The Left’s frustration with President Obama has been much discussed of late. But its disappointment is nothing new, and it isn’t much of a surprise, either. In March 2009, just three months after Obama took office, liberal economist Paul Krugman claimed to be in “despair” over administration policy. At this early stage, though, such a feeling was shared by few progressives. Instead, in the “Age of Obama,” left-wing ascendency was expected. And in the new President, they had found their champion.
Today, however, much has changed. Many leftists now doubt Obama’s fealty to their cause. The "capitulation" toward Republicans and the continuation of key Bush policies have even been characterized as treachery. From their perspective, Obama’s ideological impurity and divergence from dogma is offensive. Calls for a primary challenge are arguably an outgrowth of this.
Now, it is true that a serious challenge from the Left is unlikely and, therefore, it may be tempting to dismiss the discussion as ephemeral, even irrelevant. That would be a mistake.
It was mid-February 2002, and after a full year as America’s most powerful and controversial Vice President and five months of operating out of any number of undisclosed locations, Dick Cheney was pleased to be back home among kindred spirits. No, he was not with hunting or fishing buddies in Wyoming or even in Texas, rubbing shoulders with the honchos of Halliburton. He was in Washington, D.C., delivering an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, with chairman and founder David Rockefeller himself in attendance.
It was the kind of company in which Cheney could feel spiritually and intellectually at home, among men of great power, influence, and intellect, men who know exactly how the world should be run and are confident God would agree with them if He only knew the facts of the matter. Cheney was no doubt aware the event was being televised nationally on C-Span, but he chose, nonetheless, to boast of an aspect of his career that he had carefully kept out of the spotlight, both in his national campaign as Republican nominee for Vice President and in his six winning campaigns to represent the people of his state in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“And it’s good to be back at the Council on Foreign Relations,” Cheney said, after thanking the group for a warm welcome. “I’ve been a member for a long time, and was actually a director for some period of time.”
Within the last few years, a phenomenon emerged to become among the most formidable forces in contemporary American politics. It goes by the name of “the Tea Party movement.” Supposedly, the Tea Party movement is not affiliated with either of our two national political parties. Rather, it is composed of millions of ordinary Americans who, jealous as they are of the liberties bequeathed to them by their progeny, find intolerable the gargantuan proportions to which the federal government has grown.
This, at any rate, is the conventional account of the genesis and character of the Tea Party movement.
I once endorsed it. Sadly, I no longer can.
It is my considered judgment — a judgment, mind you, from which I derive not the slightest satisfaction — that the Tea Party movement, like the so-called “conservative media” of Fox News and talk radio, has become, if it hasn’t always been, an organ of the GOP.
Late last week GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney released the names of his foreign policy and national security advisors just in time for his Friday address on America’s foreign policy. He effused over his selection:
I am deeply honored to have the counsel of this extraordinary group of diplomats, experts and statesmen. Their remarkable experience, wisdom and depth of knowledge will be critical to ensuring that the 21st Century is another American Century.
His campaign continues to be plagued with an increasing chorus of doubters about his conservative posture. His claim to have balanced the budget of Massachusetts without raising taxes was found to be false. In a widely-seen interview with Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press in 2008, Russert nailed Romney:
President Obama has created a secret death panel to decide which American citizens should be killed without trial by our own military, and he approved a secret legal memorandum from the Office of Legal Council (OLC) that tries to justify the killings, according to Reuters and the New York Times, respectively.
Of the death panel, Reuters reported October 5,
There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.
The Obama administration has refused to comment officially or publicly on the existence of the death panel.
New York Times reporter Charlie Savage described the legal memorandum in detail after lengthy, perhaps administration-approved, conversations with anonymous Obama administration officials. Savage describes the document as "a roughly 50-page memorandum by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, completed around June 2010," which means that it was drawn up about six months after the assassination list already existed. Savage continued:
Before 1980 there was no U.S. Department of Education. Before 1964 there was relatively little federal involvement in education at all. But let a few Republican presidential candidates suggest that maybe Washington’s role in schooling ought to be scaled back somewhat, and the New York Times, reliable barometer of establishment opinion, finds cause for concern. Why, “even Mitt Romney,” the paper frets, “now says, ‘We need to get the federal government out of education.’”
“For a generation,” the Times writes, “there has been loose bipartisan agreement in Washington that the federal government has a necessary role to play in the nation’s 13,600 school districts, primarily by using money to compel states to raise standards.”
Of course, many observers note that the bipartisan consensus on any subject can be — and usually is — wrong. Constitutionalists point out that there is also a bipartisan consensus in favor of Social Security, Medicare, and an interventionist foreign policy — all of which, like federal involvement in education, are both unconstitutional and unwise. There is no shame, they say, in challenging Beltway orthodoxy.
“When it comes to foreign policy, if you like George W. Bush and Barack Obama, you’ll love Mitt Romney.” That was the unspoken theme of a speech the former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican presidential contender delivered Friday at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Inveighing against “crawl[ing] into an isolationist shell,” Romney offered instead a program of hyper-interventionism in which no problem anywhere in the world is too small or remote for Washington’s involvement.
Romney pledged to “devote [himself] to an American Century” in which “America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world.” Romney issued his rather underwhelming economic plan a month ago. His proposal to strengthen the military by spending more money on it and deploying it in ever more far-flung locales, not by reducing its responsibilities — and therefore its costs — to those befitting a constitutional republic, is little more reassuring. As Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), one of Romney’s rivals for the GOP nomination, has long pointed out, excessive military spending is one of the causes of our nation’s economic woes. Like the Soviet Union in its dying days, Romney’s America would continue to burden the economy with diktats from the central government while pursuing a military buildup — a combination guaranteed to bankrupt the nation.
We’ve all heard about the tactic of using children as human shields, as practiced by Saddam Hussein, the Taliban and others. The idea is that you place civilians — preferably women and children — at military targets to reduce the chances that your enemy will attack and so that, if he does, he’ll look like a heartless miscreant who targets the least among us. Morally, it’s the least of tactics.
Yet while we Westerners have made the practice illegal under the Geneva Convention, it’s not unknown in the United States — in our political battles. In the 1990s especially, it became common to claim that all and sundry must support a given statist policy “for the children.” As an example, when Republican-backed welfare reform was instituted, Ted Kennedy called it “legislative child abuse.” And when President G.W. Bush threatened to veto an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 2007, Democrats brought children to a press conference on the matter and later had a 12-year-old SCHIP recipient read a heartstring-tugging Democrat radio address about the program.
The latest use of this tactic was by Texas Governor Rick Perry in the Florida Republican debate when he invoked the welfare of the children to justify his granting in-state tuition benefits to illegal aliens.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul won the Values Voter Summit presidential straw poll October 8 with 37 percent of the vote, besting Herman Cain's 23 percent in a Christian right audience with his message of peace and limited government.
The libertarian-leaning Republican had barely registered in the 2010 Values Voter Summit, and certainly would not have been a favorite in this year's summit. The event was sponsored by the following Christian right organizations: the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, American Values (headed by Gary Bauer), and the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. The neo-conservative Heritage Foundation also co-sponsored the weekend event.
The Heritage Foundation has generally been a supporter of more foreign military interventionism, opposing cuts in military spending even though the United States currently spends almost as much on armaments as the rest of the world combined. This is the opposite of Ron Paul's platform, which calls for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and military spending cuts. Paul told the audience to wild cheers:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (left) has used a legislative political maneuver to change the rules of the Senate so as to benefit the majority party, to the chagrin of Republican lawmakers. The ploy will make it harder for Republicans to force procedural votes on controversial amendments after the Senate votes to move to final passage of a bill.
The Blaze reports, “Reid’s initiative passed by a vote of 51-48 and left key Republicans irate.”
Reid was motivated to employ the strategem when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to force a vote on President Obama’s jobs bill by offering the bill as an amendment to the China currency bill, which seeks to punish China for undervaluing its currency.
Reid’s move came just hours after President Obama called out the Senate’s top Republican for trying to derail his jobs plan. Earlier that day, Obama called a press conference “to make the best arguments and mobilize the American people” to support his jobs package. During that conference, Obama targeted House Speaker John Boehner and Mitch McConnell directly, declaring that McConnell’s “number-one goal was to beat me — not put Americans back to work, not grow the economy, not help small businesses expand — but to defeat me. And he’s been saying that now for a couple of years.”