UN Ambassador Puts ‘The Onion’ Out of Business

Every time I think I’m done talking about Syria, the Obama administration pulls me back in.  But this time I’m pulled in not to discuss policy, but to just throw up my hands and give out a hearty “Oh Good Grief,” Charlie Brown style.

I’ve previously wrote here and here about the absolutely amateurish way the Obama administration is handling their self made Syria “crisis.”  But it seems the amateurishness and naivety runs all the way through this administration.

Last Friday UN ambassador Samantha Power spoke to the Center for American Progress, a left wing advocacy organization, on Syria, in an effort to shore up support among President Obama’s normally reliable allies; some of whom are feeling a bit queasy in supporting missile strikes against Syria. I don’t know successful she was in convincing a group of people who are normally anti-war no matter what that this was a good old fashioned humanitarian war, but she did reveal an astonishing lack of realism regarding Russia and Iran as she related in her speech:

“We worked with the U.N. to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing its people. We expanded and accelerated our assistance to the Syrian opposition. We supported the U.N. Commission of Inquiry. “

So… our UN ambassador, who is part of the team that is crafting US foreign policy, thought that by showing proof that Syria was actually using chemical weapons; Iran and Russia, on some sort of vague humanitarian grounds, would drop their support of the Syrian government.  I can only conclude that we have high school model UN’s that are more serious than this administration’s UN ambassador.

There doesn’t seem to be much to add to that.  I can’t imagine that the governing class of either Russia or Iran cares about videos of gassed children.  These are amoral and deadly serious regimes that are playing the long game. The fact that the Obama administration thought that would make a difference in Russian or Iranian calculations is ridiculous.  Did they really think that those governments were just sitting around blindly supporting the Syrian government and would be shocked, shocked (once again, with apologies to Captain Renault!) that Syrians are using gas on the battlefield?

I think this puts the administration beyond parody.  I mean, how do you top that? That’s why I think the Obama administration has finally broken the back of The Onion.  There is no way The Onion will be able craft a more ludicrous story than this real one.

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Syria Backtrack

I was as shocked as anyone that President Obama did an about face on firing his phallic symbol-like missiles in Assad’s general direction.  Although I had previously called the administration amateurish, they managed to redefine the word amateur down.

First we’re going to attack, then we’re going to get Congressional approval, but don’t worry, that doesn’t matter, since Obama states he still has the authority to attack anyway, and will, regardless of the vote.

Huh?

Although there are conspiracy theories that the rebels, not the Assad government, actually used chemical weapons as a false flag to trick the US into intervening, I prefer to consider such theories ridiculous until proven otherwise.   As far as figuring out a position on what to do in Syria, I’m just taking the administration’s word that the intelligence is good, and that Assad is the culprit.

However that doesn’t give guidance on how the US should react.

I would really like to support the President in this.  Politics stops at the water’s edge and all that’ however Obama has managed to make it as difficult as possible to support a policy in which the publically stated goals are to accomplish nothing.  They’re not to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons, cripple the regime, or do anything of any military significance. It’s a military mission with no military objectives, and frankly, not even political ones.

Syria isn’t a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, so in a technical sense, they didn’t actually violate “International law.”  The administration is well aware of that since they use terminology “International Norms,” which means things that the international community, such as it is, doesn’t like.  Although no one in the international community feels their norms were violated enough to actually do something about it.

Obama should have just fired his missiles last week without all of the foreplay and advanced warning.  We would have already been on to another issue by now with the feeling that we had sort of accomplished something.  Instead, there was the desperate pleading for international support, an embarrassing House of Commons vote, and now an upcoming Congressional vote that’s likely to be even more embarrassing.

And how will Congress vote?  Very unconventionally apparently.  Noted warmonger Rep. Nancy Pelosi, after wresting with the issue with her 5 year old grandson, is on board to attack Syria. And John McCain, between Smartphone games of poker, is always up for another bombing.  How will the rest of the Congress vote?  It’s not as easy to predict.  Although I can guess how a certain young Illinois lawmaker would have voted:

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now let me be clear–I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied U.N. resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

But the 2002 edition of Barrack Obama was quite a bit different from the current model.

