We offer here some brief, end-of-the-week thoughts on subjects that we’ve addressed in recent blogs.
The Islamic State Blog No. 71, “The Annals of Leading From Behind, Part I,” suggested that the Obama Administration either lacked a strategy to deal with the Islamic State or was failing to execute what it chose to describe as strategy. That conclusion was seemingly vindicated by subsequent events. On June 8, the President acknowledged the obvious—that the United States lacks a “complete strategy” for the defeat of the Islamic State. The President’s comment was followed by an announcement that we would open a new base in Anbar Province and send an additional 450 troops with responsibilities for training, but not combat. In addition, The New York Times reported indications by unidentified White House officials that the President is open to providing additional troops and bases in Iraq. (The dilemma of what to do about the Islamic State in Syria remained, as usual, shrouded in silence.)
The additional troops for training, and an additional base in Anbar, may well be useful steps, but they are clearly baby steps at best, unlikely to have a measurable effect on the overall military situation. (Indeed, President Obama had asserted at the G-7 conference that we already furnished more trainers than Iraq had provided troops to be trained.) Blog No. 71, urged Congress to hold extensive hearings to receive expert military counsel on the challenges and possible approaches available to us, not only in Iraq, but in Syria. The developments of recent days appear to have reinforced the validity of that recommendation. If the Administration cannot develop and articulate a coherent and credible strategy for dealing with ISIS, Congress must surely attempt to jump-start the process.
The RINOcracy.comTen We have been a bit disappointed not to have received more nominations for inclusion on our roster of RINOcracy.com prospective debaters. Nevertheless, we were interested in a June 12 column by Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post, discussing the chances of various candidates and prospective candidates. The column reflects Krauthammer’s appraisal of their prospects rather than the measure of his approval. Nevertheless, while Krauthammer is no RINO, his assessments are not too far from our own. Readers may wish to read the column in full, but we will summarize it here.
Krauthammer placed three candidates, or potential candidates, in his “Top Tier,” all of whom were included in the RINOcracy.com Ten: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio. Bush and Walker were rated by Krauthammer at 25% and Rubio at 35%. We noted that Krauthammer is more enthusiastic about Walker than we have been: “He’s got a solid governing record, has raised respectable money and has gone almost errorless for more than a month. One caveat: His major wobble on immigration threatens his straight-shooter persona.” In a second tier, “Polls well, but cannot win,” Krauthammer placed Rand Paul and Ben Carson. We agree with that placement, though with relief rather than any regret–neither were in the RINOcracy.com Ten.
In the next category, “Second tier, with a chance to jump,” Krauthammer listedTed Cruz, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina at 5%, 3% and 2% respectively. We think Krauthammer underrates Kasich, although he did describe him as his “personal long-shot wild card.” We placed Fiorina in the RINOcracy.com Ten, but doubt that she has (or deserves) a chance to jump. In the last category, “Second tier in need of a miracle,” Krauthammer slotted Rick Perry, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee. We are inclined to agree with Krauthammer although he commented, much as we had, that Christie “shows guts in openly advocating entitlement reform.”
As a closing note, Krauthammer said that he had “done no justice” to Lindsay Graham, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum, all of whom were described as “eminently likeable and highly qualified.” For our part, we would bestow such a favorable description only on Graham, and we would also have rated his chances somewhat higher, lodging him in the group with “a chance to jump” or, at the very least, among those within reach of a miracle. We cannot fault Krauthammer for making no mention of non-candidates Kelly Ayotte and Rick Snyder, but we do think that George Pataki merited at least a passing nod.
The Trade Bills The politics of the trade bills were discussed in Blog No. 69, “Surprise: Republicans May Know How to Govern After All,” noting the irony of the President having to rely primarily on Republicans for passage of legislation that he regards as highly important and a major element of his legacy. Still, we were surprised on Friday when Democrats in the House blocked the trade legislation by a peculiar parliamentary maneuver. Specifically they joined some Republicans to defeat Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)–legislation that Democrats had long supported. They defeated it in order to block the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to which TAA had been had been inextricably tied by the Senate. As a result, when TPA was narrowly passed, it was meaningless because that bill cannot go to the president’s desk without the TAA. As this is written, it is too early to judge whether the trade bills may yet be salvaged. In the meantime, however, we would echo the observation of many others that the failure on Friday was attributable not only to traditional Democratic attitudes toward free trade (ranging from suspicion to hostility), but to President Obama’s frayed relationship with members of his own party. It appears that leading from behind has problems at home as well as abroad.