IF CHRIS MATTHEWS IS COMPLAINING THAT the sun “ruined” Obama’s Berlin speech by obscuring his teleprompter with glare, my guess is it didn’t go well.
CHANGE: Some Berliners less enamored with Obama than in 2008. Some Americans, too.
WELL, REMEMBER, THE DEMS CAN’T EVEN PASS A BUDGET ON TIME: Acing the SNAP Challenge: GOP communications director eats for $4.50 per day.
A Republican hill staffer participated in a publicity stunt designed to bring awareness to the plight of food stamp recipients by spending only as much money on food in a week as the federal food stamp program provides.
The SNAP Challenge, as it’s called, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, isn’t as difficult as many Democrats claim, he says.
“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps,” said Donny Ferguson, communications director and agriculture policy adviser for Rep. Steve Stockman (R., Texas), in a news release.
“I didn’t plan ahead or buy strategically, I just saw the publicity stunt and made a snap decision to drive down the street and try it myself,” Ferguson said. “I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling.”
About thirty Democrats have said they will participate in the SNAP Challenge, which requires participants to eat on only $4.50 per day, or $31.50 per week. . . .
Ferguson says Democrats are playing up the difficulties of the challenge in order to boost the political case for increasing food stamp benefits.
“Not only did I buy a week’s worth of food on what Democrats claim is too little, I have money left over,” Ferguson said.
“I didn’t use coupons, I didn’t compare prices and was buying for one, instead of a family. I could have bought even more food per person if I were splitting $126 four ways, instead of budgeting $31.50 to eat for one.”
Or you could just raise your debt limit and buy whatever you want on credit. We’ll call that the OBAMA Challenge.
THAT, BY THE WAY, IS A GRADE SEVERAL STEPS HIGHER THAN WEAPONS-GRADE: Sen. Cruz blasts Obama with one ‘blogger-grade sarcasm’ question.
HE’S ALREADY THE GREATEST GUN SALESMAN IN HISTORY. WILL HE ALSO BE THE GREATEST PROMOTER OF LIBERTARIANISM IN HISTORY? CNN poll shows Obama’s case for big government is losing the public. Well, we can hope.
CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN: Berlin Speech: 200,000 for Obama in 2008; Only 6,000 Today. And a bulletproof plastic shield.
ED MORRISSEY: Did The IRS Target A DHS Whistleblower? “P. Jeffrey Black tried to fix problems in the federal air marshal service, but had IRS agents at his door the day he appeared in a documentary criticizing the Obama administration’s air security efforts.”
JAMES TARANTO: We Are All Dick Cheney Now.
Before we go any further, let’s correct the president on some factual matters. The court that administers the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is not transparent; its rulings, including the “secondary order” leaked by erstwhile NSA contractor Edward Snowden, are classified top secret. It’s accurate to say that the court provides scrutiny–”a system of checks and balances,” as the president put it–but not transparency.
The FISA court is not, as Obama implies, an innovation of his administration. It was set up in 1978, when Obama was still a member in good standing of the Choom Gang. As we noted June 6, the NSA effort was brought under the FISA court’s jurisdiction no later than Jan. 17, 2007, by which point Obama was a celebrity, but Dick Cheney was still vice president and would be for more than two more years.
The real problem here, though, is not the president’s casual attitude toward the facts but his relentless partisan hostility. What does he hope to accomplish by asserting that he’s no Dick Cheney? The obvious political answer is that it is an appeal to people for whom Cheney is a demon figure–that is, the Democratic base. Lots of “raving liberals” are feeling betrayed by Obama’s seeming failure to live up to his rhetoric about civil liberties and such. Perhaps there is a psychological aspect to Obama’s pronouncement–that is, maybe he’s trying to reassure himself that he’s better than the leaders he demonized.
But Obama does a serious disservice to the country by casting what is in fact a bipartisan antiterror program in such partisan terms. His message, as an irreverent National Journal headline puts it, is: “Trust Us, Because . . . Trust Us.” We’d change the emphasis a bit: Trust Us, Because . . . Trust Us.
HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): “In two contexts the Obama administration has revealed its complete confusion about high-stakes negotiations and the interrelation of soft and hard power.”
MORE RUBES SELF-IDENTIFY:
Pew survey, June 13, 2012: 89% of Germans would like to see Obama re-elected.
Thanks to reader Roger Heinig for the links.
WHEN P.C. FILTERS BREAK DOWN: Boston Bombing victim calls suspects’ mom ‘vile.’
Michelle L’Heureux, a 38-year-old John Hancock consultant, told the Herald yesterday it’s time to stop being “politically correct” and speak out — making her one of the first victims to stand up to the terror-talking Chechen family.
“I feel a little bit of hatred towards her. I think she is a vile person,” L’Heureux said of the mom. “If you don’t like our country, get out. It’s as simple as that.”
But where else can you get such generous welfare benefits? Plus:
L’Heureux, who can only walk a few steps each day, hopes the bombings lead to more open lines of communication.
“A Muslim terrorist bombed us, and people need to start talking about that more, instead of being so politically correct,” L’Heureux said. “The more politically correct we are, and the more ‘Oh, let’s not hurt their feelings,’ the more they’re going to be able to do these type of things.
“If I ever have children, I don’t want to be afraid that something like this is going to happen to them in our country,” she said. “We’re a civil society. We shouldn’t have to worry about walking your children down Boylston Street, and being blown up by a bomb.”
Well, Obama says Al Qaeda isn’t a threat any more. So we’ve got that going for us, anyway.
NICK GILLESPIE: Is Sarah Palin A Libertarian?
No, but she’s closer than anyone we’re likely to elect. But she’s not cool enough for a lot of libertarians. Though you’d think after the disastrous “Obamatarian” fad, they’d have learned about cool.