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Voting Present on Sequester

So let me get this straight.

Over the last ten months, the Republican House has passed two bills on dealing with the sequester cuts, where they’ve languished in a Senate dead zone, with Harry Reid refusing to bring them to the floor.

On Thursday, the Senate finally voted on their own sequester bills, a Republican one and a Democratic one.  Both failed.  Of course the White House actively opposed the Republican Bill.  Why was it so dangerous?  Because it would have removed the across the board cuts and given President Obama the flexibility to cut programs  to shelter some of the more critical government services from cuts.

That’s right.  The President actually opposed a bill that would give him the flexibility to shift the cuts around however he likes.  If that isn’t a complete abrogation of the President’s responsibility to govern, I can’t think what would be.  The President is calling this a crisis, but doesn’t want the authority to fix the crisis because… he might be accountable for something for once?

The President can stomp his feet and blame Republicans all he wants, but this is his failure.  And it’s the worse type of Presidential failure; deliberately choosing not to make decisions because they might be hard ones.

Voting present indeed.  What a farce.

Fiscal Cliff Hangover

Although we called it the fiscal cliff, I always imagined it as more of a fiscal log flume, in which as we slowly go over the edge we hold our arms out, feel our stomach drop, then scream until we hit the end, with water splashing all over us.  Whee!  That was a blast!  Want to go again?  But we can talk about the debt ceiling later.

As deals go, it wasn’t a terrible one, particularly since the House Republicans had no cards to play, as I had pointed out previously.   What the House Republicans had was the total unpredictability of how they were going to vote on the deal.  Boehner didn’t even bother to whip the House body (easy now, I’m talking about getting a count of yes votes before the actual vote and politic to change some no’s to yeses).  He basically blew on his dice and was probably surprised that the House voted yes.

On the negative side, there were no spending cuts and not all of the tax cuts, particularly for the “rich”  were carried over, as I predicted two weeks ago.  So for all of the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, among conservatives of all types, we got as good of a deal as we were ever going to get; and easy to predict if you assumed that President Obama really would have liked to have taken us over the cliff, or if you prefer, log flume.  He would have been laughing all the way to the bottom.

On the positive side (yes there is one), the Bush tax cuts for those making under $450,000 for couples are now permanent.  So we don’t have to go through the end of the year farce of renewing these “temporary” cuts.  Same thing for the AMT tax.  They were fixed and made permanent.  The AMT fix, like the Medicare “doc fix” was an end of year ritual that couldn’t be resolved permanently.  Why you may ask?  Because any permanent fix would reflect in the CBO’s deficit and debt estimates for the years going forward.  Fixing the AMT for any one year was considered a cost for that particular year, but the CBO would base their estimates by current law, which would have the AMT not being fixed for the next year and every year afterwards.  Fixing the AMT for one year is a cost of 92 billion dollars.  A permanent fix it for the next ten years costs almost a trillion dollars.  From a purely crass, political position, having the costs of a permanent fix to the AMT and Bush income tax cuts accrued under the Obama administration ( two items that Republicans wanted to do but could never find the money for):

Priceless.

However all is not well in conservative talk radio land.  I made it a point to listen to what I think was a fair cross section of conservative radio for their take on all things fiscal cliffdom, and I must say, it was a muddled mess of incoherence.  They’ve been off their game since the election in my opinion really dropped the ball on the issues related to the fiscal cliff.  To summarize:

Rush:  No last name needed, you know who I mean.  Agreed with me (or is it I with him?) that Obama wanted to go over the cliff.  However he still wanted to oppose any deal that didn’t have the full Bush tax cuts and spending cuts.  And he regarded the deal that cut taxes as one that raised taxes; simply because not all the Bush cuts were included.  The practical result of his stonewalling any deal without the full Bush cuts?  All the tax cuts would have vanished.   Great job Rush!

Neal Boortz:  This odd combination of Paleo-Conservatism and Libertarianism also opposed any deal, however he thought that the Democratic Senate didn’t want to go over the cliff and would prevail upon Obama to accept all the Bush tax cuts rather than let them all expire.  Considering that after the failed vote on Plan B, The Republican House went home for Christmas, and ultimately didn’t vote on the deal until New Years Day, I would say events didn’t prove him correct.

