Monday, June 4, 2012

Quick Hits - June 4, 2012

One of President Obama's usual digs against the 'obstructionist Republican' Congress is that they put politics before the best interests of the country.  This is simply projection, because in numerous decisions, the President has put his own political interests and agenda before not only the best interests of our country, but allied and neighboring countries.

Operation Fast and Furious is one of these cases - and one that will not disappear.

Mexico’s ambassador to the United States detailed last week how the administration of President Barack Obama left his government in the dark while arming violent drug cartel criminals through Operation Fast and Furious.

Last Thursday, Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan told a forum on Capitol Hill that the Obama administration’s handling of the operation demonstrated an “outstanding lack of understanding of how criminal organizations are operating on both sides of our common borders.”

The operation led to the killing of hundreds of Sarukhan’s fellow citizens and two American law enforcement agents: Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata. The identities of the countless Mexican victims are unknown.

“Mexico was never apprised how the operation would be designed and implemented,” Sarukhan said on Thursday at a left-wing event hosted by the New Democrat Network and the New Policy Institute.

The Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder are continuing to cover-up the specifics around the creation and authorization of this Operation. A mere fraction (less than 10% of the documents known to exist on the Operation) have been provided to Congress. Attorney General Eric Holder has been uncovered as a liar in his testimony under oath about the program, misleading investigators as to when he learned of the program. Throughout the Congressional investigation, Holder and Democrat Members of Congress trying to provide additional cover to the AG, reinforce the strong suspicion that this program was created to justify a case for harsher and more restrictive US gun controls.

Today, over 129 members of the House of Representatives are on record calling for the Attorney General's resignation and Contempt of Congress proceedings are likely this summer over Holder's lack of answers and compliance to Congressional subpoenas.

Attorney General Eric Holder nearly came to blows with political strategist David Axelrod after a Cabinet meeting in the White House, according to a new book by a Newsweek investigative reporter.

In Daniel Klaidman’s “Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency,” excerpts of which were obtained by Politico’s Mike Allen, Klaidman tells of a heated exchange between the two that almost turned physical in the West Wing.

Klaidman writes that Axelrod, then Obama’s senior adviser, was “incensed” because he had heard that “Holder and his aides were spreading the word that he was trying to improperly influence the Justice Department.”

What's really ironic about this report of the Attorney General and Obama's senior adviser nearly coming to blows over the WH allegedly trying to politicize the DoJ is that the Attorney General was already well underway with politicizing the Department of Justice as highlighted by the multipart investigative report done by PJ Media last summer. The series notes that every major hire made by the Department of Justice in key departments came from hard left progressive organizations.

The effects of this politicization are seen almost daily - with the DoJ's decision to drop the conviction of members of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation during the November 2008 election, to the decisions to sue Arizona and other states for their Immigration and Voter ID legislation. One of the latest occurred this past weekend as the Department of Justice threatened the State of Florida with legal action if it continues to investigate its voter rolls and remove ineligible voters (dead and non-US citizens) from the list of registered voters.

Unfortunately the cover-up, delays, and obstructionism from the Department of Justice is not an isolated event. The House of Representatives is seeing similar efforts to cover-up and obstruct their investigation of the Department of Energy and White House over their roles in the crony capitalism of using taxpayer funds to provide funds to green energy companies, like the failed Solyndra ($537 million taxpayer funds lost), and others which have connections to the Obama Administration. (About 80% of the DoE funds for this program went to companies owned or with major investors who donated to the Obama 2008 campaign.)

As noted by the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton, the investigation is 'like pulling teeth'.
As the flagship failure of the Department of Energy’s sketchy gamut of clean energy ‘investments,’ it so aptly demonstrates the Obama administration’s attitude toward using taxpayer dollars to fund the politically expedient projects of their environmental wishful thinking. Which is precisely why Democrats aren’t so fond of those darned Republicans bringing it up all the time. Democrats have oft complained that Republicans are turning the DOE’s loan program into a “witch hunt” and “dancing on Solyndra’s grave” and etcetera, but we could all have the whole thing out right now if the administration would maybe just quit withholding pertinent information.

But to the President, his Administration and team are not being obstructionists or actively covering up potential crimes and incredibly ill-advised policies, it's Congress that is obstructionist - particularly the 'Republican Congress' so named because the Republicans control the House of Representatives. The Democrat controlled Senate, on the other hand, is not a party to the obstructionism that is taking place in Washington DC, is it?

Actually, it is. And this goes far beyond the failure of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Senate to pass a budget over the last 1,120 days.
So Republicans are to blame for all those cloture petitions to end filibusters, right? Wrong. The fact that the majority has filed so many cloture petitions is as much a symptom of its own efforts to block the Senate from working its will as anything the minority has done.

