To borrow a few lines that Bruce re-tweeted, “I’m so old, I remember the press having a healthy skepticism for military involvement in the Middle East…I’m also glad we amended the constitution to exclude that congressional authorization for war…”
I’m so old, I remember that President Bush actually troubled himself to get approval from Congress for the Iraq War, including a majority of Senate Democrats. But President Obama, with Syria? I doubt he’ll try.
According to Reuters this weekend:
About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria’s civil war, while just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act. More Americans would back intervention if it is established that chemical weapons have been used, but even that support has dipped in recent days…
…just 27 percent said they supported his decision to send arms to some Syrian rebels; 47 percent were opposed…
About 11 percent said Obama should do more to intervene in Syria than sending arms to the rebels, while 89 percent said he should not help the rebels…
Obama is considering a range of options. The most popular option among Americans: not intervening in Syria at all. That option is backed by 37 percent of Americans…
If “Obama” (was Reuters disrespectful for calling him that?) intervenes in Syria, he will be doing it without the support of the American people.
There may be no good options in Syria. Just to review: An Iranian-backed dictatorship is fighting rebels who are, basically, al Qaeda. We have claims that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons; and counter-claims that it was the rebels, running a vicious false flag operation.
UPDATE: Kerry says it was the Syrian government. I must be frank: Hearing it from Kerry makes me a little more skeptical than I was before. The man has been a gigantic, shameless liar on public issues ever since he slandered a generation of veterans in testimony before Congress, in 1971.
I realize that Kerry is backed up, in this instance, by hundreds of functionaries in the Obama administration, and that makes deception less likely (or harder to pull off). But not impossible; and because of Benghazi among other scandals, we know that the Obama administration can be untruthful on foreign policy. They may be telling a true story this time; but skepticism is not wholly unwarranted, and should not be faulted automatically.
If President Obama wanted trust to come forth in a more automatic fashion, then he should have (1) not let his administration mislead the American people on Benghazi, and (2) not chosen a figure known for his decades of lying, as Secretary of State. Having said that, could the administration’s version of events be true? I’m keeping an open mind. Kerry has promised more evidence in days to come; we’ll see.
Victor Davis Hanson published a memorable piece in the National Review last week entitled “America as Pill Bug.” The pill bug or the roly-poly bug is one that turns itself into a ball when it feels threatened. Hanson writes:
That roly-poly bug can serve as a fair symbol of present-day U.S. foreign policy, especially in our understandable weariness over Iraq, Afghanistan, and the scandals that are overwhelming the Obama administration.
On August 4, U.S. embassies across the Middle East simply closed on the basis of intelligence reports of planned al-Qaeda violence. The shutdown of 21 diplomatic facilities was the most extensive in recent American history.
Yet we still have over a month to go before the twelfth anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, an iconic date for radical Islamists.
Such preemptive measures are no doubt sober and judicious. Yet if we shut down our entire public profile in the Middle East on the threat of terrorism, what will we do when more anti-American violence arises? Should we close more embassies for more days, or return home altogether?
Hanson makes an excellent point about the way the Obama administration’s closure of embassies is likely to be viewed in the Arab world and around the globe. Although, as Jeff pointed out in a post last week, the administration may have ulterior motives–by trying to create a distraction–by closing the embassies in this manner, the reality is that the interpretation of the administration’s actions by our international foes is likely to proceed in a manner similar to that Hanson envisions in his article.
Hanson looks at the example of Libya and Syria to illustrate that the administration’s “lead from behind” strategy is not working, and that it appears to be counterproductive:
Instead, the terrorists are getting their second wind, as they interpret our loud magnanimity as weakness — or, more likely, simple confusion. They increasingly do not seem to fear U.S. retaliation for any planned assaults. Instead, al-Qaeda franchises expect Americans to adopt their new pill-bug mode of curling up until danger passes.
Our enemies have grounds for such cockiness. President Obama promised swift punishment for those who attacked U.S. installations in Benghazi and killed four Americans. So far the killers roam free. Rumors abound that they have been seen publicly in Libya.
Instead of blaming radical Islamist killers for that attack, the Obama reelection campaign team fobbed the assault off as the reaction to a supposedly right-wing, Islamophobic videomaker. That yarn was untrue and was greeted as politically correct appeasement in the Middle East.
All these Libyan developments took place against a backdrop of “lead from behind.” Was it wise for American officials to brag that the world’s largest military had taken a subordinate role in removing Moammar Qaddafi — in a military operation contingent on approval from the United Nations and the Arab League but not the U.S. Congress?