UPDATE: Reader Alysia Lucas writes:
Sarah Palin *is* the closest thing to a libertarian. Alaska is one of the more libertarian states in the US due to the kinds of folks who settled the state. She was a very popular politician there before the national media tore her to pieces.
I’ve long thought that people confuse her actions as a mayor and governor (more libertarian-leaning) with her expressed personal beliefs and how she lives her own life (as a committed Christian). I’ve read both her books and she comes across as an intelligent, practical person who understands the fallibility of man. I think she subscribes to the doctrine of setting up laws such that even the wrong people are forced to do the right thing. I think both she and Rick Perry would favor a more minimalist government than the current administration.
I think she’s a victim of oikophobia, a prejudice to which all too many libertarians are prone, alas.
BARACK WHO? Obama’s Disappearing Act. “Obama practically disappeared from the scene (no calls to Cabinet officials, no convening in the Situation Room) on the night of the Benghazi, Libya, attack. He seems more concerned on the NSA flap with distancing himself from conservatives whom he loathes (‘I am not Dick Cheney’) and in Syria on protecting his self-image (he ends wars, doesn’t start them) than in taking the heat from Democrats. When coverage is not glowing, he becomes cranky with the media (as does his spokesman). He is most at ease campaigning before a crowd (whether it is an election or not) when he can accuse opponents of ill-will and flail away at straw men with no interruption.”
MORAL CAPITAL DEPLETION: My USA Today column: Government compromises our trust.
UPDATE: Ron Fournier: Obama’s Credibility Crisis. “There is a common element to the so-called Obama scandals—the IRS targeting of conservatives, the fatal attack in Benghazi, and widespread spying on U.S. journalists and ordinary Americans. It is a lack of credibility. In each case, the Obama administration has helped make controversies worse by changing its stories, distorting facts, and lying.”
ROGER KIMBALL: James O’Keefe Is Back. “I’ve only just dipped a toe into the book, but already I can see that this intellectual heir to Andrew Breitbart has produced a devastating attack on the smary leftist establishment. I don’t expect to see it reviewed in The New York Times, but I’l wager it will rocket up that paper’s bestseller list. Don’t miss it.”
The book is Breakthrough: Our Guerrilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy. I will note that, like a lot of anti-Obama folks who achieved success earlier, O’Keefe was conveniently sidelined for the 2012 election. A coincidence, I’m sure.
SHOCKER: Hidden camera catches wireless company employees passing out ‘Obama phones’ to people who say they’ll SELL them for drugs, shoes, handbags and spending cash. “The ‘Lifeline’ free-cell-phone scheme cost $2.2 Billion last year alone, all of it from fees added to the phone bills of paying customers. The biggest beneficiary other than low-income consumers is billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, whose TracFone has collected $1.5 Billion to date.”
TOM BLUMER: Harassment and Intimidation: The Goals of Obama’s Information Dragnet. “It may be working.” Well, he managed to cripple the Tea Party for 2012.
THE HILL: Obama doubles down on NSA defense as poll numbers slip. “The president went on to defend the NSA spying as ‘transparent,’ while defensively acknowledging that many on the left and right had compared his anti-terror policies to those of his predecessor, former President George W. Bush.”
Oh, he’s transparent all right. More and more people are seeing through him.
NIXON: I AM NOT A CROOK! Obama: I’m not Dick Cheney.
HOW TECHNOLOGY IS DESTROYING JOBS. Yeah, but it’s also being substituted for workers because of over-regulation, including ObamaCare.
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Barack’s Best Friend Erdogan Not Looking Pretty.
Violence in Istanbul is threatening President Obama’s relationship with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. What started out as a protest against the development of a park has morphed into a show of much wider discontent. Over the weekend, more than two weeks after the protests started, police used tear gas and water cannons to clear Gezi Park of its protesters and spent most of Sunday chasing protesters and looters into shopping malls and upscale hotels.
To most outsiders, this looks like an excellent time for some soothing words and calming speeches in Turkey. Erdogan has a solid majority in parliament and his core supporters don’t seem fazed by the protests in Istanbul. (Think of Erdogan as the George W. Bush of Turkey, and the protesters are secular liberals who hate him as much or more than the American left hated W. The more the left protests, the more Erdogan’s base rallies to its man.) Making a few concessions, pulling the police back except where violence or looting actually occurs, and calming things down were the actions most of us would advise at a time like this.
But Turkish politics has its own rhythms, and Erdogan has his own priorities—and temperament. In response to the protests, he’s toughening his rhetoric and promising a crackdown.
Actually, Obama and Erdogan have similar approaches. Obama is just more constrained.
SITTING ON THEIR HANDS IN MASSACHUSETTS: Salena Zito: GOP not seizing chance to stun Dems.
Republicans have talked about pursuing a different kind of candidate since what seems like forever. Heck, the national party even convened a special, secret task force just for that purpose late last year, after losing key demographic groups such as women and Hispanics.
Yet, given exactly the kind of candidate they hire people to find out in the hinterlands, Republicans are oddly not engaged with helping him cross the finish line in a special election that would significantly stun Democrats.
Gabriel Gomez is a Massachusetts Republican running to fill John Kerry’s vacated U.S. Senate seat; the 47-year-old political newcomer is within striking distance of wounding Democrats right where it hurts.
Gomez, a first-generation American whose parents came here from Colombia, has a compelling life story that includes an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and service as a Navy SEAL and fighter pilot. He is Roman Catholic, personally pro-life; fluent in Spanish; a father of four who met his wife when he was deployed as a SEAL in Grenada, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer.
His opponent, Congressman Ed Markey, began his Washington career the same year that Apple Computer was founded in Steve Jobs’ garage, “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” was Billboard’s No. 1 song and the United States celebrated its bicentennial. . . .
