- Budget Cuts for the Military In early January 2011, the Obama administration unveiled its 2012 Defense budget, which called for cuts of more than $178 billion — a reduction of more than 25 percent. Some $100 million of those cuts were slated to be implemented immediately, and the other $78 billion over the ensuing five years. Obama’s […]
Budget Cuts for the Military
In early January 2011, the Obama administration unveiled its 2012 Defense budget, which called for cuts of more than $178 billion — a reduction of more than 25 percent. Some $100 million of those cuts were slated to be implemented immediately, and the other $78 billion over the ensuing five years.
Obama’s Response to the Egyptian Riots:
In late January 2011, a massive wave of violent riots erupted in Egypt—disturbances ostensibly triggered by public discontent over Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic rule, governmental corruption, and the country’s widespread poverty. There was much speculation that if Mubarak were to be forced out of office, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was likely to fill the power vacuum. Among the noteworthy facts about MB were the following:
- MB — a supporter of Hamas, al Qaeda, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad — had made it explicitly clear that it favored the dissolution of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
- MB’s Supreme Guide, Muhammad Mahdi ‘Akef, had stated that his organization has never recognized Israel and never will, adding: “Our lexicon does not include anything called ‘Israel.’ The [only thing] we acknowledge is the existence of Zionist gangs that have occupied Arab lands and deported the residents. If they want to live among us, it will have to be as [residents of] Palestine. If they want their own state, our only option is to object.”
- Muhammad Ghannem, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, told the Iranian news network Al-Alam that “the people [of Egypt] should be prepared for war against Israel,” emphasizing that “the Egyptian people are prepared for anything to get rid of this regime.”
Michael Savage and Greg Lewis offered an insightful analysis of President Obama’s response to the riots:
Barack Obama has been playing a critical role in making sure that Egypt, one of our staunchest allies in the Middle East, is positioned to become the next member of the Union of Iranian Radical Islamist Republics headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Every single word out of the president’s mouth, every single move he’s made has had the effect of stabbing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the back, of opening the door to Islamist radicals taking another step on their way to restoring an unholy caliphate in that region.
The historical precedent for Obama’s actions can be found in those of another weak liberal Democratic president, Jimmy Carter. In the late 1970s, the Shah of Iran ruled that country in much the same way Hosni Mubarak has ruled Egypt, through maintaining tight control over the population with a strong military and the support of the United States. When Carter withdrew his support of the Shah in the name of “human rights,” he enabled the Ayatollah Khomeini to return to Iran from his exile in Paris and assume leadership of the country.
It looks very much like Obama is following directly in Carter’s footsteps. The problem is that the situation is much more serious today than it was 30 years ago. Blame that on Jimmy Carter.
Carter’s turning over Iran to the mullahs has allowed Islamist radicalism to establish a soon-to-be-nuclear outpost in the region. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to expand his influence and power by abetting the overthrow of nations such as Egypt that retain ties with and receive support from the west. There is no doubt that Ahmadinejad sees himself as the leader of an Islamist union that wields power over the entire Middle East and threatens western civilization as well….
What is becoming clear is that, like Jimmy Carter, Obama is on the side of Islamist radicals. When Iranian students staged an uprising after the rigged elections in that country insured that the totalitarian government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would remain in power, Obama was on vacation in Hawaii and treated the Iranian insurrection as nothing more than a nuisance.
Instead of intervening and speaking out strongly in favor of the students and the overthrow of a truly heinous enemy regime, Obama declined to take sides, saying “it is up to Iranians to decide who Iran’s leaders will be.” By not speaking out and taking the lead in denouncing the Iranian regime, Obama revealed where his sympathies lay.
Only a few weeks earlier, Obama had delivered one of his more insipid speeches. Speaking in Cairo, he had called for America to end torture and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in order to reclaim its “moral authority.”
His insistence that “the people of Iran” should decide who their leaders are simply ignored the fact that the Ahmadinejad regime had rigged the election. The point was that there was no way the Iranian people could decide who their leaders would be. By saying what he did, Obama came down solidly on the side of the Muslim dictatorship and rigging elections in order to achieve it.
Less than two years later, the Cairo insurrection against one of America’s staunchest allies, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, provided Obama with another chance to speak out against Islamist radicalism. Instead he’s again waffled and backtracked and stabbed Mubarak in the back by demanding that the Egyptian president step down immediately.
Nobody is saying that Mubarak’s government is a paragon of democratic rule. What Mubarack has done, though, is to provide a stabilizing influence in the Middle East. He’s the closest thing to a friend that Israel has in the region. He’s helped Israel secure its borders, and he’s kept the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood from gaining power in Egypt by outlawing them. He’s accepted U.S. foreign aid, primarily in the form of military equipment, and used it to maintain his country’s strength.
Our foreign aid, which Obama has publicly considered withdrawing to punish Mubarack, represents money well spent. We get back much more in increased Middle East security through the sale of military equipment to our ally than can be measured simply in dollars.
After watching silently for several days as demonstrators overran the streets of Cairo, Obama did what he would not do in the Iranian situation: He said that Mubarak must step down immediately in order to pave the way for “free” elections.
But as it turns out, it’s not quite as simple as that. Obama’s words to the contrary, it’s highly likely that our president had a strong hand in bringing about the riots in Egypt. Beyond that, he was aided and abetted by the very man who engineered the financial meltdown that enabled Obama to get elected in the first place: George Soros.
The U.S. knew as early as December, 2008, that groups opposed to the Mubarak regime were already developing a plan to overthrow the Egyptian government. They received the information from a young dissident who[m] the U.S. had sponsored to attend a meeting for international political activists that took place in New York City.
In addition, according to documents exposed by WikiLeaks, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey was aware of the plans of the Mubarak opposition group. Leaked documents also show that while the United States publicly supported the Mubarak government, U.S. Embassy officials continued to communicate with the activist in question throughout 2008 and 2009.
The problem is that in order for a country to hold “free” elections, it must have a democratic infrastructure, a democratic culture. In the most important sense, there is no Middle Eastern country that has this, except for Israel. Even our attempts to establish democracy in Iraq have done little to combat the influence of Iran or to insure that democracy will survive after we leave.
When you try to establish a democracy in the Middle East, Islamist radicals move in and take over. It’s exactly what happened in Gaza. In the elections of 2005, the terrorist group Hamas was the big winner over Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party. By 2007, Hamas had drive the Fatah Party out of Gaza. And when Abbas, still the nominal president of Gaza, called for elections in January of 2009, Hamas said that anyone who participated in the election would be “dealt with by the [Hamas] ministry or by other means.” In other words, if you vote you die.
That’s what the term “free elections” means in the Middle East. It means that a radical terrorist organization will move in, intimidate the population, and make sure that its candidates are elected.
It’s exactly what is likely to happen in Egypt, even if an “orderly” transition to free elections takes place. First, it’s very likely that even if the uprising against Mubarak in Egypt began spontaneously, it’s no longer spontaneous. Ahmadinejad applauded the insurrection loudly when it began, and there is no doubt that his agents are involved on the street and in the backrooms where strategies against Mubarak are being plotted.
To this point: One of the key figures in opposition to Mubarak is Mohamed ElBaradei. He’s the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director. In that capacity, he whitewashed Iran’s nuclear energy program, essentially saying that Ahmadinehad was not pursuing nuclear weapons when it’s clear to everyone that he is. On January 18, before the uprising in Egypt had begun, AlBaradei, in what was a veiled call to action for Islamists, warned that a “Tunisia-style explosion” could occur in Egypt.
AlBaradei has emerged as a key figure in a “shadow parliament” that has formed in Egypt. The shadow parliament consists of opposition leaders who are trying to develop plans for a transition to a new regime through “free and democratic” elections. Included in the group are representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, the radical terrorist group responsible for the assassination of Egyptian Premier Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the seed group for other Islamist terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda. The Muslim Brotherhood seeks nothing less than a government based on Islamist principles, including the implementation of Shariah Law and waging jihad against the west.
AlBaradei, given the fact that he looked the other way when inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities, is very likely a puppet of the Iranian regime. In April, 2009, AlBaradei told the press that “more U.S. engagement with Tehran’s leaders would increase regional security.” Although many say he’s unlikely to play a key role in the upcoming elections, he’s nonetheless one of the agents seeking to give Islamist radicals a voice in the Egyptian government.
It’s no coincidence that AlBaradei showed up in Cairo only two days after the uprising began and was immediately named a negotiator by the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, he had been waiting in the wings for quite a while….
This week, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that President Obama’s call for an immediate transition from the government of President Hosni Mubarak has incited violence. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said “What foreign parties are saying about ‘a period of transition beginning immediately’ in Egypt is rejected. He added that such calls “inflame the internal situation in Egypt.”
Tunisia’s government was dissolved and its president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country after protests against joblessness and corruption overwhelmed Tunisia’s security forces in a situation that foreshadowed what is happening in Egypt.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II has also dissolved the parliament in his country in response to protests similar, although not as violent and widespread, to those in Egypt and Tunisia. Abdullah has also promised free elections within six months.
The situation is ripe for Islamist terrorist organizations to move in and take control of the Middle East. And Obama is their enabler. He is the epitome of a weak liberal president. He mouths utopian leftist platitudes while the governments of our allies in the Middle East are challenged. Obama actually said the Muslim Brotherhood “must reject violence and recognize democratic goals” in one interview.
His lack of understanding of the consequences of this type of rhetoric and of the positions he holds is unfathomable. It may well be that at heart he is true to his Muslim upbringing and is bound to cede the power of the Judaeo-Christian west to Islamic tyrants.
He supports the demonstrators when there is a chance that his support will lead to the overthrow of our allies, but he keeps his mouth shut when truly dictatorial Islamist regimes are threatened by popular uprising.
His weakness is having the effect of enabling a new caliphate to be formed in the Middle East. We’re very likely witnessing the formation of a new Islamist alliance led by Iran.
Reaction from people who understand the true urgency of the situation has universally condemned Obama’s positions. One article about Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak was titled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” That piece went on to describe “the politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations” as “naiÌˆve.” Israeli lawmaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said, “I don’t think the Americans understand yet the disaster they have pushed the Middle East into.”
The United States, upon realizing the seriousness of the situation in Egypt, should have immediately come to the aid of President Mubarack and the maintenance of stability in Egypt and the region. We should have deployed naval assets to the Suez Canal in order to protect that channel through which nearly 10 percent of the world’s goods pass on their way to their destinations. We should also have made it clear that we support our allies, Egypt and Israel, and we will do everything in our power to maintain the status quo, even as Egypt moves toward liberalizing its government.
We should also have made it clear that intervention by other countries, especially Iran, will not be tolerated. Obama needed to come down on the side of maintaining our allies in the region. Instead, he sided with Islamists.
The invitation to hold “free elections” in Middle Eastern countries with no history of democracy and no democratic infrastructure or culture in place is nothing less than a naive invitation to Islamist radicals to step in and take control. Such a transition, if it can be made at all, must be very gradual. People with no history of establishing and maintaining democratic institutions must be led into their formation.
As Murabak supporters clash with anti-Mubarak forces in the streets of Cairo, the country’s fate rests more and more with the Egyptian military and with Omar Suleiman, Egyptian Intelligence Chief who is now Vice President. It is just possible that, if the military is able to retain power and if Suleiman is able to take over from Mubarak, that the Middle East can retain its precarious balance. But don’t look to Barak Obama for help.
Israeli officials criticize Obama’s handling of Egyptian riots
In the course of the Egyptian riots that began in late January 2011, the Obama administration repeatedly shifted its posture, initially expressing confidence in President Hosni Mubarek’s government, later threatening to withhold U.S. aid, and finally pressing Mubarak to loosen his grip on power immediately. “We want to see free, fair and credible elections,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on February 2. “The sooner that can happen, the better.”
On February 3, 2011, Israeli lawmaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who until recently had been a Cabinet minister and who was a longtime friend of President Mubarak, criticized President Obama for having called on Mubarek to allow open elections in his country, a prospect that undoubtedly would spell the end of his long reign. Ben-Eliezer said that Obama was repeating the mistakes of predecessors whose calls for human rights and democracy in the Middle East had backfired by bringing anti-West regimes to power. Said Ben-Eliezer:
“I don’t think the Americans understand yet the disaster they have pushed the Middle East into,” said Ben-Eliezer. “If there are elections like the Americans want, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t win a majority, it would win half of the seats in parliament. It will be a new Middle East, extremist radical Islam.”
Three decades earlier, President Jimmy Carter had urged another staunch American ally — the shah of Iran — to loosen his grip on power, only to see his autocratic regime replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic. More recently, U.S.-supported elections had strengthened such groups as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and anti-American radicals in Iran.
“Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as ‘the president who lost Iran,'” analyst Aluf Benn wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz. “Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who ‘lost’ Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America’s alliances in the Middle East crumbled.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu similarly warned that “if extremist forces are allowed to exploit democratic processes to come to power to advance anti-democratic goals — as has happened in Iran and elsewhere — the outcome will be bad for peace and bad for democracy.”
According to an Associated Press report:
“Israel has tremendous respect for Mubarak, who carefully honored his country’s peace agreement with Israel after taking power nearly 30 years ago.
“While relations were often cool, Mubarak maintained a stable situation that has allowed Israel to greatly reduce its military spending and troop presence along the border with Egypt.
“He also worked with Israel to contain the Gaza Strip’s Hamas government and served as a bridge to the broader Arab world. Israeli leaders have said it is essential that whoever emerges as Egypt’s next leader continue to honor the peace agreement.”
Federal Judge Rules that Obamacare is Unconstitutional:
On January 31, 2011, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida ruled that as a result of the unconstitutionality of the “individual mandate” that requires people to buy health insurance, “the entire [2010 healthcare reform] act must be declared void.” Because there was nothing in the bill allowing the insurance mandate to be severed from the rest of the bill, said Vinson, the bill would have to be rejected in its entirety. While it was relatively undisputed that Congress has the authority to regulate interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3), Vinson explained that:
“[i]t would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the commerce clause. If it has the power to compel…it would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place… Congress could require that people buy and consume broccoli…because people who eat healthier tend to be healthier…and put less strain on the health care system. Similarly, because virtually no one can be divorced from the transportation market, Congress could require that everyone…buy a General Motors automobile….”
Vinson’s ruling was consistent with the opinion of 27 states which had already sued to have the law declared unconstitutional. Moreover, his ruling paved the way for the Supreme Court to make the final decision as to the constitutionality of Obamacare.
Obama Administration Continues to Spend Money on the Disputed Healthcare Law:
Notwithstanding Judge Vinson’s ruling that the entire healthcare law was unconstitutional– a ruling that Vinson characterized as “the functional equivalent of an injunction” — the Obama administration continued to spend hundreds of millions of dollars authorized by the disputed law. On February 9, 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a $750 million investment in prevention and public health — funded through the new healthcare law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. Sebelius said the money “will help prevent tobacco use, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and cancer; increase immunizations; and empower individuals and communities with tools and resources for local prevention and health initiatives.”
Obama Administration Pushes Ahead with Health Care Reform, Despite Judge Vinson’s Ruling:
On February 7, 2011, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the following:
“There are many courts that have heard many cases on this. More than 12 have dismissed the case. Two have ruled in our favor as to its constitutionality. Two have ruled against us. Implementation of the health care bill rightly continues to move forward as the law of the land.”
Obama Administration Gave British Nuclear Codes to Russia to help Induce Russia to Sign the “New START” Treaty:
In early February 2011, the website WikiLeaks made public some 1,400 secret U.S. embassy cables which suggested that the U.S. government had covertly agreed to share sensitive information about Britain’s nuclear program — specifically, the serial numbers of every Trident missile the U.S. had supplied to Britain — in exchange for Russian cooperation in signing the “New START” [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] agreement in April 2010. Although the treaty did not involve Britain, the leaked cables showed that Russia had used the negotiations to demand more information about the UK’s Trident missiles, which are manufactured and maintained in the United States. In 2009 the Obama administration had asked London for permission to supply Moscow with details about the performance of UK missiles, but the UK refused. Britain historically has sought to maintain secrecy regarding its nuclear arsenal because of that arsenal’s relatively small size.
In response to the Telegraph article, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that the newspaper’s claims were “bunk” and that “we carried forward requirement to notify Russia about U.S.-UK nuclear cooperation from the 1991 [START] treaty.”
On February 8, 2011, political columnist Thomas Sowell made the following observations about the Obama administration’s actions vis a vis the British nuclear secrets:
“The British newspaper The Telegraph has reported that part of the price which President Obama paid to get Russia to sign the START treaty, limiting nuclear arms, was revealing to the Russians the hitherto secret size of the British nuclear arsenal. This information came from the latest WikiLeaks documents.
“To betray vital military secrets of this country’s oldest, most steadfast and most powerful ally, behind the back of the British government, is something that should set off alarm bells. Following in the wake of earlier betrayals of prior American commitments to put a nuclear shield in Eastern Europe, and the undermining of Israel and calculated insults to its prime minister, this pattern raises serious, and perhaps almost unthinkable, questions about the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
“One of Barack Obama’s first acts as President of the United States was to fly to Russia and try to get a deal with the Russian government by welshing on an existing American commitment to put a nuclear shield in Eastern Europe.
“Obama’s glib rhetoric about how he was pressing “the reset button” on American foreign policy treated the ongoing international commitments of the American government as something that each new administration is free to disregard.
“Nations that ally themselves with the United States, and who cooperate in many ways to oppose the threat of international terrorism, do so at the risk of their own national safety and even survival. To make America’s reciprocal commitments to them contingent on the whims of each new administration is to make other nations have to think twice about allying themselves with the U.S.
“Since the fight against international terrorism requires not only information about terrorist activities and networks from other countries’ intelligence services, but also cooperation from other countries’ financial institutions, in order to block terrorists’ transfers of money to finance their deadly activities.
“This is in addition to other nations’ direct military involvement in the fight against terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places, current and prospective — not to mention providing military access through their lands when needed.
“But doing such things invites retaliation from the terrorists and from the leading international sponsor of terrorism, Iran, which may in a very few years have nuclear weapons.
“Glib talk about setting the reset button on American foreign policy raises the question whether any alliance with the United States can be relied on beyond the term of a particular administration. To nations that have to think in terms of their own national survival, four years is a very short time.
“It is also a very short time in the life of the United States of America. To alienate our allies and embolden our enemies because of one administration is a dangerous gamble in an international jungle where nuclear bombs may soon be in the hands of some of the most reckless nations on the planet.”
Obama Lies About His Record on Tax Hikes:
In a nationally televised February 6, 2011 interview with Bill O’Reilly, Obama stated: “I didn’t raise taxes once. I lowered taxes over the last two years. I lowered taxes for the last two years.” The following day, Mark Levin of Americans For Tax Reform debunked Obama’s false statement with the following press release:
Let’s break down the statement, starting with Obama’s “I didn’t raise taxes once” claim. This assertion is blatantly false, as President Obama has signed into law at least two dozen tax increases:
Feb. 4, 2009 – Obama signs federal tobacco tax hike: Just sixteen days into his presidency, Obama signed into law a 156 percent increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco – a hike of 62 cents per pack. Obama’s signature on this tax hike was a violation of his central campaign promise – a “firm pledge” that no American making less than $250,000 would see “any form of tax increase”. The median income of smokers is just over $36,000.
March 23, 2010 – Obama signs the healthcare bill into law: Obama’s signature on the health care bill enacted two dozen new or higher taxes (at least seven of which violate his “firm pledge” on taxes), including but not limited to:
- Individual Mandate Excise Tax
- Employer Mandate Excise Tax
- Small business 1099-MISC Information Reporting
- Surtax on Investment Income
- Excise Tax on Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans
- Hike in Medicare Payroll Tax
- Medicine Cabinet Tax
- HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike
- Flexible Spending Account Cap – aka “Special Needs Kids Tax”
- Tax on Medical Device Manufacturers
- “Haircut” for Medical Itemized Deduction from 7.5% to 10% of AGI
- Tax on Indoor Tanning Services
- Elimination of tax deduction for employer-provided retirement Rx drug coverage
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield Tax Hike
- Excise Tax on Charitable Hospitals
- Tax on Innovator Drug Companies
- Tax on Health Insurers
- Biofuel “black liquor” tax hike
- Codification of the “economic substance doctrine”
Now let’s turn to the second part of Obama’s claim: “I lowered taxes over the last two years. I lowered taxes for the last two years.”
- President Obama’s entire claim of being a net tax-cutter rests merely upon the temporary tax relief he has signed into law. The tax increases Obama has signed into law have invariably been permanent. In fact, Obama signed into law $7 in permanent tax hikes for every $1 in permanent tax cuts
- Over 90% of the dollar value of the tax cuts Obama signed into law are only temporary
- 100% of the tax increases Obama signed into law are, however, permanent
- Permanent changes to tax law signed by Obama amount to a net tax hike of $618.7 billion
Obama Administration Calls for “Immediate” and “Irreversible” Progress in Egyptian Government’s Concessions to the Protesters:
At a February 8, 2011 press briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked the following question: “Egyptian Vice President Suleiman has said that there is a timetable for a peaceful transfer of power, and he said today that this process is on the right path. Is the President [Obama] satisfied that the process is on the right path, or does he want to see something more tangible?” To this, Gibbs replied:
“Well, I think less important is what we think and more important is what the people of Egypt think. There were certainly reports that those that are out protesting today exceed what we’ve seen in the past several days. I think that is as good an answer for the Vice President of Egypt about the progress that the people in Egypt see and feel. It has to be tangible. It has to be real. It has to be immediate and irreversible.
