One does not have to be Republican—RINO or otherwise—to be critical of President Obama’s foreign policy. It would be sufficient to be a member of what some have described as the “Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.” In an interview in The Atlantic, Ms. Clinton made an observation that would be widely quoted: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” The reference to not doing stupid “stuff” was immediately recognized as a quote that White House aides had attributed, in a somewhat saltier version, to President Obama. […]
We will soon post, as promised, Parts II and III of Blog No. 43 with our thoughts on Afghanistan and Ukraine (and perhaps even a few more on ISIS). Meanwhile, however, the recent activities (and inactivities) of Congress seemed to demand some comment before they are entirely forgotten. When Congress skipped town for its August recess (some things, after all, are sacred), it did so in considerable disarray. Most notable, of course, was the failure to address the problems created by the influx of unaccompanied children at our border with Mexico. But there was no shortage of other issues left unattended. An article in The New York Times noted a few:
The immigration system is still in crisis. Companies are renouncing their American citizenship over tax breaks. The Highway Trust Fund is running on empty as the nation’s infrastructure crumbles, and entitlement programs are creaking under the weight of an aging population.
Given its performance, it is not surprising that public opinion of Congress could hardly be worse. While Obama’s numbers are at an all time low, Congress’s are far lower. According to a recent NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll only 14 percent approve of the job Congress is doing – the seventh-straight NBC/WSJ poll dating back to 2011 when this rating has been below 15 percent. In addition, “A whopping 79 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the U.S. political system, including nearly half who are very dissatisfied. The words of Yeats’s “Second Coming,” written in 1919, seem to resonate once again… “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold….The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” And Congress itself perhaps, is Yeats’s rough beast, slouching not towards Bethlehem but November. […]
In Blog 43, Part I, we discussed the ISIS Crisis and the President’s apparent failure to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and to disclose to the public his plan for responding to it. On August 7, nearly eight weeks after his initial statement on ISIS (or ISIL as the President prefers), events forced the President to break his silence and to announce, with visible reluctance, that he had authorized limited military action. Unfortunately, however, his August 7 statement, and amplifications over the two following days, gave little indication that he has yet grasped (or is willing to admit) the extent of the threat that ISIS poses not only to Iraq, and to Americans in that country but to the United States homeland. […]
As readers of RINOcracy.com are doubtless aware, much has been written about President Obama’s approach to foreign policy and what appears to many, both here and abroad, to have been a projection of weakness. President Obama’s approach to foreign policy—reliance on allies with minimal direct intervention by the United States—is just that, an approach. In the abstract, there is something to be said for Obama’s approach (just as there was to the approach George W. Bush’s in the 2000 campaign when he promised humility in a foreign policy unburdened by nation building.) But an approach to policy is not a policy itself, much less a strategy (a plan to achieve specific goals), and it must be flexible enough to respond to changing threats. Does Obama’s approach have that flexibility? Back on March 16, David Sanger wrote a perceptive analysis in The New York Times, “Global Crises Put Obama’s Strategy of Caution to the Test.” Since that time, as the crises have grown more urgent, the tests have only gotten tougher and it is far from clear that Obama’s “strategy” (more accurately, approach or instinct) is passing them.
At the moment, events in Ukraine have forced the President into engagement and leadership. Considerably aided by the tragic downing of the Malaysian airliner with its many Dutch passengers, he has been successful in persuading European countries to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia than many had thought possible. Nevertheless, effectiveness of the sanctions remains to be seen, and the extent of the Europeans’ commitment, the President’s–and ours–remains uncertain. Equally uncertain are the outlines of an overall strategy for Ukraine and more broadly, Europe. What will Europe and the United States do if the sanctions fail to have the desired result or, worse yet, if Russia takes even more aggressive actions. Is providing Ukraine with arms and other military support a good idea or bad idea? If Putin persists in his apparent attempt to revise the post Cold War map of Europe, do the EU and NATO have the resources and the will to resist? These and related questions will be addressed in a subsequent post, but here we will focus on a crisis that, for the moment, has lost prime attention from the media: ISIS.
The surge of unaccompanied children from Central America across our southern border has produced what is generally recognized to be a mess. Sadly, it has been accompanied by the familiar mess in Washington with the usual antagonists, the Administration and Congress, Republicans and Democrats, struggling over how to respond. And the border crisis appears to have made the goal of “comprehensive immigration reform” more elusive than ever. […]
You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.
Rahm Emanuel’s observation has never seemed more appropriate than in the current crisis enveloping Veterans Affairs hospitals. That crisis could bring important and long-needed reforms to the medical service provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. […]
On a recurring basis a rather troubling vision comes to mind. It is a reprise of that night on August 11, 2011 when Bret Baier said to the assembled candidates:
“I’m going to ask a question to everyone here on the stage. Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1, as Byron [York] said, spending cuts to tax increases…. Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you’d walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?”
All eight candidates dutifully raised their hand. It was then, if not before, that the image of Mitt Romney as human pretzel began to form. […]
After Britain and France approved Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement of 1938, it became a symbol of appeasement that still reverberates. Indeed, Vladimir Putin’s telephone call to Barack Obama on March 28, offering a resumption of diplomatic discussions, raised the question of whether he may be seeking a 21st century version of the Munich Agreement. Russia’s incursion into Crimea, on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians, reminded many observers of Hitler’s purported grounds for annexing the Sudetenland. A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton observed:
“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s,” she said. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”
RINOcracy.com believes strongly that early education is important, and that it is imperative in the case of children of lower socioeconomic status. Indeed, It appears that Head Start might have been more aptly named “Catching Up.” An October 22 article in the New York Times reported a recent study showing that the educational handicaps of such children can be observed from almost the very start:
New research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes.
If the Republican Party is to live up to its aspiration of being “the party of opportunity,” as the 2012 Platform proclaimed, it has no more important task than bringing opportunity to those children. But, how to do that is not so clear. […]
As illustrated by the 1872 cartoon from Harper’s Weekly, the Aesopian fable of a mountain laboring to bring forth a mouse has long history in political commentary. It may never have seemed more appropriate than after President Obama’s speech on NSA surveillance. The speech was long on rhetoric and short on substance, addressing only a few of the 46 specific recommendations of his advisory panel. That panel and its recommendations, it appears, may have an even shorter shelf life in Presidential consideration than the Simpson-Bowles commission he created to solve the problem of the federal deficit. […]