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Belmont Club

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

December 6th, 2013 - 4:18 pm

Charles Krauthammer reminds a dazed American public that the Obama administration is facing not just one, but three simultaneous foreign policy challenges.

Three crises, one president, many bewildered friends.

The first crisis, barely noticed here, is Ukraine’s sudden turn away from Europe and back to the Russian embrace…

The second crisis is the Middle East — the collapse of confidence of U.S. allies as America romances Iran. …

The third crisis is unfolding over the East China Sea, where, in open challenge to Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” China has brazenly declared a huge expansion of its airspace into waters claimed by Japan and South Korea.

Part of the problem with the administration is that it can’t clear a backlog. Past crises don’t get solved. They get forgotten. Overwritten by the fresh news cycle. The Washington Post reminds its readers that, as we near 2014, the capture of the 2012 Benghazi consulate attackers has stalled.

U.S. officials say efforts have stalled to capture about a dozen people secretly charged in the 2012 attack on the American compound in Benghazi that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The individuals have been charged in sealed criminal complaints filed in federal court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. They include one of the suspected ringleaders of the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala, a militia leader with ties to ­al-Qaeda,­ said several U.S officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

So far, none have been brought to trial and the lack of progress in capturing Khattala has frustrated U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers who want to see him and the others prosecuted. One official said that Khattala continues to operate in eastern Libya with impunity.

“He’s as free as a bird,” the official said.

Benghazi’s old news already and soon to be forgotten. Part of the problem may be the management process at the White House. Peggy Noonan characterized the current Executive Offices as more akin to Animal House than anything else.

People say Mr. Obama never had to run anything, but it may be more important that he never worked for the guy who had to run something, and things got fouled up along the way and he had to turn it around. He never had to meet a payroll, never knew that stress. He probably never had to buy insurance! And you know, his policies were probably gold-plated—at the law firm, through his wife’s considerable hospital job, in the Illinois Legislature, in the U.S. Senate. Those guys know how to take care of themselves! Maybe he felt guilty. Maybe that’s to his credit, knowing he was lucky. Too bad he didn’t know what he didn’t know, like how every part has to work for a complicated machine to work.

Here I will say something harsh, and it’s connected to the thing about words but also images.

From what I have seen the administration is full of young people who’ve seen the movie but not read the book. They act bright, they know the reference, they’re credentialed. But they’ve only seen the movie about, say, the Cuban missile crisis, and then they get into a foreign-policy question and they’re seeing movies in their heads. They haven’t read the histories, the texts, which carry more information, more texture, data and subtlety, and different points of view. They’ve only seen the movie—the Cubans had the missiles and Jack said “Not another war” and Bobby said “Pearl Harbor in reverse” and dreadful old Curtis LeMay chomped his cigar and said “We can fry a million of ‘em by this afternoon, Mr. President.” Grrr, grrr, good guys beat bad guys.

It is a suggestion that Jay Carney rejects. He rejected charges that Kathleen Sebelius met only rarely with the president during the Obamacare rollout by saying the records do not always reflect actual interactions.

“Cabinet secretaries don’t regularly get entered into the White House visitors logs, [though] they come frequently. Kathleen Sebelius comes frequently, and she meets frequently with the president.”

Without citing specific figures, Carney said it was “safe to say Kathleen Sebelius has been one of the more frequent attendees to meetings with the president.”

The assertion that Sebelius meets the president more frequently than others is one of relative frequency. It says nothing about the actual frequency. What Carney maintains is that the president informally solves problems in ways we can’t measure. Off the record discussions, informal consulations — these are not reflected in the record.

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post uses the same argument to debunk the charge that Obama doesn’t read his security briefings. Kessler says he gets his information in other ways.

Clearly, different presidents have structured their daily briefing from the CIA to fit their unique personal styles. Many did not have an oral briefing, while three — two of whom are named Bush — preferred to deal directly with a CIA official. Obama appears to have opted for a melding of the two approaches, in which he receives oral briefings, but not as frequently as his predecessor.

This hands off approach wouldn’t be half bad if only the president’s enormous appetite for power were scaled back to match his supervisory energy. Watchdog Wire in Nevada notes that Harry Reid designed the Obamacare statute to concentrate practically every lever of power into the Executive’s’ hands.

Basically, the legislation said, “We here in the Senate have some ideas on how to rejigger one-sixth of the American economy, but we’ll be leaving the details to you and the White House.”

That’s why — within the approximately 2,700 pages of the bill put together by Reid, his lieutenants and his staff — the phrase, “the Secretary,” appears 3,120 times.

Among them are 953 appearances of the phrase, “the Secretary shall,” and 348 appearances of the phrase, “the Secretary may.”

“As determined by the Secretary,” appears 84 times, and “As the Secretary determines,” appears 81 times. Fifty-five times the bill states, “the Secretary shall ensure,” and 28 times it either says “the Secretary shall specify,” “the Secretary shall promulgate regulations,” or “the Secretary shall develop standards.”

