SOTU: With Malice Toward Some

President Obama used his last State of the Union address to decry divisiveness he helped instigate. [Credit: CNN]

President Obama used his last State of the Union address to decry divisiveness he helped instigate. [Credit: CNN]

Completing his seventh year as the world’s most powerful politician, President Barack Obama used his final State of the Union address to tell us what is wrong with politics: his political opponents. Continue reading

Obamacare And The Daughters of (40% Less) Charity

The President last week professed his love -- appropriately chaste, of course -- for Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association and tireless Obamacare advocate.  [Credit: Wikipedia]

The President last week professed his love — appropriate and chaste, of course — for Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association and tireless Obamacare advocate. [Credit: Wikipedia]

I just love nuns generally.  I’m just saying.  – President Obama, June 9

And nuns just love him too.  At least nuns who run hospitals seem to.  And with good reason: the President advocates policies that enable hospitals like those operated by the Daughters of Charity to provide less charity.  Continue reading

Applying Selma’s Moral Clarity To Iran

President Obama's address on the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march contained moral clarity that is lacking in his negotiations with Tehran. [Credit: ABC News]

President Obama’s address on the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march contained moral clarity that is missing from his negotiations with Tehran. [Credit: ABC News]

America is not some fragile thing.  We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes.  We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. President Barack Obama, March 7, 2015, Selma, Alabama

The days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over….Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3, 2015, Washington.

Two speeches, delivered just four days apart, reminded us how leaders can motivate and inspire, stir our passions and call us to great things.  Most of all, they can bring moral clarity to the complex realities of a messy world. Continue reading

If Obama Were President

The mammone -- a jobless man in his 20s, 30s or 40s who lives with mamma -- is an Italian tradition. But under President Obama, labor force participation rates of young men have plunged to Italian levels. [Credit: studenti.it]

The mammone — a jobless man in his 20s, 30s or 40s who lives with mamma — is an Italian tradition. Under President Obama, labor force participation rates of young American men have plunged to Italian levels. [Credit: studenti.it]

In Italy, they call him a mammone: an unemployed man in his 20s, 30s or 40s who still lives with mamma.

The prevalence of the mammone has long been thought to be a predominantly Italian phenomenon, with deep cultural roots.  It has grown more pronounced with the country’s recent economic distress.  Since 2008, a growing percentage of Italian men aged 25-54 have abandoned the labor force, no longer bothering even to look for work.

Italy’s workforce participation rate among men of prime working age is by far Europe’s lowest.  But it is not the lowest in the developed world.  Italy now shares that dubious distinction with the U.S.

That wouldn’t happen if Obama were President. Continue reading

How Cutting Jobless Benefits Cut Joblessness

During his December 2013 Hawaiian vacation, President Obama phoned lawmakers, asking them to extend unemployment benefits.  They did not.    Which is a good thing, according to a new study published by NBER. [Credit: Fox News]

During his December 2013 Hawaiian vacation, President Obama phoned lawmakers, asking them to extend unemployment benefits. They did not. Which is a good thing, according to a new study published by NBER. [Credit: Fox News]

A little more than a year ago, the President was distressed.  It was a few days after Christmas 2013, and extended unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people were about to expire.  In a typically perfunctory lobbying effort, he called two Senators to urge them to move a bill to preserve the benefits.

To recover from his exertions, he and his family then “ventured to the white-sand beach at Bellows Air Force Station, which is on the windward side of the island of Oahu and features turquoise water and a stunning view of the Mokulua Islands,” the Washington Post reported.

That tranquil scene augured the best year for U.S. employment growth since 1999.   According to the Labor Department, the economy added more than 3.1 million jobs in 2014.  The topline unemployment rate was 5.6% in December, down from 6.7% the prior December and the lowest rate since June 2008.

And here is the surprising major reason for the resurgence in employment: Congress spurned the President’s entreaties and let extended unemployment benefits expire. Continue reading

“Episodes,” Hollywood And Reverend Al

Season 4 of "Episodes," premieres tonight, a funny, smart and dead-on satire of Hollywood.  [Credit: Showtime]

Season 4 of “Episodes,” premieres tonight, a funny, smart and dead-on satire of Hollywood. [Credit: Showtime]

MATT LEBLANC’S EX-WIFE: You were arrested for driving drunk with our kids in the car!

