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Debra Saunders writes on “extortion in the skies.”
This week, the Obama administration furloughed 14,500 air traffic controllers — staffers will lose two days of work per month — ostensibly to comply with the 2011 Budget Control Act’s $85 billion in sequester cuts this year. The Federal Aviation Administration’s share is $637 million. So expect delays at the airport. That’s the idea, but it didn’t have to be.
The Obama administration has chosen to hold airline travel hostage in its never-ending effort to extort further tax increases from the GOP.
The administration argues that its hands are tied. By law, the FAA must cut spending across the board. Many lawmakers and industry leaders disagree, as air traffic controllers are “essential employees.” But to make absolutely sure, GOP senators have proposed legislation to allow the administration to prioritize cuts. For weeks, the White House has wanted no part of that. …
Jennifer Rubin has “10 reasons why it is a no good rotten second term.”
It’s been a rough year so far for the president, and it could get worse:
1. President Obama wound up ratifying all but a sliver of the Bush tax cuts.
2. He exaggerated, got caught exaggerating and lost on the sequestration implementation.
3. Now he’s backing down from the latest punish-the-public gambit. (The Associated Press reports: “Under pressure, the White House signaled Wednesday it might accept legislation eliminating Federal Aviation Administration furloughs blamed for lengthy flight delays for airline passengers, while leaving the rest of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in place. The disclosure came as sentiment grew among Senate Democrats as well as Republicans for legislation to ease the impact of the cuts on the FAA, possibly by loosening restrictions on agency spending.”)
4. He lost on gun control. …
Jim Geraghty writes in National Review about the high costs of the education of a president.
… Time and again, we hear anecdotes of the president angered, befuddled, and frustrated that the policies implemented in the beginning of his presidency, with a compliant Congress, haven’t generated the results he promised. But very little seems to change, other than a bit of fuming at aides behind closed doors.
President Obama was surprised to learn, in discussions with economic adviser Christina Romer, that large-scale investment in infrastructure and clean-energy projects wouldn’t create enormous numbers of new jobs.
In a December 2010 meeting with economic advisors, he “boiled over” with frustration that his housing policies hadn’t helped struggling homeowners like he promised.
When federal program after federal program fails to generate the desired result, it’s not crazy talk to become at least a little skeptical of the latest pledges and promises and idealistic visions.
But Democrats often speak as if the Right’s skepticism of the government’s problem-solving ability is driven by some sort of abstract ideological theory. It’s not. It’s usually built upon hard experiences. Human behavior isn’t predictable, particularly their interactions with the government. Unintended consequences pile up like a car crash.
That pattern is depressingly predictable: Someone in government comes up with some laudable goal, and announces some new program. After the press conference, when the cameras and microphones are away, implementing the idea proves more complicated than the press-conference announcement made it seem. Deadlines get missed. Costs turn out much higher than expected. Bureaucratic inertia begins to exert the gravitational pull of a black hole.
Perhaps it is the nature of the modern presidency that the Oval Office’s occupant glides from photo-op to photo-op, and never spend too much time getting entangled in the messy work of actually making his policies live up to his promises. Certainly that’s the pattern for this president; even in this non-campaign year, the schedule is heavy with campaign-style rallies on gun-control initiatives here, a DCCC fundraiser there, then off to a tour of a national laboratory. He flits from issue to issue; to judge from his remarks and his schedule, the health-care issue is resolved and our system’s problems are fixed. Maybe White House press secretary Jay Carney will get a question about the exchanges or the electronic records system, which he’ll defuse with another defensive, meandering word salad.
Implementing Obamacare? That’s for somebody else to worry about.
Andrew Malcolm kicks off a section on the rehabilitation of George W.
Fifty-one months of an Obama presidency seem like an eternity of speeches, photo ops, fundraisers, soaring debt, stagnant job growth, blame games and did we mention speeches?
In historical context, however, it’s the snap of a finger. Which makes it somewhat surprising that already Americans are quietly rehabilitating President George W. Bush’s image in their own minds. This despite Bush’s virtual disappearance from the political scene since Jan. 20, 2009, save for a brief promotion tour for his book, “Decision Points.”
You’re about to hear a whole lot more about Bush, at least briefly, with Thursday’s dedication of his presidential library at Laura Bush’s alma mater, Southern Methodist University in Dallas. By custom, all former presidents will attend.
President Obama will also be there, although he’s blamed Republican Bush for just about everything that’s gone wrong during these long 1,554 days, except Obama’s miserable NCAA tournament brackets. First, of course, to make the trip worthwhile, Democrat Obama will do another political fundraiser in Dallas.
Remember those iconic billboards that went up during the great ObamaCare legislative con? A smiling Bush waving with the caption, “Miss Me Yet?” Well, apparently more people do. ABC News and the Washington Post came out early this morning with a new poll timed to the library dedication. …
Peter Wehner has more on W.
… In fact, over the last 40 years and eight presidencies, only two presidents have kept spending below 20 percent of GDP in even a single year: George W. Bush did it in six of his eight fiscal years; Bill Clinton in four. Barack Obama has averaged 24 percent of GDP spending so far; and even his optimistic budget projections don’t have the U.S. getting close to 20 percent again. Ever. As another reference point: during fiscal years 1981-88, the Reagan years, federal spending averaged over 22 percent of GDP. Just in case anyone is interested in it.
But I wanted to focus on one other comment that former Prime Minister Blair made, which is that Bush continues to believe that the world is safer without Saddam Hussein in power and added: “When you see what is happening in Syria today, the sense of that argument is evident. . . . What it does is just make clear that these decisions are very difficult. If you intervene, it can be very tough. If you don’t intervene, it can also be very tough.”
There is in Blair’s comments both wisdom and nuance, which is often lacking in those who comment on presidents and public officials and who themselves have never been in positions of influence in government. Having been on both sides of things, let me just say it’s easier to tweet about policy than it is to implement policy; and it’s more effortless to comment on unfolding events from the comfort of a television studio or from behind a microphone than to make decisions in the Oval Office.
George W. Bush, over the course of eight eventful years, made literally thousands of decisions. Under enormous pressure and facing tremendous challenges–during his years as president, Bush faced the worst attack on the American homeland in our history, two wars, the worst natural disaster in our history, and a financial collapse unlike any since the Great Depression–he got the vast majority of them right. And every day he was president–even when he got decisions wrong–he dignified the office. …
Karl Rove on his old boss.
… Mr. Bush ran in 2000 promising to restore honor and dignity to the presidency. He took seriously the example of John Adams, whose words to his wife Abigail are etched over the fireplace in the State Dining Room in the White House: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessing on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof!”
In his biography of Harry Truman, David McCullough wrote that CBS newscaster Eric Sevareid “would say nearly forty years later of Truman, ‘I am not sure he was right about the atomic bomb, or even Korea. But remembering him reminds people what a man in that office ought to be like. It’s character, just character. He stands like a rock in memory now.’ “
Character is what is being celebrated in Dallas this week.
Abby Thernstrom reviews a book on Manhattan’s Little Red School and affiliated high school – Elizabeth Irwin.
… Author Dina Hampton does not deny the schools’ dedication to political indoctrination. The students, she writes, “grew up in a counter-culture hothouse steeped in progressive pedagogy and radical politics.” At assemblies, everyone would stand to sing the “Negro National Anthem” (“Lift Every Voice and Sing”) instead of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Social studies, taught by “a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist,” formed the core of the curriculum, “with emphasis placed on the exploration of oppressed cultures.” The school took students on field trips searching for the downtrodden proletariat (my description, not Hampton’s). They stayed away from ordinary workers—most of whom would have been violently anti-Communist, of course—but met instead with those on strike or laboring as migrant workers; they toured Pennsylvania steel mills and coal mines.
I was an Elisabeth Irwin student in the early 1950s, and I remember clearly the curriculum and those politically heavy-handed trips. But neither made the intended impression on me, for reasons I don’t entirely know—except that I was always terrible at listening to my elders.
Hampton provides little information about the school itself. But Little Red’s subtitle, Three Passionate Lives Through the Sixties and Beyond, offers those lives as her subject. They are Tom Hurwitz, Angela Davis, and Elliott Abrams. Hurwitz and Davis were both in the class of 1961; Abrams graduated in 1965. Hampton views all three as “radicals,” a term of endearment, but only when speaking of those on the left. Amazingly, she equates the radicalism of the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, and the CPUSA with the views of Jeane Kirkpatrick, Henry Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nathan Glazer, and Irving Kristol—members of what she calls the “radical neoconservative movement that came to power with the Reagan administration.”
Elliott Abrams was clearly included to make the story ostensibly fair and balanced; but Davis and Hurwitz are heroes, while Abrams is conservative and, thus, a villain. …