“Yesterday I think the Vice President — Vice President Suleiman made some particularly unhelpful comments about Egypt not being ready for democracy, about not seeing a lift of the emergency law. And I don’t think that in any way squares with what those seeking greater opportunity and freedom think is a timetable for progress.”
Saudi King Warns Obama Not to “Humiliate” Mubarak; Rift Forms in U.S.-Saudi Relations:
In a January 29, 2011 phone call, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (America’s closest Arab ally in the Gulf) told President Obama not to humiliate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (a close friend of King Abdullah) by demanding that he abdicate his office swiftly. Asserting that Mubarak must be allowed to stay on to oversee the transition towards peaceful democracy and then leave with dignity, Abdullah warned that he himself would step in to bankroll Egypt if the U.S. were to withdraw its $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt.
According to a Fox News report:
“The revelation of Saudi concerns sheds new light on America’s apparent diplomatic paralysis and lays bare the biggest rift between the nations since the oil price shock of 1973.
“The tough line from Riyadh is driven by concern that Western governments were too eager to shove aside Mubarak when the uprising began, without proper consideration of what should follow him. ‘With Egypt in chaos, the kingdom is Washington’s only major ally left in the Arab world and the Saudis want the Americans to remember that,’ said a source in Riyadh.”
Obama’s Mishandling of the Egyptian Demonstrations and U.S. Relations with other Mideast Nations:
On February 9, 2011, Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, made the following observations about President Obama’s mishandling of the Egyptian situation:
“Within hours of the start of Egypt’s crisis, Barack Obama panicked and took to the lifeboats or, to use the contemporary phrase, was ready to throw the regime under the bus. Here, I’m not judging on a basis of human rights, national interests, morality, or anything else: I’m just stating a fact. In a world that, at least outside of Western Europe, favors strong leaders, Obama came off as more Wayne Newton than John Wayne….
“[T]his is an American government that a few days ago ‘ordered’ Egypt’s government to go, starting ‘now,’ even starting ‘yesterday.’ One of several bad decisions was a failure to distinguish between Mubarak and the regime. These people [in the Obama administration] still don’t realize what they did wrong: Privately counseling the Egyptian elite to get rid of Mubarak might well have worked; publicly yelling at them to disband themselves was asking them to commit suicide. Obviously, they were not likely to do so.
“Perhaps the most interesting single sentence spoken by anyone during this crisis was when Mubarak said that Obama doesn’t understand Arab culture. What did he mean? Here’s my interpretation:
“In Western society, you can compromise and make concessions so that your opponent or potential partner says: What a great person! He’s so reasonable. I, too, will make concessions and we will have a win-win solution!
“For decades naïve Westerners have been trying to apply this to the Middle East. It doesn’t work. The more you concede the more the other side concludes you are weak. The more you give, the more they take. Appetite grows with the feeding.
“And there’s more. If people think that the other side is stronger, is winning, and you are losing credibility, more and more of them will join that other side out of opportunism or survival.
“This is precisely what’s happening in the Middle East. As the United States apologizes and makes unilateral concessions, people are attracted by Iran’s posing as the ‘strong horse,’ ranting, roaring, threatening, and killing. If you throw some of your friends under the bus (Lebanese moderates, Iranian and Turkish oppositionists, Israel, southern Sudan?, etc.), many others will get on the bus.
“And the sign on the bus says: The Islamist express. On the back is a bumper sticker that says: We brake for terrorists….
“Yes, Mubarak has been a nasty dictator though less nasty than Iran’s rulers, Syria’s rulers, Hamas in Gaza, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Muammar Qadhafi in Libya, and the regime in the Sudan. He’s even less brutal than his regime’s founder, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who tortured and killed while being wildly popular.
“The West, then, interpreted events in Egypt in its own image: Mubarak as Darth Vader (or Dick Cheney, whichever you think is worse), the revolutionaries as heroic strugglers (which is why we weren’t permitted to point out that many of them were Islamists who wanted to set up a worse dictatorship), and Obama as the moral, all-seeing president who knows America’s interests are best served by taking a leap in the dark with no strategy, no serious evaluation, and no clearly defined goal.”
Obama Official Calls Muslim Brotherhood, Which Was Widely Expected to Fill the Power Vacuum That Would Be Left Behind if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Were to Resign, “Largely Secular”:
During a February 10, 2011 House Intelligence Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made the following, highly erroneous comments about the Muslim Brotherhood:
“The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’…is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam. They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera…..In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.”
Obama Says “We Are witnessing History Unfold” in Egypt:
In Wisconsin on February 10, 2011, President Obama said: “We are following today’s events in Egypt very closely. We’ll have more to say as this plays out. But what is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold. It’s a moment of transformation that’s taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change.”
Later, in an address to students at Northern Michigan University, he praised Egypt’s youth movement for its role in fomenting the movement for political change. Noting that the Egyptian demonstrators had “turned out in extraordinary numbers representing all ages and all walks of life,” Obama emphasized that it was “a new generation — your generation” that had been “at the forefront” of the activism. “And so, going forward we want those young people, and we want all Egyptians, to know: America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt,” he said.
Obama’s CIA Director Wrongly Suggests that Egyptian President Mubarak Would Resign Later that Day:
On February 10, 2011, the Washington Post reported: “CIA Director Leon Panetta helped touch off an avalanche of erroneous expectations Thursday when he testified that there was a ‘strong likelihood’ that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would step down by the end of the day. Within minutes, senior aides to Panetta sought to tamp down the impact, saying he was merely referring to media reports. But by then, the comments had ricocheted around the Internet, underscoring U.S. confusion about events unfolding in Egypt, as well as the perils of publicly weighing in on such developments while serving as director of CIA.”
As it turned out, Mubarak did not resign that day. Instead he made a speech announcing that he would stay in office until his country’s September elections, so as to help facilitate an orderly transition.
Egypt’s Mubarak Defies Pressure from Obama Administration to Resign:
In a February 10, 2011 speech to the Egyptian people, President Hosni Mubarak stated, “We will not accept or listen to any foreign interventions or dictations” — a transparent reference to the Obama administration’s calls for Mubarak to step down swiftly.
Obama’s Budget for 2012:
On February 14, 2011, President Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion budget which projected annual increases in the national debt for years to come. Obama said his budget reflected “tough choices and sacrifices.” “If we’re going to walk the walk when it comes to fiscal discipline,” he added, “these kinds of cuts will be necessary.” Republicans, by contrast, criticized the proposal, saying it called for $8.7 trillion in new spending while adding another $13 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years.
The Obama administration said that by the middle of the decade, national revenues would be equivalent to national outlays. But that projection did not factor the interest owed on the national debt into the equation. If that interest was factored into the statistics, U.S. deficits were projected to exceed $600 billion per year until at least 2020.
Senior administration officials said Obama would achieve two-thirds of his projected savings through spending cuts, including a five-year freeze on many domestic programs. The other one-third would come from tax increases, including limiting tax deductions for high-income taxpayers. But the projected savings would be dwarfed by the $7.21 trillion in cumulative deficits over that 10-year period.
The new estimates projected the deficit for 2011 to surge to an all-time high of $1.65 trillion. From there, the deficit in 2012 would dip to $1.1 trillion, giving the country a record four straight years of $1 trillion-plus deficits.
Obama concentrated his cuts in the one-tenth of the budget that covered most domestic agencies, projecting $400 billion in savings from a five-year freeze in that area. Some programs would not just see spending frozen at 2010 spending levels but would be targeted for sizable cuts. The budget proposes program terminations or spending reductions for more than 200 programs at an estimated savings of $33 billion in 2012. Programs targeted for large cuts included Community Development Block Grants, trimmed by $300 million, while a program that helped pay heating bills for low-income families would be cut in half for a savings of $2.5 billion while a program supporting environmental restoration of the Great Lakes would be reduced by one-fourth for $125 million in savings.
The biggest tax hike would come from a proposal to trim the deductions the wealthiest Americans can claim for charitable contributions, mortgage interest and state and local tax payments.
Obama’s budget would also raise $46 billion over 10 years by eliminating various tax breaks to oil, gas and coal companies. It also called for $78 billion in reductions to Pentagon spending over the next decade by trimming what it viewed as unnecessary weapons programs such as the C-17 aircraft, the alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and the Marine expeditionary vehicle.
Another $62 billion in savings would be devoted to paying to prevent cuts in payments to doctors in the Medicare program over the next two years.
While cutting many programs, the new budget proposed spending increases in selected areas of education, biomedical research, energy efficiency, high-speed rail, and other areas Obama judged to be important. In the energy area, the budget would support Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and doubling the nation’s share of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.
Obama Gives Medal of Freedom to Retired Labor Leader John Sweeney:
In a special White House ceremony on February 15, 2011, President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to John Sweeney, the longtime president of the AFL-CIO and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Evaluating Obama’s Stimulus Package, on Its Second Anniversary:
On February 17, 2011, GOP.com posted the following overview of the 2009 stimulus bill and its effects to date:
$46 Trillion: Amount Of Spending Contained In Obama’s Latest Budget Over Ten Years (Office Of Management And Budget, 2/14/11)
$26.3 Trillion: Amount Of Debt Expected In 2021 (Office Of Management And Budget, 2/14/11)
$15.48 Trillion: Estimated Amount Of Debt This Year (Office Of Management And Budget, 2/14/11)
$7.2 Trillion: Ten-Year Deficits Under Obama’s Budget (Office Of Management And Budget, 2/14/11)
$1.65 Trillion: Estimated FY 2011 Deficit (Office Of Management And Budget, 2/14/11)
$814 Billion: Price Tag Of Obama’s Failed Stimulus (Bloomberg, 8/20/10)
$2 Billion: Amount Of Stimulus Funds That Have Gone To Foreign Manufacturers Of Wind Turbines (ABC News, 2/9/10)
$54 Million: Amount Of Stimulus Funds Spent On A Napa Valley Wine Train (Good Morning America, 2/2/10)
43.6 Million: Number Of People On Food Stamps (The Wall Street Journal, 2/2/11)
$18 Million: Cost Of The Stimulus Website Recovery.org (ABC News,7/8/09)
13.9 Million: Unemployed Americans (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10/8/10)
6.2 Million: Americans Unemployed For Longer Than 27 Weeks (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10/8/10)
$6 Million: Amount Of Stimulus Funds Used To Make Snow In Snowy Duluth, MN (The Wall Street Journal, 10/28/09)
3.8 Million: Increase In The Number Of People Who Fell Into Poverty In 2009 (NPR, 9/16/10)
3.5 Million: Number of Jobs Obama Said Stimulus Would Create (Remarks By President Obama, 2/17/09)
2.6 Million: Number Of Jobs Lost Since The Stimulus Was Passed (U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Accessed: 2/16/11)
2.5 Million: Number Of Jobs Candidate Obama Said Shovel-Ready Projects Would Create (Remarks By President-Elect Obama, 12/16/08)
$650,000: Amount Illinois Spent On Stimulus Signs (ABC News, 7/14/10)
$325,394: Amount Of Stimulus Funds To Study How Environment Affects The Mating Decisions Of Female Cactus Bugs (The Orlando Sentinel, 2/16/10)
$219,000: Amount of Stimulus Funds To Study The Sex Life Of Female College Freshmen (The Daily Orange, 3/7/10)
$157,000: Amount Pennsylvania Spent On Stimulus Signs. (ABC News, 7/14/10)
$100,000: Amount Spent On A Martini Bar And Brazilian Steak House (CBS, 12/9/09)
89,000: The Number Of Stimulus Checks Sent to Dead Or Incarcerated People (The Wall Street Journal, 10/7/10)
$15,551: Amount Of Stimulus Funds That Went To Study Drunk Mice (The Orlando Sentinel, 2/16/10)
102.6 Percent: Debt To GDP Ratio To Be Reached This Year (The Washington Times, 2/14/11)
68 Percent: Number Of Americans Who Disapprove Of Obama’s Handling Of The Budget (Gallup, 1015A, MoE 4%, 2/2-5/11)
21: Number Of Months Unemployment Has Been At Or Above 9 Percent (U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Accessed: 2/16/11)
9 Percent: Current Unemployment Rate (U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Accessed: 2/16/11)
8 Percent: Unemployment Rate Obama Promised We’d Stay Under If The Stimulus Was Passed (“The Job Impact Of The American Recovery And Reinvestment Plan,” 1/9/09)
0: Number Of White House Officials Who Agreed To Testify Regarding The Stimulus (The Wall Street Journal, 2/16/11)
0: Number Of Shovel-Ready Projects Obama Now Admits Exist. (The New York Times, 10/13/10)
Treasury Secretary Geithner Acknowledges that Obama’s Budget Is “Unsustainable”:
On February 17, 2011, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner confirmed to the Senate Budget Committee that President Obama’s budget proposal would create a “very large interest burden and unsustainable obligations over time.” In the Budget Committee hearing, ranking Republican Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) asked Geithner about the effect of Obama’s newly proposed budget on the economy, specifically as it related to the increasing percentage of debt as related to gross domestic product.
“You’re absolutely right that with the President’s plan, even if Congress were to enact it, and even if Congress were to hold to it and reduce those deficits to 3 percent of GDP over the next five years, we would still be left with a very large interest burden and unsustainable obligations over time.”
To view a video of the full, remarkable exchange between Geithner and Sessions, click here.
Gay “Sensitivity Training” for Combat Troops:
In February 2011 — two months after President Obama had signed a bill to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulation which required gays in the military to hide their sexuality — it was announced that American combat troops would receive sensitivity training designed to teach them how to treat people of different sexual persuasions with respect. This training would be given to troops already in active combat, not just to those at a home base in the United States.
Elaine Donnelly, head of the Center for Military Readiness, said it was “ridiculous” to train combat Army soldiers and Marines who were engaged in daily combat with tenacious insurgents. “It’s absurd because the military has more important things to think about in that dangerous part of the world,” she said. “For the administration to say this is more important than even with the troops we’re trying to train in that part of the world, I think it shows flawed priorities at best. It is ridiculous.”
Congressional Budget Office Says that Obama Understated the Deficits His Budget Would Bring by $2.3 Trillion:
The Associated Press reported the following on March 19, 2011:
A new assessment of President Barack Obama’s budget released Friday says the White House underestimates future budget deficits by more than $2 trillion over the upcoming decade.
The estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that if Obama’s February budget submission is enacted into law it would produce deficits totaling $9.5 trillion over 10 years – an average of almost $1 trillion a year.
Obama’s budget saw deficits totaling $7.2 trillion over the same period.
The difference is chiefly because CBO has a less optimistic estimate of how much the government will collect in tax revenues, partly because the administration has rosier economic projections.
But the agency also rejects the administration’s claims of more than $300 billion of that savings – to pay for preventing a cut in Medicare payments to doctors – because it doesn’t specify where it would come from. Likewise, CBO fails to credit the White House with an additional $328 billion that would come from unspecified “bipartisan financing” to pay for transportation infrastructure projects such as high speed rail lines and road and bridge construction….
The estimated cost of the new health care law increased by about $90 billion, to $1.13 trillion, from 2012-2021. But the budget office didn’t issue a new estimate of the taxes and savings in the legislation that pay for Obama’s expansion of health insurance.
CBO had earlier projected the total of those offsets at $1.25 trillion. So the margin by which the new health care law reduces federal deficits appeared to be shrinking.
The White House’s goal is to reach a point where the budget is balanced except for interest payments on the $14 trillion national debt. Such “primary balance” occurs when the deficit is about 3 percent of the size of the economy, and economists say deficits of that magnitude are generally sustainable.
But CBO predicts that the deficit never gets below 4 percent of gross domestic product. That means that by the time 2021 arrives, the portion of the debt held by investors and foreign countries will reach a dangerously high 87 percent. And, as a result, interest costs for the government would explode from $214 billion this year to almost $1 trillion by decade’s end….
Just on Friday, 64 senators – 32 in each party – signed a letter to Obama calling on him to take the lead in coming up with a comprehensive deficit reduction plan along the lines of a plan issued last year by his own deficit commission. That plan called for a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code that would trade dozens of expensive tax breaks for lower individual and corporate rates, curb Social Security benefits and clamp down on spending across the budget.
Obama’s Energy Secretary Reiterates His Support for High Gas Prices:
On March 21, 2011, the Heritage Foundation reported the following:
This weekend, Energy Secretary Steven Chu appeared on Fox News Sunday and host Chris Wallace asked him about his desire in 2008 for Americans to punitively pay more at the pump in order to wean them off of gasoline. Shockingly, Chu did not walk back his comments as he has attempted to do in the past. In fact, he embraced the strategy noting that his focus is to ease the pain felt by his energy policies by forcing automakers to make more fuel-efficient automobiles:
WALLACE: In that regard, in 2008 you supported ramping up gas prices to coax Americans into more green energy cars and other uses, being more fuel efficient. You said this — and let’s put it on the screen — “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Where it is now more than $10 a gallon. In that sense, is the gas spike an opportunity for more green energy?
CHU: Well, what I said — what I’m doing since I became secretary of Energy has been quite clear. What I have been doing is developing methods to take the pain out of high gas prices.
We have been very focused in the Department of Energy on that. And, in fact, the entire administration has been very focused on that.
So, the increasing of the mileage standards is one way of doing this. A very concerted effort in electric vehicles, where we think within reach, within maybe four or five years, we could be testing batteries that can allow us to go 200, 300 miles on a single charge in a mass-marketed car.
WALLACE: I understand all that, and that is certainly part of your effort. But is the spike in gas prices — does that also help in making us more energy-efficient?
CHU: Well, the recent spike in gasoline prices following that huge spike in 2007, 2008 is a reminder to Americans that the price of gasoline over the long haul should be expected to go up just because of supply and demand issues. And so we see this in the buying habits of Americans as they make choices for the next car they buy.
Obama Orders Military Interventionin Libya:
On March 21, 2011, President Obama, without consulting Congress, authorized the involvement of the U.S. military in imposing a “no-fly zone” over Libya, to prevent President Qadhafi’s forces from bombing rebels who were challenging his regime. Obama said the U.S. action was as part of a “multilateral response authorized under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.” Added Obama: “I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.”
In a March 28, 2011 speech justifying his decision to use military force against Libya, Obama cited Qadhafi’s track-record of brutality and his recent declaration that he would “show ‘no mercy’ to his own people.” Added Obama:
“We knew that if we waited … one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world…. [W]hen our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act…. To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and, more profoundly, our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.”
Obama’s decision to intervene militarily in Libya represented a stark departure from the positions he had staked out as an Illinois state senator in 2002, when he criticized President Bush’s planned invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Speaking at an anti-war rally in Chicago on October 2, 2002, Obama said that Saddam’s brutality did not constitute sufficient cause to use military force to remove him from power:
“Now, let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied U.N. resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him….
“After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again. I don’t oppose all wars. … What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne….
“I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military is a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history….
Also in his 2002 speech, Obama said that instead of using force to depose Saddam, America should “fight” for democratic reforms in the Middle East, for stronger international nuclear safeguards, and for energy independence:
“Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join – the battles against ignorance and intolerance, corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.”
Obama’s 2011 decision also contradicted statements he had made on December 20, 2007, when a Boston Globe interviewer had asked for his opinion regarding the U.S. President’s constitutional authority to bomb Iran — if the need to do so should arise — without first seeking authorization from Congress. At that time (2007), Obama said:
“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. As commander in chief, the president does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.”
According to a March 22, 2011 Associated Press report: “Under the War Powers Resolution, the President has the authority to launch U.S. actions for 60-90 days before seeking an authorization from Congress. However, presidents haven’t always sought congressional approval, creating tensions between the two branches of government over the authority.”
On March 22, 2011, author and scholar Robert Spencer offered the following analysis of Obama’s actions:
As the U.S. fired more than 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya on Saturday, the objective seems clear. Barack Obama declared that “we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy.” He explained: “Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.” But he didn’t explain how acting forcibly to remove Muammar Gaddafi would indeed be in America’s interests. And that is a case that is not as easily made as it might appear to be.
How could removing Gaddafi, who is undeniably a tyrant and fanatically anti-American, not be in America’s interests? The simple answer is that it is unlikely that he will be succeeded by Thomas Jefferson or John Adams. The fact that Gaddafi is a reprehensible human being and no friend of the U.S. does not automatically turn his opponents into Thomas Paine.
Obama has strongly affirmed his support for “the universal rights of the Libyan people,” including “the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny,” but he has never specified exactly who in Libya is working to uphold and defend those rights. He has praised “the peaceful transition to democracy” that he says is taking place across the Middle East, and yet the countries where uprisings have taken place have no democratic traditions or significant forces calling for the establishment of a secular, Western-style republic.
