not stop there. The next step when somebody needs it will be to get rid of the filibuster on legislative issues. Say a president seven, eight years in the future decides that his national health care program just has to be done, and they've got the might to make right of 51 senators. Should they get rid of the filibuster on legislative items? That's the way we're headed here if we do it this way.

Christine Todd Whitman, Former Republican Governor of New Jersey and EPA Administrator speaking to Virginia Conservation Network as quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (April 29, 2005):

“Huge political mistake”“[I]f the Senate's Democratic minority is stripped of the power to filibuster against Bush picks for the federal courts, it will be ‘portrayed as Republicans trying to railroad through certain ideological justices.’”

Stephen Moore, President, Free Enterprise Fund, Founder and Past-President, Club for Growth writing in the Washington Post (with Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights) (April 17, 2005):

“What troubles us most is that the "nuclear option" could become a routine tactic for the majority party in the Senate to push legislation through with only a 51-vote requirement for passage. The Senate was always envisioned by the Founders to be the deliberative body in Congress, in which the heated emotions of the moment's debate could cool before new laws or judges were approved. The filibuster and the 60-vote cloture rule are nearly indispensable in facilitating full debate and strong consensus for legislative action.”

“Eviscerating the filibuster would violate the spirit of the Constitution and endanger our rights as individuals against excessive governmental power.”

Michael Hammond, Gun Owners of America (and former General Counsel to Senate Steering Committee [1978-89]) in Kill the Filibuster?

“The reason the Second Amendment is still viable today is, in large part, because of the Senate filibuster.”“If any Senate rule, at any time, can be eliminated, without debate, by fifty senators, the Senate rules –- all of them –- effectively become meaningless in any context in which they would matter.

The legislative filibuster will die the first time it becomes important –- perhaps in connection with Social Security reform, perhaps after the Democrats regain control of the Senate.”

Mark Mix, President of National Right-to-Work Committee (March 14, 2005):

“For Right to Work supporters, the filibuster rule has been and remains a vital safety net. We would be extremely foolhardy to stand by while anyone, regardless of how good their intentions, proceeds to tear holes in it.

And make no mistake. If a bare majority of senators vote now to eliminate judicial filibusters, legislative filibusters will not stand for long. If the Senate’s presiding officer can rule, with the consent of 51 senators, that only a bare majority vote is needed to end debate on judicial nominees, then he can also rule that only a bare majority is needed to end debate on legislation.

Jim Boulet, Executive Director of English First, in his memo titled: How Liberals Could Thrive in a Post-Nuclear-Option Senate [Oppose the Nuclear Option (web page title)] (March 29, 2005):

“[O]nce such at precedent is established, any legislation which commands the support of 51 but not 60 Senators could provoke a similar request for a ruling that requirements for a supermajority are not ‘in order.’”

“Keep in mind that much of the Democratic "wish list" involves sweeping new legislation which will be heavily supported by the mainstream media. The Republican agenda, by contrast, tends to involve incremental changes to existing programs.”

Linda Chavez, Syndicated Columnist, former Bush nominee for Labor Secretary writing in the Washington Times (April 29, 2005):

“The more I think about it, the more I am convinced Republicans would make a mistake getting rid of the filibuster. Republicans won't be in the majority forever, and they may rue the day they deprive themselves of the ability to block a candidate to some future Supreme Court. Worse, they may end up making themselves look like the heavies instead of forcing the Democrats to take center stage as the real fanatics. Let the filibuster stay -- and force the Democrats to actually use it.”

Judge Kenneth Starr, Former DC Circuit Judge, Former Independent Counsel, Dean, Pepperdine Law School on the CBS Evening News (May 9, 2005):

“It may prove to have the kind of long-term boomerang effect, damage on the institution of the Senate that thoughtful senators may come to regret.”


[See Did the Founders Envision a Filibuster-Proof Congress (Senate) as Being Good for the Republic?, ITSSD Journal on Political Surrealism (Radical Change) (Nov. 22, 2008) at: ].

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sarkozy est Le Masque!

Sarkozy's Talent for Reinvention

By Emma Jane Kirby

BBC News

February 28, 2009

Emma Jane Kirby reflects on why the unpredictability of Nicolas Sarkozy makes it difficult to define him.

