February 6, 2014

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Streetwise Professor notes John Kerry’s admission of failure with Syrian policy. Now Kerry wonders if and when the administration grows some gonads, will congress go along?

… Kerry supposedly asked the senators whether there would be support in Congress for a more robust policy.

There’s an easy answer to that: NO!  Even those senators and representatives who in principle would support such a policy will never do so given Obama’s behavior in August and September.  Remember how Kerry built the case for US intervention, going so far as to compare Assad to the Nazis,  but then Obama seized at the first opportunity to bug out.  After that performance, no member of Congress is going to put his or her neck on the line for Obama, especially given that (a) they have to know Obama is not committed to robust action, and will be looking for a way out, and (b) the Gates memoir makes it plain how Obama will engage in half-hearted military efforts for cynical political reasons.  Oh, and (c): the administration has acted so incompetently (and not just in Syria) that any sentient being would conclude that it cannot be relied on to do any better in the future.  Once burned, twice shy.

No.  No sane member of Congress will take risks for a feckless, cynical, and incompetent administration.  Ukrainian patriots shouldn’t do so either.



Jennifer Rubin lists Kerry’s mistakes.

Secretary of State John Kerry keeps telling us to trust him on Iran negotiations. But why should we? He’s gotten virtually every important issue wrong since taking office, and made some shockingly bad misjudgments.


He thought a “peace conference” could bear fruit on Syria. Wrong.

He thought the Palestinians were interested in a peace agreement. Wrong.

He thought we should have a special relationship with China. Wrong.

He thought Mohamed Morsi was a democratic leader with whom he could get along. Wrong.

And even before he became secretary, you will recall, he thought Bashar al-Assad could be wooed. He was convinced the Iranians could be engaged, and he tried to throw sand in the wheels on Iran sanctions. He likewise ran interference for the White House, trying to slow down the passage of sanctions against Russia (the Magnitsky Act). He was convinced we didn’t need troops in Iraq.

In short, only Vice President Joe Biden and the president have made so many wrong-headed judgments in the last five years. …



That’s what some of our regulars think. How about a liberal from WaPo, Richard Cohen?

… in the Far East, what concerns South Korean, Japanese and other policymakers is not just the potential instability of the region but also the Obama administration’s erratic Syrian policy. A “red line” was pronounced, then ignored. Force was threatened by the president, and then the decision was lateraled to Congress where, to further the metaphor, the ball was downed and, just for good measure, deflated. None of this comforted the nations that see China as a looming menace and rely on the United States for backup. “[T]he administration’s prevarications over Syria continue to linger for the elites who drive national strategy in these countries,” wrote Michael J. Green , senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.

The Syria debacle, coupled with the consensus that the United States is turning inward, is bound to produce instability. The South Koreans, in particular, have to worry if the Dear Leader in the North considers President Obama to be a paper tiger. The Japanese have to worry whether the Chinese have reached the same conclusion. The United States’ European allies worry that the United States has pivoted to Asia. In Asia, the worry is that the proclaimed pivot is just a rhetorical device.

In 1996, Madeleine Albright popularized a phrase used by President Clinton. She repeatedly called the United States the “indispensable nation.” The phrase lends itself to mockery, but it is dead-on. Nowhere is the United States more indispensable than in the Far East, where a rising China, acting like pre-World War I Germany, is demanding respect and flexing its muscles. It’s all too familiar: rising nationalism, excessive pride, irrationality ready in the wings and America going into its habitual hibernation. Only the mustaches are gone.



Another WaPo liberal, Dana Milbank, writes on the stunning developments out of the Congressional Budget Office which predicted the healthcare law would reduce the workforce by 2.3 million full time workers! This report plus the continued rollout problems make it increasingly likely the Supreme Court will drop some safes on the administration before they are finished with this term in June. Obama is vulnerable in three areas; executive over-reach, the healthcare act, and recess appointments. Pickerhead predicts the last two will be brought to an end this year. And who among mainstream Dems is going to arise and fight for continuation of obamacare? John Roberts is going to look very wise when the sorry chapter of this administration goes into the history books. Unfortunately, we are still left with the electorate that voted for the fool twice.

… Live by the sword, die by the sword, the Bible tells us. In Washington, it’s slightly different: Live by the CBO, die by the CBO.

The congressional number-crunchers, perhaps the capital’s closest thing to a neutral referee, came out with a new report Tuesday, and it wasn’t pretty for Obamacare. The CBO predicted the law would have a “substantially larger” impact on the labor market than it had previously expected: The law would reduce the workforce in 2021 by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers, well more than the 800,000 originally anticipated. This will inevitably be a drag on economic growth, as more people decide government handouts are more attractive than working more and paying higher taxes.

This is grim news for the White House and for Democrats on the ballot in November. This independent arbiter, long embraced by the White House, has validated a core complaint of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critics: that it will discourage work and become an ungainly entitlement. Disputing Republicans’ charges is much easier than refuting the federal government’s official scorekeepers.

White House officials rushed to dispute the referee’s call — arguing, somewhat contradictorily, that the finding was both flawed and really good news if interpreted properly.

Press secretary Jay Carney quickly issued a statement saying that the CBO report was, by its own admission, “incomplete” and “does not take into account” some favorable effects of the law.

Carney postponed his daily press briefing, then arrived with Jason Furman, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, who argued that the Affordable Care Act couldn’t possibly be a job killer because 8.1 million jobs had been created since it became law. This is true — but irrelevant to the CBO finding. …



The White House reaction to the CBO report was silly and prompted a post from Jennifer Rubin. Instead of president bystander, perhaps we can call him president news cycle.

… All this leads me to believe that the White House, as it has done with each rotten bit of news and instance of Obamacare’s unworkability, is saying whatever it needs just to get through a few news cycles. Because it will not admit any design flaws in the fundamental structure of the bill, it must resort to silly and self-contradictory talking points — or simply misrepresent facts, as the president did when he first claimed you could keep your insurance plan and later denied he said you could keep your insurance plan. The notion that all these bad things — insurance cancellations, reductions in work — simply “happen” in proximity to Obamacare is unbelievable, and does damage to the defense of legitimate safety net problems and efforts to reform those problems.

Obamacare is destroying the public’s faith in the president, in big government and in the premise of liberalism itself — that government programs have a dynamic effect on society and individual behavior. It’s more than the GOP has done in decades.



And, in the same vein, Byron York reports that the liberal Brookings Institution has found obamacare will reduce the incomes of most Americans. 

There’s no doubt the Affordable Care Act will redistribute wealth in America. People at the top of the income ladder will pay more; people at the bottom will benefit. But how, exactly, will that work?

A new study finds that Obamacare’s redistribution will be stunningly lopsided. Scholars at the liberal Brookings Institution have discovered that Obamacare will increase the income of Americans in the lowest 20 percent of the income scale, and especially in the lowest ten percent. But all other income groups — even people who make very modest incomes in the $25,000 to $30,000 range, as well as all income brackets above that — will experience a decline in income because of Obamacare.

In other words, Obamacare is going to cost some of the very people it was designed to help.

Brookings scholars Henry Aaron and Gary Burtless sought to determine the law‘s impact on income in 2016, when almost all of Obamacare will be in effect. To do so, they adopted a broad definition of income — not just a person’s wages, but also pension income, employer health coverage, government cash transfers, food stamps, other benefits, and now, subsidies from Obamacare.

They found quite an impact. “The ACA may do more to change the income distribution than any other recently enacted law,” Aaron and Burtless wrote. Obamacare provides billions in subsidies to those who qualify, expands Medicaid benefits, cuts Medicare, fines those who don’t purchase government-approved coverage and levies new taxes — all of which will change how much income millions of Americans bring in each year. …



As if the continued troubles of the white house creeps are not enough to give a boost to our thoughts coming into the weekend, Power Line posts on the New York Observer story on discontent at the NY Times.

Even the New York Times Hates the New York Times!

Its editorial board, anyway. For sheer entertainment value, it is hard to beat this Observer story about the ongoing civil war at the Times:

“It’s well known among the small world of people who pay attention to such things that the liberal-leaning reporters at The Wall Street Journal resent the conservative-leaning editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. What’s less well known—and about to break into the open, threatening the very fabric of the institution—is how deeply the liberal-leaning reporters at The New York Times resent the liberal-leaning editorial page of The New York Times.

The New York Observer has learned over the course of interviews with more than two-dozen current and former Times staffers that the situation has “reached the boiling point” in the words of one current Times reporter.”

Why do the reporters hate the editorial page? Let’s count the ways: 1) The editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, is arrogant, petty and vindictive. 2) The news room has suffered deep cuts, while the editorial page is lavishly staffed, and yet turns out a lousy product. 3) The poor quality of the paper’s editorials is embarrassing: “they’re completely reflexively liberal, utterly predictable, usually poorly written and totally ineffectual.” Well, they aren’t totally without value. We have fun laughing at them.

It also galls the Times news room that the paper’s columnists are “tired and irrelevant.” Thomas Friedman comes in for special abuse. These are quotes from reporters at the Times:



Andrew Malcolm with late night.

Conan: The Miami Heat canceled Justin Bieber’s courtside tickets. A Heat spokesman said, “Bieber’s not acting like an NBA fan. He’s acting like an NBA player.”

Leno: Obama’s State of the Union was last week. He decided against discussing drugs because he’s not sure which side he’s on.

Leno: Ratings for Obama’s State of the Union were the lowest in 14 years, Only 33 million people. Which is still pretty good since it was a rerun.

Conan: Justin Bieber was charged with assaulting a Toronto limo driver. The driver is suffering from minor injuries and being the laughing-stock of the limo industry.

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