Republicans have spent 10 years telling themselves their problem with Hispanic voters on Election Day is fixable because those same voters share so many Republican values. But that will be just theory until they start electing Latinos to high-profile offices as Republicans.
Special elections present special opportunities; winning one as a surprise does more to reboot a party than a dozen blue-ribbon commissions, task forces and post-mortem conferences ever could.
Democrats know they have a problem; privately, they worry about Markey’s long, unremarkable Washington career. So they have called in the two best reinforcements they could think of: outside money and some speechifying by Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, crickets.
I guess a Gomez victory wouldn’t generate enough revenues for consultants or something.
THIS STILL SEEMS TRUE: 5 Ways The Immigration Bill Is Like ObamaCare.
Can we have a simple bill, put through in regular order with no “gangs” meeting behind closed doors?
Also, why aren’t some GOP folks pushing amendments like an end to taxing Americans on income earned abroad, a repeal of the provisions punishing Americans who give up their citizenship, and a requirement for reciprocity regarding U.S. citizens’ rights to own property, participate in politics, etc., in Mexico?
FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL GERALD WALPIN: Why the IRS IG Stopped with an Audit: Probably in part because the Obama administration intimidates inspector generals.
WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Obama puts up dukes and blunders into Syria. “President Obama’s decision to provide weapons to rebels in Syria has the potential to become another foreign policy blunder at a time when the Nobel Prize winner’s second term is mired in scandal. Obama had been saying for months that he would not send troops into the region, but has now stationed 300 troops just outside Syria on its border with Jordan. Obama attributes the abrupt escalation in U.S. involvement to the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But another factor could be Obama’s desire to appear tough on the issue during the G8 summit this week and to divert attention from the IRS, NSA and Benghazi scandals.”
UPDATE: Investor’s Business Daily: Syria: Nobel Peace Prize Winner’s Next War.
THIS MUST BE MORE OF THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WE WERE PROMISED: On Europe trip, Obama will face a continent frustrated by his actions and inaction.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: The New American Enemies List. “Of all the legacies of Barack Obama, the most pernicious will be the creation of a rogue government that has cut off and terrified half the population — and for no other reason than that they seem to represent things that Mr. Obama simply does not seem to understand.”
Benghazi. The IRS targeting of conservative groups. Secret e-mail accounts used by top federal officials — such as former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and Labor Secretary nominee Tom Perez — to conduct official business. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s efforts to promote Obamacare with a private slush fund solicited from companies she regulates. Subpoenas for records of journalists. The NSA revelations.
How many warning signs — emerging virtually all at once — do we need to realize that the American people have lost control of their government? Not only that, but large sectors of the government have lost any ability to provide checks and balances or even monitor the bureaucracy.
Read the whole thing.
I’M SURE OBAMA WILL BE GRATEFUL FOR HIS SUPPORT: Cheney calls Snowden a ‘traitor,’ defends NSA surveillance programs.
MAYBE THEY SHOULD HAVE ASKED THIS QUESTION IN 2008: The Hill Baffled About Obama: ‘Who Is He?’
Related: Scandal-Drenched Obama’s Approval Plummets in CNN Poll. “A CNN/ORC survey released Monday shows Obama with a 45 percent approval rating, down from his 53 percent mark in mid-May. Fifty-four percent say they disapprove of how Obama is handling his job. The poll also finds that 49 percent believe Obama is honest to 50 percent who do not, the first time a majority have not found the president to be trustworthy.”
SO IGNORE THE LYING LIARS WHO SAY OTHERWISE. THEY’RE PROBABLY RACISTS ANYWAY. Obama Denies NSA Surveillance Programs Violate Privacy Rights.
“These zero-tolerance policies are psychotic, in the strict sense of the word: psychotic means ‘out of touch with reality,’” Dr. Leonard Sax, a Pennsylvania psychologist and family physician, and author of “Boys Adrift,” told FoxNews.com.
In recent months, there have been several examples of children being disciplined for what was once seen as innocent role play.
A group of students was suspended this month from a Washington state elementary school for using Nerf dart guns as part of a math lesson, despite having permission from their teacher. . . .
“Out-of-touch policies such as these, which criminalize behaviors which have always been common among young kids, are contributing to the growing proportion of American kids, especially boys, who regard school as a stupid waste of time and who can’t wait to get out of school so that they can get back to playing their video games,” Sax said.
Worse, their perception is increasingly correct. Of course, now when kids are persecuted over toy guns, they can just say they’re emulating President Obama.
WITH ALL THIS SNOOPING, let’s be glad that the early-Obama-Administration idea for a GPS-enforced mileage tax never took off.
By the way, if you voluntarily use a tracking device like Progressive Insurance’s snapshot, do you feel like your information is safe?
AL GORE: NSA Surveillance “Violates The Constitution.” “The former vice president also pushed President Obama and Congress to revisit the laws underlying the NSA program. Gore’s stance on the constitutionality of the data collection is not dissimilar to statements made by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in the last week, particularly regarding the senator’s proposed Fourth Amendment Restoration Act.”
MEGAN MCARDLE: When Work Disappears: What do we do with people whose livelihoods are destroyed? This phenomenon is appearing all over. My colleague Ben Barton is working on a very interesting book about the future of the legal profession that catalogues all the ways technology and market forces are chewing up lawyers. When I finished his (surprisingly sunny) conclusion, I emailed him this quote from Arthur Allen Leff:
The radically unknown is always frightening (at least to those making out all right as is), especially considering how many lives can be lashed to pieces as a new distributional curve flails about, desperately seeking a new equilibrium.
There’s a lot of flailing going on, and there has for years been insufficient concern about what all the folks on the left half of the bell curve are going to do with their lives — only now it’s looking like the left 2/3 or maybe 3/4. I’m not sure what to do either. Here are my thoughts from a decade ago. I note that when the economy picked up, we heard less of that talk for a while. But I do think there’s something structural going on, not just an economic cycle.