It seems to me that almost every day, someone here coins a new nickname for the French president.

Many are just variations on the same theme.

His smallish stature has prompted scores of fairly predictable titles along the "dwarf", "mini-me", "built-up heels" variety and his unpopular policies have generated myriad epithets ranging from "Sarko the American" - referring to his fondness for closer transatlantic ties - to the more generalised "iznogoud" (pronounced "is no good" with a French accent), to the pretty all-encompassing "heap of dog's muck".

But what strikes me is that no-one really seems to agree on who or what Nicolas Sarkozy is.

If this was a French musical, perhaps now would be the moment when an exuberant nun or Mother Superior might burst into the song: "How do you solve a problem like Sarkozy?"

But since there are no willing Sisters in the vicinity, I shall try myself to catch the French leader and pin him down.

But how do you define a man who is at once described as "Super Sarko" and "Sarko the smurf", as "Nico Napoleon" and "Nico the nervous"?

The short answer, I believe, is that you cannot and this is exactly what makes the leader of the Fifth Republic such an infectiously alluring character.

Numerous faces

[See: The Many Faces of France's Sarkozy - Which One Can We Trust??, ITSSD Journal on Disguised Trade Barriers, at: ].

Last summer I went to visit the cartoonist Jul at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

I remember asking him how he set about drawing the president and whether he had any characteristics that really stood out.

Jul told me that when his subject matter was Nicolas Sarkozy, he could never plan his comic strip in advance.

The president, he said, was like a chameleon that changed every five minutes and if he drew too far ahead of time, his cartoon would simply be out of date.

And apart from one satirist who routinely draws Mr Sarkozy as the devil - albeit in a thousand disguises - it seems that none of Jul's fellow artists can classify or categorise him either.

While one is portraying him as the confident King of Bling, another is sketching him as a sad puppy rejected by women.

And that is exactly how President Sarkozy likes it. Predictability is not a word he recognises.

Endless reinvention

French journalists constantly complain they are unable to cover his story sufficiently because he is always on the go.

On Monday afternoon he is in Lille talking about the car industry, on Tuesday morning he pops up in Iraq.

The ink has barely dried on the headline "Protectionism" when the typeface has to be reset to "Reconstruction".

“ Get up close and you are not even sure you are following the same man as yesterday .”

And then quite suddenly he is on three television channels simultaneously, addressing the nation about the economic crisis.

It is an exhausting, punishing schedule... at least for those of us who are charged with reporting him. But the French leader himself appears to take it all in his stride. A keen jogger, he enjoys keeping the nation on its toes.

Catch me, he seems to be saying, if you can.

But you will never catch him. Get up close and you are not even sure you are following the same man as yesterday.

Apart from the children's TV character Mr Benn, who regularly visited a dressing up shop and became a different person each day, I can think of no-one who reinvents himself so frequently.

In just over 18 months of office President Sarkozy has already been the "happily-married-family-man", the "macho-man" (jogging round Paris in a sweat-stained New York Police Department T-shirt), the "business-man" reclining on yachts and dripping in Rolex watches and "super-man", heroically rescuing French hostages in Libya.

When his ex-wife was speedily replaced by the classy former supermodel and pop star Carla Bruni, there was a new metamorphosis. Nicolas Sarkozy began to read the classic literature he had previously scoffed at, he began to talk about the importance of faith in society and his explosive temper softened.

"I've changed," he told stunned reporters brusquely. And that was that.

Playing games

The first time I met the French leader, at an Elysee news conference with Gordon Brown, we did not see eye-to-eye.

I had asked the new prime minister whether he envisaged any problems working with Nicolas Sarkozy, who did not exactly share his own views about economic liberalism.

Although my question was not addressed to him, President Sarkozy took the microphone anyway and jabbing his finger at me angrily he swiftly qualified his views on competition, clearly irritated that I had dared to imagine I knew what his opinions were.

Just before Christmas I found myself again in a press conference at the Elysee with the same two leaders and as I was sitting in the front row. Nicolas Sarkozy caught my gaze.

He gave me a small but not unfriendly smile and then slowly, deliberately, he winked.

You think you are on to me, he seemed to be saying. And while I may know who you are, you will never know me.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 28 February, 2009 at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4.

Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/02/28 12:03:33 GMT