Mark Levin:  Although I only caught his show once during the fiscal cliff debacle, Levin is being credited with organizing a call in campaign that helped bring about the defeat of Plan B.  Considering that from a conservative position Plan B was a better deal than the deal we actually got, I would have to say that turned out to not be a good move.

Sean Hannity:  Hannity has managed to have it both ways.  Before Christmas, he held the Rush position; that Obama wanted to go over the cliff and to oppose any compromise that didn’t have the full Bush tax cuts and spending cuts.  Post House vote, he is equivocating on whether Obama wanted to go over the cliff.  Too late to be even more wrong.

I think talk radio got it wrong on this one.  The deal wasn’t great, but it could have been so much worse considering that for the Democrats, going over the cliff was as close to a political dream situation as they could have hoped for, with Republicans being forced to bear all of the political costs.  I think conservatives should move on to the debt deal, a situation in which they have a bit more leverage.  That’s a situation guaranteed to generate several scowling Obama photos.

No Cards to Play

This is my first post in a month due to some catastrophic computer failures at home.  First, in a ridiculous tugging match over looking at a One Direction video, my son and daughter broke my daughter’s laptop screen.  Then, my son’s laptop just died.  No particular cause, but my tech savvy brother in law examined it and declared it DOA.  Then, the home’s main desktop computer suddenly went wonky (sorry if I’m using technical computer language here).  It was unable to boot up and unable to restore at an earlier point.  Again, another examination by my tech savvy brother in law produced a post mortem; this time with no data retrieval possible.  We had fried hard drive for dinner.

However I did have a backup drive that was set to automatically update on a daily basis only…awww.  It turns out the automatic backup was turned off.  My backup hadn’t been updated in a year.  Not least among catastrophes, I had about a dozen drafts for posts that were lost.  So after losing 3 computers in two weeks, plus a year’s worth of data, my posting took a hiatus.  Particularly since computer time became quite a bit more rationed around the house.  And I do have a back log of amusing cat videos to watch…

And speaking of catastrophic failures, that means missing an entire month of posting on the “fiscal cliff.”   I suppose it’s just as well.  Any prediction that I would have made about how the Republican Congress should have responded would have been wrong.  A month ago I would have assumed they were rational actors who understood the lessons of the election.  A month later it’s clear that isn’t the case.

Speaker Boehner’s Plan B failed a test vote in the House last night which in a way was a proxy vote for whether the Republican Party was smart enough to survive and rebuild (it isn’t).  Republicans have somehow managed to figure out a how to take a bad situation and compound it to make it worse.

Just a couple of points:

  1.  President Obama had no intention of honestly negotiating with Boehner over the fiscal cliff.  Why would he?  The fiscal cliff is exactly what most Democrats, but especially the President want.  You get high taxes plus massive cuts in Defense spending.  What could Boehner ever have offered the President to top that?  By the same token, there were never going to be any spending cuts.  Again, Obama had zero incentive to offer a penny.  His best deal was already agreed to by Congress last year when they fashioned the fiscal cliff suicide pact.  Only, it was really a suicide pact for Republicans only.  Democrats probably couldn’t believe the deal the Republicans were handing them.  Meanwhile House Republicans were trying to finagle entitlement cuts from the President!
  2. Given all that, there was no, and I repeat, no scenario in which taxes were not going up, and there were never going to be spending cuts in this deal.  The fact that the Republicans refused to acknowledge this was one of their biggest mistakes and led to a cascade of other mistakes that led us to this point.  Remarkably, the conservative caucus in the Republican House didn’t seem to get this, and just as bad, the conservative radio complex didn’t get it either.  A sampled a fair amount over the past month (since I’ve been mostly computer-less lately I’ve sampled a fair amount of conservative talk radio).  They were very slow on the uptake, thinking that House Republicans actually had a negotiating position.
  3. Going over the fiscal cliff is not an option for Republicans.  That was supposed to be the one card to encourage coming to some sort of deal, but as I previously mentioned, Democrats want to go over the cliff. But if we actually go over the cliff, Republicans will get the blame on raising taxes on middle class out of spite because they couldn’t save tax cuts for “the rich.”  Two weeks ago that simply would have been the Democrat­­­‑MSM spin.  Now the Republicans are working to make that an actual fact.  And speaking of spin…
  4. The Republicans spun themselves into a trap.  They equated in their own rhetoric that any bill or deal that didn’t include all the Bush tax cuts was a bill to raise taxes.  Since they’ve been saying that for a month (“I will not vote to raise taxes, blah blah blah…”) they’ve fashioned a rhetorical trap in which they do nothing and allow all tax rates to go up, or they vote to cut taxes for some, which they regard as a bill to raise taxes on anyone not getting a cut.  Huh?  Even Grover Norquist doesn’t think that a bill to cut taxes is really a bill to raise taxes.  So why do the House Republicans and the Conservative Radio Complex do?
  5. The tax issue does not resonate with Americans anymore.  In this regard, the Republicans are a victim of their own success.  The modern conservative movement began with a tax revolt which led to the passage of California’s Proposition 13, which rolled back property taxes on California homeowners.  You could argue that without the movement that led to the passage of Prop 13, there would have been no conservative movement and no election of Ronald Reagan.  So over the course of more than two decades taxes were cut, culminating in the Bush tax cuts.  So now, Americans have been comfortable with our tax rates for over a decade.  They just don’t care about the issue anymore, and don’t think any future tax increases will touch them.

House Republicans should have just crafted a tactical withdrawal on this issue.  Since there was no way to win it, they could have at least minimized the damage by passing middle class tax cuts and minimizing the defense sequestration that is scheduled to devastate the defense budget next year.  As we learned from the Debt Ceiling talks, the longer you negotiate with Obama the more things he’s going to think of to throw in to queer the deal. The closer we get to January first, the more knickknacks and doo-dads Obama is going to insist on being thrown in. Any deal done now would require throwing in unemployment insurance; a condition that wasn’t on the radar last month.  At this rate, Obama will have Tea Party Republicans voting for Medicare for all.

Interesting Post Election Reads

The post election whining has begun!  Here are a couple of coulda-woulda-shoulda articles that caught my eye.

First, the Wall Street Journal continues its never ending crusade for open ended amnesty.  Amnesty now, amnesty tomorrow, and Amnesty forever!      ¡Estimados Republicanos!

But wait!  National Review has a rebuttal.  Polling shows that only 7% of Hispanics were turned off by the immigration position of Republicans.  Instead, they mostly hated everything else the party stands for:  Why Hispanics Don’t Vote for Republicans

Here is another NR article that doubles down on Heather MacDonald’s article, only with more polling data:  Now What?  Immigration Edition

Some People didn’t take the election news so well:  Obama has the “same goals” as Al-Qaida

Why Obama won:  Obama’s Edge: The Ground Game That Could Put Him Over the Top

Why Romney lost:  The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA

This article posits that since the number of white voters fell from 2008 to 2012, that white voters stayed home.  I think it’s more likely that they just got old and died.   The Case of the Missing White Voters

In the “Heh” Department:

Blue States voted heavily for Obama…

Vote was astronomical for Obama in some Philadelphia wards

Castro and Saddam Hussein should be so lucky to get vote totals like these!

Even as the blue model of governance collapses all around them…

Philadelphia’s school commission borrows $300 million to pay its bills

And the Chicago way continues to show it’s a model for the nation… for politicians!

Jesse Jackson Jr. Wins Reelection From Mayo Clinic

Jesse Jackson Jr. wins even though he has been out of sight since June bouncing from addiction treatment centers to the Mayo Clinic.  Now that’s a politician!

But he does have time to make a plea deal with the Feds:  Jesse Jackson Jr.in Plea Deal Talks With Feds

I would say that’s a Congressional district that’s lost the ability to complain about the political system without the rest of us smirking!

I commented on another bloggers website why the Republicans were such sore losers.

