Category Archives: Barack Obama

House GOP just came up with an ACA replacement NOW?

Think about this for a moment. On Jan. 19, 2011, more than six years ago, the U.S. House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the first time.

On Groundhog Day last year (which was fitting), the House stormed that rampart again (in one form or another) for the 62nd time! I don’t know what the grand total was during the Obama years, since that’s the most recent story I find with a number. But 62 is far more than enough to make my point.

Now hold onto that thought, as you consider that yesterday, just yesterday — Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 — House Republicans finally offered a plan for replacing Obamacare. One that apparently has a bit of an uphill climb ahead of it.

We don' need no estinking CBO score?

We don’ need no estinking CBO score?

Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin was particularly brutal, in a piece headlined “ACA repeal: House Republicans’ breathtaking recklessness.”

She has her reasons, and some are fairly persuasive. Some have to do with all the unanswered questions about the proposal. Republicans love to quote Nancy Pelosi’s observation that “We have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it….” Surely, surely, they’re not asking anyone to buy a pig in a poke themselves, right? She notes that Speaker Paul Ryan’s office says it can’t answer basic questions about the proposal’s potential impact because it doesn’t have a score from the Congressional Budget Office (which she doubts).

All that aside, here’s my reaction to the headline on Ms. Rubin’s piece: The real, breathtaking recklessness was voting to repeal the law all those times without even this imperfect replacement to offer. In other words, saying they had to repeal the ACA in order to find out what would replace it.

It’s pretty amazing…

All the President-Elect’s Men

Remember the last scene of “All the President’s Men?” If you don’t, you can watch it above.

Pretty powerful. On a television on a desk in the newsroom of The Washington Post, Richard Nixon is seen triumphant, being inaugurated for the second time as president. In the background, across the newsroom, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (OK — Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, really) are not watching the event, because they’re too busy pounding out one of the stories that will bring Nixon down.

We experienced a moment like that tonight. In a prelude to the inauguration of Donald Trump next week, President Barack Obama was delivering a particularly graceful valedictory address — our last worthy, fit president reminding us of the values that America is supposed to be about. The feeling of the passing of American greatness was palpable. We had a good run there, for 44 presidents. Or 43, if you leave out James Buchanan.

Half of Twitter — including me (you can go peruse my Tweets) — was writing about that. The other half was writing about this, which corresponds to the counterpoint of Woodstein hammering away at the story that will doom the new president. Check this out:

Or this version:

Or, if you’re into the salacious, this:

Wow. I mean, just… wow.

This is early. The picture is incomplete. There’s always the chance that, as Trump claims, this is “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” After all, there’s a lot of that going around lately.

But I have never, ever heard of allegations like this, however flimsy, being made about anyone about to become president of the United States. That alone makes this unprecedented.

The report alleges that, while Trump turned down some sweet deals offered by the Russians, “he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” Yeah, and “FSB has compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him.”

Who knows at this point what’s true? For their part, though, our top intelligence chiefs found it worthy of passing on to the current and future presidents last week.

Here’s a caveat in The Guardian‘s story:

Despite glowing references from US and foreign officials who have worked with the source, there are some errors in the reports. One describes the Moscow suburb of Barvikha as “reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates”, but although it is a very expensive neighbourhood, there are no restrictions on who can own property there. The document also misspells the name of a Russian banking corporation…

Must give us pause. But speaking of misspellings, The Guardian mentioned “Senator Lyndsey Graham” in the same story.

I don’t know where this is going to go. But it feels like one of those moments. You know, like in the movie…

hqdefault

On this, Trump may be right and Obama may be wrong

Image from NBC file footage of Netanyahu speaking at the U.N.

Image from NBC file footage of Netanyahu speaking at the U.N.

Like a stopped clock, Donald Trump will sometimes be right — and this might be one of those times.

Today, the outgoing Obama administration got this shot across its bow:

An Israeli official on Friday accused President Barack Obama of colluding with the Palestinians in a “shameful move against Israel at the U.N.” after learning the White House did not intend to veto a Security Council resolution condemning settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem the day before.

“President Obama and Secretary Kerry are behind this shameful move against Israel at the U.N.,” the official said. “The U.S administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti-Israeli resolution behind Israel’s back which would be a tail wind for terror and boycotts and effectively make the Western Wall occupied Palestinian territory,” he said calling it “an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN.”

Earlier he said Israel’s prime minister turned to President-elect Donald Trump to help head off the critical U.N. resolution….

