It’s Time to Take Back Education from the Federal Government

American studentsThe No Child Left Behind law is in the process of being rewritten in order to ‘improve’ it, according to the sponsors of the bill that would replace it. Under consideration is a 620-page proposal called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which Republican leadership says will scale back Washington’s involvement in local education.

But conservatives say the measure doesn’t go far enough in doing that. According to Lindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman Fellow in Education:

This proposal spends nearly as much as No Child Left Behind, is nearly as long in page length, and fails to give states an option to opt out of the law. As it stands, it’s a huge missed opportunity to restore state and local control of education.

But one asks a further question: why is Washington even involved in local education? The Federal government’s thirst to permeate every part of American life has distorted the visions of the Founders.

The Founders believed in limited government with an equal balance of powers. In fact the men who wrote the Constitution saw the Congress as the primary driver of policy with the President executing the laws written and passed by them.

Instead, over the past 100 years we have evolved into a country with an imperial that has sprawled across the American landscape unchecked.

The system seems to be that when we have a problem we appoint a committee, create a new commission or set up a new Department. That’s how the Department of Education was founded.

Originally the Department of Education was part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. During Jimmy Carter’s term the department was split in two with education becoming one department and Health and Welfare renamed the Department of Health and Human Services.

Upgrading Education to cabinet level status in 1979 was opposed by many in the Republican Party, who saw the department as unconstitutional, arguing that the Constitution doesn’t mention education, and deemed it an unnecessary and illegal federal bureaucratic intrusion into local affairs.

However many liberals and Democrats see the department as constitutional under the Commerce Clause, and that the funding role of the Department is constitutional under the Taxing and Spending Clause. The National Education Association supported the bill, while the American Federation of Teachers opposed it.

Like most departments and programs spawned by the Federal government the Department of Education grew like Topsy. In 1979 the predecessor Office of Education had 3,000 employees and a budget of $12 billion. In 1979 the department had a budget of $19.4 billion with $17,000 employees. As of 2011, the discretionary budget was $69.9 billion.

The main driver in the budget growth was the Bush-era No Child Left Behind bill. The Department’s budget increased by $14 billion between 2002 and 2004, from $46 billion to $60 billion.

With the explosive growth in the budget came the Education Department’s programs of unfunded and funded mandates. The liberals in the government see the Education Department as a vehicle to indoctrinate America’s youth to their way of thinking.

And right now they are succeeding. Every day we have new stories about teaching materials and methods being used by liberal teachers. The most inflammatory issue is Common Core. According to the website http://www.corestandards.org/, a site that supports Common Core. Their site says:

Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before. To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade.

 

 

The standards were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs. The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful. Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have voluntarily adopted and are moving forward with the standards.

Sounds wonderful but education is a local issue. No two states or even districts are alike but Common Core treats every student the same. In addition, some of the teaching methods and materials have been heavily criticized.

But Washington bureaucrats can not resist the opportunity to further control American life. Isn’t it time that citizens spoke out and petitioned their representatives to curb the power and reach of the Department of Education?

Does Barack Obama Love America?

Obama and GiulianiRecently, Rudy Giuliani stirred up a firestorm when he was asked if he thought Barack Obama loved America. Giuliani told GOP-leaning business execs that he did not “not believe that the president loves America” and that President Obama “doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” 

Giuliani backed off slightly and softened his statement somewhat but in the main he was probably right but for the wrong reasons.

Certainly, Barack Obama loves America but the key to that statement is quite simple. He may love America but not this America.

That may sound strange but if we remember his statements in his 2008 Presidential campaign it becomes very clear that Obama is in love with a different America.

For those who think that the President lives in a different dimension you’re partially right. However, this dimension is the America that he wants to create.

He has talked about income redistribution in both subtle and blatant ways. For instance, the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) is a subtle form of income redistribution.

People who cannot afford the mandated levels of insurance have received subsidies paid for by those who can afford it. This is simply a way of leveling the income levels across the board.

In the area of foreign affairs Obama wants America to “lead from behind” as we did in Libya and have somewhat done against ISIS. In many ways Barack Obama resembles the pre-World War II British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

Chamberlain never wanted to push back against Hitler and in the end took his country in a catastrophic war that dismembered the British Empire. Barack Obama believes that America is an imperial power that needs to be curbed.

Thus, he has traveled the world apologizing for supposed past American transgressions even though we have freed dozens of nations and led the world into an era of freedom and prosperity.

But in six short years Obama has undone a half century of progress. Many countries are slipping back into dictatorships or outright anarchy.The forces of ISIS have nearly destroyed Syria and Iraq. They now are working on Yemen and Libya.

Obama simply doesn’t want to exercise American military and political power at all. He’s more interested in global warming and other left-wing issues to see that our carefully balanced world order is disintegrating.

He has carried on a never-ending negotiation with Iran over their nuclear program. And never once has he used American power to move the negotiations along. In fact, he has eased the sanctions allowing Iran to sells hundreds of million dollars in oil.

He has shrunk from confronting Vladimir Putin on the question of Ukraine. In fact, when the Ukrainians asked for military aid after the Russians and their puppets seized the Crimea he came up with a number of reasons why we couldn’t help.

As the conflict in Ukraine continues we have shipped non-military supplies to the Ukrainians. Does he think that they’ll throw them at the Russian tanks? Using legalese he has managed to steer clear of the conflict.

In the Middle East he has dispatched a limited number of aircraft to the conflict zone but promising that there will be no American boots on the ground. Meanwhile, ISIS has slaughter thousands in the heinous ways.

Beheadings, crucifixions, burying people alive and burning people alive are just a few of their methods but Barack Obama is not moved. He sends just enough aid and military advisers to avoid criticism by his allies in the main stream media.

He talks about American energy independence, yet his government has gone out of its way to hinder energy exploration. Just this week he vetoed the Keystone pipeline bill, an innocuous project to bring Canadian oil to refineries.

And like lemmings his fellow Democrats are following him off the cliff into the abyss. In 2012 they were “shellacked” in his own words and lost over 60 House seats and the control of that chamber. In 2014 the Democrats lost yet more seats in the House plus nine Senate seats and control of that chamber.

More importantly, the Democrats have lost hundreds of legislative seats and with them the control of state legislatures from coast to coast.

The Republicans can now control the redistricting of House and local legislative districts. It will take years for the Democrats to recover. In fact, they may never recover.

But Barack Obama still lives in his own America. His administration believes that everything is going along swimmingly. Take unemployment as an example. Every time the unemployment rate goes down the White House trumpets the new percentage.

But they neglect to point to the decreasing number of Americans who are in the workforce. The Labor Force Participation Rate has been steadily declining throughout Obama’s term in office. In January 2005 the rate was 65.8%. In December 2014 it was 62.7%.

He talks about American energy independence, yet his government has gone out of its way to hinder energy exploration. Just this week he vetoed the Keystone pipeline bill, an innocuous project to bring Canadian oil to refineries.

And like lemmings his fellow Democrats are following him off the cliff into the abyss. In 2012 they were “shellacked” in his own words and lost over 60 House seats and the control of that chamber. In 2014 the Democrats lost yet more seats in the House plus nine Senate seats and control of that chamber.

He talks about American energy independence, yet his government has gone out of its way to hinder energy exploration. Just this week he vetoed the Keystone pipeline bill, an innocuous project to bring Canadian oil to refineries.

And like lemmings his fellow Democrats are following him off the cliff into the abyss. In 2012 they were “shellacked” in his own words and lost over 60 House seats and the control of that chamber. In 2014 the Democrats lost yet more seats in the House plus nine Senate seats and control of that chamber.

More importantly, the Democrats have lost hundreds of legislative seats and with them the control of state legislatures from coast to coast.

