Obama’s Syria policy: Weak in review

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Whew, it’s been a while since I did an original political cartoon.  We’ve seen some really terrible developments in American foreign policy this past week or so.  President Obama laid down a “red line” on Syrian chemical weapons use more than a year ago.  Then, last week, he denied setting a red line.  Per the Commander in Chief, the international community set it.

This week, Secretary of State John Kerry assuaged domestic doves and foreign foes as to how “unbelievably small” a U.S. strike on Syria would be.  Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal went to town on that one.

In a glowing review of the President’s Tuesday night prime time speech, Walter Shapiro denied cheerleading for Obama.  This is hardly credible given how extraordinarily painful and opaque the White House’s waffling military machinations have been.

The Commander in Chief about-faced when Russia supplied an out consisting in Assad’s vow to allow inspection and destruction of his massive chemical weapons stockpile.  National security expert Max Boot pointed out the dim prospect of such a solution.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled a world leadership coup with his New York Times op ed.  After reading it, New Jersey senator Bob Menendez confessed that, “I almost wanted to vomit.”  I think this graphic is a little more palatable, and totally apt.

Steve Kelly, Townhall.com

America has for her Commander in Chief that kid who gets picked last for sports games, the one who bullies turn upside down to shake out his lunch money.  Putin was a KGB hot shot; Obama was a community organizer.  This is not good.

When I was in college, literally learning about the politics of peace and war, I was introduced to Win, Lose, or Draw: Domestic Politics and the Crucible of War.  After conducting some game theory research, author Alan Stam recommended a simple strategy for dealing with unfriendly regimes: tit-for-tat.  It’s like the eye-for-an-eye of international relations.

The simple lesson that every American president should remember is this: clear and consistent communication is indispensable to the national security interest.  Speak loud, and carry a big stick; make the other side think you’ll use it.  What the Obama administration has done instead is the opposite.  American officials have telegraphed a lack of resolve, betrayed a sense of hesitation, vacillated between options, and came ill-prepared to the bargaining table.  Our Ship of State must survive three more years with an incompetent helmsman.

American foreign policy hasn’t seen such tragedy and disgrace since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  I mean it when I ask, pray for the wisdom of America’s leaders.

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Which Americans in denial about race?

The aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal dominated news and commentary last week.  As the pleas and prescriptions from all corners reverberate, what should Americans of conscience do?  Despite long standing calls to have a national conversation on race, many remain unwilling to confront the more difficult aspects.

Take this case in point.  On the Monday after the six woman Florida jury handed in a “not guilty” verdict, The Atlantic Wire serve up this combative headline: “Richard Cohen Shows Why Racism Makes You Do Dumb Things.”  Later that day, another headline-as-testy-retort: “No, Blacks Don’t ‘Benefit’ from Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.”  The Atlantic brand should bring to mind a measured–if passionate–patrician, East Coast progressivism.  Those were its roots, at least.  But with the headlines it runs these days, The Atlantic is clearly a plebeian outlet for snarky partisan sniping.

Somewhere on the Atlantic Coast. | Photo credit: oefe / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

In responding to Richard Cohen, Elspeth Reeve fails to explain what it actually means for Cohen to say something “racist.”  It’s just an epithet meant to draw her readers into a denial of the violent crime problem in the African-American community.  She cites statistics indicating, in the past couple of decades, a steady decline in violent crimes nationally.  From this, she plucks the fact that violent crimes committed by African-Americans have also gone down.  In the world she paints, conservative commentators are crying wolf about a nonexistent epidemic.  This is a perverse inversion of what was happening six months ago.  Then, conservatives were citing declining national rates to dismiss the hysteria over an epidemic of gun-related homicides.  Now, this good news has become a liberal talking point.

Over the past week, conservative media have consistently hammered away at the issue Elspeth Reeve and her Atlantic Wire colleagues deny: African-Americans, particularly young men, commit violent crimes at a grossly disproportionate rate.  Blacks make up about 10 percent of the population, but are responsible for half of all violent crimes, including murders.  And about 90% of those murder victims are African-American.  It’s simple math then that nearly half of people murdered in America are black.

The Wall Street Journal has run a number of excellent editorials on the problem.  Black conservative Jason Riley opened the salvo by reminding us how far back the problem goes.  Consider his quoting of a prominent black civil rights leader:

“Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

And this week, Shelby Steele–another Black intellectual off of the liberal reservation–explicated on the concept of “poetic truth,” a cudgel with which today’s morally diminished civil rights leaders try to exercise influence.  Steele authored one of the more compelling books I’ve read.  It’s full title says it all: White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.

Reading the testy headlines of the The Atlantic Wire, I was reminded of Dr. Steele’s thesis, inasmuch as I understood it.  It’s true, whites helped destroy the promise of civil rights.  It wasn’t bigots in the American South.  Rather, it was privileged whites–read, East Coast progressives–who had luxury enough to quench their feelings of guilt by demanding untenable social policies.

