Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama Might Just Blow It

The biggest danger to Sen. Barack Obama's campaign comes not from his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, nor from his former rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, but from Barack Obama himself. Obama has sold himself as a new kind of politician, even an anti-politician, a practitioner of a new kind of politics. The Achilles heel of this strategy is that Obama is not really that different from other politicians; and if he can be shown to be just like every other candidate, save for his eloquence, voters who invested in him on a personal level may begin to feel like they have been had.

The past week provided Obama with a few opportunities to show that he really is a different kind of candidate, indeed a different kind of Democrat, than the standard variety. But in each instance, he espoused the typical liberal position. The Supreme Court's wrongheaded decision in Boumediene, for the first time granting habeas corpus rights to terrorist detainees, was embraced by the "different" Obama as an important step in preserving civil liberties for American citizens. But the decision has nothing to do with Americans. It grants the rights of Americans to non-Americans who want to harm American citizens, but it does not one thing to advance any American's civil liberties. Obama's embrace of the decision may just as well have come from the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or any other far left liberal watchdog group. Obama missed an opportunity to take a "new politics" position on terrorists, in favor of a garden variety liberal one.

Obama then compounded his error by holding out the example of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as a model for how an Obama Administration would deal with terrorists and terrorist acts. He assessed the trial and conviction of the terrorists in that first Islamic terrorist attack on American shores as having been a success. "They are in U.S. prisons, incapacitated," he boasted of the terrorists responsible. He did not address how, if the trial and conviction of those terrorists was so successful, the September 11th attacks took place. Clearly, the trial did nothing to prevent further acts of terrorism on America at home or abroad. Obama missed a chance to take a post-September 11th position on terrorists, a more robust one than federal prosecutors can implement, in favor of a tired old liberal worldview.

But Obama was not finished. He capped off the week by suggesting that if Osama bin Laden himself were captured alive during an Obama Administration, the mastermind of the murder of more Americans than any other person in history would not be subjected to the death penalty. Obama said that the U.S. should deal with a captured bin Laden in a way that does, "not make him a martyr." That may be a popular position in the liberal salons of Cambridge and New Haven, but it is not one that will resonate with an overwhelming majority of Americans. Even those personally opposed to capital punishment will have a hard time finding any sympathy for bin Laden's soul. Obama could have easily said that bin Laden deserved "ultimate justice" for his crimes, or some other suitable euphemism for execution, and he would have been praised as a "new" kind of Democrat, tough on terrorism. But instead he went out of his way to take the liberal position, even for the worst of America's enemies.

Since securing the nomination, Obama has been trying to tack back to the center, walking back pledges to meet personally and unconditionally with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. But there's nothing new about that strategy either. Presidential candidates since time immemorial have campaigned to the fringes in the primary and to the center in the general election. What is new about Obama, however, is the length to which he has gone to convince voters that his greasy fast food served on fine china is really nouveau cuisine. It's not. If Obama doesn't start to come up with some genuinely new positions and fresh ideas, he will lose in November, and become just another bitter liberal former nominee.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ignore the Court

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling in the consolidated cases of Boumediene v. Bush and Al-Odah v. United States for the first time grants foreign-born enemy combatants of the United States, captured on the battlefield in the process of planning or participating in attacks against U.S. targets, the right to challenge the circumstances of their detention in federal court. It is difficult to overestimate the impact that this ruling will have on the prosecution of the war on terror and, indeed, all future armed conflicts. The specter of American troops Mirandizing enemy combatants on the battlefield, or being called back from the front to testify in civilian court about the manner that a prisoner was captured, and the practical impossibility each of those outcomes would present to the U.S. military, should trouble every American who is concerned about the nation’s safety.

President Bush, reacting almost immediately to the Court’s decision, said that his Administration, “would abide,” with the ruling, adding, “That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.” He spoke too soon, and did not go far enough. For the reasons cited above, and others, he should ignore this decision of the Court, and continue to apply the Military Commissions Act of 2006 as duly passed into law by Congress.

The unpleasant fact overlooked by Justice Anthony Kennedy and the four justices who signed on to his majority opinion, is that in ruling the military tribunals set up by the Military Commissions Act to be unconstitutional, the Court itself committed an unconstitutional act. Congress, acting under its Article III power to regulate the judicial branch, stripped the Supreme Court of the jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from detainees in the custody of the United States when it passed and the president signed the Military Commissions Act. The act specifically states:

No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination. (2) Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1005(e) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.