In fact, there is considerable evidence to the contrary. Eastern Libya, where the anti-Gaddafi forces are based, is a hotbed of anti-Americanism and jihadist sentiment. A report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center reveals that during the last few years, more jihadists per capita entered Iraq from Libya than from any other Muslim country—and most of them came from the region that is now spearheading the revolt against Gaddafi.
That may explain why Libyan protesters have defaced Gaddafi’s picture with the Star of David, the hated symbol of the Jews, whom the Koran designates as the “strongest in enmity” toward the Muslims. There has been a notable absence among the protesters of anything equivalent to “Don’t Tread On Me” flags or other signs that what the uprising is really all about is establishing the ballot box and the hearty give-and-take of open-society politics. The Libyan protesters have chanted not “Give me liberty or give me death!” or even “Democracy, whiskey, sexy,” but “No God but Allah!”
Meanwhile, Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan who heads up al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, has warmly praised the uprising in his homeland, calling on Libyans to murder the tyrant and crowing: “Now it is the turn of Gaddafi after he made the people of Libya suffer for more than 40 years.” He said that removing Gaddafi as well as other Middle Eastern autocrats is “a step to reach the goal of every Muslim, which is to make the word of Allah the highest”—that is, to establish a state ruled by Islamic law.
Such a state would be inveterately hostile to the United States. “We have to get rid of our inferiority complex and free ourselves from the West,” declared al-Libi. Of course, the statements of a Libyan al-Qaeda commander 3,000 miles away from Libya don’t necessarily have any traction back home, but it is noteworthy that every Islamic hard-liner, from al-Qaeda leaders to the mullahs in Iran, has warmly praised the uprisings in Libya and elsewhere. Hiezbollah’s Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah recently told the people of Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen that Allah would grant them victory “if you persist in your jihad.”
“These revolutions,” Nasrallah enthused, “are the will of the people.” He seems confident that if the will of the people in Libya and elsewhere does indeed find expression, that what will result will not be pluralistic democracies that guarantee the rights of their people and are friendly toward the West, but Islamic states bristling with hatred for the Great Satan.
And America’s Tomahawk cruise missiles will have helped bring about such a state in Libya.
The “Responsibility to Protect”
According to reports, Samantha Power, Obama’s National Security Council special adviser on human rights, was instrumental in persuading Obama to authorize the military action against Libya. Power is a longtime advocate of the doctrine known as the “Responsibility to Protect,” which promotes global governance while allowing the international community to intervene in a particular country’s internal affairs — with military force if necessary — in order to thwart genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or ethnic cleansing. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, which is the world’s leading advocate of this doctrine, is funded by George Soros‘s Open Society Institute. In a 2004 Foreign Policy magazine article, George Soros himself discussed the fundamentals of the Responsibility to Protect, writing:
“If governments abuse the authority entrusted to them and citizens have no opportunity to correct such abuses, outside interference is justified. By specifying that sovereignty is based on the people, the international community can penetrate nation-states’ borders to protect the rights of citizens.”
Obama Authorizes Covert Operations in Libya:
On March 30, 2011, it was reported that two to three weeks earlier, President Obama had signed orders allowing the U.S. to offer its covert support (via secret operations) to the rebels trying to topple the Qaddafi from power in Libya.
Administration Announces It Will Try 9/11 Conspirators in Military Tribunal:
On April 4, 2011, the Obama administration announced that, in a reversal of its November 2009 decision, it would now proceed to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (and four co-conspirators) in a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay. As Andrew McCarthy observed at National Review Online:
Today’s reversal comes not because the administration wanted to abandon the push for a civilian trial. It comes because the president — as he not coincidentally announced today — is seeking reelection. Trying to force a civilian trial of the 9/11 attacks would doom that effort.
No one should be under the misimpression that today’s decision was made by the Justice Department, even if it is being announced by Attorney General Holder. From the start, the attorney general has been implementing President Obama’s policy — it was the president who, as a candidate, campaigned on returning the country to the pre-9/11 counterterrorism model that regarded al-Qaeda’s onslaught as a mere law enforcement problem.
That policy was a debacle. The American people want national security challenges treated like national security challenges, not like a crime wave. While public opinion regarding military operations in Iraq has been sharply divided, Americans strongly support a war footing when it comes to protecting our homeland from terrorist attack.
Never in the history of the United States have our wartime enemies been invited into our civilian courts, clothed in the majesty of our Constitution, enabled by our due process rules to comb through our intelligence files, and given a platform to put our government, our troops, and our society on trial. Unless and until we devise a new system for prosecuting enemy combatant terrorists, military commissions remain the appropriate vehicle for war crimes trials. This is not a departure from the rule of law, it is the rule of law during wartime.
The shame here is that the decision announced today should have been announced in January 2009. That was when the Obama administration pulled the plug on the war crimes military-commission against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 jihadists at the very moment when they were prepared to plead guilty and move on to execution.
By that point, millions of dollars and three years of effort had been expended to make discovery, litigate pretrial motions, and prepare for trial. Now, because of the administration’s politicized dithering, the case will have to start again from scratch and the terrorists will be able to raise new legal challenges to the prosecution based on prejudice they will inevitably say this dithering and delay caused.
Obama Lauds Al Sharpton:
On April 6, 2011, President Obama traveled to New York’s Sheraton Hotel & Towers to attend a 20th anniversary celebration of Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network. When addressing the crowd, Obama, who had heartily embraced Sharpton with a hug and a handshake, joked: “Some things have changed a lot since 1991. I told Rev. Al backstage he’s getting skinnier than me. But he hasn’t lost his style.” Others in attendance included such luminaries as Bill Cosby, Magic Johnson, Stevie Wonder, David Dinkins, Spike Lee, Martin Luther King III, Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Housing and Urban Development head Shaun Donovan.
“The other thing that hasn’t changed is the National Action Network’s commitment to fight injustice and inequality here in New York City and across America. That’s not only a testament to Reverend Sharpton. It’s a testament to all of you who are here tonight. I want to commend you for the work that you’ve done over the last two decades.”
Obama Articulates His Belief That the “Rich” Should Pay More Taxes:
In an April 13, 2011 speech on the topic of debt reduction, President Obama made the following statements:
Part of this American belief that we’re all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff may strike any one of us. “There but for the grace of God go I,” we say to ourselves. And so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, those with disabilities. We’re a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further. We would not be a great country without those commitments.
Now, for much of the last century, our nation found a way to afford these investments and priorities with the taxes paid by its citizens. As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally borne a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate. Everybody pays, but the wealthier have borne a little more. This is not because we begrudge those who’ve done well -– we rightly celebrate their success. Instead, it’s a basic reflection of our belief that those who’ve benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more. Moreover, this belief hasn’t hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale. They continue to do better and better with each passing year….
Go to China and you’ll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. They’re scrambling to figure out how they put more money into education. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but on biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the American people, the United States of America -– the greatest nation on Earth -– can’t afford any of this.
It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that 10 years from now, if you’re a 65-year-old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that’s available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck -– you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.
It’s a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. Who are these 50 million Americans? Many are somebody’s grandparents — may be one of yours — who wouldn’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some of these kids with disabilities are — the disabilities are so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.
And worst of all, this is a vision that says even though Americans can’t afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can’t afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about that.
In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That’s who needs to pay less taxes?
They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right. And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President. (Applause.)
This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That’s not a vision of the America I know….
Obama Administration Tries to Suppress Ominous Standard & Poors Financial Report:
In April 2011, Standard & Poors reported that the U.S. government was at risk of having its AAA credit rating downgraded from “stable” to “negative” sometime within the next two years. During the weeks preceding the release of that report, Obama administration officials tried, in private meetings with S&P analysts, to convince the agency that a ratings change would definitely be unnecessary because the administration had the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt under control. But S&P did not bow to the White House’s pressure.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said this about the Obama administration’s attempted coverup: “It is alarming that the [White House] would encourage S&P to suppress a damaging fiscal report for Obama’s partisan speech.”
Following the release of the S&P report, the White House tried to minimize its importance. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, for example, said there was no risk the country would lose its AAA credit rating. White House chief spokesman Jay Carney said: “We think that the political process will outperform S&P expectations.”
Obama Administration Chooses Not to Prosecute Known “Co-Conspirators” in Islamic Terrorism:
(The following synopsis is adapted from: “Obama Justice Department Saves Brotherhood Fronts,” by Ryan Mauro.)
In April 2011, investigative journalist Patrick Poole broke a blockbuster story about how the Obama Administration’s Justice Department had blocked plans to prosecute a co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and others labeled “unindicted co-conspirators” in the Holy Land Foundation trial.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) had all been designated by the federal government as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim Brotherhood front found guilty of covertly financing Hamas. On July 1, 2009, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis ruled that “The government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF [Holy Land Foundation], the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), and with Hamas.” (The IAP is another charity that was shut down for acting as a Brotherhood-created front for Hamas.) A total of 246 organizations and individuals received the label but never faced prosecution. In April 2011, a high-level Justice Department source informed Patrick Poole that this was because of a decision by the Obama Administration, in what the source called “a political decision from the get-go.” A second Justice Department source substantiated the tip.
A March 31, 2010 report titled “Declination of Prosecution of Omar Ahmad,” referring to one of the co-founders of CAIR, was sent from Assistant Attorney General David Kris to Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler. The document claims that Ahmad would not be prosecuted because of fears that jury nullification would result. The source of the information rejects this and says it is just an excuse to not move forward.
Rep. Peter King later confirmed that story and wrote that he had been “reliably informed” that the decision to not prosecute the unindicted co-conspirators “was usurped by high-ranking officials at Department of Justice headquarters over the vehement and stated objections of special agents and supervisors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the prosecution at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas, who had investigated and successfully prosecuted the Holy Land Foundation case.”
David Rusin, the director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, told FrontPageMag.com that “if Congress subpoenas Justice Department files on the organizations, incriminating details go public.” Such an investigation would be “a nightmare in the making for groups like CAIR and ISNA, whose very lifeblood has been the ability to camouflage their radicalism with the aid of gullible dupes in government and the press.”
Poole’s Justice Department source explained the decision not to prosecute Ahmad and the others involved: “These individuals who were going to be prosecuted are still the administration’s interfaith allies. Not only would these Muslim groups and their friends in the media be screaming ‘Islamophobia’ at the top of their lungs and that this is a war against Islam, but the administration would look like absolute fools,” the source said.
Report on the Growing American Welfare State:
In April 2010, The Fiscal Times issued the following report:
… For the first time since the Great Depression, households are receiving more income from the government than they are paying the government in taxes. The combination of more cash from various programs, called transfer payments, and lower taxes has been a double-barreled boost to consumers’ buying power, while also blowing a hole in the deficit. The 1930s offer a cautionary tale: The only other time government income support exceeded taxes paid was from 1931 to 1936. That trend reversed in 1936, after a recovery was underway, and the economy fell back into a second leg of recession during 1937 and 1938.
As then, the pattern now reflects two factors: the severe depth of the 2007-09 recession and the massive fiscal policy response to it. The recession cut deeply into tax payments as more people lost their jobs, and it boosted payments for so-called automatic stabilizers, such as unemployment insurance, that ramp up payments as the economy turns down. Plus, policy actions, including the Recovery Act, boosted payments to households by expanding and extending jobless benefits and creating other income subsidies while extending the Bush-era tax cuts and adding new reductions in income and payroll taxes….
Government transfers of income to households started to overtake personal taxes at the start of 2008, and the gap has been widening. In 2010, households received $2.3 trillion in income support from unemployment benefits, Social Security, disability insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, education assistance and other cash transfers of government funds to individuals. Also last year, households paid $2.2 trillion in income, payroll, and other taxes. The difference was $125 billion, equivalent to 1 percentage point of overall personal income and about three times the amount Republicans and Democrats agreed to cut from government spending through Sept. 30.
Since the onset of the recession, government direct payments have increased by $579 billion, accounting for 79 percent of the growth in overall personal income. As job growth has picked up, that contribution has diminished, but during 2010, government cash still accounted for 28 percent of the increase in income. Not surprisingly, Social Security, including survivors’ and disability benefits, accounted for a significant portion of the increased payments and the amount paid out in unemployment benefits more than tripled over that period. At the same time, tax payments since the recession began have fallen by $312 billion, also providing a boost to consumers’ purchasing power.
Typically, the gap between transfers and taxes runs the other way –- and by a wide margin. “In normal times the household sector gives about 8 percentage points more of its income in taxes than it receives in direct transfers,” says J.P. Morgan economist Michael Feroli. The potential problem over the next few years is the enormous drag on household income as stimulus measures such as the payroll tax cut and extended unemployment benefits expire. Even if unemployment declines from its current level, the labor markets may not be strong enough to generate the wage and salary income needed to offset that drag….
Consumers needed support in the first quarter, as inflation from surging energy costs ate into the buying power of their incomes….
An increasing number of economists are downgrading their expectations for first quarter economic growth, to be reported on Apr. 28, and for the rest of the year. The drag from costlier energy is lasting longer than expected, and uncertainties over the impact of Japan’s struggles and the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East are weighing on growth. Obama’s recent deal with the GOP to cut nearly $40 billion from the federal budget for fiscal 2011 is equivalent to about 0.5 percentage points of GDP over the next six months, although the timing of those cuts is not yet set.
EPA Promotes Faith-Based Program to Push Radical Environmentalism:
In April 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the formation of a Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Initiative designed to promote the tenets of radical environmentalism among religious congregations nationwide. One facet of this Initiative, titled the “ecoAmbassador” program, urged college students to become community organizers who pressured school administrators into adopting recycling programs, installing windmills and solar shingles, and eliminating the use of pesticides. The program’s motto was, “Change a Light, Change the World.” As the Washington Times reported:
“Progressive rabbis and pastors who want to be seen praying in an environmentally conscious space in synagogues and churches will be rewarded with the coveted Energy Star certification. A glossy 39-page guide, ‘Putting Energy Into Stewardship,’ starts off by explaining that pricey projects can usually be funded not with help from above, but from state and federal subsidies.”
Obama Administration terminates the Yucca Mountain, Nevada site designed to store spent nuclear fuel:
According to an April 2011 Government Accounting Office [GAO] report, the Obama administration’s decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain, Nevada site as a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, set back — by decades — U.S. efforts to store nuclear waste safely.
Author David Freddoso writes:
“The opposition to the Yucca mountain site in Nevada, the [GAO] report notes, is not based on sound science. Rather, despite Obama’s promise to base decisions on science, this one is based entirely on political and social considerations — mostly having to do with the power of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has maneuvered for years to block the site’s use. Even worse, the money spent so far on Yucca means there may not be enough left over to build a new facility for the waste.
“Taxpayers will also be held liable for Reid’s successful waiting game. The federal government has already paid more than $15 billion because of lawsuits over its failure to take control of nuclear waste from across the nation as planned, the report says. Meanwhile, nuclear waste is scattered across America, waiting for a permanent home.”
Obama Finally Releases His Birth Certificate:
On April 27, 2011, the White House released copies of President Obama’s original long-form birth certificate, which stated that Obama was born at Honolulu’s Kapiolani Hospital on August 4, 1961. The release of the document ended more than two years of intense speculation about whether or not Obama was American-born. “We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” Obama told reporters at the White House on the day he made his birth certificate public. “I’ve been puzzled at the degree to which this [story] just kept on going.”
Obama Calls for an End to Tax Breaks for Oil Companies:
In late April 2011, President Obama said that oil companies were profiting from rising gasoline prices, and that he wanted Congress to end $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. “These tax giveaways aren’t right,” Obama stated. “They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.”
Osama bin Laden Is Killed by U.S. Navy SEALs:
Late on the night of May 1, 2011, 40 U.S. Navy SEALS — on orders from President Obama — raided a Pakistani compound where bin Laden was believed to be residing. They found there terrorist leader therein and gunned him down.
A key development in the search for the elusive bin Laden had occurred in 2007, when two Guantanamo Bay detainees — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi — were shipped to “extraordinary rendition” sites in Eastern Europe where they were waterboarded. As a direct result of the waterboarding, these men provided U.S. officials with the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden’s most trusted personal couriers. The informants indicated that the courier in question might be living with, and protecting, the al Qaeda leader. Proceeding from that tip, U.S. intelligence officials painstakingly set out to locate the courier. In August 2010 they finally succeeded in tracing him to a three-story, million-dollar residence situated on a one-acre compound in Abbottabad, an affluent suburb about 35 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan. Further surveillance suggested, though never conclusively proved, that bin Laden himself was also living there. His presence was ultimately confirmed on the night of his death.
It is notable that Obama had long been an outspoken critic of both the Guantanamo Bay detention center and enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, had been just as critical. Indeed Holder had condemned Guantanamo as an “international embarrassment,” accusing the U.S. government of having “authorized torture and … let fear take precedence over the rule of law.” In a June 2008 speech to the American Constitution Society (ACS), Holder, condemned “the disastrous course” which the Bush administration had followed in its efforts to combat terrorism. “Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the ‘War on Terror,’” he said, “have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe.” Holder added that the Bush administration had taken many steps that “were both excessive and unlawful” in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
“I never thought I would see the day when a Justice Department would claim that only the most extreme infliction of pain and physical abuse constitutes torture and that acts that are merely cruel, inhuman and degrading are consistent with United States law and policy, that the Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention, never thought that I would see that a president would act in direct defiance of federal law by authorizing warrantless NSA surveillance of American citizens. This disrespect for the rule of law is not only wrong, it is destructive in our struggle against terrorism.”
Obama Announces the Killing of bin Laden:
According to journalist Christina Lamb, the US Navy SEALS who killed bin Laden were “shocked that President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s death on television the same evening, rendering useless much of the intelligence they had seized.”
Chuck Pfarrer, a former commander of Seal Team 6, which conducted the operation, said: “There isn’t a politician in the world who could resist trying to take credit for getting bin Laden but it devalued the ‘intel’ and gave time for every other al-Qa’ida leader to scurry to another bolthole. The men who did this and their valorous act deserve better. It’s a pretty shabby way to treat these guys.”
Obama Allegedly Played Cards During Bin Laden Raid:
Reggie Love, who, at the time of the raid that killed bin Laden, served as President Obama’s special assistant and personal aide — commonly referred to as the “body man” for taking care of the president’s needs — later stated publicly that he and Obama had played cards during the raid. Said Love:
“Most people were like down in the Situation Room and [President Obama] was like, ‘I’m not going to be down there, I can’t watch this entire thing,’ We must have played 15 games of spades.”
Obama Makes Speech on Immigration:
In May 2011, President Obama went to El Paso, Texas to give what was billed as an important speech on immigration. When he mentioned the border fence which was under construction at that time, the crowd shouted, “Tear it down!” When he criticized Republicans, the audience booed and jeered, “They’re racist.” At other times, the crowd joined Obama in chanting, “Yes, we can.”
At one point during his speech, Obama claimed that “the [border] fence is now basically complete.” He then promptly mocked opponents of illegal immigration by saying, “Maybe they’ll need a moat [i.e., to keep Mexicans out of the United States]. Maybe they’ll need alligators in the moat.” (In reality, fewer than 700 miles of the more than 1,900-mile U.S.-Mexico border had any sort of barrier, and less than 5 percent of the border had a secure double-fenced barrier. Moreover, a recent Government Accountability Office study had found that 40 percent of the border was essentially open and unguarded.
Obama Lays out His Vision of a Mideast Peace Settlement:
On May 19, 2011, President Obama delivered a speech at the State Department regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. After saying that “Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist,” he called for the establishment of a Palestinian state — even though neither Hamas nor Fatah had ever acknowledged Israel’s right to exist; nor did Obama make such an acknowledgment a precondition of the establishment of a Palestinian state. Obama also urged Israel to understand that it would never be able to achieve genuine peace if it persisted in seeking “permanent occupation.”
In issuing his call for the existence of “two states,” Obama said that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” He was referring to the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
But Obama was not calling for a return to the 1967 borders per se; rather, he advocated the creation of a “sovereign and contiguous state” for the Palestinian Arabs — not precisely along the 1967 lines, but along new borders “based on the 1967 lines.” But as Islam scholar Robert Spencer pointed out:
“There were … no 1967 lines in which Palestinian Arab territory was contiguous. For the territory of Palestine to be contiguous, that of Israel will have to be substantially reduced. Israel’s 1967 borders were indefensible, and Obama is calling for Israel to be reduced even further so that a contiguous Palestinian state can be established.
“What’s more, Obama specified that the new Palestinian state should have ‘borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt,’ while Israel should have ‘borders with Palestine.’ The implication was that Israel, in Obama’s vision, will border on neither Jordan nor Egypt — only on ‘Palestine.’ Yet currently Israel has substantial borders with both Jordan and Egypt. Obama was implying that his contiguous Palestine would comprise not just Gaza and Judea and Samaria, but large expanses of Israeli territory bordering on those two states.”
In response to Obama’s speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967 could leave the Jewish state “indefensible.” “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence,” the Israeli leader said.