The Senate is a wide open forum where almost any issue can be raised and voted on at almost any time. This environment is a function of the Senate's tradition of unlimited debate, but it does leave members vulnerable to having to vote on difficult issues at inconvenient times, like when they are up for re-election.

In response, Majority Leader Reid has adopted the practice of blocking amendments from being offered. No amendments, no surprises, and no tough votes.

Taken alone, Sen. Reid's actions on S. 2204 are not historically unique. Every recent majority leader has used them on occasion. But what used to be relatively rare has been repeated dozens of times in recent years.

The very first bill considered by the Senate after the election of President Obama and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority was adopted under exactly the same truncated process used for S. 2204—Rule 14, cloture, block out any competing amendments, cloture. Since that time, the Senate has voted on cloture repeatedly, yet has very little to show for it: By some measures, 2011 was the least productive session in modern congressional history.
Read it all....

As noted before, these complaints from the President and his fellow Democrats are little more than just more projection.

This is what our political discourse has come to, particularly when the President and the Congressional Democrats do not have a record that they can run on. That's not just my viewpoint, it's also the viewpoint of long time Democratic political consultant Bob Shrum who said this on CBS's Face the Nation yesterday...

“If you let his just be a referendum, I don’t think the president can win because the truth of the matter is he may have created over 4.3 million jobs, he may have saved General Motors, but the country is still not back to where it needs to be,” Shrum said on the CBS’s Face the Nation. “This needs to be a choice election…And if [voters] have that choice I think the president is going to be just fine.”

Shrum made the comments in response to the poor job numbers that were released on Friday and the Obama administration’s attempts to contrast the White House’s efforts to restart the economy to Mitt Romney’s record on jobs as governor of Massachusetts and at a private equity firm Bain Capital.

Appearing on the same program, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, however, said it was “laughable” to claim the election is not a referendum on Obama’s record. “Are you kidding, of course that’s how you run elections,” she said. She added, “Really, it is his record that will win the election” for Romney.

In 1937, stinging from the Supreme Court ruling several major elements of his New Deal legislation unconstitutional and striking the laws down, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt fought back with the Judicial Procedures Reform Act that would, fundamentally, permit the President to stack the Supreme Court with Justices to uphold his agenda. Adverse public reaction ultimately doomed the effort to 'rig the court'.

Within the next 4 weeks, a ruling is expected from the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the individual mandate within the Obamacare legislation. If the mandate is found unconstitutional, there is a possibility that the entire legislation could be ordered struck down by the Supreme Court - damaging President Obama in the midst of his reelection campaign.

But what many people are unaware of, is that the Supreme Court has already ruled on cases during this court term that has and will have major impact on other major legislation touted by President Obama. For example, one of the big concerns of conservatives over the Dodd / Frank banking legislation was the creation of an independent agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was given wide powers and no Congressional check and balance.

This is the Bureau that Elizabeth Warren was slated to head until Republican opposition made her Congressional confirmation extremely unlikely. This is also the Bureau that President Obama recessed appointed a new head - while Congress remained in session (and is currently making its way through court challenges). As the Wall Street Journal notes in today's paper...
Washington's regulators have great power, and in the case of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Dodd-Frank as an independent agency, they also have no serious Congressional check. So three cheers for a recent Supreme Court decision reining in regulatory discretion that has zero foundation in law.

And by the way, the decision was 9-0, with the Justices describing the Department of Housing and Urban Development's aggressive assertion of its regulatory authority a "palpable overreach." That's a nice way of saying, you can't be serious.

Another major area of concern for the President and his reelection campaign is the continued challenges that the campaign is having in fundraising. He is trailing his fundraising levels of 2008 by a significant margin. While celebrities seem willing to host / attend multimillion fundraisers, the President is having a major problem with missing smaller donors.
BuzzFeed reports that 88% of the people who contributed $200 or more to the Obama campaign in 2008 — 537,806 people — have not yet given that sum this year. Of course, there is still time for them to give (or give more). However, BuzzFeed also found that 87% of the people who gave $200 — the sum that triggers an itemized report to the Federal Elections Commission — through April of 2008, had not contributed by the end of last month. Thus, President Obama is severely lagging, compared to the last cycle, when it comes to these contributions.

Based on interviews of “drop-off donors,” BuzzFeed found that they still plan to vote for Obama, but that their enthusiasm has decreased considerably.

In 2008, Barack Obama benefited from massive voter enthusiasm. In 2010, the enthusiasm shifted to the Republicans led by the Tea Party and other conservatives to send a message to the President in a historical election which saw the GOP take a strong majority in the House and narrow their minority in the Senate. What will the race of 2012 bring in terms of voter enthusiasm? If it is closer to 2010 than 2008, Barack Obama will be a one-term President.

