American Elephants


One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago Today: April 15, 1865

abraham-lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln died on this day one hundred and fifty years ago. He went to the theater, we are told, as a bit of an escape after all the speeches and celebration following the surrender at Appomattox courthouse. He was shot in the back of the head on the fourteenth day of April,1865 by John Wilkes Booth, but he lingered until the next day. Lee had surrendered only five days earlier, marking the end to a terrible war that tore the nation apart. Lincoln was not universally loved, and he kept a drawer full of the death threats he received. But he held the fractious nation together, and freed the slaves. Honor him.



Is The Constitution Dead? Did It Die While We Weren’t Paying Attention?

Constitution

This lovely paragraph is in Myron Magnet’s review of Philip Hamburger’s Is Administrative Law Unlawful? in City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute:

The world-historical accomplishment of the American Revolution, and of the Constitution that came out of it, Hamburger notes, was that they turned upside-down the traditional governmental model of “elite power and popular subservience.” Americans “made themselves masters and made their lawmakers their servants” through a Constitution that they themselves had made. They observed laws that had legitimacy because they themselves had consented to them, through representatives whom they themselves had chosen. And “they made clear that not only their executives but even their legislatures were without absolute power.” Citizens claimed for themselves the liberty to do anything that the laws didn’t expressly forbid, and that freedom richly nourished talent, invention, experimentation, specialization—all the human qualities that are the fuel of progress and modernity.

It struck me that much of what drives the Left is contained in that paragraph. What the Left aims for is elite power and popular subservience. Obama, today, in response to a Republican sweep of the 2014 election, has decided, instead of making an effort to work with Congress in a bipartisan manner, to conduct foreign policy and legislate all on his lonesome. Politicians, by their very nature have a healthy dose of self-esteem, and they choose their rhetoric carefully to place their accomplishments or lack of accomplishments in the best possible light. That’s just natural. But insisting that because you are President of the United States you can do whatever you want to do by executive order, ignoring the tripartite nature of our Constitutional government, is just wrong.

The Constitution lodges all legislative power in Congress, which therefore cannot delegate its lawmaking function. It is, Hamburger says, “forbidden for Congress to pass a law creating an executive branch agency that writes rules legally binding on citizens—for example, to set up an agency charged with making a clean environment and then to let it make rules with the force of law to accomplish that end as it sees fit. The power of the legislative’ as the Founding Fathers’ tutelary political philosopher, John Locke, wrote, is   ‘only to make laws and not to make legislators.’ And if Congress can’t delegate the legislative power that the Constitution gives it, it certainly cannot delegate power that the Constitution doesn’t give it—namely, the power to hand out selective exemption from its laws, which is what agencies do when they grant waivers.”

James Madison, architect of the Constitution saw the separation of powers as an essential bulwark of American liberty. Administrative agencies, however, make rules, carry them out, adjudge and punish infractions of them, and wrap up legislative, executive and judicial powers in one noxious unconstitutional mess. Judicial power cannot be delegated as legislative power, the Constitution puts all of it in the judicial branch. Unlike real judges, administrative judges carry out the policy of their agency, as set and overseen by their department chief or the relevant cabinet secretary who in turn oversees him. This is not a court, and not a law, and not legal. Yet they can and do order  parties to appear before it, and extort millions of dollars in settlements, force companies to allow inspectors to enter their premises without warrants, and impose real criminal penalties. It can even kill a whole industry, as Obama’s EPA is attempting to do to the coal industry and the coal-fired power industry because the President mistakenly believes the carbon dioxide they emit is the cause of global warming.

Elites, particularly Leftist elites, do not like the Constitution which restrains their grasp for power. Many have accused Barack Obama of wanting to be a king. He laughs it off, and tries to pretend that his executive orders and executive notes and memorandums and signing statements are all perfectly constitutional, and adds, of course, that Bush did it.

Constitutional government is by its nature slow, designed to force new laws to be discussed and argued about, which will incline them to be better written and better law. But Congress, at some point got lazy, and felt it would speed things up if they just handed the administrative function in its entirety off to the assorted agencies of the government.