The Republicans can now control the redistricting of House and local legislative districts. It will take years for the Democrats to recover. In fact, they may never recover.

But Barack Obama still lives in his own America. His administration believes that everything is going along swimmingly. Take unemployment as an example. Every time the unemployment rate goes down the White House trumpets the new percentage.

But they neglect to point to the decreasing number of Americans who are in the workforce. The Labor Force Participation Rate has been steadily declining throughout Obama’s term in office. In January 2005 the rate was 65.8%. In December 2014 it was 62.7%.

So while the rest of us live in an America that is deteriorating, our President lives in a dream world of his own making. It may be time to end his dream.

 

 

 

 

The DHS Budget Impasse: Follow the Facts

DHS Secretary Jeh JohnsonSometimes, the favorite line that you hear from the government is to follow the money. When it comes to the DHS Budget Impasse you need to follow the facts of the battle.

Barack Obama started this fight by signing an Executive Order that would have allowed would have allowed millions of immigrants in the country illegally to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Some say the number could be as high as 4 to 5 million.

The Congressional Republicans then threatened to block funding for the immigration part of the Department of Homeland Security’s budget. The House wrote and passed a bill that did exactly that.

DHS and the White House began the hand-wringing by intimating that America’s national security was imperiled. The fact is that somewhere between 87% of DHS employees have been classified as essential.

That means that they will continue to work but if the impasse continues for some time they will not receive a paycheck. In the most recent government shutdown, DHS only sent home 31,295 employees out of their 231,000 total.

The reality is that a shutdown will have no noticeable effect on the important duties of the Department of Homeland Security. Literally all the front line DHS workers (TSA screeners, border agents, Coast Guard, secret service, immigration workers) will continue working, only the administrative personnel will be furloughed.

During the last shutdown suspension of programs included research and development of new security screening technology, non-disaster grant programs for state and local governments, and civil liberties training programs for local law enforcement personnel. Will the country survive for several weeks without these types of non-essential programs?

But the administration rolled out the Washington Monument Defense. According to the administration if Congress doesn’t agree on the additional funding and allows the DHS “shut down” it will imperil the safety and security of the United States.

If that is true, then Obama is willing to voluntarily imperil the safety and security of the United States just to preserve an Executive Order that was issued for transparently political reasons.

And now Obama’s Executive Order is on hold due to a ruling by a Federal judge in Texas in a suit brought by 26 states. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said the president overstepped his authority. Hanen wrote, “The genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle” id the Executive Order went into effect.

The administration immediately announced that they would appeal the ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Meanwhile, DOJ lawyers filed a request for a stay with Hanen’s court.

Legal experts say it is unlikely Hanen will put his ruling on hold, because he wrote in his 123-page court order that states would “suffer irreparable harm in this case” if Obama’s actions on immigration were to proceed while the lawsuit is argued.

Meanwhile, DHS will continue to prepare for the implementation of the Executive Order assuming that the courts will rule in the Administration’s favor. Obama told reporters:

The Department of Homeland Security will continue with the planning because we want to make sure that as soon as these legal issues get resolved — which I anticipate they will, in our favor — that we are ready to go.

The main battle is in the Congress with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposing to split the House’s bill into two bills. One would deal with the budget issue, the other with immigration. McConnell is willing to throw away his majority power to look good for the media.

The only problem is the conservatives in the House and the Speaker himself. Boehner’s spokesman issued the following statement:

The Speaker has been clear: the House has acted, and now Senate Democrats need to stop hiding. Will they continue to block funding for the Department of Homeland Security or not?

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., in an interview this afternoon with The Daily Signal said:

It’s more smoke and mirrors, isn’t it? It’s more designed to be able to look like you’re doing something to the folks back home when you know you are doing absolutely nothing.

He then added:

I don’t know how you tell people back home that elections have consequences if we pass a clean Homeland Security bill. If we do, folks back home have the right to ask the question, ‘Would this have been different if Democrats were still in charge of the Senate?’ And I think the answer apparently is no: That elections don’t have consequences in the United States Senate. I think that’s unacceptable to the folks back home and it’s unacceptable to me. I have spent too much time and money trying to help Republicans get elected to the Senate to be told that it doesn’t make a difference.

Don’t bet on anything being passed in the Senate and certainly not in the House.

 

The ISIS Threat: Obama Still Doesn’t Get It

ISIS beheadingsWhile ISIS is slaughtering Christians and Muslims alike, Barack Obama and his administration is more interested in blaming this sea of blood on, wait for it, the lack of jobs and other opportunities in their home countries.

Rather than concentrate on how to eradicate this threat to civilization the Obama administration is spending three days on extraneous discussions that focus on “grievances” that terrorists exploit, including economic and political issues.

Once again Obama declined to label the threat as “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamic extremism”. Instead, he labeled it simply at extremism or just plain terrorism. This on-going failure to define the problem will prevent it from being eradicated.

Rob O’Neill, former Navy SEAL Team 6 member who claims to have fired the shot that killed Usama bin Laden, told Fox News: “They get paid to cut off heads — to crucify children, to sell slaves and to cut off heads and I don’t think that a change in career path is what’s going to stop them.” Of course, he was referring to ISIS and their hired thugs.

“He was meandering, unfocused and weak,” said Richard Grenell, former U.S. spokesman at the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration and a Fox News contributor. “He was talking about isolating terrorists. He doesn’t understand the threat that we face… People are being burned in cages and he’s talking about more investments?”

As Obama was addressing the conference there were reports, according to the local police chief, that ISIS burned another 45 people to death in al-Baghdadi, Iraq. Some of the victims were thought to be members of the Iraqi security forces and their families.

So rather than rally the military forces of the free world in both the west and the Middle East the Obama White House has chosen to talk the problem to death.

Meanwhile, ISIS has made serious inroads in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and its latest victim, Libya. The Egyptians have been bombing the ISIS hotbed in Derna, Libya in retaliation for the mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on the shores of Tripoli.

The Obama administration was given multiple chances Wednesday to endorse a longtime ally’s airstrikes on America’s biggest enemy at the moment, the so-called Islamic State.

Over and over again, Obama’s aides declined to back Egypt’s military operation against ISIS. It’s another sign of the growing strain between the United States and Egypt, once one of its closest friends in the Middle East.

Right now, we have a dysfunctional effort against ISIS. Our air strikes in Iraq and Syria are minimal at best. We have shipped little or no weapons to our so-called allies. The Kurds who have been the most successful of the forces fighting ISIS have seen little in the way of heavy weapons from the United States.

Our so-called training of the moderate Syrian opposition in partnership with our Turkish allies will ‘perhaps’ start in March but the numbers of trainees are minimal at best.

A total of 15,000 Syrians will be trained in Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia over three years as part of the campaign against jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (also known as ISIS) and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. By then ISIS will have spread throughout the Middle East.

The Obama administration is slow-walking all of our efforts against these savages because they simply don’t have the heart to carry out a coordinated military campaign. In the meantime the ISIS threat comes closer to the American homeland.

 

 

 

When in doubt call a conference

ISIS terroristThe Obama administration is slowly sinking into an ocean of criticism with regards to the ISIS terrorist acts that have now spread to North Africa.

After the brutal execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians Egypt bombed ISIS encampments in Libya. Meanwhile the White House did nothing concrete but they did call an international conference to discuss the ISIS problem.

Liberals will always take this course of action when confronted with brutality. They will call a conference and try to talk the issue to death. Most conferences are staffed with like-minded participants that are incapable of doing anything.

In the case of the Obama White House they have refused to define the ISIS enemy as Islamic terrorists or Islamic jihadis. Instead, they have made a conscious decision to call them simply terrorists or violent extremists.

Asked whether Islamic extremists are in fact the focus of the summit, one official said extremism has spanned “many decades” and taken on “many forms,” but they recognize that those launching recent attacks “are calling themselves Muslims.”

“You can call them what you want. We’re calling them terrorists,” the official said.

Essentially, the Obama administration has decided that by not calling them Islamic terrorists or some other other defining description the public won’t see them as Muslims.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that as airstrikes continue in Iraq and Syria, the administration is boosting efforts to counter ISIS on social media. The plan centers around a small State Department agency that pushes against ISIS and other groups’ online propaganda. What could be their next strategy: hashtag attacks?

“We’re getting beaten on volume, so the only way to compete is by aggregating, curating and amplifying existing content,” Richard Stengel, under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, told the Times.

Meanwhile, over at the State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told Chris Matthews that the real solution was jobs.

“We’re killing a lot of them, and we’re going to keep killing more of them. … But we cannot win this war by killing them,” department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” “We need … to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether –“

At that point, Harf was interrupted by host Chris Matthews, who pointed out, “There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims.” 

Harf continued to argue that the U.S. should work with other countries to “help improve their governance” and “help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.” 

This is how far the United States has sunk. The country with the finest military in the world has been reduced to attacking ISIS on social media and suggestions that the real solution is jobs for terrorists.

 

Barack Obama’s Bottomless Pit of Spending

Black hole of spendingBarack Obama and his Democrat allies came into power in 2008 with a laundry list of spending priorities. They controlled the Presidency, the House and the Senate and had an unimpeded path to the U.S. Treasury.

Almost immediately they began a spending spree the likes of which the country has never seen before. All of this was done in the midst of an economic recession that was savaging the U.S. economy.

The Congress passed and the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. THe bill called for spending that approached $830 billion. Republicans almost immediately dubbed it the Porkulus Bill.

Much of the bill called for spending that favored Democrat constituencies. There was aid to senior citizens in the form of $250 one-time payments. There were extended unemployment benefits. Spending on infrastructure favored labor unions.

THe bill also awarded cities and states with payments that many of them used to close holes in their budgets. Then, of course, we had the increased funding for energy programs.

Then, there were the tax credits: expanded child credit, expanded earned income tax credit, expanded college credit, homebuyer credit, home energy credit and a whole list of additional credits and deductions.

The Obama Administration followed this pork-laden bill with the Affordable Care bill, better known as Obamacare. This health insurance bill was foisted on the American taxpayers with very specific promises.

Obama himself promised that we could keep our current plans, keep our current doctors and to top it off every American family would save $2,500. All of this was a fabric of lies but the administration continues to defend this train wreck.

In the first six years of his administration Barack Obama has increased the National Debt from $10 trillion to over $17 trillion.

He now would like to embark on even more spending. President Obama reformed part of the Direct Loan program in 2009 in his Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

Obama expanded the eligibility list for the program he created by regulation in November 2013. Under the latest version of President Obama’s giveaway to former college students, people with student loans that meet certain income eligibility standards will only need to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for a maximum of 20 years.

Student loans are rapidly expanding past the $1 trillion mark in total outstanding balances. President Obama sees this enormous sum as an opportunity to expand income redistribution.

He followed this boondoggle up with his latest giveaway: a plan that would help many go to Community College free. The initiative aims to transform publicly financed higher education in an effort to address growing income inequality.

The plan would be funded by the federal government and participating states, but White House officials declined to discuss how much it would cost or how it would be financed. It is bound to be expensive and likely a tough sell to a Republican Congress not eager to spend money, especially on a proposal from the White House.

The proposal would cover half-time and full-time students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average — about a C-plus — and who “make steady progress toward completing a program,” White House officials said. It would apply to colleges that offered credit toward a four-year degree or occupational-training programs that award degrees in high-demand fields.

The federal government would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college for those students, and states that choose to participate would cover the remainder. If all states participate, the administration estimates, the program could cover as many as nine million students, saving them each an average of $3,800 a year.

Yet another Obama plan is the issuance of work permits to 5.5 million illegal immigrants. The Center for Immigration Studies released a report that said the Obama administration has operated a “shadow” immigration system for years, one that has handed out millions of work permits to illegal aliens and aliens with unknown legal status.

A Republican aide said the report could be one of the biggest scandals of the Obama administration, since it shows the administration was giving work permits to illegal immigrants at a time of high unemployment among Americans.

According to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies

I was astonished at the huge number of work permits that are being issued by the Obama administration outside the legal immigration system through executive discretion, especially at a time of high unemployment and stagnant wages. Besides the effect on the American worker, it encourages and rewards more illegal immigration.

Of that 5.5 million, 1.8 million were issued to aliens with temporary visas, but 1.2 million of that group had a visa status that does not authorize employment.

Another 982,000 work permits were given to illegal immigrants or immigrants who weren’t qualified for admission. Almost all of this group were made up of aliens who crossed the border illegally, according to CIS.

Another group of 1.7 million is made up of aliens with unknown legal status.

It appears that this portion of Obama’s bottomless pit of spending might be forestalled by Congressional action by Republicans. They are attempting to stop Obama’s illegal acts by withholding money from the Department of Homeland Security.

 

Is Scott Walker the Republican’s Hillary Clinton?

Scott WalkerWhile Hillary Clinton seems to be breezing to the Democrat nomination for President the Republicans seem to have every major figure lining up for a shot at the Republican nomination.

Potential candidates from Jeb Bush to Carly Fiorina have set up exploratory committees and are starting to solicit donations. Republicans are criss-crossing the country speaking on every subject near and dear to the Republican’s base.

Meanwhile in the Dairy State of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are letting his actions speak louder than his words. He has continued to propose new ideas that are convincing his potential supporters that he could be the ‘guy’ for the Republicans.

Battle-tested with three election victories in four years, Walker has taken the best that his union opponents could throw at him and plowed through to victory. And he’s done it all while continuing to smile and charm the electorate.

Americans have a tendency to elect Presidential candidates who appear to them as being nice. Both Bushes, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, even Barack Obama, were appealing to the American electorate.

Scott Walker fits this mold. Sure, there are die-hard union supporters who like nothing better than disembowel the Wisconsin governor, the majority of the electorate may come to like this nice guy from the Heartland.

Since his ground-breaking speech in Iowa at the Freedom Summit Walker has risen in the polls like a rocket. Walker zoomed from “Who?” to “Wow!” after his caucus debut in Iowa.

Three months ago, 41 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers didn’t know enough about him to offer an opinion. Now, he’s GOP caucusgoers’ top choice for president over 15 other potential candidates, according to the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll.

The poll shows 1 in 4 likely caucusgoers has Walker as their first or second choice for president. Even though Mitt Romney has dropped out of the race, Walker is still at the top of the heap as caucusgoers’ first choice, followed by Sen. Rand Paul and 2008 caucus winner Mike Huckabee. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are both in single digits.

Des Moines Register pollster J. Ann Selzer noted that these voters didn’t take long to warm up to Walker. Sixty percent have a favorable opinion of the 47-year-old, Harley-riding preacher’s son.

“It’s not that they like him, they love him,” she said. Thirty-two percent of likely GOP caucusgoers have a “very favorable” opinion of him — a higher number than anyone else in the poll.

Secondly, he’s not too hot or too cold. Asked whether Walker was too conservative or too moderate, 56 percent said the political porridge was about right. Most of the rest, 34 percent, weren’t sure.

If Walker can rally both conservative voters and those who lean toward a more establishment-friendly candidate, he’ll have a significant advantage in the Iowa caucuses. Paul, who comes in second to Walker as likely caucusgoers’ choice for president, also does well at straddling the philosophical divide. So does former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but that’s not enough to make him a contender at this point.

Walker opened his first campaign office in Iowa this week beating his rivals to the punch.

 

Can the Vaccinations conflict affect the Presidential race?

VaccineIt never ceases to amaze me how the Republicans manage to get themselves immersed in controversies that have very little meaning to various political races.

In Nevada Republican Sharon Angle won the 2010 Republican primary. In June 2009 polls showed her leading Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by a 50% to 39% margin.

Angle was criticized during the campaign for largely avoiding answering questions from the press, both local and national. In September, the Las Vegas Review-Journal sued her for copyright infringement after she allegedly posted entire articles from the publication on her campaign website without permission.

During the primary campaign, Sue Lowden took out a political ad criticizing Angle’s alleged associations with Scientology and claiming Angle “pushed a bill favored by the Church of Scientology.” During the campaign Angle made a number of controversial statement and eventually lost the race by a margin of 50.3% to 44.6%.

In Delaware Christine O’Donnell won an upset primary victory on September 14, 2010 against Representative Mike Castle by 6%. O’Donnell made a number of controversial statements including “I dabbled into witchcraft – I never joined a coven…I hung around people who were doing these things… We went to a movie and then had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar. And I didn’t know it.”

Her admission received widespread media coverage,and O’Donnell explained that she had been referring to high school experiences. O’Donnell lost in the general election to Democrat Chris Coons by a margin of 57% to 40%.

We’ve seen this movie before and it had dramatic impacts on Senate races in 2012. Representative Todd Akin of Missouri cost himself and his party an important Senate seat when he made an ill-advised statement on “legitimate rape”.

Akin, who had won the Republican primary in a crowded field, led incumbent Claire McCaskill in pre-election polls until he said that women who are victims of what he called “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

Akin eventually apologized for the remark but rebuffed calls to withdraw from the election. He lost to McCaskill by 54.7 percent to 39.2 percent. In a book published in July 2014, Akin said that he regretted apologizing and defended his original comments.

In Indiana Richard Mourdock defeated incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary with 60% of the vote. Mourdock came under fire with this statement during a campaign debater against Democrat Joe Donnelly:

I, too, certainly stand for life. I know there are some who disagree, and I respect their point of view. But I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have, to have an abortion, is in that case of the life of the mother. I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen. 

Dan Parker, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, immediately attacked Mourdock, saying that, “I’m stunned and ashamed that Richard Mourdock believes God intended rape”, and that he is an “extremist” who is out of touch with Indiana. Speculation that Mourdock’s remark could affect the outcome of the Senate race centered on attempts to liken his comments to those of Todd Akin.

Responding to Parker, Mourdock issued a statement saying: “God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick.”

He later added, “I believe God controls the universe. I don’t believe biology works in an uncontrolled fashion.” A number of Republican officials and candidates, including Sen. John McCain, called for him to issue an apology. Mourdock lost in a tight race.

Now, we have the Republicans at it again. Both Governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul made statements about vaccinations that call into question they’re judgement on the issue. The mainstream media immediately began to tar the entire Republican field with the same brush.

The media also extended the vaccination statements to include global-warming and other controversial positions that have nothing to do with the current political climate.

The Republicans must avoid getting drawn into making statements on positions that have nothing to do with national politics. A number of potential candidates have very little discipline when it comes to making statements. When will we learn that the media is not our friend and is lying in wait to ambush our candidates.

 

The Politics of Meaningless Distractions

Alaska's Arctic Wildlife RefugeFor some time the President and his allies have been practicing the politics of meaningless distractions. They pick a meaningless issue that the Republicans will react to and introduce it to the public using executive orders or similar approaches.

They’ve done it with EPA regulations, immigration reform and now they’re trying it with Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. All of these policies were seeking to inflame their opposition and deflect them from meaningful issues.

Part of the Republican’s problem is that with so many members they’re bound to have a number who will react to any given issue. In many cases the Republicans are simply undisciplined. In other cases they’re spoiling for a fight.

The President and his staff knows exactly what buttons to push in order to get a reaction.And they do it every time.

Obama recently announced that more than 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be named as a wilderness area. This will cut off any and all opportunities to explore the resource-rich area for oil and gas.

Obama’s action drew an immediate response from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), the new chair of the Senate Energy Committee.

Obama said in his statement:

Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge is an incredible place — pristine, undisturbed. It supports caribou and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries it supported many Alaska Native communities. But it’s very fragile.

To really get the ire of Republicans, the Interior Department announced that this just the first in a series of announcements that will affect the state’s oil and gas production.

The department will also put part of the Arctic Ocean off limits to drilling as part of a five-year leasing plan it will issue this week and is considering whether to impose additional limits on oil and gas production in parts of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Modern drilling techniques have very little impact on the land so these announcement are simply a way of goading the Republicans into some sort of meaningless fight.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a statement.

What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,”  “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory. . . . I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal..

Members of the administration responded in a measured way to Senator Murkowski’s outburst. John Podesta said:

I was hoping that a more balanced reaction would be forthcoming from some of the people who have commented on this.

So we hope that we can find cooperation so that that wilderness designation ultimately can go through in the Congress. But we don’t think that the reaction that particularly Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) had to this announcement was warranted.

You can expect more of this type of behavior from an administration that no longer has much control in the halls of Congress.

 

Is the White House right to protest Congress’ invitation to Netanyahu?

netanyahu-boehnerThe House of Representatives recently invited the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to address a joint session of Congress. Seems simple enough. Israel is our long-time and faithful ally in the Middle East. How better to honor them by inviting their leader to talk to Congress on the issues of the day?

The Obama White House immediately reacted by positing that the Congressional invitation was a slap in the face to the White House and the Department of State. They also said that it was a violation of protocol. Their position was quite simply this: all power to interact with foreign leaders, friend or foe, is vested in the Executive Branch.

Didn’t the Founders frame the Constitution in the light of an over-bearing chief executive, namely the King of England and his ministers?

Have we come full circle and returned to pre-1787 with the legislative and judicial branches mere appendages of the executive?

This unfortunate slide into the imperial President has been accelerating over the past 100 years starting with the Woodrow Wilson administration. Along the way there have been a number of clashes between the Executive and Legislative Branches.

Perhaps the primary attempts to slow the growth of the unbridled power of the Presidency have been associated with the War Powers Resolution of 1973. It is a federal law intended to check the president’s power to commit the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of Congress.

It was a reaction to the commitment of large numbers of troops to the fighting during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, most president’s have objected to the curtailment of their powers to commit troops around the world at a moment’s notice.

In passing the resolution, Congress specifically cites the Necessary and Proper Clause for its authority. Under this clause, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

But despite all of this does the Congress have to right and power to take independent actions? Nowhere in the Constitution is the Congress precluded from discussing foreign policy with foreign leaders.

Isn’t it part of Congress’ responsibility to gain information about the governance of the United States? Where does it say that all power in the country is vested in Executive Branch?

John Boehner and his allies simply asked a friendly foreign leader to address a joint session of the Congress in order for the Congress to understand the issues of the day from our allies’ point of view.

In this case it appears that the White House is simply responding in a fit of pique because quite honestly they personally don’t like the Israeli Prime Minister. They see him as a roadblock to their vision of peace in Middle East.

But their vision seems to be an isolated strain that is not held by a majority of the Congress nor more importantly by the Israelis who are most impacted by it. It seems to be driven by a personal dislike between Obama and Netanyahu.

President Obama doesn’t seem to understand that foreign policy is not based on his personal preferences but on the bedrock beliefs of the United States.

But Barack Obama believes that his current vision of the United States as a nation of men rather than a nation of laws. This is the root of our current gridlock in Washington. Revert to a nation of laws and we may see less gridlock and more cooperation.

 

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