One of my favorite columnists, The wittiest doomsayer in the Anglosphere, Mark Steyn, explains that we’re screwed, but at least he does it well:  Reality doesn’t need to win Electoral College

Looking for an escape plan from Obama tax hikes?  ‘Super-Earth’ Alien Planet May Be Habitable for Life

Although I imagine the trip will take many election cycles.

Anyway, this twitter message sums up how I feel about the election!

It’s the Interest Rates, Stupid

In terms of our national debt, liberals run the gamut from thinking it’s a problem in the future but not now, to it’s never a problem ever.  Of course the practical aspects in terms of policy lead to the same thing:  Keep on spending baby!  Even the liberals who feign deep concern over the debt will only provide lip service to the idea of doing something about it.  And really, what choice do they have?  If you’re a liberal, everything that is important to you about your political ideology and wishes for policies have to assume that a country can keep on spending and running deficits forever.  That leads to the eternal problem for liberals: cognitive dissonance. Their entire ideology is based on the false twin assumptions that money is no object and everyone can get more out of the welfare state than they put into it.  Best not to think about it.

A few weeks ago, we passed the 16 trillion mark in national debt.  Congratulations to President Obama for that!  Whether he likes it or not, the debt will be one of his administrations’s enduring legacies.  But even with such massive amounts of debt, we seem to be humming along.  In fact, believe it or not, we are actually paying less to service the debt now, than we were in 2000.

Currently, interest on the debt is 224.8 billion dollars for 2012.  That’s about 6% of the budget on a debt of almost 16 Trillion dollars. Not too bad.  Now in 2000, interest was 12% of the budget; double the percentage of the current budget.  However the amount of interest we were paying that year was 215.2 billion dollars.  Just a little less than what we are paying now, even though the debt at that time was about 5 trillion dollars.  So how is it that we are paying almost the same in interest now when the debt is 3 times as much?

Our interest rates.

10 year Treasury bond yields in January 2000 were 6.66%.  AS of January 2012 they were at 1.97%. Those are interest rates at historic lows.  The chart I was looking at went back to 1953 and interest rates now are at the lowest rate they’ve been since then.  If we were paying the same interest now as we were paying in 2000 our payment on the interest on our debt for this year would be over 700 billion dollars.    That’s a pretty large amount of money to spend every year in which you get nothing out of it.

Although the average Treasury interest rates since 1900 is 4.9%, we’ve had our interest rates run the gamut.  For the period of November 1979, to October 1985, except for one month interest rates stayed above 10%, reaching a high of 15.3%.

Interest rates are the real time bomb of our debt crisis; just ask the Greeks (paying 24% on their bonds).  Under the conservative CBO Baseline interest on the debt exceeds defense costs in 2019.  Of course, the CBO’s predictions on interest rates are no better than mine, that is to say, crappy.  There are too many factors involved that goes in to interest rates.  But I don’t see how we can avoid the inevitability of Treasury bond interest rates returning to the normal 4% to 6 % range.  In fact, interest rates returning to these levels would instantly add 4.9 Trillion to our national debt.

Or higher.  They’ve been higher before, and with the unprecedented amount of monetary expansion we’ve done in the past few years, eventually they’ll have an effect on our inflation rate that even government statistics won’t be able to hide.

So… if you think interest rates are going to continue to stay at these historic lows, spend away.  I can’t predict when interest rates are going to start rising again.  If I could, I would be posting this from my own Private Island.  Or Idaho.  But in any case I would be really rich.   However I am sure that interest rates will rise again at some point.  Meanwhile, the debt gets higher.  We are adding a trillion dollars plus of new debt to our deficit every year.  We have to service that debt.

There are things we could do to mitigate this situation.  We have a great deal of intergovernmental loans that could be rolled over into 50 or 100 year bonds, locking in these historically low interest rates, however The Treasury Secretary doesn’t seem to want to do anything that will make our debt situation look worse, even though in the long run it would stabilize our long term debt situation.  Of course, if you haven’t noticed, this administration isn’t concerned with the long term.