The Detainee Treatment Act vests the authority to hear habeas petitions in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, not the Supreme Court. The very act of taking the cases constitutes a usurpation of Congress’s Constitutional powers, as well as a violation of U.S. law, by the Supreme Court. The ruling itself, of course, is a gross attempt to regulate the conduct of the Executive Branch in wartime by the Judiciary and has no basis in the Constitution.

Not since the Civil War has a president defied a ruling of the Supreme Court, when President Abraham Lincoln ignored a ruling that his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was unconstitutional. Lincoln continued to hold persons deemed to be enemies of the Union. Like the Supreme Court, the Executive and Legislative Branches of government have a responsibility to interpret the Constitution. Lincoln, exercising his interpretation both of the needs of the war effort and the law, concluded that preserving the Union necessitated the temporary suspension of the writ. President Bush can and should make the same determination.

Should the president make such a decision, he would not be going nearly as far as Lincoln did. The president would be refusing to apply habeas rights to foreign-born enemy combatants, whereas Lincoln jailed American citizens. The president would be on firm legal ground in making this determination. He has inherent Article II powers to direct the military as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and he would be upholding a duly passed law against a rogue Court overstepping its authority. Furthermore, since Congress expressly authorized the D.C. Circuit to rule on the status of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and that court ruled that the tribunals were indeed legal, President Bush can argue that he is upholding the decision of the highest court authorized to rule on the matter.

Americans understand that the proper role of the judiciary is to interpret the laws, not make them. They also understand that in this war on terrorism, every effort must be taken to prevent those who would do America harm from realizing their plans. The president has been handed an opportunity with this wrongheaded and unconstitutional decision of the Supreme Court to act on both principles. The Administration can strike a blow against terrorists and a rogue federal judiciary by simply refusing to submit to the will of nine justices in black robes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama's Electoral Map Shrinks by One State

Sen. Barack Obama has an uphill battle to win the presidency. Don't think so? Take a look at the Electoral College map. Despite having a slim lead in national polls over Republican Sen. John McCain, Obama has a lower ceiling in Electoral College votes than McCain, and must breakthrough to take a red state in order to win the presidency, no matter how many points he may beat McCain by in the national popular vote. In other words, if McCain is able to hold all of the states that voted Republican in 2004, he will win.

Obama must not only wrest a state or states from McCain, he must put together the right combination to reach the magic Electoral College number of 270 votes. For example, looking at the 2004 Electoral College map above, if Obama were to take Iowa and New Mexico from McCain this November, two fairly good possibilities, that would still leave him seven electoral votes shy of the mark. Obama needs to win a big McCain state to win the White House.

It would come as a disappointment, then that Ohio Governor Ted Strickland recently ruled out the possibility that he would serve as Sen. Obama's running mate. Strickland is the popular governor of a swing state from the last two presidential elections who was swept into power in 2006 in a paroxysm of voter anger over Republican mismanagement and scandal. Strickland's presence on the ticket would conceivably help Obama with rural working-class whites, a demographic he struggled with in the primaries and perhaps tip the state and its 20 electors into his column.

But Strickland was not only dismissive of a potential Vice-Presidential selection, he was dismissive of Sen. Obama's chances to win Ohio in November regardless of who he picks for the ticket.

"Absolutely not. If drafted I will not run, nominated I will not accept and if elected I will not serve.

So, I don’t know how more crystal clear I can be." [...]

When asked to rank the degree of difficulty of Obama carrying Ohio, Strickland says: "I would say somewhere around 5 in a scale of 1 to 10. I think it’s, I just think it’s a challenge because of the nature of our state."

Ohioans just aren't that into Obama, according to the governor. So Sen. Obama will have to look elsewhwere for the 19 Electoral College votes he needs to make it to 270.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Federal Jobs Illegal Immigrants Can’t Do

President Bush modified an Executive Order from the Clinton Administration yesterday to effectively bar illegal immigrants from working jobs on the Federal dole. All Federal contractors will now have to register for the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program and check the status of all their workers and subcontractors’ workers before starting work on Federal contracts.

