Sunday, March 31, 2013

Majority Back Republican Ideas Until They Hear that the Ideas Came From Republicans

Poll: Majority Back Republican Ideas Until They Hear that the Ideas Came From Republicans

Bryan Preston
Shortly after the November election, I joked that maybe Republicans should all switch parties en masse just to confuse everybody. The media wouldn’t know whom to attack, other Democrats wouldn’t know whom to smear, and maybe the public would vote on ideas instead of party ID and other factors.
Unexpectedly, a new Hill poll backs up the soundness of the old switcheroo.

Respondents in The Hill Poll were asked to choose which of two approaches they would prefer on the budget, but the question’s phrasing included no cues as to which party advocated for which option.
Presented in that way, 55 percent of likely voters opted for a plan that would slash $5 trillion in government spending, provide for no additional tax revenue and balance the budget within 10 years — in essence, the path recommended by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week.
This was almost twice as many voters as opted for a proposal that would include $1 trillion in added tax revenue as well as $100 billion in infrastructure spending, and which would reduce the deficit without eradicating it.
Only 28 percent of voters preferred this option, which reflects the proposal put forth by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) last week.
So, Paul Ryan for the win? Eh, not really. The same poll found that once voters were told which party supported which idea, the voters pulled the old switcheroo and backed the Democrats.
A plurality of voters, 35 percent, said they trust the Democrats more on budgetary issues, while 30 percent said they trust the Republicans more. A full 34 percent said they trust neither party.
The poll’s finding badly undercuts President Obama’s repeated claim that the American people are on his side in the budget standoffs. They’re not. They’re not on the side of his tax hikes or his increased spending. They’re not on the side of increasing the welfare state. You can still get a majority of Americans to recognize economic reality, which is welcome news.
But most voters are also not on the GOP’s side. As soon as they think they are on the GOP’s side, they run to the Democrats or declare themselves independent. That’s reflective of a party with a bad image problem that would have trouble selling anything.
The question is, what to do?
Much more on the next page.
CPAC this past weekend represented a changing of the guard. Three senators — Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul — stepped up to become the next generation of GOP leaders. All three have cross-party appeal, and two of the three have cross-demographic appeal. The three are not all different versions of the same Republican. If one of these three ends up dominating, he will put an important stamp on the GOP. If it’s Paul, the GOP moves more into the isolationist, small-l libertarian direction. Rubio may nudge the GOP more in the direction of supporting a “comprehensive” immigration package, which would speed the path to citizenship for illegal aliens and, in my view, hasten the day that the GOP becomes a long-term minority party. Notice I didn’t say permanent. I don’t believe, as most Democrats and even many Republicans do, that demographic shifts already underway are going to create a permanent anything. If the next leader is Cruz, then we’re likely to see a GOP that remains a bit more security minded, and is a bit more aggressive in presenting core conservative ideas. But all of this will shake and shift as the three plus others, including Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum and other state leaders not yet fully in the national mix, make their moves.
Whoever the next leader or leaders turn out to be, there’s that GOP image problem lurking not even out of focus in the background. It’s not going to magically go away.

The Liberal Media Lie About CPAC

The Liberal Media Lie About CPAC

But, of course, they lie about everything, don’t they?

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The liberal media covered the 40th Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) pretty much like they cover everything else — deceitfully, with a partisan bias that is transparent to every honest and intelligent person who actually pays attention. On any subject of potential political significance, there is a yawning chasm between (a) actual events and (b) the deliberately dishonest portrayal of those events by the hired liars whose biggest fraud is their ludicrous pretense to objectivity. If the New York Times could find a way to put a liberal spin on sports, they certainly would: “Louisville Gets Top NCAA Seed; Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.”
Take, for example, the young comedian Steven Crowder. While serving as emcee on the Potomac Ballroom stage Saturday at CPAC, Crowder made a joke about actress (and, it is rumored, future Kentucky Senate candidate) Ashley Judd: “This just in, Ashley Judd just tweeted that purchasing Apple products is akin to rape — from her iPhone.” Which is pretty doggone funny if you know that,as Alex Pappas of the Daily Caller reported, Judd has claimed that the purchasers of the iPhone and other Apple products are “financing mass rape” by using minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Judd has a penchant for throwing around “rape”in her far-left political rants. She has compared coal-mining in Kentucky to rape and, also, to genocide in Rwanda. Judd’s long history of such outrageous comments has Republicans laughing mirthfully at the prospect of the actress challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky next year. But according to liberal journalists — whose cheerleading for Democrats is now so unapologetically blatant that it is taken for granted — the real outrage is that any Republican would criticize Judd’s lunatic utterances.
This is apparently why the Huffington Post decided to lie about Crowder’s joke. “Steven Crowder, a Fox News contributor who hosted part of Saturday’s activities at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, made a questionable remark about actress and possible Kentucky Senate candidate Ashley Judd,”a post at the site described it, omitting both the factual context and the first part of the joke, quoting only Crowder’s follow-on comment: “What is this obsession with Ashley Judd and rape? It’s pretty unnerving.”
By tagging Crowder as a “Fox News contributor,” the writer of the HuffPo item signaled to liberal readers that the young comic is a hate-object. Evidently, the unnamed writer – the cowardlyHuffPo liar didn’t put a byline on this cheap smear-job –didn’t trust his readers to have enough sense to decide whether or not Crowder’s joke was “questionable.” And, of course, there was the clever ju-jitsu reversal: The story is not about whether Ashley Judd’s rhetoric was too over-the-top for a Senate candidate —Judd’s own remarks aren’t even quoted — but rather whether a comedian’s joke about Judd is “questionable.”
Speaking of questions: Is there any joke that anyone could make about any Democrat that the Huffington Post would not deem“questionable”? Of course not. The entire mission of Arianna Huffington’s organization, which she sold for more than $300 million to AOL a few years ago, is to help Democrats and harm Republicans. Yet HuffPo is considered a “mainstream” news operation, while Fox News is consistently demonized by the same allegedly objective journalists who view HuffPo as entirely legitimate and respectable. This attitude is not merely liberal bias, it is pervasive dishonesty, an attempt to achieve a political outcome while purposefully misreporting the facts. AOL paid big bucks to buy Arianna’s cheap smear machine, and the well-paid hacks at NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN share the same commitment to delivering partisan propaganda. Therefore, while no one can obtain from“mainstream journalism” an accurate knowledge of Ashley Judd’s bizarre and outlandish opinions, the world must be instantly notified if a comedian cracks a joke about her at CPAC.
Pretty much everything about CPAC is “questionable” from the liberal media perspective. The very idea that thousands of people who disagree with liberalism would gather in one place to share their opinions — well, how dare they? Also, how dare those sneaky conservatives refuse to be a homogenous bunch of boring old white males? This is what really drives liberal nuts: Dr. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Allen West, Marco Rubio, Herman Cain, Mia Love — the CPAC stage featured plenty of people who aren’t quite the scapegoated right-wing stereotypes of liberal myth, and therefore they are the objects of particularly scornful media treatment. Popular conservative personalities who are either young, female, or not Caucasian are depicted in the media as kooky extremists or phony tokens for a movement which (as every HuffPo staffer knows) is a racist, sexist, homophobic plot by boring old rich fuddy-duddies.
Consider, for example, the winner of CPAC’s “Blogger of the Year” award, 24-year-old Katie Pavlich, author of a New York Times bestselling book about the“Fast and Furious” scandal, which the New York Timesitself has desperately attempted to ignore. Rather than try to explain to their audiences how people who are supposed to be boring old fuddy-duddies manage instead to be brilliant young blondes, the liberal media just pretends that Katie Pavlich doesn’t exist. One imagines the producers and editors saying to one another,“Bestselling author? What bestselling author? I didn’t see any blonde girl up there on the stage. What are you talking about?”
This clever media trick of ignoring or endeavoring to discredit evidence that contradicts their liberal worldview completely warps the mainstream press coverage of CPAC every year. Liberal writers show up with their briefcases packed full of preconceptions and ready-made narrative templates. “Controversial Republican speaker provokes Republican controversy with controversial Republican remarks” is the standard format. Every trick of “gotcha” journalism is deployed in service of the media’s self-appointed mission to convey the idea that this yearly conference is a disreputable gathering of hate-filled fringe extremists. The difference between what actually happens at CPAC and what the liberal media reports is so vast that it seems the reporters were covering some entirely different event.
Having been the first journalist ever to describe CPAC accurately (“Mardi Gras for the Right,” Feb. 25, 2009), I understand that not even half the conference attendees are ever inside the main ballroom at any one time. There is serious business conducted at CPAC, and also a great deal of good, old-fashioned fun. Contrary to what theNew York Times would have you believe, conservatives occasionally take time out from their usual business — hate, greed, and war — to laugh, sing, and dance. These occasions are regarded by liberal journalists as scandalous (“Controversy erupted at CPAC after it was learned that someone had two glasses of wine at dinner…”) and so there were no New York Timesreporters at the seventh-floor suite where my Republican consultant friends John LaRosa and Brad Marston threw their “Unsustainable Bar Tab” party Friday night. Enough fun was had that hotel security finally shut it down, shortly after a multimillionaire campaign donor showed up at the invitation of a conservative mom from Texas.
Ah, those stereotypes! Boring old fuddy-duddies have all kinds of fun the liberal media never bother to report. And thank God for that.

Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion

Worshipping the State

Worshipping the State
As the Supreme Court hears arguments for and against gay marriage we might stand back from the whole judicial fracas and ask ourselves a larger and hopefully more startling question: “What is the government doing deciding what marriage is?”
This is really two questions in one. First, how did it come to be that we, as a culture, are in a position where something seemingly so natural, something that existed long before any governments were around, is now up for debate? Second, why is it that we would look to a branch of the government to settle that debate?
The answer to the first question is rather complex. For centuries (not just decades) liberalism has been picking away at the Christian foundations of Western culture. Liberalism is, in essence, a secular and secularizing movement; it is historically defined by its opposition to Christianity. Wherever secular liberalism spreads, Christianity recedes. Look at Europe.
Christianity defined marriage by what we might call radical monogamy: a life-long, entirely exclusive union of one man and one woman. No sex before marriage. No concubines. No polygamy. No divorce (except for infidelity). No homosexuality. No fiddling with little boys.
The pagan Roman culture into which Christianity was born smiled on sex wherever, whenever, and with whomever it occurred. Marriage was an important social institution in Rome, but it was not defined by radical monogamy. Concubines? No problem. Sex with your male and female slaves? No big deal. Divorce? Happens all the time. Got a favorite boy? Don’t we all. Like pornography? We’ll paint the walls of your villa next week.

Homosexuality was as widespread in Rome as it was in Greece, and, yes, in Rome there was gay marriage. Right at the top of society. The emperor Nero married one Pythagoras, and we have reports of other such unions.
That was the marital, sexual status quo of the society into which Christianity was born. As Rome fell, and Christianity rose, the Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage transformed the Roman Empire—proto-Europe, we might call it. With that transformation the radical monogamy of Christianity became the social, moral, legal standard, so normal that it was regarded as natural.
It is only because Christianity won out over pagan Rome that we are having arguments about marriage today. If Christians had been summarily extinguished by imperial Rome, radical monogamy would have disappeared with it, along with opposition to homosexuality.
Christianity’s radical monogamy is indeed based in nature, in the obvious complementarity of the sexes, male and female. But admittedly it asks a lot of nature, pushing beyond mere convenience, and upwards to perfection. In a very real way, Christianity asks more of marriage than mere mortals—in all our weakness—have the power to give. But that is, in fact, a central doctrine of Christianity: we are fallen and need God’s grace to do what is truly good, truly right.
Modern liberalism, arriving on the scene, said “no” to Christianity. “No” in the secular sense of denying the existence of God, and hence of the whole social, moral, legal apparatus of Christianity. But also “no” in the allegedly humanitarian sense—Christianity asks too much; it sets the bar for sexuality and marriage too high.
And so liberalism said, “Radical monogamy is too much to ask. Loosen up the strings on sexuality and marriage.”
The sexual revolution is the loosening up of strings—so loose, in fact, that we have returned pretty much to the situation of ancient pagan Rome.
So, that’s the answer to the first question. We are debating what marriage is, and considering instituting gay marriage, because history has run a great arc. De-Christianization has led us right back to pagan Rome, to the good old pre-Christian days when sexuality was free to run wherever the passions led it. The re-affirmation of homosexual marriage just completes the historical arc.
Now for the second question. Why are we looking to one branch of government to settle the issue of what marriage is?
Historically, liberalism is a top-down revolution. It uses the power of the government to reform society—through control of public education, through the courts, through executive orders, through bureaucratic agencies. All organs of the state.
Liberals look to the state, in the way that Christianity looks to the church—as the institution responsible for evangelizing society. When persuasion doesn’t work (through public education or media propaganda), they resort to the blunt use of judicial fiat.
That’s why liberals want the Supreme Court to redefine marriage in Hollingsworth v. Perry.
But that makes it, at the same time, an issue of church and state—the secular state saying to the Christian church, a very imperial “We say that marriage is this. You will affirm gay marriage. You will bend the knee before the state.”
And that just means, “Christians, you will bend the knee before liberalism.”
Author and speaker Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D. has published eleven books, his newest being Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion. His website is

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tea Party is like the American Revolution – The Occupy movement more like the French Revolution

Rand Paul: Tea Party is like the American Revolution – The Occupy movement more like the French Revolution

Photo - Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., leaves the floor of the Senate (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., leaves the floor of the Senate (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Speaking yesterday at a National Review breakfast, Sen. Rand Paul R-Ky. explained what he thought about the Tea Party movement vs. the Occupy Wall Street movement, as Jon Ward reports in the Huffington Post.
“The Tea Party, I always say, is more like the American Revolution, and Occupy Wall Street is more the French Revolution,” Paul said.
Paul explained that the Tea Party looked back to the rule of law.
“We hearken back to sort of rules,” Paul said, identifying with the Tea Party. “We weren’t unhappy with people just because they were rich; we weren’t happy with you if you were making money off of our taxes and we were bailing you out. If you were making $100 million, your bank goes bankrupt and all of a sudden we bail you out and you’re still making $100 million — that upset us.”
Occupy Wall Street, Paul suggested was more of an emotional protest.
“I think Occupy Wall Street was more of a generic sort of, ‘We just hate people who have any money, and why can’t they give it to us?’ kind of thing,” he said.