The interesting thing, too, is that Paul Krugman, in the column Megan is responding to, flat-out admits that sending people to college doesn’t help much. In fact, it can hurt. For the book I’m working on now (basically a combination and substantial expansion of The Higher Education Bubble and The K-12 Implosion) I’ve been looking at research finding that students going in to college with identical “predictors” in terms of grades and test scores have very different trajectories coming out based on family income. The “strivers” with good scores but poor family backgrounds may actually do worse than if they hadn’t gone to college at all, as they often get distracted into partying and graduate with low grades and an overhang of student debt, winding up in jobs that they could have gotten without “investing” in college at all. One student’s father is quoted as comparing colleges’ sales pitches to TV infomercials. . . .
Of course, it’s not just technology that’s killing jobs. Regulation is killing jobs, too:
About 40% of Mr. Puzder’s employees are part-time and therefore exempt from ObamaCare’s coverage mandates. “That percentage of employees will probably go up. Everybody is hiring more part-time employees,” he says, though he is quick to add that “we’re not firing anyone to hire” part-time workers. “Through attrition, three full-time employees go away and you hire four part-time employees who basically have the same hours.”
Mr. Puzder also expects fast-food restaurants to deal with ObamaCare by replacing workers with kiosks. “You’re going to go into a fast-food restaurant and order on an iPad or tablet instead of talking to a person because we don’t have to pay benefits for any of those things.”
Krugman doesn’t seem focused on this problem.
JUSTIN KATZ: “It’s difficult not to have a surreal feeling watching the world go by in the shadow of the growing monolith of Obama Administration scandals. Some of the government actions that have come to light would have been universally understood as signs of encroaching tyranny just a few years ago.”
MICHAEL WALSH ON NSA AND THE SCANDALANCHE:
As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, the courts have held that, while the contents of phone conversation are private, the records — who called whom, when, from where and for how long — of such calls are not.
What makes the news scary are the revelations of what else Team Obama’s been up to. Follow the bouncing scandal ball:
* On Benghazi, the administration has simply clammed up, keeping suspicions alive that there’s much more to this story. A handful of intrepid reporters have bucked the tide, but others have stopped asking why no help was sent and where President Obama was that night. Because . . .
* In clear violation of the First Amendment, the administration — allegedly angered about national-security leaks — seized phone records from the AP and Fox News in a what looks like a transparent attempt to put the fear of God into them and keep others incuriously toeing the party line, which mostly amount to: Trust us. But can we? Consider . . .
* The strange goings-on at the Environmental Protection Agency, where recently-departed chief Lisa Jackson was using a fictitious e-mail account in order to communicate privately without all those pesky “transparency” requirements. How widespread is this practice? What to make of word that Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was also using “secondary” e-mail accounts?
* Then came the IRS bombshell — something every taxpaying American can relate to. That a supposedly neutral collection agency with powers far beyond what we entrust to law enforcement would cheerfully target Tea Party and other righty groups for special scrutiny is the stuff of Orwellian nightmares. And although the IRS has tried to blame “rogue elements” in its Cincinnati office, whistleblowers are coming out of the woodwork to point the finger directly at the White House.
All this adds up to a perfect storm of mistrust, now exacerbated by the fears of the surveillance state that has mushroomed since the panicky post-9/11 “reforms.” Thus Americans now fear a culture of suspicion among top law-enforcement officials, who treat more than 300 million overwhelmingly law-abiding Americans as potential criminals, subject to snoops and pat-downs.
And when that leviathan falls down on the job — as it did in failing to spot the Tsarnaev brothers — then the trade-off between liberty and security becomes a very bad bargain indeed.
JAMES TARANTO: Pathological Altruism: A simple concept that could revolutionize scientific and social thought. Taranto is commenting on Barbara Oakley’s work, and observes:
Pathological altruism is at the root of the liberal left’s crisis of authority, which we discussed in our May 20 column. The left derives its sense of moral authority from the supposition that its intentions are altruistic and its opponents’ are selfish. That sense of moral superiority makes it easy to justify immoral behavior, like slandering critics of President Obama as racist–or using the power of the Internal Revenue Service to suppress them. It seems entirely plausible that the Internal Revenue Service officials who targeted and harassed conservative groups thought they were doing their patriotic duty. If so, what a perfect example of pathological altruism.
Oakley concludes by noting that “during the twentieth century, tens of millions [of] individuals were killed under despotic regimes that rose to power through appeals to altruism.” An understanding that altruism can produce great evil as well as good is crucial to the defense of human freedom and dignity.
Altruism can be a tool for manipulators, just like any other human trait. Here’s video of Oakley talking about this.
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Obamacare Round-up: ACA Support in a Death Spiral.
With each passing year, people are becoming warier and warier of Obamacare. WSJ has the results of a new survey on attitudes toward the ACA conducted by Mercer. It found that only 9 percent of companies now believe Obamacare won’t raise their health care costs significantly, compared to 20 percent last year and 25 percent in 2011.
Maybe, just maybe the decline in support has something to do with the information we’ve gotten in recent weeks about the likely costs of insurance under the ACA. It’s becoming clearer every day that the rates on the California exchanges are going to be too high for many Americans, President Obama’s celebratory remarks on California’s lower-than-expected premiums notwithstanding. Even ACA supporters are now saying that the rates are too high. . . .
Declining support for and increased anxiety about the ACA is bad news for the President because it’s self-fulling in a way: the more the public distrusts Obamacare, the less likely it is that people will sign up for insurance—and the more likely in turn that the law will fail. But there’s perhaps an even more immediate problem for the law hitting the news today. Many insurers aren’t signing up to offer plans in the small business exchanges.
It’s almost like it was designed to fail or something.