On May 26, 2011, columnist Charles Krauthammer offered a profound and incisive analysis of Obama’s proposal:
Every Arab-Israeli negotiation contains a fundamental asymmetry: Israel gives up land, which is tangible; the Arabs make promises, which are ephemeral. The long-standing American solution has been to nonetheless urge Israel to take risks for peace while America balances things by giving assurances of U.S. support for Israel’s security and diplomatic needs.
It’s on the basis of such solemn assurances that Israel undertook, for example, the Gaza withdrawal. In order to mitigate this risk, President George W. Bush gave a written commitment that America supported Israel absorbing major settlement blocs in any peace agreement, opposed any return to the 1967 lines, and stood firm against the so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel.
For 2 and 1/2 years, the Obama administration has refused to recognize and reaffirm these assurances. Then last week in his State Department speech, President Obama definitively trashed them. He declared that the Arab-Israeli conflict should indeed be resolved along “the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
Nothing new here, said Obama three days later. “By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different” from 1967.
It means nothing of the sort. “Mutually” means both parties have to agree. And if one side doesn’t? Then, by definition, you’re back to the 1967 lines.
Nor is this merely a theoretical proposition. Three times the Palestinians have been offered exactly that formula, 1967 plus swaps — at Camp David 2000, Taba 2001, and the 2008 Olmert-Abbas negotiations. Every time, the Palestinians said no and walked away.
And that remains their position today: The 1967 lines. Period. Indeed, in September the Palestinians are going to the United Nations to get the world to ratify precisely that — a Palestinian state on the ’67 lines. No swaps.
Note how Obama has undermined Israel’s negotiating position. He is demanding that Israel go into peace talks having already forfeited its claim to the territory won in the ’67 war — its only bargaining chip. Remember: That ’67 line runs right through Jerusalem. Thus the starting point of negotiations would be that the Western Wall and even Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter are Palestinian — alien territory for which Israel must now bargain.
The very idea that Judaism’s holiest shrine is alien, or that Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter is rightfully or historically or demographically Arab, is an absurdity. And the idea that, in order to retain them, Israel has to give up parts of itself is a travesty.
Obama didn’t just move the goal posts on borders. He also did so on the so-called right of return. Flooding Israel with millions of Arabs would destroy the world’s only Jewish state while creating a 23rd Arab state and a second Palestinian state — not exactly what we mean when we speak of a “two-state solution.” That’s why it has been the policy of the United States to adamantly oppose this “right.”
Yet in his State Department speech, Obama refused to simply restate this position — and refused again in a supposedly corrective speech three days later. Instead, he told Israel it must negotiate the right of return with the Palestinians after having given every inch of territory. Bargaining with what, pray tell?
No matter. “The status quo is unsustainable,” declared Obama, “and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”
Israel too? Exactly what bold steps for peace have the Palestinians taken? Israel made three radically conciliatory offers to establish a Palestinian state, withdrew from Gaza and has been trying to renew negotiations for more than two years. Meanwhile, the Gaza Palestinians have been firing rockets at Israeli towns and villages. And on the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas turns down then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer, walks out of negotiations with Binyamin Netanyahu and now defies the United States by seeking not peace talks but instant statehood — without peace, without recognizing Israel — at the United Nations. And to make unmistakable this spurning of any peace process, Abbas agrees to join the openly genocidal Hamas in a unity government, which even Obama acknowledges makes negotiations impossible.
Obama’s response to this relentless Palestinian intransigence? To reward it — by abandoning the Bush assurances, legitimizing the ’67 borders and refusing to reaffirm America’s rejection of the right of return.
The only remaining question is whether this perverse and ultimately self-defeating policy is born of genuine antipathy toward Israel or of the arrogance of a blundering amateur who refuses to see that he is undermining not just peace but the very possibility of negotiations.
Obama Justice Department Investigates Police Departments for Civil-Rights Abuses:
On May 31, 2011, Salon.com reported the following:
In a marked shift from the Bush administration, President Obama’s Justice Department is aggressively investigating several big urban police departments for systematic civil rights abuses such as harassment of racial minorities, false arrests, and excessive use of force….
In just the past few months, the Civil Rights Division has announced “pattern and practice” investigations in Newark, New Jersey and Seattle. It’s also conducting a preliminary investigation of the Denver Police Department, and all this is on top of a high-profile push to reform the notorious New Orleans Police Department — as well as criminal prosecutions of several New Orleans officers.
The “pattern and practice” authority comes from a 1994 law passed by Congress after the brutal beating of Rodney King by white Los Angeles police officers, who allegedly yelled racial slurs as they hit him. The law allows the DOJ to sue police departments if there is a pattern of violations of citizens’ constitutional rights — things like an excessive use of force, discrimination, and illegal searches. Often, after an investigation, the police department in question will enter into a voluntary reform agreement with the DOJ to avoid a lawsuit and the imposition of reforms….
Many of the New Orleans officers being criminally prosecuted — several of whom have been convicted — were involved in grisly killings of innocent city residents in the chaotic days after Katrina. A separate civil rights investigation by the DOJ recently concluded that the New Orleans Police Department has engaged in excessive use of force, unconstitutional arrests and racial profiling. An independent monitor is expected to be appointed to make sure the department follows through with reforms in training, policies on the use of force, and accountability to the public….
The man who is at least partly responsible for crackdown on police misconduct is Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division…. “In case you haven’t heard, the Civil Rights Division is once again open for business,” Perez told a police oversight association last September, pointedly adding, “There were very few [pattern and practice] cases during the prior administration.”
He also offered a window into his thinking when I interviewed him last year about the situation in New Orleans, home to the most notorious police department in the country. “Criminal prosecutions alone, I have learned, are not enough to change the culture of a police department,” Perez said then….
According to the Justice Department, 22 pattern-and-practice investigations were opened during the Bush administration, and eight have been opened during Obama’s presidency. But the Bush-era investigations largely involved quite small departments. Perez has been leading the Civil Rights Division for about 18 months (his confirmation was blocked by Republicans for six months), and high-profile investigations of three big-city departments have already been opened, with another probe in Denver possibly on the way.
Evaluating the Auto-Industry Bailouts:
On June 6, 2011, the Wall Street Journal published this article, “The Real Cost of the Auto Bailouts,” written by David Skeel:
President Obama’s visit to a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, on Friday was the culmination of a campaign to portray the auto bailouts as a brilliant success with no unpleasant side effects. “The industry is back on its feet,” the president said, “repaying its debt, gaining ground.”
If the government hadn’t stepped in and dictated the terms of the restructuring, the story goes, General Motors and Chrysler would have collapsed, and at least a million jobs would have been lost. The bailouts averted disaster, and they did so at remarkably little cost.
The problem with this happy story is that neither of its parts is accurate. Commandeering the bankruptcy process was not, as apologists for the bailouts claim, the only hope for GM and Chrysler. And the long-term costs of the bailouts will be enormous.
In late 2008, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson tapped the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Fund to lend more than $17 billion to General Motors and Chrysler. With the fate of the car companies still uncertain at the outset of the Obama administration in 2009, Mr. Obama set up an auto task force headed by “car czar” Steve Rattner.
Under the strategy that was chosen, each of the companies was required to file for bankruptcy as a condition of receiving additional funding. Rather than undergo a restructuring under ordinary bankruptcy rules, however, each corporation pretended to “sell” its assets to a new entity that was set up for the purposes of the sale.
With Chrysler, the new entity paid $2 billion, which went to Chrysler’s senior lenders, giving them a small portion of the $6.9 billion they were owed. (Fiat was given a large stake in the new entity, although it did not contribute any money). But the “sale” also ensured that Chrysler’s unionized retirees would receive a big recovery on their $10 billion claim—a $4.6 billion promissory note and 55% of Chrysler’s stock—even though they were lower priority creditors.
If other bidders were given a legitimate opportunity to top the $2 billion of government money on offer, this might have been a legitimate transaction. But they weren’t. A bid wouldn’t count as “qualified” unless it had the same strings as the government bid—a sizeable payment to union retirees and full payment of trade debt. If a bidder wanted to offer $2.5 billion for Chrysler’s Jeep division, he was out of luck. With General Motors, senior creditors didn’t get trampled in the same way. But the “sale,” which left the government with 61% of GM’s stock, was even more of a sham.
If the government wanted to “sell” the companies in bankruptcy, it should have held real auctions and invited anyone to bid. But the government decided that there was no need to let pesky rule-of-law considerations interfere with its plan to help out the unions and other favored creditors. Victims of defective GM and Chrysler cars waiting to be paid damages weren’t so fortunate—they’ll end up getting nothing or next to nothing.
Nor would both companies simply have collapsed if the government hadn’t orchestrated the two transactions. General Motors was a perfectly viable company that could have been restructured under the ordinary reorganization process. The only serious question was GM’s ability to obtain financing for its bankruptcy, given the credit market conditions in 2008. But even if financing were not available—and there’s a very good chance it would have been—the government could have provided funds without also usurping the bankruptcy process.
Although Chrysler wasn’t nearly so healthy, its best divisions—Jeep in particular—would have survived in a normal bankruptcy, either through restructuring or through a sale to a more viable company. This is very similar to what the government bailout did, given that Chrysler is essentially being turned over to Fiat.
The claim that the bailouts were done at little cost is even more dubious. This side of the story rests on the observation that GM’s success in selling a significant amount of stock, reducing the government’s stake, and Chrysler’s repayment of its loans, show that the direct costs to taxpayers may be lower than many originally feared. But this doesn’t mean that taxpayers are off the hook. They are still likely to end up with a multibillion dollar bill—nearly $14 billion, according to current White House estimates.
But the $14 billion figure omits the cost of the previously accumulated tax losses GM can apply against future profits, thanks to a special post-bailout government gift. The ordinary rule is that these losses can only be preserved after bankruptcy if the company is restructured—not if it’s sold. By waiving this rule, the government saved GM at least $12 billion to $13 billion in future taxes, a large chunk of which (not all, because taxpayers also own GM stock) came straight out of taxpayers’ pockets.
The indirect costs may be the worst problem here. The car bailouts have sent the message that, if a politically important industry is in trouble, the government may step in, rearrange the existing creditors’ normal priorities, and dictate the result it wants. Lenders will be very hesitant to extend credit under these conditions.
This will make it much harder, and much more costly, for a company in a politically sensitive industry to borrow money when it is in trouble. As a result, the government will face even more pressure to step in with a bailout in the future. In effect, the government is crowding out the ordinary credit markets.
None of this suggests that we should be unhappy with the recent success of General Motors and Chrysler. Their revival is a very encouraging development. But to claim that the car companies would have collapsed if the government hadn’t intervened in the way it did, and to suggest that the intervention came at very little cost, is a dangerous misreading of our recent history.
Mr. Skeel, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of “The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and its (Unintended) Consequences” (Wiley, 2010).
Obama’s Failing Economic Policies:
In early June 2011, Harvard professor Martin Feldstein wrote the following analysis of President Obama’s failing economic policies in the Wall Street Journal:
The policies of the Obama administration have led to the weak condition of the American economy. Growth during the coming year will be subpar at best, leaving high or rising levels of unemployment and underemployment.
The drop in GDP growth to just 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011, from 3.1% in the final quarter of last year, understates the extent of the decline. Two-thirds of that 1.8% went into business inventories rather than sales to consumers or other final buyers. This means that final sales growth was at an annual rate of just 0.6% and the actual quarterly increase was just 0.15%—dangerously close to no rise at all. A sustained expansion cannot be built on inventory investment. It takes final sales to induce businesses to hire and to invest.
The picture is even gloomier if we look in more detail. Estimates of monthly GDP indicate that the only growth in the first quarter of 2011 was from February to March. After a temporary rise in March, the economy began sliding again in April, with declines in real wages, in durable-goods orders and manufacturing production, in existing home sales, and in real per-capita disposable incomes. It is not surprising that the index of leading indicators fell in April, only the second decline since it began to rise in the spring of 2009.
The data for May are beginning to arrive and are even worse than April’s. They are marked by a collapse in payroll-employment gains; a higher unemployment rate; manufacturers’ reports of slower orders and production; weak chain-store sales; and a sharp drop in consumer confidence.
How has the Obama administration contributed to this failure to achieve a robust and sustainable recovery?
The administration’s most obvious failure was its misguided fiscal policies: the cash-for-clunkers subsidy for car buyers, the tax credit for first-time home buyers, and the $830 billion “stimulus” package. Cash-for-clunkers gave a temporary boost to motor-vehicle production but had no lasting impact on the economy. The home-buyer credit stimulated the demand for homes only temporarily.
As for the “stimulus” package, both its size and structure were inadequate to offset the enormous decline in aggregate demand. The fall in household wealth by the end of 2008 reduced the annual level of consumer spending by more than $500 billion. The drop in home building subtracted another $200 billion from GDP. The total GDP shortfall was therefore more than $700 billion. The Obama stimulus package that started at less than $300 billion in 2009 and reached a maximum of $400 billion in 2010 wouldn’t have been big enough to fill the $700 billion annual GDP gap even if every dollar of the stimulus raised GDP by a dollar.
In fact, each dollar of extra deficit added much less than a dollar to GDP. Experience shows that the most cost-effective form of temporary fiscal stimulus is direct government spending. The most obvious way to achieve that in 2009 was to repair and replace the military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan that would otherwise have to be done in the future. But the Obama stimulus had nothing for the Defense Department. Instead, President Obama allowed the Democratic leadership in Congress to design a hodgepodge package of transfers to state and local governments, increased transfers to individuals, temporary tax cuts for lower-income taxpayers, etc. So we got a bigger deficit without economic growth.
A second cause of the continued economic weakness is the president’s emphasis on increasing tax rates. Although Mr. Obama grudgingly agreed to continue the Bush tax cuts for 2011 and 2012, his budget this year repeated his call for higher tax rates on upper-income individuals and multinational corporations. With that higher-tax cloud hanging over them, it is not surprising that individuals and businesses do not make the entrepreneurial investments and business expansions that would cause a solid recovery.
A third problem stems from the administration’s lack of an explicit plan to deal with future budget deficits and with the exploding national debt. This creates uncertainty about future tax increases and interest rates that impedes spending by households and investment by businesses. The national debt has jumped to 69% of GDP this year, from 40% in 2008. It is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to reach more than 85% by the end of the decade, and to keep rising after that. The reality is even worse since ObamaCare alone will cost more than $1 trillion in its first 10 years. The president’s boast that his health legislation would not “add a dime” to the national debt was possible only by combining that increased spending with proposed new taxes and with projected cuts in Medicare spending that will never occur.
Finally, there is the administration’s incoherent position on the international value of the dollar. The Treasury repeats the slogan that “a strong dollar is good for America” while watching the real value of the dollar fall by 7% over the past year, and while urging the Chinese to allow the dollar to fall more quickly relative to the yuan. The lack of a consistent dollar policy adds to the uncertainty that limits business investment and hiring.
The economy will continue to suffer until there is a coherent and favorable economic policy. That means bringing long-term deficits under control without raising marginal tax rates—by cutting government outlays and by limiting the tax expenditures that substitute for direct government spending. It means lower tax rates on businesses and individuals to spur entrepreneurship and investment. And it means reforming Social Security and Medicare to protect the living standards of future retirees while limiting the cost to future taxpayers.
All of these things are doable. But the Obama administration has not done them and shows no inclination to do them in the future.
Mr. Feldstein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan, is a professor at Harvard and a member of The Wall Street Journal’s board of contributors.
Ten Lawmakers Sue Obama over Libya Strikes:
In June 2011, a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers sued President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates for taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress. The plaintiffs included three Democrats (Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, and Michael Capuano) and seven Republicans (Walter Jones, Howard Coble, Tim Johnson, Dan Burton, Jimmy Duncan, Roscoe Bartlett, and Ron Paul). Claiming that Obama had violated the Constitution in bypassing Congress and using international organizations like the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to authorize military force, they sought to have a judge issue an order suspending military operations without congressional approval.
Republican John Boehner, for his part, wrote to Obama:
“Either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution. The House and the American people whom we represent deserve to know the determination you have made.”
In reponse, the White House asserted that President Obama had the authority to continue the military campaign without Congressional approval because America’s involvement in Libya fell short of full-blown hostilities.
“We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own,” said State Department legal advisor Harold Koh. “We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”
Obama Rewards Big Donors and Bundlers with Jobs, Stimulus Money, and Government Contracts:
On June 15, 2011, the Center for Public Integrity reported the following:
Telecom executive Donald H. Gips raised a big bundle of cash to help finance his friend Barack Obama’s run for the presidency.
Gips, a vice president of Colorado-based Level 3 Communications LLC, delivered more than $500,000 in contributions for the Obama war chest, while two fellow senior company executives collected at least $150,000 more.
After the election, Gips was put in charge of hiring in the Obama White House, helping to place loyalists and fundraisers in many key positions. Then in mid-2009, the new president named him ambassador to South Africa. Level 3 Communications, in which Gips retained stock, meanwhile received millions of dollars of government stimulus contracts for broadband projects in six states—though Gips said he was “completely unaware” of the stimulus money.
More than two years after President Obama took office vowing to banish “special interests” from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events, an investigation by iWatch News has found.
These “bundlers” raised at least $50,000 and sometimes more than $500,000 in campaign donations for Obama’s campaign. Many of those in the “Class of 2008” are now being asked to bundle contributions for Obama’s re-election, an effort that could cost $1 billion.
As a candidate, Obama spoke passionately about diminishing the clout of moneyed interests and making the White House more accessible to everyday Americans. In kicking off his presidential run on Feb. 10, 2007, he blasted “the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests,” who he said had “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.” …
But just like other presidential aspirants, Obama relied heavily on mega-donors to propel his campaign across the finish line and many fundraisers have shared in the spoils of victory. Some took jobs in pivotal federal agencies such as the Department of Justice, Department of Energy and the Federal Communications Commission, while others have served on influential advisory commissions and boards that meet periodically to help formulate policy. Two dozen have been appointed ambassadors to foreign countries….
The iWatch News investigation found:
• Overall, 184 of 556, or about one-third, of Obama bundlers or their spouses joined the administration in some role. But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took “key administration posts,” as defined by the White House. More than half the ambassador nominees who were bundlers raised more than half a million.
• The big bundlers had broad access to the White House for meetings with top administration officials and glitzy social events. In all, campaign bundlers and their family members account for more than 3,000 White House meetings and visits. Half of them raised $200,000 or more.
• Some Obama bundlers have ties to companies that stand to gain financially from the president’s policy agenda, particularly in clean energy and telecommunications, and some already have done so. Level 3 Communications, for instance, snared $13.8 million in stimulus money. At least 18 other bundlers have ties to businesses poised to profit from government spending to promote clean energy, telecommunications and other key administration priorities.
Some bundlers trade on their campaign largesse for Obama to further career aspirations or business plans. Others, already successful, simply enjoy the exclusive stature bestowed by ties to the White House. Lena L. Kennedy, for instance, papers her Southern California consulting website with photographs of herself with Obama. She put out a press release announcing a June 13 fundraiser featuring Michelle Obama in Los Angeles; ticket prices ran from $1,000 to $10,000, the latter “allowing a photo opportunity and private time with the First Lady.” She declined to comment for this article.
“Some people just crave attention and some people just like getting the notoriety or attention of being a big player,” said Thomas M. McInerney, a San Francisco lawyer who bundled at least $100,000 for Obama. He said he didn’t ask for or get anything in return, though he knew others who did. “There was so much money this time, and there were so many people involved in raising the money, the number of people looking for something was exponentially more.”
Rewarding the donors
While the Obama administration tightened restrictions on hiring lobbyists, the deference it has shown major donors contradicts its claims to have changed business as usual in Washington, critics said….
Many of the Obama bundlers said they did not seek or expect anything for themselves.
“I just want to see somebody do a good job,” said Stewart Bainum, a Chevy Chase, Md., hotel chain CEO who with his wife, Sandy, raised $500,000 for Obama in 2008. He is listed in White House logs as a guest at a St. Patrick’s Day party last year. “The dividend is decent government and a strong leader with values similar to your own,” Bainum said.
Sacramento jeweler Jon Merksamer, a first-time bundler who collected more than $200,000 for the Obama campaign, said some fundraisers are “people with various political agendas,” and “having access to power is part of their agenda. That was never part of mine.” Some bundlers “make it clear what they are looking for,” said Merksamer.
Chicago CPA Harvey S. Wineberg, who raised at least $100,000 and is Obama’s personal accountant, said his fundraising had “nothing to do” with his appointment to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability in December 2010. Wineberg said he called a White House staffer, who he declined to name, to ask about serving on the council. “I thought I’d be good,” he said. He has since resigned.
Bundling is controversial because it permits campaigns to skirt individual contribution limits of $2,500 in federal elections. Bundlers pool donations from fundraising networks and as a result “play an enormous role in determining the success of political campaigns,” according to Public Citizen. The group has tracked bundlers on a website www.whitehouseforsale.org in the belief that they are “apt to receive preferential treatment if their candidate wins.”