Thanks to Obama, we have a prime example of the failure of that whole endeavor in the Environmental Protection Agency. Good intentions come up against the nature of bureaucracy which is to grow and elaborate their mission and enhance their power. The Clean Water Act has long since accomplished it’s intent, and the EPA is vigilantly attempting to extend its regulating power to the trickles that flow into the ditches that flow into the creeks that flow into the streams that eventually flow into the “navigable waters,” the big rivers, that were originally given into their oversight. That’s pure power grab.

Congress must take back the legislative power assigned to it, agencies must shrink drastically in size, authority, and reach. They are not allowed to make law, administer law, investigate and judge law and assign penalties. Things have gotten so far out of whack that most, if not all, agencies have their own swat teams.

Part of the problem is that judges don’t know or understand the intricacies of the underlying facts of that which the agencies are attempting to regulate. Congress told the EPA that the navigable waters of the United States should be reasonably clean. The courts don’t necessarily understand where the dividing line for “enough” should fall.

Even while adhering to Supreme Court precedents about administrative power, they “remain free—indeed, [the courts] are bound by duty—to expound the unlawfulness of such power.” And at some point, Hamburger expects, the Supreme Court will have to man up and frankly state that what the Constitution says is the supreme law of the land.

And the people are going to have to let their representatives know that we care about the Constitution and our freedom, and are opposed to the administrative state.



A Petulant President Attacks His Critics in Congress, And Ignores the Ayatollah Who Calls Him a Liar.

In the fading days of his presidency, Mr. Obama clearly believes that he can determine American foreign policy all by himself. At the Summit of Americas in Panama City, the president was bad-mouthing America again, as he so readily does when abroad. But he was particularly annoyed that anyone would disagree with his unilateral outreach on Cuba, Iran and Climate Change. He was especially annoyed that Senator John McCain would dare to point out that the Ayatollah Khamenei disagreed drastically with Secretary of State John Kerry’s interpretation of the “framework” nuclear accord.

In fact it was the Ayatollah Khamenei who accused the White House of “Lying,” being “deceptive.” and having “devilish intentions”, according to multiple published accounts and posts of his own twitter feed.

Khamenei also disputed the key terms Obama administration officials have said were agreed upon in principle. Economic sanctions will not be phased out once Iran’s compliance has been “verified,” according to the Ayatollah. Instead, Khamenei said that if the U.S. wants a deal, then all sanctions must be dropped as soon as the agreement is finalized. Khamenei also put strict limits on the reach of the inspectors who would be tasked with this verification process in the first place.

President Obama held a press conference in Panama City, and announced huffily;

“That’s not how we’re supposed to run foreign policy, regardless of who’s President or Secretary of State. We can have arguments, and there are legitimate arguments to be had. I understand why people might be mistrustful of Iran. I understand why people might oppose the deal—although the reason is not because this is a bad deal per se, but they just don’t trust any deal with Iran, and may prefer to take a military approach to it,” Mr. Obama said.

But when you start getting to the point where you are actively communicating that the United States government and our Secretary of State is somehow spinning presentations in a negotiation with a foreign power, particularly one that you say is your enemy, that’s a problem. It needs to stop.”

It was the Ayatollah who first claimed that the Obama Administration was “spinning” what was in the framework, but Obama dismissed his remarks as posturing to protect his political position, and American critics should just shut up because the only alternative is war.

Secretary of State John Kerry on “Face the Nation” described the nuclear agreement with Iran as a  “global mandate” issued by the United Nations. “Congress assisted by passing sanctions.” Kerry said the State Department didn’t want the Iran talks to fall prey to partisan bickering in Washington.”We’ve earned the right to complete this without interference, and certainly without partisan politics.” Earned the right?

We don’t know how close or far the Iranians are to a nuclear bomb, or if they already have one. Our intelligence has always been surprised when a nation suddenly tests a nuke. They didn’t know it was imminent. The Obama Administration seems to believe that it would be fine for Iran to become a nuclear power. That if so, they would just become another state possessing nukes like us and Britain and France and Israel.We all get along and don’t worry about each other.

If Iran wants to dominate the Middle East, they could just control the warring tribes and we wouldn’t have to worry about interfering. But Iran is not just another country, but the world’s most active sponsor of terrorism around the globe, They are impelled by passionate religious fervor, and believe that Armageddon or the final battle would bring about the return of the Mahdi followed by eternal bliss. The Ayatollah Khamenei is dying of cancer. Does he want to get things settled within his life span?

The UN inspectors know they haven’t seen all the Iranian facilities, and they don’t know for sure if they even know how many there are. A military book talked about an EMP bomb. And there is Death to America Day, and the cry shouted by all every Friday after prayers. Our negotiators don’t seem to understand the basics of negotiation — negotiating from strength, and walking out if you don’t get some cooperation. It seems to be the Iranians who are negotiating from strength. But it is Americans and Israelis who will pay the price of Administration blundering.



What Does Hillary Stand For?

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Hillary Clinton announced, well, not really. She will have a big deal announcement later, but for now, her people issued a video of the ‘things go better with new Coke variety’ in which she appeared for a moment at the end claiming she wants to be a “Champion for the Middle Class” which seems to be the Democrats’ theme of the day.

Hillary has passionately wanted to be president for at least 23 years when she entered the White House with Bill, fully intending to be the co-president.The American people then said, um, we didn’t elect you— just Bill. But she has never given up on her intention to be the first woman president. One would assume that after 23 years and seeing the presidency from the inside — she would have some pretty definite ideas about what she wanted to do as president. Apparently not. She just wants to be.

Over at Breitbart, Roger Stone writes that  “Hillary’s imminent campaign will lack an agenda, platform or a vision for the country. This is by strategic choice.” i guess that if you are bland and uninformative, nobody can criticize you for anything. She’s running, but we don’t know why.

Hillary supporters have obligingly provided a long list of words that may not be used in reference to Hillary because they are “sexist”— actually they seem quite descriptive. The sexist words are: polarizing, calculating, disingenuous, insincere, ambitious, inevitable, entitled, over-confident, secretive, will do anything to win, represents the past, and out of touch. I don’t know about inevitable, but the rest seem to fit.

The campaign seems to believe they can buy their way into the White House. They are talking the first $2.5 billion campaign. The Clintons are practiced in money-grubbing, whether from Hollywood and Silicon Valley or among the Arabs and the Chinese abroad.

I don’t get the “first woman” thing. I didn’t get the “first Black” thing either. That is no reason to elect someone to office. The presidency is not an award for novelty. We select a president on the basis of their accomplishments, and what we perceive are their strengths and abilities. Color and/or sex or ethnicity should have nothing to do with it, though Democrats attach great importance to race, gender and national origin. We are already seeing people celebrated as the “first openly gay” and the first “transgendered person” cannot be far off.

Many women have been heads of state, prime ministers and Queens in many different countries, some successful and some not. Queen Victoria, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel and Golda Meir spring to mind. Hillary has had important positions in which to demonstrate her skills and accomplishments, but other than holding office, there are few accomplishments and some really big scandals. Bill Clinton had excellent political sense, and was able to ease out of problems that would have sunk others. He’s still credited for the successful economy in the 90s  that was pushed through by a Republican Congress. Hillary just does not have the political instinct that her husband had in such abundance. She’s always stepping in it.

ADDENDUM: Hillary’s campaign war chest is aiming for $2.5 billion, not $1.5 as I stated. Corrected. She also attacked CEO pay in a message to supporters. This is the woman who demands $200,000 for a speech.



Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton on events in Iraq, Negotiations with Iran, and Life in the U.S. Senate.

This young Senator is going to be President of the United States one day. This episode of Uncommon Knowledge was published on April 8, 2015.

ADDENDUM: President Obama was mightily annoyed by the letter Tom Cotton and 46 other Senate colleagues sent to the Ayatollah Khamenei simply explaining that any agreement reached by the president could be revoked by the next president or modified by Congress. Obama attempted to say such interference was uncalled for, and detrimental to the national good. Today, the Center for Security Policy sent a thank you letter to Senator Cotton and the other 46 senators containing the signatures of more than 150 security experts, including a former United States ambassador, multiple high-ranking military officials and other security experts. The letter read in part:

“Given the chimerical nature of the so-called framework agreement—which is, at the moment, being characterized in wildly different ways by the various parties, raising profound uncertainty about the nature and extent of the commitments Iran is making, their actual value in preventing an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the timing and extent of sanctions relief, etc.—the need for congressional oversight, advice and consent concerning any accord that flows from that agreement can no longer responsibly be denied.“

“It would be a serious affront to the Constitution and to the American people were an agreement of this potentially enormous strategic consequence not to be submitted for such action by the Congress.  Grievous insult would be added to injury should the United Nations Security Council instead be asked to approve it.”



Liberal Delusions, Sheer Incompetence, or Just A Misguided Search for A Legacy?

la-fg-obama-castro-20150411Americans envision the coming storm with pure  dread, wondering why the Obama administration remains oblivious. Walter Russell Mead over at The American Interest zeroes in on the troubled mindset:

It’s hard to predict how events will play out, but the Obama Administration should have no illusions on one count: Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition.

What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. … For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat….

The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements.

Things are not all that much different in Panama. Unfamiliar with history, he seems to think that helping Cuba to continue to abuse her people will be an accomplishment for his “legacy.” Raul Castro has already said that Cuba remains proudly communist, and he has no intention of changing the $20 a month allowance for the Cuban people. Obama’s opening up the relationship gives America nothing whatsoever, and expanded tourist revenue will simply further enrich the Castros — the Cuban people aren’t going to get any of it. So much for the Monroe Doctrine!

The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past,

Obama’s timing, as usual, is off, as is his understanding of events:

Over the last several years Hezbollah and its patrons in Iran have greatly expanded their operations in Latin America to the detriment of inter-American security and US strategic interests. Today, Hezbollah is using the Western Hemisphere as a staging ground, fundraising center, and operational base to wage asymmetric warfare against the United States. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and other anti-American governments in the region have facilitated this expansion by rolling out the welcome mats for Hezbollah and Iran. US policymakers must increase their attention to this problem, expand their assets in the region, and develop a comprehensive strategy to combat this threat in a sustained and meaningful way.

Hezbollah is closely involved with the Mexican Drug Cartel, teaching them tunneling skills, and transporting Hezbollah operatives into the United States across the Mexican border.

“There is not, nor has there ever been, an Iran deal. The “framework the president announced last week was just a stunt.As yet another negotiations deadline loomed with the president plainly unwilling to walk away despite Iranian intransigence,congress appears poised to end the farce by voting to stiffen sanctions. The “framework” is a feint designed to dissuade Congress and sustain the farce.” That’s Andy McCarthy. He adds:

Iran has built its foreign policy around the goal of “Death to America” for the last 36 years. …With such a rogue state, there is only one negotiation a sensible nation — particularly the world’s most powerful nation — can have. You tell them that until they convincingly disavow their anti-American stance, cease their support for terrorism, release American prisoners, and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, that there is no point in discussing anything else.



More Phony Stories From the President.

When President Obama announced his drive to combine his fervor for climate regulation with the loony idea that climate change is hazardous to the public health, he attempted to personalize it with the claim that his daughter Malia had an asthma attack at the age of four, that gave him a real concern for all the children who might have asthma attacks as a result of the warming climate. An asthma attack is far more likely to be caused by exposure to very cold air. Which may be a problem for we haven’t had any warming for 18 years, and shutting down coal-fired power plants is not a positive step.

It has since been reported that the ‘attack’ came when the Obamas were attending the circus, and Malia suffers from a peanut allergy. In the comments on most blog posts, people were ready to blame the asthma on Barack’s smoking, and inflicting secondhand smoking on his daughter, but it seems it was only peanuts at the circus.

I hope Malia has outgrown it. Peanut allergies can be very serious, and peanuts are in a lot of foods as well as a favorite snack.




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