PEGGY NOONAN: Privacy Isn’t All We’re Losing: The surveillance state threatens Americans’ love of country. Under Obama, it’s become less lovable. I suspect this isn’t entirely an accident. “Trust in government, historically, ebbs and flows, and currently, because of the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, Benghazi, etc.—and the growing evidence that the executive agencies have been reduced to mere political tools—is at an ebb that may not be fully reversible anytime soon. It is a great irony, and history will marvel at it, that the president most committed to expanding the centrality, power, prerogatives and controls of the federal government is also the president who, through lack of care, arrogance, and an absence of any sense of prudential political boundaries, has done the most in our time to damage trust in government.”
Further thoughts here.
UPDATE: Poor Michael Gerson, who’s in the embarrassing position of being less clueful than Peggy Noonan.
THE PERILS OF GRANDSTANDING: Judge: Obama sex assault comments ‘unlawful command influence.’ So what about his comments on the Zimmerman trial? . . .
UPDATE: Yes, yes, I know that there’s no such thing as unlawful command influence in the civilian legal system. I’m just noting his tendency to politicize criminal cases.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:
Isn’t it interesting that here, in a case in which he is in the chain of command, he spoke out forcefully and, evidently, too pointedly. Contrast that with the Gosnell case, in which he had no part in the executive hierarchy but dodged answering questions with the invented excuse, “I can’t comment on it because it’s an active trial.”
I’m a Fed, so please don’t use my name.
Yes, consistency is not his strong suit. But, to be fair, no one has ever really demanded it of him.
Related: Giuliani: FBI’s Mueller ‘Terribly Disengaged’ in IRS Scandal. Funny, he had a pretty good reputation. Another officeholder’s credibility sacrificed to protect Obama?
SCANDAL BLOWBACK: Obama faces a Redditors Rebellion, at least for now. “Reddit, usually known for comedic memes about cats and Nicholas Cage, has become, at least temporarily, a place of hostility. It was actually difficult to find anything purely comical this past weekend. While the bulk of the anger seems to have dissipated since the weekend, the majority of the political links being submitted even today are about the NSA scandal.”
ED DRISCOLL: The Scowling Face of the State, Illustrated.
THE HILL: State Department watchdog blasted for keeping hooker claims from Congress. “In a letter to the department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) blasts the agency over a February report that was scrubbed of specific references to misconduct allegations that included eight cases of State Department officials sleeping with prostitutes and other misconduct.”
The Walpin firing, early in Obama’s first term, was intended to intimidate Inspectors General. It appears to have succeeded.
JAMES TARANTO: Not-for-Profit Propaganda: What is the California Endowment? “This column does not think the Internal Revenue Service should take a punitive approach to the endowment’s propagandizing for semi-socialized medicine. . . . But it does underscore why the IRS’s abuse of grassroots conservative groups is so galling. ObamaCare was enacted in 2010 against overwhelming public opposition. This energized the Tea Party, which helped turn the 2010 elections into a referendum in which ObamaCare was resoundingly defeated. Obama’s re-election was another referendum on ObamaCare. That one he narrowly won–but as it turns out, the IRS was cheating on his behalf. The California Endowment’s pro-ObamaCare propaganda may be unobjectionable in itself, but the government’s systematic suppression of dissent lends another layer of illegitimacy to this monstrous law.”
MICKEY KAUS: The Secret DUI Factor.
I’m told, by a reliable and well-placed source, that a good deal of the Democratic opposition to John Cornyn’s proposed amendment to the Gang of 8 bill has nothing to do with border security. It has to do with DUIs. Specifically, Cornyn’s amendment would bar illegal immigrants with misdemeanor DUI convictions from ”probationary” legal status, which is the immediate legalization offered by Marco Rubio, et al, to most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S.. For the pro-amnesty side, the exclusion of DUI offenders is apparently a deal-killer. There must be a lot of them!
Pro-Gang Democrats (and Republicans) understandably don’t want to publicize their DUI defense. DUI offenders are not an inherently popular group, and accidents in which undocumented immigrant drivers kill innocent civilians tend to be well publicized. It’s not a coincidence that Obama’s executive mini-amnesty of so-called “Dreamers”–issued before the 2012 election–claimed to exclude DUI offenders. But the broader Gang of 8 legislation, written after the election, allows two free misdemeanors–apparently including DUIs–before an illegal immigrant is disqualified.
Why such solicitude? You may well ask. (I am asking! — ed) And well you may!
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE UPDATE: White House: Syria’s Assad used chemical weapons against rebels. “White House officials on Thursday said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons repeatedly against anti-government rebels, acknowledging the leader had crossed the ‘red line’ that President Obama said would warrant deeper U.S. intervention in the nation’s civil war.”
WHAT’S WORSE? THE NSA SURVEILLANCE PROGRAMS? Or “the fact that the leaks about them have caused normally reasonable people to publicly commit themselves to so many strange notions in a desperate attempt to defend the Obama administration…”
Well, what people are willing to do in a desperate attempt to defend the Obama administration is educational, and unmasks a lot of “normally reasonable people” as not being so reasonable after all.
HEY, TEA PARTIERS WERE THE PRIORITY: Obama’s Snooping Excludes Mosques, Missed Boston Bombers. “Since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents. No more surveillance or undercover string operations without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the Sensitive Operations Review Committee. . . . The FBI never canvassed Boston mosques until four days after the April 15 attacks, and it did not check out the radical Boston mosque where the Muslim bombers worshipped.”
DO NOT CHALLENGE THE ROYAL TRAVEL BUDGET: WaPo: Obama’s trip to Africa poses special challenges, enormous costs.
Because if you do, Josh Marshall will call you racist.
LOOKING A LITTLE WORRIED: Never mind Obama, Markey Brings In Bill Clinton. In Massachusetts, Markey should be a shoo-in. That he’s acting worried says a lot, even though I suspect he’ll pull through in the end. Scott Brown was a surprise once, but now the machine is paying attention.
