Just how much fight is left in Barack Obama?

Various actors, ranging from Benjamin Netanyahu, the Republican Party, Vladimir Putin and Iran are trying to decide how much they can risk against a weakened President. In each case their dilemmas take the form of how hard to press. Or in Netanyahu’s case, how much can he still trust the man who promised the Jewish lobby he would take care of Israel.

The Washington Examiner looks at the GOP debate over fighting Obamacare. Some conservatives want to defund Obamacare.  But some, like Ted Cruz, don’t think they have the votes to do it.  Obama has drawn a hard line against even negotiating with Republicans on Obamacare or even the debt ceiling, leading to the threat of a government shutdown, which the Democrats believe will work in their favor.

The liberals believe that the critics will shut up and join them at the trough. The New York Times described the lucrative careers of lawyers who crafted the labyrinthine piece of legislation and are now advising insurance companies on ways around its byzantine toils. “Washington’s health care revolving door is spinning fast as the new online health insurance marketplaces, a central provision of President Obama’s health care law, are set to open Oct. 1. Those who had a hand in the law’s passage are now finding lucrative work in the private sector, as businesses try to understand the complex measure, reshape it by pressing for regulatory changes — or profit from it.”

That means boom times for what might be called an Obamacare cottage industry, providing work for dozens of former administration and mostly Democratic Congressional officials whose immersion in health policy minutiae, and friendships, make them invaluable to private business.

The ultimate Democratic Party defense has been to stop the mouths of their critics with gold. But gold has been running short lately just as it has been doing in every Blue setting. For the GOP the question is whether to retreat before the Obama machine or risk fighting it; in other words whether to keep playing the game or wait for a new deck of cards to be shuffled.

But if Obama was reluctant to negotiate with American conservatives, he was falling all over himself to make a deal with Iran. Although the Telegraph says Obama claims Iran reached out to Washington for a nuclear deal it now appears the reverse is true.

Buzzfeed reports that the Sultan of Oman hand carried a letter from Obama to Iran. “The White House asked Sultan Qaboos of Oman if he would deliver the letter”, a process which the NYT charmingly describes as a ‘finding a penpal’. The NYT says, “this week, Mr. Obama indicated that he might finally have found a pen pal in Tehran.”

Reuters reports that Obama reflected, or perhaps took a 45 minute walk alone with his phone and decided that “the U.S. is ready to resolve the nuclear issue in a way that allows Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.”  That wording does not inspire confidence. You can probably guess what that means and so too can Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is heading for Washington on Sept 30 “for talks expected to focus on Iran’s nuclear program”, ostensibly to plead for more pressure on Iran.

“In a week and a half, I will go to the United Nations General Assembly, and before that I will meet with President Obama. I intend to focus on stopping Iranian nuclear program. Really stopping the nuclear program,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

The prime minister presented four criteria for doing so: ”1. Halting all uranium enrichment; 2. Removing all enriched uranium; 3. Closing [the Fordo enrichment facility at] Qom; and 4. Stopping the plutonium track.”

Netanyahu is evidently trying to draw lines which he hopes Obama won’t cross. The danger for Israel is that Obama, having thrown away the Syria card respecting Iran, will now fold like a cheap suit and offer Teheran a free hand in exchange for a meaningless promise not weaponize their fissile material backed by some “United Nations” guarantee.

But if the Republicans and Israelis are still showing respect Obama, al-Qaeda by contrast is openly trying to take over the leadership of the Syrian rebellion against Assad. With campaign “Expunging Filth”, al-Qaeda launched an offensive against “the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army”. Al-Qaeda is killing anyone foolish enough to have trusted Obama in Syria.  Time adds “a Syrian town on the border with Turkey has been captured from the Free Syrian Army—not by forces loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but by Islamist rebels backed by al-Qaeda. The violent takeover of the town has laid bare the deep rifts that plague the movement to oust Assad.”

It also lays bare the conviction that Obama will not respond in any meaningful way. It is a belief apparently shared in the Pentagon. The Washington Post ran an amazing piece say that the US military leadership is angry about being used in a meaningless and shambolic way.

The prospect of a new U.S. military intervention in the Middle East elicited grumbling from a war-weary generation of senior commanders and veterans who share similar reservations to those voiced by the former defense secretaries. Their reluctance was informed by lingering distrust over the administration’s handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been wound down in ways that have left many in uniform feeling apprehensive, if not bitter.

But there was also trepidation about a White House that many career military officers say has monopolized decision-making in a tight circle dominated by civilians and that often deliberates endlessly, seemingly unwilling or unable to formulate decisive policies.

A cynical observer might be led to believe that Obama has embarked on a policy of appeasement abroad to buy him the resources to expand his power domestically. The Washington Times noted that in Obama’s most disastrous foreign policy week “TIME puts Vladimir Putin on its front cover everywhere but America”.

The most recent cover of TIME Magazine features a photo of him on its front cover, alongside the caption — rewritten with caps removed — “America’s weak and waffling. Russia’s rich and resurgent — and its leader doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.”

This cover is only being published in TIME’s international editions, though. Here in the United States, a football player replaces Putin. Instead of the latter’s success, a story about compensating college athletes is the top story.

Local Hero, Global Zero

Local Hero, Global Zero

This indicates where Obama intends to win. The rest of the world can see the truth. They don’t vote early and often. But the low-information base must be fed a steady diet of celebrity news, sports stories and puff-pieces to keep their mental world just as it was in 2008, “stuck on stupid” — when the LightBringer had a firm grip on the ocean levels and all was well with the future world that never came.

In reality things have not worked out too well for Barack Obama.  His administration is now rotten to its core, unable to face enemies abroad, incapable of tapering the money machine, yet unwilling to yield the slightest ground on the Obamacare racket because that’s what he needs to buy off his critics and pay off his supporters. The question facing the other political players, ranging from Israel, Russia, Iran or the GOP is how much longer Obama can continue and get away with it.

While the administration has abandoned the field of foreign policy, it still believes it can hold its domestic forts. But things may be different this time. Obama’s bombs have cratered the political landscape. They have weakened both his minions in the Democratic Party and his reliable interlocutors in the Republican Party. The withdrawal of the Summers nomination and the shrinking stature of John McCain are both indicators that the old coalition ain’t what it used to be.  Obama’s domestic position is probably weaker than it once was.  The next few weeks will see it tested and the results should be interesting to watch.

Andy McCarthy is betting “he’ll cave” if the Republicans defund Obamacare. “His political position is untenable, even with the media carrying his water. He will be grinding things to a halt to force Obamacare on the public even though he himself has slashed Obamacare for the benefit of big business and members of Congress.” McCarthy may be right, but the question is whether the Republicans will have the guts to try it. That is not a given.


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