The Democrats Get Desperate

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, is no stranger to political confrontation. He had some doozies (including two shutdowns of the Federal government) back when Bill Clinton was President.

But he says nothing that happened back then can match the Democrats latest power grab. In a column titled “The Death of the Senate,” he wrote: “No one should be confused about what happened [last Thursday]. The Obama Democrats killed the United States Senate as a deliberative body 226 years after the Founding Fathers created it.”

What happened eight days ago to lead to this harsh appraisal? After years of threatening to employ the “nuclear option” to limit debate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally pushed the button. The Democrats rammed through a resolution on a straight 52-48 party-line vote that will keep Republicans from using filibusters to prevent confirmation of various Presidential appointees.

They did this in part so they could finally get the additional liberal votes they want on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. I mentioned in last week’s column how vital they think this is to protect many of Barack Obama’s unConstitutional usurpations of power. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out: “[T]he D.C. Circuit in particular will now have more liberal judges to hear challenges to [the President’s] unilateral climate-change power grab or his rewrite by fiat of the Affordable Care Act.”

My, how times have changed. Back in 2005, the shoe was on the other foot. Republicans controlled the White House and had a majority in the Senate. So the Democrats used the filibuster, or the threat of doing so, to prevent votes on dozens of George W. Bush’s nominees.

When Republicans threatened to use the nuclear option to end their delaying tactics, Democrats were outraged. Back then, Obama was a mostly unknown junior Senator from Illinois. Here’s what he said at the time: “Everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.”

Back then, it was hard to imagine “the fighting, the bitterness and the gridlock” getting any worse. But that’s certainly what’s happened, isn’t it?

The future President wasn’t the only one to protest the Republican threat. At the time, Harry Reid was the Minority Leader in the Senate. Here’s what he had to say:

[The filibuster] encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority, so that cooler heads may prevail. It also separates us from the House of Representatives — where the majority rules. And it is very much in keeping with the spirit of the government established by the Framers of our Constitution: Limited Government… Separation of Powers… Checks and Balances. … [T]he filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check.

Of course, the Democrats haven’t worried about “moderation” or “consensus” since they won a majority. And Harry Reid has turned out to be one of the most mean-spirited, uncompromising and punitive leaders the Democrats have ever selected.

When Republicans threatened to use the nuclear option eight years ago, no one was more passionate, or more sanctimonious, in protesting the threat than then-Senator Joe Biden. He declared: “We should make no mistake. This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is fundamental power grab by the majority party… We have been through these periods before in American history but never, to the best of my knowledge, has any party been so bold as to fundamentally attempt to change the structure of this body.”

Biden said his opposition to the measure was “the single most important vote” he cast during his three decades in the Senate. And listen to this. In a comment that I’ll bet he would love to delete from the history books, he then added: “I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.”

So what’s changed, gentlemen? Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) explained what’s really going on. “The heart of this action is directed at packing the D.C. Circuit,” he said, “because that is the court that will review the lawless behavior of the Obama Administration implementing Obamacare.”

And the Tea Party favorite added, “President Obama and the Administration refuse to follow the plain text of the law, and the D.C. Circuit court is the court of appeals that has been holding the Administration accountable.”

John Hayward, a staff writer for Human Events, was even more eloquent in his description of the Democrats’ duplicitous action:

Sure, they’re liars and hypocrites who never meant a word they said during the Bush era, shameless political hacks who abandoned all that lofty rhetoric about ripping out the beating heart of democracy in a mad power grab designed to grease the wheels for Obama’s lame-duck years. They desperately need to change the subject from Obamacare’s failure, while packing the D.C. Circuit Court with loyal Party operatives to thwart legal challenges that could bring the hated Affordable Care Act down.

Of course, the left will proclaim that this is all the Republicans’ fault. That it was their “obstructionism” that made the Senate so dysfunctional. And this naked power grab is supposed to make things better?

Three years ago, the Democrats used their super-majority in the Senate to ram through the monstrosity known as Obamacare. They did it on a straight party-line vote. They were willing — nay, eager — to force the most unpopular piece of legislation since Prohibition on us, without getting a single Republican to vote with them.

How much more repugnant legislation will they jam down our throats now? We’re about to find out. In less than two months, the temporary deadline that Congress approved earlier this year to suspend the debt ceiling will expire. They’ll also be confronted with the need to approve some sort of Federal budget.

Meanwhile, the “new and improved” website for Obamacare is supposed to be up and running this Sunday. I’ll take a look next week at how much worse this train wreck is going to be.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Will The Obamacare Lies Ever Stop?

Geez, you’ve got to feel sorry for Jessica Sanford. Do you remember her? She was one of the glowing examples of an Obamacare success that Barack Obama bragged about at a press conference last month. Turns out this much-hyped “success” was anything but.

Sanford is the mother of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. The medications to treat him cost $250 a month. For the past 15 years, she had been unable to afford health insurance. But thanks to Obamacare, the President bragged, she was able to buy an affordable plan through the State of Washington’s health insurance exchange.

Except, it turns out that she wasn’t.

When she first applied, Sanford was told she qualified for a federal subsidy, so a “gold” plan would only cost her $169 a month. Then she was told, “Sorry, we made a little mistake here. Your actual cost will be $280 a month.” Then she got another notice, stating that because she earned $50,000 a year, she actually would not receive any subsidy and her actual cost would be almost twice as much again.

Sanford finally gave up and said she’ll just pay the penalty for not joining Obamacare. She posted on Facebook: “Wow, you guys really screwed me over.”

Yes, indeed. And with millions of people being dropped from their existing plans, while only a tiny fraction of that number actually purchases new insurance through Obamacare, you can expect to hear similar stories repeated over and over again.

This has led to such mind-boggling irony as having former President Bill Clinton lecturing Obama on the need to be straight with the American people. Yup, the man who was impeached for lying about having sex in the Oval Office broke ranks with the White House and said, “I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the President should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”

To a lot of folks, that sounded like a perfect set-up for the “Keep Your Health Plan Act” introduced in the House by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.). So Obama had to do more than merely denounce the legislation and promise to veto it if it reaches his desk.

No, the President went even further. A day before the House was to vote on the measure, he told a hastily assembled press conference that he would now allow insurance companies to continue offering those supposedly defective insurance policies for another year.

So once again, the White House is engaged in a patently unConstitutional usurpation of power. The President, who is supposed to enforce the laws that Congress passes, claims he can change the law whenever he wants. After all, he’d done it earlier this year, when he unilaterally suspended the employer mandate.

Some Republicans pointed out that the President has no legal authority to issue such an order. Insurance companies say that Obama is basically inviting them to break the law. And State insurance commissioners say that Obama’s “fix” will be impossible to implement in a timely fashion.

Consider: Insurance companies had three years to get ready for Obamacare to take effect. Now they’re being given less than three months to comply with the changes Obama cavalierly insists they make.

When the Upton bill came up for a vote last Friday, 39 Democrats joined 222 House Republicans in voting “aye.” The number of defectors surely would have been higher had it not been for the dubious “compromise” the President offered the day before.

But this wasn’t the only bombshell that exploded over Obamacare this past week. Here are three others that are giving the Democrats an Excedrin headache:

On Tuesday, one of the top tech officers responsible for building the Obamacare website told a Congressional subcommittee that almost 40 percent of the IT systems supporting Healthcare.gov website have not even been built yet. “It’s not that it’s not working,” Henry Chao told a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations subcommittee. “It’s still being developed and tested.”

On the same day, four cybersecurity experts warned the House Science Committee that the Obamacare website is in danger of being hacked. The personal financial information of people who use it is at “critical risk,” they said. ABC News reported: “Three of the four witnesses agreed that the Obama Administration should take the site offline in order to address the security flaws.”

And finally, we learned this week that McKinsey & Co., an outside consulting firm that was hired to check on the progress of the Healthcare.gov website, told Administration officials back in March that the website would not be functioning properly by its Oct. 1 launch date.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius allegedly was briefed on their findings on April 4. Yet just two weeks later, Sebelius said in sworn testimony before Congress, “I can tell you we are on track.” Think anyone will suggest that perjury charges be brought against her?

All of this helps explain why opinion polls have gone from dismal to disastrous for Obama and the badly misnamed Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of his Presidency. The latest Quinnipiac national poll shows that just 39 percent of the public approves of his performance. His disapproval rating has climbed to 54 percent.

A month ago, Democrats were gloating at how badly the Republicans had been hurt by the reaction to the partial shutdown of the Federal government. The latest poll numbers indicate that the Democrats are suffering much more from the cataclysmic rollout of Obamacare.

Here’s what may be the most worrisome number of all for the President’s supporters. Some 46 percent of the people surveyed said that the President knowingly deceived the public, when he repeatedly promised that they could keep their health insurance plans if they wanted to.

The numbers just keep getting worse. The latest CBS poll says that the President’s approval rating has slipped even further, and is now down to 37 percent. That’s a drop of 9 percentage points in just the past month. Obama’s disapproval rating, according to the CBS poll, has climbed to 57 percent, an all-time high.

As bad as those numbers must seem to be to the denizens of the White House, the numbers for Obamacare are even worse. The same CBS poll found that 61 percent of Americans now disapprove of the President’s healthcare plan. Only 31 percent approve of it — a drop of 12 points in just the past month.

And here’s something that must have the residents of the White House tearing their hair out. Thanks to Obamacare, the President is losing the support of younger voters. Back in 2008, Obama got 66 percent of the vote of Americans under the age of 30. That landslide majority declined a little bit in 2012, but he still received 60 percent of the youth vote then.

Now, Quinnipiac says that young Americans disapprove of Obamacare by a margin of 51 percent to 42 percent. As shocking as that must be, check this out: The same poll says that young Americans disapprove of Obama himself by an even bigger margin — 54 percent to 36 percent. Not only do they give him a negative rating on his healthcare plan, they also rate him negatively on the economy, the Federal budget, immigration and foreign policy.

Granted, poll numbers can change quickly. It’s far from certain that voters will still feel the same way a year from now, when it will be time to vote for the men and women who will represent them in Congress. But given these numbers today, it’s easy to see why so many Democrats — especially those who will be seeking re-election in areas where Republicans have traditionally done well — are bordering on all-out panic.

Let’s do everything we can to make sure their worst fears are justified.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

You Can’t Pray That Here!

Another Federal court has taken a whack at another 200-year-old tradition in this country. This time, it’s opening public meetings with a prayer. An appeals court has ruled that the practice somehow violates the U.S. Constitution.

Now the issue is in front of the Supreme Court. Let’s pray that a majority of the justices get it right. Here is what is going on.

Like many communities in America, the town of Greece, N.Y., opens its monthly board meetings with a prayer. Although a variety of local religious leaders have delivered the prayers, most of them were given by Christians. This shouldn’t be surprising, since most of the religious institutions in this Rochester suburb — as in most of the country — are Christian.

But this was too much for two women in the town. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens protested that the prayers constituted a government endorsement of religion. They sued the town to have them stopped.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that such “legislative prayer” is perfectly OK, as long as the prayer does not promote (or disparage) a particular religion. But the plaintiffs found a court to support them. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Town of Greece v. Galloway that the practice was “too sectarian” and had to be stopped. The town appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which held a hearing on the case last week.

Hopefully, a majority of justices there will agree with earlier Supreme Court decisions, such as Marsh v. Chambers in 1983, which ruled that such legislative prayers weren’t an “establishment of religion,” but rather a “tolerable acknowledgement of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.”

By the way, in that 1983 decision, the Court wrote that the very same group of lawmakers who drafted the 1st Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights also “adopted the policy of selecting a chaplain to open each session with prayer.”

That is a tradition that every Congress has followed since then. To this day, every session of Congress begins with a prayer. The Supreme Court begins its sessions with the appeal, “God save the United States of America and this honorable Court.” Our coins carry the motto “In God We Trust.” And even the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase “under God.”

As I said, acknowledging our dependence on God and asking His blessings upon us is a tradition that goes back to the very formation of this country.

While our Founding Fathers declared their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” they had a healthy mistrust of government. They recognized the wisdom of Lord Acton’s famous dictum: “All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The best way to prevent this from happening, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, was to bind men down “by the chains of a constitution.”

But even the original Constitution didn’t go far enough to protect the rights of the States and the people. So before the Constitution could be ratified, 10 amendments were added, to specify even further what the central government could and could not do.

The 1st Amendment in what became known as the Bill of Rights covered the rights that the Founding Fathers considered most essential: freedom of speech, of the press, to assemble and to petition the government “for a redress of grievances.”

But of all these basic freedoms, the most important was the one they listed first: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Note the first five words: “Congress shall make no law.” It says nothing about what a State or a community might or might not do. In fact, the Founding Fathers were so intent on protecting the rights of the people to do pretty much do whatever they wanted that they wrote not one, but two amendments on the subject.

The 9th Amendment states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

And in case that wasn’t clear enough, the framers of the Constitution repeated the same idea in the 10th Amendment. Could anything be more straightforward than this? “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The Founders never wanted or expected every state or community to draft the same laws, follow the same rules or practice the same traditions as every other community. They would have been appalled at the idea of some proscribed uniformity.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for people to understand and support the Constitution, the Federal courts in this country are one of the last places you should look. And if President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) get their way, that situation is about to get a lot worse.

At a recent fundraiser, Obama boasted: “We’re remaking the courts.” And certainly the ultra-liberal appointments he’s made to various Federal courts confirm what he said.

Now, a key battle is brewing over three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has said there is no need for more additional judges there. “In terms of raw numbers,” he said, “the D.C. Circuit has the lowest number of total appeals filed annually among all the circuit courts of appeal.” He claims that members of the court agree with him. One even told him, “If any more judges were added now, there wouldn’t be enough work to go around.”

Grassley has introduced the Court Efficiency Act of 2013, which would eliminate three seats on the court, which he says are totally unnecessary. That’s one way to keep more liberals from being appointed.

However, there is no way Reid will allow Grassley’s proposal to come to a vote. Reid has said the Democrats need to get at least one more member on the D.C. Circuit Court to “switch the majority.”

Why is this court so important? Here’s how Janice Crouse and Mario Diaz, both of whom are associated with Concerned Women for America, explained it in the Washington Times: “His credibility shattered, the only hope the president has of advancing his agenda is through executive action. Because administrative actions are reviewed by the judges on the D.C. Circuit, the president seeks to pack the court with left-wing ideologues who will uphold his agenda.”

So that’s what’s at stake in this battle. On the issue of legislative prayer, there are some reasons to be optimistic that this Supreme Court will overturn the decision of the Appeals Court.

During the hearing, Justice Elena Kagan said, “Part of what we are trying to do here is to maintain a multi-religious society in a peaceful and harmonious way.” Then she added, “And every time the Court gets involved in things like this, it seems to make the problem worse rather than better.”

Of course, the same thing could be said about almost every time the Federal government tries to “make things better.”

We’ll let you know how this battle plays out, as well as how the Supreme Court handles this latest assault our right to pray in public whenever our leaders gather. God knows we need His blessings — and protection.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Conservatism Didn’t Die On Tuesday

Liberals are gloating that Tuesday’s election results prove that committed conservatives can’t win the big races. Their main exhibits are two Gubernatorial races: the defeat of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia and the success of Chris Christie in New Jersey. The left’s message can be summarized in four words: Conservatives lost big time. And, boy, do they love to rub it in.

There’s just one problem with all of their self-satisfied jubilation: The facts don’t support their claims. A much more accurate statement is that, once again, conservatives got sucker punched by liberals. And the GOP’s so-called leadership has a lot to answer for, too.

To see what I mean, let’s take a closer look at the race for Governor in Virginia. Yes, it’s true; Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic operative and longtime friend of the Clintons, beat his Republican challenger, State Attorney General Cuccinelli, by 2.5 percentage points. But considering how Cuccinelli got sandbagged by his own team, it’s surprising that the race turned out to be this close.

The biggest lesson from this week’s elections is that there is no substitute for having plenty of money to spend. And McAuliffe, the longtime Democratic operative, sure did. He outspent Cuccinelli by some $15 million — most of it on the nastiest and dishonest sort of attack ads.

Four years ago, the Republican National Committee spent some $9 million on the Governor’s race in Virginia… and won. This year, it managed to come up with only $3 million for Cuccinelli. Do you think the fact that establishment types control the purse strings at the RNC had anything to do with their pared-down support of a Tea Party favorite?

The spoiler in the Virginia race for Governor turned out to be Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate. Thanks to having a record amount of money to spend for a third-party candidate, Sarvis managed to garner 6.5 percent of the vote. That was enough to tip the scales in McAuliffe’s favor.

But here’s an interesting rumor that’s not getting much play in the national press. It’s that Democratic operatives poured a ton of money into the Sarvis campaign, knowing that he’d siphon a lot more votes from Cuccinelli than their guy. Sad to say, their bet paid off with a victory for McAuliffe.

Now that they’ve proven how to split the conservative/libertarian vote, want to bet that the formula won’t be tried in a lot more places in 2014? What are the chances this story will make the headlines on the nightly news shows? Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

The media have been full of stories about how voters in Virginia were so angry over the 16-day government shutdown that they held their noses and voted for McAuliffe. This is probably true in the northern Virginia counties adjacent to Washington, D.C. Is anyone really surprised that the bureaucrats, lobbyists and others dependent on government largesse want to make sure the good times don’t end?

Cuccinelli did his best to make the election a referendum on Obamacare, and he almost succeeded. Despite being vastly outspent in the closing days of the campaign, he closed the gap dramatically. A month ago, polls said that McAuliffe had a double-digit lead. By the time the polls opened on Tuesday, the race was virtually neck and neck.

Exit polls in Virginia revealed that 53 percent of the people who voted on Tuesday are opposed to the Affordable Care Act. Of that number, more than 80 percent voted for Cuccinelli.

Brian Baker, the president of a conservative political action committee that supported Cuccinelli, said the election proved that “Obamacare is toxic.” And he added: “If the shutdown had ended a week earlier, or the election had ended a week later, Cuccinelli would have won. This is a bad omen for Democrats in 2014.”

Indeed it is. Of course, that’s not how the mainstream media are calling it. But as the debacle that is Obamacare continues to grow, and millions more Americans lose health insurance they like (and get forced into a much more expensive government-mandated program), this is one issue that could win a lot of elections for Republicans in 2014. And maybe even 2016.

Speaking of the 2016 elections, the only surprise in New Jersey was the size of Christie’s victory. The Republican incumbent was re-elected governor by a margin of 60 percent to 38 percent. There was no surprise in how quickly the national media moved to crown him as the front-runner for the Republican nomination for President in 2016.

Of course, Christie was only too happy to play into those expectations. Listen to what the rotund politician said in his victory speech:

I know tonight, a dispirited America, angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington, looks to New Jersey to say, “Is what I think happening really happening? Are people really coming together? Are we really working, African-Americans and Hispanics, suburbanites and city dwellers, farmers and teachers? Are we really all working together?”

As Alex Castellanos, one of the political analysts on CNN, said afterwards, “It wasn’t an acceptance speech, that was an announcement speech.”

But in his campaign in New Jersey, Christie moved far to the left of most Republicans. Here’s how John Gizzi, chief political columnist for Newsmax, put it:

By winning Tuesday night in a landslide election for his second term as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie moved so far to the left it may be difficult for him to win the Republican nomination for president come 2016.

The GOP governor won in one of the bluest states, where President Barack Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney by 18 points in 2012. To win, Christie had to morph close to not only blue-state values and views, but become close to Obama himself — and he did just that.

Of course, that won’t stop the left from hailing the maverick Governor as the new savior of the Republican Party.

According to the left, the Republican in primary in Alabama’s first Congressional district was another Tea Party failure last Tuesday. But since three of the largest national Tea Party groups — FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth — all refused to take sides in the Republican primary there, it’s certainly stretching things to claim that they failed.

Finally, what is there to say about the election for mayor of New York City? Voters there chose ultra-leftist Bill de Blasio over Joe Lhota, his Republican opponent, by a margin of 74 percent to 24 percent. You sure can’t call that one close.

The Big Apple is about to get its first Democratic mayor in 20 years. De Blasio has promised that he will usher in a new era of extreme liberalism, including raising taxes on the wealthy. His “progressive” administration will be good news for Texas and other no-tax States, as more of the productive and successful flee the city for friendlier climes.

Tuesday’s elections did prove a couple of things: One is that money can buy elections. That certainly shouldn’t come as any surprise. The other is that there are plenty of voters who will cast their ballots for the big-government candidate. But we knew that too, didn’t we?

Are there enough of us left to keep them from spending this country into bankruptcy? Looks like we’re going to find out — whether we like it or not.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Our Know-Nothing President

Is it really possible that the President of the United States knows as little about what his Administration is doing as his defenders claim? That no one tells him anything about what’s going on until he reads it in the papers?

Consider all of the scandals that have taken place since Barack Obama moved into the White House: Operation Fast and Furious; the murder of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya; the Internal Revenue Service harassment of Tea Party and other patriotic groups; National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders, as well as millions of Americans; the incredibly botched implementation of Obamacare… The list goes on and on.

We’re supposed to believe that Obama remained in blissful ignorance about all of them until the media reports started. When that happened, he was just as surprised and upset as the rest of us.

The latest “I didn’t know anything about it” scandal is the revelation that the NSA has been monitoring the private conversations of some 35 world leaders. Apparently, the bugging operation has been going on for years. Yet we’re supposed to believe that no one told the President about it until a couple of months ago.

Sure, that sounds credible, doesn’t it? Turns out, we’re tapping the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others; yet no one in the chain of command thinks that maybe, just maybe, Obama should be told about it.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, followed the party line when she said: “It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem.”

It certainly is. Of all the sorry excuses that have been offered for this Presidential ignorance, my favorite is the one from anonymous officials who said that “the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them.”

If you were in charge, how would you like to have that pathetic excuse laid in front of you? Do you think that maybe some heads would roll? That’s what would happen in the real world — but not in this Administration, where the watchword is to protect the President at all costs. And always, but always, blame somebody else when anything goes wrong.

The latest example of this came on Wednesday, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the woman in charge of implementing Obamacare, trudged up Capitol Hill to explain why things have gone so disastrously wrong in the launch of the President’s pet program — and to promise that they will get better very soon.

In her testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Sebelius said that she was “as frustrated and angry as anyone” about the problems that have occurred since the launch of Obamacare on Oct. 1.

At one point, she even denied that the Healthcare.gov website had actually crashed, saying it just runs a lot slower than it should. Hah! In a piece of cosmic irony, the website crashed again, just as she was delivering this whopper. When it did, CNN broadcast a split screen, showing Sebelius on the right half and the crash error message from the website (“The system is down at the moment”) on the left-hand side of the screen.

Potential enrollees aren’t the only ones who can’t get the information they need from the Obamacare website. Turns out that neither can the HHS Secretary. When asked how many people had actually managed to navigate through the website to the end and actually purchase one of the government-mandated health plans, Sibelius said that the numbers weren’t available yet. Check back next month.

Is it that the total number of enrollments can’t be tabulated or that they won’t be released, since they are so embarrassingly low?

Still, Sebelius promised her skeptical inquisitors that everything would be hunky-dory by the end of November, when the website will finally be working properly. In the meantime, she proclaimed, “Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”

Does that mean she’ll do the honorable thing and tender her resignation to the President? Not on your life. Or at least, not yet. If the promised re-launch of the website comes on Dec. 1, as seems likely, I don’t think the White House will bear with her much longer. By sometime in January, I suspect you can color Sebelius gone.

Meanwhile, CNN reports that the Administration is putting pressure on insurance companies not to say anything critical of Obamacare. “What’s going on,” reporter Andrew Griffin told Anderson Cooper, “is [a] behind-the-scenes attempt by the White House to at least keep insurers from publicly criticizing what is happening under this Affordable Care Act rollout. Basically, if you speak out, if you are quoted, you’re going to get a call from the White House, pressure to be quiet.”

Bob Laszewski, a consultant for several insurance companies, says he’s getting calls from executives he knows, asking him to speak out on their behalf. He told CNN: “The White House is exerting massive pressure on the industry, including the trade associations, to keep quiet.”

Now it turns out that the insurance companies — and the Obama Administration — have known for years that millions of Americans would lose their health insurance once Obamacare went into effect, despite all of the claims to the contrary.

Regulations written by the Department of Health and Human Services in July 2010 estimated that “40 to 67 percent” of policyholders would not be able to keep their health insurance once the Affordable Care Act went into effect. Now there are estimates that the actual figure may be as high as 80 percent. So somewhere between 8 million and 14 million Americans will lose the health insurance they presently have.

Of course, Obama promised the American people exactly the opposite. Back in June 2009 he said, “[W]e will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.”

And he’s repeated that promise countless times since then. In fact, as of yesterday, the official White House website still claimed, “If you like your plan, you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the healthcare law.”

Of course, we now know that this isn’t true. Millions of people are learning that they won’t be able to keep their present policy, no matter how much they might like it. But the Obama Administration continues to spread this falsehood.

This helps explain why Obama’s popularity is plummeting faster than a safe falling from a window. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll says that the President’s job-approval rating has fallen to an all-time low. According to the poll, a majority of Americans — 51 percent — now disapprove of the job he is doing. Only 42 percent say they still approve of his performance. That’s down from 53 percent at the end of last year.

In the same poll, just 29 percent said that their representative deserved to be re-elected to Congress. More than twice as many, some 63 percent, said it was time to give a new person a chance.

The disdain was bipartisan, by the way, with two Republican leaders — House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — joining Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in getting their highest negative ratings ever.

Oh, and get this: Half of those polled don’t believe that an accord will be reached by the Jan. 15 deadline on a plan to fund the government. They say another Federal shutdown is likely.

Will all of this disdain and distrust result in votes to actually reduce the size, power and cost of our central government? It would be wonderful if that were the case. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Don’t Let Obama Get Away With It

The funniest editorial cartoon I’ve seen this week shows a White House aide talking to Barack Obama in the Oval Office. In the first panel, he says, “The focus now shifts from the Republicans’ poorly thought-out plan to defund Obamacare.”

And the second panel concludes, “… to our poorly thought-out plan to implement it.”

Can you believe what a disaster the launch of the badly misnamed Affordable Care Act is turning out to be? It seems that the reality is even worse than many critics predicted.

Now the Democrats are scrambling to figure out how to keep the whole mess from causing even more damage, such as losing control of the Senate in next year’s elections. Faced with the massive unpopularity of the scheme, the last thing on Earth the Democrats want is for Obamacare to be the key issue in those elections. Let’s make sure it is.

Obama gave a press conference in the White House Rose Garden this past Monday, to promise that things would get better. There were 13 smiling people lined up behind him, all of them said to be shining examples of how successful his healthcare plan could be.

Guess what? Turns out that none of them had actually purchased health insurance through Obamacare. In fact, only three of them had even completed the application process.

These dismal numbers should come as no surprise. The Washington Post reports that while 4.7 million people tried to log on to Healthcare.gov, the official website for Obamacare, in the first 24 hours after it opened, fewer than 10 people — that’s right: 10 people — actually succeeded in buying health insurance.

Consumer Reports, the respected product-testing company, says that of 9.5 million people who attempted to register in the first week, only 271,000 were able to do so. And “register” doesn’t mean they bought health insurance. No, it only means they were patient enough and determined enough to navigate an unbelievably complicated, confusing and error-prone application process.

Meanwhile, in Florida some 300,000 customers of Florida Blue are being notified that their health insurance is being cancelled and that they need to sign up for Obamacare. In California, Kaiser Permanente sent similar notices to 160,000 people — half of the number it used to insure. In Pennsylvania, Independence Blue Cross says it will cancel about 45 percent of its policyholders there. The same thing is happening in State after State.

It now appears that more people are going to lose the health insurance they have than will buy new policies under Obamacare. So much for Obama’s promise that “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”

After analyzing the problems with the ObamaCare website, Consumer Reports offered this startling advice to its readers: “Stay away.” Because of all the software glitches, the magazine said that readers should not try to use the Healthcare.gov website “for at least another month, if you can.” And it added, “Hopefully that will be long enough for its software vendors to clean up the mess that they’ve made.”

Sure thing. In that Rose Garden pep talk, Obama said, “Nobody’s madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed.”

But how soon? And at what cost?

Two years ago, when CGI Federal, an information technology firm, was awarded the contract to build the website, it estimated that costs could be as high as $93.7 million to get it up and running. Now, the Government Accountability Office says that we taxpayers have poured out more than $390 million, with millions of dollars more still to be spent. The GAO estimates that another $150 million has been spent on administrative costs associated with implementing Obamacare.

That’s more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds that the Obama Administration has squandered so far in perpetrating this job-killing boondoggle on the American public.

To put these numbers in perspective, consider that it took Facebook over six years, from 2004 to 2010, to reach total expenditures of $500 million. During that time, it grew to several hundred million active users. (It now has more than a billion.)

Twitter, which handles more than 340 million tweets a day, operated from 2006 to 2011 with just $360 million in funding. LinkedIn and Spotify, two other hugely popular networking sites, have raised just $200 million and $288 million, respectively.

But this is government we’re talking about. It is any surprise that it costs so much and performs so badly?

Now come reports that government officials knew the Obamacare site wasn’t ready. The Washington Post reports that when the site was tested, several days before the official launch: “It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.”

Mike Barnicle of MSNBC, which can usually find no fault with the President, sounds like a Personal Liberty contributor in his interpretation of what’s going on. “They’re lying about it now,” he says. “They’re not depriving us of information, they are outright lying.”

The Wall Street Journal says the catastrophe is the result of deliberate decisions by the Obama Administration. “This isn’t some coding error, or even the Health and Human Service Department’s usual incompetence,” the paper editorialized. “The failures that have all but disabled Obamacare are the result of deliberate policy choices, which HHS and the White House are compounding with secrecy and stonewalling.”

Remember when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said that the reason the servers were crashing all of the time was because of unexpectedly high demand? She called it “a great problem to have.”

Now her biggest assignment is to protect her boss from the catastrophe that is taking place. She wants us all to believe he had no way of knowing how quickly things would go so badly.

Human Events senior writer John Hayward calls this “the Incompetence Defense.” He says that’s what happens “when embattled officials insist they are blameless because they were clueless. They had no idea what their underlings were up to.”

Faced with this growing embarrassment, you can expect the powers-that-be to offer the same solution to the Obamacare fiasco that they did to their last contrived crisis, the debt-ceiling debacle: Kick the can down the road.

Obama has already delayed the employer mandate in Obamacare by a year, even though there was no authority in the Constitution or the hugely unpopular law for him to do so.

Expect him to do so again for the individual mandate. But this time, many in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, say they’ll go along with him. Even Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has said he’ll offer legislation to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year.

Conservatives should refuse to go along with this — not if we want Obamacare to be the deciding issue in next November’s elections. And what better? One-third of the Senate (including some very vulnerable Democrats) will face the voters then, along with every member of the House.

Let’s make those elections a massive referendum on this disastrous government takeover of our healthcare system. A majority of voters say they don’t like Obamacare. And that they want to toss out every incumbent in Washington. Let’s give them a chance to do so.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Republican ‘Leaders’ Cave Again

The dirty deal has been done. By a “bipartisan” vote of 81-18, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday afternoon approved a bill to raise the debt ceiling and end the partial shutdown of the Federal government. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Republican leader in the Senate, joined Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in crafting the compromise.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who led the battle to defund Obamacare, said that he would not try to prevent a vote on the measure. I’m sure he and his colleagues in this fight, especially Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have gotten tired of being portrayed as “terrorists” and “extremists,” even by people in their own party, as they tried to fight for principle.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wasted no time in waving the white flag of surrender. He said there was simply no point in continuing the battle. “We fought the good fight; we just didn’t win,” he said. He later added, “There’s no reason for our members to vote ‘no’ today.” Later that evening, the House passed the Senate bill by a vote of 285-144.

Barack Obama couldn’t help chortling. The President said he would sign the legislation as soon as it reached his desk, adding: “We’ll begin reopening the government immediately.”

The measure allows the government to continue borrowing money, but just through Feb. 7. You can bet that the Obama Administration will blow past the $17 trillion debt ceiling in a matter of days (if not hours). But it won’t be able to continue the spending spree after Feb. 7, unless and until they can get Congress to agree to raise the debt ceiling again.

The measure also funds all of government, including Obamacare, as the President demanded — but only until Jan. 15. The measure requires House and Senate negotiators to get together and produce a longer-term budget and deficit-reduction plan. They have until Dec. to wave their magic wands and conjure up something both sides can support.

So is this the ignominious defeat for conservatives that it’s being portrayed by the left? Not on your life! All this compromise has done is kick the can down the road for a bit. Boehner himself acknowledged this when he said: “I know this isn’t everything we want, but we’re going to live to fight another day.”

The battle isn’t over — not by a long shot.

Meanwhile, let me mention two events this past weekend that dramatically illustrate the huge gulf dividing this country. One was a glimpse of the best of our past; the other was a frightening look at a possible future.

The encouraging one took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where White House operatives have tried repeatedly to shut down the World War II memorial. Once again, some elderly members of the Greatest Generation stormed the barricades that had been erected to keep them out. They were joined by younger veterans of more recent conflicts, many of them marching on prosthetic limbs.

Not only did they push the barricades aside, in a marvelous demonstration of a “we’ve had enough” spirit, they carried them down the street and stacked them up in front of the White House. One marcher stuck a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag in the ground. Another added a hand-painted sign, “Return to Sender.”

Aren’t you delighted to see people refusing to put up with the petty shenanigans of our would-be masters, who want to make the government’s partial shutdown as painful as possible?

That is the feel-good story I wanted to share. The other one is not nearly as uplifting. It took place in Louisiana, where thanks to a computer glitch, people using the debit cards that have replaced food stamps — the electronic benefits transfer system — suddenly found that their cards had no spending limits.

Rather than refuse to let people use them, several Wal-Mart stores decided to put people on the honor system and let them use the cards for their usual purchases. Fat chance. You can guess what happened next.

Dozens of people raced through the stores, pushing two and even three shopping carts. They stripped the shelves of as many goodies as they could stuff into their carts, then headed for the check-out counters.

Only a few of them made it through the lines and out the store, however, before the glitch was corrected and credit limits were restored. When that happened, most of the disappointed shoppers simply abandoned their goody-laden carts and walked out of the store.

Isn’t that a perfect example of the greedy rapaciousness that our entitlement society has produced? You won’t be surprised to learn that a lot of the food stamp recipients were furious when they learned that they weren’t going to get away with all the loot they wanted to grab.

Before I close, let me remind you of some recent history that the mainstream media has been ignoring.

First, despite the fact that Federal law requires Congress to pass a budget every year, the Democrats who control the Senate have refused to approve one for the past five years. And don’t blame this on that obstreperous Republican majority in House; that’s only existed for the past two-and-a-half years. Prior to 2010, Democrats controlled a majority in both the House and Senate, and they still refused to approve a budget.

Second, it’s simply not true that it was the refusal of House Republicans to approve any spending bills that led to the current partial shutdown of the Federal government. In point of fact, the House repeatedly passed legislation to fund every single Federal program, with one exception: Obamacare.

But early on, Obama and his advisers decided on an “all or nothing” strategy. They refused to budge an inch. There would be absolutely no give and take this time around. In fact, for most of the prolonged controversy, they refused to even meet with the Republican leadership. Is it any wonder that things have been at an impasse for the past month or two?

And when Republicans finally threw in the towel and decided to give the Democrats almost everything they had been demanding, guess what? Obama demanded even more.

Yes, now that he thinks the Republicans are on the ropes, Obama is demanding that the budget cuts he himself proposed two years ago — the ones now known as sequestration — must be rolled back.

By the way, isn’t it interesting that during the debate over defunding Obamacare — an incredibly unpopular law that was crammed down our throats without a single vote in its favor by any Republican — Obama and his supporters insisted that no changes would be allowed. It’s the law of the land, they said, passed by Congress and signed by the President.

But sequestration is also the law of the land, passed by Congress and signed by the President. The big spenders in Washington don’t like the limits it places on them, so of course it should be changed, if that’s what they want.

Does anyone detect a little bit of hypocrisy here?

Have all the posturing and politicking over the past few weeks accomplished anything positive? Well, yes. According to the latest opinion polls, a majority of voters now want to kick all of the politicians in Washington out of office.

Sadly, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll still feel this way 14 months from now, when they will actually have an opportunity to do precisely that — at least for every member of the House and one-third of the Senate.

Oh, sure. There would be a few guys (and gals) I’d miss, if by some miracle that happened. And we’d probably even get a whole new group of baddies trying to spend us into bankruptcy.

But it sure is a delightful fantasy, isn’t it?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

More Of Obama’s Massive Lies

There have been so many lies flooding out of Washington lately that’s it’s hard to keep up with them all, much less rebut them. But let’s tackle as many as we can today.

And let’s start with a lulu that took place last week, when Barack Obama was interviewed on CNBC. John Harwood asked him about the appropriateness of some of the recent Presidential rhetoric. In his reply, Obama said, “I think it’s fair to say that during the course of my Presidency I have bent over backwards to work with the Republican Party, and have purposely kept my rhetoric down.”

Can you believe it? The most divisive, vitriolic, partisan President we’ve had in years claims that he has “bent over backwards” to work with Republicans and that he’s actually “kept my rhetoric down.” Calling your opponents extortionists, arsonists, extremists and other choice epithets is apparently Obama’s idea of keeping his rhetoric down.

After hearing his ludicrous claim, I looked very closely at my TV screen. To my amazement, Obama’s nose didn’t grow a bit. It should have shot out so far that it knocked his interviewer off his chair.

Another whopper the President has repeated numerous times is that before today, raising the debt limit has never been a subject of negotiation between the White House and Congress. Or as Obama likes to put it, the debt limit has never been used “to extort a president or a government party.”

His Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, has repeated the same nonsense, saying “until very recently, Congress typically raised the debt ceiling on a routine basis… the threat of default was not a bargaining chip in the negotiations.”

The truth is exactly opposite of Obama’s claims. Time and time again, Congress has demanded — and gotten — compromises from whoever was sitting in the White House (whether Republican or Democrat) before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress raised the debt ceiling 53 times between 1978 and today. Of those, in only 26 cases, or less than half of the time, were no conditions attached.

Even in cases where other stipulations were included in the debt increase, some members of Congress refused to go along with the deal. Such was the case in 2006, when then-Senator Obama voted against raising the debt limit. Listen to what the two-faced dissembler said back then:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. We do deserve better. By the way, when the hypocritical Obama delivered those remarks, the debt ceiling was being raised to $8.965 trillion. Today, after five years of his trillion-dollar annual deficits, the debt ceiling stands at $16.7 trillion. And that’s not high enough for the big spenders in his administration. Talk about putting more burdens “onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

But the battle over raising the debt ceiling is just one area where we are being deluged with lies. Another is Obamacare. Remember all those Presidential promises that the measure would lower premiums for most Americans — and that if you liked your present health insurance, you could keep it? Turns out (surprise, surprise) neither one of these Presidential promises is true.

Now that the program has officially been launched, it’s turning out to be even more of a disaster than its worst critics predicted. The program’s apologists claimed that the system suffered repeated and near-total crashes on its Oct. 1 launch day because of its popularity. “[I]t’s sort of a great problem to have,” gloated Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Hardly.

The Covered California website claimed that it got more than 5 million hits on Oct. 1. Turns out that the number was inflated by more than 4 million; the actual count was 645,000.

And how many of those folks actually signed up for the government-mandated health insurance? Oops, supposedly the administrators won’t be able to get that information to us for a few more weeks.

What a crock! Of course, they can tell, minute by minute and second by second, exactly how many people have signed up. Can you imagine any private business trying to tell you that it doesn’t know how many orders its website has logged? (And a lot of those handle far more transactions every hour than even the most glowing claims for the ones taking orders for Obamacare.)

The fact that they won’t tell us how many sign-ups they’ve received suggests that the number is incredibly low. How low? Well, in at least some States, the number of successful applicants on Day One seems to be… zero. Yes, that’s even true of Sebelius’ home state of Kansas. My, that’s got to be a bit embarrassing.

So a system that took three years to create and cost untold millions of dollars can’t even tell how many orders it received? If that had been a private business, you can bet that heads would have rolled the next day. But in government, there is no penalty for failure — at least not on the participants. It’s only the taxpayers who have to cough up the dough to pay for all of this. And pay and pay and pay.

The final Big Lie I want to mention this morning concerns all of those “catastrophic consequences” that will occur if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by next Thursday. Of course that is absolute bunk. No matter what happens in the current standoff between the White House and the Congress, billions of tax dollars will continue to flow into the Federal Treasury every day. There will be enough money to pay every penny of interest on the national debt many times over.

Yes, there will be a shortfall between how much money the Federal government receives and how much it wants to spend. But if government expenditures could be cut back to what they were when Obama first assumed office, we wouldn’t have to borrow a single dollar to pay them. Just think of it: Washington could be forced to live within a budget. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

The assertion that the United States will have to default on its debt is just one of the many big lies Obama and his supporters are using, in a heavy-handed effort to browbeat Congress into giving them what they want.

But there are encouraging signs that more and more Americans are catching on to how we’re being played for suckers. According to the latest polls, a majority of Americans are ready to say “no more!” to automatically raising the debt ceiling without significant spending cuts.

Let’s hope they’ll remember this next November, when we’ll get a chance to replace a lot of the folks who are pushing us closer and closer to fiscal disaster. Topping the list for me is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see him forced to retire?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

The White House Versus Some World War II Vets

We’re finding out just how petty the Administration of President Barack Obama can be when it comes to making the government shutdown as painful as possible for as many people as possible. Just as we predicted, the answer is very petty indeed.

It seems the White House lackeys made a serious mistake, however, when they tried to keep some World War II veterans from visiting a memorial in their honor. Have you ever been to the National World War II Memorial? It’s an open plaza on the National Mall in Washington. And like most other monuments in the open air, it’s available to the public 24 hours a day. Or at least it used to be. Now, someone in the Obama Administration has decided to make it off limits.

The whole incredible saga began on Tuesday morning, when three busloads of World War II veterans showed up at the site. The trip had been arranged by Honor Flight Network, a wonderful charity that brings World War II vets to Washington to see the monument that was erected in their honor.

But when 91 veterans (ranging in age from 84 to 99) got off their bus, they found that barricades had been erected around the monument. Signs were posted that declared: “Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are CLOSED.”

In other words, someone ordered the National Park Service to work harder and spend more money to shut the memorial than it would have taken to simply leave it open. In the past, it was mostly unattended, but not now.

The barriers didn’t stop the veterans or the Congressmen who were there to welcome them. Representative Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.), who helped push aside the barricades, later said, “These men and women didn’t cower to the Japanese and Germans. I don’t think they’re about to let a few National Park Police stand in their way.”

The group was led into the memorial by a man playing bagpipes. A crowd of people who witnessed the event burst into applause.

The park police didn’t try to stop the veterans — at least not that time. One officer, who said he had to remain anonymous, told The Washington Post, “I’m not going to enforce the ‘no stopping or standing’ sign for a group of World War II veterans. I’m a veteran myself.”

The next day, park workers were ordered to erect additional fencing and station more patrolmen around the memorial. And guess what? Another group of elderly veterans moved the barricades and entered the memorial anyway.

There’s a photograph of one of them holding up a piece of the tape park police had placed around the barricades. The stern warning on the black and yellow tape, “POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS,” didn’t stop these vets from paying tribute to their fallen brothers, who paid the ultimate price to defeat the armies of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

That time, the veterans were applauded by a group of demonstrators waving flags and holding up signs supporting them. My favorite was the one that referenced Ronald Reagan’s demand when he stood next to the Berlin Wall three decades ago:

Protersters Rally outside of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Honor Flight visits to Washington are arranged many months ahead of time. And they’re expensive, costing an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 per group. Since Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio was scheduled to bring a group of World War II veterans to Washington next week, Lee Armstrong, the group’s president, called the National Park Service to ask about visiting the memorial. He was told that anyone crossing the barricades could face arrest.

Armstrong was dumbfounded. “I said, are you kidding me? You’re going to arrest a 90/91-year-old veteran from seeing his memorial? If it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t be there.” The park service rep replied, “That’s correct, sir.”

So you see what happens when the White House decides to play hard ball. It’s probably going to get worse, the longer this contrived crisis continues. This is the first government shutdown in 17 years. The last one, back in 1995-1996, occurred when Bill Clinton was President and Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House. It was the longest government shutdown this country had seen until then, lasting 21 days. I don’t think this one will last as long, but so far neither side is willing to blink.

In fact, they’re barely willing to talk. Obama did ask Congressional leaders to meet with him in the White House two days ago. According to reports, he made it clear there wouldn’t be any negotiations until the Republicans agreed to fund the government without any conditions. Oh, yeah, and they’ve also got to agree to raise the debt limit, again without conditions. Only after doing that will the Democrats agree to negotiate.

For “negotiate,” read “total Republican capitulation.”

Hey, that’s pretty much what the Democrats got back in 1996. Why should they expect anything different this time? After all, they control the Senate and the White House. And a compliant media is only too willing to echo Obama’s rhetoric, as he continues to refer to what’s happening as “the Republican shutdown.” Even TIME magazine’s Mark Halperin acknowledged that the Democrats’ strategy depends on the mainstream media blaming Republicans for the government shutdown.

Lost in all of the partisan rhetoric is the fact that the Republicans in the House have passed five resolutions to fund the government, and the Democrats in the Senate have rejected them all.

So what happens now? It looks like our dysfunctional government will continue to play chicken, at least for a while. Here’s how RedState editor Erick Erickson puts it:

Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding Obamacare. We actually want to repeal it.

This is it. Our endgame is to leave the whole thing shut down until the President defunds Obamacare. And if he does not defund Obamacare, we leave the whole thing shut down.

So who’s going to blink first? Sad to say, I’m afraid it will once again be the Republicans. But maybe, just maybe, that will make a lot more Americans angry enough to bust some barricades themselves.

This shutdown is showing just how “non-essential” a lot of government really is. Especially if you’re a 91-year-old veteran trying to visit a memorial honoring your fallen comrades.

Will we actually learn anything from this latest confrontation? I’m not very optimistic. But what do you think?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s ‘Please Kick Me’ Appearance At The U.N.

Chalk up another embarrassing rebuff for a U.S. President at the Mecca of international socialism, the United Nations.

Barack Obama’s team let it be known that the President would be delighted to meet Iranian President Hasan Rouhani while the two were at the U.N. this past Tuesday. The two could shake hands, smile at each other and pose for an historic photo op. They wouldn’t even have to discuss anything of substance, merely look like they were prepared to get along.

“Thanks, but no thanks” was the insulting Iranian response. At least their rebuff was announced before Obama was left standing alone, with his arm stuck out and a stupid smile on his face.

Guess Obama’s peeps didn’t learn anything from history. Back in 2000, then-President Bill Clinton offered the same opportunity to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, another supposed moderate. Khatami also nixed shaking hands with the President of the United States.

Wouldn’t you think that someone on Obama’s staff would have made sure he and Rouhani would be smiling together for the camera before leaking news about it to the media? This is not only sloppy diplomacy, Mr. President; it’s downright embarrassing incompetence.

Please note that Obama is so eager to negotiate with Iran that he’s even willing to put up with some egg on his face. And Rouhani isn’t the only nasty ruler he’s been willing to make nice with. Heck, we’re even willing to sit down at a conference table with the lunatics who run North Korea.

And don’t forget about all of those cozy chats with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who has been only too happy to step into the role of negotiator-by-proxy. No doubt Obama is hoping that the world will soon forget all that talk about military strikes, inviolable red lines and the need to see Bashar Assad kicked out of the Syrian presidency.

Is there anyone this President isn’t willing to negotiate with?

Yes, there is one group that is beyond the pale and one issue that Obama won’t discuss under any circumstances. Negotiate with Republicans over the fate of the U.S. economy? Not on your life!

Obama has made it clear he won’t give an inch over his demand that Congress raise the debt ceiling without attaching any conditions to it. No reduction in spending, no promise to balance the budget someday, no give-and-take under any circumstances. Here is the one issue on which he vows there will be absolutely no compromise whatsoever.

The President has the nerve to claim that this is how it has always been, that Congress has never attached non-budget items to legislation raising the debt ceiling. Here’s how he put it last week, when he spoke to the Business Roundtable:

You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt being used to extort a president or a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt.

His claim, like so many other things he has said with such certainty, is total bunk. Glenn Kessler, the fact-checker for The Washington Post, didn’t have to dig very far to confirm that debt-ceiling legislation has been linked to such disparate causes as campaign-finance reform, Social Security, ending the bombing in Cambodia and voluntary school prayer.

A classic example occurred in 1980, when the House and Senate voted to repeal one of Jimmy Carter’s favored solutions to the energy crisis that existed then. Carter had demanded a fee on imported oil that would have raised the cost of a gallon of gas by 10 cents. Congress said “no way” in an attachment to legislation Carter very much wanted: authorization to borrow even more money he could spend.

When Carter vetoed the measure, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override him. The vote was 335-34 in the House and 68-10 in the Senate. So much for Obama’s claim that such legislation was “never seen in the history of the United States.” Kessler rightly gives the president four Pinocchios for his duplicity on this one.

So what could be attached to a new debt-ceiling bill? For starters, how about a one-year delay in Obamacare? Obama has already agreed to a one-year delay for many businesses; how about giving the same break to the rest of us?

Yes, I know. The House has passed a bill to halt all funding for this healthcare monstrosity. But there is no chance that the Senate will agree. And even if by some miracle the bill’s proponents could find five or six Democrats who would vote with them (something I give a 0 percent likelihood of happening), does anyone think there are any circumstances that would persuade Obama to sign it? Not on your life.

Looks like we’ll see another exciting game of Washington playing chicken, folks.

In the meantime, what did you think of Texas senator Ted Cruz’s dramatic, all-night speech on the Senate floor, listing all of the reasons to oppose funding Obamacare?

He talked about a lot more than the Affordable Care Act, of course. He narrated the classic Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham, described the incredible bravery of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and even compared conservatives’ efforts today to the rebel alliance in the “Star Wars” films. All in all, the freshman Senator put on quite a show.

Despite some catty remarks from his opponents (Senate Majority Leader Harry Read called the near-filibuster a “massive waste of time”) and much mockery in the mainstream media, I think Cruz scored a lot of points for his cause. The response on Twitter and other social media confirms that opinion. So congratulations to him and the other conservative stalwarts who had the courage to stand with him.

And speaking of Cruz’s fellow Republicans, shame on those who have been trying to stab the Tea Party favorite in the back. The latest example of their despicable behavior came last week. After Chris Wallace announced that Cruz would be interviewed on his “Fox News Sunday” program, the TV host described what happened next:

This has been one of the strangest weeks I’ve ever had in Washington, and I say that because as soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions, not from Democrats, but from top Republicans.

Wallace said the reason for slipping him the negative material was obvious: so he could “hammer Cruz” when he appeared.

Ain’t politics fun?

By this time next week, I expect that some sort of funding for the Federal government will be approved by Congress and signed by the President. It may just be for a few months, but I don’t think the Republican majority in the House will agree to a government shutdown. Not yet. Too bad; if we could control who got sent home and who kept getting a paycheck, it could be the best thing to happen to our country in years.

We all know that Obama and his henchmen would make any shutdown as painful as possible for as many of us as possible — just as the Administration did with sequestration, but a thousand times worse.

But don’t despair. This just one battle in a long-range war, my friends. And there is no doubt we’re getting more warriors on our side every day.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama And Putin Got It Wrong: Why The U.S. Is Exceptional

What a wonderful brouhaha Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred up when he (or one of his PR flacks) wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times earlier this month.

Much of the piece was pretty much what you would expect from the Russian strongman and former KGB thug. He denied that Syrian president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own citizens. “No one doubts that poisoned gas was used in Syria,” Putin wrote. “But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.” If you buy that one, he has a bridge is Vladivostok he’d like to sell you.

And don’t assume that his remark about “powerful foreign patrons” was a sly reference to Russia’s relationship with Syria. No, no, not a bit. After all, Putin wrote: “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”

Yes, I know. It’s hard to keep from laughing out loud at some of his absurd protestations. Here’s another one: “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” Like you did in Chechnya, comrade?

But nothing stirred up more response than Putin’s parting shot. In his final paragraph, he said he disagreed with President Barack Obama’s comments regarding American exceptionalism. The Russian near-dictator had the unmitigated gall to lecture his American audience on the subject, writing: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” And he concluded: “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

I doubt if Putin himself believes what he wrote in that final sentence any more than our own President really believes in American exceptionalism. Oh, sure. Barack Obama has used the words a few times, such as in his address to the Nation that Putin referenced, but never with any real conviction.

Four years ago, for example, Obama answered a reporter’s inquiry on the subject by saying: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Doesn’t that fill your heart with patriotic fervor?

Yes, America is exceptional. And it’s exceptional for a reason that neither Putin nor Obama will ever admit. America is unique among all the countries that have ever existed for one simple but profound reason: The United States was founded on the principle that our rights come from God, not from government.

One of the most majestic phrases in the English language is the one Thomas Jefferson included in Declaration of Independence expressing that thought. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It was our Creator who gave us our rights — rights that are unalienable. That means they cannot be withdrawn or transferred. At least, that’s the theory. I have no doubt that the Founding Fathers would be shocked by how powerful the Federal government has become today. And dismayed at how much it encroaches on our liberties (not to mention our wallets).

By the way, the Declaration of Independence not only opened with an acknowledgement of God, it also ended with the same recognition: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of a divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Yes, this country was founded on the principle that our rights come from God — and that governments exist not to grant them, but to protect them. The Declaration also said: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The men who drafted our Constitution worked very hard to craft a document that would limit what a central government was allowed to do. They wanted to “bind it down” with the chains of a constitution.

But even that wasn’t enough to satisfy the leaders of our new Republic, who were very aware of the lessons of history. They knew that governments, always and everywhere, tried to expand in reach and power. Even before the new Constitution was submitted to the 13 States for ratification, they added a list of Amendments, to make even more specific what the new government was not allowed to do.

The first eight Amendments in what became known as the Bill of Rights enumerate a whole list of things that the new central government cannot do. The 1st Amendment begins: “Congress shall make no law…”

And just to make sure that the people’s rights shall not be infringed, the framers added the 9th and 10th Amendments, basically saying that if they overlooked anything, government can’t do that either. They made it as clear as they could in the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

While government in this country was limited, the ability of our people to prosper was not. America became the freest, the wealthiest and the most powerful nation on Earth. It made us the hope (and the envy) of the world.

That is why the United States is exceptional — or maybe I should say why this country was exceptional. Because there is no question that our central government has become a bloated monstrosity, bearing almost no resemblance to the very limited government our Founding Fathers envisioned.

One of the charges against King George in the Declaration of Independence was: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

Let’s face it: Those colonists had it easy, compared to all the ways that our present government “eats out” our substance.

I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that it’s time for a new American revolution.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

P.S. There was one more comment in Putin’s opinion piece that merits a rebuttal. He said, “No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations.”

Wrong again, Mr. President. There are many of us who believe one of the greatest things we could do for freedom, peace and prosperity in the world is to get the U.S. out of the U.N. and the U.N. out of the U.S. And our numbers are growing every day.

Is This Obama’s Dumbest Mistake Yet?

For a while, it looked as though Barack Obama would suffer his most humiliating political defeat ever. Congress was about to tell the President a loud and emphatic “No!” to his request for legislation authorizing a military strike against Syria, when suddenly who should come galloping to his rescue other than his longtime nemesis, Russian President Vladimir Putin?

What the heck is going on here?

The present charade began last Monday, when Secretary of State John Kerry made a supposedly off-hand remark at a press conference in London. When asked if anything could avert the United States from taking military action against Syria, Kerry said there was. All that was necessary was for Syrian President Bashar Assad to “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community.”

But Kerry then said, “He isn’t about to do it.” And referring to the fact that it would be impossible to verify that all chemical weapons had been surrendered, even if Assad were to agree, Kerry added, “And it can’t be done.”

But it looks like we’re all going to pretend that it can be. The Russians promptly grabbed the Kerry fumble and scored a touchdown with it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country would be delighted to supervise the compliance by its longtime ally.

And Assad — who up until now had denied that his government even possessed chemical weapons, much less used them against any of its citizens — said he’d go along with the plan. Sure he will.

Prior to these latest developments, the White House had been lobbying Congress day and night to give the President permission to attack Syria. We’d do it all long-range, you understand, without a single American soldier ever stepping foot in the country. “No boots on the ground,” we were promised, just “unbelievably small” air strikes.

President Barack Obama said he really didn’t need Congress’s permission to launch the missiles, he just thought it would be a good idea to get the support of the people’s representatives. Not only would his people lobby hard on Capitol Hill, the President would take his message directly to the public. The White House asked the major television networks to carry Obama’s remarks live on Tuesday night.

In a lifetime of watching Presidential addresses, I have never seen a bigger waste of time than Obama’s speech that night. The best thing about it was that it was short: only 16½ minutes long. But what was the point of it?

In her blog, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan called the speech a “time filler.” That it was. She wrote:

He should have canceled the speech. It was halfhearted, pro forma and strange. It added nothing, did not deepen or advance the story, was not equal to the atmosphere surrounding it, and gave no arguments John Kerry hasn’t made, often more forcefully, in the past 10 days.

True. The original purpose of the speech — to rally support for military strikes against Syria — was no longer valid. Instead, the President said he had asked Congress “to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force, while we pursue this diplomatic path.” He’s called for meetings of the U.N. Security Council in New York City. He’s sent Kerry to Geneva to meet with the Russian foreign minister. He himself will continue to talk with Putin. Meanwhile, he’ll keep all U.S. military forces in place, just in case.

In another post, Noonan wrote: “The president will keep the possibility of force on the table, but really he’s lunging for a lifeline he was lucky to be thrown.”

Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan said the same thing, but more colorfully: “Kerry fumbled the ball into the end zone and Obama fell on it, and now we’re not going to have a war,”

Don’t be so sure. Just after all the glad-handing and merrymaking, Putin dropped a major fly in the ointment, saying that Russia would pursue the deal only if the United States would promise that it would not take any military action against Syria. And he followed up that demand with the announcement that Russia was going to supply Iran, its other ally in the area, with sophisticated air defense missile systems. Not only that, but it would also build a second nuclear reactor in the country.

As if that weren’t insult enough, yesterday The New York Times published an op-ed piece allegedly written by the Russian president. In it, Putin lectures the United States about what could happen if Obama proceeds with his oft-threatened military strikes against Syria. And he actually claims: “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.” Sure thing, buddy.

The whole idea of “the international community” getting hold of Syria’s chemical weapons is absurd. There is no way to rid Syria of chemical weapons in a few weeks, even if Assad were to agree. Remember what happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was ousted? It took authorities more than two years to complete their search of the country. And that was after “peace” had allegedly been restored. Syria is in the middle of an incredibly savage civil war.

The rebels are just as barbaric and bloodthirsty as the government’s troops. Many of them are fanatical jihadists with links to al-Qaida. And these are the people we want to see overthrow Assad?

Yes, the price being paid in Syria is dreadful. More than 100,000 people have been killed. Several million people have fled the country; more people are trying to do so every day. But for now, the United States will stand down. And the grand charade will continue — at least for a while.

By the way, the next time Obama wants to address the Nation, I hope he’ll do it from the Oval Office. That location conveys a certain majesty and gravitas, which should be appropriate for a Presidential address.

By comparison, the long, empty corridor behind the President on Tuesday night seemed bleak and insignificant. At least this time the location matched the content.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Warmongering Republicans Support Obama

You’ve heard the story that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. I guess the modern equivalent is playing poker on your smartphone while debating going to war.

That’s what Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), the top hawk on the Republican side of the aisle, was caught doing three days ago, during a hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Barack Obama Administration’s top guns were there to testify in favor of a resolution authorizing a military strike against Syria.

McCain later joked about his lapse: “As much as I like to always listen in rapt attention constantly with the remarks of my colleagues over a three-and-a-half-hour period, occasionally I get a little bored.”

Hey, who wouldn’t, after hearing Secretary of State John Kerry’s fumbling, bumbling testimony? Bet you’d also be desperate for any sort of distraction if you had to sit through several hours of mumbo-jumbo like the response Kerry gave to the question: “[A] prohibition for having American boots on the ground — is that something that the administration would accept as part of a resolution?”:

Mr. Chairman, it would be preferable not to, not because there is any intention or any plan or any desire whatsoever to have boots on the ground. And I think the president will give you every assurance in the world, as am I, as has the secretary of defense and the chairman. But in the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else and it was clearly in the interest of our allies and all of us, the British, the French and others, to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements, I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country.

Kerry was accompanied by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The trio had trudged up to Capitol Hill to seek support for a resolution authorizing military action in Syria. Kerry almost blew it when he suggested that the resolution shouldn’t rule out the deployment of U.S. troops. He was forced to “clarify” his remarks:

Well, let me be very clear now because I don’t want anything coming out of this hearing that leaves any door open to any possibility. So let’s shut that door now as tight as we can. All I did was raise a hypothetical question about some possibility — and I’m thinking out loud — about how to protect America’s interests. But if you want to know whether there’s any — you know, the answer is, whatever prohibition clarifies it to Congress and the American people, there will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war.

Kerry was also asked if all the various intelligence agencies came to the same conclusion: that Syria had used chemical weapons against its own citizens. He replied: “To my knowledge, I have no knowledge of any agency that was a dissenter or anybody who had, you know, an alternative theory.” No wonder McCain would rather play poker!

Meanwhile, Kerry’s boss was in Stockholm, Sweden, en route to a G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia. Obama tried to deny that he was the one who drew a “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons. The present confrontation isn’t his fault, he insisted; it’s “the world’s” fault.

First of all, I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98% of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are [sic] abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war.

Of course, that’s not what the President said last year, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out. On Aug. 20, 2012, he issued the following warning:

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

Oh, and if you won’t agree that the whole mess is the world’s fault, Obama had some other culprits to blame: You, me and his favorite whipping boy, Congress.

The President actually declared: “My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line.” And he added, “America and Congress’s credibility is on the line, because we give lip-service to the notion that these international norms are important.”

McCain had already declared his fervent support for letting the missiles fly.

Now that a resolution is going to be before the Congress of the United States, we want to work to make that resolution something that majorities of the members of both houses could support. A rejection of that, a vote against the resolution by Congress, I think would be catastrophic, because it would undermine the credibility of the United States of America and of the President of the United States. None of us want that.

Wrong again, Senator! Even after weeks of hearing about the Syrian president’s “crime against humanity” for using chemical weapons against his own citizens, 50 percent of Americans still oppose taking military action against Syria. That’s according to the latest NBC News poll, which found that only 42 percent of Americans support a military response.

Nevertheless, at the end of the hearing, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution authorizing the President to use limited military force against Syria. No boots on the ground, you understand. No forcing Bashar Assad out of office. No, all we’re going to do is to “degrade” Assad’s ability to wage war on his own citizens.

No doubt, a majority of Democrats will meekly agree to give the President the war-making power he wants — even though many of them screamed to high heaven when Obama’s predecessor in the Oval Office sought Congressional approval for waging war against Saddam Hussein. Does anyone remember that Joe Biden and Obama were among the most fervent in their opposition? Biden even threatened to lead impeachment efforts against George W. Bush over the issue. But that was then and this now.

McCain’s shilling for the war resolution probably won’t affect the outcome in the Senate, where the Democratic majority will carry the day. If the measure is going to be defeated, it will have to happen in the House.

Sadly, the Republican leadership there is already on record as supporting military intervention in Syria. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said: “I’m going to support the president’s call for action. I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action.”

And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement: “I intend to vote to provide the President of the United States the option to use military force in Syria.”

We’ll find out next week if enough members of Congress will say “no” to taking military action against Syria. Do you know how your Representative will vote? Now would be a very good time to find out. And let him know how you feel.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Another Stupid, Senseless, Illegal War

The headline over a New York Times opinion piece said it all: “Bomb Syria, Even If It Is Illegal.” How’s that for a bald-faced declaration of warmongering intent?

Ian Hurd, the author of the article, is an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University. In his column, he admits: “As a legal matter, the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons does not automatically justify armed intervention by the United States.”

But his attitude is pretty much, “So what?” Here’s what he says next: “There are moral reasons for disregarding the law, and I believe the Obama administration should intervene in Syria. But it should not pretend that there is a legal justification in existing law.”

Got that? Existing law doesn’t justify our armed intervention in Syria. So what would? Hurd writes: “… Mr. Obama and allied leaders should declare that international law has evolved and that they don’t need Security Council approval to intervene in Syria.”

What a wonderful Machiavellian solution! Just declare that international law has “evolved” enough to justify whatever the heck you want to do, and then go ahead and do it. That attitude would certainly put the final nails in the coffin of our Constitutional protections, wouldn’t it?

The good professor concludes his argument: “This would be popular in many quarters [want to bet?], and I believe it’s the right thing to do. But if the American government accepts that the rule of law is the foundation of civilized society, it must be clear that this represents a new legal path.”

No it doesn’t, professor. It represents a new illegal path — one that can result only in more tyrannical actions by even more dictatorial governments.

It’s Thursday morning as I put the finishing touches on this piece. So far, the United States and its allies haven’t fired the first shot. With Obama heading to a G-20 conference (in Russia, of all places) next week and Congress not back in session for two more weeks, it may be a while before the first missile is launched.

But every leak out of the White House indicates the President is going to do something, by golly. Even Barack Obama is now referring to firing a shot across Bashar Assad’s bows. But not to worry; we’re promised that there will be no “feet on the ground” by U.S. forces. Our surgical strikes will be quick, lasting only two or three days.

That’s what our leaders say. But when have our policies in the Mideast ever worked out as promised? Our billions in aid to Egypt sure haven’t won us much respect there or brought their own citizens much peace, have they?

If you think The Times’ piece was provocative, just wait until you hear what the supposedly conservative Wall Street Journal had to say on the subject. Bret Stephens, who writes the “Global View” column in The Journal, had a doozy. He argued that the “main order of business” for any military intervention in Syria “must be to kill Bashar Assad.”

And not just Assad: “Also, Bashar’s brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power.” But Stephens doesn’t want the death toll to stop there. The fatalities should also include “all of the political symbols of the Assad family’s power, including all of their official or unofficial residences.”

Forget about hitting military targets, Stephens says. Just kill the rulers and blow up their palaces. According to the columnist, “a civilized world cannot tolerate” a government’s using chemical weapons against its own citizens. That “plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history only by Saddam Hussein.”

I’d argue that the Muslim jihadists’ use of suicide bombers to massacre innocent civilians — whether in Israel, the Mideast or the Twin Towers in New York City — is as barbarous as anything done by Saddam or Assad to their own citizens.

At the end of his column, Stephens says, “What’s at stake now is the future of civilization, and whether the word still has any meaning.” Sorry, but I don’t agree that the “civilized” response to Assad’s butchery is for us to kill him and his family. I think we should stay out of the whole bloody mess. I believe George Washington got it right in his farewell address, when he urged this country to avoid foreign entanglements.

I suspect most Personal Liberty readers agree with me. But a whole lot of our opinion molders don’t, including FOX TV’s superstar host, Bill O’Reilly. This past Tuesday, he opened his program with a “Talking Points” segment: “What President Obama Should Do About Syria.”

In his remarks, O’Reilly called Syria’s tyrannical president “a war criminal, a mass murderer and baby killer.” He left no doubt he believes Assad has used poison gas against his own citizens and “is now responsible for thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths.”

Then O’Reilly declared:

“So there is no question that Assad must be held accountable. If you believe in American exceptionalism, that this country has a moral obligation to save lives where it can all over the world, then you know the USA must act against Assad, as it did against Sadam Hussein.”

Hold on just a minute, O’Reilly. You must have a very different definition of American exceptionalism than I do. I’m one of the most passionate defenders of our Constitutional Republic you’ll ever find. But I certainly don’t agree that we have a “moral obligation to save lives where [we] can all over the world.” Certainly not by military intervention in a country that poses no threat to us. That’s the worst prescription for sticking our fat fingers in other countries’ affairs I’ve ever heard.

O’Reilly says that Obama “has a unique opportunity not only to damage Assad [at least he doesn’t advocate deliberately killing him and his family] but to show the world that we are the good guys and those helping Assad are the bad guys.”

Does he really think that throwing our weight (and our missiles) around is the way to convince more of the world that we’re the good guys? I don’t. In fact, the more we mind our own business and the less we try to be the policeman for the world, the better off we’ll all be.

O’Reilly had some further advice for Obama, including securing the support of “as many Arab countries as possible, beginning with Saudi Arabia.” Also, “Obama should go to Congress and ask for a vote of affirmation on using military power.” And finally, we should “ask Russia and China to support NATO actions.”

I’d rate his third suggestion as hopeless, his first as highly unlikely and his second as doable — but not before sometime in mid-September. Will the warmongers be willing to wait that long?

O’Reilly concluded: “If America wants to be a world leader, we cannot allow a tyrant to violate international law by using chemical weapons.”

I’ve got a better idea: Let’s stop trying to be the policeman for the world. The world doesn’t want it. And we can’t afford it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Boy, Did I Get That One Wrong

In all the years I’ve been writing this column, I have never had readers jump all over me like they did last week. Some of them were even polite about it! Here are just a few of the nearly 500 comments I received:

“The first thing I did after I read the article … checked my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day,” said Average _Joe56. “Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t.”

GQ4U had the same reaction: “An anti-liberty article in Personal Liberty Digest? Am I on Candid Camera?”

TheOriginalDaveH, one of our most frequent posters, asked, “What? Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Is Chip really arguing against the 4th Amendment?”

GiveMeLiberty,OrGiveMe Death (don’t you love his pen name?) was more emphatic: “Chip, have you lost your ever-loving MIND????? Seriously, you claim to be a conservative and you think stop-and-frisk is okay????? What the heck, dude, that is just wrong.”

Karolyn, another frequent correspondent, summed up her disappointment in just 10 words: “So now Chip is an advocate for the police state!”

A lot of folks were less kind than these examples. The cause of their ire was my defense of the stop-and-frisk program by the cops in New York City and my criticism of a Federal judge who found much of it unConstitutional.

You know what? I was wrong. My readers, bless their libertarian sentiments and uncompromising principles, are right.

I got blinded by two things. The first was the distorted logic the judge in this case exhibited. The second was the undisputed fact that major crime in New York City has plummeted.

Here’s one example of the kind of tortured thinking U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin showed in her ruling. She said that the police were justified in stopping and questioning David Floyd, the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. And it was even okay when they searched the pockets of his outer garments.

But they went too far, she ruled, when they also frisked his pants pockets. Searching his jacket was okay, but not his pants? Give me a break.

So let’s go back to the basics: the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (Yes, in answer to one reader’s rhetorical question, I have heard of them. In fact, I keep a well-thumbed copy of both in my top desk drawer.)

Here’s what the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That’s as clear as our Founding Fathers could make it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear enough to keep the courts from permitting some incredible abuses. So today, 80-year-old grandmothers can be groped at an airport in the name of security. The NSA can collect information on the emails and phone calls of virtually every American in the name of combating terrorism. And the police can stop, question and frisk anyone they want in the name of fighting crime. All they need to do is claim to have reasonable grounds for their suspicions. They don’t even have to believe that a crime has been permitted by the suspect – merely that some sort of criminal behavior may be going to take place.

All of this is perfectly okay with the Federal courts, which have repeatedly sided with the authorities in permitting stop-and-frisk programs. Even Judge Scheindlin, whose ruling led to last Friday’s column, found the basic premise of stop-and-frisk to be acceptable.

But the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled in favor of many things that we Constitutionalists know are flat-out wrong. For most of the past century, the Federal government has acted as though the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution simply don’t exist. Time after time, the Supreme Court has supported massive expansion of Federal programs and power, no matter how much they have to twist and distort the Constitution to allow it.

And let’s not even get into the 2nd Amendment, which promises all of us that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Of course it is infringed all of the time. And nowhere are there more restrictions on our Constitutional right to bear arms than in New York City.

The most recent example of the Supreme Court’s tortuous logic in justifying yet another expansion of Federal power is when Chief Justice John Roberts said that the abomination known as Obamacare is Constitutional because it is a tax. So what if President Barack Obama and it supporters in Congress repeatedly denied that this was the case?

What about the claim that stop-and-frisk helps reduce crime? That’s the argument favored by its supporters, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (As one critic pointed out, “The first clue is that if you agree with Bloomberg on ANYTHING, you must immediately check yourself. The next thing you know, you’ll be agreeing with [Jesse] Jackson and [Al] Sharpton.” Ain’t gonna happen, medbob.)

Best-selling author Ann Coulter is one of many conservative commentators who support stop-and-frisk programs. In her syndicated column, “Stop and Frisk Policies Are Saving Lives,” she said that murders in the Big Apple were averaging about 2,000 a year when Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office in 1994. There were 714 – a decline of almost two-thirds – by the time he left office seven years later. And the number of murders has continued to fall, dropping to 419 murders last year.

That’s a big improvement. So it should come as no surprise that many of the citizens of New York City approve of stop-and-frisk. They think it makes them safer. And it probably does – at least from hoodlums and street criminals.

But remember what Benjamin Franklin, that very wise Founding Father, said. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

How many Americans are willing to exchange some essential liberty for a little temporary safety? Or to ask it another way, how many will exchange much of their independence for security? I’m afraid the answer is a whole bunch of them.

But not among the readers of Personal Liberty Digest™. You are a proud, feisty and independent crowd, and I’m grateful for it… and for you.

So thank you, DavidForward, for saying, “It takes an honest man (or woman) to admit they may have made a mistake and reevaluate their position. Congratulations on proving you are such [an] individual! Personal integrity and common sense are sorely missed in our devolving police state; keep up the good work, honest thoughts, and evaluations.”

Thanks, too, to TheOriginalDave, who wrote, “Wow. I’m impressed. Not many people will own up to their errors. Thanks, Chip.”

And to frequent commentator Vicki, who wrote, “Thank you, Chip. We were wondering ‘cause you have always been a staunch supporter of individual liberty for all.”

I still am and always will be, Vicki. But I’ve got to admit, I blew it this time. Thanks to everyone who made sure I didn’t get away with it.

Next week we’ll be back taking aim at the enemies of liberty. I hope you’ll join us.

Until then, keep some powder dry.

-Chip Wood

 

A Judge Handcuffs The Cops

There can be no doubt that the stop-and-frisk actions of New York City’s police department have been hugely successful in lowering the crime rate there.

So, of course, they’ve been under attack by liberal do-gooders. Sadly, this past Monday, a Federal judge ruled that they violated the Constitutional rights of minorities. Is anyone surprised?

Stop and frisk has been an important weapon for police departments everywhere in their efforts to deter crime. Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the program in New York City, saying:

The NYPD’s ability to stop and question suspects that officers have reason to believe have committed crimes, or are about to commit crimes, is the kind of policing that courts across the nation have found, for decades, to be constitutionally valid.

If this decision were to stand, it would turn those precedents on their head — and make our city, and in fact the whole country, a more dangerous place.

Thanks in large part to the stop-and-frisk program, Bloomberg says that New York is the safest big city in the United States. Unlike Chicago and other cities where crime rates are skyrocketing, New York is seeing record lows in many areas of violent crime.

You won’t be surprised to learn that most of the violent crime in the city is committed by blacks and Hispanics against other blacks and Hispanics. Or that most of the people stopped and questioned by police are also members of these two minorities.

So it follows, as night follows day, that the stop-and-frisk program was challenged in the courts. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in a pair of decisions that the police department’s policy violated the Constitutional rights of minorities.

It just so happens that blacks and Hispanics make up about 60 percent of the population in the precinct under dispute in the case. But they made up 96 percent of the people the police stopped and questioned. This was enough to convince Scheindlin that the police department’s actions were racist and unConstitutional.

The judge ignored the fact that an overwhelming majority of crimes committed in the area are by minorities against minorities. In New York’s 88th Precinct, where the alleged discrimination took place, 99 percent of violent crimes (and 93 percent of all reported crimes) were committed by blacks and Hispanics.

Or as former New York Governor George Pataki put it, “You go where the crime is if you want to stop the crime.” And he added, “The effect of the policy is thousands of lives that are saved, largely low-income, minority lives, because we have much lower rates of violent crime.”

Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute pointed out the absurdity of the judge’s logic:

[T]hough whites and Asians commit less than 1 percent of violent crime in the 88th Precinct and less than 6 percent of all crime, according to Scheindlin 40 percent of all stops should be of whites and Asians, to match their representation in the local population.

That would be as ridiculous as having airport screeners pick on grandmothers and young children, just to show they’re not “profiling.” Oh, wait; that happens all the time.

Columnist Gary Bauer points out how stop and frisk benefits minorities in New York:

The irony is that the vast majority of people whose lives are saved by stop-question-and-frisk are minorities, the vast majority of the police officers who employ it on their patrols are minorities and the vast majority of residents who are safer because of the policy are minorities.

But, of course, liberals on a crusade — especially one that will hamstring and handcuff the police — will simply ignore any facts that get in their way.

To realize how absurd some of the arguments can be, consider the case involving David Floyd, the primary plaintiff in Floyd v. City of New York, the class-action lawsuit brought before Scheindlin. Here’s how The Wall Street Journal described what happened with him:

[Floyd] was observed trying numerous keys and jostling a door in an area where a series of burglaries had recently been reported. Because burglary is often a violent crime, the judge thought the cops were justified in stopping and frisking the men’s’ outer garments but went too far in checking Mr. Floyd’s pockets. Therefore the judge ruled that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

Can you believe what you just read? According to Scheindlin, the police were justified in searching Floyd’s jacket. But how dare they see what he had in his pants’ pocket!

Here’s how The Journal describes a second of Judge Scheindlin’s examples:

Then there’s Clive Lino, stopped and frisked in 2011 because he matched the description of a homicide suspect from a wanted poster distributed to officers that morning – right down to his red leather Pelle Pelle jacket.

Sounds like good police work, doesn’t it? Not good enough, the judge ruled: “Here again the judge saw a reasonable stop and even a reasonable frisk, but a frisk that went too far and created another alleged Fourth Amendment violation.”

In her ruling, Scheindlin said that the New York Police Department conducted 4.4 million stops from January 2004 through June 2012. Yet the class-action lawsuit brought before her cited only 19 cases. You would think that if you could cherry-pick just 19 examples out of a total of 4.4 million cases, all of them would be horrifying examples of police misconduct.

That isn’t what happened. The judge said that in five cases, such as the two cited above, the stops were reasonable but the frisks went too far. In another five cases, neither the stops nor the frisks were unreasonable.

That left only nine cases — fewer than half — wherein she concluded that both the stops and the frisks were not based on reasonable suspicion and thus were unConstitutional.

Scheindlin ordered that new procedures be enacted by the police to end the discrimination and that a Federal monitor be appointed to make sure her instructions are carried out.

Bloomberg promptly announced that the City will appeal Scheindlin’s decision. Hopefully, the U.S. Court of Appeals — and, if necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court — will overturn her ruling.

What if that doesn’t happen? The Wall Street Journal put it this way:

The tragedy is that if the judge’s ruling isn’t overturned, the victims won’t be in the tony precincts of liberal New York. They will be in the barrios and housing projects where stop-and-frisk has helped to protect the most vulnerable citizens, who are usually minorities.

Once again, liberal policies hurt the most the very people they claim to want to help. So what else is new?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Please, Governor Christie: Shut Up!

What is it with Republicans anyway? Why, when public sentiment is shifting in their favor, do they form a circular firing squad and begin taking pot shots at each other?

Let’s begin the sad survey with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s needless denunciation of the “dangerous” tilt toward libertarianism represented by Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky.

Sitting on a panel with other Republican Governors last month, Christie fired the first shot when he said: “This strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought.”

He went on to say: “I love all these esoteric debates that people are getting in.”

Asked if he was referring to Paul, who is often mentioned as a potential rival for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016, Christie replied, “You can name any number of people who have engaged in it, and he’s one of them. I mean these esoteric, intellectual debates.”

Christie suggested that anyone who opposes National Security Agency surveillance efforts should talk to the families of those who died in the 9/11 attacks. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans and have that conversation,” he declared. “And they won’t. ’Cause that’s a lot tougher conversation to have.”

Paul responded via Twitter.

Regarding Christie’s comments, Paul told Newsmax: “It’s a low blow to anyone to use someone’s tragedy.”

Could the debate sink any lower? Well, yes, it could. And it did, when Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) decided to pile on. He declared that his fellow Republican (Paul, not Christie) would have favored a policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler if he had been in Congress in the years leading up to World War II.

Turns out that both Christie and King are still annoyed at Paul for not agreeing to all of the Federal aid they wanted in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Paul tried to set the record straight on that one.

“I actually supported giving them one year’s worth of funding and then offset the spending that we spent on Sandy — offset it with spending cuts with money that we’re spending overseas giving to countries that are burning our flag,” he told Newsmax.

But the argument over government snooping on our emails and phone calls is just one of the battlegrounds dividing Republicans in Congress. Immigration is another big one. So is the coming battle over raising the debt ceiling.

But the biggest one right now is on efforts to defund Obamacare.

While no one thinks that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act can be repealed in the current Congress, Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are leading efforts to cut off the money to implement it. Doing that is “the single best opportunity to defeat Obamacare,” Cruz says. And he adds, “The fight we are engaged in in the next 60 days is the most important fight of this Congress.”

Not every conservative agrees with him. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who can usually be counted on to support any effort to trim Federal spending, has been outspoken in his opposition to the defunding efforts. He’s called the proposals “hype,” “dishonest” and “impossible.”

“I’m getting phone calls from Oklahoma saying ‘Support Mike Lee,’” Coburn has said. “And I’m ramming right back: Support him in destroying the Republican Party?”

Those are unusually harsh words from the normally mild-mannered Coburn. They earned him some applause from Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who once dubbed his libertarian colleagues as a bunch of “wackobirds.” McCain sent out this tweet:

And Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called the defunding proposal “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

What’s got them all so upset? It’s the idea that if Congress doesn’t pass a continuing resolution by Oct. 1 to fund the Federal government, the government will have to shut down. And the Democrats have said they won’t approve any measure that doesn’t include money for Obamacare.

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer has made it clear that he does not agree with the GOP insurgents:

This is nuts. The president will never sign a bill defunding the singular achievement of his presidency. Especially when he has control of the Senate. Especially when, though a narrow 51 percent majority of Americans disapproves of Obamacare, only 36 percent favors repeal. President Obama so knows he’ll win any shutdown showdown that he’s practically goading the Republicans into trying.

Never make a threat on which you are not prepared to deliver. Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans. The first, in 1995, effectively marked the end of the Gingrich revolution. The latest, last December, led to a last-minute Republican cave that humiliated the GOP and did nothing to stop the tax hike it so strongly opposed.

Karl Rove has also joined the “don’t defund” side of the debate. In his column last week in The Wall Street Journal, the Republican bigwig warned:

For congressional Republicans, the challenge is to keep the upper hand provided by their strategy of passing continuing resolutions at current levels to fund the government. They must not overreach. For it’s an iron law that Republicans get blamed for any government shutdown, no matter who controls the White House or Congress.

So Mr. Obama is baiting Republicans to overplay their hand by forcing a government shutdown or failing to offer a constructive conservative agenda.

Daniel Horowitz, policy director for the Madison Project, is one of many conservatives who disagree. He has called for a “fight to the death” over this issue:

We stand today at the precipice of enacting the worst government program ever. We have two choices: we can continue funding Obamacare, only to find ourselves discussing modest tweaks to the law in 10 years from now — not unlike the way we are forced to approach Medicare now. Or we can end the cycle of big government by forcing a fight to the death over this cancer to our country before it take effect. It is that simple. There are no other options. Anyone who opposes the defund effort before the law takes effect is essentially admitting that Obamacare will become enshrined into the welfare state forever.

Cruz agrees. “If we don’t stand and fight now,” he said, “we never will. If we don’t stand and defund Obamacare today, we are saying we surrender.”

So the battle lines have been drawn. Expect the war of words to escalate dramatically when Congress comes back from its August recess. The pressure to cave will be enormous.

Do you know where your Congressman stands on this issue? If you don’t, this would be a mighty good time to find out. And help stiffen his backbone, if he needs it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Hillary Clinton’s Sexting Problem

You know Hillary and Bill Clinton wish that Anthony Weiner and his wife would just disappear. Vanish into thin air, never to be heard from again. They’ve got to be sick and tired of hearing people say that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is “just like Hillary.”

You would have thought that after a sexting scandal that forced him to resign from Congress two years ago, Weiner would have learned his lesson. But, no, the contender to be the next mayor of New York has sent sexually explicit text messages to several other young women over the past couple of years. And still, his long-suffering wife says she has forgiven his wayward ways and will stick by him.

It’s just like Hillary Clinton did for husband Bill 15 years ago, when news got out of his sexual hanky-panky with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Remember how Hillary Clinton tried to blame reports of her husband’s indiscretions on a “vast right-wing conspiracy?” That didn’t work very well, did it?

Apparently, the comparison of the two scandals is driving the Clintons bonkers. The New York Post reports that a top Democrat told the paper: “The Clintons are pissed off that Weiner’s campaign is saying that Huma is just like Hillary. How dare they compare Huma with Hillary? Hillary was the first lady. Hillary was a senator. She was secretary of state.”

And for much of that time, Abedin was there beside her, both as a friend and as an employee. Columnist Christine M. Flowers pointed out: “Huma Abedin has been by her mentor’s side for almost two decades, and it is reasonable to think that she spent a large part of that time taking notes about how to thrive and prosper in the political jungle…. Anthony’s wife has taken a page from her pseudo-mama’s dog-eared book and has perfected the art of damage control.”

Flowers wrote: “[W]e are now in the presence of Hillary Clinton, version 2.1.”

Maureen Dowd, the preachy liberal columnist for The New York Times, reminded her readers that Bill Clinton officiated at Abedin’s and Weiner’s wedding in 2010. And she managed to find one positive result from the latest Weiner escapades: “Aside from being a gift to clowns, hacks, punsters, rivals and the writers of ‘The Good Wife,’ Carlos Danger [one of Weiner’s texting non de plumes] is also a gift to political-scandal survivors. His behavior is so outlandish and contemptible — the sort of thing that used to require a trench coat and a park — that it allows Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton to act huffy.”

“Huffy” isn’t quite the right word to describe how Bill and Hillary Clinton feel about the constant comparisons — and reminders. A much better description would be “furious.” And no wonder. Of course they’d be angry about anything that reminds voters of the Lewinsky scandal. After all, it was Bill Clinton’s less-than-honest testimony back then (remember his claim that “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”?) that led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Yes, if the media keep reminding people of what happened back then, it just might cut into the millions of dollars in speaking fees that Bill Clinton is earning today. Even worse, it could affect Hillary Clinton’s chances to be elected President herself in 2016. So no wonder they both wish that the comparisons would stop. And that Weiner would cancel his campaign for mayor and just quietly fade away.

The New York Times says it has seen and heard enough. An editorial on the subject concluded, “The serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City.”

But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon. In fact, Weiner himself has repeatedly vowed that he won’t drop out of the race, no matter how many editors and politicians urge him to do so. “Quit isn’t the way we roll in New York City,” he declared.

He also said he didn’t much care what Hillary or Bill Clinton thought. “I am not terribly interested in what people who are not voters in the city of New York have to say,” Weiner told reporters.

Apparently, he doesn’t much care what likely Democratic voters in New York City think either. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, a majority of them also say that Weiner should withdraw from the race.

Nor is Weiner’s sexting scandal all the negative publicity his campaign is receiving. Now it’s his communications director, Barbara Morgan, who’s making headlines. Seems she went on an expletive-filled rant against a campaign intern. And she did it while a reporter was recording every word.

I can’t repeat most of what Morgan said, because it was too X-rated for this publication. One of the few allowable epithets she used was “slutbag.” Will Morgan’s dirty language take the spotlight off her boss’s dirty text messages? Not for long.

In the meantime, there’s another election in New York City that will also test voter forgiveness. Former Governor Spitzer is running for city comptroller. Spitzer resigned as Governor in 2008, after only a year in office, when revelations emerged that he was Client No. 9 of a high-priced prostitution service.

And through it all, Spitzer’s wife, Sida, also stood by her man. That scandal was said to be the inspiration for the popular TV show “The Good Wife.”

So far, the media response to all of this has been to treat Weiner like a laughing-stock, his wife Abedin as an unfortunate victim and Hillary Clinton like an innocent bystander.

Hillary Clinton gets to enjoy lunch with the President outside the Oval Office, far above all the mud that’s being flung below her. She’ll pretend she doesn’t hear any of the comparisons with her former friend until New York’s mayoral election is over and Weiner’s sexting problem is finally forgotten.

At least, that’s what she hopes. Based on what’s happened since her husband’s sex scandal 15 years ago, Hillary Clinton has every reason to be optimistic.

Isn’t it wonderful what can happen (and what won’t happen) when you have the mass media running interference for you?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

– Chip Wood

Edward Snowden: Traitor Or Hero?

In today’s column, I’m going to share an extraordinary email exchange between a former U.S. Senator and Edward Snowden, the infamous betrayer of Washington secrets. I think I can promise that it will cause you to look at this controversy in a whole new way.

By now, you can almost feel a bit sorry for Snowden, the whistle-blower extraordinaire who has been forced to remain in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a month. I’ve been stuck at a lot of different airports over the years, and it was never fun. And none of them, thank God, was in Russia.

Now comes word that the Russian authorities will finally permit Snowden to leave the airport while they consider his application for asylum. I have no idea why it took so long. Like bureaucracies everywhere, the ones in Moscow apparently move at their own glacial pace.

So what do you think? Is Snowden a traitorous dog who deserves the harshest penalties the United States can impose on him (if U.S. authorities can ever get their hands on him, that is)?

Or is he an authentic American hero who sacrificed a comfortable life to bring us the truth about how far our government has gone to snoop on all of us? Even the members of the intelligence committees in Congress, who supposedly knew all about the secretive surveillance being carried out by the National Security Agency and other government watchdogs, say they have been shocked to learn of the extent of what was going on.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ask more than 1,000 liberty lovers what they thought of Snowden. I was the master of ceremonies at something called FreedomFest, an annual conference that describes itself as “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.” Most of the attendees would probably describe themselves as libertarians, although traditional conservatives were certainly well-represented, both in the audience and at the podium.

When I asked the audience for their opinion of Snowden and what he did, I expected them to be fairly evenly divided. It was not even close. Fewer than 10 percent raised their hands when I asked if they thought he should be prosecuted for revealing state secrets. The overwhelming majority — by a rough estimate, more than 85 percent of the audience — said he deserved our praise and thanks for helping to expose what one speaker referred to as “the surveillance state.”

Shortly after returning home, I received a fascinating email exchange between Snowden and a former politician I remember fondly. Gordon J. Humphrey was a two-term Senator from New Hampshire. Here is the message he sent Snowden, via Glen Greenwald, the writer for The Guardian in London who broke the story of Snowden’s incredible disclosures:

Mr. Snowden,

Provided you have not leaked information that would put in harms (sic) way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution.

Having served in the United States Senate for twelve years as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I think I have a good grounding to reach my conclusion.

I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere.

Kindly acknowledge this message, so that I will know it reached you.

Regards,
Gordon J. Humphrey
Former United States Senator
New Hampshire

Humphrey received the following email from Snowden. Its authenticity was also confirmed by Greenwald.

Mr. Humphrey,

Thank you for your words of support. I only wish more of our lawmakers shared your principles – the actions I’ve taken would not have been necessary.

The media has distorted my actions and intentions to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations and instead focus on personalities. It seems they believe every modern narrative requires a bad guy. Perhaps it does. Perhaps, in such times, loving one’s country means being hated by its government.

If history proves that be so, I will not shy from that hatred. I will not hesitate to wear those charges of villainy for the rest of my life as a civic duty, allowing those governing few who dared not do so themselves to use me as an excuse to right these wrongs.

My intention, which I outlined when this began, is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them. I remain committed to that. Though reporters and officials may never believe it, I have not provided any information that would harm our people – agent or not – and I have no intention to do so.

Further, no intelligence service – not even our own – has the capacity to compromise the secrets I continue to protect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my specializations was to teach our people at DIA how to keep such information from being compromised even in the highest threat counter-intelligence environments (i.e. China).

You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.

With my thanks for your service to the nation we both love,

Edward Snowden

So what do you think of that? When he talks about media distortions that are being done “to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations,” Snowden sounds like a columnist for Personal Liberty Digest™, doesn’t he?

And when he wonders if “loving one’s country means being hated by its government,” he sounds like many of our readers.

Right now, there’s only one thing keeping me from coming down 100 percent on the side of “hero.” And that is the path Snowden has chosen to follow since those first incredible disclosures.

When the story first broke, I was impressed that this obscure contractor was willing to turn his life upside down to expose the truth about the NSA’s massive surveillance efforts. “Good for him,” was my first reaction. What an incredibly brave thing to do, I thought, knowing that he would immediately become the declared enemy of the most powerful government on Earth.

But it’s not civil disobedience if you’re not willing to face the consequences of your actions. I hoped that Snowden would come back to the United States and face his accusers in an open and public trial. Instead, he fled to China and then on to Russia — two countries that aren’t exactly known for a commitment to the freedom of their own citizens. And if he ever gets permission to leave Russia, he’s indicated that he might like to settle in Venezuela or Bolivia — two countries that are a lot closer to a “dictatorship of the proletariat” than anything resembling the Constitutional protections that we have long taken for granted.

What’s next? Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian attorney, told CNN: “As far as I know, he’s planning to stay in Russia to learn Russian culture, Russian language and (to) live here.” If he does, it won’t be anything like his life in Hawaii before all this happened, where Snowden himself said he lived in “paradise.”

Our government has asked Russia to extradite Snowden back to the United States, but it doesn’t sound like Russian President Vladimir Putin has any intention of granting that request. (There is no extradition treaty between the two countries.) Putin has said that Snowden will need to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” if he wants to remain in the country.

Meanwhile, both Venezuela and Bolivia have said they would be delighted to grant asylum to Snowden. And Nicaragua has said it would do so “if circumstances permit,” whatever that means.

Oh, and one more thing. When Greenwald contacted Humphrey, to confirm the authenticity of his original email, Humphrey expanded on what he wrote Snowden:

I object to the monumentally disproportionate campaign being waged by the U.S. Government against Edward Snowden, while no effort is being made to identify, remove from office and bring to justice those officials who have abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States and the rights of millions of unsuspecting citizens.

Americans concerned about the growing arrogance of our government and its increasingly menacing nature should be working to help Mr. Snowden find asylum. Former Members of Congress, especially, should step forward and speak out.

Count me among those willing to speak out. I’d love to see us bring to justice those officials who have “abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States.” Wouldn’t you?

In the meantime, I think we owe Snowden a huge “thank you” for what he’s done to expose the Big Brother surveillance taking place in what used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Now it seems we’re the not-so-free and the not-very-brave.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Media Fail To Start A Race War

You have to wonder: Does the mainstream media really want blacks in this country to riot because a jury of his peers found George Zimmerman “not guilty” of the charges against him?

That’s certainly the impression I get from the coverage of the trial and its aftermath.

Correction: The incredibly biased and often incendiary reporting began long before the first day of the trial. It started, in fact, shortly after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. And it skyrocketed when authorities in Sanford, Fla., said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Zimmerman with murder.

That was all the professional race-baiters needed to launch a national crusade for “justice.” Virtually overnight, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, NAACP officials and numerous other crusaders had an issue that would get them in front of the cameras again. They grabbed their megaphones and put on their marching shoes. And the mainstream media promptly gave them all of the publicity they could want.

The pressure for the authorities to bring charges was impossible to resist. The Sanford police chief was fired for refusing to arrest Zimmerman. Angela Corey, the State Attorney in Florida, led a prosecution that was so biased and dishonest that Alan Dershowitz, the liberal Harvard Law professor, says she should be the one to be put on trial.

“I think there were violations of civil rights and civil liberties — by the prosecutor,” Dershowitz said. “The prosecutor sent this case to a judge and willfully, deliberately and, in my view, criminally withheld exculpatory evidence.”

The famous criminal-law expert added specifics: “They denied the judge the right to see pictures that showed Zimmerman with his nose broken and his head bashed in. The prosecution should be investigated for civil rights violations and civil liberty violations.”

Fat chance that will happen.

As just one example of how viciously the media distorted things before the jury rendered its verdict, consider Zimmerman’s telephone call to 911 on the night of the shooting. Here’s what the “Today” show played for its audience a month later: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

Sure makes it sounds as though Zimmerman based his concern on Martin’s skin color, doesn’t it? That’s what the media wanted you to think. But as we subsequently learned, the “Today” editors deliberately omitted an important part of that telephone call. Here’s a transcript of the actual conversation:

Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

Dispatcher: “OK, and this guy – is he black, white, or Hispanic?”

Zimmerman: “He looks black.”

You’ll be pleased to learn that Steve Capus, who at the time was president of NBC News, said that the edited phone call was most emphatically “not a deliberate act to misrepresent the phone call.” Sure thing, Steve. And thanks for assuring us that the people guilty of this flagrant distortion were “disciplined,” whatever that means.

As it happens, a lengthy investigation by the FBI could find absolutely no evidence that Zimmerman has ever expressed any racist sentiments. And you can bet the liberal media tried desperately to find some.

Zimmerman’s attorneys say that now that his trial is over, they plan to proceed with a defamation lawsuit against NBC News. I wish them well. In fact, I hope Zimmerman collects a ton of money. He’s going to need it, since it looks like he will be put on trial again.

That’s right. The NAACP is leading an effort to have Zimmerman face Federal charges of violating Martin’s civil rights. Some even want him charged with a hate crime. The NAACP has collected more than 450,000 signatures for a petition campaign with this appeal: “A jury has acquitted George Zimmerman, but we are not done demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Sign our petition to the Department of Justice today.”

If the race-baiters have their way, Zimmerman will once more be on trial — this time in a Federal court. So we’ll once again hear the media go through distortions to make everything about race. That’s why we got such absurdities as the media description of him as “a white Hispanic.”

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Justice Department is asking for the public to assist in its investigation: “The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday afternoon appealed to civil rights groups and community leaders, nationally and in Sanford, for help investigating whether a federal criminal case might be brought against George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, one advocate said.”

Apparently, if you know anything that could lead the Feds to press charges, they want you to send them an email about it. Can you imagine the kind of “tips” they’re going to receive? And probably not just about Zimmerman. I’ll bet they receive all sorts of rumors and accusations about his defense attorneys. Heck, they’ll probably even get a ton of scuttlebutt about some of the jurors.

Much was made of the fact that, of the six women on the jury that acquitted Zimmerman, not one of them was black. There were five whites and one Hispanic. But here’s something you may not have known: There was a black male in the jury pool, but he was rejected by the prosecution. Why? Because he admitted that he watched FOX News. That was all the prosecution needed to hear.

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, more blacks think other blacks are racists than whites. Yes, you read that correctly. The Rasmussen pollsters say that 31 percent of blacks believe most blacks are racist, while only 24 percent of blacks believe that most whites are. Interesting, isn’t it?

Thankfully, some black leaders are speaking out in opposition to more criminal prosecution of Zimmerman. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., had this to say about the efforts of the NAACP and other organizations: “We need to wonder why they’re doing that, what kind of checks and money they’re getting behind the scenes to stir us up into racial anarchy. We should be speaking non-violence, justice, peace and love as Trayvon’s parents are doing, by the way. So we need to ask why they’re race baiting, because they are.”

After what was probably the most highly publicized trial of this century, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges against him. That’s not good enough for Sharpton and the other professional race baiters. Nor is it good enough for the liberal-dominated media. They love to feature any criticism of this country, no matter how distorted or exaggerated.

Thankfully, so far at least, all we’ve seen are what the media refer to as “mostly peaceful” demonstrations against the verdict. It could have been a lot worse. And if the race baiters get their way and Zimmerman goes on trial again, I’m afraid it will be.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

An Expert Games The System

You’ve got to hand it to Dorothy Dugger. The lady is an absolute genius when it comes to squeezing every possible penny from her former employer and from the taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill.

For more than 20 years, Dugger was employed by the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco. And even though she didn’t do a lick of work for BART last year, she still managed to earn more than any of the other 3,340 BART employees — including the person who replaced her as general manager.

Although it sounds impossible, she earned a gross salary of more than $333,000 in 2012 without putting in a single hour on the job. Hers was the top wage at BART. I’ll tell you in a moment how she did it.

But that’s not all. Check out the other ways the longtime government employee found to game the system. Her ultimate payoff could be in the millions of dollars.

The sad charade began in the spring of 2011, when BART’s board tried to fire her as general manager. However, in the process, the board failed to follow some of the State’s public-meeting laws. Rather than face a messy lawsuit over their mistake, the board agreed to pay Dugger $920,000 if she’d just go away.

Dugger agreed and tendered her resignation in May 2011. But that was far from the end of the story. She then said she wanted to start collecting for all of the vacation time she had earned but not used in the 20 years she worked for BART. Believe it or not, that came to nearly 3,100 hours of unused vacation time.

Unlike most businesses, which have a “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to vacations, BART allows its employees to bank the value of those unused vacation days. And get this: The “value” is calculated not at what the employee was earning at the time, but at whatever salary was being paid when the employee decides to collect on it. Because Dugger got a raise of nearly $100,000 a year when she became general manager of BART in 2007, her unused vacation time took a considerable jump in value. It was now worth a small fortune.

As a result, she was able to sit at home, not doing a lick of work, and still collect a full salary, for more than 19 months. Impressive, huh?

Dugger got a paycheck and full benefits from May 2011 until December 2012. That came to another half-a-million bucks the lady collected. But there’s more. For “working” those extra 19 months, Dugger also collected an additional $138,000 in vacation time and bonuses.

That’s right. Because of the screwy way BART calculates employee benefits, Dugger earned two more months of vacation time while she was, in effect, on a paid vacation. And she got “management bonuses” even though she didn’t manage a single employee. How’s that for a sweetheart deal?

Oh, and now that she is finally off of BART’s payroll, the goodies won’t stop. She’s now collecting a pension of $181,000 a year. That figure would have been lower, but those 80 weeks of unused vacation time also boosted her pension by more than $1,000 a month.

The San Jose Mercury News reported on the grand total of Dugger’s post-resignation payday. Here’s what it found:

Settlement payment to avert lawsuit, May, 2011: $920,000
Unused vacation time as of May 2011: About 3,100 hours
Gross pay, June 2011 to December 2012: $558,000
Cost to BART for benefits, June 2011 to December 2012: $138,000
Monthly pension payments, beginning January 2013: $15,083

I hope you’re as outraged as I am by this incredible abuse of what is clearly a very lax and overly generous system.

If you are, here’s something that should make you even more upset: There are literally millions of Americans who are counting on you to provide them with a cushy, comfortable retirement. And many of them will also game the system to make their retirement pensions as high as possible. (Putting in lots of expensive overtime the last year or two on the job is just one way many of them can jack up their retirement pay.)

And unlike private companies which can go bankrupt, taking many employees’ pension plans down with them, government employees can be confident the goodies will never end. They know that governments can raise taxes (and in the case of the Feds, simply print more money) to keep those pension checks coming.

But present and future government pensioners aren’t the only ones who are counting on taxpayers to make life better for them. Consider: The U.S. Department of Agriculture now reports that 101 million Americans now participate in at least one of the 15 food assistance programs that the agency offers. The total cost for those 15 programs in fiscal 2012 was a staggering $114 billion.

At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of full-time employees in the private sector came to 97,180,000 in 2012. In other words, there are more people getting food assistance in this country than there are people working full-time outside of government to pay for it.

If you think your share of the price tag has gotten bigger, you are absolutely right. Here’s how former Senator Phil Gramm summarized the situation in a column in The Wall Street Journal:

In 1980, the top 1% and 5% of income earners in America paid 19.1% and 36.9% of total federal income taxes. Today, the top 1% and 5% pay 37.4% and 59.1%. Meanwhile, 41.6% of American earners now pay no federal income taxes.

The bottom line is that there are fewer and fewer of us picking up the tab for more and more freeloaders. No wonder our share of the bill is getting higher.

It’s a battle between the taxpayers and the tax receivers. And right now, the tax receivers are winning.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood