Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quick Hits - June 20, 2012

A busy day that's keeping me hopping delayed today's QH....


After the failure of the 23rd hour meeting last night to try to delay the House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing this morning where the committee would vote on Contempt of Congress charges being leveled against Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the Congressional investigation in to Operation Fast and Furious, the President is claiming and invoking 'Executive Privilege' as justification for withholding the documents that were under subpoena by the committee.

In what even the New York Times has called a 'rare move' by the White House, the decision to invoke executive privilege by the White House not only escalates the challenges between Congress and the Administration, but directly involves the President in a matter that Attorney General Holder himself testified under oath that the President had no direct knowledge or involvement of.  By declaring that the documents and materials under subpoena are subject to 'executive privilege', the White House is admitting that President Obama has been directly involved with decision making regarding the gunrunning Operation Fast and Furious.

The reason that the NYT notes this as a 'rare move' is that executive privilege only covers limited uses and specific cases, narrowed even more in the Supreme Court case United States v. Nixon in 1974 which was a 8-0 ruling against President Nixon trying to protect materials related to the Watergate break-in and cover-up from Congressional subpoena.

Despite the declaration of 'executive privilege', Committee Chair, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), continued today's hearing towards a vote on recommending a charge of Contempt of Congress against Attorney General Eric Holder over his failure to honor the House subpoena and provide the requested documents to the committee for Congressional oversight and review.  The decision to proceed brought out furious efforts by Democrats on the committee to delay or derail the vote - ranging from offering frivolous amendments (one wanted to subpoena former Bush officials for testimony of an unrelated Operation Wide Receiver) to calling the process 'politically motivated', 'character assassination', and demanding the rather than conducting a witch hunt, the committee should focus on 'reforms' - which in the past has focused on demands for adopting extremely restrictive gun controls.

As to the claim that Fast & Furious was 'the same' as the Bush era DoJ / ATF Operation Wide Receiver - or that 'Bush also did it' - AG Eric Holder has been forced to retract the testimony / accusation against the Bush's Attorney General....

This afternoon, the committee did vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress and refer the charge to the full House of Representatives for a vote on the contempt resolution.  The vote, 23-17, in the committee was entirely on party lines.  The House of Representatives, with its substantial Republican majority, will schedule the final vote sometime during next week.

The White House dismissed the vote and proceedings as 'political theater'.

Several days ago in QH, I posted an excellent video with a good background on the issues around the Administration's Operation Fast and Furious - which sold thousands of US guns to Mexican drug cartels - and were used by these cartels to murder hundreds of Mexicans and at least 2 US federal agents.

The original subpoena asked for information from the Department of Justice related to the program since February 4, 2011.  On that date, a formal letter from AG Holder to Senator Chuck Grassley denied use of gunwalking tactics used in Fast and Furious.  The Department of Justice was forced to formally retract that letter in December 2011 when information provided by whistleblowers confirmed that the program did use those tactics.  In addition numerous other information post Feb. 4, 2011 provided by the DoJ in writing or via testimony has been proven incorrect - like the March 2011 assertion that President Obama had no direct knowledge or involvement with any part or discussions regarding Fast and Furious.

The President's use of executive privilege not only is unprecedented for this type of use, but also runs contrary to promises, assertions, and policies of the President regarding executive privilege.

The President from 2007 - 
You know, there’s been a tendency on the part of this administration to — to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there’s something a little shaky that’s taking place. And I think, you know, the administration would be best served by coming clean on this. There doesn’t seem to be any national security issues involved with the U.S. attorney question. There doesn’t seem to be any justification for not offering up some clear, plausible rationale for why these — these U.S. attorneys were targeted when, by all assessments, they were doing an outstanding job. I think the American people deserve to know what was going on there.”

Running for office in 2008, President Obama pledged that an Obama Administration would run as the 'most transparent Administration in history'.

In 2009, President Obama said in a statement on the Freedom of Information Act that "The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears."

The evocation of executive privilege in an attempt to block Congress from reviewing documents and emails regarding Operation Fast and Furious is the closest we've seen to an Administration's contempt towards Congress since the Nixon Administration and their attempt to block investigation into the Watergate break-in and the cover-up / obstruction of justice undertaken by President Nixon and members of his Administration. The Heritage Foundation notes this in their blog post on the declaration...
President Obama channeled his inner Richard Nixon with his exercise of executive privilege to shield Attorney General Eric Holder from transparency. Whether the assertion is valid is a question to be resolved between Congress and the President, yet this authority is something that can be waived by the President if he desires transparency in communications about the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.

Over at PJ Media, one former US Attorney and a former attorney / Department of Justice official quickly cut to the chase of the rationale behind this last minute decision to invoke executive privilege to prevent Congressional investigators from seeing the details of this program and the depth / reason for the cover-up that has been underway since at least the death of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010, murdered by weapons Mexican drug criminals received via Operation Fast and Furious.