How Tom Perez traded Treasury money to protect a pet race discrimination theory

How Tom Perez traded Treasury money to protect a pet race discrimination theory

by Paul Mirengoff in Holder Justice Department, Obama Administration Scandals

The Committee on Oversight and Reform is investigating the latest scandal involving Tom Perez, who is reported to be President Obama’s choice for Secretary of Labor. Committee Chairaman Darrel Issa has confronted the Department of Justice (where Perez now serves as Assistant Attorney General) with charges that Perez arranged a quid pro quo for the City of St. Paul, Minnesota to drop the Supreme Court case of Magner v. Gallagher.
In exchange for dropping its case, the U.S. agreed not to intervene in an unrelated False Claims Act case that had the potential to return over $180 million in damages to the U.S. treasury. Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and House Oversight Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry join with Issa in pressing the charge of quid pro quo.
Why did Perez and others in the Justice Department want the City of St. Paul to drop its appeal in Magner v. Gallagher? Because, as explained below, it was afraid the Supreme Court would invalidate one of the pet methods of proving racial discrimination in housing cases.
In the Magner case, slumlords sued the city to prevent the enforcement of its housing code on the grounds that the code disproportionately decreased the amount of housing available to minorities. The City argued that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA) prohibits only intentional discrimination, not neutral practices like code enforcement that happen to impact particular groups disproportionately.
The slumlord’s theory is called “disparate impact.” It originates in employment discrimination cases. There, plaintiffs are allowed to prove a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that a neutral practice, such as a test or running criminal background checks on applicants, excludes African-Americans (for example) at a significantly higher rate than it excludes others.
The employer must then justify the use of the practice. Plaintiffs seek to impose, and from liberal judges sometimes obtain, a very high burden on the employer to prove the “business necessity” of the disputed practice.
Given a high enough burden of proof, the ban on employment discrimination becomes a vehicle for virtually eliminating merit selection and, in effect, imposing quotas on employers. For if reasonable selection devices that disfavor minorities cannot clear an unreasonably high bar, employers will abandon them one by one until merit can only be taken into account to the extent it produces no differences in racial outcomes.

Disparte impact theory is firmly established, by virtue of Supreme Court jurisprudence, in employment cases (though most judges still resist the high burden of proof plaintiffs seek in evaluating the job relatedness of a challenged practice). In housing cases, such as Magner, the doctrine has enjoyed considerable success in lower courts, but the Supreme Court hasn’t decided its applicability under the FHA.
Magner was the case in which the Supreme Court was expected to do so. And many observers thought the Court was poised to hold that the FHA does not permit claims based on disparate impact.
Perez probably thought so too, or maybe he just didn’t want to take the risk. In any event, documents reviewed by the Committee on Oversight and Reform indicate that Perez, in effect, bought St. Paul’s agreement to drop its appeal of Magner in exchange for DOJ’s agreement, over the objections of career attorneys, not to join a fraud lawsuit against the City.
Score one for the slumlords and one for the “civil rights” bar.
The fraud suit that DOJ stayed out of is unrelated to Magner, although it too involves claims of race discrimination. In that case, a private whistleblower charged that St. Paul falsely certified that it was using federal funds to create jobs for low income workers of all races, when in fact (surprise, surprise) it was only focused on employing minorities.
Career DOJ attorneys characterized the City’s behavior as a “particularly egregious example” of false certifications. The Department of Housing and Urban Development concurred in the recommendation to sue, as did the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minnesota.
But Perez caused DOJ not to intervene as part of the deal to prevent the Supreme Court from deciding Magner. The fraud case against St. Paul was then dismissed on grounds that would not have applied had the U.S. been a party.
Score one for discrimination against low-income whites and one against the U.S. Treasury.
For Perez, these consequences (though probably not displeasing) were beside the point. Through his horse trading, he had protected a dubious legal theory that probably could not have withstood the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.
The deal Perez brokered raises significant legal and ethical questions, as well as serious questions about his fitness to serve in Obama’s cabinet. We expect to have more to say about the matter.
A letter from Reps. Smith, Issa, and McHenry and Sen. Grassley to Eric Holder about the quid pro quo can be found here.

Senate Democrats Block Welfare Reform

 Senate Democrats Block Welfare Reform
by John Hinderaker in Federal Budget, Welfare

We have written several times about the extravagant budget offered by Patty Murray and Senate Democrats, and will return to that topic in the days to come. For the moment, one significant point that has received hardly any publicity relates to welfare. With welfare now the biggest item in the federal budget, one would think that any sane budget would look for ways to control burgeoning welfare costs. But no: the Democrats block each and every effort at reform.
In yesterday’s mark-up process in the Senate Budget Committee, Republican senators offered several amendments that addressed out-of-control welfare spending. The Democrats voted them all down, unanimously. One of these was particularly egregious. Jeff Sessions offered an amendment that addressed the Obama administration’s outrageous policy of advertising the easy availability of food stamps in foreign countries. This is how Sessions described the amendment:
Contrary to sound policy, the United States is spending money advertising food stamp benefits in foreign consulates. This amendment would prohibit any funds from being spent on this controversial promotion campaign.
Federal law has long prohibited immigration to the U.S. by anyone who is likely to become a public charge. Instead of enforcing this law, the Obama administration has willfully violated it by encouraging immigration to the U.S. by Mexicans and others, precisely because they will become public charges and thereby contribute to the expansion of the welfare system. The administration’s promotion of the food stamp program to foreign nationals is part of this effort.
It is hard to imagine an easier way to cut federal spending than by ceasing the advertising of easy availability of food stamps in foreign consulates, but every Democrat on the Budget Committee–Senators Murray, Wyden, Nelson, Stabenow, Sanders, Whitehouse, Warner, Merkley, Coons, Baldwin, Kaine and King–voted “No.” If one of them represents you, you should let him or her know what you think of this vote.

Friday, March 29, 2013

We’re number 34 (It's writers are Minne-so-cold centric--use link for better map)

 We’re number 34
by Scott Johnson in Federalism, Minnesota, News you can use

Over at NRO’s Corner, Veronique de Rugy draws attention to the Freedom in the Fifty States Index just released by Professor William Ruger and Jason Sorens. Professors Ruger and Sorens have a companion column on the index in USA Today.
The index ranks states based on public policies affecting economic, social, and personal freedoms (e.g., bans on trans fats and the audio recording of police, licensing laws, taxes, mandated family leave, etc.). Ms. de Rugy points out that the site provides the ranking for each state as well as the methodology along with videos for every state and a tool to build your own rankings based on preferred freedoms.
It’s no surprise to find that California and New York come in at numbers 49 and 50. They’ve worked hard to earned their positions at the bottom. Minnesota comes in at number 34, down two from 2009, which seems about right. Superliberal Democrat Mark Dayton became governor in 2010 and Democrats retook the legislature in 2012. I would guess that Minnesota is number 34 with a bullet headed down, but we have a lot of competition. It will be difficult to keep up with the Cuomos and the Browns.
Looking on the bright side, we find that we have great neighbors. North Dakota and South Dakota sit at numbers 1 and 2 in the professors’ freedom rankings (followed by Tennessee, New Hampshire and Oklahoma). In Minnesota we could learn a lot from our neighbors.
We could even learn from Wisconsin, which comes in at number 38 (also down two since 2009). As the authors note of Wisconsin, “this is one state that may already be improving due to legislative changes since the data cutoff for this study.” In Minnesota, however, we have no such prospect and recovery will not begin until we admit that we have a problem.
UPDATE: The New York Post covers the index in “New York is the Nanny State with the least freedoms: National study.” As for California, I’m sure there is much more where this came from.