And Trump obliged:

JERUSALEM — President­-elect Donald J. Trump thrust himself into one of the world’s most polarizing debates on Thursday by pressuring President Obama to veto a United Nations resolution critical of Israel, the newly elected leader’s most direct intervention in foreign policy during his transition to power. Mr. Trump spoke out after Israeli officials contacted his team for help in blocking the draft resolution condemning settlement construction even as they lobbied its sponsor, Egypt. Within a couple of hours, Egypt withdrew the resolution, at least temporarily, and its president, Abdel Fattah el­Sisi, called Mr. Trump to discuss how “to establish true peace in the Middle East,” according to an aide to the president-­elect….

Of course, if you don’t like Trump’s current position, wait five minutes. But for now, I think he’s calling for the right response.

Look, folks: I think to a great extent those settlements are problematic, a provocation. But this is no way for Israel’s adversaries to try to cram through a resolution on the subject — two days before Christmas and in the midst of a uniquely unsettling presidential transition in this country. Note that I’m talking here about the United States. Why? Because I think a move like this is meant to take advantage of this country as much as it is meant to strike out at Israel.

First the Russians try, and one might even say succeed (if one isn’t too discriminating in discerning causes and effects), in throwing this country into disarray. Now this.

Oh, and while I’m talking foreign interference, let me say that I don’t particularly appreciate our friend Israel reaching out to Trump this way. But President Obama could certainly have avoided that desperation move by assuring Israel that he had its back.

I hope he did, in fact. I certainly hope the Israeli allegation is wrong, and that President Obama intended to veto this resolution at this time.

You know what would be nice? A clear statement from the administration to that effect. That would do much to pour oil on the waters. If anyone’s seen anything like that, let me know. I’ve been hunting for something, ANYTHING from the White House on this, and failing to find it. I’ll keep looking. (I’ve found speculation that maybe Samantha Power is quietly working to solve the problem, and perhaps that’s right. If so, ignore everything I’ve said.)

By the way, before I sign off, here’s what Lindsey Graham has to say about the situation. His release, in fact, is what alerted me to the fact that this matter, which I thought was averted yesterday, may not be over:

Statement by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on Resolution Involving Israeli Settlements:

“This provocative action by the United Nations is an outrage and must be dealt with sternly and forcefully.

“As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I oversee the United States assistance to the United Nations.  The United States is currently responsible for approximately 22 percent of the United Nations total budget.

“If the United Nations moves forward with the ill-conceived resolution, I will work to form a bipartisan coalition to suspend or significantly reduce United States assistance to the United Nations.

“In addition, any nation which backs this resolution and receives assistance from the United States will put that assistance in jeopardy.

“There is a reason the United States has long opposed these type efforts directed at Israel — the only way to achieve a lasting peace by the parties negotiating directly and not using the United Nations as a blunt instrument against Israel.  This was President Obama’s position in 2011 and it should be his position today.”

#####

Is this really where the light of liberal democracy grows dim?

In a comment earlier I wrote about how concerned I am about the course of my country — and of the world. More so than I’ve ever been in my more than six decades on this planet.

It’s not just Trump — he’s just a glaring, ugly sign of it. Take a step back, and reflect: Who came in second in the GOP primaries? The only guy who gave Trump any kind of a run for his money as the worst candidate ever — Ted Cruz. All the better-suited candidates were stuck in single digits. And the Democrats have nothing to brag about — they put forward the second-most (second to Trump) despised candidate in the history of such things being measured. And she had trouble putting away a cranky old socialist to get that far.

How can I blame Trump when the real problem is that millions of people voted for him? I actually almost feel sorry for this bizarre figure, because he truly had zero reason to expect that he’d actually end up in this position.

I mean seriously: If you don’t even go deeper than his hair, you can tell at a glance that the country’s really, really in trouble. This is what will lead us?krauthammer

And the rest of the world, too. As Charles Krauthammer wrote today, “After a mere 25 years, the triumph of the West is over.” The promise of 1991, with the Soviet Union finally collapsing and the U.S. leading a broad coalition against Saddam in Kuwait — the New World Order in which Civilization, led by the City on a Hill, would enforce its values against aggressors — is behind us.

The United States is pulling back, and the bad guys just can’t wait to flow into the vacuum. In fact, they haven’t been waiting — in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine or the South China Sea. Or even in our own backyard.

He sums it up this way, blaming BOTH Obama and Trump:

Donald Trump wants to continue the pullback, though for entirely different reasons. Obama ordered retreat because he’s always felt the U.S. was not good enough for the world, too flawed to have earned the moral right to be the world hegemon. Trump would follow suit, disdaining allies and avoiding conflict, because the world is not good enough for us — undeserving, ungrateful, parasitic foreigners living safely under our protection and off our sacrifices. Time to look after our own American interests.

