Obama’s Legacy: A victim of his own success

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-11-52-42-amDepending on your opinion of the man, Barack Obama has either been a success as a President, or a failure. History has a way of looking kinder at a President who leaves with a low opinion, an even kinder than that to one who leaves with a relatively positive opinion.

Obama entered office on the heels of a particularly unpopular president. “Change” his slogan, “Yes we can!” his catchphrase, I think anyone who has any sense believes “Yes he did” bring “change.”

Further, anyone who looks objectively at the Obama administration will come to the conclusion that he faced more opposition in Congress than any other modern president. Obama had objectives that didn’t mesh with the Democratic leadership, and Republican elites often wielded [or looked the other way to] the deep-south conservative “anti-black man” vibe, however were quick to dismiss it with the ideology of “Hey look, we have our black people, too! How can we be against the President JUST because he’s black?!”

Do I believe anyone in Congress or any of the elites were against Obama just because he was black? Not really, but they certainly had no problem using racial distrust to bring their point home to the the fringe-right, who wanted to put the “White” back in The White House. Look at the pictures of fringe-right Facebooks, showing pictures like Michelle Obama in ever-day clothes, or something a little less flattering, such as being sweaty, coming off of Air Force One, and next to it, a picture of Melania Trump, perfectly manicured, coiffed and in an expensive dress, with the meme tag line of “Change is Coming.” Now, that said, this is common across all political lines… but again, I think it goes to the mindset of the fringe-right: they want a sense of security back in the White House, not “the black guy who doesn’t wanna give the white guy a fair shake.”

Obama’s use of Executive action is largely unprecedented, because it was often the only way he was able to accomplish his agenda. Republicans have had a tendancy to block anything they remotely disagreed with, to get the President to acquiesce to their own agenda, which Obama largely didn’t do. He wanted consensus, Republicans wanted to flex their muscles of control — with hearings, with delays, with proforma sessions and lack of confirmations.

George W. Bush was brilliant in that he would shame his adversary-of-the-moment into compromise. He would sit down with the leadership and lay out his plan, and even his willingness to comrpromise. If he didn’t get what he wanted, he would stand up from the table, say “Thank you,” and walk right out the door, to a field of reporters, and say “I can’t get prescription drug coverage passed, because Senator Biden doesn’t want your grandmothers to be able to afford to eat AND take her medication!” While this is arguably “dirty politics,” it worked, often! Obama doesn’t play that game. He choses his battles, and rightly so — however, at what cost? Particularly when he is fighting an institution so engrained in itself to oppose him publicly at any turn. Obama would rarely call people out for opposing him, which I think only emboldened his adversaries on the Hill.

Barack Obama became the first black man to be President of the United States — no one can say that’s not a success. However, that success came with a price. He re-defined fundraising in America, re-defined the gaining of political capital, and even successfuly won re-election. However, America was a country still not ready for it, and while an obviously capable Commander-in-Chief, a series of miscalculations on his part, and the part of his aides gave rise to the greatest threats since 9/11, can these be blamed exclusively on him? No. Largely, perhaps — but a lot of these were already years in the making. Korea’s nuclear program has been working since the Bush Administration, and was eventually going to be complete. ISIL was previously a band of different groups, but of a similar ideology. Syria had been a dictatorship for years, and people across the Arab world had been fed up with corruption and greed of elites for years before the Arab Spring hit, it just all came to a head under the Obama administration.

Here’s to you, Barack. A President who’s largely been a victim of his own success — a do-nothing Congress that would rather bicker with itself than support the leader of the free world, a changing world where the rise of everyone else gives people the impression of a failing America in what is becoming the post-America world, and a guy who managed to hold it together in the meantime. I drink a toast to you, sir. I haven’t been your biggest fan for a long time, but that said, just like George W. Bush, Bill Clinton before him, H.W. Bush before him and Reagan before.. I admire the dignity you’ve held in keeping America safe, and helping hold the world together.