Under pressure from watchdog groups, Obama disclosed the names of hundreds of bundlers during the 2008 campaign, listing them by ranges starting with at least $50,000, then $100,000, $200,000 and more than $500,000. The campaign identified the bundlers by name, state of residence, and in some cases, their employers.
When the new administration set up shop in the White House on Jan. 20, 2009, the money raisers quickly followed.
White House visitor logs show about 800 bundler visits during the formative early months of the administration, and overall the top-tier bundlers tended to show up far more often than those at the bottom rung.
Bundlers have been guests at concerts, state dinners and informal parties, such as the first family’s Super Bowl parties, or in a few cases to bowling outings and other special events to which they brought along spouses and family members.
Some are longtime friends of the first family, such as Chicagoans Cindy Moelis and her husband Robert Rivkin, who as a couple bundled at least $200,000. Obama appointed Moelis in April 2009 to direct the Presidential Commission on White House Fellows. Her husband was appointed general counsel of the Department of Transportation and special adviser to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Rivkin once served as general counsel to the Chicago Transit Authority. The couple and their children were among the guests at the Obamas’ 101-guest Super Bowl party in early February 2010.
Moelis told iWatch News that she and her husband were “highly qualified” for their jobs and that they “took pay cuts and made considerable sacrifice” to enter public service. “We truly believe in it,” she said.
While open government advocates have criticized the White House visitors’ logs for leaving out the names of many people who enter the complex, as well as the reasons for the visits, the logs consistently list bundler visits.
The bundlers often arrived to see David C. Jacobson, then a special assistant for presidential personnel in the White House. The Chicago lawyer, himself an Obama bundler, served as the 2008 campaign deputy finance director. Jacobson, who departed in September 2009 to become ambassador to Canada, scheduled about 90 meetings with bundlers, according to an iWatch News analysis. Two-thirds of them had each raised at least $200,000.
Gips, who served as White House director of presidential personnel before taking the post in South Africa, saw more than a dozen bundlers. Other inner-circle White House officials, such as presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, also a bundler, met with more than 50 bundlers, mostly the heavy hitters.
Obama met with at least two dozen bundlers either privately or with another person, according to the visitor logs.
Getting a position
Ambassadorships have been the classic payoff for big bundlers. But it’s not just the posts in foreign capitals that are attractive. Light, the NYU expert on presidential transitions, said that in recent years many have sought jobs with deep reach into the federal bureaucracy — and found a receptive ear in the White House.
“When they get a resume from a bundler, that is a real signal of seriousness,” Light said. “It’s also a thinly veiled quid pro quo,” and it “goes without saying they will get considered.”
Bringing in a lot of cash to the campaign, Light added, “seems to be well established as a signaling device for getting into key jobs running the government. It’s become more significant and nobody seems to have much outrage about it.”
Public Citizen in 2008 found that George W. Bush had appointed about 200 bundlers to administration posts over his eight years in office. That is roughly the same number Obama has appointed in little more than two years, the iWatch News analysis showed.
Some bundlers said in interviews that they called the White House to ask for a position, while others said they were called and asked to serve.
Ted Hosp, an Alabama lawyer who delivered more than $200,000 for Obama, said he had no expectation of a job when he signed on to the campaign finance committee. But he did ask to be considered and said he met with then-White House Counsel Gregory Craig, also a bundler, to discuss a position at the Justice Department. “I was interested in exploring [a job],” Hosp said. “I would have been interested in helping him [Obama] if the right opportunity arose.”
The cluster of appointments among top bundlers suggests that the size of the donation may have been a factor at least in getting a foot in the door. Less than one in five at the $50,000 level got an administration position. Half of $200,000 bundlers were picked for some post; 80 percent of the $500,000 bundlers were appointed. (Some have since left the administration while others remain in their posts.)
Michael Caplin, a Virginia consultant who assists nonprofit businesses, raised $200,000 for Obama and was appointed to the Commission on Presidential Scholars, a board that selects and honors promising high school students. He said he was contacted by a White House staffer asking him if he wanted to serve, though he saw plenty of other big donors angling for jobs and positions….
Seeding the departments with bundlers
The appointment of George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton illustrates how the administration has quietly rewarded many top fundraisers.
Overton wrote in 2003 that the influence big donors wield in elections means that an “overwhelming majority of citizens are effectively excluded from an important stage of the political process.” Yet Overton bundled at least $500,000 for Obama. He was named to the Obama transition team and in February 2009 was appointed principal deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy. The office helps select nominees for federal judgeships and acts as the Justice Department’s “think tank” by helping “to shape the terms of national debate on a wide range of forthcoming legal policy questions,” according to its website.
Overton visited the White House more than 80 times from January 2009 through the end of last year for events ranging from small meetings with high-level staffers to social and entertainment events, sometimes with his wife, records show. Overton resigned the $180,000-a-year job in July 2010. He declined to comment.
Overton is one of seven campaign bundlers who took jobs at Justice, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who was a $50,000 bundler.
Two others are Thomas J. Perrelli, a Harvard law school chum of Obama’s who holds the No. 3 policy job there, and Karol Mason, a bond lawyer from Georgia formerly with the politically active law firm of Alston and Bird. She is a deputy associate attorney general. Asked about the number of bundlers at Justice, spokesman Matt Miller said, “I don’t think we have any comment on that.”
At the Department of Energy, four bundlers who together raised a minimum of $1.6 million have held staff jobs or advisory posts.
Steven J. Spinner, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capital adviser, took over responsibility at Energy for parceling out more than $100 billion worth of stimulus grants and other energy-related loans. Spinner also has been a frequent White House guest, listed more than 40 times for events ranging from bowling to holiday receptions. The White House logs don’t give an explanation for most of the visits.
Several other bundlers appointed to federal government jobs also have been frequent White House visitors.
In March 2009, Obama appointed $500,000 bundler and law school pal Julius Genachowski to chair the FCC, an independent agency. He served as chief counsel at the FCC in the 1990s. Two other bundlers at the FCC are chief of staff Edward Lazarus, a former federal prosecutor, and William T. Lake, chief of the media bureau.
FCC chair Genachowski has turned up so often at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that Republicans in Congress in March demanded an accounting of who he has met with and what was discussed.
White House logs list Genachowski and his wife, filmmaker Rachel Goslins, whom Obama appointed in August 2009 to serve as executive director of the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, for more than 100 visits from early 2009 through March of this year.
Bundlers get coveted ambassadorships
Some of the biggest fundraisers end up serving in foreign capitals. Obama made a nod to this long practice in a pre-inauguration news conference, saying, “It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that there are not going to be some excellent public servants but who haven’t come through the ranks of the civil service.”
About a third of Obama’s ambassadors have been political appointments as opposed to career foreign service officers—about the same as recent presidents. However, Obama has nominated 24 bundlers to ambassadorships to date. Of those, 14 each raised at least a half million dollars. Six others raised $200,000 or more. Jacobson, now the ambassador to Canada, is the only one listed at the $50,000 minimum and he played a pivotal finance role in the campaign.
The Obama record has disappointed the American Foreign Service Association, which believes these appointments should go mostly to career diplomats. The organization cites the 1980 Foreign Service Act, which states that appointees should have a “useful knowledge of the language … and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions and the interests of that country.”
How many political appointees fit the bill is debatable. Gips, for instance, testified during his Senate confirmation hearing of his extensive private sector and government experience. He said he had “visited South Africa over a decade ago,” adding, “I fell in love with its people, its story, and its beauty.”
The 1980 federal law also states that political contributions “should not be a factor” in picking ambassadors, though presidents of both parties have all but ignored that.
Passing over career diplomats in favor of mega-donors amounts to “selling ambassadorships,” said Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association. She said it runs contrary to the law and is unethical, yet, “That hasn’t stopped anybody.”
Thomas Pickering, who served as ambassador to Russia and several other countries during a diplomatic career spanning four decades, said turning to bundlers adds a “new dimension” to what he termed “buying offices” through aggressive fundraising. “An individual can multiply their chances by going out and soliciting a lot of contributions other than just their own,” said Pickering, who chairs the American Academy of Diplomacy….
Gips collected more than $500,000 for Obama. James Crowe, chairman of the Level 3 board, was an Obama bundler, too, raising at least $100,000. So was the firm’s vice chairman, Charles Miller III, who bundled more than $50,000.
At the White House, Gips was a powerful force to decide who got coveted jobs. Obama appointed Level 3 executive Crowe in October 2010 to chair the presidential advisory committee on telecommunications and wireless issues.
And Level 3 was awarded some $13.8 million in federal stimulus contracts, to extend broadband connections in rural areas of states where it had networks.
In an email sent to iWatch News through the White House, Gips said that he had not been involved in “any matter involving Level 3” since joining the administration. Gips also said he didn’t know the company had received stimulus contracts and played no role in Crowe’s selection to the telecommunications panel.
The iWatch News investigation confirmed that at least 18 other bundlers have ties to businesses poised to profit from the president’s political agenda, through stimulus money, government contracts, or other spending to promote clean energy technology or green development.
Oklahoma billionaire investor George Kaiser is one. A longtime Democratic donor, he is a big financial backer of a company that in March of 2009 won a $535 million loan guarantee from DOE for a solar plant in Silicon Valley. He had multiple visits to the White House in the months before he was awarded the contract. Kaiser has not responded to interview requests from iWatch News.
Steven Westly, a green energy entrepreneur who raised at least $500,000 for Obama, has seen four companies in his venture firm’s portfolio receive more than a half billion dollars in loans, grants or stimulus money from the Obama Energy Department, iWatch News and ABC reported in March.
Bundlers win commission posts across government
Some bundlers limit their role in the administration to serving on commissions to support their pet causes and hobnob with celebrities.
Obama has appointed 22 bundlers to the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities or to the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Four of the nine members of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council appointed by Obama in September 2010 were bundlers, including its chairman Tom Bernstein. He is a New York City developer and sports entrepreneur who raised at least $200,000 for the Obama presidential campaign.
This is Bernstein’s second appointment to the Holocaust Memorial Council. Bush appointed him to the same board in 2002 after Bernstein raised at least $100,000 for the 2000 Bush campaign. A former Yale classmate of Bush and fellow owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, Bernstein switched allegiances to bundle for the Obama campaign.
Others have served on advisory groups which make recommendations to the president on critical matters ranging from the economic stimulus to policies to spur job growth.
Hyatt hotels heiress Penny Pritzker, Wall Street titan Robert Wolf and financier Mark Gallogly, for instance, all served on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Commission. Though the commission was headed by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, Pritzker at least twice emerged from the White House and faced media cameras on days the commission met.
In late February, in creating a new commission to take on the task of creating jobs, Obama again appointed the three businesspeople. Transcripts of the recovery board meetings show that commission members are free to press for an agenda that could significantly benefit their business interests.
Pritzker, one of America’s richest women and a key fundraiser and adviser in the early days of the Obama campaign, has logged more than 50 visits to the White House, either alone or with family members. Obama also appointed Pritzker to the Kennedy Center board and her husband, Chicago ophthalmologist Bryan Traubert, to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.
Obama Calls for Tax Hikes on High Earners:
On June 29, 2011, President Obama warned that Washington would soon run up against a “hard deadline” of August 2 — the date when, according to the Treasury Department, America would face default if the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling were not raised. Warning that “the consequences [of failing to raise that ceiling] for the U.S. economy will be significant and unpredictable,” he called on Republicans to drop their opposition to tax increases, saying that because “everybody else” was sacrificing their “sacred cows” for deficit reduction, GOP lawmakers should be willing to follow suit. Most notably, Obama pushed proposals to end tax breaks for corporate jet owners, as well as for oil and gas companies — and claimed that everything from food safety to college scholarships to the weather service could be in jeopardy if tax hikes were not implemented. All told, the President made six mentions of eliminating a tax loophole for corporate jets, suggesting that insufficient taxes on such jets had the effect of depriving student-loan funds or food-safety funds of their needed revenues. (In actuality, however, the revenue that a corporate-jet tax increase could generate would be essentially negligible: approximately $3 billion over a 10-year period.)
Among the key quotes from Obama’s remarks were the following:
- “We’re going to have to tackle spending in the tax code. It would be nice if we could keep every tax break there is, but we’ve got to make some tough choices here if we want to reduce our deficit.”
- “Ask Republican constituents if they’re willing to compromise their kids’ safety so some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break.”
- “The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owner. . . . Before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children’s education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys.” (In fact, Obama’s plan proposed an end to tax breaks for anyone earning $250,000 or more.)
As The Daily Caller subsequently pointed out:
“The tax incentive at issue was enacted to counteract the airplane industry’s woes in 2001 after 9/11 and reauthorized in, drum roll, Obama’s stimulus package, signed into law by the president himself. More fundamentally, eliminating that tax break would bring in $3 billion in new taxes over ten years. That is less than 1 percent of the $400 billion in tax increases the Obama administration is proposing behind the scenes.”
(Click here for a video about the hypocrisy of Obama’s assertion about jet owners.)
Debt-ceiling negotiations continued into July. According to budget experts, $4 trillion in budget savings over a ten-year period would be necessary in order to keep the national debt at a sustainable level. Obama wanted between $1.3 trillion and $1.7 trillion of that total to come from new tax revenue. That would have come in part by allowing the current lowered tax rate for the highest earners to rise back to its 1990s levels in 2013, while keeping the lower rates in place for middle- and low-income earners.
Obama Administration Opens Talks with the Muslim Brotherhood:
On July 6, 2011, Investors.com issued the following report:
“It’s official — the radical Muslim Brotherhood has co-opted America’s agenda in the Mideast and possibly the broader war. The Obama administration has formalized ties with the group.
“In a shocking first, the State Department will now allow diplomats to deal directly with Muslim Brotherhood party officials in Cairo, where the international organization is based.
“The terror-supporting group … was formally banned by the secular Mubarak regime. Now it threatens to take power when elections are held in September.
“Legitimizing the Brotherhood and its agenda has dangerous consequences both at home and abroad. The group, which founded and still controls Hamas, does not recognize Israel. In fact, its leaders have called for its destruction. So the administration’s diplomatic overture is another affront to our key Mideast ally. Closer to home, the Brotherhood seeks to destroy Western societies by incrementally expanding Saudi-style Sharia law throughout the West, including in America.
“Last decade, the FBI uncovered documents from a Muslim Brotherhood leader’s home outside Washington that describe a ‘grand jihad’ aimed at the ‘elimination and destruction of Western civilization from within’ by ‘sabotage.’
“Further investigation found that major Islamic groups in the U.S. are Brotherhood fronts secretly funding and supporting Hamas and other terror groups. These include the largest Muslim charity in the country — the Holy Land Foundation — and the largest Islamic umbrella group — the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, which controls most of the mosques in the country through a Saudi-funded trust.
“You’d think the investigation would have marginalized the U.S. branch of the Brotherhood. Instead, the Obama administration has empowered it by reaching out to its front groups and leaders.
“The Brotherhood’s newfound ascendancy both in Egypt and in the U.S. may be by design — engineered by a president who is sympathetic to Islamists and antipathetic to Israel and American foreign policy supporting the Jewish nation.
“Consider this timeline:
“2009: The White House invites ISNA’s president to President Obama’s inauguration ceremonies, even though the Justice Department just two years earlier had blacklisted the Brotherhood affiliate as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land trial — the largest terror-finance case in U.S. history.
“2009: Obama delivers his Cairo speech to Muslims, infuriating the Mubarak regime by inviting Brotherhood leaders to attend.
“2009: The White House dispatches top presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett to give the keynote speech at ISNA’s annual convention.
“2009: Obama appoints a Brotherhood-tied Islamist — Rashad Hussain — as U.S. envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which strongly supports the Brotherhood.
“2010: Hussain meets with the Brotherhood’s grand mufti in Egypt.
“2010: Obama meets one on one with Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who later remarks on Nile TV: ‘he American president told me in confidence that he is a Muslim.’
“2011: Riots erupt in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Crowds organized by the Brotherhood demand Mubarak’s ouster, storm government buildings. The White House fails to back longtime U.S. ally Mubarak, who flees Cairo.
“2011: White House sends intelligence czar James Clapper to Capitol Hill to whitewash the Brotherhood’s extremism. Clapper testifies the group is a moderate, ‘largely secular’ organization.
“2011: The Brotherhood’s spiritual leader — Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi — is given a hero’s welcome in Tahrir Square, where he raises the banner of jihad. Qaradawi, exiled from Egypt for 30 years, had been calling for ‘days of rage’ before the rioting in Egypt. Before Obama’s Cairo speech, he [Qaradawi] wrote an open letter to the president arguing terrorism is a direct response to U.S. foreign policy.
“2011: The Brotherhood vows to tear up Egypt’s 30-year peace treaty with Israel. Since Mubarak’s fall, it has worked to formally reestablish Cairo’s ties with Hamas and Hezbollah.
“2011: Obama gives Mideast speech demanding Israel relinquish land to Palestinians.
“2011: White House security adviser gives friendly speech to Washington-area mosque headed by ISNA’s new president.
“2011: Justice Department pulls plug on further prosecution of Muslim Brotherhood front groups identified as collaborators in conspiracy to funnel millions to Hamas.”
The Failing Economy of the Obama Presidency:
On July 8, 2011, Peter Wehner wrote the following in Commentary magazine:
“The political class has already exhausted the adjectives describing today’s bleak/horrible/awful/God-awful/dismal/terrible/absolutely flat out terrible jobs report. The new data showed, among other things, the unemployment rate increasing to 9.2 percent from 9.1 percent even as the labor force got smaller (by more than a quarter-of-a-million people). That is an amazing and alarming phenomenon, since it demonstrates that unemployment has gone up even as the pool of workers shrinks.
“The real unemployment rate increased as well, from 15.8 percent to 16.2 percent. There are now more than 14 million Americans out of work, with 6.3 million out of work for 27 weeks or longer. The unemployment rate has been above 8 percent during every month Obama has been president. Only 18,000 jobs were created in June. The government revised April and May’s payrolls downward by 44,000. Average hourly earnings went down while the average time it takes to find a job went up.
“There was not a single bit of good news in the Bureau of Labor report. And watching President Obama this morning try to explain this mess and offer solutions to our predicament was painful. He was reduced to listing as one of his policy recommendations streamlining the patent process. That underscores just how intellectually exhausted the Obama presidency is. They have no more arrows left in their public policy quiver.
“The president is in quite a bind, then, and today’s developments are a wicked political blow. We’ve now had 29 months of (more or less) dismal jobs reports during the Obama era; there are only 15 monthly jobs reports left between now and 2012. And there’s not only no sign that things will get significantly better; things are actually getting worse (unemployment was 8.8 percent in March)….”
Obama Calls for Tax Hikes on High Earners:
At a July 11, 2011 press conference, President Obama explained why he was calling for tax hikes in addition to a hike in the national debt limit:
“And I do not want, and I will not accept, a deal in which I am asked to do nothing, in fact, I’m able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don’t need, while a parent out there who is struggling to figure out how to send their kid to college suddenly finds that they’ve got a couple thousand dollars less in grants or student loans.”
“But what I’ve also said is people like me who have been incredibly fortunate, mainly because a lot of folks bought my book . . . for me to be able to go back to the tax rate that existed under Bill Clinton, to pay a couple of extra percentage points so that I can make sure that seniors still have Medicare or kids still have Head Start, that makes sense to me.”
As Mike Brownfield of the Heritage Foundation noted: “If you read between the lines, which doesn’t take much decoding, President Obama effectively believes that any income you have which you don’t ‘need’ belongs to the government.”
Citing the importance of allowing foreign law to influence court proceedings in the U.S., Obama seeks to stay the execution of an illegal alien/convicted murderer:
In July 2011, President Obama asked the Supreme Court to apply a law that had not even been enacted; four of the nine Justices were willing to comply. Obama’s request centered around the scheduled execution of a brutal rapist-murderer named Humberto Leal Garcia (henceforth “Leal”). The Center for Individual Freedom gave an overview of the case:
“In 1994, then-21-year-old Leal raped a drunken 16-year-old girl with a 15-inch stick and bludgeoned her to death with a 30-pound rock. There is no doubt that Leal did the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995, and spent the past 16 years exhausting all the usual appeals (45 hearings!). Yet days before Leal’s long-delayed execution, Obama sought last-minute review by the Supreme Court on the grounds that Leal had not been afforded the chance to ask the Mexican consulate for representation, an opportunity supposedly required under international law.
“Leal, you see, was technically a Mexican national: His family had moved him to the United States, illegally, when he was two-years old. For 19 years, he had lived as if he were a U.S. citizen, and nobody during his questioning or trial appeared aware that he technically remained Mexican. The Obama administration, of course, notoriously tries to treat illegals very much like citizens, providing them all sorts of benefits while grabbing any excuse to refuse to deport them. Now, though, the president wanted to exploit Leal’s illegal status to provide him yet another means of escaping American justice after 16 years of due process. Apparently illegality always accrues to the benefits of the illegal, not to that of the victimized citizens.
“Still, immigration policy isn’t really at issue here. Instead, the two big issues are both of constitutional law. Obama’s argument was two-fold. First, he said foreign policy considerations ought to let the president and courts apply international law within U.S. courts (and thus stop, for now, the execution on the grounds that the consular representation had never been secured). Second, he argued that because Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vermont) has introduced a bill to codify that international law within American statutes, the courts ought to stay the execution long enough to let the legislative process play out.