As Steele recounts his college years in White Guilt, it was spoiled white teenagers and militant black youth who worked together to occupy university lecture halls and chancellor’s offices across the country.  Today’s privileged, well-connected, young and idealistic white elites–politically progressive through and through–indulge the same luxury their parents and grandparents did before them.  They can afford to imagine a common cause with minorities.  They can afford to indulge white guilt fantasies with little consequence.  It is the marginalized who can’t.

How does one have real solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed?  President Obama had a good point in last Friday’s speech.  He implored, “. . . we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys.”

It turns out, some people have already done that thinking.  The answer doesn’t lie in next entitlement program, or supporting the right to wear a hoodie.  The answer is cultural capital, earned success, a flourishing moral ecology, traditional family values, an opportunity society.  This is not racism or hate speech.  George W. Bush put it well when he warned against the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”  How does America, as one nation, raise those expectations for young African-American men?  That is the challenge.

Sequester: Obama forces the balance

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The federal budget sequestration saga culminated with a geeky–if odd–bang on Friday.  After days of touring the country and sounding alarms, President Obama denied he was feeding fears of fiscal “apocalypse,” felt compelled to concede, “I am not a dictator,” and confessed he could not change Republicans’ will through a “Jedi mind meld.”

In his Saturday radio address, the President acknowledged that Americans are tired of having to “careen from one manufactured crisis to another.”  It’s good to remember who is in the drivers’ seat.  It was President Obama who signed the legislation that triggered the sequester.  In light of this fact, Cosmoscon recently supplied a fitting name for the White House’s trite theatrics: Obamaquester.

In the days leading up to sequestration, the media indulged dire headlines.  Yahoo News’s leading caption warned Thursday, “Deep cuts to Begin.”  LiveScience jarred us with “Sequester cuts could hit scientists hard.”  The National Parks Service warned that bathrooms would go uncleaned, sending Mother Jones in a panic.  And the Navy announced the Blue Angels would cancel shows.  Mother Jones probably could care less for that jingoistic propaganda outfit.

The media has not been totally obeisant to White House talking points.  Clicking through Yahoo’s “Deep Cuts” reveals news copy weary of alarmism.  The Christian Science Monitor’s Decoder Wire challenged Obama’s characterization of “automatic” spending cuts.  Yet, as with many other media sources, it was reluctant to put the actual cuts in perspective.

Fortunately, the fiscal conservatives on WordPress have been on top of it.  The Southern Voice supplied a great Heritage Foundation graphic emphasizing that only budget growth shrinks under sequester, not the budget itself.  International Liberty highlighted effective sequester editorial cartoons.  I found Mike Ramirez’s pie picture to be an invaluable graphic.

The Moon in Daylight shared a great gamer’s analogy for Obama’s political strategy.  The President is a “munchkin mini-maxer.”  That is, he is a player who unscrupulously exploits a loophole in the rules or a coding glitch.  Instead of “investing” all his skill into a well-rounded array of abilities like negotiation, initiative, or magnanimity, Obama has pooled all his skill points into demagoguery.

This singular focus yielded political absurdity the day sequestration went into effect.  Besides denying that he was a dictator, he confessed “I’d like to think that I’ve still got some persuasive power left.”  And once Obama issued the “Jedi mind meld” snafu, the White House Office of Perpetual Campaigning parlayed it into a geeky-hip social media meme.  Should we expect less from the country’s premier community organizer?

One White House tweet implies tax hikes will “bring balance to the Force.”  But we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.  With a sluggish recovery, and over $600,000,000,000 in new revenue to pour in from the fiscal cliff deal, our economy needs more taxes like Luke Skywalker needed his hand chopped off by a lightsaber.  If the politics of sequester have to stoop to science fiction references, then it’s more fitting to say that our one-track president, with his incessant campaigning for tax hikes, “brings force to the balance.”  Politically, what Obama wants most and at all costs is to raise taxes for the sake of raising taxes.

What’s wrong with this cartoon?

Stuart Carlson via Go Comics

Here’s a simplistic take on President Obama’s State of the Union speech.  Carlson, the cartoonist, sympathetically depicts Obama as calm and optimistic.  Meanwhile, Republicans are shown as afraid to work on the nation’s problems.

But why should we buy Carlson’s conception of what our country’s problems are?  Serious issues, like the national debt and our values crisis, are missing from the junk pile.  And of the concerns listed in the cartoon, some are hardly worth addressing, at least on the federal level.  Gun violence has declined drastically compared to twenty and thirty years ago.  “Mental health crisis” is more apt to a mountain of national dysfunction than “guns.”

Carlson’s cartoon reinforces the myopic notion that big government activism is the way to solve national problems.  But why propose a new federal preschool initiative when the extant Head Start program has been found to be of questionable value?  Like the manufacturing hubs proposal, it’s just another reinvention of the wheel, adding to the accretion of federal programs that don’t do what they’re supposed to.

The policy proposals laid out last week were predictable.  And so has been media coverage.  A report by Rachel Rose Hartman of Yahoo does little more than relay the White House’s talking points unchallenged.  Fair enough, we can recount all the times Yahoo reporters have uncritically parroted Republican initiatives.  On one hand.