The ‘fair share’ White House

The ‘fair share’ White House

Those who make the rules should play by them. Especially a White House that lectures the rest of America about the importance of paying your “fair share” of taxes.
So we were struck by IRS reports that no fewer than 40 aides to President Obama still owe the federal government a combined $333,485 in back taxes. In terms of people, that’s four more tax delinquents on the White House staff than last year, though a decline in the total amount owed.
We know these numbers because the IRS is required by law to disclose how many federal employees, by department (and including retirees), are behind in their taxes. This year, some 312,000 of Uncle Sam’s own employees owe the IRS a whopping $3.52 billion.
Timothy Geithner
Sure, federal employees may have a lower delinquency rate than the American public at large. Then again, most Americans aren’t paid with the dollars that other Americans are forking over to Washington.
For all its sermons on fairness, this administration has never seemed too bothered when its own people somehow forget to send the IRS the check they owe.
Tim Geithner became treasury secretary despite failing to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Ron Kirk’s unpaid taxes didn’t stand in the way of his becoming US trade representative. Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, was another delinquent — though his nomination did go down.
Obama says, “We need to change our tax code so that people like me . . . pay our fair share of taxes. Most Americans would call that common sense.”
Given this administration’s double standard for its own employees, most Americans would probably call that hypocrisy.

Obama turning to executive power to get what he wants (DP: longer MSM piece but really lays out Obama's despotic nature)

Obama turning to executive power to get what he wants

President Obama meets with Irish PM Kenny - DC
President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office of the White House, March 19, 2013. | Olivier Douliery/MCT

By Anita Kumar | McClatchy Newspapers

President Barack Obama came into office four years ago skeptical of pushing the power of the White House to the limit, especially if it appeared to be circumventing Congress.
Now, as he launches his second term, Obama has grown more comfortable wielding power to try to move his own agenda forward, particularly when a deeply fractured, often-hostile Congress gets in his way.
He’s done it with a package of tools, some of which date to George Washington and some invented in the modern era of an increasingly powerful presidency. And he’s done it with a frequency that belies his original campaign criticisms of predecessor George W. Bush, invites criticisms that he’s bypassing the checks and balances of Congress and the courts, and whets the appetite of liberal activists who want him to do even more to advance their goals.
While his decision to send drones to kill U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism has garnered a torrent of criticism, his use of executive orders and other powers at home is deeper and wider.
He delayed the deportation of young illegal immigrants when Congress wouldn’t agree. He ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence, which Congress halted nearly 15 years ago. He told the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, deciding that the 1996 law defining marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. He’s vowed to act on his own if Congress didn’t pass policies to prepare for climate change.
Arguably more than any other president in modern history, he’s using executive actions, primarily orders, to bypass or pressure a Congress where the opposition Republicans can block any proposal.
“It’s gridlocked and dysfunctional. The place is a mess,” said Rena Steinzor, a law professor at the University of Maryland. “I think (executive action) is an inevitable tool given what’s happened.”
Now that Obama has showed a willingness to use those tactics, advocacy groups, supporters and even members of Congress are lobbying him to do so more and more.
The Center for Progressive Reform, a liberal advocacy group composed of law professors, including Steinzor, has pressed Obama to sign seven executive orders on health, safety and the environment during his second term.
Seventy environmental groups wrote a letter urging the president to restrict emissions at existing power plants.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, sent a letter to the White House asking Obama to ban federal contractors from retaliating against employees who share salary information.

Gay rights organizations recently demonstrated in front of the White House to encourage the president to sign an executive order to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity by companies that have federal contracts, eager for Obama to act after nearly two decades of failed attempts to get Congress to pass a similar bill.
“It’s ridiculous that we’re having to push this hard for the president to simply pick up a pen,” said Heather Cronk, the managing director of the gay rights group GetEQUAL. “It’s reprehensible that, after signing orders on gun control, cybersecurity and all manner of other topics, the president is still laboring over this decision.”
The White House didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

In January, Obama said he continued to believe that legislation was “sturdier and more stable” than executive actions, but that sometimes they were necessary, such as his January directive for the federal government to research gun violence.
“There are certain issues where a judicious use of executive power can move the argument forward or solve problems that are of immediate-enough import that we can’t afford not to do it,” the former constitutional professor told The New Republic magazine.
Presidents since George Washington have signed executive orders, an oft-overlooked power not explicitly defined in the Constitution. More than half of all executive orders in the nation’s history – nearly 14,000 – have been issued since 1933.
Many serve symbolic purposes, from lowering flags to creating a new military medal. Some are used to form commissions or give federal employees a day off. Still others are more serious, and contentious: Abraham Lincoln releasing political prisoners, Franklin D. Roosevelt creating internment camps for Japanese-Americans, Dwight Eisenhower desegregating schools.
“Starting in the 20th century, we have seen more and more that have lawlike functions,” said Gene Healy, a vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian research center, who’s the author of “The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power.”

Most presidents in recent history generally have issued a few hundred orders, and hundreds more memorandums and directives.

Jimmy Carter initiated a program designed to end discrimination at colleges. Ronald Reagan overturned price controls on domestic oil production. George H.W. Bush stopped imports of some semi-automatic firearms. Bill Clinton set aside large tracts of land as national monuments. George W. Bush made it easier for religious groups to receive federal dollars.

“The expectation is that they all do this,” said Ken Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who wrote “With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power.” “That is the typical way of doing things.”
But, experts say, Obama’s actions are more noticeable because as a candidate he was critical of Bush’s use of power. In particular, he singled out his predecessor’s use of signing statements, documents issued when a president signs a bill that clarifies his understanding of the law.
“These last few years we’ve seen an unacceptable abuse of power at home,” Obama said in an October 2007 speech.. “We’ve paid a heavy price for having a president whose priority is expanding his own power.”
Yet Obama’s use of power echoes that of his predecessors. For example, he signed 145 executive orders in his first term, putting him on track to issue as many as the 291 that Bush did in two terms.

John Yoo, who wrote the legal opinions that supported an expansion of presidential power after the 2001 terrorist attacks, including harsh interrogation methods that some called torture, said he thought that executive orders were sometimes appropriate – when conducting internal management and implementing power given to the president by Congress or the Constitution – but he thinks that Obama has gone too far.
“I think President Obama has been as equally aggressive as President Bush, and in fact he has sometimes used the very same language to suggest that he would not obey congressional laws that intrude on his commander-in-chief power,” said Yoo, who’s now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “This is utterly hypocritical, both when compared to his campaign stances and the position of his supporters in Congress, who have suddenly discovered the virtues of silence.”

Most of Obama’s actions are written statements aimed at federal agencies that are published everywhere from the White House website to the Federal Register. Some are classified and hidden from public view.
“It seems to be more calculated to prod Congress,” said Phillip J. Cooper, the author of “By Order of the President: The Use and Abuse of Executive Direct Action.” “I can’t remember a president being that consistent, direct and public.”