I think he’s trying a little too hard at false equivalence there, but at the same time, while Obama’s a smart guy who knows how to say the right things (unlike, you know, the other guy), there has been a noticeable tinge of “Oh, this country isn’t all that special” in his stance toward the world. A tinge that some of you agree with, and with which I couldn’t disagree more. But if you’re right, if the United States isn’t all that special — if it can’t be relied upon as the chief champion of liberal democracy — then the world doesn’t stand much of a chance. Because there’s always somebody wanting to be the hegemon, and the leading candidates running to take our place are pretty much a nightmare.

ISIS is a wannabe and never-was on that score. Russia wants to be a contender again, instead of bum, Charlie. But my money has long been on the oppressive authoritarians of the world’s largest country, China.

One of the first editorials I wrote for The State — maybe the first — when I joined the editorial board in 1994 was about the disturbing signs I saw of the Chinese buying friends and influencing people right here in our hemisphere, the long-forgotten Monroe Doctrine notwithstanding. I was worried that nobody else in this country seemed to see it, thanks to the fact that few of my fellow Americans ever took a moment to think about what happens to the south of us. (Side note: We wrote a lot about international affairs when I joined the editorial board; when I became editor, we would focus far more closely on South Carolina, which needed the scrutiny.)

Well, more people have noticed it since then. But not enough people. And not enough of the ones who have noticed care. President Obama, to his credit, started his “pivot” to focus on the Pacific Rim. That was the smart thing to do for this country’s long-term interests, and those of liberal democracy in general. China needs to be countered, with both soft power and, when necessary, hard.

Probably the most chilling paragraph in Krauthammer’s column is this one:

As for China, the other great challenger to the post-Cold War order, the administration’s “pivot” has turned into an abject failure. The Philippines openly defected to the Chinese side. Malaysia then followed. And the rest of our Asian allies are beginning to hedge their bets. When the president of China addressed the Pacific Rim countries in Peru last month, he suggested that China was prepared to pick up the pieces of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now abandoned by both political parties in the United States….

TPP was smart policy, encouraging our allies in the region to join with us in confidence, tying themselves more closely with U.S. interests in the face of the Chinese challenge. And this year, neither party was willing to stand up for it — even though one of the nominees (the one who lost, of course) knew better. If she’d been elected, at least we’d have had the chance of her breaking that bad campaign promise.

We painstakingly fashioned that strategic instrument, then dropped it like a hot potato when the populists began howling. And China is preparing to pick it up. And maybe you don’t, but I feel the Earth’s center of gravity shifting in the wrong direction.

Oh, but hey, Carrier’s not moving a plant to Mexico — at least, not completely. So everything’s OK, right? We’ve entered the era of short-term, inwardly focused international goals. Or something…

This is the right way to praise Trump, if one must

obama-on-trump

Bryan sent me an email headlined “Obama: Trump is ‘pragmatic’ – POLITICO,” followed in the body of the message by:

Don’t give me that look. I didn’t say it, Obama did.

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/obama-praises-trump-pragmatic-231361

Hey, I wasn’t giving him any look.

What the president said was completely correct, both in the sense of being the proper tone for a president to strike in speaking of his successor, and in terms of accuracy.

Trump is not an ideologue, and is indeed “pragmatic in that way.”

If I were in Obama’s predicament, in a situation in which I felt constrained to say something positive (or at least nonjudgmental) about the president-elect — and he is in that situation — I would say that very thing.

And it would come out sounding nice, because everyone would know how I look down on ideologies. Of course, there’s something that is often worse than an ideologue, which is someone who doesn’t deal in ideas at all. But it would sound nice, and it would be accurate, as far as it went.

Trump believes not in ideas, but in the moods that strike him. That makes him extraordinarily dangerous, but it also means he’s not a rigid ideologue like Ted Cruz. So there’s that. And in doing his duty to say calming, diplomatic things, POTUS hit on just the right thing to say.

He’s good at that. I’m really gonna miss this guy. Watch the video and see how thoughtfully and maturely he addresses the question, and you will likely agree. The nation is really, really going to miss that quality…

Some of Pete Souza’s very best work

svcz4xt

In an attempt to cheer me up a bit at the end of a rough week, Bryan Caskey sent me this link. As the page explains,

The White House’s Pete Souza Has Shot Nearly 2M Photos of Obama, Here are 55 of His Favorites

I’ve long appreciated Souza’s work. You see it here on the blog from time to time, often illustrating my Open Threads — even when it has nothing to do the topics in the thread — partly because I like them, and partly because they’re in the public domain and I can use them without being sued.

Anyway, here are a few that particularly appealed to me out of the 55.

Thanks, Bryan…

68gyplkfapkmm4zpblbp53grsk3h r2o7nhj b8w9kcl 0o05q8e80j7ej2

What’s different about Hillary Clinton this time

Where's Waldo -- I mean, Hillary? When I shot this way back in May 2015, she was surrounded by the usual suspects, from the SC Democratic Women's Council.