Friday at noon, the 45th President comes to power — Donald J. Trump.  Let’s give the incoming President all the support we can.  I certainly don’t agree with everything he says, but as a liberal, I intend to give him the respect he’s due, the ear he’s earned and the consideration that was largely absent when the holder of the office was of the other party.  Do with it what you will, sir.  Your actions pave the way of America’s future.

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Can Obama directly appoint to SCOTUS?

“The President … shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law.”
— Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 2

The President has floated the name of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, succeeding the late Antonin Scalia.

However, the current Senate leadership continues to doggedly state they refuse to meet with or even consider the candidate, much less place the candidate up for a vote. This would seem to stop the candidate dead in his tracks to his place on the Supreme Court Bench.

…or could it?

The Constitution is clear: nominations for “judges of the supreme court” must be made with the “Advice and Consent of the Senate.” However, is failure to vote for or against (i.e., taking no action) a statement waiving its right to act?

Indeed, Diskant, the senior partner of law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler opined in the Washington Post that this is indeed the case.

“It is in full accord with traditional notions of waiver to say that the Senate, having been given a reasonable opportunity to provide advice and consent to the president with respect to the nomination of Garland, and having failed to do so, can fairly be deemed to have waived its right.  Here’s how that would work. The president has nominated Garland and submitted his nomination to the Senate. The president should advise the Senate that he will deem its failure to act by a specified reasonable date in the future to constitute a deliberate waiver of its right to give advice and consent. What date? The historical average between nomination and confirmation is 25 days; the longest wait has been 125 days. That suggests that 90 days is a perfectly reasonable amount of time for the Senate to consider Garland’s nomination. If the Senate fails to act by the assigned date, Obama could conclude that it has waived its right to participate in the process, and he could exercise his appointment power by naming Garland to the Supreme Court.”

This would break what Diskant noted as a “logjam” in our current legislative system. but could also set a new precedent in Presidential appointments: making the Senate act in one way or the other, requiring it to exercise its duty: even if its vote is in the negative, its still exercising its duty. Could this help break the ice of the current system of partisan stonewalling, by strongarming the opposition to act?

This isn’t entirely unprecedented — when the Senate was holding proforma sessions to stonewall Obama’s nominations, particularly to the National Labor Relations Board back in 2012, President Obama unilaterally declared the Senate out-of-session and exercised his appointment power and named his candidates to the Board. While the Supreme Court later ruled these exceeded his ability, this is somewhat different — the Senate is simply not willing to act; and therefore is not approving, but not denying either — and is taking no steps to decline his nomination.

I believe this very well could be a point: by giving the Senate ample time to act, and its refusing to, the reasonable person, and a living Constitution could accommodate the notion that the Senate is willing to waive its right to stop, and therefore grants an approval by being properly notified, and declining its right to stop the nomination and appointment.

Could this set a new precedent in Presidential appointment power? How will the Supreme Court view it; as power grab, or a break in Congressional gridlock?

Further Reading:

Signs of Pre-Revolution France becoming alarmingly apparent in America…

Anonymous_-_Prise_de_la_Bastille

Storming of The Bastille by Jean-Pierre Houël

Continued income inequality… continued loss of political capital… wage stagnation… as these problems continue — they’ve alarmingly become worse — and with that, warning signs have begun to appear.

Back in the 18th Century, we had the French Revolution. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Jocularity aside, it was a time of political and social realignment in France that saw an end to established power and an economic and social liberalization that rapidly changed the face of the nation forever.

In a time where powerful oligarchies, the Church and economic elites ran the nation, the people themselves felt pushed out of the system, felt out of control and oppressed by the aforementioned elites. With them holding the political capital of the nation, the people turned against the ruling classes and gave rise to a liberal France, Napoleon Bonaparte and a shift in French history that’s seen and felt even today.

Fast forward to the United States of America in 2014. Still reeling from major political decisions such as Citizens United v. FEC and the Hobby Lobby case — where old power bases, such as religiously conservative institutions and “Old Money” continue to gain political capital in America; add to that stagnating wages, a growing income gap, a continued gap of benefits compared to the industrial/post-industrial world AND a continued rise in the wealth of the top 10% of America… and what do you have? You have a dangerous recipe for what sounds a lot like the French Revolution.

The New York Times published an op-ed of Steven Rattner, a Brown-educated presidential economic analyst, who illustrated that the income and wealth gap — already a chasm, continues to widen. The bottom 90% continue to lose as the top 10% continues to grow. Add to this mix the Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United and the Hobby Lobby case, along with mounting conservative pressure in America to resist a liberalization of the economy and way of life — such as same-sex marriage, and other liberal reforms.

Add to that the recent economic problems — and the near-collapse of 2007, which wiped out many jobs, and replaced them with jobs that often paid less, and required more work.  An abysmal recovery, that — while gaining traction, is doing so at an anemic pace, while the upper echelons of society continue to reap the benefits.

Sound familiar?

Could it happen tomorrow? Not likely. Could it happen if some kind of realignment doesn’t happen and the bottom-half of society isn’t allowed to catch back up? I think so. There’s gasoline being poured in what’s already a spark-filled room. Could it ignite?

Further Reading/Watching:

NYTimes Op-Ed: Rattner:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/17/opinion/inequality-unbelievably-gets-worse.html

YouTube: Nick Hanauer: Warning to Plutocrats: http://www.ted.com/talks/nick_hanauer_beware_fellow_plutocrats_the_pitchforks_are_coming?language=en

For Behold: The power of political incumbency?

Cynthia Brim, a Cook County, Illinois judge was suspended in 2012, after a series of bizarre incidents wound up having her declared “legally insane.”

cynthia-brim

Judge Cynthia Brim

While the board investigating this incident (a panel made of two judges and two civilians) continue to investigate and determine her plausibility to stay on the bench, not only is she continuing to collect her nearly $200,000 a year salary while on suspension — she’s since won RE-election to the bench.

Reportedly having been hospitalized for mental-related illnesses nine times since 1994, including after having gone catatonic during an official proceeding, the major problem came after she assaulted two Deputy Sheriffs; one was struck by her, and another was thrown a set of keys in an allegedly dangerous manner.

While her case continues to be evaluated, she continues to serve as a suspended judge — meaning she takes no cases, but receives all the pay and honors of a member of the bench; and indeed, has since been RE-elected.

Does this say something about the power of political incumbency?   I encourage you to do your own research and find out.

Lack of News Coverage, or Sensationalist Media?

As a center-left guy, I’ve always tended to favor CNN when it comes to national news.  FOX is well known for being a mouthpiece of the big-money Republican establishment and MSNBC is equally as liberal; with their own agendas and stuff they will either NOT cover, or will cover with a strong bias.  CNN, while with a liberal slant that comes with mainstream media, it’s relatively informed and and when reporting on information, individuals such as Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer seem to present information relatively impartially.

However, with the recent loss of Malaysian Flight 370, I’ve noticed every time I turn on CNN… there’s NOTHING ELSE covered, except maybe on the bottom ticker.  I’ve learned more about the pinging signal from the Black Box than I’ve learned in COLLEGE in the last year — and that’s a sad statement.  Further, during the Fort Hood shooting, I noticed little press on the matter on CNN; or even the removal of limitations on monetary donations to federal-level election funds.

…aren’t these things the public may wanna know about?  Not more lack-of-news on a plane that sadly vanished a month ago, and we’ve learned LITTLE from since?

American media is starting to scare me.

Former Ukraine PM released from prison, a new beginning?

The embattled former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from prison in the middle of what appears to be a monumental shift in government in the former Soviet republic.

A stark contrast from her usual publicity photos pre-prison, the wheelchair-bound former head of government broke down in tears when she announced that her countrymen were “heroes, [and are] the best of Ukraine.”

No stranger to political revolution, the then-recently defended Ph.D. student was instrumental in bringing about the Orange Revolution, a political shift that brought her and her political coalition, “Bloc Yulia,” to power in Ukraine, becoming Prime Minister, and Forbes-rated third most powerful woman in the world, behind then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Communist China’s Vice Premier Wu Yi.

With the release of Tymoshenko, the sitting President’s effective political enemy, does this signal a true shift of power within the former Soviet state; or just a simple placation move while the President figures out his next move from a Russia-bordering stronghold?

An upcoming Constitutional Crisis… Same-sex Marriage.

I had an exam in a State and Local Government class where we were asked about the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the United States Constitution.  I see a very big crisis coming in the future with Article IV here, very soon…  What do you think? Continue reading

Republicans picking back up in 2014 Polls

It’s true that Democrats tend to blow Midterm elections — for some goofy reason.  It’s historically true, anyway, particularly in the last 15 years.

However, that having been said, with this being an early poll, I don’t think it really *matters,* because polls are a flash in the pan, of “that moment,” just like even elections are.

The CNN/ORC poll also shows that Republicans seem to be more enthusiastic about the upcoming elections than Democrats — however, I think this is also a sign of the historical Democratic midterm malaise that’s become true in recent history.

Could a balance of power tip be coming soon?  Sure, things go in cycles, like anything else.  However, I think the Government Shutdown and the blunders of the cronyism of the Bush Administration will still weigh on the minds of the voters when they go to the polls.  Sure, Obamacare’s roll out was lackluster — but it’s working now; and people are getting insured.  Overall, while the Obama Administration’s approval rating has taken a beating, overall, he’s still getting the job done, and young people still respect him as the Commander-in-Chief, regardless of what SuperPAC attack ads say.

What do you think?

#2013Shutdown’s effect on Business and the Future of America…

Professor David Victor, Ph.D.

Professor David Victor, Ph.D.

One of my former (and future, no doubt!) professors from Eastern Michigan University, Dr. David Victor, posted this morning about a possible future oil boom for Iceland, noting that a recent survey and discovery shows Iceland sits on a *LOT* of the possible undiscovered oil reserves in the world, estimates place it at 13%.  With the thawing of the northern ice cap, and the North Atlantic Current keeping ice from marring up the major ports of the island nation, all of these things could conspire to bring a well-needed boon to it’s economy.

However, another follower on Facebook of Dr. Victor, the Chair of CitrinGroup, also threw in his two cents, stating that while the Chinese are courting and betting on future oil producers, such as Iceland, the United States, already suffering an anemic economy, is wasting it’s time on policy matters that in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter.  I tend to agree.

The United States’ economy is JUST starting to  gain traction, while sitting fairly stationery and spinning it’s wheels, begging to move forward since the crisis began in the Subprime Mortgage market in 2007.  We’re finally starting to see forward momentum beyond the familiar numbers of “0.04% gains.”  People are beginning to feel confident in the economic system again.

However, when people see the Government itself can’t get it together and pay it’s OWN bills, that’s when people begin to hold onto their OWN money, going “What if I find myself right back in 2008 again?”  I admit, I found myself thinking twice when I made a relatively small purchase this morning, because the well-being of MY household budget is determined by the fiscal health of the Federal Government.

When recessions and slumps hit the nation, the Government is there to provide relief, to buffer the blow with benefits, stimulus and other some-such capital, by pumping money into the system.  However, if that money is cut off too soon, the economy can slump again.  Bad news breeds bad feelings.  Bad feelings breed either a binge on spending, or a lack of spending, more often, the latter.  When people stop spending, the economy grinds to a screeching halt — as we saw starting with the credit freezes of 2008.  While one can argue the merits of policy on both sides of the aisle, the latest budgetary and policy debate is doing nothing but killing consumer confidence, and indeed, making foreign markets question the stability of the American economy.

While Obamacare is certainly an expensive program, so was the F-35 Fighter — which estimates have the cancelled fighter costing as much as a trillion dollars — a number often attributed to the cost of Obamacare.  Oddly enough, I haven’t heard it mentioned once by Republicans on the Hill, even though it is now essentially a great waste of capital and expenditures.

Who’s right?  Who knows.  One thing I do know is — #2013Shutdown can be a death knell for the fragile traction the American economy took years to get.

A Government Shutdown… what it means, and why you should care…

download“Due to the failure of Congress to enact appropriations for fiscal year 2014, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell tonight directed agencies to execute their plans for an orderly shutdown of the Federal government.”

Continue reading