Another critical race that depends on voter enthusiasm goes to the polls tomorrow in Wisconsin with the recall election of Republican Governor Scott Walker and 4 others. Most polls are showing a Walker lead beyond the margin of error - with the RealClearPolitics average showing Walker up 6.5 points, and a high point of a 12 point lead. Democrat polling firm, PPP, the polling firm of the very progressive Daily Kos website, just released today a poll that shows that Walker's lead has apparently narrowed significantly - to just 3 points. Is this showing enthusiasm is swinging to the union backed Democrats - and contrary to the report we highlighted over the weekend where former President Bill Clinton and Democrat Governor candidate Tom Barrett only drew a few hundred in rally?

I don't think that the PPP poll is showing a major swing in enthusiasm. As Jay Cost notes in this post on the Weekly Standard, the issue is that PPP's poll was rigged...
PPP changes the methodology of its last Wisconsin poll to promote the meme that the ‘race is tightening’… So, PPP changed its methodology at the end of the polling cycle? That itself is a huge no-no, but then it went on to infer that the race is tightening? My goodness!

Truth be told, I always take PPP's polls with a few grains of salt and am hard pressed to accept its verdict until it is supported by other pollsters. I know there are studies pointing to its accuracy, but those measure polls only against final electoral results, and thus a very small percentage of the total polls released.

And no doubt it gets ahead of the trend sometimes, but those ahead-of-the-curve calls are countered by this little switch that Schneider notes, and the fact that PPP polls “voters,” a very strange definition that no other pollster uses. That is a red flag, in my opinion.

For me, the deciding factor is that PPP’s national tracking poll is sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, which is basically an arm of the Democratic party. The distinction between the two groups is purely formal – in practice, they are one and the same.

Even with this, tomorrow's recall election in Wisconsin is going to be about more than just an early bellwether look at November's Presidential race. This election is a major test for the voters not only in Wisconsin, but in this country to see if taxpayers can control the entitlement state...
Tuesday's recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is one that matters a great deal because it will test whether taxpayers have any hope of controlling the entitlement state and its dominant special interests.

Specifically, we will learn if a politician can dare to cross government unions and survive. Mr. Walker isn't facing this extraordinary midterm challenge because he and a GOP legislature asked public workers to pay 12.6% of their health insurance premiums and put 5.8% of their paychecks toward their pensions. Those are small sums compared to what private employees typically pay.

His political offense was daring to challenge the monopoly sway that public unions have come to hold over modern state government through collective bargaining. Public unions aren't like private unions that negotiate labor terms with a single company or workplace. Public unions have outsize influence because they can often buy the politicians who are supposed to represent taxpayers. The unions effectively sit on both sides of the bargaining table.

Thus over time they have been able to extort excessive wages, benefits and pensions, as well as sweetheart contracts like the monopoly provision of health insurance. Their focused special interest trumps the general interest of taxpayers, who are busy making a living and lack the time to focus on politics other than during elections or amid a fiscal crisis.

Democrats—even liberals—once understood this danger and opposed collective bargaining for public workers. No less a Democratic hero than Franklin Roosevelt once said that collective bargaining "can not be transplanted into the public service."

My prediction? Governor Walker and the other candidates on the recall will win the vote in a very high turnout. Walker's margin of victory will be between 4 and 6 points. The Democrats will complain about being outspent - turning a blind eye to the many millions that the unions sunk into this election. But ultimately, if we are to prevent this country from following Greece, Spain, Italy, and France into fiscal crisis because of the entitlement state, this is where the change has to start.

This Day in History

1876 - Just 83 hours after departing New York City, the Transcontinental Express train arrives in San Francisco. As a comparison, the clipper ship, Flying Cloud, set the record for New York to San Francisco in 1854 that stood for 100 years - 89 days, 8 hours.

1892 - The Sierra Club was incorporated in San Francisco.

1940 - The evacuation of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk ends as German forces capture the port. In the 9 days of the evacuation, 338,000 troops were rescued and transported to Britain.

1942 - Today is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway - the critical battle which marked the turning of the tide in the war in the Pacific during World War 2. A small and greatly outnumbered American task force centered around three aircraft carriers, the USS Enterprise, USS Yorktown, and USS Hornet, engaged and sank 4 Japanese aircraft carriers - all veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack. The battle saw the loss of 36 of 41 torpedo bombers, including all of VT-8 launched from the USS Hornet except for one pilot. Their sacrifice made possible the devastating dive bomber attack with aircraft from the USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown which sank 3 of the 4 carriers. A strike later in the day on the 4th, sank the fourth Japanese carrier. The US Navy would lose the USS Yorktown in the battle. She was seriously damaged in air strikes on this day, and sank on the 7th after being torpedoed by a submarine on the 6th.

1989 - The massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China continues throughout the day as Chinese tanks and troops clear the Square of pro-democracy demonstrators. At least 300 were killed, but many suspect the number was in the thousands. As many as 10,000 were arrested.

2008 - The United Kingdom and Canada become the first countries to be able to buy and rent films at the iTunes Store.

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