Where’s Waldo — I mean, Hillary? When I shot this way back in May 2015, she was surrounded by the usual suspects, from the SC Democratic Women’s Council.

Today, our good friend Doug (who for some reason is calling himself “Douglas” this week) Ross got me going when he said this about Hillary Clinton:

She is running to win the votes of her faithful followers…

Which made me say no, not this time…

I think that was true in 2008 — very much so. It’s one of the things that made Sen. Barack Obama look so good by contrast. At that time, her support base seemed made up of:

  • Diehard loyal Clintonistas who, for instance, still saw Bill’s impeachment as something that the “vast right-wing conspiracy” had done to THEM, rather than arising from Bill’s actions.
  • 1970s-style feminists who were just excited as all get-out because she was a woman, pure and simple.
  • The Democratic Party’s angriest partisan warriors who were hyper-anxious to “take the country back” after the Republicans holding the White House for 8 years.

By contrast, Barack Obama ran as not only the post-racial, but post-partisan candidate who wanted to lead us beyond the bitter sniping of the Clinton and Bush years.

This time, though, it’s different. Not necessarily because she, Hillary Clinton, is different, but because of the overall political environment in which this campaign is occurring. It’s pushed her into an entirely different role.

Now, she’s not the representative of an old ’60s-’70s “New Left” — she in fact spent most of the past year fighting to  survive a huge challenge from someone who represented that far more than she ever had.

But nothing recast her role as much as the way Trumpism took over the GOP.

Circumstances have conspired to make her the sole representative remaining from either party of the broad, moderate governing consensus of the post-1945 America. There’s a category into which you can fit every president (and most if not all major-party nominees, but especially the presidents) we’ve had since FDR, regardless of party. And she is the only person left — now that the likes of Jeb Bush and John Kasich are long departed from the scene — who fits into that category, or even lives in the same universe as that category.

So yeah, you’ve got the standard Clintonista hangers-on, sure. But you’ve also got independents like me, and you’ve got pretty much the entire Republican national security Establishment, all rooting for her to win this.

Because she’s all that’s left for any of us…

hillary-dwc

Meanwhile, in Aleppo, a child sits — silent, staring and bloody

Yesterday, I Tweeted out the headline of an editorial in The Washington Post: “As Aleppo is destroyed, Mr. Obama stands by.”

Today, the above video went viral around the world. It shows a tiny boy, covered in dust and blood after being pulled from rubble, sitting in an ambulance seat that’s far too big. He’s quiet. He seems stunned. He wipes his face, sees the blood, tries to wipe it off his hand onto the seat, then goes back to staring ahead.

This, my friends, is what “as Aleppo is destroyed” looks like. The boy is Omran Daqneesh. He’s 5 years old.

And here’s a Tweet that puts things into perspective:

When I Tweeted that editorial headline yesterday, someone responded on Facebook, “What would you suggest he do, Brad?”

Now? I suppose it’s more a question of what he should have done the last few years (such as some of the things Hillary Clinton urged him to do when she was Secretary of State). I don’t know enough about the details of the current situation even to know what is still possible.

I know what he should NOT have done. He should not have spoken of red lines. He should not have said we would have the Syrian people’s backs in this horrible time. Not if he didn’t mean it…

But I guess my short answer is, SOMETHING. Not that any answers are easy…

All I know is that I look at that child, and see my grandson…

Obama, groping through the moral twilight of drone warfare

OK, so it's really a picture of the president touring Carlsbad Caverns with his family last month, but it seemed to go with my headline.

OK, so it’s really a picture of the president touring Carlsbad Caverns with his family last month, but it seemed to go with my headline.

Today, the Obama administration owned up to a number of bystanders killed a collateral damage in drone strikes:

The United States has inadvertently killed between 64 and 116 noncombatant civilians in drone and other lethal attacks against terrorism suspects in places not considered active war zones, the Obama administration said Friday.

The unintentional deaths came in a total of 473 CIA and military counterterrorism strikes up to the end of 2015 that the administration said have taken between 2,372 and 2,581 militants permanently off the battlefield in countries where the United States is not at war, which would include Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

The release was accompanied by an executive order, signed by President Obama, designed to give added weight to existing administration standards and procedures governing the use of lethal force and for limiting civilian casualties….

So. 473 drone strikes. At least 2,372 people regarded as enemies of the United States killed. And the tradeoff is as many as 116 folks who were minding their own business, snuffed out without warning by hellfire from the sky.

What do we think about that? Are the attacks justified? Is the tradeoff morally defensible? Can we rationalize killing an innocent person for every 20 terrorists?