We’ve seen other nations hit the debt wall, and we’ve seen the economic havoc that it can cause, but forward we go, spending away as if there is no tomorrow.  However tomorrow does eventually come, and so will these higher interest rates.

And our comeuppance.

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How Much Is Media Bias Worth?

Although the media consensus was that Obama won the 2nd debate “on points”, and the polling on who won seems to bear that out (Gallup Obama win 51%, Romney win 38%), he hasn’t had the big bounce back in the polls that one would expect.  With the extra help he had from the moderator from DNC, err… I mean, CNN, Candy Crowley, you would expect a rebound to bring the polls back to something similar to what they were before Romney’s big first debate win.  But it hasn’t happened.

HEMPSTEAD, NY - OCTOBER 16:  U.S. President Ba...

HEMPSTEAD, NY – OCTOBER 16: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) listens and moderator Candy Crowley (C) plots to help President Obama (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Why not?

In the days prior to the first debate, Gallup showed Obama at 50% and Romney at 45%, a five point advantage.  In the days after the first debate, the race had shifted substantially to dead even; Obama and Romney both at 47%.    After the second debate; the one that Obama won?  The Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll for Saturday the 20th shows Romney 49% and Obama 48%.  In other words, Obama didn’t benefit from his win.

There have been a couple of theories as to why Romney was able to make up such ground on the strength of one debate performance.  One is that Romney just looked more Alpha next to Obama on stage, helping Romney close the gender gapamong women voters.  Another is that this was the first opportunity much of the country has had to see Romney, and surprisingly, they liked what they saw.  Considering that Romney has been the prospective nominee for most of the year, how is it that just now, the American people are getting their first unfiltered look at the Presidential nominee mere weeks before the actual election?  Particularly with the amount of media attention shown on this race?

As I predicted back in February, this was going to be a campaign between the Republicans against the Democrats and the mainstream media working together.  That is a tough combination to beat, but from the moderating in the Republican Primaries to the moderating in the second debate, the MSM has abused the position of power they hold in our society to take sides in this political contest.  It’s hard to draw another conclusion when during the 2nd debate President Obama made reference to the moderator about a transcript of a speech he had made that the moderator just happened to have with her at the moderator podium. How would he know she had a copy with her?  And why, of all the data and information that she would have, would it include that particular speech?  Curious indeed.

Romney’s coverage in the media has consisted of Democratic attacks and then pundits sitting around and discussing those attack ads.  That was the bulk of the political coverage over the past few months.  With that sort of coverage model, how is the public ever going to be able to draw informed conclusions on the candidates?  So when the public actually got to see Mitt Romney for the first time, in a 90 minute unfiltered debate, he didn’t appear at all to be the image that had been carefully crafted of him by the media.  He didn’t seem to be a racist, sexist, homophobe, or a cross between Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, and Mr. Potter from, It’s a Wonderful Life.  Instead they saw a serious competent businessman, not a murderer or tax evader.

That wide divergence of perception explains the polls.  Even if Obama has another win “on points” in the 3rd debate on Monday, I don’t see the race changing based on the debate.  The perception of Romney has already changed.

So to my original question, how much is media bias worth?  Since Romney was 5 points down before the first debate and the race is neck and neck now, that’s your answer.

Five percentage points.

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The Talking Points Debate

When even the MSNBC hosts agree that Romney won last night’s debate with President Obama, and Chris Matthews looked like he had been crying off camera, then yeah, I guess Romney won.  I admit I called this one wrong.  Not that I didn’t think Romney would do well, but I thought no matter how well he did the MSM would call it a tie at best.  I figured they could only call it for Romney if Obama totally screwed the pooch, Obama wasn’t quite that bad (no major gaffes) but I honestly didn’t expect Obama to do as poorly as he did.

Obama was clearly poorly served by his debate preparation team.  His habit of scowling when hearing things he doesn’t like is well known, and he knew he was going to hear things he didn’t like so he should have been prepared for that.  Also his annoying habit of looking down and not looking at his opponent… come on guys, that’s basic freshman Speech class stuff!  All this from someone who allegedly prepared more for these debates, “than any sitting President in the modern era.

Obama didn’t even bother to offer “the audience a sandwich.”