Bush was criticized for many of his actions on surveillance and interrogation techniques, but attention has focused on Obama’s use of actions mostly about domestic issues.
In his first two years in the White House, when fellow Democrats controlled Capitol Hill, Obama largely worked through the regular legislative process to try to achieve his domestic agenda. His biggest achievements – including a federal health care overhaul and a stimulus package designed to boost the economy –came about with little or no Republican support.
But Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2010, making the task of passing legislation all the more difficult for a man with a detached personality who doesn’t relish schmoozing with lawmakers. By the next year, Obama wasn’t shy about his reasons for flexing his presidential power.
In fall 2011, he launched the “We Can’t Wait” campaign, unveiling dozens of policies through executive orders – creating jobs for veterans, adopting fuel efficiency standards and stopping drug shortages – that came straight from his jobs bills that faltered in Congress.
“We’re not waiting for Congress,” Obama said in Denver that year when he announced a plan to reduce college costs. “I intend to do everything in my power right now to act on behalf of the American people, with or without Congress. We can’t wait for Congress to do its job. So where they won’t act, I will.”
When Congress killed legislation aimed at curbing the emissions that cause global warming, Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to write regulations on its own incorporating some parts of the bill.
When Congress defeated pro-union legislation, he had the National Labor Relations Board and the Labor Department issue rules incorporating some parts of the bill.
“The president looks more and more like a king that the Constitution was designed to replace,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said on the Senate floor last year.
While Republicans complain that Obama’s actions cross a line, experts say some of them are less aggressive than they appear.
After the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December, the White House boasted of implementing 23 executive actions to curb gun control. In reality, Obama issued a trio of modest directives that instructed federal agencies to trace guns and send information for background checks to a database.
In his State of the Union address last month, Obama instructed businesses to improve the security of computers to help prevent hacking. But he doesn’t have the legal authority to force private companies to act.
“The executive order can be a useful tool but there are only certain things he can do,” said Melanie Teplinsky, an American University law professor who’s spoken extensively on cyber-law.
Executive actions often are fleeting. They generally don’t settle a political debate, and the next president, Congress or a court may overturn them.
Consider the so-called Mexico City policy. With it, Reagan banned federal money from going to international family-planning groups that provide abortions. Clinton rescinded the policy. George W. Bush reinstated it, and Obama reversed course again.
But congressional and legal action are rare. In 1952, the Supreme Court threw out Harry Truman’s order authorizing the seizure of steel mills during a series of strikes. In 1996, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals dismissed an order by Clinton that banned the government from contracting with companies that hire workers despite an ongoing strike.
Obama has seen some pushback.
Congress prohibited him from spending money to move inmates from the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base in Cuba after he signed an order that said it would close. A Chinese company sued Obama for killing its wind farm projects by executive order after he said they were too close to a military training site. A federal appeals court recently ruled that he’d exceeded his constitutional powers when he named several people to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was in recess.
But Obama appears to be undaunted.
“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations,” he told Congress last month, “I will.”

Read more here:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Immigration Vote Splits 'Gang of 8'

The Senate’s bipartisan immigration working group split along party lines during a contentious budget vote to prevent illegal immigrants who receive legal status from receiving federal health benefits.
The Senate early Saturday morning defeated the amendment to the budget resolution which would have put the Senate on record as opposing access to health care under Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act for undocumented immigrants who get a green card.
The amendment, which failed 43 to 56, was offered by Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
All Democrats — including gang members Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado — opposed the amendment. They were joined by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. All other Republicans — including immigration negotiators Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona — supported the amendment.
The “gang of eight” has been negotiating a comprehensive immigration overhaul package that they hope to unveil when the Senate returns the week of April 8 from spring recess.
Sessions contended the vote bodes poorly for the state of negotiations.
“The result of today’s vote places immigration reform in jeopardy,” Sessions said.
Immigration overhaul advocates, including the National Council of La Raza, said Friday that they would be monitoring what they contend to be any anti-immigrant votes and put members of both parties on notice that their votes would be remembered come Election Day.
During debate, Sessions argued that illegal immigrants who are given legal status in the future should not be eligible for these health care benefits.
“If a person is in our country illegally and they are rewarded with some legal status, do they then immediately become eligible for federal health care benefits,” Sessions said. “It’s a different situation than someone who came legally and has got legal status.”
After the vote Sessions said in a release that the failure to adopt his amendment “will dramatically accelerate the insolvency of our entitlement programs and is unfair to American workers and taxpayers.”
Menendez said the amendment was not needed because the group was working on a plan that would have to be approved by the Senate.
“Nothing is contemplated to change what the senator is concerned about in our negotiations,” Menendez said. He added that any change to the immigration laws “would have to come before this body before in fact it could be changed.”
The Senate approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Menendez that restates current law that illegal immigrants are not eligible for the federal health care programs.
Menendez also warned that adoption of the Sessions amendment could disturb immigration negotiations and goes against the stated desire of the Republican National Committee, which urged Republicans to do a better job of appealing to immigrants, including embracing a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
Negotiation on the immigration law “is currently being done in a bipartisan fashion,” Menendez said. “The last thing we need to do in this budget process is to try muck that up.”
He continued, “This is not a great way to try to do your out reach to the Hispanic and immigrant community.”
Sessions and other Republicans had teed up other amendments on immigration — including one that would prevent illegal immigrants, or illegal immigrants granted legal status, from qualifying for refundable tax credits, including tax credits designed to help low-income families. But the Senate did not vote on that or others before narrowly passing the budget, shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday, on a 50-49 vote.




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The Second Amendment as an Expression of First Principles

The Second Amendment as an Expression of First Principles (via Imprimis)