According to the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Finance, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Reid bill on 1,697 occasions authorized the HHS Secretary to write additional regulations beyond those already specifically requested in the legislation.

The accusation that Obama rarely — or only comparatively rarely met Sebelius — acquires enormous significance in that context. It is because they had amassed so much power over 1/6th of the American economy in their hands that the lack of supervision becomes so damning.  The necessary corollary to the liberal belief that government can do everything is the requirement to actually do it.

Yet once they had gathered the controls into their hands, the White House appeared to have forgotten completely about it and moved on to the next distraction. Sebelius herself told the public that the president was unaware of the Obamacare website problems until he read it about in the papers.

Benghazi, the Ukraine, the Middle East, China, Obamacare —  are regarded not as governance problems to be solved but crises never to be wasted. They are news cycle events to be spun. Opportunities for more power.

Burned consulates, fighting displacing millions, the prospect of a nuclear breakout, the danger of war in the Pacific, the cancellation of millions of policies, the ruin of myriad lives are nothing but random objects spinning in the wake of a ship of state madly dashing across an uncharted ocean.

“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Nah it ain’t over till we say it is. Then it’s old news.

Spiderman once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” But maybe Obama has never heard of Peter Parker. Obama’s own maxim appears to be: with great power comes the need for greater power.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free

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Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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Top Rated Comments   
Peggy Noonan has been dead to me since before the beginning of the Soetero regime. Wretchard's extract is the first bit of her writing I have seen in years -- and it is dreadful! Which may be a good example of something. It is not merely Barry's incompetence we face; it is the total lack of competence & ability in the whole Political Class; even among people like Ms Noonan who at one point could have held her head up in public without shame. Barry, his Cabinet, his czarinas, Congress, the media, the whole Washington establishment -- all are now depressingly mediocre.

Maybe we are looking at the political equivalent of Gresham's Law -- bad politics drives out good politics. And bad politics will lead (later? sooner?) to a rapid change to a new equilibrium. We live -- and perhaps die -- in interesting times.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
When you surround yourself with yes men...all your briefings are oral.

Obama and his cabal of sock puppets have no accountability...if it falls apart...he wasn't told about it.

If it succeeds, he was the architect. If he needs to be informed...he was...secretly. If he needs plausible deniability...it was a "rogue" act.

When the fourth estate straps on the kneepads...it's not just to save themselves from all the abrasions due to genuflecting. Obama and his cabal are not accountable. So second verse same as the first. Foreign policy and domestic policy are whims and fantasies of aging Weathermen who hijacked the plane and it's flying...but they know they don't know how to land it.

40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
The perceived need for government functions beyond the basic has lessened as society has advanced. Most government on the national level occurs deep in the bureaucracy. Average people have stopped paying attention to it in detail. One glorified clerk in the White house, in the Senate, or in the House is as good as another in the popular mind.

The average voter maintains a tacit assumption regarding politics, first, that no prospective candidate would deliberately seek the opportunity to be the worst, most incompetent President of all time, and, second, that the media would fulfill its function of culling the marginally stupid and deranged. The nation has experienced for the first time the utter failure of this two-pronged assumption.

The result is Barack, the Unready. No one was prepared for this loser with the pathological egoism to push himself way beyond his Peter Principle limit. God save the the United States of America.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (50)
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Watch the Chris Matthews-Obama recent interview if you can stomach it.

In it, Obama was lamenting "SOME" in Congress, esp. Committee chairman/woman, carving out turf wars that they don't want to relinquish their 'power'. Also directly to Chris Matthews, his own personal adorer, that - Obama: "When We Do Things Right, They Don't Get A Lot Of Attention" (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/12/05/obama_when_we_do_things_right_they_dont_get_a_lot_of_attention.html)

Remember Obama was so quick to take credits for the Somalia pirates takedown and the OBL raid, however if anything bad happened during his reign, nope, not his fault nor his responsibility.

And by the way he needs even more power so he can accomplish even better and ever bigger 'things'.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sounds like a child of 6.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
P.S. Not sure why i am now AnonymousA10. I am daily reader and infrequent poster vinny vidivici
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
IP address change?
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wretchard: Please write more about China's extra-territorial sovereignty grab.

Is it too hysterical to suggest that -- as with China's downing of an unarmed reconnaissance plane in international waters more than a dozen years ago -- we are missing 'militarization-of-the-Rhineland' opportunities to avoid a catastrophe early on and at relatively low cost?

A nation with a huge chip on its shoulder and a racial superiority complex seeking to re-capture former imperial glory, running just a few steps ahead of crushing economic reality. Japan, Italy, Germany. History repeating, rhyming . . . or just coincidence?
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have quoted from this blog post by Kim Crawford at Velociworld-http://www.velociworld.com/cgi-bin/mt/tb2thevman45.cgi/3334

Dated January 20, 2009, the day following this Obama fool tok his oath. Crawford lays into him after viewing the new White House website. Classic and spot-on.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
How many times did Frau Sebelius meet with Valerie Jarrett?
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
December 7, 1941. Seventy-two years ago. I was twelve, and vividly remember lying on the living room floor on the following morning, reading the morning paper. I still see the pictures; smoke, basket masts, water lapping at the base of the turrets, small boats tiny among the sunk and burning battleships. There are not many of us left who were alive on that day, not many of us left who remember.