Even Jeff Greenfield, no fan of the right, said:

Yes, it wasn’t the best atmospherics for Obama to look down, purse his lips, appear distracted, while Romney was attentive, engaged, relaxed. But this was much more than atmospherics. This was about one candidate who came with a frame for the evening, and who was prepared to engage on every question; and another who, perhaps because of his documented faith in his own abilities, felt he could wing it with snatches of familiar verbiage.

One really feels the loss of the teleprompter.

But optics and atmospherics aside, the real difference is that Romney came to the debate armed with facts and familiarity with the issues.  Obama came with his talking points, such as the one about the tax break for shipping jobs overseas.

Obama: “But I also want to close those loopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want to provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States,”
“Right now, you can actually take a deduction for moving a plant overseas. I think most Americans would say that doesn’t make sense. And all that raises revenue.”

Romney: “Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant, but the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case.” 

There is no tax deduction for moving businesses overseas.  Costs of business are deductible, like closing (or opening) manufacturing plants, but that isn’t a deduction that gives a special break to a company to move overseas.  However this has been a leftie talking point for years.  They listen to themselves repeat the same things over and over until they never doubt the truth of it.  Romney made Obama look like he had no idea what he was talking about, which was actually the case; Obama didn’t know what he was talking about.  Sorry lefties, there is no special tax break for outsourcing American jobs.

 The other issue was that Romney’s tax plan would raise the deficit 5 trillion and raise taxes on the middle class in order to give the rich a tax cut.  Once again, Obama relied on his dubious talking points only to be confronted by a Romney denial that his tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class, lower taxes on the rich, and increase the deficit by 5 trillion dollars.  I know a little something about this issue since I demolished a claim made by the Tax Policy Center in August that Romney’s tax plan couldn’t work as planned.  You can get the details here, however the gist is:

Romney’s plan is revenue neutral, so there is no, I repeat, no cut in tax revenues.

Even though rates are lowered, the deductions and credits are removed to make up the difference.  This makes for a simpler tax code.

The Tax Policy Center admitted that the plan they actually scored, was only similar to Romney’s plans, and they had to make up the details.

The Tax Policy Center counts the 20% cuts in tax rates on top of the Bush tax cuts, which will no longer be in force when Romney would be President.

There were probably more talking point moments by Obama, but these were the big ones.  Meanwhile, over at MSNBC, the gang was apoplectic about Obama not using even more talking points!

Although one debate can probably be dismissed as a bump in the road, I hope that the President does take Chris Matthews advice and start getting his talking points from MSNBC.  Obama armed with even more inaccurate talking points would make the rest of the debates must see TV right up to the election.

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The Costs of the Arab Spring

In a general sense, the main stream media has done an extremely poor job of covering the President, so intent as they

1 September 2010. During Middle East negotiati...

1 September 2010. During Middle East negotiations, Mubarak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel look at their watches to see if it is officially sunset; during Ramadan, Muslims fast until sunset. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) We won’t see this gang together again

are in protecting him that we seldom get good interview questions from the usual crew of White House reporters.  The Pimp with a Limp asked better questions than the usual gang of NBC, CBS, and ABC boot lickers, however during Obama’s interview with Telemundo the President was actually asked a serious and pertinent question:

Jose Diaz Balart – Would you consider the current Egyptian regime an ally of the United States?

President Obama:  I don’t think that we would consider then an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.  They’re a new government that is trying to find its way.  They were democratically elected.  I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident.

Obama seemed to be caught off guard because it was a really good question, and he hasn’t gotten many of those lately.  Practically speaking, the Arab Spring only seems to subtract from the list of US allies, it doesn’t add to them.  Any Arab country that has any sort of free and fair elections are going to vote in Islamist regimes since, as the Pew polls demonstrate, that is what the people want.  So in the case of Arab countries, Democracy = Islamist governments.  I assumed that the administration had a strategy for that, since they supported the Arab Spring. But it seemed that their “smart diplomacy” was based mostly on the supposed healing force of Obama’s personality.

