American Elephants


Struggling to Understand This President. by The Elephant's Child

Barack Obama
Another day, another attempt to figure out who our president is. Today, it’s Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. Peter Baker had a long piece in the New York Times, on the 13th, with some excerpts from a series of off-the-record dinners while he was weighing action in Iraq. And another from Walter Russell Mead on the 14th in The American Interest. All are interesting and worth your time. Peggy Noonan’s piece destined for the Friday paper already has 260 comments, many rude, some not.

Americans have a long history of disagreeing with their presidents, loving them, hating them, believing the end of the world is nigh, and wanting desperately to make them stop doing what they are doing. Does it all mean anything?

I read somewhere today that the majority of Americans cannot name the three branches of government. Are we all terminally stupid and need smarter people at the helm to manage us and our affairs? The conclusion I reach is that people are puzzled by Barack Obama and do not understand why he is doing what he is doing,

“I was not here in the run-up to Iraq in 2003,” he told a group of visitors who met with him in the White House before his televised speech to the nation, according to several people who were in the meeting. “It would have been fascinating to see the momentum and how it builds.”

In his own way, Mr. Obama said, he had seen something similar, a virtual fever rising in Washington, pressuring him to send the armed forces after the Sunni radicals who had swept through Iraq and beheaded American journalists. He had told his staff, he said, not to evaluate their own policy based on external momentum. He would not rush to war. He would be deliberate.

“But I’m aware I pay a political price for that,” he said.

That’s from Peter Baker. Well, yes. It’s clear that he intends to be deliberate, probably for a long time. He also intends to control everything himself. He is ignoring any and all advice from his military advisors and generals with long experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will approve every strike of our Air Force in Syria personally. Is this back to “I’m probably a better general than my generals,” kind of thing—like when he said he was a better speechwriter than his speechwriters? Certainly there is a degree of hubris there.

There are levels of knowledge that we usually don’t acknowledge. We credit academic degrees, and summa’s and magna’s, and titles and positions but that doesn’t really get down to the nitty-gritty of what a person really knows. We all know of academics with grand degrees who are so narrow and ideological that they’re essentially dumb as posts.

What about those generals whose advice the president does not want? They probably attended one of our nation’s military academies, which are some of the best schools in the country. Today’s officers usually get advanced degrees while they are serving, and the military has its own intensive schools like the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. They may be sent to language school and they learn how to apply all the training they get in practice by leading troops, and by making mistakes and learning from that. And many lead troops in combat and learn the lonely role of command, and victory and loss. And some will be very good generals whose depth of knowledge resulted in wisdom, and some will never reach that point. But there is a lot of knowledge behind their advice, which doesn’t mean that they are always right — just that there is a lot of knowledge behind their advice — and it pays to listen.

I think that pretty much explains the problem, without further explication. In his first term Obama surrounded himself with some strong advisers. Having won a second term, he feels more confident and has chosen sycophants who make him more comfortable because they inevitably agree or because they share his outlook, and a sorry bunch it is. The president looks at the world through a narrow political lens, and all is calculated on  the basis of how it will reflect on him.

But what about America?



Putin Warns Europe That Winter Is Coming. by The Elephant's Child

Putin in Darkness

“the space between war and peace is not an empty one—but a landscape churning with political, economic, and security competitions that require constant attention.”   Nadia Schadlow

Well, we haven’t been tending to that landscape, and it is telling. “Right after President Obama traveled to Estonia and gave a public address warning Russia not to meddle further in its near-abroad and pronouncing the  U.S.-led Nato coalition’s vow to protect Estonia, and other such countries in the neighborhood, from Russian aggression. Putin has gotten quite creative in his demonstrations of contempt for Obama.”

Putin has watched Obama offer mostly empty words, self-contradictions, and confused backtracking on foreign policy and decided that Obama is not someone to fear or respect. Putin is not alone in this assessment of Obama. He’s just the only leader currently using Obama’s weakness and indecision as an excuse to invade Europe.