The administration released this information in connection with the president’s promise to be more transparent about his “I’ve got a list” program of drone warfare.

By disclosing, he’s pulling us in, sharing the burden. Now that we know, it’s more on us. We, too, are walking about in a moral twilight. How do feel about that?

Excuse this digression….

Are you familiar with the naval battle that occurred outside Boston Harbor between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake on 1 June 1813? Up to that point in the War of 1812, there had been several one-on-one battles between British and American ships, and the infant U.S. Navy had won all of them — which had really shaken up the Royal Navy. They were used to fighting the French, and always winning.

Philip Broke, commander of HMS Shannon, had been blockading Boston Harbor for months. He was low on water and other provisions and couldn’t stay on station much longer. But he didn’t want to leave without having had a chance to reclaim the Royal Navy’s honor against the Americans. So he sent a note into the harbor to Capt. James Lawrence of the Chesapeake, challenging him to come out and fight.

Lawrence did so that very day (although coincidentally, on his own initiative, not because of the note). And after a furiously intense 15 minutes of fighting in which 252 men were killed or wounded, Shannon had won. Lawrence, who was mortally wounded in the battle, famously said “Don’t give up the ship!” as he was taken below — but moments later, his men were forced to do just that. He died of his wounds three days later, as his captured ship was being taken to Halifax.

Broke, too, was gravely wounded. He survived, and was made a baronet for his victory, but his injuries ended his active service for good.

This story is told in vivid detail in one of Patrick O’Brian’s novels, The Fortune of War. As you know, I’m always trying to get everyone I know to read these books about Captain Jack Aubrey and his particular friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin, and I recently persuaded my wife to read this one.

To her, Broke’s note challenging Lawrence made no sense.

And yes, it does seem a bit irrational, like two boys meeting on a playground and saying simultaneously, “I can beat you!” and going at it. Boys who’ve heard too many stories about jousting knights in shining armor.

But there was a time when behavior such as Broke’s was universally lauded, held up as an ideal. And I confess I’m atavistic enough to feel admiration for him, while at the same time seeing that whole war as an absurd waste. (I contain multitudes.)

And I have to wonder: Was there not honor in inviting the enemy out to a fair fight, one in which the challenger’s life was on the line as much as anyone’s? A fight in which many were killed, but all were legitimate combatants? Are we better, more rational, more enlightened, more admirable now that we fight wars like this instead?

Kamp_mellem_den_engelske_fregat_Shannon_og_den_amerikanske_fregat_Chesapeak

The initial exchange of gunfire between Chesapeake and Shannon.

Barack Obama, Selfie Subject in Chief

Did selfies exist when W. was president? I don’t recall, but they’ve certainly been a huge factor in the current administration.

They’ve both been part of the Obama legend — this was the youthful, supposedly tech-savvy president who complained back in 2009 about having to curtail use of his Blackberry (an archaic device that, amazingly, he continued to use into this year, thanks to the government’s sclerotic pace of adaptation) — and a bit of a curse, as everyone he meets spins away from him in order to snap a shot.

As The Washington Post noted just this week:

Obama has complained — with increasing regularity during his final year in office — about the prevalence of the selfie and its intrusion on his personal space. But the president, who has leveraged his image as a tech-savvy and approachable leader to mobilize young voters, has not been willing or able — despite his ample executive powers — to contain the selfie explosion. No blanket selfie ban has been issued.

The upshot: Obama and the humble smartphone have forever altered one of the most iconic American moments. Never again will citizens interact with their president in quite the same way. #ThanksObama….

Generally he’s been a good sport, as you’ll recall from the famous Buzzfeed video, in which he reached out to young people by letting on that he, too, could be way narcissistic.

heres_looking_at_you_obama.0

Then there was the selfie he and soon-to-be-ex-PM Cameron oh-so-cheerfully posed for with the hot Scandinavian blonde… with the First Lady sitting off to the side scowling — as well she should, since they were in the middle of a funeral for one of the most revered people on the planet (actually, the photographer later said the photo was misleading on that score):

MANDELA-SELFIE_2761644b

It’s a bit weird the way this one minor feature of smartphones — the reverse lens, a goofy little add-on — has transformed the way people across the country and around the planet interact with the most powerful man in the world.

Yesterday, I remarked on the lack of gravitas exhibited by the president and the young leader of Canada in the selfie Tweeted by PM Trudeau. David Carlton chided me a bit, saying he was pleased to see national leaders so loose and informal.

And I suppose it’s all right. At least they’re wearing coats and ties, so my Tory sensibilities aren’t too offended. Harrumph.