Edward J. Erler
California State University,
San Bernardino

EDWARD J. ERLER is professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino. ... (SEE LINK FOR C.V.)  He is the author of The American Polity and co-author of The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration.
The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on February 13, 2013, at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
We are currently mired in a frantic debate about the rights of gun owners. One example should suffice to prove that the debate has become hysterical: Second Amendment supporters, one prominent but less than articulate member of Congress alleges, have become “enablers of mass murder.”
Special animus has been directed against so-called assault rifles. These are semi-automatic, not automatic weapons—the latter have been illegal under federal law since the 1930s—because they require a trigger pull for every round fired. Some semi-automatic firearms, to be sure, can be fitted with large-capacity magazines. But what inspires the ire of gun control advocates seems to be their menacing look—somehow they don’t appear fit for polite society. No law-abiding citizen could possibly need such a weapon, we are told—after all, how many rounds from a high-powered rifle are needed to kill a deer? And we are assured that these weapons are not well-adapted for self-defense—that only the military and the police need to have them.
Now it’s undeniable, Senator Dianne Feinstein to the contrary notwithstanding, that semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15 are extremely well-adapted for home defense—especially against a crime that is becoming more and more popular among criminals, the home invasion. Over the past two decades, gun ownership has increased dramatically at the same time that crime rates have decreased. Combine this with the fact that most gun crimes are committed with stolen or illegally obtained weapons, and the formula to decrease crime is clear: Increase the number of responsible gun owners and prosecute to the greatest extent possible under the law those who commit gun-related crimes or possess weapons illegally.
Consider also that assault rifles are rarely used by criminals, because they are neither easily portable nor easily concealed. In Chicago, the murder capital of America—a city with draconian gun laws—pistols are the weapon of choice, even for gang-related executions. But of course there are the horrible exceptions—the mass shootings in recent years—and certainly we must keep assault weapons with high-capacity magazines out of the hands of people who are prone to commit such atrocities.
The shooters in Arizona, Colorado, and Newtown were mentally ill persons who, by all accounts, should have been incarcerated. Even the Los Angeles Times admits that “there is a connection between mental illness and mass murder.” But the same progressives who advocate gun control also oppose the involuntary incarceration of mentally ill people who, in the case of these mass shootings, posed obvious dangers to society before they committed their horrendous acts of violence. From the point of view of the progressives who oppose involuntary incarceration of the mentally ill—you can thank the ACLU and like-minded organizations—it is better to disarm the entire population, and deprive them of their constitutional freedoms, than to incarcerate a few mentally ill persons who are prone to engage in violent crimes.
And we must be clear—the Second Amendment is not about assault weapons, hunting, or sport shooting. It is about something more fundamental. It reaches to the heart of constitutional principles—it reaches to first principles. A favorite refrain of thoughtful political writers during America’s founding era held that a frequent recurrence to first principles was an indispensable means of preserving free government—and so it is.
The Whole People Are the Militia
The Second Amendment reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The immediate impetus for the amendment has never been in dispute. Many of the revolutionary generation believed standing armies were dangerous to liberty. Militias made up of citizen-soldiers, they reasoned, were more suitable to the character of republican government. Expressing a widely held view, Elbridge Gerry remarked in the debate over the first militia bill in 1789 that “whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia.”
The Second Amendment is unique among the amendments in the Bill of Rights, in that it contains a preface explaining the reason for the right protected: Militias are necessary for the security of a free state. We cannot read the words “free State” here as a reference to the several states that make up the Union. The frequent use of the phrase “free State” in the founding era makes it abundantly clear that it means a non-tyrannical or non-despotic state. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), rightly remarked that the term and its “close variations” were “terms of art in 18th-century political discourse, meaning a free country or free polity.”
The principal constitutional debate leading up to the Heller decision was about whether the right to “keep and bear arms” was an individual right or a collective right conditioned upon service in the militia. As a general matter, of course, the idea of collective rights was unknown to the Framers of the Constitution—and this consideration alone should have been decisive. We have James Madison’s own testimony that the provisions of the Bill of Rights “relate [first] . . . to private rights.”
The notion of collective rights is wholly the invention of the Progressive founders of the administrative state, who were engaged in a self-conscious effort to supplant the principles of limited government embodied in the Constitution. For these Progressives, what Madison and other Founders called the “rights of human nature” were merely a delusion characteristic of the 18th century. Science, they held, has proven that there is no permanent human nature—that there are only evolving social conditions. As a result, they regarded what the Founders called the “rights of human nature” as an enemy of collective welfare, which should always take precedence over the rights of individuals. For Progressives then and now, the welfare of the people—not liberty—is the primary object of government, and government should always be in the hands of experts. This is the real origin of today’s gun control hysteria—the idea that professional police forces and the military have rendered the armed citizen superfluous; that no individual should be responsible for the defense of himself and his family, but should leave it to the experts. The idea of individual responsibilities, along with that of individual rights, is in fact incompatible with the Progressive vision of the common welfare.
This way of thinking was wholly alien to America’s founding generation, for whom government existed for the purpose of securing individual rights. And it was always understood that a necessary component of every such right was a correspondent responsibility. Madison frequently stated that all “just and free government” is derived from social compact—the idea embodied in the Declaration of Independence, which notes that the “just powers” of government are derived “from the consent of the governed.” Social compact, wrote Madison, “contemplates a certain number of individuals as meeting and agreeing to form one political society, in order that the rights, the safety, and the interests of each may be under the safeguard of the whole.” The rights to be protected by the political society are not created by government—they exist by nature—although governments are necessary to secure them. Thus political society exists to secure the equal protection of the equal rights of all who consent to be governed. This is the original understanding of what we know today as “equal protection of the laws”—the equal protection of equal rights.
Each person who consents to become a member of civil society thus enjoys the equal protection of his own rights, while at the same time incurring the obligation to protect the rights of his fellow citizens. In the first instance, then, the people are a militia, formed for the mutual protection of equal rights. This makes it impossible to mistake both the meaning and the vital importance of the Second Amendment: The whole people are the militia, and disarming the people dissolves their moral and political existence.
Arms and Sovereignty
The Preamble to the Constitution stipulates that “We the people . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.” It is important to note that the people establish the Constitution; the Constitution does not establish the people. When, then, did “we the people” become a people? Clearly Americans became a people upon the adoption of its first principles of government in the Declaration of Independence, which describes the people both in their political capacity, as “one people,” and in their moral capacity, as a “good people.” In establishing the Constitution, then, the people executed a second contract, this time with government. In this contract, the people delegate power to the government to be exercised for their benefit. But the Declaration specifies that only the “just powers” are delegated. The government is to be a limited government, confined to the exercise of those powers that are fairly inferred from the specific grant of powers.
Furthermore, ....


The Hockey Stick, Broken Again

The Hockey Stick, Broken Again

by John Hinderaker in Climate

We wrote here about a recent effort by a group of climate alarmists headed by geologist Shaun Marcott to resurrect Michael Mann’s discredited hockey stick. The Marcott paper, as you would expect, received uncritical coverage in the liberal press. But it didn’t take long for climate scientists to begin taking it apart, as we noted in our post.
Now Steve McIntyre, who was principally responsible for showing that Mann’s original hockey stick was a fraud, has gone over Marcott’s data on the key proxies he uses for 20th century temperatures, ocean cores. McIntyre found that Marcott and his colleagues used previously published ocean core data, but have altered the dates represented by the cores, in some cases by as much as 1,000 years. Anthony Watts sums up:
It seems the uptick in the 20th century is not real, being nothing more than an artifact of shoddy procedures where the dates on the proxy samples were changed for some strange reason.
McIntyre’s post on his research is here. This chart shows how critical Marcott’s re-dating was to his conclusion that temperatures spiked in unprecedented fashion in the 20th century. The red line shows ocean core temperatures using the original dates under which the data were published: it shows cooling during the 20th century. The black line shows the same data, only with the dates changed by Marcott. It shows temperatures rising significantly, rather than declining:

McIntyre explains why Marcott’s date-changing was so critical:
The final date of the Marcott reconstruction is AD1940 (BP10). Only three cores contributed to the final value of the reconstruction with published dates (“pubend” less than 10): the MD01-2421 splice, OCE326-GGC30 and M35004-4. Two of these cores have very negative values. Marcott et al re-dated both of these cores so that neither contributed to the closing period: the MD01-2421 splice to a fraction of a year prior to 1940, barely missing eligibility; OCE326-GGC30 is re-dated 191 years earlier – into the 18th century.
Re-populating the closing date are 5 cores with published coretops earlier than AD10, in some cases much earlier. The coretop of MD95-2043, for example, was published as 10th century, but was re-dated by Marcott over 1000 years later to “0 BP”. MD95-2011 and MD-2015 were redated by 510 and 690 years respectively. All five re-dated cores contributing to the AD1940 reconstruction had positive values.
If this is not flat-out fraud–which, sadly, has come to typify the climate alarmism movement–then what is the justification for Marcott’s wholesale re-dating of samples? We are reminded of the NOAA/NCDC weather data on the U.S., which are routinely relied on by alarmists who claim that the last few years have been the warmest ever. In order to justify this assertion, NOAA has gone back and revised the data for prior decades. Instead of reporting temperatures for prior decades, like the 1930s, as it did at the time and for many years thereafter, NOAA has now changed those temperatures downward to support the politically-motivated claim that the last years of the 20th century were the warmest ever. If you look at NOAA data today for the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, etc., you will have no idea that the numbers NOAA now reports are not the ones that were measured by thermometers at the time.
In short, the global warming movement is corrupt to the core. Billions of dollars in government funding–I am too polite to say “bribes”–have bought not just the acquiescence but the eager collaboration of many scientists in a massive fraud. If Marcott wants to distinguish himself from fraudsters like Michael Mann, he has a great deal of explaining to do.
One more thought: the publicly available evidence suggests that alarmist scientists have repeatedly committed fraud in research conducted and papers published that were paid for by United States taxpayers. It seems inconceivable that felonies have not been committed in connection with those frauds. Are there not criminal statutes that prohibit the publication of fraudulent data in taxpayer-supported research? Eric Holder, obviously, will not pursue any such line of inquiry, but there must be state law enforcement authorities who could look into this question. Fraudsters like Bernie Madoff, for instance, have tried to hide the decline in the value of funds invested with them. But that is nothing compared to the fraud that the global warming alarmists have perpetrated.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Did We Invade Iraq? (DP: It is longer than usual but a brilliant defense of the decision, not all about the war, and worth your time)

