Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is American Exceptionalism Dead?

Recall then-vice-presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del) pontificating the likeliness of an “international crisis’ that would “test the mettle of this guy” – referring to then-candidate Barack Obama during the campaign of 2008?

Since the time Biden uttered those remarks at a Seattle campaign fundraiser event, he’s mostly been right. Who’d a thunk it?

Yet, the irony of all of this premonitory soothsaying is that president Obama, along with his administration, still does not have a clear and cogent foreign policy strategy that gives meaning to what the U.S. stands for. Our guiding principle, as portrayed by the White House, is to wet one’s finger and see which way the wind blows.

We all sat back in disbelief as a Green Revolution enveloped the streets and plazas of Tehran during the summer of 2009, only to be trounced by a megalomaniac nicknamed A-Jad and supported by the theocratic mullahs. Where was the U.S.?

Now we are faced with a new crisis. After it took a few days or weeks for the White House and State Department to figure out just who the bad guy was in Cairo, another decades-long authoritarian ruler has one-upped Mr. Mubarak.

Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has gone mad. He’s ordered his own citizens killed, brought in paid mercenaries from other nearby North African nations and believes he will be a martyr in the Bedouin tradition for his actions.

Where’s the official statement from our administration? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made one prosaic statement saying effectively that “this sort of behavior is unacceptable.” Of course it’s 'unacceptable.' He’s killing innocent Libyans, threatening to burn down important oil fields near Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, and has all but caused Israel to soil its collective pants, especially since Egypt’s once-friendly, decades-long policy towards Israel is now in flux.

Meanwhile, news sources report that a radical branch of Al-Qaeda is forming in the eastern portion of Libya and has already made veiled threats against any non-Muslims. Even Iran is breaking with past restrictions and has sent two navy warships through the Suez Canal (something that has not been allowed by Egypt since the 1979 Iranian Revolution). Iranian Defense Ministry officials explain, “It’s only a military training exercise.” It looks more like planned provocation and saber-rattling to me.

Washington Post Op-Ed writer Charles Krauthammer offered this advice a few weeks ago,

We need a foreign policy that not only supports freedom in the abstract but is guided by long-range practical principles to achieve it - a Freedom Doctrine composed of the following elements:

(1) The United States supports democracy throughout the Middle East. It will use its influence to help democrats everywhere throw off dictatorial rule.

(2) Democracy is more than just elections. It requires a free press, the rule of law, the freedom to organize, the establishment of independent political parties and the peaceful transfer of power. Therefore, the transition to democracy and initial elections must allow time for these institutions, most notably political parties, to establish themselves.

(3) The only U.S. interest in the internal governance of these new democracies is to help protect them against totalitarians, foreign and domestic. The recent Hezbollah coup in Lebanon and the Hamas dictatorship in Gaza dramatically demonstrate how anti-democratic elements that achieve power democratically can destroy the very democracy that empowered them.

(4) Therefore, just as during the Cold War the United States helped keep European communist parties out of power (to see them ultimately wither away), it will be U.S. policy to oppose the inclusion of totalitarian parties - the Muslim Brotherhood or, for that matter, communists - in any government, whether provisional or elected, in newly liberated Arab states.

It's been at least 72 hours since Qadaffi ordered his henchmen to kill those in opposition to his rule without nary a remark from our president. Apparently Obama has other more important things to worry about such as ordering U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Aside from Obama’s apologetic rhetoric abroad and his insidious attempt to eschew American Exceptionalism in the name of gentlemanliness, Obama is not leading us. He’s often naïve in world affairs and he’s not proactive in foreign policy. Simply being the anti-Bush president is not a policy.

But he's a heckuva community organizer. And that's what dictators like Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, Kim Jong il and Qadaffi hope for.

To be sure, the federal budget crisis, job creation and social issues like the DOMA law are all important things; however, I'd like to hear at least a peep from Obama on the Libya debacle.

And please hold the platitudes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Transparency 101

I was forwarded this link from a friend. It reveals a potentially troubling attempt by the Obama administration to utilize social networking for propaganda purposes.

It’s one thing to have supporters of any political party or ideology to champion specific messaging via Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube. However, it is quite another thing to create, from whole cloth, a narrative bereft of real persons. And from an administration that purports to be ‘transparent’ where duplicity is the exception rather than the rule, I find this alarming.

It’s no secret that the battle in Wisconsin has created a watershed moment, a battle-royale of sorts, for politicians, public sector unions and the wider public across the nation.

Large unions like the Service Employees International Union and others have called for numerous protests across the U.S. this week and this month. And that is the SEIU’s right; it is afforded by the unambiguous language in our U.S. Constitution.

What is not a right is the use of clandestine political communiqués such as the aforementioned ‘fake’ social media users as a stratagem to influence an unwitting public. I am all for a public debate on this monolithic subject and others; however, for any White House administration (Nixon’s notwithstanding) to attempt to ‘trick’ us under the guise of free speech, is scandalous.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lead and They Will Follow: Gov. Walker Shows Courage and Leadership in Battleground State

Bravo to Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) for standing up for all of the citizens of the Badger State, as a minority of public sector union workers, teachers, correctional officers and other civil servants foment demagoguery and fail to do their jobs.

With a $3.6 billion budget gap as a backdrop, the Wisconsin governor must confront reality and re-tool the state’s fiscal problem before it weighs down future growth and crowds out investment. And, unlike the federal government, states are obligated by law to balance their budget. Thus, Gov. Walker is acting like the grown-up in the room.

Wisconsin’s newly-elected Governor, in a press conference speech given late Friday in the rotunda of the State capitol, explained to the press and the audience that “We are broke.” He went on to say that the majority of workers and citizens alike in the state support his bill. He wants state workers to pay one-half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health benefits. Currently, most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance.

Governor Walker reminded everyone that a lot of untruths are being spun about his plan, and even responded to a reporter’s question about how the president interjected himself into the fray. “I know the president has enough to worry about regarding the federal budget, he should let our state take care of our own issues,” said Walker. Obama told a Milwaukee television reporter,

“Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions."

This interjection reminds me a lot of the Louis ‘Skip’ Gates’ debacle in the summer of 2009 where Obama gave his opinion on an incident where a Massachusetts police lieutenant attempted to arrest a friend and Harvard colleague of the president’s.

Mr. Walker also gave a brief history lesson about unions and the state. He said that Wisconsin civil service laws date back over one-hundred years and are considered to be the best of any state. Thus, any collective bargaining rights that the public sector unions think they’ll lose is moot. Simultaneously as he made the aforementioned remark, and what seemed like a well-orchestrated play, the distinct murmurs and noise from thousands of labor supporters chanting outside the building, could be heard.

Walker even acknowledged the crowd protesting outside while explaining how it’s their right to peacefully assemble. But it is not o.k. for politically-elected state senators to flee their responsibility and hide in places like Rockville, Illinois. Instead, these recalcitrant public officials should do their job.

Another unique twist to this story that has the nation watching is how the Obama administration seems to be colluding with politicians and union leaders in Madison. Former Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine, now the chairman of the DNC, is gathering behind-the-scenes help from the White House’s political operation, Organizing for Obama, who got involved quietly Monday authorizing chapters to try to strategize other pro-union rallies in states like nearby Ohio.

Even former progressive president Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew the implications of public sector union overreach when he wrote at the height of the New Deal:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.

To be sure, public sector workers, whether they are unionized or not, are a very important part of our society. They support all citizens. In municipalities, towns and cities alike, they can be counted on to teach our children, to protect our streets and homes, to ensure families receive the necessary care and help that they need; they even collect our trash.

However, the bare truth is, the inordinate amount of unfunded liabilities associated with public sector unions like in Wisconsin and elswhere, cannot be sustained without necessary reforms.

Larry Kudlow explains:

Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America -- which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Unions are not unlike a cartel. They eschew competition and subjugate the taxpayer's to unnecessary demands. A vicious circle follows. Public officials who generously compensate workers often receive votes, contributions and campaign assistance from those same employees and their union leaders. The taxpayer does not get such preferential treatment.

See Gov. Walker's FULL 14 Min. Feb. 18, 2011 Press Conference Here