I, personally, do not have a selfie with the president, strictly speaking. I have this old-fashioned shot taken by an actual photographer after interviewing then-Sen. Obama in 2008. Sorry. Best I could do:

brad-Obama

A heads-up: Collapse of western civilization imminent, says this one bloke

The Brexit rhetoric just heated up a notch. From The Guardian:

David Cameron and his Remain colleagues have repeatedly been accused of scaremongering. Recession, rising unemployment, rising prices, rising interest rates, falling house prices, further rise of international conflict (although not necessarily “world war three”, which was Boris Johnson’s parody) – there seems to be no end to the list of negative consequences from Brexit that Cameron has been warning people about.

But Donald Tusk, president of the European council, has gone much further. If Britain leaves the EU, that could eventually end up with the downfall of Western civilisation, he says.

He made the comment in an interview with the German newspaper Bild. Some extracts were released yesterday, but the full article became available today.

Reuters has written it up as a story. Here’s the key quote from Tusk.

Why is it so dangerous? Because no one can foresee what the long-term consequences would be. As a historian I fear that Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilization in its entirety.

I must confess that unlike that Polish cove (and yes, I realize my grasp of British slang is a bit outdated), I have not yet made up my mind — even though it’s a huge issue involving a country I love.

Donald Tusk

That Polish cove, Donald Tusk

On the one hand, I don’t like people on the continent telling the British people how to live — Bonaparte tried that, until Nelson and Wellington sorted him out. Emotionally, I dislike anything that might make Britain even marginally less British. Tell them, Professor.

On the other, we have establishment figures (and y’all know how I love me some Establishment) from President Obama to PM Cameron, coming out against it — although I found our president’s threat that Britain would go to the back of the queue on trade deals unconvincing. Lindsey Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, they say the same, on collective security grounds.

But I’m still unsure which side to root for. You?

Obama: ‘Brexit’ would not make Special Relationship closer

Prince_of_Wales-5

Conference leaders during Church services on the after deck of HMS Prince of Wales, in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, during the Atlantic Charter Conference. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) and Prime Minister Winston Churchill are seated in the foreground. Standing directly behind them are Admiral Ernest J. King, USN; General George C. Marshall, U.S. Army; General Sir John Dill, British Army; Admiral Harold R. Stark, USN; and Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, RN. At far left is Harry Hopkins, talking with W. Averell Harriman.

I kind of go back and forth on the whole “Should Britain exit the E.U.?” thing:

  • I’m generally not for nations or federations splitting up, especially not for nationalistic (in the racial or cultural sense) reasons. Balkanization is bad. I’m against secession whether practiced by the Confederacy or Quebec separatists. I make an exception for the USSR.
  • On the other hand, British culture is so awesome! From Shakespeare to the Beatles, Jane Austen to Nick Hornby, Monty Python to Douglas Adams, King Arthur to QEII, the guy who wrote “Greensleeves” to Elvis Costello, Beau Brummel to Carnaby Street, Jack Aubrey to Arthur Dent, James Bond to George Smiley, I want to see Britain hang onto everything that makes it special and unique, and I don’t want a bit of it to be watered down.
  • The E.U. makes for a strong trading partner for the United States, when it’s not having eruptions in Greece and such.

    Stack of British one pound coins

    No coin is sounder than a pound.

  • I’m deeply gratified that the Brits didn’t go to the Euro. I’m still not thrilled that they decimalised the pound. It was disappointing, when I was there, not to hear people refer to shillings and crowns and such. But every time I held a pound or two-pound coin, I fully understood the phrase “sound as a…” That is some seriously solid, dependable-feeling money.

And so forth.

I found myself swinging back and forth today, with President Obama visiting London and backing up David Cameron’s position of maintaining the union.

For instance, I find the idea that maybe we could deepen the Special Relationship by having special bilateral trade deals, just between us and our Mum Country.

But Obama threw cold water on that:

The UK would be at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the US if Britain voted to leave the EU, Barack Obama has said.

The US president said a trade agreement would not happen any time soon in the event of Britain leaving because it was better to strike a transatlantic deal with Europe as a whole….

Which made me think, it’s great you’re helping the PM out and all. As you say, that’s what friends do. But really? We wouldn’t negotiate favorable trade terms with our closest friend in the world if she stood alone?

It’s almost enough to make you think Boris Johnson is onto something when he suggests that Obama’s Kenyan heritage makes him a less-than-enthusiastic ally of the colonial power. I mean, really — American presidents don’t stiff-arm Great Britain (by doing such thing as sending Churchill’s bust back).

Almost.

In the end, I suppose, I think it’s best for our friends to hold France close, and Germany closer. After all, Europe hasn’t launched another World War since this alliance came together. Yet.

But my Anglophilia still causes me to go wobbly sometimes…

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom talk during the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom talk during the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

I’m sorry, but this photo does not inspire confidence

25986848835_b1c501ec4d_o

The White House was probably trying to assure us that, even though he’s very busy doing photo ops in Cuba, he’s really staying on top of the Brussels situation.

So we have this official photo showing POTUS in a (presumably, going by the riveted door and sound-absorbing panels) secure room at the residence of the U.S. chief of mission, with this cutline:

President Barack Obama and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice talk on the phone with Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco to receive an update on a terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium. The President made the call from the residence of the U.S. Chief of Mission in Havana, Cuba, March 22, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But ya know, I’m not much assured. Not because the president’s looking all tense and worried, but because of the person sitting at his right hand.

I still get a little chill down my spine whenever I’m reminded that Susan Rice is the president’s national security advisor. That’s because I learned way more than I wanted to know about her back when she was floated as possible secretary of state. And almost everything I learned worried me.

Not just because her misspeaking got the ball rolling on the GOP’s Benghazi fixation, but because incident after incident in her history showed a lack of judgment and reliability — in Rwanda, and other places. Such as Sierra Leone.

Ours is a vast and resource-rich nation. We have loads and loads of really smart people, in academia, in government, at think tanks, in multinational corporations — people with great track records in dealing with a complicated world. Is Susan Rice, who has so many questionable items in her record, from the deadly serious to the trivial, really the best person in the nation to be at the president’s right hand in a crisis?

That seems doubtful to me…

Wow, even John Kerry is more hawkish than POTUS

THIS guy's more hawkish than the president?

THIS guy’s more hawkish than the president?

I’m not sure I go along fully with the premise of David Brooks’ most recent column (“Dogs, Cats and Leadership,” March 11), but I was very impressed by the anecdote with which it began:

When he was in the middle of his Syrian peace deal negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry would go to President Obama with a request: Could the U.S. quietly send a few cruise missiles to hit Assad regime targets, just to send a message and maybe move the Syrian president toward a deal.

“Kerry’s looking like a chump with the Russians, because he has no leverage,” a senior administration official told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.

Obama continually said no, and eventually grew impatient. Goldberg asked Kerry if he thought he has more of a bias toward action than Obama. “I do probably,” Kerry responded. “I’d say that I think we’ve had a very symbiotic, synergistic, whatever you call it, relationship which works very effectively. Because I’ll come in with a bias toward ‘Let’s try to do this, let’s try to do that, let’s get this done.’”…

Wow. I mean, I knew President Obama was the most reluctant to act militarily within his administration — as Brooks notes later, “His senior advisers were shocked when he announced” that he would not back up his “red line” in Syria.

But to be so markedly dovish in comparison to John Kerry, whose personal legend is so wrapped up in his antiwar activism?

That’s fascinating. Particularly when you consider the president’s willingness to use drones far more than his predecessor, and to send the SEALs in to get bin Laden (the riskiest of the options, which included simply bombing the compound).

Perhaps this POTUS is a bit of a cat — the deadliest of pets, yet inscrutable…

Of COURSE President Obama should nominate Scalia replacement. That’s his job.

Antonin_Scalia_Official_SCOTUS_Portrait

First, I’m sorry to hear of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. I’d be sorry to hear of any man’s death, but I actually kind of liked the much-criticized jurist, most of the time.

Now, to the instantaneous controversy that is always there ready to erupt and wash away any normal, human feelings we might have at such a moment…

I’ll be brief:

  • There is a vacancy on the court — right now, not next year.
  • It is the duty of the president of the United States to nominate someone to fill such a vacancy (and the Senate’s duty to consider that nomination, and vote on it).
  • Barack Obama is the president of the United States. And he will be for much longer than it ought to take to nominate and confirm a suitable justice.

There’s really nothing else to say. The president has announced his intention to do his duty. As he should.

No, I’m not crazy about having another justice who thinks Roe v. Wade shouldn’t be touched or amended. But I’m also opposed to nominating and confirming justices based on whether I somehow sense that they agree with me on this or that issue. I’m opposed to that for the same reason I’m opposed to Roe: I believe in a government of laws and not of men (and Roe flies in the face of that by allowing a single, highly interested individual to make a unilateral, irreversible decision to take human life without due process).

Republicans who don’t like the fact that Barack Obama is president should get busy electing one of their own. (Step One: Figure out how to deal with your Trump problem.)

But on the Scalia vacancy, Mr. Obama is president. Consider and vote on his nominee promptly.

You know you’ve gone too far in attacking Obama when the WSJ defends him

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Meant to post this the other day…

I kind of went “Huh?” when I saw that Marco Rubio had been critical of President Obama’s visit to a mosque, saying POTUS is “always pitting Americans against each other.”