On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the back-and-forth recriminations continue, but in all the “not me” defenses, we have forgotten, over the ensuing decade, the climate of 2003 and why we invaded in the first place. The war was predicated on six suppositions.
1. 9/11 and the 1991 Gulf War. The Bush administration made the argument that in the post-9/11 climate there should be a belated reckoning with Saddam Hussein. He had continued to sponsor terrorism, had over the years invaded or attacked four of his neighbors, and had killed tens of thousands of his own people. He was surely more a threat to the region and to his own people than either Bashar Assad or Moammar Qaddafi was eight years later.
In this context, the end of the 1991 Gulf War loomed large: Its denouement had led not to the removal of a defeated Saddam, but to mass slaughter of Kurds and Shiites. Twelve years of no-fly zones had seen periods of conflict, and the enforcement of those zones no longer enjoyed much, if any, international support — suggesting that Saddam would soon be able to reclaim his regional stature. Many of the architects or key players in the 1991 war were once again in power in Washington, and many of them had in the ensuing decade become remorseful about the ending of the prior conflict. The sense of the need to correct a mistake became all the more potent after 9/11. Most Americans have now forgotten that by 2003, most of the books published on the 1991 war were critical, faulting the unnecessary overkill deployment; the inclusion of too many allies, which hampered U.S. choices; the shakedown of allies to help defray the cost; the realist and inhumane ending to the conflict; the ongoing persecution of Shiites, Marsh Arabs, and Kurds; and the continuation of Saddam Hussein in power.
Since there was no direct connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, take away the security apprehensions following 9/11, and George Bush probably would not have taken the risk of invading Iraq. By the same token, had the 1991 Gulf War ended differently, or had the U.N. and the NATO allies continued to participate fully in the no-fly zones and the containment of Iraq, there likewise would not have been a 2003 invasion. The Iraq War was predicated, rightly or wrongly, on the notion that the past war with Saddam had failed and containment would fail, and that after 9/11 it was the proper time to end a sponsor of global terrorism that should have been ended in 1991 — a decision that, incidentally, would save Kurdistan and allow it to turn into one of the most successful and pro-American regions in the Middle East.
2. Afghanistan. A second reason was the rapid victory in the war in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11. Scholars and pundits had warned of disaster on the eve of the October 2001 invasion. Even if it was successful in destroying the rule of the Taliban, any chance of postwar stability was declared impossible, given the “graveyard of empires” reputation of that part of the world. But the unforeseen eight-week war that with ease removed the Taliban, and the nonviolent manner in which the pro-Western Hamid Karzai later assumed power, misled the administration and the country into thinking Iraq would be a far less challenging prospect — especially given Iraq’s humiliating defeat in 1991, which had contrasted sharply with the Soviet failure in Afghanistan.
After all, in contrast to Afghanistan, Iraq had accessible ports, good weather, flat terrain, a far more literate populace, and oil — facts that in the ensuing decade, ironically, would help to explain why David Petraeus finally achieved success there in a manner not true of his later efforts in Afghanistan.
Since the U.S. had seemingly succeeded in two months where the Soviets had abjectly failed in a decade, and given that we already had once trounced Saddam, it seemed likely that Iraq would follow the success of Afghanistan. History is replete with examples of such misreadings of the past: The French in 1940 believed that they could hold off the Germans as they had for four years in the First World War; the Germans believed the Russians would be as weak at home in 1941 as they had seemed sluggish abroad in Poland and Finland in 1939–40. Had Afghanistan proved as difficult at the very beginning of the war as it did at the end, the U.S. probably would not have invaded Iraq.
3. Everyone on board. A third reason was the overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, in the media, and among the public — for reasons well beyond WMD. In October 2002, both houses of Congress passed 23 writs justifying the removal of Saddam, an update of Bill Clinton’s 1998 Iraq Liberation Act. Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Harry Reid were among those who not only enthusiastically called for Saddam’s removal, but also warned of intelligence estimates of Saddam’s WMD arsenals. Pundits on both sides, from Thomas Friedman to George Will, likewise supported the invasion, which on the eve of the war enjoyed over 70 percent approval from the American people. Bush, in that regard, had achieved what Clinton had not on the eve of the Serbian War — he had obtained a joint resolution of support from Congress before attacking, and had taken nearly a year in concerted (though failed) attempts to win U.N. approval for Saddam’s removal. Had Bush not gone to Congress, had he made no attempt to go to the U.N., had he had no public support, or had he been opposed by the liberal press, he probably would not have invaded Iraq.
4. WMD. A fourth reason was the specter of WMD. While the Bush administration might easily have cited the persuasive writs of the bipartisan resolutions — genocide against the Kurds, Shiites, and Marsh Arabs; bounties for suicide bombers; sanctuary for terrorists; attempts to kill a former U.S. president; violations of U.N. sanctions and resolutions; etc. — it instead fixated on supposedly unimpeachable intelligence about WMD, a “slam dunk,” according to CIA director George Tenet, a judgment with which most Middle Eastern governments and European intelligence agencies agreed. This concentration on WMD would prove a critical political mistake. Note in passing that the eventual public furor over missing WMD stockpiles (although there is solid evidence that Saddam was perilously close to WMD deployment) did not fully develop with the initial knowledge of that intelligence failure, but only with the mounting violence after a seemingly brilliant victory over Saddam.
The missing vast stockpiles of WMD then became the source of the convenient slogan “Bush lied, thousands died.” Yet had the reconstruction gone well, we would surely not have heard something like “Bush lied — and so there was no need, after all, to depose Saddam and foster consensual government in Iraq.”
The Bush administration apparently believed that, without the worry over WMD, the other writs would not generate enough public urgency for preemption, and thus it would not have invaded Iraq. Note that when Barack Obama talks of “red lines” and “game changers” in Syria that might justify U.S. preemptive action, he is not referring to 70,000 dead, the horrific human-rights record of Bashar Assad, Syria’s past effort to become nuclear, or even the plight of millions of Syrian refugees, but the supposition that Syria is planning to use chemical or biological weapons — a crime Saddam had often committed against his own people, and one that inflames public opinion in the West. As a footnote, we will probably not know the full story of WMD in the region until the Assad regime is gone from Syria — although we are starting to hear the same worries about such Syrian weapons from the Obama administration as we did of Iraqi weapons during the Bush presidency.
5. Nation-building. A fifth reason was the notion of reformulating Iraq, so that instead of being the problem in the region it would become a solution. Since the 1991 war had not ended well, because of a failure to finish off the regime and stay on, and since the aid to the insurgents against the Soviets in Afghanistan had been followed by U.S. neglect and in time the rise of the Taliban, so, in reaction, this time the U.S. was determined to stay. We forget now the liberal consensus that the rise of the Taliban and the survival of Saddam were supposed reflections of past U.S. callousness — something not to be repeated in Iraq.
Finally, America would do the right thing and create a consensual government that might ensure not only the end of Saddam’s atrocities, but also, by its very constitutional existence, pressure on the Gulf monarchies to liberalize and cease their support for terrorism of the sort that had killed 3,000 Americans. While there may well have been neo-cons who believed that the Iraqi democracy would be followed by a true Arab Spring of U.S.-fostered democracy sweeping the Middle East — something akin to the original good blowback of Pakistan’s detaining Dr. Khan, Qaddafi’s surrendering his WMD arsenal, and Syria’s leaving Lebanon, before all this dissipated with Fallujah — most of the Bush administration policymakers believed that democracy was not their first choice, but their last choice, for postwar reconstruction, given that everything else had been tried after past conflicts and just as often failed.
Administration officials were not hoping for Carmel, but for something akin to post-Milosevic Serbia or post-Noriega Panama, as opposed to Somalia or post-Soviet Afghanistan. Note well: Had George Bush simply announced in advance that he would be leaving Iraq as soon as he deposed Saddam, or that he planned to install a less violent relative of Saddam’s to keep order as we departed, Congress probably would not have authorized an invasion of Iraq in the first place. The Iraq War was sold partly on the liberal idealism of at last doing the right thing — after not having done so previously against Saddam or following the Soviets in Afghanistan.
6. Oil! Sixth and last was the issue of oil. Had Iraq been Rwanda, the Bush administration would not have invaded. The key here, however, is to remember the war was not a matter of “blood for oil,” given that the Bush administration had no intention of taking Iraqi oil — a fact proven by the transparent and non-U.S. postwar development of the Iraqi oil and gas fields.
Instead, oil was an issue because Iraq’s oil revenues meant that Saddam would always have the resources to foment trouble in the region, would always be difficult to remove through internal opposition, and would always use petrodollar influence to undermine U.N. resolutions, seek to spike world oil prices, or distort Western solidarity, as the French collusion with Saddam attested. Imagine North Korea with Iraq’s gas and oil reserves: The problem it poses for its neighbors would be greatly amplified and far more likely addressed. Had Iraq simply been a resource-poor Yemen or Jordan, or landlocked without key access to the Persian Gulf, the U.S. probably would not have invaded.
TEN YEARS LATERThe invasion of Iraq was a perfect storm predicated on all these suppositions — the absence of any one of which might well have postponed or precluded the invasion.
That we have forgotten or ignored most of these causes stems not just from the subsequent terrible cost of the war. Instead, our amnesia is self-induced, and derives from the fact that 70 percent of the American people and most of the liberal media commentators supported the invasion, came to reverse that support, and remain hurt or furious at someone other than themselves for their own change of heart — one predicated not on the original conditions of going to war, but on the later unexpected costs in blood and treasure that might have been avoided.
Given that less than a third of the American people initially opposed the war, the subsequent acrimony centered on whether it was better for the nation to give up and depart after 2004, or to stay and stabilize the country. Ultimately the president decided that the only thing worse than fighting a bad war was losing one.
NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear in the spring from Bloomsbury Books.

A Health-Care Solution--As Obamacare becomes more unpopular, Republicans should be ready with an alternative.

A Health-Care Solution
As Obamacare becomes more unpopular, Republicans should be ready with an alternative.
By Mona Charen

Anti-Obamacare protestor outside the Supreme Court, June 29, 2012.

In my last column, I argued that for all the undeniable woes of the Republican party, the unfurling of Obamacare represents a huge vulnerability for Democrats. The Democratic health-reform bill is economically nonsensical and politically unpopular. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 54 percent believe the law will damage the U.S. health-care system. Even among Democrats, support for the law is ebbing. In February, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that only 57 percent of Democrats (compared with 72 percent in November 2012) support the law.
The battle over health-care reform is not over. Yes, the 2012 election ensured that the law would not be repealed and replaced in 2013. But when the American people are unhappy with a policy, they find a way to alter it. Republicans can tie themselves in knots and consider abandoning their principles on abortion, taxes, immigration, or marriage (and perhaps some of those positions require rethinking), but the health-care issue is pitched right over home plate.

Nearly every American is intimately concerned with the delivery of health care. Choice and competition can deliver what Americans desire — a quality product at an affordable price. Before offering reform proposals, Republicans need to be clear that they are not endorsing the status quo ante.
The pre-Obamacare health-care system was not a free market for health care at all but a peculiar hybrid with distorting incentives created by bad government policy. Because the government set wages and prices during World War II, employers were not permitted to raise salaries more than a set amount approved by the National War Labor Board. Employers resorted to providing fringe benefits, including health coverage, and the IRS approved this workaround by treating fringe benefits differently from wages. Thus was born the link between employment and health insurance.
Because it was a form of compensation and not true insurance, health coverage became ever more expansive and expensive. Employees were shielded from the true cost of what they were consuming and accordingly failed to economize. If food were provided as a fringe benefit of employment, we’d dine on Chateaubriand every night. States compounded the problem in response to lobbying from particular providers, passing laws that required all insurance policies to cover expensive services like in vitro fertilization, pregnancy services, weight-loss surgery, and alcohol- and drug-rehabilitation programs. Over the past 30 years, 1,800 mandates have been adopted, driving up the cost of insurance. This was bad enough for those with employer-provided insurance, but it hit those purchasing insurance individually particularly hard.
The high cost of insurance drove many who were not covered by employers to rely on hospital emergency rooms when they got sick. The federal government ratified this by mandating that hospitals treat all comers. Hospitals in turn charged more to their paying customers (i.e., insurance companies and the government through Medicare and Medicaid) to cover the costs of treating the uninsured. Rube Goldberg would be proud.
Medicare and Medicaid too have contributed to sharply rising health-care costs both because the population is aging and because the programs’ fee-for-service structure encourages overuse.
Smart conservative health-policy analysts have proposed a way to cut the Gordian knot — remove the tax deduction for health-insurance purchases from employers and give it to individuals. This was actually candidate John McCain’s proposal in 2008, though, as Yuval Levin (editor of National Affairs and one of those smart analysts) noted ruefully, “Nobody told John McCain.” As Levin explains, if individuals were given a $5,000 tax credit (fully refundable for those below the poverty line) for the purchase of health insurance, insurance companies would compete to provide excellent coverage for $5,000.
If, in addition, individuals were permitted to shop across state lines for insurance, those states with fewer mandates would be able to offer cheaper plans and would accordingly get more business. Replacing traditional Medicare with premium support would encourage competition in that market as well.
Writing in National Affairs, James Capretta and Robert Moffit summarized the ideal Republican approach this way: “The essential common element is a move toward consumer control. Individuals would become active, cost-conscious consumers looking for value in the health-care marketplace. This shift would, in turn, create tremendous incentives for those delivering medical services to find better and less expensive ways of caring for patients and keeping them well.”
As Obamacare’s rising costs and constricted choices alienate the American people, Republicans should be ready with an alternative that is market-oriented, assembled, and on the launchpad.
Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2013 Creators Syndicate, Inc.