Of course this isn’t just Obama’s foreign party debacle.  Both parties share the blame in this, including king of the neo cons himself; George W. Bush.  Bush delivered a speech in May that outlined how he thought America should conduct itself in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Some in both parties in Washington look at the risks inherent in democratic change—particularly in the Middle East and North Africa—and find the dangers too great. America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability.

But in the long run, this foreign policy approach is not realistic. It is not within the power of America to indefinitely preserve the old order, which is inherently unstable. Oppressive governments distrust the diffusion of choice and power, choking off the best source of national prosperity and success.

This is the inbuilt crisis of tyranny. It fears and fights the very human attributes that make a nation great: creativity, enterprise and responsibility. Dictators can maintain power for a time by feeding resentments toward enemies—internal or external, real or imagined. But eventually, in societies of scarcity and mediocrity, their failure becomes evident.

America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. It only gets to choose what side it is on.

And that’s why ultimately we didn’t have much choice other than to be more or less supportive of the Arab Spring.  We supported dictators and other strongmen during the cold war because we needed allies against the Soviets, so in the great game of superpower politics, it made sense.  We also supported Mubarak specifically to maintain the Egyptian Israeli peace; the one US “victory” in Arab/Israeli relations.  However it was a peace dependent on US troops in the Sinai, lots of money to both Israel and Egypt, and of course, supporting an Egyptian dictator.  With the dictator gone, the string that is holding the fragile peace together is slowly unraveling.

So the Arab Spring, which started last year and is still causing waves, including the current civil war in Syria, left us with little choice but to support it, although so far we’ve done it in such a ham handed way that we’ve caused ourselves a great deal of damage.  We supported Mubarak… supported him, supported him….and yer out!  To any other ally of the US, it looked as if we had betrayed our chosen ally based on the impulses of a mob.  We owed Mubarak something, and rotting in a jail cell doesn’t highlight the benefits of being a US ally.

Although the administration screwed up royally with its handling of Egypt, I’m not guilt free myself.  I supported democracy for the Middle East.  And I supported elections in Egypt, although I didn’t support forcing Mubarak to step down.  What I would have wanted, as a US reaction, was to support free and fair elections… in the future.  To at least give time for some more moderate parties to organize and to provide US support for them.  The only organized opposition to Mubarak was the Muslim Brotherhood, so no surprise they end up as the big winners.

Even crazier was our policy towards Libya.  The West had spent years trying to bring Gaddafi to heel, and after seeing the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Gaddafi decided to make nice with the West.  He paid compensation for Lockerbie, and turned over his WMD’s to the UN.  In other words, he became the very model of a modern Middle Eastern dictator, transforming his rogue state to one that was coming in out of the cold.  The “Libyan Terrorist” was no more.  So when the Arab Spring hit Libya, Obama decided to declare war.  Or rather, the UK and France decided to declare war and Obama quickly changed course to join in.

So wherever the Arab Spring arose, the US was there to lend support. Except of course in the two countries where the Arab Spring could have removed avowed enemies of the US:  Iran and Syria.  During Iran’s Green Movement in 2009 Obama went out of his way to ignore the protesters, concentrating on his policy of wooing the Mullahs, who eventually crushed the protesters.

Although one of the many phony reasons for our involvement in Libya was to prevent a civilian massacre, in Syria the death toll is already at 27,000 during the 10 month civil war and rising.

27,000 dead.

So on the Middle East scorecard, we’ve supported the mob in overthrowing governments that were either our allies or in countries where we had no US national security interests.  Egypt was an ally of the US, and we paid billions to it for decades to keep the peace between it and Israel.  Libya, after years of being a rogue terrorist state, finally “came in from the cold” and was rejoining the international community.  Now, the Israeli-Egypt Peace treaty is ade facto corpse, and Marty McFly’s feared Libyan terrorists have once again been freed to drive around the world in VW vans with RPG’s.  Our main adversaries, the Mullahs in Iran and the Bathist dictatorship in Syria, still rule.    I could hardly have sat down and devised a worse outcome of the Arab Spring for the United States.  Meanwhile, the author of this foreign policy disaster, President Obama, is just starting to figure out what a mess he’s caused.

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