Does Putin Back Hillary?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Democrat standard-bearer Hillary Clinton in happier times. [Credit: thepoliticalcarnival.net]

Perhaps because I’m in Italy, I’ve not been infected by the contagion that has spread more rapidly than the Zika virus: the febrile notion that Russian president Vladimir Putin is subverting our electoral process in an effort to elect Donald J. Trump as president.

Never has such conspiratorial speculation mutated so quickly into received wisdom. Continue reading

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

History Won’t Win The War Against Terrorists

President Obama sounded presidential Sunday night in his Oval Office address. [Credit: CNN]

President Obama sounded presidential Sunday night in his Oval Office address.   [Credit: CNN]

“We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.  And there are some steps we could take … to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently: common-sense gun safety laws, stronger background checks.”  President Obama, December 2, hours after the San Bernardino shootings

“It is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West. They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs. So this was an act of terrorism.”  President Obama, December 6, on the San Bernardino shootings.

Sometimes the country needs a President, not a partisan. Continue reading

There Is No Plan To Destroy The Islamic State

Hillary Clinton presented her plan for defeating the Islamic State recently. It won't work. Nor will those advanced by her Republican opponents. [Credit: NY Daily News]

Hillary Clinton presented her plan for defeating the Islamic State recently. It won’t work. Nor will those advanced by her Republican opponents. [Credit: NY Daily News]

When pressed by a normally docile gaggle of White House reporters recently over whether he would consider changing his failed Syria strategy, President Obama reverted to form: he accused Republicans of religious bigotry and cruelty to children.

His political opponents, he said, believe that “only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted” as refugees and that we “shouldn’t admit 3-year old-orphans.”

The President’s efforts to divert attention from his foreign policy debacles (which helped make orphans and refugees of three-year-olds) have so far fallen flat.  The vast majority of Americans has lost confidence in his campaign against the Islamic State.  A Washington Post poll found that 57 percent disapprove of the way he’s dealing with the terrorist group – including 46 percent who strongly disapprove – against only 35 percent who support him.

That public sentiment, of little interest to the President, is a leading concern for those vying to succeed him.  Even Bernie Sanders claims to have a plan to destroy the Islamic State. Though they differ in certain respects, most of these plans call for dropping more bombs against more targets from planes flying the flags of more countries (with the possible exception of Russia), providing more arms to factions we don’t really know and can’t really trust, and deploying more military “advisers” (not to be confused with “boots on the ground”) to the region.

All of them suggest that Islamic State can be vanquished with relative ease and at little cost.  All of them are blowing smoke. Continue reading

Is President Obama Right About Putin?

Vladimir Putin delights in outwitting President Obama at every turn. But is the President right when he says the Putin's Syria adventure is "not a smart strategic move?" [Credit: Daily Mail and Getty Images]

Vladimir Putin delights in outwitting President Obama at every turn. But is the President right when he says that Putin’s Syria adventure is “not a smart, strategic move?” [Credit: Daily Mail and Getty Images]

The U.S. and Russia blundered to the brink of nuclear war in 1983 according to recently declassified documents, a reminder that as frayed as relations between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have become, things could be far worse.

The NATO exercise that threatened mutually assured destruction began with a fictional scenario that today doesn’t seem all that fictional — Russia delivers arms to Syria and Iran.

Leaders of several Gulf States, threatened by Russian intervention, seek U.S. military involvement, according to the scenario.  The President responds by dispatching military advisers to the region and increasing our naval presence there.

As the NATO war game played out, rising tensions eventually provoke Russian military aggression against its neighbors.  The U.S. President, in response to a request from his military commanders, authorizes the “limited use of nuclear weapons against pre-selected fixed targets.”

Russian military leaders who observed the NATO exercise concluded that the U.S. was plotting a real nuclear strike against the Soviet Union.  American intelligence officials had no idea at the time how badly the Soviets were misreading our intentions or how close the world was drawing toward nuclear conflagration.  War was averted.  But just barely, if the newly declassified intelligence assessments are to be believed.

Today, Russia is doing far more than merely supplying arms to Syria and Iran, leaving President Obama frustrated and flummoxed, but not fumbling for the nuclear launch codes.  Instead, the President watches helplessly as Vladimir Putin asserts himself in a region where the U.S. once held sway, vaguely warning that Russian intervention is “not a smart, strategic move.”

He may be right. 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

Obamacare Has Reduced Uninsured By Nearly 8 Million

A fresh government study has found that Obamacare has so far reduced the number of uninsured by eight million. [Credit: publicbroadcasting.net]

A fresh government study has found that Obamacare has so far reduced the number of uninsured by eight million. [Credit: publicbroadcasting.net]

The number of uninsured people declined by nearly eight million during the first nine months of 2014, reducing their ranks to 37.2 million, according to an analysis of data released late last week by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The survey’s findings conflict with a report issued last month by the RAND Corporation, which estimated that the number of uninsured fell by 16.9 million since Obamacare’s implementation [subscription required].  The RAND study put the number of uninsured at 25.8 million, nearly 12 million fewer than the NCHS estimate. 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

Why Obamacare Subsidies Matter

Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court yesterday as judges heard arguments over the legality of Obamacare subsidies. [Credit: AP]

Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court yesterday as judges heard arguments over the legality of Obamacare subsidies. [Credit: AP]

The future of Obamacare hangs on the Supreme Court’s ruling in King v. Burwell for a very good reason: unless health insurance is subsidized, millions of Americans don’t want it, even if they can afford it. 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