BATTLESHIP ROW

Guts and valor are words not usually associated with inanimate objects, but ships are not inanimate objects. Ships are live, living things. Ships, as well as men, can be tough and resilient. Such were the ships of Battleship Row.

0755 SUNDAY, 7 DECEMBER 1941

A quiet, peacetime Sunday morning. Seven battleships swung gently at their moorings; Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada and California. Pacific Fleet flagship Pennsylvania was in drydock. When the attack came, half their crews were ashore, and most of the officers. None had steam up, for it was Sunday, and all was at peace. Except Nevada. Nevada had steam. Nevada could move. At the height of the attack, with burning and exploding ships all around her, already severely hurt by a torpedo to her port side, Nevada, under Lt. Commander Francis J. Thomas, senior officer aboard, broke out her big battle ensign and stood down the channel, heading for the open sea. Sailors on the burning ships cheered and threw their caps in the air, but Nevada’s gallant sortie was short lived. Five Japanese dive bombers laid her low, beaching her.

The battleships were ultimately raised and rebuilt, those that were salvageable. They rejoined the fleet, but the war had passed them by. It was a carrier war now, and the World War 1 era battleships were too slow, could not keep up with the fast carriers. They were relegated to fire support, and accompanied the Marines in their march across the Pacific, bombarding the beaches, their 14 and 16 inch guns trained on palm trees instead of dreadnoughts, declared unfit to do the job for which they were built. Until Surigao.

SURIGAO STRAIT, 0351 TO 0409, 25 OCTOBER 1944

Vice Admiral Nishimura, with a force of battleships, cruisers and destroyers, came steadily down the strait, headed for the Leyte beaches and the soft-skinned, vulnerable transports, still loaded with troops. Standing across his path was Admiral Oldendorf, and six old fire support battleships, all but Mississippi on Battleship Row that Sunday morning in December. The other five were California, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Oldendorf put his weary old battleships in line ahead, a Battle Line, as battleships had fought since the 17th century, and waited for Nishimura. At 0351 the big guns lit the sky. Oldendorf brought his big ships across the Japanese front, crossing the T, the dream of every admiral down the centuries, doing to the Japanese what Togo had done to the Russians at Tsushima nearly forty years earlier. The Japanese fought back, but when Nishimura turned away his battleships were gone, along with most of his heavy cruisers.

Surigao was the last battleship to battleship action of WWII, and very likely the last big gun surface action battleship fight the world is likely to see, and it was fought by ships that had been sunk at Pearl Harbor and returned to life. Ships, like men, can be judged by their deeds, and some, like the ships of Battleship Row, by their sheer stubbornness, their refusal easily to die. Ships, like men, are alive, and though it took the ships of Battleship Row almost three years, they gained their revenge in the only way they knew how. With their guns.

Torn by bombs, wracked by fire
They settled slowly to the harbor floor
Breathing their last, or so some thought
But not they
Rising, they joined their kind
Who scorned them now
As the young scorn the old
The slow
They did their job
Plodding the vastness of the central sea
Island to island
A supporting cast
Gaining no praise
No, that was for the young
The swift
The carriers
Until
Until
That blessed night
When called upon to be themselves
They were
Themselves and more


40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well done Walt. As another poet wrote of another sailor:
"It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I do not believe Barry Soretero has ever been held responsible for anything he was involved with.
Barack/Barry never paid for mistakes and thus doesn't care if he makes mistakes.
BHO never learned from his mistakes and so he doesn't understand consequences.
Always covered by the media, associates and race he has simply no education in abject reality.
Reality though doesn't care if the stumblebum is a media favorite, knows the right people or is of an approved color of skin, Reality is a Hunter with a cold heart.
A hard dose of reality comes his way yet he doesn't care.
Sucks to be us.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's as though nobody but me and Rush saw Barry flip the bird to Hilary and then, just before the election, to McCain. That was shortly before he had NYC buzzed by a jumbo jet and went out to dinner in Chi-town on the weekend, neglecting to sign legislation the urgency of which he had been braying about beforehand.

That story from his youth of how he emerged, wrecked and laughing, from a car that his buddy had just rolled really says it all. He probably just doesn't give a sh** or, alternatively, may even find all this mildly amusing.

40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sounds like he may be high.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
When I consider the Obamacare debacle, I think of 1940 France. What can we do with such an incompetent political class, and I agree on that. It's the whole class.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Peggy Noonan is undoubtedly a master (mistress?) at wordsmithing the obvious. The speeches she wrote for some of our past presidents proves this. However, when she endorsed Obama in 2012, it became very apparent that she was NOT a master at RECOGNIZING the obvious.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
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