“The first argument comes close (in essence, if not technically) to revivifying the long-running dispute over when and if foreign law should be relevant in U.S. courts….
“In other words, the Supreme Court should upend 16 years of due process of justice on the basis of a belief – indeed, not even a belief but a mere hope – that a bill for which not a single hearing has been held will somehow become law within months….
“As the five-member majority [on the Supreme Court] wrote in its decision denying the administration’s last-minute appeal, ‘Our task is to rule on what the law is, not what it might eventually be.’ …
“Leal’s attorney is Sandra Babcock, a Northwestern University law professor, funded by the Mexican government, who repeatedly has teamed with her Northwestern colleague, Bernadine Dohrn – former terrorist and wife of infamous Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers – to push for greater U.S. adoption of international law. In the past, those two have worked directly with disgraced former Marxist and White House aide Van Jones, and with State Department counsel Harold Koh, on these issues. In that light, the president’s attempt to intervene in the Leal case looks even more radical.”
The Obama Justice Department Works to Bring Back the Sub-Prime Mortgage-Lending Practices That Caused the Housing Market to Collapse in 2008:
On July 13, 2011, Arnold Ahlert reported the following in FrontPage Magazine:
… [T]he DOJ [Department of Justice] is once again strong-arming banks to make risky loans to minority applicants, or face charges of discrimination. The pressure is yielding results. Prosecutors from the department have succeed in wresting more than $20 million in set-asides from lending institutions apparently intimidated by such pressure: the funds were raised in out-of-court settlements with banks fearful of being branded racist for maintaining sensible loan standards. Another 60 banks are in the DOJ’s cross-hairs.
How dubious are these loans? Once again, prime mortgages are being set aside for minority applicants with questionable credit. And once again, as incomprehensible it was the first time, “valid” income considerations for obtaining a mortgage will include “welfare payments, and unemployment benefits.” Former Rep. Ernest Istook, a Heritage Foundation fellow, illuminates the insanity. ”It’s absolutely outrageous after what we’ve just gone through,” said Istook. ”How can someone both be financially stable enough to merit a mortgage at the same time they’re on public assistance? By definition, you don’t have the kind of employment that can support such a loan.”
Such concerns are irrelevant for a Justice Department that sees racial bogeymen wherever it turns. Many of the banks they sued have been ordered to post notices in all their branches and on advertising material notifying minority customers that they cannot be turned down for a loan simply because they’re on the government dole. Justice Dept. spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, while noting that such pressure “does not compel the banks to make loans to people who do not qualify,” contended such lending is “essential to remedy the harmful effects of the banks’ conduct.”
Toward that end the DOJ has created a new entity called the Fair Lending Unit, comprised of more than 20 lawyers, economists and statisticians. It is headed by Special Counsel for Fair Lending, Eric Halperin, who answers to Civil Rights Division chief Tom Perez. Both men worked for former Attorney General Janet Reno. How credible is Perez? He is the man who once likened lending institutions to the Klu Klux Klan, saying their racism with respect to mortgages is ”every bit as destructive as the cross burned in a neighborhood.” He was also responsible for dropping the case against the two Black Panthers involved in voter intimidation in Philadelphia — after it was already won.
More importantly, with respect to minority lending, Mr. Perez is pursuing policies best described as a schizophrenic. At a meeting hosted by the Brookings Institution in June of 2010, Mr. Perez spoke about a housing crisis “fueled in large part by risky and irresponsible lending practices that allowed too many Americans to get unsustainable or unaffordable home loans.” He then claimed that while the crisis affected everyone, “communities of color have been hit particularly hard, and have suffered greater consequences.” In other words, the same lending institutions which had lowered credit standards to make more mortgages available for minority applicants were at fault for higher default rates by those same applicants! And one year later, the DOJ is pursuing banks for not engaging in the same risky practices that led to the housing bust which disproportionally affected minority borrowers!
Perez blamed this disproportion on the fact that minority borrowers were put in more sub-prime loans than non-minorities with similar incomes, citing a New York Times study which noted that “a black household in New York City making more than $68,000 a year was almost five times more likely to have a subprime loan than whites with similar incomes.” That certainly sounds unfair until one discovers the following reported by the Manhattan Institute’s Howard Husock:
“A September 1999 study by Freddie Mac, for instance, confirmed what previous Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation studies had found: that African-Americans have disproportionate levels of credit problems, which explains why they have a harder time qualifying for mortgage money. As Freddie Mac found, blacks with incomes of $65,000 to $75,000 a year have on average worse credit records than whites making under $25,000.”
Furthermore, a study conducted by insurance giant Prudential entitled the “African American Financial Experience” reveals that black Americans do not save as much money as white Americans do, especially with regard to retirement funds, even as they are “three times more likely to raid their 401(k) or other retirement plans to meet immediate financial needs.”
Again, one might think that such realties concerning credit and savings histories would diminish the Justice Department’s efforts to portray banks and other lending institutions as racist. It has, in an Orwellian sense. According to Investor’s Business Daily’s Paul Sperry, if the methodology used by the DOJ to allege racism by particular institutions is requested by the institutions themselves, they must sign a non-disclosure agreement to get it. Reginald Brown, partner at Wilmer Hale in Washington, who has represented banks in connection to recent race-bias investigations, explains why. ”They want you to sign something saying you agree, under the condition of any settlement with them, that you won’t disclose what their theories were. That’s because their theories are loopy and wouldn’t stand the light of day,” he said.
One is left to wonder how such secrecy squares with remarks made by Thomas Perez at Heritage, where he promised that the Justice Department will “continue its practice of building accountability into agreements … requiring transparency so that communities can monitor the progress being made.” Even more so, when Sperry notes that “Justice acknowledges in every case it did not prove charges of intentional discrimination, while banks have denied any wrongdoing.” He further notes that the department “has asked banks to keep its methodologies, which include computer-based statistical analysis, secret.” Justice has confirmed the allegation. ”In certain circumstances, when a bank has requested details of our analysis, the department has requested that a defendant agree to a confidentiality agreement,” DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told IBD [Investor’s Business Daily].
What else is being kept a secret? For one, the list of “qualified organizations” Perez has required defendant lending institutions to bankroll with millions of dollars in funding, as part of the settlement agreements. One case in particular involved Midwest BankCentre, a small bank which has been operating in the suburbs of St. Louis for over a century. They are reportedly settling a case with the DOJ for failing to open branches or [to] issue mortgages in minority areas. $1 million dollars is reportedly being set aside for African American applicants ”who would ordinarily not qualify for such rates for reasons including the lack of required credit quality, income or down payment.” The organization which brought pressure on the bank? A community activist group calling itself the St. Louis Equal Housing and Community Reinvestment Alliance. Such pressure is reminiscent of the tactics that now-discredited ACORN and other community activist groups used to shakedown lending institutions prior to the housing crisis.
Such concessions are made possible by a sea-change in the Justice Department’s approach to prosecution. Rather than being held liable for particular loans they haven’t made to individual households, banks are being judged for the “secondary impact” such refusals have on an entire neighborhood. Thus, when First United Security Bank in Alabama settled with the DOJ in 2009 for alleged discriminatory practices, stipulations to fund community reinvestment and education programs were part of the deal. These included $600,000 to open a new branch in an African American neighborhood, $500,000 for a special financing program, and $110,000 for outreach to potential customers in the unserved areas.
And such considerations of secondary impact are not limited to mortgages. The DOJ is planning to extend their scrutiny into credit cards, auto loans, and even loan modification programs. Any violations which appear to be pattern-like will be referred to DOJ for prosecution based on a concept called “disparate impact.“ Disparate impact is defined as a “facially neutral practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class.” What does this mean with respect to litigation? Buckley/Sandler lawfirm co-chairman Andrew Sandler explains. “Perez is going to depend on disparate impact theory, where the intent [to discriminate] does not have to be proven,” he says.
But it gets even crazier. On one hand, it is against the law for banks to compile data on race, gender or age for nonmortgage loan applications. On the other hand, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act requires the compilation of such data. Crazier still? ”[DOJ is] expecting each bank to have a fair-lending risk assessment,” says Carl Pry, vice president and compliance manager at KeyBank in Cleveland. ”That is something relatively new–you won’t find it either in the regulations, in the statutes, and not in any of the exam procedures.”
So what does the DOJ expect banks to do? Collect “proxy data,” in which they amass minority applicant information based on ”geocoded neighborhood patterns, or guesswork based on gender or racial classification of a customer’s name” in order to determine if an applicant falls into a protected class. Such guesswork produces error rates as high as 40 percent in mixed neighborhoods. Furthermore, Mike Brauneis, director of regulatory risk consulting for Protiviti, a global consulting and internal audit firm, reveals the Orwellian nature of such data compilation. ”If we do an analysis and it suggests that fair-lending risk exists, those analyses can themselves be risks,” he said.
That such questionable data coupled with unprovable intent would be used by the racial bean-counters at that DOJ should surprise no one. It is merely the next link in the chain behind the department’s utter illogic of simultaneously blaming lending institutions for irresponsible lending practices that propelled the housing meltdown, even as they are arm-twisting those institutions to engage in them all over again….
Report Says Obama Lied Repeatedly about His Late Mother’s Alleged Health-Insurance Problem:
On July 14, 2011, Jonathan Toobin reported the following in Commentary magazine:
During the 2008 campaign and throughout the subsequent debate over his health care legislation, President Obama used his mother’s experience as a cancer patient fighting to get coverage to pay for treatment for what her insurer said was a pre-existing condition as an emotional argument to sway skeptics. However, a new book by New York Times reporter Janny Scott has revealed this story appears to be a fabrication.
The Times reports today (in a story buried on page 14 rather than on the front page) that during the course of researching her book, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, Scott uncovered correspondence showing “the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.” In response to inquiries, “a White House spokesman chose not to dispute either Ms. Scott’s account or Mr. Obama’s memory, while arguing that Mr. Obama’s broader point remained salient.”
In other words, Obama lied in order to make a political point.
The early death of the president’s mother was a tragedy for her family, but Obama’s manipulation of the narrative about her life was utterly unscrupulous. While her battle for disability coverage probably was stressful, that has nothing to do with her son’s subsequent efforts to impose a government health care plan on the nation. Moreover, it should also be pointed out the president is in no position to claim his untrue account of his mother’s problems was the result of a misunderstanding about a matter in which he was not involved. According to Scott, the correspondence says his mother referred to her son as her attorney in these matters.
For those with short memories, it’s important to recall that Obama has used this story repeatedly, including during one of the presidential debates with opponent John McCain. During that debate he said:
“For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”
Obama Says He Will Support Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act:
On July 19, 2011, the Obama administration announced that it would support a congressional effort to repeal a federal law — the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — defining marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Denouncing DOMA, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration would back a bill introduced earlier in the year by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to remove the law from the books. Feinstein’s bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, would “uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples” the same rights as others, said Carney. President Obama had recently applauded New York’s decision to legalize gay marriage, calling the Defense of Marriage Act “unconstitutional.”
Obama’s decision to oppose DOMA came five months after his administration had instructed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to stop defending DOMA. At that time, Holder said that parts of DOMA were unconstitutional because of “classifications based on sexual orientation.”
Nearly four years later, Obama advisor and campaign strategist David Axelrod wrote, in his memoir, that Obama had lied in 2008 when he told Americans that he opposed same-sex marriage. According to Axelrod, Obama’s support for gay marriage dated back to at least 1996, when, as a candidate for the Illinois state senate, he responded affirmatively to a questionnaire prompt that said, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” In the memoir, Axelrod explained how the Obama campaign had handled the issue: “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union.'”
Obama Halts Many Thousands of Deportation Cases:
In August 2011, President Obama issued an executive order to prevent potentially thousands of cases in federal immigration court from moving forward if they did not involve criminals or people with flagrant immigration violations. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the agency would launch a case-by-case review of 300,000 cases pending in immigration courts across the nation to focus on the federal government’s top priority, detaining and deporting criminals and serious violators of immigration law.
Immigrants classified as low-priority cases would be eligible to receive a stay of deportation and the chance to apply for a work permit.
“The president has said on numerous occasions that it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low-priority cases,” Napolitano wrote in a letter today to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, outlining the new policy. Doing otherwise, she added, “hinders our public safety mission – clogging immigration court dockets and diverting DHS enforcement resources away from individuals who pose a threat to public safety.”
Background information on the Sequestration Cuts:
The Washington explains:
[Sequester is] a package of automatic spending cuts that’s part of the Budget Control Act (BCA), which was passed in August 2011. The cuts, which are projected to total $1.2 trillion, are scheduled to begin in 2013 and end in 2021, evenly divided over the nine-year period. The cuts are also evenly split between defense spending — with spending on wars exempt — and discretionary domestic spending, which exempts most spending on entitlements like Social Security and Medicaid, as the Bipartisan Policy Center explains….
Under the BCA, the cuts were triggered to take effect beginning Jan. 1 if the supercommittee didn’t to agree to a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package by Nov. 23, 2011. The group failed to reach a deal, so the sequester was triggered….
Why did Congress and the White House agree to the sequester in the first place?
The government was approaching its debt limit, which needed to be raised through a congressional vote or else the country would default in early August 2011. While Democrats were in favor of a “clean” vote without strings attached, Republicans were demanding substantial cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit.
President Obama and congressional leaders ultimately agreed to the BCA, which would allow the debt ceiling to be raised by $2.1 trillion in exchange for the establishment of the supercommittee tied to the fall-back sequester, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains. The deal also includes mandatory spending reductions on top of the sequester by putting caps on non-entitlement discretionary spending that will reduce funding by $1 trillion by 2021.
Who supported the debt-ceiling deal?
Party leaders, the White House and most members of Congress supported the debt-ceiling deal: The BCA passed on a 268-161 vote in the House, with about one-third of House Republicans and half of House Democrats opposing it. It passed in the Senate, 74-26, with six Democratic senators and 19 Republican senators opposing it.
“Every Single One”: The Civil Rights Division of Obama’s Justice Department Hires Only Leftists
In August 2011, PJ Media published Every Single One, a series of major exposes revealing that every single attorney hired by the Obama Justice Departmen’st Civil Rights Division had a leftist or Democrat activist pedigree. When PJ Media asked to see the resumes of these hires, DOJ refused to provide them. Thus PJ Media was forced to sue Attorney General Eric Holder in federal court under the Freedom of Information Act.To view this 12-part series, click here.
President Obama and First Lady Take Two Separate Jets to Vacation Spot in Martha’s Vineyard:
On August 19, 2011, Barack Obama and his family flew to Martha’s Vineyard for a ten-day vacation at a $50,000-per-week rented estate. They traveled on two separate jets, with the First Lady and the two Obama children arriving four hours earlier than the President. At much extra cost to taxpayers, Mrs. Obama (along with any extra staff and Secret Service personnel that had to be enlisted to go with her) traveled on a specially designed military aircraft instead of with her husband on Air Force One. She also had her own motorcade escorting her from the airport to her vacation residence. According to NewsBusters.com:
“This is not the first time Michelle has gone on vacation ahead of the president on the taxpayers’ tab. Last December, she racked up what was likely more than $100,000 in expenses leaving early for their Hawaii vacation.”
Obama Delays Proposed EPA Restrictions on Ozone Levels Until 2013:
In September 2, 2011, President Obama ordered that proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restrictions on ground-level ozone should be delayed for two years, until 2013, agreeing with Republicans and industry leaders that the imposition of such regulatory burdens any sooner would further harm America’s foundering economy. (The EPA’s proposed regulations for ground-level ozone would have lowered the standard of 0.75 parts per million issued under Bush in 2008, to somewhere between 0.60 and 0.70 parts per million. It was estimated that these restrictions would have cost $19 billion to $90 billion.) Obama made his decision in the immediate aftermath of a dismal Labor Department report indicating that the nation’s net job growth during the previous month had been zero.
Journalist Richard Trzupek provided some background as to the process by which the Bush-era level (of 75 parts per billion) had been reached:
“By Act of Congress, the EPA gets to set ambient air standards by itself, unless the president intervenes. This is the ultimate in job security for a bureaucrat; a way of ensuring that the EPA’s work is never – can never – be done. It wasn’t that long ago that the ambient air standard for ozone was 120 parts per billion, a value that both EPA and environmental groups then assured us was the dividing line between healthy and unhealthy air.
“Unfortunately for the EPA, America cleaned up the air to the point that just about every county met that goal. What to do? If you’re the EPA and you actually meet a goal, the choices are: 1) declare victory (and lose funding), or 2) move the goalposts back so that you stay relevant. Guess which choice the agency always makes? Such was the case with ozone standard, with the EPA sliding the goalposts back under Clinton and again under Bush.
“Yet, even though the Bush-era standard was lower than the Clinton-era standard, Bush was bad for the environment, while Clinton was good, according to the leftist narrative. This self-fulfilling prophecy manifested itself many times, including when Bush’s EPA lowered the ozone standard.
“Back then, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) had recommended lowering the ozone standard to as little as 60 parts per billion. (The standard was then 80 parts per billion.) President Bush considered CASAC’s advice and weighed that against the economic price that would be paid and decided … that the tiny improvement in already good air quality wouldn’t come close to offsetting the economic consequences. For those economic consequences – job loss, reductions in income and all the rest – have every bit of an impact on the health and welfare of the populace as does the environment in which we live. And so, by presidential order, the EPA lowered the standard to … 75 parts per billion.”
Solar Energy Company That Received $535 Million in Stimulus Funds, Ends in Bankruptcy and Corruption:
On September 9, 2011, Fox News reported the following:
The solar energy firm Solyndra was once the poster child of the Obama administration’s efforts to create green jobs. Now, it’s the target of both criminal and congressional investigations. “Because there’s so much concern about where the money went, how it was spent, and is there fraud and abuse,” said Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of a House subcommittee investigating Solyndra.
And Ronnie Greene of the Center for Public Integrity notes that Solyndra was key in the Obama administration’s efforts to promote alternative energy. “It really was in a lot of ways the flagship because it was the first energy loan guarantee by the administration and it was announced with great fanfare back in 2009,” he said.
Solyndra got a $535 million loan from the federal government, the first in tens of billions of dollars in loans to green companies, which President Obama personally touted in a visit to the company last year.
But earlier this week, the FBI and the inspector general of the Energy Department raided the company’s offices. An outside investigation of the loan to Solyndra found that earlier this year, the company asked the federal government for more time to repay the loan, which resulted in a very unusual arrangement. “As part of that agreement,” Greene said, “the Department of Energy was allowed to sit in on board meetings of Solyndra incorporated.”
That suggests to Greene and others that the administration should have had some sense that the company, along with taxpayers’ money, was in jeopardy. “These are the key months in which Solyndra’s fortunes really failed,” Greene said. “They really fell down, so it’s important to hear from DOE on what did you see, what did you hear, did that raise alarm bells with you?”
The founder and other executives of the company contributed and raised large amounts of money for Obama. And they were cozy enough to visit the White House often.
“It appears to be at least 20 times,” said Stearns. “So what were they doing at the White House?”
If the White House was objective about the company, he asks, why was it so intimately involved with the company’s executives?… “It’s a very unusual arrangement,” Stearns said. “I think the Department of Energy has to tell us how they could do this and whether it is, shall we say, breaking the law.”
During the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman’s investigation into the bankruptcy of Solyndra, Committee Democrats, in alliance with the White House, sought to drag the Bush administration into the mix because it began the process of considering loan guarantees to the company in 2006. Yet no loan was ever finalized until Barack Obama became president and the first stimulus package was passed. Indeed, internal Energy Department emails showed that the Bush administration’s loan evaluators had made the unanimous decision to shelve Solyndra’s application two week before Obama took office.
The focus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee probe centered around a series of emails uncovered by investigators for the Committee. The emails demonstrated two things. First, they revealed that the White House was decidedly in the loop regarding the financial deliberations surrounding the company. Two of them indicated serious reservation’s about Solyndra’s viability. “If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the WW[West Wing] QUICKLY,” wrote Ronald A. Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, on March 7, 2009. Three days later, and only nine days before the administration announced that the company would be the first beneficiary of the first stimulus package, a White House budget analyst raised another red flag. “This deal is NOT ready for prime time,” he warned.
Second, emails released exclusively to the Washington Post demonstrated that the Obama administration was, in fact, attempting to rush the federal loan reviewers. White House officials repeatedly asked Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials when a decision could be made, while reminding them about the upcoming press event. OMB officials reportedly expressed concern that they weren’t being given enough time to make an adequate assessment as to whether the $535 million loan was an acceptable risk. One email referred to “the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra.” Another warned, “There isn’t time to negotiate.” Yet another OMB staffer sent an email to Joe Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Terrell P. McSweeny, noting that “We have ended up with a situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions…We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews.”
The White House, while admitting to an “active interest,” stressed that interest was all about the timing of the decision, not the merits of the loan. “There was interest in when a decision would be made because of its impact on whether an event involving the vice president could be scheduled for a particular date or not, but the loan guarantee decision was merit-based and made by career staffers at DOE,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
Committee Republicans did not accept that explanation. “In this time of record debt, I question whether the government is qualified to act as a venture capitalist, picking winners and losers in speculative ventures and shelling out billions of taxpayer dollars to keep them afloat,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). He further noted that the program was “shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty,” questioning whether the loan represented “one bad bet” or the “tip of the iceberg.”
There is little question that Solyndra was a risky investment at best. A timeline published by iWatchNews reveals that concerns about Solyndra’s financial viability go back to 2008, when Fitch Ratings assigned the company a not-so-hot B+ credit rating, and Dun & Bradstreet assessed its credit as “fair.” In March 2010, accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers noted that Solyndra “has suffered recurring losses from operations, negative cash flows since inception and has a net stockholders’ deficit that, among other factors, raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”
Yet in May 2010, the president delivered an address to an audience of Solyndra employees telling them that “the future is here. We’re poised to transform the ways we power our homes and our cars and our businesses. And we’re poised to lead our competitors in the development of new technologies and products and businesses. And we are poised to generate countless new jobs, good-paying middle-class jobs, right here in the United States of America.” One month later, Solyndra withdrew a scheduled Initial Public Offering (IPO), despite being told by auditors the company wouldn’t last 12 months if it didn’t raise the $300 million it was seeking.
In late October 2010, as Solyndra was prepared to announce that it would have to lay off a number of ts workers, the Obama administration pushed the company “very hard” to delay that announcement until November 3 — i.e., a day after the hotly contested midterm elections that imperiled Democratic control of Congress. As the Washington Post reported:
“The announcement could have been politically damaging because President Obama and others in the administration had held up Solyndra as a poster child of its clean-energy initiative, saying the company’s new factory, built with the help of stimulus money, could create 1,000 jobs. Six months before the midterm elections, Obama visited Solyndra’s California plant to praise its success, even though outside auditors had questioned whether the operation might collapse in debt.”
Ultimately, Solyndra did wait until November 3 to make the announcement.
In November 2010, the Department of Energy announced that Solyndra had a “cash flow crisis that is very common for innovative start-up companies that are growing quickly,” even as nearly 180 workers were laid off. In February 2011, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations launched its investigation, while the company got $75 million from a group led by Obama campaign bundler George Kaiser. The DOE then refinanced its part of the company’s loan, and agreed to put private investors at the front of the line ahead of taxpayers if the company defaulted.
After that came the two most onerous developments. In July 2011, Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison went to Washington, D.C. to tout the company, telling policy-makers they should “separate Solyndra and its business results from the political process that is ongoing.” He also claimed the company was in a “strong financial position.” Two weeks later, it was over: the company closed its doors, laid off 1,100 workers and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In early November 2011, House Republicans issued a subpoena demanding that the White House turn over “all documents” pertaining to the Solyndra loan guarantee by November 10. But the Obama White House failed to meet that deadline.
Obama Proposes $447 Billion “Jobs Bill”:
On September 8, 2011, President Obama proposed a $447 billion “jobs bill” that would invest federal money in “more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed.” The bill, said Obama, would be bankrolled in part by spending cuts, and in part “by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.”
During the course of his speech, Obama described his critics as people who believed that “the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own.”
On September 12, the Obama administration offered more details vis a vis how the jobs bill would be financed. The Hill reported the following:
The White House said … that President Obama wants to pay for his $447 billion jobs bill by raising taxes on the wealthy and businesses. Jack Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said the tax hikes would pay for Obama’s entire bill, which the administration is sending to Congress …
The chief provision announced by Lew would be to limit itemized deductions for individuals who make more than $200,000 a year and families that make more than $250,000, something the Obama administration has previously pushed to do through its budget proposals. Lew told reporters at the White House press briefing that this would raise about $400 billion.
The administration would tax the income investment fund managers make, known as “carried interest,” as regular income instead of as capital gains, which has a low 15 percent tax rate. This is another longstanding administration goal that has been resisted by Wall Street as well as some Democrats. The administration estimates the capital gains change would provide $18 billion in revenue.
The administration also wants to eliminate tax breaks for the oil-and-gas sector, which would raise $40 billion, the administration said.
Another $3 billion would come from changing the way corporate jets depreciate. With a few other revenue increases, Lew indicated the total measures proposed by the administration would bring in $467 billion, $20 billion more than the cost of the bill.
How President Obama Has Stacked Federal Bureaucracies with Far Leftists Who Will Try to Advance Leftist Agendas Long After Obama’s Presidency Ends:
Political analyst Andrew McCarthy of National Review Online offered the following observations in September 2011:
… As a recent Pajamas Media investigation has shown, the Obama administration [most notably the Justice Department] recruits from the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the American Constitution Society, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, La Raza, the SEIU’s “Civic Participation Project,” and similar radical redoubts. The Civil Rights Division has thus staffed up with lawyers who have spent years opposing voter identification laws, challenging the rights of states to verify that voters are American citizens, seeking to overturn state laws that disenfranchise convicted felons, advancing the gay rights agenda, lobbying for Big Labor’s goals of organizing graduate students, and ending the secret ballot in unionization votes. There is even a recruit from the “Intersex Society of North America,” a Clinton Department of Justice veteran who returned to the Civil Rights Division having worked for “systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female” …
President Obama appointed a shadow cabinet of “czars”—leftist radicals like Van Jones and Carol Browner—precisely to circumvent the Constitution’s requirement that officials wielding executive power be vetted by the Senate’s advise-and-consent power. This unaccountable juggernaut is helping Obama strangle fossil fuel industries in regulatory red-tape while sluicing billions of federal dollars to mirages like “green energy” and apparatchiks like the union grandees.
The president has stacked the National Labor Relations Board with ideologues who purport to dictate where corporations may and may not build plants: Big Labor states, yes; right-to-work states, no. He has stacked the Federal Communications Commission with ideologues on a crusade to repeal the First Amendment under the guise of “net neutrality,” a transparent effort to silence his Talk Radio detractors. And he has stacked the Environmental Protection Agency with ideologues who’ve usurped the business-destroying power to regulate carbon dioxide—the air we exhale—as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
Report Cites “Regulatory Tsunami” Under Obama:
On September 13, 2011, journalist Byron York reported the following:
The number and scope of federal regulations, along with the costs of those regulations and the number of federal regulators, are all growing despite an executive order from President Obama that was touted as a measure to curb over-regulation, according to a new report by the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
The report says the Obama administration has “imposed 75 new major regulations costing more than $380 billion over ten years.” In addition, the report says there are 219 more “economically significant regulations” in the works which will cost businesses $100 million or more each year — for a minimum cost of $21 billion over ten years. The number of pages in the Federal Register, in which such rules are recorded, is increasing rapidly, the report says, and “pages devoted to final rules rose by 20 percent between 2009 and 2010, and proposed rules have increased from 2,044 in 2009 to 2,439 in 2010.”
“The Obama administration has created a regulatory environment that is suffocating America’s entrepreneurs’ ability to create jobs and grow business,” writes committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican from California. “The result has been a regulatory tsunami that has stifled productivity, wages, job creation and economic growth.”
Among the examples listed in the committee report are so-called “sue and settle” agreements in which regulatory agencies work with activist groups to impose new burdens on businesses. The report focuses on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, which was designed to limit exposure to lead-based paints in houses built before 1978. Imposed in 2008 — before the Obama administration came to power — the rule required that renovations to older homes be done by EPA-certified contractors following EPA-dictated procedures. But the rule contained an opt-out provision: If a homeowner filed a certificate saying there were no pregnant women or children under six years of age in the home, the renovations could go forward without the certification. But that changed under when the Obama administration came to Washington. Several environmental groups challenged the opt-out provision, and the Obama EPA chose not to defend it, working with environmentalists in 2009 to fashion a settlement removing the opt-out provision. Now, all homeowners who renovate are required to go through the costly procedures.
The report says homeowners, eager to avoid extra costs imposed by the rule, often perform renovations themselves or hire non-certified renovators who will do the work for less than certified firms. The report cites a Seattle, Washington construction company owner named Ryann Day who says he has lost business to competitors who ignore the rule. “Homeowners who do accept his bid are forced to pay an additional 20 percent surcharge if their homes were built before 1978,” the report says. Day has lost between ten and 20 jobs because of the rule, according to the report, and “as a result, he chose not to hire an additional employee and lost approximately $15,000 to $20,000 in business.”
The report includes other examples from regulations concerning Obamacare, the Securities & Exchange Commission, clean water regulations, grain inspection, and other areas. Costly regulations have increased, the report charges, despite Executive Order 13563, issued by Obama in January 2011 to weed out rules that “stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.”
A Retrospective on the Discrepancies between President Obama’s Words and His Actions:
On September 16, 2011, Stephen Moore wrote the following in The Wall Street Journal:
Barack Obama now faces perhaps his most politically crippling deficit of all: a credibility deficit.
That observation is reflected in the latest Bloomberg poll, which finds that on the heels of his big jobs speech last Thursday night, more than half of Americans (51%) do not believe the president’s claim that this latest $447 billion spend-and-tax-or-borrow scheme will create new jobs….
It is hard to make a persuasive case for a $447 billion economic stimulus plan that looks and sounds so much like the $830 billion plan that Americans were sold two-and-a-half years ago. That first plan didn’t “create or save” the 3.5 million jobs the White House promised, and most Americans don’t agree with Vice President Biden that it worked beyond his “wildest dreams.” Tell that to the 14 million Americans—two million more than when all the spending and borrowing began—who are still out of work, or the tens of millions who do have jobs but have seen their income drop in the last two years.
American voters can’t conceive of how $447 billion of more debt and spending will create jobs when the last three years have already given us $4 trillion of new debt with no jobs. What is even harder to believe is the president’s assurance that the new American Jobs Act “will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for.” How can this plan be paid for when the first, $830 billion, plan has never been paid for?
While running for president Mr. Obama promised “pay as you go budgeting,” and in February 2009 during his “fiscal responsibility summit” he sounded like Ronald Reagan when he said that “this is the rule that families across this country follow every single day, and there’s no reason why their government shouldn’t do the same.” But the Obama government isn’t doing the same. It is doing the opposite.
Here’s another Obama promise that sounds like a whopper today. In 2008 he pledged he would “go through our federal budget—page by page, line by line—eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.” That hasn’t happened.
In the wake of the lousy economic news, Mr. Obama, who promised a new era of “accountability,” has blamed the ongoing jobs recession on “a run of bad luck.” Who knew there would be a tsunami in Japan, disruptions in the oil supply from the Mideast—when has that ever happened before?—and so many other job-killing events beyond the president’s control?
The green jobs revolution we were expecting to put America back to work is also browning out. A new Department of Energy study finds that between 2007 and 2010, clean-energy subsidies more than doubled. But after billions of taxpayer handouts have been pumped year after year into solar and wind power, these two industries supply 2.4% of America’s electricity.
Mr. Obama says he wants to make America less dependent on foreign oil, but this week he called again for raising taxes on domestic oil and gas production. He said last year that he believes America is “running out of places to drill” even though in the last five years new discoveries of oil and natural gas have occurred in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Dakota, Texas, Montana and Colorado—causing a near doubling in U.S. recoverable reserves.
Mr. Obama said in his speech on Thursday that health-care costs are a major contributor to the debt and need to be reined in. He neglected to mention what voters surely remember, which is that last year Mr. Obama signed a health-care law that adds at least 30 million more Americans to Medicaid—the program Mr. Obama now says is the problem. During the debate over ObamaCare the White House insisted that the fees in the plan for not purchasing health insurance were not a tax. But arguing before the courts on the constitutionality of the law, the White House now says these are taxes. Which is it?
Obama Explains How He Plans to Cut U.S. Budget Deficit by $3 Trillion:
On September 19, 2011, President Obama unveiled a ten-year, $3 trillion deficit-reduction and tax-reform plan while promising to veto any bill that did not raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations. The Hill reported:
The $3 trillion in deficit reduction is made up of money saved from ending the war in Iraq and drawing troops down in Afghanistan, raising taxes for the wealthy and corporations and cutting about $540 billion in Medicare and Medicaid, administration officials said …
Of the mandatory program cuts, Obama will propose $248 billion in cuts and reforms to Medicare — 90 percent of which would come from reducing overpayments — and $72 billion in Medicaid and other healthcare programs, all over 10 years. A senior administration official said that “there will be both provider and beneficiary policy changes,” but declined to say what cuts those would include….
But Obama will explicitly threaten to veto any bill that Republicans send to him that cuts Medicare but does not raise taxes on the wealthy, administration officials stressed….
Administration officials said Obama will also propose tax reform to lower tax rates, while cut[ting] loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. The tax reform proposals will raise revenue through increased taxes on the wealthy, reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion, the officials said….
The rest of the tax savings would come from closing $300 billion worth of loopholes and ending about $400 billion in deductions for the wealthy, the officials said. Another $1 trillion in savings would come from ending the war in Iraq and the drawdown and transition in Afghanistan, officials said.
The total deficit reduction, including the $1 trillion that was cut as a result of the debt ceiling compromise, would be $4 trillion over 10 years.
Deficit-Reduction Plan Includes $130 Billion in New Fees:
A September 19, 2011 Associated Press story reported the following:
It’s not just millionaires who’d pay more under President Barack Obama’s latest plan to combat the deficit.
Air travelers, federal workers, military retirees, wealthier Medicare beneficiaries and people taking out new mortgages are among those who would pay more than $130 billion in government revenues raised through new or increased fees.
Airline passengers would see their federal security fees double from $5 to $10 for a nonstop round-trip flight and triple to $15 by 2017, raising $25 billion over the coming decade. Federal workers would face an additional 1.2 percentage point deduction from their paychecks to contribute $21 billion more for their pensions over the same period. Military retirees would pay a $200 fee upon turning 65 to have the government pay their out-of-pocket Medicare expenses. They’d also pay more for non-generic prescription drugs.
And it’ll cost corporate jet owners a new $100 fee for each flight.
The fees aren’t taxes. They’re charged to people who use government services or receive benefits such as taxpayer-subsidized health care, and they typically defray the government’s cost of providing a service. The fee on corporate jets and other private passenger planes, for example, would raise about $1 billion a year to help finance the cost of air traffic control. Recreational flyers won’t have to pay.
Many of Obama’s proposals are retreads from earlier budget proposals, including those submitted by his predecessors. Most have been rejected year after year…. Administration budget documents describe the fees as savings….
Another new fee would increase by one-tenth of a percentage point the fee that mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge lenders to guarantee repayment of new mortgage loans. The administration says the fee increase would add $15 a month to the monthly cost of an average new mortgage. Even without existing mortgages being affected, the fee increase would raise $28 billion over 10 years.
Some of the fees tilt toward the arcane. There’s a plan to save $3 million a year by developing an electronic records system for hazardous waste shipments. Another would produce $7 million more a year by giving the federal government a 50 percent share of receipts from geothermal leases on federal lands instead of 25 percent, with the remainder going to the states.
Another proposal would charge $4 an acre on non-producing oil and gas leases on federal lands, raising $1 billion over a decade. The idea is to prod energy companies to get their leases into production or give them up and allow others to develop them.
“Fast and Furious”: The ATF Is Complicit in Gun-Smuggling for the Purpose of Ultimately Apprehending Mexican Drug Cartel Leaders:
In the fall of 2011, controversy arose over the role played by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder in endorsing “Fast and Furious,” a program which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms (ATF) had administered during 2009-10. In that initiative, the ATF sold some 2,500 guns — including 34 sniper rifles with an effective lethal range of approximately 2,000 meters — to “straw purchasers” in the U.S. who agreed to subsequently smuggle the guns into Mexico and put them in the hands of cartel leaders, who were then to be arrested.
The entire “Fast and Furious” operation ended with only 20 indictments of straw purchasers — all of whom were already familiar to U.S. authorities from the outset. Moreover, the program was linked directly to two weapons found on the scene where U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in Arizona in December 2010. By the fall of 2011, the weapons that had been transferred as part of “Fast and Furious” had been used in at least 200 murders in Mexico. They also had been identified at 11 additional crime scenes in the United States.
While being questioned under oath during a Judiciary Committee hearing on May 3, 2011, Eric Holder indicated that he had known nothing about “Fast and Furious” until about April 2011. But soon thereafter, a newly discovered memo (dated July 2010) showed that Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, had already told Holder that straw buyers in the “Fast and Furious” operation “are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to the Mexican drug trafficking cartels.” Other documents also indicated that Holder had begun receiving weekly briefings on the program from the National Drug Intelligence Center no later than July 5, 2010. Former ATF special agent William Newell testified under oath that “the DHS, IRS, DEA, ATF, ICE and the Obama Justice Department were all involved” in the operation.
President Obama likewise said that he knew nothing about “Fast and Furious” (nor about another, related initiative known as “Gunwalker”), although he had set aside $10 million for the operations in February 2009 via the $787 billion stimulus package. But CBS News in 2011 released a series of emails showing that three White House officials — Kevin O’Reilly, Dan Restrepo, and Greg Gatjanis — had been briefed on gun trafficking efforts that included “Fast and Furious.”
Obama State Department Expresses its Condolences to the Family of a Key Al-Qaeda Operative Who Had Been Killed in a US Airstrike against Terrorist Leader Anwar Al-Awlaki:
Islamic terrorist leader Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone airstrike in Yemen on September 30, 2011. In that attack, Awlaki’s right-hand man, the al-Qaeda propagandist and recruiter Samir Khan, was also killed. Soon thereafter, the Obama State Department (run by Hillary Clinton) contacted Khan’s family to “express its condolences.”
Obama says the “Occupy Wall Street” movement reflects Americans’s frustrations about the economy:
“I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel — that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street, and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place. So yes, I think people are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”
Obama Tried to Apologize, on America’s Behalf, for the Atomic Bombs the U.S. Dropped on Japan During WWII:
A secret cable released by WikiLeaks in October 2011 revealed that President Obama, during a 2009 tour to Japan, wanted to apologize to the Japanese for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the war in the Pacific and destroyed one of the most brutal regimes in history. The apology never materialized because, according to the leaked cable, Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka told U.S. Ambassador John Roos that “the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a ‘nonstarter.’” The Japanese feared that the apology would be exploited by anti-nuclear groups and those opposed to the defensive alliance between Japan and the United States. (It should be noted that historians have estimated that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki — rather than engaging in protracted conventional warfare with a Japanese regime that had resolbved never to surrender — saved hundred of thousands, if not millions, of American and Japanese lives.) As journalist Bruce Thorton points out:
Far from being near defeat and surrender, as critics of the bombings allege, the fanatical leadership of Japan was determined to fight to the end, inflicting as much damage on the Americans as possible even if victory was not attainable. The proof was the horrific fighting on Okinawa from April 1 to July 2. There the Japanese fought bitterly not for victory, but simply to put the cost to America so high as “to offer a suicidal lesson to Americans,” Victor Davis Hanson writes in Ripples of Battle, “to stop before they found themselves dying in the millions on the beaches of the Japanese motherland.” And indeed the price exacted for Okinawa was high: 200,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians died, taking with them 24,000 Americans. How many lives, then, would a conventional invasion of the home islands have cost? Conservative estimates put the toll at 500,000 American and twice that number of Japanese.
Moreover, Japanese military capability had not been fatally degraded in July 1945. The Emperor still had about 6,150 combat-ready planes, 8,000 pilots with enough training to fly as kamikazes, and an army of 2,350,000 regular troops, with perhaps as many as 30 million citizens able to fight as a militia. As Hanson summarizes, “Literally millions of Japanese civilians and soldiers were willing to die to defend their mainland from an American invasion, both as conventional and suicide attackers.” As for waiting a few weeks for the Japanese high command to come to its senses and realize the war was over, as liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued, the killing was continuing in Asia, which means ending the war with atomic bombs also saved Chinese, Russian, and Japanese lives. In just one week of fighting in August, the Soviets killed 80,000 Japanese, losing 8,000 of their own. And even after Nagasaki, Allied soldiers were killed and prisoners beheaded.
Obama Administration Scraps a Part of Obamacare:
In October 2011, the Obama administration scrapped one part of its healthcare overhaul — the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program — which would have covered the costs of long-term care such as nursing homes and home-health aides for disabled people. The program, which had been scheduled to take effect in 2012, was supposed to function as a self-sustaining voluntary insurance plan, open to all working adults regardless of age or health, who would pay monthly premiums — ranging from $235 to $3,000 under various scenarios — during their careers. But at those rates, financial analysts deemed it unlikely that large numbers of healthy people would willingly enroll in the program during their working years. In the event of a shortage of enrollees, the program, in turn, would have been forced to raise its premiums so that it could meet its obligations to disabled or ailing beneficiaries. Moreover, those rising premiums would have rendered CLASS even more unattractive to potential purchasers. As early as 2009 — nearly a year before the passage of Obamacare — Richard Foster, head of long-range economic forecasts for Medicare, had warned the Obama administration and congressional officials that CLASS would be financially unworkable and was destined to collapse. But the President and his fellow healthcare reformers ignored Foster’s counsel and continued to call for CLASS to be implemented.