BUILDING BUNKERS, STOCKPILING WEAPONS, AND COMPILING FREAKISH DOSSIERS ON IMAGINED ENEMIES: Frank J. Fleming: Our Paranoid Government — What To Do About The “Fanatical Fringe?”
The feds have shown warning signs for years, becoming increasingly withdrawn, hunkered down in their bunkers in DC. They’re disconnected from what’s going on in the rest of the country, getting their news only from extremist sources like Media Matters, MSNBC and The New York Times.
And in their fear and isolation, federal workers seem willing to believe almost any crazy conspiracy theory about the American public — such as that everyone is secretly racist against the president and that people are going to form militias to fight the government.
And now we know they’ve started attacking those they fear. . . . Now, citizen have plenty to worry about with the feds lashing out. After all, for years the government has stockpiled dangerous weapons like assault rifles, nuclear weapons and audit forms.
It hasn’t started blowing up US citizens in drone strikes (other than the four), but who knows what the feds will do if their paranoia is allowed to grow?
I think they should be disarmed and sent for mandatory therapy.
Plus: “I’m not trying to say this is Obama’s fault — it’s not like it’s his job to know what goes on in the federal government — but if he were more careful with what he says, he could probably end a lot of federal workers’ paranoia has about our citizens right now.”
OFT EVIL WILL SHALL EVIL MAR: ObamaCare Doing What Term-Limits Movement Couldn’t. “Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.”
INSIDE THE BELTWAY INCEST: Dueling Banjos on the Potomac: DC Media & White House more inbred than a 7-toed Kentucky lot lizard. “Let’s start by going through the Post’s article to create a list of journalists married to or closely related to officials within the Obama administration. The size and scope of this is bad enough. But what is most troubling is how high up this incest occurs in the worlds of both the media and the Obama administration.” Ruling classes always intermarry. It assures loyalty and protection.
Substitute headline via IowaHawk.
POLL: Most Americans Think IRS Targeting An Intentional Act To Punish Political Opponents. “Two-thirds of American voters (66 percent) think the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups as part of a high-level operation to punish political opponents. Far fewer — 23 percent — think it was a mistake by a handful of lower-level IRS employees. Even Democrats, by a seven percentage-point margin, are more likely to think the targeting was a punitive measure ordered by higher-ups.”
THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Obama Appointee In Charge Of Nuclear Security Hacked.
The real effect of the NSA stories is to cement a narrative about Obama that will likely become part of his legacy: the liberal senator and constitutional law professor who, like the pigs in “Animal Farm,” metamorphosed into what he had so notoriously opposed. Guantanamo remains open. Drones still rain down on Pakistan, Yemen, and anywhere else the president sees fit. Leaks are prosecuted vigorously and reporters are investigated to uncover their sources. And now, the president is affirming the surveillance practices he once mused could be unconstitutional. In light of these actions alone, it seems that Barack Obama has learned that George W. Bush got a lot of things right.
How’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ out for ya?
GATHERING THE REINS: CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell Retiring, To Be Replaced By Former Obama Lawyer Avril Haines. “Morell will be reportedly replaced by White House lawyer Avril D. Haines, effective Aug. 9. Haines previously served as Obama’s legal counsel for national security as well as a National Security Council adviser.”
GALLUP POLL: Obama Less Popular Than Bush.
AT U.S. NEWS, Obama Scandal Central.
Dubbed the “nuclear codes” by campaign aides, the Obama campaign database is widely described as one of the most powerful tools ever developed in American politics. According to published reports, it contains the names of at least 4 million Obama donors – as well as millions of others (the campaign has consistently refused to say how many) compiled from voter registration rolls and other public databases. In addition, the campaign used sophisticated computer programs — with code names like “Narwhal” — to collect information through social media: Anybody who contacted the campaign through Facebook had their friends and “likes” downloaded. If they contacted the campaign website through mobile apps, cellphone numbers and address books were downloaded. Computer “cookies” captured Web browsing and online spending habits. . . . Reading this story in the context of the just-concluded campaign, it all seemed mildly spooky. . . . The IRS became an arm of the Obama campaign, at least in practice if not in name, from 2010 to 2012. Did the NSA do anything similar? Was there any overlap at all between the data-mining tools and techniques used by the Obama campaign and the data-mining tools and techniques used by the National Security Agency?
Even if actual data didn’t migrate from the NSA program, I wonder if know-how didn’t cross over. Were some of the same people from Facebook, Google, etc. working on both? That would be interesting to find out. This makes James Taranto’s “President Asterisk” point look still more salient.
UPDATE: Reader Jim Bullock writes:
Did not the administration crow quite a bit over the last year about targeting “connectors” among Al Qaeda higher-ups as a means of disabling the system? These people were selected as targets for drones and other “actions” based on their being connectors.
So, we seem to think identifying connectors works, and removing them harms the networks. It is worthwhile making them targets, simply on the basis of being connectors.
Meanwhile, the “innocuous” “metadata” collected on US citizens is nothing to worry about, except you can build with it connection maps to *find* bridging folks (who’s removal would cripple the whole network), and DHS has identified some very interesting groups and positions as terrorist, or potentially terrorist. Christians, by name, for one.
I really do not want to start wearing a tinfoil hat, but it’s seemingly more
stupid every day to do otherwise.
In the Obama era, it’s not whether you’re paranoid. It’s whether you’re paranoid enough.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:
It appears to me that something is not being highlighted enough. Preston makes excellent points about the thoroughness of the Obama information on their own donors, and how to use that information. You yourself make the connection about the know-how to use what the NSA programs were doing and apply it to their own campaign.