LEBLANC: Yeah, well, when you say it that way, it sounds terrible.

Scene from Season 3 of “Episodes

The fourth season of “Episodes” premieres tonight on Showtime, promising another sumptuous feast of Hollywood send-ups. David Crane’s (“Friends,” “Joey”) handiwork has it all: self-obsessed actors, self-important executives, mawkish phoniness and bloodless betrayals, all set among ubiquitous lies and deceptions.  Crane’s satire is pitch-perfect: overdrawn enough to be funny, but real enough to be (almost) true. Continue reading

The President, His Critics And the Politics of Impatience

What do these two men have in common?   More than you might think.  [Credit: Politico]

What do these two men have in common? More than you might think. [Credit: Politico]

“But what I’m not going to do is just wait.  I think it’s fair to say that I’ve shown a lot of patience…But what we can’t do is just keep on waiting.”  President Obama, November 5, 2014

The Constitution offers no remedy for presidential impatience. Presidents, Members of Congress and judges are sometimes constitutionally required to “just keep on waiting.”  And that is something officeholders of both political parties seem increasingly unwilling to do.  When it comes to circumventing the rules to achieve the political objectives of the moment, the President and some of his most strident conservative foes are soulmates.

Continue reading

Iraq: In Search Of An Organizing Principle

The President has decided to fight jihadists threatening to kill Yazidis with bombs instead of hashtags. But it's not clear why. [Credit: Business Insider]

Sunni radicals are threatening to massacre an obscure ethnoreligious group known as Yazidis.  The President has decided to fight the jihadists with bombs instead of hashtags. But it’s not clear why. [Credit: Business Insider]

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Another August.  Another flirtation with war.  In the psychodrama that is the Obama Presidency, our hero vacillates between war and peace, detachment and intervention, riding out the storm and steering into its teeth.  The rest of us are left to guess whether he will respond to the next humanitarian crisis with bombs or hashtags.  There is, as Mrs. Clinton notes, no “organizing principle” to lend coherence to our foreign policy. Continue reading

President Bush Not To Blame For This Iraq Crisis

 

Iraq appears on the verge of civil war and some blame former President George W. Bush. Here's why they're wrong. [Credit: al Jazeera America]

Iraq appears on the verge of civil war and some blame former President George W. Bush. Here’s why they’re wrong. [Credit: al Jazeera America]

The Iraq civil war did not start under Obama, it started when Bush, Cheney and the neocons pulled the trigger to invade Iraq … . It was [the] status of force agreement, signed by Bush, that pledged to withdraw all US forces … Given the staggering cost of expense and lives we could not stay there “maybe a hundred years” as McCain said. Nor could we bleed hundreds of billions of dollars there every year. Obama promised to get us out of there, and he rightly did so … To attempt to blame anyone but Bush, Cheney and the neocons for the Iraq disaster is simply revisionism at its finest. —  Excerpted from a comment on my recent post on Iraq.

The Obama presidency’s leading malfeasance lies in its belief that finding someone to blame for a problem is as good as solving it.  So it is little surprise that my recent post on Iraq, in which I argued against US military intervention, would spur comments that former President George W. Bush is to blame for the renewed fighting. Continue reading

Student Loans: Punishing People Who Play By The Rules

President Obama believes that requiring student loans to be repaid is punishing good behavior.  [Credit: NPR]

President Obama believes that requiring student loans to be repaid is punishing good behavior. [Credit: NPR]

“If somebody plays by the rules, they shouldn’t be punished for it.” — President Obama

The President made this inarguable statement in the course of proclaiming a change in the law governing student loans.  Henceforth, millions of people who borrowed for college will have their monthly payments restructured and, in some cases, be entirely relieved of the obligation to repay their debt.

In the President’s mind, borrowing money is playing by the rules; paying it back is punishment. Continue reading