No one knows what to do about the mess in Syria. But when you do not know what to do, it is imprudent to periodically lay down “red lines.” Yet the administration has done just that to the Bashar al-Assad regime over the last two years.
Hanson sees the Obama administration’s foreign policy as a disastrous replay of the Carter doctrine, once again illustrating Glenn Reynolds’ frequent observation that a replay of Jimmy Carter is simply the “best-case scenario” for Obama.
While I believe Hanson is right in his characterization of the big picture and the likely consequences of Obama foreign policy, I’d differ from him in seeing Obama as being as feckless and weak as Carter. I’d maintain that Carter’s foreign policy was guided by a number of naive precepts about the nature of the world. At least during the years of his presidency, I’d contend that Carter “meant well” in the way the phrase is commonly used to describe a hopelessly incompetent bumbler who seems incapable of recognizing his own shortcomings. Likewise, early in the Obama administration, Tammy Bruce started referring to Obama as Urkel, the nerdy, awkward, inept kid from the TV show “Family Matters” who had an uncanny ability to mess up almost everything he touched. That certainly is one narrative for what Obama is doing in the world of foreign policy, but I’m not sure it is the right one.
As I contemplate Obama foreign policy, though, particularly in the Middle East, I find myself thinking more and more that although incompetence might be the simplest explanation, it might not be the best or the right one. I see no good intentions in the administration’s domestic policy, so why should its foreign policy be exempt from charges that it is motivated more by malevolence to the United States and its role in history than by a supposed set of “liberal” ideals?
This is an administration that seems bent on alienating all of our historical allies as quickly as possible, while taking it easy on our geopolitical foes. Obama seems to want our allies to view us as unreliable and untrustworthy while making sure our enemies view us as weak, indecisive, and either unable or unwilling to use force to protect our interests or to enforce our stated policy goals. If there is a better explanation of the administration’s ultimate foreign policy goals, I’d sure like to know what it might be.
In 2008, certain liberals told me face-to-face that electing a brown-skinned President (Obama) would make the terrorist threat recede, by making the rest of the world like America and feel closer to us.
So, why all this public talk of a coming terrorist attack? Is it real, or a distraction from other issues? It doesn’t smell right to me, for several reasons.
One reason is, the public spectacle. I can’t remember the Bush administration closing almost two dozen U.S. embassies. Or them having Congressional leaders disclose intelligence and raise public alarm over a short-term threat, which is usually counter-productive because it tips off the attackers about how much we know. (I except the Iraq war buildup since it was a different animal, a multi-decade debate over a threat that everyone usually conceded to be long-term.)
For another reason, the timing seems odd. We’ve just had bombshells in the Benghazi scandal. It is very convenient, right now, for the Obama administration to NOT have to talk about them. What bombshells?
- CNN says the CIA had dozens of operatives present in the Benghazi attack, and has been exerting unprecedented pressure (intimidation) to keep them all silent.
- Some say that the CIA has even been hiding operatives from Congressional investigators.
- And the White House and the rest of the media apparently have a rule of silence about the CNN scoop.
Speaking of Benghazi, some suggest that Susan Rice may simply be trying now for a Benghazi do-over, erring on the side of caution. (Wait…so…Benghazi really was an al Qaeda attack?)
So, it’s hard to know. But if I’ve misunderstood the situation – if there is a serious terrorist threat here – Please feel free to set me straight in the comments.
As expected, Obama has promoted Susan Rice to be his national security advisor.
She will head an agency that does large-scale spying on Americans’ phone records. The question is, does she deserve to?
Obama wanted to make her Secretary of State but couldn’t, because that position requires confirmation hearings, at which Rice would have faced uncomfortable questions on Benghazi. Just a reminder, here’s what happened with that:
- Four Americans, including one of then-Ambassador Susan Rice’s fellow ambassadors, died in a terrorist attack while Obama did nothing. Obama attended campaign fund-raisers the next day in Vegas.
- Ambassador Rice then told the American People falsehoods about how those Americans died. The falsehoods protected an Obama campaign narrative (about their great job against terrorism) at a critical moment in the 2012 election.
The second one is the sticking point. How much chance is there that Rice didn’t know the real story of Benghazi, in the very moments when she was giving us all the fake one to benefit her boss’ campaign? In other words: is Susan Rice a liar, or a fool?