Former US Attorney Andrew McCarthy noted the following...
But while Holder has been in the eye of what little storm there was, it has always been the case that F&F is Obama’s scandal. Holder has never done anything other than implement Obama’s policies and manage relations with Congress as Obama wished them to be conducted. Obviously, the hope was that if DOJ was intransigent enough, the House would get frustrated and bored and move on to other things. That hasn’t happened, thanks to Rep. Issa and his colleagues. But the focus on Holder and withheld documents should not obscure that F&F is really about Obama and the murders of a federal agent and hundreds of others — very likely, to promote the Left’s political argument that American Second Amendment rights are the cause of international violence.

Because Issa has been dogged, we have now gotten down to brass tacks. The prospect of the attorney general’s being held in contempt finally prompted the president — the only official in the government empowered to assert executive privilege — to claim that the documents sought are being withheld at his (Obama’s) direction, based on his constitutional authority.

Executive privilege is a vestige of Richard Nixon’s desperate effort to conceal criminality in the Watergate scandal. The last thing Obama wanted to do, with the November election looming, was resort to the Nixon strategy (which, we should recall, failed in the end). And, again, if the Obama administration’s story was true, they would want to release the documents that support it.

They really don’t want you to see what is in those documents.

PJ Media's J. Christian Adams notes, as I have, that this process will become a major campaign issue for this election cycle...and again, asks the question we all should be asking.
President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege today is a bit like the kickoff for the NFL regular season. It doesn’t end the Fast and Furious scandal; it just takes it to another level. Everything so far was the pre-season. Now people will start to pay attention.

A president doesn’t assert executive privilege lightly. It is a relic from the powers of the king. Some things were not for parliament’s eyes, such as national security statecraft. This new phase of the Fast and Furious scandal begins with Americans who had paid no attention to the scandal hearing the news today and asking, “what are they trying to hide?”
Adding to the President's challenges regarding his credibility and honesty - apparently numerous claims made by the President in his autobiography are demonstrably false.

Domestic economic issues have been briefly pushed off the top stories of most news media, but this is likely only going to be a temporary issue - as most Americans continue to have major concerns about the US economy.

One major aspect of the US economy that is under direct attack is the President's war on domestic energy production.
Today, the Senate will vote on the fate of one of the most expensive regulations of all time–a regulation that threatens to create an America with no new coal-fired power plants, where existing energy producers might have to close their doors, snuffing out jobs and making electricity dramatically more expensive. Citing mercury pollution and air pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered businesses to install the “Maximum Achievable Control Technology” (MACT) to control emissions from their plants. Known as Utility MACT, this is no ordinary regulation.

This regulations are of such a major concern to the coal industry in Pennsylvania and West Virginia that not only are both states becoming 'in-play' for the November election, but prominent Democrats in both are declining to attend the Democrat National Convention later this summer in an effort to distance themselves from the Administration's policies.

Hot Air has a video and report of Ohio's Ted Strickland touring the battleground state of Ohio touting the President's energy policies...

Ted Strickland touting Obama’s energy policies - Ted Strickland, along with a number of local Democratic leaders, gathered outside the new V & M Star mill in Girard Thursday afternoon to tout Barack Obama’s energy policies.The governor’s stop was part of a two-week swing through the Buckeye State, as part of the Obama campaign’s “Made in Ohio Energy Tour.”

Although the former governor claims the administration is pursuing all forms of energy production, supporters of the coal industry claim the president is doing everything he can to push them out of business.

Strickland argued that’s not true.

“In fact, the President has said just the opposite, and he followed through with resources. Five billion dollars from this administration has gone into efforts to do the research that will enable us to use coal in a way that is environmentally acceptable,” Strickland said.

As Hot Air notes in their analysis a key question that we should be asking...
The president has “followed through with resources” in the form of a chunk of change to essentially figure out ways to use coal without burning it. If one were really following through on such a position, rather than tossing a few bucks to yet another green initiative research project, one might consider putting a leash on the EPA before they shut down half of the coal industry.

One of the dimmest members of the Obama Cabinet, Secretary of Agriculture Tome Vilsack, is carrying the Obama contention that 'the private sector is doing fine' in this video where he contends, 'We've turned the corner on the economy'....

Umm, which direction?

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday afternoon signaled its growing concern about the weakening of the U.S. economy and extended a program aimed at holding down long-term interest rates to prop up growth.

The action follows a marked darkening of the U.S. economic outlook in the past two weeks as reports have shown a rapidly deteriorating economy threatened by the renewed outbreak of a financial crisis in Europe and a looming deadline for draconian tax increases and spending cuts at the end of the year.

In a statement after a two-day meeting of its rate-setting committee, the Fed cited the dour developments, noting that job growth and consumer spending have slowed recently. It said that while it expects moderate growth to continue, the pace of growth is not strong enough to ensure continued improvement in the 8.2 percent unemployment rate.

The Fed will maintain the current record low interest rates until 2014 - and downgraded economic growth for the full 2012 to a max of 2% - and not seeing unemployment under 8.2%...that's turning the corner in a recovery that started in July 2009 (the recession officially ended in June 2009)?

The Fed viewpoint is being echoed by America's business leaders...
America’s business leaders are losing faith in the economy’s ability to produce a strong recovery by the end of the year.

The Business Roundtable’s second-quarter Economic Outlook Survey, released Wednesday, saw a decline in optimism from the nation’s leading CEOs, with lower expectations for growth in sales, capital spending and hiring.

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney, chairman of the Business Roundtable, and Roundtable CEO John Engler said the downturn in business confidence reflected rising uncertainty created by government regulations, looming budget and tax issues, and the European debt crisis.

These issues are becoming “increasingly persistent obstacles to a stronger recovery,” Mr. McNerney said in a statement.

Earlier this week, I posted the ludicrous claim by the President of the European Union, Manuel Barraso, that said that the Eurocrisis was caused by the United States. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernacke countered this by saying that Europe is 'slowing economic growth' in the US.

This is all very interesting (I will be doing an update to my post on the EU crisis being planned) given the economic issues being faced domestically and internationally. Given the lack of recovery and the trend of gloomier economic information (particularly job growth), I was starting to think about what is going to happen with this month's US job numbers which are due in early July. Ace of Ace of Spades beat me to the punch with his own post on the subject and referencing a post by American Enterprise Institutes's James Pethokoukis asking 'Is the U.S. Economy Losing Jobs Again'...
Not "gain" them at a pace too slow to even match population growth, but actually lose them. A bona fide contraction.

Pethokoukis' piece is short enough to just say "read the whole thing."

And all of this is before Europe craters, too.

This is horrible. The only thing that makes it seem less horrible is that I was pretty confident this was going to happen. Since before the end of the past year, when it was pretty clear the economy was not going to recover, I began switching my thinking to the likely possibility of a second dip. By February, I was pretty sure.

All of those Monty "DOOM" posts. And no signal of a true recovery.

So this is already baked into my mental cake. I'm sure that's true of most of you.

I do not understand why economists kept insisting this was a "recovery" when it looked almost nothing like a recovery. Yet they kept making predictions based on the notion that we were recovering.

As for the Eurozone...

Greece formed a new government today under a coalition of the New Democrat Party, PASOK, and the Democratic Left party. The head of the New Democrat Party, Antonis Samaras has been sworn in as Prime Minister, the 4th Greek Prime Minister in 8 months.

The new government is to seek renegotiation of the terms for the €130 billion bailout that Greece received earlier this year....mainly looking to delay the Greek obligations for several years.

As this is taking place, the Greek economy is grinding to a complete halt. [Read the link - it's a complete halt!]

Foreshadowing the crisis getting deeper as opposed to lessening, markets are now starting to bet that Germany, the 'strongman' of the EU, will be dragged down with everyone else...

New Hot Air contributor, Erick Johnsen, writes today about French businesses responding to the new far left socialist regime in France 'with about as much enthusiasm as you'd expect'...
Riddle me this, socialists: How do “big” businesses get that way? Businesses become big when a lot of people voluntarily decide to purchase their services. Oil companies and banks are entities of which almost everyone makes use in some capacity, and the efficiency they bring into our lives makes the world go ’round. Not everybody uses a hair salon or a bagel shop, but just about everybody has some stake in the energy and financial sectors. Targeting big businesses for increased taxation is just a pretty method for increasing prices and costs for everybody.

Heightened uncertainty, further restrictions, increased entitlement spending… sounds like a recipe for economic growth if ever there was one!

General political wisdom prescribes that if you want to discourage a certain behavior, you can tax it. Why anyone thinks its a good idea to tax success at a higher rate than everyone else, I’ll never understand.

Given the length of today's QH with the Contempt vote against AG Holder and the Eurozone news, before looking at 'Today in History', one last item to report....

Wikileaks founder and scumbag Julian Assange, facing extradition from Britain to England to stand charges of sexual assault on 2 women, is seeking political asylum in Ecuador (at the Ecuador Embassy in London) to avoid being sent to Sweden. He had already exhausted all legal appeals in English courts to fight extradition.

Assange's backers, who contributed to pay for the £240,000 bail that had Assange out of prison, are now facing the loss of the bail with his desperate effort to avoid returning to Sweden.

Today in History

1791 – Attempting to escape France during the French Revolution, King Louis XVI is captured in the ‘Flight to Varennes' by revolutionaries.

1900 – Boxer Rebellion begins in China in response to widespread foreign encroachment in China’s national affairs. The Nationalists occupied Peking, killed several Westerners, including the German Ambassador, and besieged the foreign legations in the diplomatic quarter of the City.

1947 – Bugsy Siegel, organized crime leader, is killed in Beverly Hills, CA. Siegel had been talking to his associate Allen Smiley when three bullets were fired through the window and into his head, killing him instantly. He was killed over the soaring costs of his project, the Flamingo resort in Las Vegas, NV.

1977 – With the flip of a switch, oil begins to flow from the nation’s largest crude oil field in Prudhoe Bay to the port of Valdez, Alaska via the trans-Alaska pipeline.

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