From Trump and Cruz I expect such non sequitur grumbling. Not from Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board agreed with me the next day:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave PresidentObama a hard time for his speech Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and we wonder if the Florida Senator read it. The speech was one of Mr. Obama’s best attempts to fulfill the promise he made in 2008 to promote racial and political comity.

We’ll admit to expecting worse, since Mr. Obama has typically addressed the issue of Islam by apologizing for Western behavior (2009 in Cairo) or analogizing Islamic State to the Christian Crusades (2015 National Prayer Breakfast). But in Baltimore he sought to reassure Muslims about their place in this country by invoking the best traditions of American religious freedom and tolerance….

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I heard.

In the studio with Todd and Joel on Cynthia Hardy’s show

Studio

Just sharing this shot of Rep. Todd Atwater, Sen. Joel Lourie and me in the studio during Cynthia Hardy’s On Point radio show on the Big DM this evening.

Note that Todd is alert and looking around, Joel is playing the nerd studying the notes he had brought with him about the SOTU and Gov. Haley’s response, and I’m staring at my phone, probably writing this Tweet:

Which prompted Rob Godfrey from the governor’s office to respond:

Yes, this is a very self-referential blog post. But then, blogs tend to be that way as a medium — they are to journalism what selfies are to photography.

We had a good discussion, with everyone on board with agreeing with both the president and the governor in their calls for greater civility and less negativity. In fact, if our Legislature consisted entirely of Joel Louries and Todd Atwaters, we’d get a lot more done at the State House.

Not that there wasn’t sincere disagreement. Todd and Joel had a pretty good back-and-forth about Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. At one point I almost jumped in on Joel’s side, when Todd said it was a shame the president didn’t meet Republicans halfway on the issue.

Hey, I was about to say, the president and the Democrats did meet Republicans halfway and more from the get-go — before the debate on the Act was joined, before the president was even elected.

That happened when Obama didn’t run advocating for single-payer, which is the one really rational approach to healthcare. And he backed away from that in deference to the wall of Republican resistance that already existed against it. So he and the other Dems started out with a compromise position.

But then the subject changed, and we didn’t return to it. Just as well. I was being presented to listeners as the guy in the middle between Joel the Democrat and Todd the Republican, and it would have just confused everybody if I had jumped out on the one issue where I’m to the left of Bernie Sanders. That is, that’s where my position has been cast popularly — mostly by Republican resistance that has made Democrats afraid to embrace it. I don’t consider it to be to the left of anything. To me, it’s the commonsense, nonideological, pragmatic option. And a lot simpler than the ACA.

Speaking of Bernie… He and the author of Hillarycare will be on the tube in awhile, so I think I’ll stop and rest up to get ready to Tweet during that. Join me @BradWarthen if you’re so inclined.

 

Thoughts about the State of the Union, Haley’s response?

sotu

Y’all, I’ve really been backed up today and having technical problems and just haven’t been able to stop with day job stuff to reflect on last night’s State of the Union, or Nikki Haley’s response.

But what did y’all think? I’ll jump in there with you as I can…

haley vid

Disappointing reaction from Graham

A friend and colleague shared this with me, regarding a release last night from LIndsey Graham:

Eight minutes after the president began speaking, Lindsey sends out an embargoed statement that says “A majority of American’s believe that our country is headed in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, I believe they’re right.  And I heard nothing tonight to suggest that we’re going to change course. 
 
I know there’s nothing extraordinary about this, but I expect better from him.
That is all.

I concur. Disappointing.

Obama wept: Tears of rage, tears of grief

Obama wept

Hey, y’all! Obama’s coming to get your guns!

Of course, he’s not. The measures he announced today will do practically nothing to stem gun violence, and won’t go out and take a gun from anyone’s hands, be they warm and alive or cold and dead.

But that’s the way it will play, isn’t it? Gun rights people are sort of binary creatures. They have two modes. In one, they are happy and comfortable in their personal bunkers with several years worth of MREs, an off-the-grid power supply, and good fields of fire in every direction. And in the other, they’re screaming “OBAMA’S COMING TO GET MY GUNS!”

Except Bryan, of course.

Doubt me on this? Read the second graf of this story:

“He wants to take my guns,” said Kim Nettles, a 66-year-old West Columbia resident who said Obama’s plan — to issue executive orders Tuesday enacting new gun rules — is “illegal.”…

In the real world in which we live, though, there’s little the president or anyone else can do about the fact that there are so very many guns out there, and sooner or later some of them are going to be in the wrong hands. It’s an economic problem — too many unstable, violent people chasing too many guns.

And so, rather than some avenging angel who is singlehandedly going to undo the 2nd Amendment, we have a president who weeps in frustration. And grief, of course…