 Whether the NSA spying on so many Americans’ phone records is right or wrong, I will leave open for now. It could be a worthy topic, not least because it ties in with the Obama DOJ’s spying on, and highly selective prosecution of, reporters and officials for national security leaks. You see, NBC reports that the DOJ will investigate this new leak about how the NSA spies on the American customers of Verizon. But the DOJ apparently didn’t care when Leon Panetta, former CIA Director, leaked Top Secret info about Seal Team Six. Wonder why?
 Also recall that one of the criticisms of George W. Bush was that he (supposedly) valued personal loyalty too much, in his underlings. Given that Susan Rice must be either a liar or a fool on Benghazi, could Obama have promoted her for any other reason than her loyalty to him? Is this yet another moment of “Obama is actually worse than the Left said Bush was”?
Yesterday, Dan asked the question, feeling perhaps that Rep. Issa had over-stepped in saying it. Dan’s question focused on the IRS scandal, but I think the question is broader than that.
In general, if Carney gets remuneration for saying things which are either untrue or at least very misleading (if technically true), and if Carney knows or strongly suspects that they’re untrue/misleading at the time he says them, the question’s answer must be: Yes.
From the comments, mixitup directed us to this video at The Blaze:
At 1:12, Carney says of Benghazi:
These protests were in reaction to a video… We don’t know otherwise. We had no information to suggest that it was a pre-planned attack. The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that many Muslims find offensive.
We know that Carney was speaking, at that point, from briefings or talking points which the White House [and State Department – ed. later addition] had intensively massaged to disguise the truth.
For this example, the question becomes: How much of a chance is there that Carney didn’t know that the talking points had been intensively massaged; that there was, in fact, contrary information to strongly suggest an attack; and that Carney was, therefore, misleading America as he spoke?
The White House handed Carney a pile of baloney and said “This is what you’re going to speak from.” Fine. But Carney is part of the White House. Did Carney know (or rationally suspect) at the time that he had been handed total baloney?
It’s official: A plurality of Democrat voters are hypocrites, as they support the Obama DOJ spying on the Associated Press “after Democrats spent the entirety of Bush’s second term loudly despairing over civil liberties and freedom of the press being trod upon” in Allahpundit’s words.
But don’t worry, at least the IRS stands up for the Constitution: Lois Lerner has reportedly invoked the Fifth Amendment in her testimony before Congress, so as not to incriminate herself. Yup. Nothing illegal went on at the IRS, folks. Move along.
Seriously, the IRS scandal wasn’t just some rogue agents in Cincinnati: from the outset, they were guided by IRS lawyers in Washington. To his credit, Sen. Max Baucus (D) is asking why no heads have rolled yet over this scandal.
It’s starting to look like the Obama crew won the 2012 election by hiding crucial information (sometimes known as lying). Had Americans known the truth about the IRS and about Benghazi, 2% (which is all it would have taken) could well have gone the other way.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the tornado victims in Oklahoma. Click here for some ways we can all help them.
Turning to Obama scandal news, there is lots of it:
- Claims that new, damaging revelations on Benghazi will be coming. Also, one of Clinton’s scapegoats is starting to balk at being scapegoated for Benghazi.
- Even the liberal-ish Washington Post begins to agree that the ‘Benghazi emails were doctored!’ canard has been debunked.
- Lois Lerner, who “apologized” for the IRS/Tea Party harassment (as if that covers it) and who some insist is “apolitical”, has a history of targeting conservatives from her 14 years at the Federal Election Commission. There she showed a remarkable curiosity about the content of conservatives’ prayers, just as the IRS later did. Coincidence?
- Americans are becoming aware of these scandals, with 55-56% believing that the administration has engaged in a Benghazi cover-up and in deliberate IRS targeting of conservatives. The scandals haven’t yet hit Obama’s approval ratings; then again, they haven’t been clearly tied to his inner circle yet. 59% approve of *the GOP’s* handling of Benghazi.
- Adding to the Department of Justice’s spy-on-AP scandal, as of yesterday we have the spy-on-Fox scandal, in which the DOJ basically makes investigative journalism a crime.
- For background, let’s not forget that AG Holder “has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.” So much for openness and transparency.
- But Obama’s DOJ seems to be in the habit of smearing critics, as well as prosecuting and/or spying on them.
In the comments, please remember: If another’s argument is ludicrous, there is no need to engage in personal attacks; just tear it apart point by point.
UPDATE: Via HotAir, here is 2008 video of candidate Obama saying, in essence, that a sitting administration must not prosecute or spy on reporters and critics:
That it’s ironic, is clear. Obama was, after all, speaking to the AP and (among his other lies) painted the Bush administration as intolerant of dissenters.
But what I really love about the clip is how Obama looks down his nose, as he speaks. It’s that note of contempt which his white liberal admirers fell for, going “Ooh, he’s so smaaarrt! He has deep integrity and wisdom!” I saw through Obama’s act from the beginning.
All via HotAir.
- IRS told pro-life groups that they should stop peacably demonstrating. Where is the ACLU on this? You know: freedom of assembly, something the ACLU proudly defended in Skokie? Are pro-lifers really lower (in the ACLU’s eyes) than actual KKK-hooded neo-Nazis?
- The “Benghazi e-mails were doctored!” canard, refuted.
- Senior White House Advisor Dan Pfeiffer, discussing the IRS and Benghazi scandals this morning, apparently did Obama no good with his over-use of the word “irrelevant”.
UPDATE: There seems to be controversy over Pfeiffer’s remark on the IRS scandal, “The law is irrelevant.” Here is his full quote, for context:
“I can’t speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed so we ensure it never happens again.”
Superficially, Pfeiffer said: The IRS activity was outrageous, regardless of whether it was illegal. Which sounds like taking the high road.
But Washington-speak is notoriously indirect. Pfeiffer may have been saying: The administration/DOJ is giving NO focus to the question of legality, as we intend to have no prosecutions.
To make my view clear: On current information, there should be prosecutions. If the Obama administration won’t send malefactors to court, then the Obama administration isn’t serious about repairing the scandal’s profound moral damage. As Gabe at Ace points out, “…the most obvious of crimes related to the IRS scandal [is] the public release of confidential information, something punishable by up to a year’s jail time.”
UPDATE: Per ABC, Pfeiffer later tweeted “Before folks quoting me out of context get too far ahead of themselves, of course the law matters, IRS conduct is wrong even if legal.”
Again, note Pfeiffer’s posture. While expressing outrage over what the IRS did, he carefully plants the suggestion that it might have been legal – which would mean that no prosecutions are needed. Sorry Mr. Pfeiffer, I don’t think so.
As the scandals engulfing the Obama Administration have proliferated and “gotten legs” this week, many of the conservatives I know or whom I hear on the radio have started drawing comparisons with what happened under Nixon, bringing up the word “impeachment,” and hoping that as it becomes evident that these activities were not accidents but part of a coordinated strategy, Obama will eventually resign, or at least some of those who hold key posts of power in this administration–such as Eric Holder–will resign and that the Administration will be hopelessly tainted as the truth becomes known.
I hear that talk, and I think, it would be nice, but I can’t see it happening. Maybe Holder will resign. Maybe.
I can imagine the press starting to subject the Obama Administration to a little more scrutiny in the future, but “a little more” than none is still only a little bit of scrutiny, hardly enough to make a significant difference in public opinion. While the outrage surrounding all of this may be enough for the Republicans to hold the House and to gain control in the Senate in 2014, there will still be formidable problems, and we’ll still have a very divided country. The low-information voters in the electorate will still be willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt because most of them are either unwilling to see him for the cynical, partisan character he is, or they are unable to do so.
It is possible that after a year or two of scandals and after the outrage that is sure to follow the full implementation of Obamacare, Obama will end his second term with even lower approval ratings than George W. Bush ended his, but at this point, I think that’s about the most we can hope for, that, and maybe Holder’s resignation. I’m not even sure any of this will derail the immigration bill, which is looking more and more like the next legislative disaster coming down the pike.
I’m not trying to be pessimistic, merely practical. In the lead-up to the election in November, I knew that what happened with the administration’s lies about Benghazi was an outrage, but after the election, it seemed evident to me that Obama, Hillary, and the entire administration were going to get away without any consequences. The American voters had failed to demand answers and accountability and had just re-elected Obama.
Now that the scandals are starting to illustrate the kinds of things conservatives have been saying about Obama for years and years now, some liberals are upset with Obama, but others are busy trying to find more ways to blame conservatives for making an issue of the problems. In one of the most ironic defenses of Obama I have encountered so far, David Axelrod offered the “incompetence” excuse, namely, that the government is just too big for Obama to really know what’s going on, an excuse we are sure to hear echoed in the days ahead. Forgive me if I can’t forget that in November the American electorate rejected a man who was renowned for his management skills and his ability to lead large organizations successfully, all so they could re-elect the “community organizer.”
So what do our readers think? Am I just being pessimistic about all this? Is the investigation of these scandals likely to have real and significant consequences for our government, or are they a lot of talk that will amount to nothing, or at least nothing much?