Are people yet making the connection between the data that the IRS was trying to compile on Tea Party groups and the NSA program structure? We have heard how the questionaires being sent to the 501(c)4 groups were asking for social networking contacts, donor lists, websites, etc…..
It seems to me that this targetted collection of networking data was being done explicitly to build up the same sort of deep database of their political opponents. Even the recent fun mental exercise of identifying Paul Revere as one of the lynch-pins of the American Revolution by using the same techniques, this data collection on political enemies is designed to do the exact same thing. Find those most crucial in either influence, fundraising, publishing, and education, and do………. what? I’m sure it isn’t to help, and if not, what is left?
I think this needs to be pointed out repeatedly, the NSA programs and the IRS data collection are intrinsically tied together and this needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
If you publish, please use only my first name. I realize the NSA has probably already read this, and I’m sure you and your website are already identified as one of those ‘nodes’ that bridges many gaps. Lucky You.
It does seem a bit suspicious, doesn’t it?
The results for the IRS were striking. Of the IRS lawyers who made contributions in the 2012 election, 95% contributed to Obama rather than to Romney. So among IRS lawyers, the ratio of Obama contributors to Romney contributors was not merely 4-to-1 as previously reported, but more like 20-to-1. The ratio of funds to Obama was even more lopsided, with about 32 times as much money going to Obama as to Romney from IRS lawyers.
So has the IRS gone off the rails into hyper-partisanship, leaving behind other more balanced federal agencies? … The data show, however, that the partisanship of the lawyers in the IRS is not unusual or even particularly extreme among federal agencies. In fact, the lawyers in every single federal government agency–from the Department of Education [100%] to the Department of Defense [68%] — contributed overwhelmingly to Obama compared to Romney. The table below shows the results for all agencies with at least 20 employees who contributed to either Obama or Romney. . . . The root of the problem is the rule by a class of career government employee lawyers who lack the diversity of opinion that is found in the non-lawyer private sector. The IRS inquiry, rather than focusing narrowly on “who knew what” within the agency, should lead to a top-to-bottom rethinking of who’s doing the administration in the modern bureaucratic administrative state.
This makes the notion of a “nonpartisan” civil service ring rather hollow.
UPDATE: Reader Brenda Schoer writes: “Given the job market for lawyers, is it really possible that not a single Republican lawyer applied for a job at the Dept of Ed? Do these government agencies have to put ‘REPUBLICANS NEED NOT APPLY’ on job postings to warrant an EEOC or DOJ investigation?”
Well, J. Christian Adams has documented highly politicized hiring at the Justice Department, so don’t expect much from that quarter.
MORE: Here’s the original post on this, from Rob Anderson at Pepperdine.
THE ATLANTIC: The Obama Surveillance Revelations Are Pushing Liberals Over the Edge. “Progressives are mad as hell at the administration when it comes to civil liberties, and they’re not going to take it anymore.”
Plus: “If you go back and look at candidate Obama’s statements about whistleblowers and civil liberties, breaches of freedom and privacy under the past administration, you’d have a hard time saying Candidate Obama would agree with President Obama on this.”
CHANGE: George W. Bush’s Favorability Reaches Post-Presidency High. “More Americans remember George W. Bush approvingly than negatively, according to a new survey released with Washington mired in scandals and President Obama under fire for expanding his predecessor’s surveillance of Americans. Forty-nine percent of Americans view Bush favorably while 46 percent view him negatively, Gallup reports. Democrats developing an appreciation for Bush at a faster rate than any other group, though his numbers are up among across the political spectrum.”
WHEN WOMEN COMPLAIN ABOUT THE DISAPPEARANCE OF CHIVALRY, I’m prone to point out that chivalry was a system, one that imposed obligations of behavior on women and girls as well as on men. Likewise, when David Brooks complains that Edward Snowden is an unmediated man, I must note that in the civil society Brooks invokes, Presidents and other leaders were also mediated; they were not merely checked by Congress, courts, etc., but they were also checked by themselves, and a sense of what was proper that went beyond “how much can I get away with now?” Obama, too, is unmediated in that sense. That Brooks couldn’t see beyond his sharply-creased pants to notice that when it was apparent to keen observers even before the 2008 election is not to his credit. If the system of civil society has failed, it is in no small part because its guardians — notably including Brooks — have also failed.
RICHARD FERNANDEZ: The Destroyer of Words: “We always knew that technology could do this. What we had not suspected was that the Obama administration would do this.”
JIM TREACHER IS FEELING VINDICATED: “It’s just like we’ve been saying ever since Obama stepped onto the national stage. Hey, my conscience is clear.”
RICHARD EPSTEIN: Obama Gets Innovation Wrong.
THE COMMON THREAD IN THE OBAMA SCANDALS: Abuse Of Power.
MICKEY KAUS: Don’t Let The Scandals Distract You: The Immigration Bill Is The Biggest Deal. “It’s time to wake up! Conservatives — while you are (rightly) excited about NSA snooping and partisan IRS corruption, the Congress is about to change America in a more profound, permanent way right under your noses. In the process it will hand President Obama the major second term achievement that will help him overcome the very scandals that are distracting you–or, rather, make his survival or re-ascendance unimportant. He will have won. Democrats will have shaped the future electorate to their own liking. They’ll have transformed what America is.”
To be fair, I heard Limbaugh last week saying that the immigration bill was the single most important thing going on. But it’s hard to stay focused in this environment. Hey, maybe there’s something to the dense-pack theory after all . . . .
PRESIDENT OBAMA OBVIOUSLY THINKS THAT SENATOR OBAMA WAS AN IDIOT: Obama now defends surveillance programs he opposed.
WHAT KIND OF OPERATION WAS HILLARY RUNNING? State Dept. Inspector General: U.S. Ambassador to Belgium ‘Solicited Prostitutes, Including Minors.’
Plus: “Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered the investigation ceased, and the ambassador remains in place, according to the memo. Gutman was a big Democratic donor before taking the post, having raised $500,000 for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and helping finance his inaugural.”
A MILLIONAIRE? You still can’t afford to retire.
Efforts by the Fed and others to stimulate the economy by keeping interest rates low have produced cheaper mortgages, but they have also hit savers hard. As the report notes, benchmark Treasury yields have remained below four percent since the beginning of the financial crisis. If an ordinary American’s portfolio income is below four percent, withdrawing that much annually, combined with inflation, will bleed his portfolio over time.
Even millionaires in the top eight to ten percent of American households now need to be more careful with their retirement plans. The only safe retirement advice remains: save more than you think you should, and plan to work longer.
With people living well into their eighties and beyond, retirement at 65 is now out of the question for most Americans. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Work is natural to human beings and keeps us mentally and physically more healthy. And besides, the social goal of mass retirement in the mid-sixties is simply not possible anymore. All of us need to make the attitude adjustment that 70 or even 72 is the new 65.
Welcome to the Senior Squeeze. Related: Obama Recovery Going So Well That Two-Thirds Are Delaying Retirement.
UPDATE: Reader J. Johnson writes:
In re the squeeze on seniors (of which I am one), you might want to mention that Bernanke’s ‘Zero Interest Rate Policy’ ZIRP has decimated the savings of people like me because we now earn essentially no interest on the money we saved for a lifetime, so we must dip into principal to pay our bills. Meanwhile, the TBTF banks wallow like hogs at the Fed window to get no-interest money they can use to ramp up the stock market and give Obama talking points about how the economy is recovering because stock prices are up. I don’t think this is going to end well for anybody.
CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Obama Revolving Door: Ken Salazar to lobbying/law firm Wilmer Hale, Lieberman to Kasowitz.
MY USA TODAY COLUMN FOR TODAY: Obama’s Power Grab.
“As for our common defense,” Barack Obama declared in his First Inaugural Address, “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. . . . Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”
Last Friday the president said this: “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
Read the whole thing.
WELCOME TO OBAMA’S AMERICA: EPA ‘Mistakenly’ Gives Names of Farmers to Radical Groups.
WELL, THAT’S A RELIEF: Obama: ‘We Don’t Want to Tax All Businesses Out of Business.’
MY USA TODAY COLUMN FOR TOMORROW: Obama’s Power Grab.
President Obama had big plans for this second term, but they’ve been pulverized by a slew of controversies that have erupted all at once.
The White House’s defensive crouch only tightened after revelations last week about Top Secret government programs to track Americans’ phone and Internet activities.
In addition to justifying those programs, it must also resolve the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, satisfy inquiries into the death last year of four U.S. officials in the Benghazi, Libya terrorist attack, and balance its claims of transparency with the Justice Department seizing the records of reporters at the Associated Press and Fox News who cover classified security issues. The president tried instead on Friday to sell Obamacare’s rollout as a success, yet he had to devote a fair share of his appearance in San Jose, CA to a reporter’s question about the government accessing phone and Internet records. . . .
Taken as a whole, these controversies have re-ignited the Tea Party movement, while also offending liberal supporters who believed that Obama would dismantle the national security state he inherited from George W. Bush.
THIS PROBABLY WORRIES OTHER DEMS: Suffolk Poll: Obama Scandals Are Hurting Markey. Markey should be a shoo-in in Massachusetts. If he’s facing even a little trouble, dems in less-blue areas are in a lot more danger.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Obama Is Just Being Obama. “Obama is perturbed that we question any of this malfeasance. I think he is right to be angry. In his case, we made up the Obama rules that symbolism (not performance) and amnesty (not accountability) count. So why break our covenant with him, and now start asking for concrete and honest accomplishment when the teleprompter was always enough?”
A CONTRARIAN TAKE: “If the NSA leak is a bid by Obama to gain sympathy, it’s working.”
LIZ SIDOTI: Obama Presidency At Risk of Imploding Because of Lack of Trust. “If he can’t convince the American people that they can trust him, he could end up damaging the legacy he has worked so hard to control and shape — and be remembered, even by those who once supported him, as the very opposite of the different type of leader he promised to be.”
HOPEY-CHANGEY: Gen. Hayden: Under Obama, the NSA has more power.
THOUGH IF OBAMA WAS SNOOPING ON CONGRESS, YOU’D THINK HE’D HAVE DONE BETTER AT MOVING HIS LEGISLATION. Snooping Concerns Emerge Over Congressional Blackberries Serviced By Verizon. “Through a blanket seizing of these communications, the NSA is permanently intercepting and storing privileged material. This rasies further constitutional issues regarding separation of powers.”
WELCOME TO THE ERA OF HOPE AND CHANGE: Tim Lee: Has the US become the type of nation from which you have to seek asylum?
The civilian whistleblowers targeted by the Obama administration haven’t received treatment as harsh as Manning’s. But it’s telling that in none of their cases have the courts reached the legal and constitutional merits. The government’s strategy, in leak cases and many others, is to seek the maximum possible charges and then “plea bargain” down to a sentence the government considers more reasonable. . . .
If Snowden had chosen to stay in the United States, he would have faced a stark choice: accept a multi-year prison sentence for actions he believed to be in the public interest or go to trial and risk decades in prison if the courts were not persuaded by his legal and constitutional arguments. The American activist Aaron Swartz was facing exactly that choice when he committed suicide in January.
Someone should write an article about this phenomenon.
FLASHBACK: President Obama is a “Lightworker.”
OBAMA 2013: Yes, We Scan!
KILL IT? OR EXPOSE IT AS A FICTION? Ron Fournier: How Obama Scandals Threaten to Kill ‘Good Government.’
To have “good government,” you have to maintain a particular culture. Obama started undermining that culture from day one. I noticed that in 2009. Fournier is just starting to notice now.