The E-Verify program is the bane of civil liberties and open borders groups because it uses the Social Security Administration’s database to actually cross check the often times fraudulent or stolen numbers provided by illegal immigrants on their employment applications. A Federal Court in San Francisco, natch, blocked part of Homeland Security’s program in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the San Francisco Labor Council, and the strange political bedfellows of the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That ruling, issued by Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer’s brother Judge Charles Breyer, has prevented the Social Security Administration from sending out over 140,000 “no match” letters to employers. The letters would have required employers to take steps to verify their employees’ identities within 90 days or else fire the workers.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at the time that the ruling did not amount to a “holiday from law enforcement,” and that the Administration would do, “as much administratively as we can, within the boundaries of existing law,” to continue to crackdown on illegal immigration. The president rightfully took a lot of criticism from the right for his backing of the Senate’s disastrous “comprehensive” immigration bill, and many have been skeptical of the Administration’s stepped up enforcement of illegal immigration laws in the wake of that compromise’s failure in Congress. Sen. McCain, too, a champion of the Senate bill, professes to have seen the light on illegal immigration and now calls for securing the border before taking up any immigration bill. Yesterday’s move to secure federally contracted jobs for American workers is evidence that the Administration does get it, and is another huge victory for opponents of illegal immigration. McCain can show that he gets it too by pledging not to alter or rescind the order if elected.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Senator, You're No Jack Kennedy

With the endorsement of Sen. Ted Kennedy, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s daughter Caroline Kennedy serving on his Vice-Presidential selection committee, the references to Sen. Barack Obama as a throwback to the days of Camelot and the heir apparent to the legacy of Robert Kennedy have become common in the media. It is not hard to see the parallels. Obama is young and energetic, with a telegenic family including two young children. He speaks in grand themes and has an oratorical style that inspires confidence. Both Kennedys were possessed of these gifts.

But Kennedy was not a liberal in the modern sense of the word, the way Obama is. Kennedy believed in a strong national defense, he believed in intervening in foreign countries’ affairs in service of U.S. national security interests, and he advocated tax cuts as a means of stimulating the economy. All three of these are anathema to today’s liberals.

Obama wants to withdraw completely from Iraq, regardless of the consequences for the United States and the region. Kennedy understood that projecting U.S. military power abroad was an essential part of both the ideological struggle between America and her adversaries and keeping the homeland safe. Obama wants to negotiate with America’s enemies, instead of confronting them on the global stage. Kennedy met with Kruschev, yes. But he understood that the Soviet Union was engaged in a struggle for supremacy with the West that envisioned Soviet dominance in Europe and the strategic defeat of the United States. He didn't just talk either. Kennedy took action, blockading Cuba, an act of war, and airlifting supplies to Berlin when Soviet aggression spilled out of the negotiating room. Lastly, Obama wants to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts, including the cut in capital gains tax rates. That tax that hits a large percentage of Americans who own investments and is not adjusted for income. Kennedy understood that reducing tax rates on businesses and individuals was a sure fire way to jump start economic growth. Kennedy knew that the pie was not fixed in size, like today's liberals and Obama do. Kennedy understood that growth would benefit everyone, without government control.

Kennedy would be a moderate Republican today. Obama is a standard issue liberal, the most liberal member of the Senate. Like everything else with Obama, the comparison with Kennedy is only on the surface. Once one takes a closer look, a very different picture is revealed.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's All History Now

It has been two days since Sen. Barack Obama's clinching win in the Democratic primary race. Oh, wait! I forgot to mention that his win was historic. Forgive me. The media has been busy reminding viewers and readers every thirty to forty words or so that Obama is the first African-American to win the presidential nomination of a major American political party. Aside from the fact that it is true, a fact which bears mentioning...once; this incessant harping on history has another, higher purpose. Namely, to set the narrative for the general election campaign. A vote for Obama is a vote for "history;" while a vote for the Republican, and erstwhile media darling Sen. John McCain, is a vote not just against Obama, but is anti-historic. In other words, if you don't vote for Obama, you don't want history to be made, you are against progress, and you are preventing America from becoming all that it can be.

Good Morning America's Chris Cuomo provided that last helpful bit of analysis on the morning after the (historic) win. He said on air that Obama's win was as much about him as it was about America becoming a more just and and better country than it is. Yes, because America just won't be great until every liberal fantasy is fulfilled, until every media command is obeyed, and until there is no more history to be made. From now until November, the media will pound its narrative home. And if it does not get its way, and McCain somehow defies history, all will be wrong again. Until the next great liberal hope rises, and the media finds another champion through whom it can remake America in its image.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Under Construction

Please check back again soon. I am just putting the finishing touches on the blog and will be posting shortly.