Consider also an AP fact check of Tuesday’s speech.  In contrast to his challenges of Obama’s statements, fact checker Calvin Woodward goes out of his way to thoroughly stomp on Marco Rubio’s mention of a balanced budget amendment.  Dismissing it as unserious, he conveniently forgets that such an amendment failed to pass Congress by one vote as recently as the Clinton presidency.  He beefs that federal revenues declined during the recession, but ignores that they’ve since recovered.  And he launches a lengthy apologetic as to the necessity of deficit spending at the federal level.  We can only imagine the AP giving such generous balance to a Republican president.

As Kohaleth observed, “Nothing is new under the sun.” Mr. Obama wasted the bully pulpit again. Rather than make a genuine effort to unite the nation and move it forward, he did what he knows how to do best: deploy emotional rhetoric to build political advantage for his own party.  The President remains a one trick pony.  Media and the public they serve are largely lost in the pomp of the speech.  The only paean we can honestly deliver is one that declares Obama’s speech another pale and uninspired echo of “Hope and Change.”

The Obama Dividend

First things first.  Congratulations to President Barack Obama and his supporters on the re-election bid.  And to Mitt Romney, thank you for your tremendous dedication, energy, and effort on behalf of America and the conservative cause.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about “The Romney Dividend,” the delayed gratitude that came after the October 3 debate.  It was the natural reward for the nomination of such a disciplined, diligent man.  Now that Barack Obama has won re-election–though by a percentage smaller than 2008–it appears there is something of an Obama dividend.  But this one was not born of the President’s character and ideas as much as the perfection of the Democratic party vote-getting machine.

A fine report at the Wall Street Journal looks at the anatomy of the 2012 Obama victory.  Jim Messina and other top advisers sold the President on a risky, early blitzkrieg of negative advertising.  Some have complained that Romney should have responded sooner, but the Journal report indicates that Federal election laws tied the Romney campaigns’ hands until after the August nomination.  Whatever the case, the smear job, which at its worst insinuated that Romney gave one plant worker’s wife terminal cancer, indelibly poisoned Midwest working class voters against the GOP candidate.

That the President won re-election with such an intense, interminable hatchet job is beyond depressing.  Recall how the campaign wound up, even in the days after Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy:  “Don’t boo, vote!” and “Voting is the best revenge.”  Scorn and panic was far and wide on the Left.  Samuel L. Jackson unleashed coarse rhymes and Will Ferrell promised to eat trash if only you would vote Barack Obama.

Remember when the media pegged the Tea Party as driven by hate and fear?  The second Obama term has its foundations on these two base emotions.  Of course each individual has their own calculus going into the voting booth, but how many boneheads were stoked by Michael Moore’s videos featuring elders’ vulgar threats of violence?  And along those lines, how many first-time women voters were really driven by Lena Dunham’s comparison of voting for Obama to great sex?

Where is the civility and decency in our public life?  The same place that Hope and Change got left at.  Perhaps in the rough of some golf course in these great United States.  And now the President thinks he can go from the dirtiest Chicago mudslinging one minute to become the Magnanimous Unifier in the next?

Despite the outrageous situation, we have to hope and pray that the President actually matures and changes as he’s said he has and as polls show Americans demand.  Even if he does not, I steadfastly believe that regardless of color, age, sex or any other way you can slice and dice the electorate, Americans will ultimately be amenable to reason.

Children complain, cry over presidential race

With talk of binders and Big Bird, finger pointing and the like, it’s not uncommon to hear that the presidential election has descended to the level of schoolyard taunts.  Things have gone to the kids more than we know.  And don’t forget that Democrats depend on the “youth vote.”  Now, a slew of videos show American children are thoroughly disaffected by the presidential race.

Remember the creepy children’s choir from 2008 that extolled the virtues of Barack Obama?  That optimism has turned into a dire, depressing, defamatory guilt trip from the future.  Click if you must, but you will probably be disgusted by the despicable–and for the moment defunct–“Future Children Project.”

In contrast to that scripted downer, children are also miffed in more genuine and funny ways.  Consider this video released by conservative funny man Steven Crowder.  He performs a Halloween-inspired experiment on some trick-or-treating kids.  What happens if, say out of “fairness,” we try to redistribute children’s candy?

Now hopefully that video leaves you with a bit of a smile.  But if not, you can commiserate with this young woman who has apparently heard enough of the 2012 presidential election.

Obama, Biden inspect “ships that go underwater”

Monday night’s foreign policy debate only continues the existing trend.  Mitt Romney came off as measured, composed, and presidential, while President Barack Obama, pressing with a desperate and full bore attack, looked a little more petty and a little less presidential.

The horses and bayonets dig has backfired, now that folks from Chuck Todd to Tim Cotton have attested to the utility of those helps in modern warfare.

What really got me though was the part about “ships that go underwater.”  Our Commander-in-Chief was by a magnitude of order too self-satisfied in letting off that salvo.  He sounded like he really thought he was talking to a five year old.

A pundit with some military smarts was quick to inform that submarines are referred to in the American Navy as “boats,” not “ships” as the President claimed.  Oh well, what could we expect from a President who doesn’t know how essential bayonets are to the Marine “Corpse?”

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