Russian officers abducted Estonian security official Eston Kohver, and tossed him in a Russian Jail, accusing him of spying for Estonia and running afoul of Russian gun-possession laws. They took him to Moscow and paraded him in front of television cameras.

The New York Times is reporting that Russia is in talks with Iran to help Iran get around sanctions intended to curb its nuclear program. The Polish government has said that Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom, has been cutting supplies to Poland by at least twenty percent.

The NATO summit approved the creation of a rapid-response force to counter Russian aggression in NATO countries — and suggested headquartering it in Poland. Putin looked to prove Obama’s promises to Estonia to be empty, he apparently plans to show that promises to Poland are equally empty, even if Poland is a NATO ally.

Seth Mandel says that Russia is “unlikely to just cut energy supplies to a whole swath of Europe. Moscow needs the revenue and the influence the revenue buys.” On the other hand, “Putin in not above reminding his neighbors that Obama has not proved himself willing to defend them, and they ought not bite the hand that feeds, especially if there’s no alternative.”



We Have No Strategy and No Prospect of Getting One. by The Elephant's Child

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I find it truly interesting that Liberals are so much less concerned than Republicans are about the threat of terrorism, of militant Islam, of the actual threat to the United States, and why this should be so.

Liberals care about power — theirs. They don’t like mass democracy (in spite of their party name), middle class capitalism, the individual businessman’s pursuit of profit as well as the individual citizen’s self-interested pursuit of success. They care about being in charge, about the administrative state. Liberal social programs don’t work, they are not as good at administration as they like to think, and their experts aren’t all that expert — but the next program will surely work. Liberals have no foundational principles, but react to events on a case by case basis as they occur.

They essentially bypassed the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by lumping them under their hatred for George W. Bush, and didn’t learn much of anything about the countries, the wars, the people or the threats, and their only interest was in getting past it. It has left them dreadfully ill-prepared to understand foreign policy and national power and its needful uses. Nor, lost in a mush of political correctness and tolerance, are they even able to call mass murder and genocide — terrorism. They are simply unprepared to grasp the potential threat that faces us, nor able to plan how to treat with it. We are easy prey.



Obama Takes Another Deliberate Step to Weaken the U.S. by The Elephant's Child

In the 1980s, there was a wave of terrorist incidents involving Libyans, and Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland in December of 1988. The Reagan administration reacted by prohibiting Libyans from coming to the U.S. to attend flight school, work in aviation maintenance or flight operations, or to study or seek training in nuclear science.

Without going into the long conflict with Libya, with Muammar Gaddafi, in the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, demonstrators across northern Africa ousted former rulers in Tunis and Egypt and it resulted in a protracted civil war in Libya and the eventual execution of Gaddafi. The Arab Spring did not turn out to be the stunning move to democracy that our administration expected. A year later, militants attacked the American compound in Benghazi, killed our ambassador, his technological support officer, and two brave former SEAL contractors. Libya remains in turmoil, and the terror threat there continues.

The Obama administration has surprisingly decided to lift the longstanding prohibition on Libya, by turning a blind eye to real terrorist threats and forged ahead with its plan to allow Libyan pilots and nuclear scientists to study in the U.S. — although only weeks ago Americans working at the American embassy in Tripoli were evacuated due to battles between rival rebel groups.

The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security held hearings, and demanded documents on the issue from DHS, which were never provided.

There are unconfirmed reports that there are eleven passenger jetliners missing from the main airport in Tripoli.  The State Department has said they have no confirmation, so this may be only rumor, but a scary one.

The Committee Chairmen are troubled. Chairman Goodlatte: “The House Judiciary Committee has repeatedly sought information about the Administration’s policy reversal but political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security have stonewalled the Committee’s requests and have not articulated why it is in Americans’ best interests to change policy. Given the ongoing volatility in Libya, it is unconscionable and completely irresponsible that the Administration plans to lift a longstanding policy that protects Americans and our national security from threats in the region.”

Chairman Gowdy: “The burden of proof for advocating a change in the status quo lies with the Administration. Is post-revolutionary Libya secure enough to change the rules? Why now? What evidence does the Administration have to assert the relationship between Libya and the US has indeed normalized? It is extremely concerning that DHS is moving forward with these plans, but has not provided information on the policy change despite repeated requests from Members.”

Congressman Chaffetz : “It is unbelievable that this Administration is willing to put Americans in harm’s way by lifting a decades-old security ban on a country challenged by instability. This makes no sense. None.  Recent events – such as the 2012 attack on our U.S. Consulate in Benghazi – do not indicate a nation where things have been ‘normalized.’  Rather they seem to be ingredients of a failed state in the making.”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved a final regulation to lift the Reagan era prohibition on Libyans which was put in place in 1960. The administration justifies it’s action by claiming the relationship with Libya has “improved”, evidenced by evacuating the embassy?

Perhaps this falls under “organizing the Middle East.” Why any administration would want to train more Middle Eastern nuclear scientists is beyond me, nor what illusions they have about the world. According to studies, Republicans are 13% more inclined to consider al Qaeda or ISIS as a threat than Democrats. And Republicans are 18% more concerned about Iran’s nuclear program than Democrats are. Go figure.

Vladimir Putin reminded us on Friday, as Russian tanks and troops poured into eastern Ukraine: “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations,” he said. “This is a reality, not just words.” Russia, is “strengthening our nuclear deterrence forces.”

Well at least somebody is capable of straight, tough speech. Unfortunately he’s on the wrong side.



The Painful Work Of Crafting A Winning Message! by The Elephant's Child

Obama is having a hard time developing a message. 1.) “We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its finances, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem.”

And 2.) “So the bottom line is this: Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States.”

Sphere of influence? Manageable problem? In his statement on Sotloff’s murder, Obama said the killers “make the absurd claim that they kill in the name of religion , but it was Steven, his friends say, who deeply loved the Islamic world.” Absurd?

Obama said: “[W]hat we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community to isolate this cancer.” Who are the “international community” and what does “organizing the Arab world” mean?

This is all so confused. It’s a morass of misunderstandings, political correctness, multiculturalism, ignorance and plain old leftist theology. ISIS has changed their name several times, always beginning with the word “Islamic” — the latest iteration is the Islamic State. They are restoring the Islamic Caliphate, and they are not killing in the name of religion? Of course they are.

You noticed the vast demonstrations across the world by Muslims rising up to denounce the beheadings that ISIS claimed to be doing in the name of Islam, didn’t you? The Moslem religion has a sector of it that is intent on returning to the 7th century, is extraordinarily violent, intolerant, and viciously cruel. The part that is the “Religion of Peace” needs to figure out how to deal with the 7th century part. And this is what Obama speaks of “organizing”?

The Left was so busy hating George W. Bush and therefore hating the War in Iraq, that they never managed to gain any understanding of why we were there, what we accomplished and what we didn’t accomplish and why. They didn’t learn anything about Iraq, or about the people and most of what they did learn wasn’t true.

Obama blamed America for the rise of ISIS. At the American Legion’s National Convention last month, he said the answer for ISIS “evolving terrorist threat: is not for America to “occupy” countries and end up “feeding extremism.” “The answer in not to send in large scale military deployments that over stretch our military, and lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time and end up feeding extremism.” That didn’t go over particularly well with the Legionnaires. It’s gobbledygook.

You can see what a mess his view of Iraq is. He probably thinks his greatest accomplishment was getting us out of Iraq, and the faster the better.  With the press telling us constantly about the “war-weary” American people, he undoubtedly thought he was doing just the thing that would make him popular, but you don’t want to put too much faith in the American media, nor in polls. Obama has known about the rise of ISIS for over a year, but been uninterested in the briefings. When he got the troops out and downsized our military, he thought he was done. He doesn’t know how to do war.

Yet he has watched ISIS grow exponentially, gain wealth unimaginable from capturing Iraq’s banks and businesses and from capturing the oil fields, and gain high quality military equipment from what fleeing Iraqi troops left behind. Now they have captured an airfield in Syria, to round out the supply of helicopters, tanks and trucks. We are told that America is conducting “targeted air strikes” but further information tells us “we destroyed a couple of trucks.” Not quite what I thought targeted air strikes meant.

All the leftist claptrap of the past 40 years, the multiculturalism, the political correctness, the invented rights, cultural relativism, views of the other, not only color our views of a different culture, but prevent understanding  and make “organizing” the Middle East a little difficult. So it is not surprising that Obama cannot come up with a strategy or see the situation clearly. At least Joe Biden was a little clearer—he recommended Bombing ISIS back into the Stone Age.

At a ceremony today to appoint Texas Lawyer Shaarik Zafar to be special representative to Muslim communities, Secretary of State John Kerry said it was the United States’ “Biblical responsibility” to ” confront climate change,’ which included protecting “vulnerable Muslim majority countries.

Kerry said Scripture, in particular the Book of Genesis, make clear it is our “duty” to protect the planet and we should look at Muslim countries “with a sense of stewardship of earth,” adding, “That responsibility comes from God.”

Members of Congress are a lot clearer, or at least the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) said they are on the same page. “This is exactly the reason why we have to go after ISIS, why we cannot just let them wreak havoc there. They are killers. They are Brutal,” Rep Engel said.
“Target them and target the terrorist training camps where they’re bringing thousands of fighters from around the world,” said Royce. “Those camps and the munitions should be targeted as well.”

Obama’s inability to come up with a strategy is causing dismay on both sides of the aisle, and members of Congress are quite ready to speak out, both to urge action from the president and to stake out their own positions for the upcoming election.



What Do You Do When Politics Trumps National Security? by The Elephant's Child

President Obama , back from vacation and the labor day holiday, remains — what? Uninvolved? Unconcerned? No, his primary concern is politics, which trumps lesser concerns like beheadings, invasions, genocides and other minor concerns. Funniest headline yesterday came from The Federalist: If You Are Not Using the Presidency, Do You Mind If We Borrow It?  Obama’s is not an activist presidency, but a  v e r y  s l o w  reactive presidency, after all other possibilities have been thoroughly exhausted, and maybe not even then.*

He ran for the job because he made a the keynote speech to the Democrat convention in 2004. He told the Democrats his (improved version) personal story and they loved it and cheered wildly, and he surely told himself that he was destined for such triumphs.  And the speeches have worked for him. He has a great baritone voice (when he’s not complaining about Republicans or how hard he works), and the bits of folksy stuff, the dropped  ‘g’s’ , calling everybody ‘folks,’ and using black preacher’s rhythms.

But now, he’s slipped into sheer demagogurey. Everything he has done has been successful, and the country would be made whole if it weren’t for those dastardly Republicans who keep spoiling everything.

Reminder: The 113th House of Representatives, has passed 297 bills, the previous 112th passed 301. The 113th Democrat Senate, under Majority Leader Harry Reid has passed 59 bills, the fewest number since 1972. Who is obstructing whom?

Obama did several fundraisers over the weekend, and spoke to the big Union Laborfest event in Milwaukee, which was much more ‘folksy’ that the fundraising speech. He told them he’d been coming to laborfest since 2008, and two weeks later “our financial system collapsed.” He said he doesn’t believe in “top-down economics” (whatever that is) he believes in bottom-up economics (redistribution, take away money from the wealthy and give it to the poor, and this accomplishes what?), and “middle-class out” economics, (whatever that is).

I placed a bet on you.  I placed a bet on America’s workers. I put my money on American workers and the belief that our economy grows best when everybody has got a shot — when folks who are willing to work hard can get into the middle class and stay in the middle class.  And I’ve come back to Laborfest to say that because of your hard work, because of what we’ve been through together, that bet is starting to pay off.

That is sheer gobbledygook. He goes on to take credit for the energy boom, credit for our leadership in worldwide energy production. He takes credit for our wonderful economy and our economic recovery. And he did all this wonderfulness by getting every inch of progress  working against a “lockstep opposition that is opposed to everything we do.” This same weekend, a noted Keynesian economist said that we’re really in a depression.

Median household income is down by more than $2,000 in real terms since Obama has moved into the Oval Office, and dropped $1,600 since the recession formally ended 6 months later. Labor force participation has fallen by 3 percentage points, an added 7 million workers who are not even looking for work. “This is half the normal pace of recovery, and the weakest rebound since the Great Depression. “And Obama has added $7 trillion  to the national debt, with little to show for it, unless you count 46 million Americans on food stamps as an accomplishment.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has slashed its predictions for American economic growth in 2014. They forecast that the U.S. economy will grow by just 1.5 percent in 1014. That’s undermined by a poor performance during the first three months of the year. But that, of course, was blamed on the snow. Well, this is expected to be an even colder winter than last year.

President Obama seems to live in a fantasy world of his own concoction, or perhaps Valerie Jarrett’s. Everything’s fine except for the obstruction of the Republicans who won’t let him do anything important, which is why politics trumps national security, government transparency, immigration, failing government departments, whatever, and leaves him free to spend more time on the golf course. An increasingly desperate time for America.

ADDENDUM: *The Elephant pointed out that I said Obama was not an activist president and correctly objected as he is very activist in pursuing his America changing agenda. He’s right. I was thinking, and writing,  entirely in terms of national security and foreign policy where Obama apparently doesn’t want to be involved at all. My bad.



Nancy Pelosi’s Grip on History is a Little Hazy Too. by The Elephant's Child

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi has slipped another cog. Desperate Democrats are trying to revive their “War on Women” theme for the upcoming election. I don’t believe women are that stupid.

Minority leader Pelosi said, on a conference call, that American women have been victims throughout the history of the nation. We’ve already established that President Obama is a little hazy on history. Seems Ms. Pelosi is as well.

It was a struggle all the way, Pelosi whined. Women marched, women starved. Women were starved. Women were force-fed. Women could barely speak up in their own homes.

Women left their homes to take the message. And it was successful, and the right to vote, again, so precious, so hard fought. …We hope women will continue to exercise forcefully, because than all of the issues we care about, whether it’s equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave, affordable quality child care, raising the minimum wage, women’s health and —and safety issues will all be well served.

I suspect she’s been watching Downton Abbey too much. Equal pay for equal work has been settled law since 1963. Paid sick leave is offered by most employers, with a limit as to how long you can have a sick leave. Endless sick leave is not in the cards.

Raising the minimum wage is bad economics, especially harmful to minorities who also vote.

Young Muslim women are being recruited as sex slaves for ISIS fighters. That would seem to be a matter of concern for women. Yazidi women captured by ISIS are set to daily rape and killed if they try to escape. An attack across our southern border is said to be imminent, but the matter of urgent concern is that Republicans are trying to prevent women from getting the right to vote?

Getting pregnant is not a desperate matter of women’s health, but a matter of choice. If you choose to get drunk and have sex when you shouldn’t, or choose to have unprotected sex, or choose to have sex outside of marriage, or choose to take your panties off — that’s a lot of choices you have before you even consider getting an abortion. And then you make choices about legal or illegal, carrying a baby to term, keeping the baby or putting it up for adoption so it will have a better mother. Lots and lots of choices.

Remarkable lot of things unmentioned by Ms. Pelosi. ISIS, the Federal Debt, Russia invading Ukraine, the crisis at VA hospitals, the failures of ObamaCare, the president’s inability to decide on a strategy against terrorists, the lack of job opportunities, the crisis at the border, with illegal immigrants being funneled into our schools unable to speak English and uncleared for contagious diseases.

These are big important issues for every citizen, and Nancy Pelosi is concerned with re-fighting the woman’s right to vote. That was settled in the 19th Amendment way back in 1919. You would think she would have noticed that there are even women serving in the House of Representatives. Truly embarrassing.




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