Obama Says Republicans Want “Dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance”:
In mid-October 2011, President Obama derided the Republicans’ economic plan for America, saying that the plan, in its essence, called for: “Dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance.”
Obama administration bans training materials that depict Islam in a negative light:
In October 2011, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole declared that he had “recently directed all components of the Department of Justice to re-evaluate their training efforts in a range of areas, from community outreach to national security.” This “reevaluation” would remove all references to Islam in connection with any examination of Islamic jihad terror activity.
Dwight C. Holton, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, stated: “I want to be perfectly clear about this: training materials that portray Islam as a religion of violence or with a tendency towards violence are wrong, they are offensive, and they are contrary to everything that this president, this attorney general and Department of Justice stands for. They will not be tolerated.”
Holton said that he had spoken with Attorney General Eric Holder about FBI training materials that Holton claimed were “egregiously false,” and that Holder “is firmly committed to making sure that this is over….we’re going to fix it.” Holton said that this “fix” was particularly urgent because the rejected training materials “pose a significant threat to national security, because they play into the false narrative propagated by terrorists that the United States is at war with Islam.”
Cole suggested that these training materials had done damage domestically as well: “One of the many, tragic legacies of 9/11 has been an increase in prejudice, discrimination and hatred directed against persons of the Muslim and Sikh faiths and those who are, or who are mistakenly perceived to be, of Arab or South Asian descent. Some have wrongly sought to blame the horror of 9/11 on Arab-American, Muslim American, Sikh-American and South Asian American communities. It has led to attacks against places of worship and other hate crimes, to job discrimination, and to the tragic harassment of children in our schools.”
Cole added: “We must never allow our sorrow and anger at the senseless attack of 9/11 to blind us to the great gift of our diversity.” And this, he said, must involve a rejection of the stereotyping of Muslims: “All of us must reject any suggestion that every Muslim is a terrorist or that every terrorist is a Muslim. As we have seen time and again – from the Oklahoma City bombing to the recent attacks in Oslo, Norway – no religion or ethnicity has a monopoly on terror.” It was George Bush, he said, who after 9/11 “made clear to the nation that these terrorist acts were committed by individuals who distort the peaceful religion of Islam,” and now all government analysis of jihad terror would reflect that perspective.
In taking this course, the Obama Administration bowed to pressure from the Hamas-linked Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Islamic advocacy groups. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed that appeared on the same day as the conference in Washington, Salam al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) roundly criticized existing training materials about jihad terror and demanded that the FBI and the Justice Department “issue a clear and unequivocal apology to the Muslim American community; establish a thorough and transparent vetting process in selecting its trainers and materials; invite experts who have no animosity toward any religion to conduct training about any religious community to law enforcement.”
Al-Marayati complained that training materials reflected “bigoted and inflammatory views on Muslims, including claims that ‘devout’ Muslims are more prone toward violence, that Islam aims to ‘transform a country’s culture into 7th century Arabian ways,’ that Islamic charitable giving is a ‘funding mechanism for combat’ and that the prophet Muhammad was a ‘violent cult leader.’”
In this al-Marayati was simply repeating talking points from an “expose” of FBI training materials by hard-Left journalist Spencer Ackerman in Wired, who has been conducting a campaign for some time to get the bureau to purge its terrorism training seminars of any hint of discussion about the global jihad and Islamic supremacism.
Al-Marayati’s demand that the FBI and Justice Department “invite experts who have no animosity toward any religion to conduct training about any religious community to law enforcement” was at the heart of this entire affair.
The entire premise of all this, however, was false. The now-banned FBI training materials were not written out of hatred for Muslims. They were put together in order to give agents an accurate picture of the beliefs and perspectives of jihad terrorists. It is unfortunate but true that the Qur’an and Sunnah do contain doctrines of warfare and exhortations to make war against and subjugate infidels (cf. Qur’an 2:191; 4:89; 9:5; 9:29; 47:4, etc.).
(This section is adapted from “Obama Administration Bans the Truth About Islam and Jihad,” by Robert Spencer.)
Obama Announces Imminent U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq:
In a November 4, 2011 piece, columnist Charles Krauthammer explains Obama’s ultimate failure in Iraq:
Barack Obama was a principled opponent of the Iraq war from its beginning. But when he became president in January 2009, he was handed a war that was won. The surge had succeeded. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been routed, driven to humiliating defeat by an Anbar Awakening of Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the infidel Americans. Even more remarkably, the Shiite militias had been taken down, with U.S. backing, by the forces of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They crushed the Sadr militias from Basra to Sadr City.
Al-Qaeda decimated. A Shiite prime minister taking a decisively nationalist line. Iraqi Sunnis ready to integrate into a new national government. U.S. casualties at their lowest ebb in the entire war. Elections approaching. Obama was left with but a single task: Negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to reinforce these gains and create a strategic partnership with the Arab world’s only democracy.
He blew it. Negotiations, such as they were, finally collapsed last month. There is no agreement, no partnership. As of Dec. 31, the U.S. military presence in Iraq will be liquidated.
And it’s not as if that deadline snuck up on Obama. He had three years to prepare for it. Everyone involved, Iraqi and American, knew that the 2008 SOFA calling for full U.S. withdrawal was meant to be renegotiated. And all major parties but one (the Sadr faction) had an interest in some residual stabilizing U.S. force, like the postwar deployments in Japan, Germany and Korea.
Three years, two abject failures. The first was the administration’s inability, at the height of American post-surge power, to broker a centrist nationalist coalition governed by the major blocs — one predominantly Shiite (Maliki’s), one predominantly Sunni (Ayad Allawi’s), one Kurdish — that among them won a large majority (69 percent) of seats in the 2010 election.
Vice President Biden was given the job. He failed utterly. The government ended up effectively being run by a narrow sectarian coalition where the balance of power is held by the relatively small (12 percent) Iranian-client Sadr faction.
The second failure was the SOFA itself. U.S. commanders recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops.
A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances.
The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. Message received. Just this past week, Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurds — for two decades the staunchest of U.S. allies — visited Tehran to bend a knee to both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
It didn’t have to be this way. Our friends did not have to be left out in the cold to seek Iranian protection. Three years and a won war had given Obama the opportunity to establish a lasting strategic alliance with the Arab world’s second most important power.
He failed, though he hardly tried very hard. The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise.
But surely the obligation to defend the security and the interests of the nation supersede personal vindication. Obama opposed the war, but when he became commander in chief the terrible price had already been paid in blood and treasure. His obligation was to make something of that sacrifice, to secure the strategic gains that sacrifice had already achieved.
He did not, failing at precisely what this administration so flatters itself for doing so well: diplomacy. After years of allegedly clumsy brutish force, Obama was to usher in an era of not hard power, not soft power, but smart power.
Which turns out in Iraq to be . . . no power. Years from now, we will be asking not “Who lost Iraq?” — that already is clear — but “Why?”
Obama says the U.S. leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq
When Obama withdrew the last U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, he called it a “moment of success” and announced that the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government.”
Obama draws a moral equivalence regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict:
On November 2, 2011, the Obama administration sharply criticized Israel’s decision to accelerate construction of Israeli housing in various communities in and around Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank. The apartments that PM Benjamin Netanyahu sought to build would not be on Palestinian land, but rather in suburbs or even neighborhoods of Jerusalem, none of which were on the agenda for land swaps in a peace agreement.
The administration also had some harsh words about Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmud Abbas’ renewal of efforts to wrest recognition for his “Palestinian State” from the UN Security Council, in which endeavor he may have made some progress with UNESCO’s October vote to accept “Palestine” as a member. It is important to recall that Mr. Abbas’ maneuvers in the UN were actually part of the PA’s political and propaganda war against Israel, which, as Abbas had told the world back in May 2011, would not stop once the UN recognized the state of “Palestine,” but rather would be ratcheted up for a more effective assault against Israel.
Yet the White House and State Department used identical language to express the President’s disappointment with both Netanyahu and Abbas. The State Department spokesperson went on to chastise Netanyahu for Israel’s temporary suspension of the transfer of millions of tax dollars that Israel collects on behalf of the PA.
By using the same language for both Israel’s housing construction and Abbas’ diplomatic saber rattling, Obama created a moral equivalence between Israel’s efforts to accommodate its own population growth, and the PA’s efforts to ultimately destroy that population. Further, by demanding that Israel continue to lavish the PA with millions of dollars, the State Department was promoting the absurd notion that the PA leadership and its partners (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.) would use that money for state-building and economic development.
Israel scholar David Meir-Levi placed the Obama administration’s positions in context:
“Dozens of Arab terrorist organizations, includingHamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, the DFLP, the PFLP-GC, Fatah, the PLO, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Ansar al-Islam, Jayyish Allah, Sayyif al-Jihad, al-Jama’a al-Islamiyeh, el-Qaeda and others, all unabashedly proclaim their intentions to destroy Israel, a close, loyal and strong ally of America. In the context of that commitment to Israel’s destruction, they also emphasize their intention to exile or murder all of Israel’s Jews….
“The endless Arab diatribe of destruction and relentless rhetoric of annihilation (thoroughly documented during decades of Arab hate-speech and hate-preach here and here) have gone on unimpeded and unabashed, broadcast throughout much of the Arab and Muslim world since before the creation of the State of Israel. And Arab deeds have matched their words for almost seventy-five years, with equally relentless terrorism punctuated by full-scale wars when Arab leaders thought they would easily win.
“Countless times, Arab confrontation states and their terrorist proxies have violated international law, the UN’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, with terror attacks on Israeli women and children, mistreatment, torture and slaughter of Israeli prisoners, and incitement to genocide.
“On the other hand, every action by Israel to seek a peaceful resolution, thirty one attempts since 1937, has been rebuffed by the Arab side with war or terrorism or vociferous threats of the same….
“One should not have much trouble recognizing the moral differences between the two parties in the Arab-Israel conflict. But our State Department wants Israel to provide the PA with millions of dollars, even as the PA continues its incitement and rejects every invitation to negotiate a peaceful settlement, even as the PA’s partner, Hamas, continues shooting qassam rockets into Israeli schools, synagogues, busses and homes.”
(This section is adapted from: “Obama Continues His War on Israel,” by David Meir-Levi (November 7, 2011).
Plans to Cut U.S. Miltary Budget:
On November 7, 2011, the New York Times reported:
Under orders to cut the Pentagon budget by more than $450 billion over the next decade, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is considering reductions in spending categories once thought sacrosanct, especially in medical and retirement benefits, as well as further shrinking the number of troops and reducing new weapons purchases.
Mr. Panetta … acknowledged in an interview that he faced deep political pressures as he weighed cuts to Pentagon spending, which has doubled to $700 billion a year since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said that meeting deficit-reduction targets might require another round of base closings, which could be highly contentious as members of Congress routinely fight to protect military deployments and jobs in their communities.
Among other steps, Mr. Panetta said, Pentagon strategists were looking at additional cuts in the nuclear arsenal, with an eye toward determining how many warheads the military needed to deter attacks.
Mr. Panetta also held out the possibility of cutting the number of American troops based in Europe, with the United States compensating for any withdrawal by helping NATO allies improve their militaries. That effort would free up money so the United States could maintain or increase its forces in Asia, a high priority for the Obama administration, and sustain a presence in the Persian Gulf after the withdrawal from Iraq this year, he said.
Obama is caught on live microphone, blasting Israeli PM Netanyahu:
On November 3, 2011, President Obama conducted what he thought was a private conversation about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the aftermath of a G20 summit. However, the microphones which the two men were wearing from their earlier press conference, had not been turned off. What ensued was a major public embarrassment after both Obama and Sarkozy disparaged Netanyahu. Sarkozy told Obama, “I cannot stand him [Netanyahu]. He is a liar.” Obama replied: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!”
Obama issues mandate to double vehicles’ fuel efficiency by 2025:
On November 17, 2011, The Daily Caller reported the following:
The Obama administration’s new proposal to double the fuel efficiency of cars by 2025 may cost up to $157 billion and add $2,000 to the price of passenger automobiles, according to two federal agencies.
In the proposed rule posted on their websites, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency predict the administration’s new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards would add an average of $2,000 to the price of each new passenger vehicle sold by 2025.
The NHTSA attributes the increased consumer costs to the price of developing new fuel-saving technology. However, the highway agency predicts the costs of the new standards would be offset by benefits of $419 billion to $515 billion.
President Obama said the rule, negotiated by the administration and a number of automakers in July, was a successful effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
The proposed rule would go into effect in 2017 and requires annual fuel-economy increases of five percent for cars. Ultimately, the rule would require automakers to reach an average of 55.4 miles per gallon for passenger cars by 2025. The current CAFE standard for 2011 is 30.2 mpg.
Light trucks like pickups and sport utility vehicles would only be required to raise fuel economy by 3.5 percent the first five years the rule would be in effect. After that, trucks would also be required to increase fuel economy by five percent a year.
Semi-trucks from model years 2014-2018 would have to achieve an approximate 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, saving up to four gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.
Obama’s Threefold Affront to Israel:
Worried about losing some of the Jewish vote for 2012, President Obama in mid- to late 2011 made a number of staunchly pro-Israel statements. In September, for example, he told the UN General Assembly:
“Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look[s] out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied.”
But just a few weeks later, statements by two very senior officials and one lesser official showed that the administration remained relentlessly anti-Israel in some of its basic attitudes.
On November 28 at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta again warned Israel not to attack Iran. He repeated the reasons he had given in an almost identical warning two weeks earlier: harmful economic consequences, retaliations against U.S. forces, and ineffectiveness, since, he claimed, an attack would only set Iran’s nuclear program back a year or two.
Aware that Israel’s prime minister and defense minister regarded that nuclear program as an imminent—possibly within less than a year—existential threat, Panetta added that Iran represented “a very grave threat to all of us,” that sanctions against Iran must be “strong, [imposed] quickly, and purposeful,” and that “it is my department’s responsibility to plan for all contingencies and to provide the president with a wide range of military options should they become necessary.”
Panetta did not explain why that should be worth the effort when, according to him, the military option was close to useless anyway. Nor did he explain why the Obama administration kept obstructing Congress’s push to sanction Iran’s central bank.
Nor did Panetta content himself with merely admonishing Israel not to deal with its cardinal security problem, and instead to “count on us”; he also told Israel it was responsible for its—and America’s—problems in the Middle East. Israel—and not the Islamist tide now engulfing the region, which in fact Washington’s own policy of coddling and encouraging Islamists in Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, and Libya had done so much to enable.
Israel, Panetta said, needed to “reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional stability—countries like Turkey and Egypt, as well as Jordan.”
He said that just as the election results from Egypt were showing an overwhelming win for the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement for which jihad to the death against Israel is a fundamental tenet.
Panetta said it even though Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was waging an unremitting campaign against Israel with the same jihadist underpinnings.
Furthert, Panetta demanded that Israel negotiate with the Palestinians. “Just get to the damned table,” he declared; “rather than undermining the Palestinian Authority, it is in Israel’s interests to strengthen it by…continuing to transfer Palestinian tax revenues and pursuing other avenues of cooperation.” Yet Panetta said nothing about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of the purported “two-state solution,” his ten-month settlement freeze, or his constantly reiterated—and ritually spurned—offers to meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas anytime, anywhere.
Instead Panetta further admonished Israel: “in every strong relationship built on trust, built on friendship, built on mutual security, it demands that both sides work toward the same common goals.”
As William Kristol pointed out, statements last Wednesday by U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman “were not way out of line with Obama’s worldview”—as reflected in his defense minister’s words. Gutman (himself Jewish) “stunned” a Jewish conference on anti-Semitism in Brussels when he said that “Muslim hatred for Jews…stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians” and that “an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”
The administration, under fire from Jewish groups, reacted to Gutman’s words by proclaiming that “We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms and there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel.” But if the administration “condemned” anti-Semitism, had it taken note of the fact that—as confirmed repeatedly by Pew Center and other polls—the syndrome is rampant in places like Egypt, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority? And if cognizant of that fact, why did the administration obsessively demand that the Jewish state “reach out” and “make peace” with the Jew-haters?
(This section is adapted from “Obama Administration’s Threefold Slap in Israel’s Face,” by P. David Hornik (December 5, 2011).
Obama’s Speech in Kansas, Detailing His Views on Economics and Taxes:
On December 6, 2011, President Obama delivered a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, wherein he made the following remarks:
Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments – wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paycheques that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.
Now, for many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over this harsh reality. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now: mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or even sometimes understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.
It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility all across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we’re still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs and the homes and the basic security of millions of people – innocent, hardworking Americans who had met their responsibilities but were still left holding the bag.
And ever since, there’s been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity, restore balance, restore fairness….
This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement. Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.
I am here to say they are wrong. I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules. These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them.
You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: Would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were being controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citisens and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the privileged few? Because there were people who thought massive inequality and exploitation of people was just the price you pay for progress.
Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know is true today, that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and a standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.
But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free licence to take whatever you can from whomever you can. He understood the free market only works when there are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for consumers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses couldn’t profit by exploiting children or selling food or medicine that wasn’t safe. And today, they still can’t.
And in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here to Osawatomie and he laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy … of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”
Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a radical. He was called a socialist – even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women, insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax….
Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.
Remember in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history. And what did it get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class – things like education and infrastructure, science and technology, Medicare and social security.
Remember that in those same years, thanks to some of the same folks who are now running Congress, we had weak regulation, we had little oversight, and what did it get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity and denied care to patients who were sick, mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford, a financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.
We simply cannot return to this brand of “you’re on your own” economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and in its future. We know it doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citisens.
Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1% has gone up by more than 25% to $1.2m per year. I’m not talking about millionaires, people who have a million dollars. I’m saying people who make a million dollars every single year. For the top one hundredth of 1%, the average income is now $27m per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6%.
Now, this kind of inequality – a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression – hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity, of strong consumers all across the country. That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars he made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run….
But there’s an even more fundamental issue at stake. This kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America: that this is a place where you can make it if you try. We tell people – we tell our kids – that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, work hard and you can get into the middle class. We tell them that your children will have a chance to do even better than you do. That’s why immigrants from around the world historically have flocked to our shores.
And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. You know, a few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40%. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class – 33%….
The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average. And their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. Which means we shouldn’t be laying off good teachers right now – we should be hiring them. We shouldn’t be expecting less of our schools –- we should be demanding more. We shouldn’t be making it harder to afford college – we should be a country where everyone has a chance to go and doesn’t rack up $100,000 of debt just because they went….
Of course, those productive investments cost money. They’re not free. And so we’ve also paid for these investments by asking everybody to do their fair share. Look, if we had unlimited resources, no one would ever have to pay any taxes and we would never have to cut any spending. But we don’t have unlimited resources. And so we have to set priorities. If we want a strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values. We have to make choices.
Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit, I’ve already signed nearly $1tn of spending cuts into law and I’ve proposed trillions more, including reforms that would lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid.
But in order to structurally close the deficit, get our fiscal house in order, we have to decide what our priorities are. Now, most immediately, short term, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month. If we don’t do that, 160 million Americans, including most of the people here, will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 starting in January and it would badly weaken our recovery. That’s the short term.
In the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education and research and high-tech manufacturing – all those things that helped make us an economic superpower? Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country? Because we can’t afford to do both. That is not politics. That’s just math.
Now, so far, most of my Republican friends in Washington have refused under any circumstance to ask the wealthiest Americans to go to the same tax rate they were paying when Bill Clinton was president. So let’s just do a trip down memory lane here.
Keep in mind, when President Clinton first proposed these tax increases, folks in Congress predicted they would kill jobs and lead to another recession. Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century. This isn’t like in the early 50s, when the top tax rate was over 90%. This isn’t even like the early 80s, when the top tax rate was about 70%. Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39%. Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of you, millions of middle-class families. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%. One percent.
That is the height of unfairness. It is wrong. It’s wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker, maybe earns $50,000 a year, should pay a higher tax rate than somebody raking in $50m. It’s wrong for Warren Buffett’s secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. And by the way, Warren Buffett agrees with me. So do most Americans – Democrats, independents and Republicans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citisens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible.
This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare. It’s about making choices that benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get into the middle class, and the economy as a whole.
Finally, a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street. As infuriating as it was for all of us, we rescued our major banks from collapse, not only because a full-blown financial meltdown would have sent us into a second Depression, but because we need a strong, healthy financial sector in this country.
But part of the deal was that we wouldn’t go back to business as usual. And that’s why last year we put in place new rules of the road that refocus the financial sector on what should be their core purpose: getting capital to the entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and financing millions of families who want to buy a home or send their kids to college….
The fact is this crisis has left a huge deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit of trust. At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis. They should be working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house.
The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who haven’t yet benefited from historically low interest rates. And the big banks should recognise that precisely because these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the broader economy, it will also be in the banks’ own long-term financial interest. What will be good for consumers over the long term will be good for the banks.
Investing in things like education that give everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules. That’s what will transform our economy.
Obama turns to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading jurist, to mediate secret negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban: