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