Greater Krueger National Park

Greater Krueger National Park
An image from a recent trip to South Africa. Clcik on the image for more on this trip.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Government Shutdown?

I post this at 9:30 pm Washington time on September 30, 2013.  Right now it looks like the impasse in Congress over the continuing resolution will continue through midnight and the United States Government will shut down for some period of time.

I am a staunch fiscal conservative and a long time member of the Republican Party.  I dislike virtually all of Obama's policies and feel that healthcare is of such fundamental importance to the citizens of this country that legislation regarding it should have been thoroughly discussed and openly debated before it was passed by Congress.  That was not done.  Obamacare was written in secret and passed by a bare majority of Democrats in Congress.  

I believe current political polling that indicates that a large percentage of the American public has serious reservations about Obamacare and I commend all of our citizens, Democrat and Republican, who have spoken so eloquently against it.   I hold both Democrats and Republicans responsible, however, for the current impasse and believe that, in this situation, the President should have facilitated the national discussion that did not happen when the law was drafted instead of insisting on it's partial implementation later this week.  Obama is, in effect, joining Pelosi and Reid in cramming it down our throats.

Having said all of the above, I would like to tell any Republican politician that might deign  to listen to a mere citizen, that I think that most of them are acting like idiots or worse.  Whether we like it or not, and I most certainly do not, the Affordable Health Care Act was legally passed by Congress.  Conservatives challenged it all the way to the Supreme Court and lost.  We then made it a major issue in the 2012 presidential election and Obama ate our lunch.  Then some misguided members of our party decided that we should oppose it's funding as part of the continuing resolution fight even though we did not have the votes to win.   Now, the nation has a government shutdown looming and we want everybody to blame Obama and the Democrats.  Talk about wishful thinking!

The other day, Governor Huckabee articulated my own position far better and more fulsomely than I could ever do it.  He argued that we should just let the Democrats own Obamacare and pick up the political fall out in 2014 and 2016.  If we are right about how bad this law is, we will gain control of enough of government to do something more than just moan about it.  If we are wrong about it, the country will be better off and we deserve to be defeated.  I certainly hope that we have had enough of our adventure in tilting against windmills and are not thinking seriously about continuing this stupidity into the forthcoming fight over the debt ceiling. If we do that I will begin to suspect that we are in reality working clandestinely for Hillary Clinton.

PS:  I hope that somebody pulls a rabbit out of a hat before midnight.

Fort Hood, Workplace Violence?

In Rudyard Kipling's day, during the nineteenth century, international relations was likened to a game, as the European Empires maneuvered for hegemony in Central Asia.  "The Great Game" was seen as a complicated chess match where pawns were regularly sacrificed in pursuit of esoteric strategies that were poorly understood even by those that were directly involved.  The allegory has gone out of favor, but the arcane maneuvering continues and those that see themselves as potential pawns fret that they might be the next to be sacrificed by the great powers or by those that wish to become great powers.

Significant changes have taken place in the world since Kipling wrote Kim.  Today, with the breakup of the Soviet Union, the international community recognizes only one great power and that nation is not at all certain that it wants to continue to try to lead the world.  The situation is further complicated by the resurrection of a potentially great power that is not conveniently circumscribed by a boundary line that can be drawn on a map.  It is possible to conceive of the two great antagonists in today's world as being Western Society and the nascent Islamic Caliphate.  Today's chess match is far more complex than was the case a century ago and the dangers are far greater.

Today's game board is not limited to Central Asia.  Today, although the principal moves are being made in the Middle East, we see game pieces being moved throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and even here in North America.  The strategic complexity of the game has changed as well.  In Lord Whoever's day, Mata Hari connived, regiments moved, Sheiks were assassinated, European governors were installed and new lines were drawn on everybody's maps.  Today, the killing goes on, of course, but it is largely perpretated by "Islamic fighters" on one hand and "technology" on the other.  Very little fighting is done by regiments and virtually none of the really important killing is done by traditional military units.  Suicide vests and car bombs against lasers and unmanned drones is an oversimplification, of course, but there is an important element of truth embedded in it.

Yesterday's chessboard was simpler as well.  Land was occupied, populations were subjugated, leaders were executed or suborned, and victory was declared.  Today, we see immigration replacing military deployment, multiculturalism replacing occupation, and a struggle of cultural identity complicating if not replacing political struggle.  As was the case in Kipling's day, we tend to focus on that which is most immediate and easiest to understand.  In Syria, we see Assad and Putin successfully outmaneuvering President Obama and the Syrian rebels, but we applaud our President for avoiding a war that he himself proposed in the first place.  In Iran, we see the possibility of improved relations with a country that actively supports attacks on America and it's allies "without doing anything more" than removing our sanctions and agreeing to permit Iran to join the nuclear club.

Important as these tactical developments are, they pale into insignificance when compared with the strategic importance of what is going on in most, if not all, of the Muslim World.  There we see increasing radicalization that does not bode well for the future.  While we remain focused on what is happening to our pawns, our opponent is positioning his major chess pieces in such a way that he will be able to increasingly dominate important areas of the game board.  We should also understand that this strategic advance is not limited to the Middle East.  Increased Muslim immigration into Europe is bringing the tactical battle into the homeland of America's most important friend in the international community.  We must understand that the resultant cultural disruption leads inevitably to political and economic problems that weaken power and influence.  In the process, "fortress America" is weakened and most of us are completely unaware of how the strategic picture is shifting.

To make the game even more interesting, our opponent is not any one individual, nation or people.  Radical Islam is a formidable political-religious phenomenon that dates back to the Moorish conquest of the Maghreb and Spain in the 7th Century of the Christian Era.  It has seen its fortunes rise and fall over the centuries.  It's adherents have a long view of history and that view is an important source of their strength.  If we want to win at this game, we need to get serious about what we are engaged in.  Wishful thinking will not cut it.  It would help if we would recognize who our opponent is and the seriousness of what is at stake.  Fort Hood was not a "drive-by shooting" or "workplace violence" or any other euphemism.  It was an attack by the wanna-be great power - Radical Islam.  After naming our opponent, we need to look hard at how we are relating to the strategic threat.  That is going to be the really hard part, because it will require that we develop strategies to deal with the cultural elements of the struggle.  That process will need to bust some important myths that currently cloud our thinking.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Conservatives might learn something from Pope Francis

I remember Republicans telling a joke that involved the Democrats organizing a circular firing squad.  I don't hear that joke told these days.  I do hear Republicans squabbling among themselves about how best to win this or that election and pass or defeat this or that bill.  Although this bickering is troubling in that it reflects considerable disarray among conservatives about tactics, I am more concerned with the lack of any positive specific national strategy to address all of the very considerable challenges that face this country.  I suggest that just bashing liberals and calling for smaller and "more responsible" government will not be enough to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I believe that we need to lay out in very specific terms what we would do if we were in a position to control decision-making in this country.  I recognize that some will point out, correctly, that this approach will inevitably antagonize some potential supporters who disagree with one or more elements of our vision for the country.  So be it.  If our ideas are so all fired great, we will attract more supporters than we lose.  If our ideas fail to do that, our candidates do not deserve to be elected to office.  This is a democracy after all and our government is responsible to the people - all of the people.  It is not enough to be right, we have to convince our neighbors that we can do the job.  Recently, we have failed miserably in doing that at the national level, but we have had some significant success at the state and local levels where we have gotten much more specific in our campaigning.

I advocate taking a page out of Pope Francis's playbook.  He is advocating that the Catholic Church focus less on ideological purity and take a more pragmatic approach to specific problems facing Catholics.  I suggest that we conservatives should stop pontificating about the Founding Fathers and start offering specific solutions to the problems that Joe the Plumber is talking about.  Pope Francis is not calling for Catholics to give up their principals and I am not calling for conservatives to do that either.  I am suggesting that we should focus on real solutions to the very real challenges that face us in the twenty-first century.

The International Community Understands Benghazi Even If We Do Not

According to the polls, a majority of Americans want to know more about what happened in Benghazi and why it happened.  I argue that we already know enough and what we are really saying is that we want those responsible to acknowledge their various failures fully and publicly.  Unfortunately, I do not believe that will ever happen, primarily because both the President and the Secretary of State went to bed when they should have been doing absolutely everything in their power to protect the lives of about forty Americans that they had put into harms way.  There is no possibility that they could politically survive such an admission, so it is not going to happen.  The obfuscation will continue as long as a significant portion of the American public refuses to face facts. 

While I continue to be furious over Obama and Clinton's actions leading up to, during, and following the attack on our consulate, I have to commend them on their political skill in covering their tracks and successfully fooling much of America as to what happened and why it happened.  I am also amazed by the public's ability to ignore the facts that we already have about this disgraceful tragedy.  It is clear that policy decisions at the presidential and secretary of state level were the root cause of inadequate security in our consulate - not any bureaucratic decision by a mid-level State Department bureaucrat or any lack of time or resources.  It is also clear that those policy decisions were driven in very large part by the imperatives of the presidential elections of 2012.  Anyone who still has a problem with this analysis should re-read all of the drafts of the talking points that Susan Rice used following the attack.  They provide a clear picture of how the post-attack lies were formulated.

The needless deaths of Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, Glenn Doherty and Christopher Stevens is a national tragedy, but the irresponsible actions of our President and our Secretary of State with regard to Benghazi is a national disgrace.  We must also understand that the impact of Benghazi on our relations with our friends and enemies in the international community is profound.  I assure you that none of them are as confused about what really happened in that dirty hell hole as some of us continue to want to be.  What foreigners see is an American President that is able to lie to an American public that does not want to face up to what is going on outside of the borders of the United States.  This disappoints and frightens our friends and encourages and emboldens our enemies.  Benghazi is part and parcel of a set of foreign and domestic policies that are weakening this country and intensifying the very considerable threat that faces us in this increasingly dangerous world.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Iran's Charm Offensive, Why Now?

Peaceful democratic principals are difficult to uphold when the threat of violence is great.  During wartime, our democratic practices are modified so that we can better deal with the danger presented by our enemies.  The current threat of terrorism has resulted in a massive intrusion into our privacy here in the United States and many of us feel that government has overstepped it's authority.  It is indeed Orwellian with the specter of Big Brother constantly looking over our shoulder.  Traffic cams follow us on the highway, mall cams follow us while shopping, and NSA listens to our telephone conversations and reads our email messages.  Our privacy is pretty well shot and we are not going to get it back no matter how loud we squeal.  (I long ago adopted the practice of not saying or writing anything that I was not willing to read as a headline in the New York Times.  It has not changed anything that I want to say, but it has made me a bit more careful as to how I say it.)

For all of our problems, we still live in a country that enjoys great freedoms and the rule of law is basically in tact.  While we may dislike some parts of our legal system, most of us are still largely sheltered from violence impacting our daily lives.  This makes it extremely difficult for us to understand what is going on in much of the rest of the world.  Particularly in the Third World, violence is an important element of daily life.  People living in those societies are surrounded by violence and the threat of violence virtually everywhere that they turn.  I suggest that this is a very important limitation in the effectiveness of our efforts at public diplomacy and our failure to understand it is the source of a lot of wishful thinking as we try to understand the public mood in the various Middle Eastern theocracies.

The flavor of the moment in this regard is Iran.  Relations with Iran have been strained ever since the religious revolution thirty some years ago.  That revolution replaced the Shah with the Ayatollah and swapped out an imperial dictator for a religious dictator.  It did not create a free and independent democracy.  Iran does have elections, but the outcome of those elections are determined in advance by the Supreme Leader.  Unquestionably, there is dissent within Iran, but there is no possibility that it will be able to impact national policy.  Real dissent that might endanger the theocracy is dealt with swiftly and harshly as we saw in the so-called Green Revolution a few years ago.  Iran is yet another example of how violence can trump democratic procedure.

This is important for America to understand right now as our government tries to figure out how to deal with Iran's current charm offensive.  Some Americans want desperately to believe that the Iranian people desire better relations with the West and the election of Rouhani, a moderate, is a reflection of those desires.  These folks applaud President Obama's outreach to President Rouhani and advocate taking Iran's word about not wanting to develop a nuclear weapon.  Others, myself included, see no evidence that Rouhani is anything other than the pawn of the Supreme Leader.  We believe that the Ayatollah wants to avoid a military attack on his nuclear facilities and is willing to agree to a temporary modification of his nuclear program in order to protect it for the future.  In the process, he also looks to the West to remove it's sanctions.  We do not believe that he intends to modify his support of terror against those of us living in the West.  Assuming that he is successful in accomplishing these objectives, I believe that it is inevitable that Iran will eventually build a nuclear weapon as well as delivery systems that will endanger the entire Western World.

I believe that the timing of Iran's Charm Offensive is related to their progress in developing their nuclear weapon.  According to most intelligence reports that leak out into the press, Iran is very close to being able to create a nuclear weapon.  Both the United States and Israel have made it very clear that they would not permit that to happen.  I believe that the sudden Iranian Charm Offensive is primarily aimed at Obama, not only to deter an American attack, but also to encourage America to argue against an Israeli attack.

Friday, September 27, 2013

An Open Letter to Senator Ted Cruz

People are beginning to say that you are interested in being the Republican candidate for President in 2016.  I want you to know that I share most of your political positions on issues and, if you are our candidate, I will definitely vote for you.  Unfortunately, I must also say that I think that if you are our candidate in 2016, we will definitely lose that election and Hillary Clinton will be able to continue the policy direction set by Barack Obama.  I see that prospect as being nothing short of disaster.

As I understand it, the Republican candidate must attract votes from a wide spectrum of people across this great country in order to win the presidency.  To accomplish that, he or she must be able to bring people together.  So far, it does not look like you have been able to demonstrate that ability even among your fellow conservatives.  If a potential candidate can not bring his own party along with his leadership I see no way that he or she would be able to attract sufficient support from the political middle to win the election.

I recognize that this position will relegate me to what many call the RINOs.  I don't see it that way, but I understand the frustration that many in our party have with those of us who want to compromise with our liberal neighbors rather than "stick to our principals" and insist on ideological purity in everything that we say or do.  My problem with the ideological purity imperative is that it inevitably leads to defeat.  I honestly believe that it was one of the reasons that we lost the last time around.

Maybe, I am just jumping the gun.  Maybe, you are currently just trying to galvanize your fellow conservatives to fight hard against the stupidities of this administration's policies.  Maybe, you will start demonstrating the leadership skills that this country will need in order to correct the adverse impact of the Obama years.  I certainly hope so, because I would love to vote a conservative into the oval office.

Syrian Resolution in the United Nations

Assuming that recent press reports are correct, the five permanent members of the United Nations have agreed on a United Nations resolution that will require Syria to give up it's chemical weapons.  Reportedly, the resolution does not contain any automatic penalties if Syria fails to comply.  It does say that if Syria fails to comply, the Security Council will discuss imposing measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter and that those measures could include economic sanctions or even military action.  Before any action is undertaken, however, the matter would have to go back to the Security Council for further discussions (where Russia holds the veto power).  This "compromise" between the American and Russian positions on sanctions is a significant, if tactical, diplomatic victory for Russia.  The United States had wanted an explicit threat of military force and Assad and Putin had adamantly opposed any such threat.  Assad and Putin appear to have won their point.

Combine this "compromise" with Russian willingness to have their military guard Syria's chemical weapons while the United Nations is in the process of inspecting and destroying them and, if accepted, you have a significant measure of Russian influence over the entire process.  This might well result in the chemical weapons being destroyed, but it will also raise the question as to whether or not Russia and Syria have colluded to hide at least some of the weapons or perhaps even permitted some to be transferred to other players in the region.  Given that very few people in this country want to see American "boots on the ground" in Syria, it is going to be very tempting for Kerry to accept the Russian offer to protect the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons.  In addition to the other problems that this development would present, the presence of Russian troops at government military facilities throughout Syria would pose additional challenges for the Syrian rebels and would make a unilateral American missile strike very dangerous if not completely impossible.  (Substituting U.N. troops for Russian will pose many of the same problems.)

Our new envoy to the United Nations, Samantha Power, is saying pretty much what she has to say in the circumstances:  "This resolution makes clear there will be consequences for noncompliance."  For those of us in this country that do not follow international events very closely, this will sound pretty good, but we must understand that a lot of others around the world are going to be muttering epitaphs like "paper tiger."  These observers are also going to be following what else we are doing in the region, particularly with regard to our renewed conversation with Iran.  The world will be asking at what point does this kind of compromise turn into an admission of weakness?  I admit that I do not have enough information to know what we should do on any of this, but I am extremely worried.  I wish Secretary Kerry and President Obama all of the best in their efforts to ensure our security in what appears to me to be an increasingly dangerous world.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Iran's Nuclear Program and Kerry/Zarif Talks

President Obama's speech yesterday at the United Nations is attracting a great deal of attention in the world press as do most speeches by American presidents at the General Assembly.  The press in each country, including this one, hears what it wants to hear and criticizes those points that it feels are contrary to their country's national interest.  Conservative columnists in this country, commenting on the speech, worry that Obama is falling for the charm offensive being waged by Iran's new president.  These folks believe that the Iranians are playing for time so that they can complete the construction of their first nuclear weapon.  The most cynical of them point out that it was the Iranians that backed out of the accidental meeting that had been arranged between Rouhani and Obama.  They point out that even this small tactical move buys the Iranians more time.  Liberal commentators, on the other hand, praise Obama for reaching out to the Iranians in an effort to improve relations through diplomacy rather than war.

Unfortunately, I basically share the critics fears.  I sincerely wish that our disagreement with Iran could be resolved through discussion and I advocate pursuing any and all diplomatic channels vigorously, but I see no evidence that we should trust the Iranian government.  Rouhani, like Ahmadinejad before him, is not the real decision maker in the Iranian power structure.  Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, is the real authority in Iran and, although he has moderated his own rhetoric, I see absolutely no evidence that he has changed political directions in any fundamental way.  Iran refuses to recognize Israel, fundamentally distrusts the United States, and insists on it's "right" to have a nuclear program.  Regionally, it allies itself with other countries and groups that are acknowledged enemies of the United States and supports terror as a legitimate agent of political change.  Like many other observers of the Middle East, I do not relish seeing Iran in possession of a nuclear weapon.

Secretary of State Kerry is entering into a new round of talks with the Iranians.  Their new Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, studied in the United States and speaks english fluently.  He is a very experienced professional diplomat that is well respected by the current Iranian power structure.  He even knows many of the politicians currently occupying high office in the United States Government.  Presumably, the Kerry/Zarif talks will be wide-ranging, but the Iranian nuclear program will obviously be a critical subject of discussion.  The Iranians want to keep it going toward a bomb and we want to stop it, hopefully without having to take military action.  My guess is that, if pressed hard enough, the Iranians will offer to halt their enrichment activities in return for a reduction in the severity of our economic sanctions.  If we agree, we may stave off a war, but we will also sanctify the Iranian nuclear program.  Even if Iran honors the agreement, the program to build the bomb can be restarted at any point in the future that they so desire.  Given the secretive nature of the Iranian regime, ensuring that they are not cheating will be extremely difficult.

Virtually every country in the Middle East sees it's own vital interests at stake in this imbroglio.  Our actions vis-a-vis Iran impact our relations with all of the Middle East.  I wish Obama and Kerry well in dealing with what is really a difficult can of worms.  Although I am not a supporter of this president or his administration, I am old school with regard to foreign relations.  Domestic politics should stop at the water's edge.  There is plenty for us to argue about here at home.  Let's confine our attacks to the budget fight and leave Kerry alone to do his very difficult job.  If we don't like what he does, and we live through it, we can address it the next time we go to the ballot box.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Senator and the President Disagree

Senator Barak Obama and President Barak Obama fundamentally disagree about the significance of raising the debt ceiling.  Senator Obama has explained very articulately that to do so is criminal in that it is spending our children's money.  President Obama vehemently disagrees.  Which one is right?

I suggest that they are both right about different aspects of the challenge.  We are spending our children's money and we do have to increase the debt ceiling in order to avoid defaulting on our existing loans.  We are in such a mess that we need to borrow more money just to pay the interest that we owe on money that we borrowed earlier.  Our credit card is maxed out and it is utter stupidity to think that we can spend our way out of the problem as President Obama wants to continue trying to do.  Every time we raise the debt ceiling, this government becomes emboldened to spend just "a little bit" more.

Combine the profligate spending with the current monetary policy, which continues to cheapen the value of our savings, and you have a surefire recipe for disaster, but that is not enough for Obama.  This government wants to make job creation as difficult as possible through increased regulation, while at the same time redistributing as much private wealth as possible through increased taxes and expanded government welfare programs.  The frosting on the cake is the rampant fraud, disgraceful inefficiency and outright theft that characterizes virtually all government programs.

Why in the world is Barak Obama implementing policies that are destroying this country's economy?  Some say that he is simply evil.  Other's say that he is a socialist or perhaps even a communist.  A few say that he is just not as smart as he thinks that he is.  I don't really know, but I do have a theory.  I think that, as President, Barack Obama is acting out a dream that he had as a young man working in the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago.  I think that he is trying to right all of the social wrongs that he feels still plague this country.  Although he is obviously a highly intelligent person, he does not have any practical experience in economic matters.  His experience in Chicago obviously helped to shape his domestic political skill set, but it failed to teach him much about how to create jobs.

Although President Obama's heart may have been in the right place, his policies have endangered the welfare of the entire country, including the very people that he has been trying to help.  Going forward, this country needs to elect political leaders at all levels that will apply more conservative principals to the very real problems that face us.  I am not arguing that we should turn our back on any of Obama's lofty objectives, but I am suggesting that we need to be a bit more pragmatic about the way in which we approach them.  Let's start by restoring the economic engine that made this country great in the first place.  After that, we will be in better shape to help resolve those social problems that obviously still exist.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Obamacare, Repeal or Reform

Obamacare was written in secret, literally behind closed doors, by a small group of people and then shoved down the throats of the American public by the legislative chicanery of a bare liberal majority in Congress.  It suffers from all of the problems that stem from that kind of approach to major legislation.  It is a travesty no matter how one looks at it and it deserves to be thrown out for a whole host of reasons.  Even more importantly, it is in reality a stalking horse for something that is far worse - socialized medicine.

As we all know, America has developed the best medical system that the world has ever seen, but it has a serious drawback - it is unbelievably expensive.  Much of America is unable to take full advantage of what modern medicine offers because of the price tag.  We have all known this for some time and, for that reason, it has been a subject of steadily increasing significance in our political dialog.  I don't trust any of the statistics that are being bandied about, but the numbers of Americans that are adversely impacted by the high cost is very large and the strain that is being exerted on our economy is enormous.

Although the polls indicate that most Americans do not like Obamacare, I suspect that there is an overwhelming majority of us that agree with the objective of finding a way for more of us to enjoy the benefits of our medical system.  Depending on each of our individual circumstances, we will be attracted to some aspects of Obamacare while we dislike others.  Those of us who want to eliminate Obamacare should seriously consider changing our tactics.  Not our strategic objective.  Our tactics.  The best way to destroy Obamacare would be to repeal it, but the most practical way to destroy Obamacare is to repair the parts of it that break down and amend those parts of it that obviously need to be modified.

In order for this approach to be successful, it will be necessary to ensure that conservative concepts and values are better represented at all levels of government and that means that we need to do a better job of convincing the American public that we will be good stewards of the public weal.  Advocating reform rather than repeal might well turn out to have some advantages in this respect.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Debt Ceiling, Continuing Resolution and Obamacare

Here we go again.  Silly Season.  Another continuing resolution is running out, the debt ceiling needs to be raised again, and virtually every politician in the country is spouting stupidity (including not just liberals but many of the conservatives as well).  If it were not so serious, it would be hilarious.

Here it is in a nutshell - this government is spending too much money.  If we do not tighten our belts and cut down on our spending, our economy will collapse in the same way that Greece and much of the rest of Southern Europe has fallen in on itself.  This will happen sooner or later depending on what we do now.  It does not matter what anybody does tactically.  We either improve our spending/GNP balance sheet or we collapse.  Period.

I do not like Obamacare.  I wish that the last election had turned out differently, but unfortunately we are stuck with this stupid legislation as the law of the land.  News Flash!  Conservatives control one House of Congress.  We can not defund Obamacare.  If we really want to get rid of it (and I do), we must start by changing the balance of power within the government.  

That means that we must win control of both houses of congress in 2014 and take the oval office in 2016.  In order to do that, one of the things that we need to do is to present plans that will reform our medical system so that it does a better job of meeting the needs of the American people than this hodgepodge legislation that we are stuck with right now.  It is not sufficient to just bash Obamacare.  We need to prove that we can do better.

It seems to me that too many of my conservative friends do not understand that it is not enough to blame the other guy for doing wrong.  We should have learned that just by watching the current occupant of the White House.  Obama blames Bush for creating a situation that he has failed to improve.  We correctly criticize him for that fault, yet we are guilty of the same thing.  We point out what is wrong with Obamacare, but we have not clearly articulated a plan that we believe will improve the situation.

If we conservatives don't wise up, we are going to see Hillary Clinton replace Barack Obama and that will virtually ensure that we will turn into a great big Greece spot.  It also ensures the continuation of Obamacare.  Remember Hillarycare?

Charlene Lamb Thrown Under the Bus by Hillary Clinton?

Unfortunately, we are still talking about the ARB (Accountability Review Board) that looked into the "Benghazi Affair."  Congressional investigators are horrified that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally selected four of the five members of the board and they are shocked that, although the board did not bother to interview the Secretary, they did continue to stay in touch with her, feeding information about what they were finding during their group chats with various department staffers.  My fellow citizens, please wake up.  The ARB was not an independent investigation conducted by outsiders (Admiral Mullen was window dressing).  It was an internal look at the bureaucracy performed by bureaucrats (Ambassador Pickering was the real leader).  The ARB was looking for bureaucratic things that might have gone wrong and they did not find much to complain about.  That is because the State Department is a pretty effective bureaucracy that is staffed by some rather remarkable people.  They may not come across very well on television, but I assure you that they are very competent in handling their bureaucratic tasks.  It is important to note that the ARB was not asked to look into the wisdom of the policy that drove the bureaucracy during Benghazi.

The Benghazi tragedy was not bureaucratic in nature.  It was a policy driven disaster.  Bureaucrats were not the people who made the errors that killed the Ambassador and his three companions.  Every bureaucrat in the chain from Washington to Benghazi was merely implementing policy.  They were following the orders that were the logical extension of policy set by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Within the State Department, the problem resides on the seventh floor where policy is made, not on the floors below where it is merely implemented.  The policy that was in place at the time required the American Mission in Libya to project an air of confidence in the competence of the Libyan Government.  It was deemed necessary to demonstrate that confidence by reducing our own security assets in country and increasing our reliance on those of the host government even in the face of the approaching 9/11 anniversary.  Here is the crux of the matter.  We refused to increase security assets in spite of the Ambassador and his staff repeatedly requesting that their security position be improved.  We maintained this position, even after the Libyan Government informed us that they could not prevent an attack on our consulate.  We did not even preposition military force as a failsafe backup should the situation go south on 9/11.

A few days ago, Congress questioned Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management, about his role in the Benghazi Tragedy.  The Under Secretary is an extremely important bureaucratic position in the Department of State.  It is one of the positions that interfaces between policy and bureaucracy.  Kennedy is an experienced bureaucrat and he chose his words very carefully during the questioning.  When asked questions about why security had not been beefed up prior to 9/11 he answered that he had no "actionable intelligence" that an attack was imminent.  I presume that he is telling the truth in so far as the paper flow across his desk from the intelligence community, but his answer does not address the information that he was receiving from the Libyan Mission's security personnel and from the Ambassador.  Here is the place where the mistakes were made.  Our government did not listen to our people on the ground.  Instead, they chose to rely on the silence of our intelligence community which fit the needs of our policy far better.

Before we decide that Kennedy is the culprit we need to understand the legal position of an American Ambassador.  Contrary to what most people think (including some ambassadors), an American Ambassador assigned as Chief of Mission in a foreign country does not work for the Secretary of State.  In those circumstances, the Ambassador is the Personal Representative of the President of the United States.  This is the legal source of his position as Chief of Mission.  In that role, he oversees the activities of all USG activities in the country of his assignment, including all military, clandestine, economic, and anything else that might be going on at the time.  When an ambassador makes a request to Washington, an Under Secretary of State does not have enough clout to ignore it either legally or morally.  Kennedy could not have unilaterally turned down Ambassador Steven's increasingly desperate pleas for help.  He had to have done it because it was required by the policy guidance given to him by his superiors in the Department of State.  The Under Secretary has only one superior.  It is the Secretary of State.

I spent thirty years working for the United States Government, most of it in the Department of State.  I have great respect for the dedicated people that work in that organization.  America is very lucky to have them.  Although I might fault some of them for not fighting harder against a policy that is wrong, in the last analysis their job is to implement the instructions of their superiors.  I hate to see a Charlene Lamb get thrown under the bus for doing her job and it is one more reason why I dislike what I see Hillary Clinton doing.  She is responsible for that injustice just as she is for the deaths of Chris Stevens, Glenn Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Syria and Chemical Weapons

Assad appears to be acting in good faith within the framework of the agreement brokered by Russia and the United States with regard to Syria's chemical weapons.  Press reports indicate that the dictator has at least started the process of declaring his chemical stockpile within the time frame demanded by the agreement.  There are still miles to go in the process of destroying those weapons, but so far so good as regards that aspect of the Syrian problem.

Interestingly, the Kerry/Lavrov agreement may have ensured Assad's political survival for at least as long as it takes to destroy the chemical arsenal.  To remove him from power right now might well lead to chaos within the Syrian government and that, in turn, might permit the chemical weapons to fall into the hands of one or another of the terrorist groups active in the Syrian war.  Understandably, the rebels that have been demanding Assad's immediate ouster are not happy with the possibility of their enemy managing to squeeze out a bit more longevity.  

If, as I suspect, Kerry and Lavrov are now discussing a renewal of the Syrian peace conference, we can expect even more unhappiness from the rebels because they will find it difficult to insist on Assad's departure before they sit down in Geneva to negotiate an end to the fighting.  It is very easy to envision a scenario wherein the United States pressures the rebels to negotiate face to face with the Assad regime.

We can expect Russia to remain firmly in support of the Assad regime even if eventually Putin has to give up the man himself.  Putin's objective is not Assad.  It is Tartus, Russia's port on the Mediterranean.   I have no idea what our own current position is on Russian access to Tartus.  I suspect that the Commander of the U. S. Sixth Fleet in Naples, Italy, does not like it much, but I doubt that it plays very heavily in Obama's calculations regarding Syria.  My guess is that he would be content with a Syrian solution that let his friend Vlad keep his Mediterranean port.  That does not bode well for the Syrians long term, because even if they get rid of Assad they will still be stuck with Putin.

Much of what is going on today is invisible to those of us in the general public, but we can assume that Syria is a hot topic of discussion everywhere in the Middle East and every political operative in every government in the region is trying to influence the course of events.  I would give a lot to be the fly on the wall in New York when Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani accidentally on purpose pass in the hall at the United Nations.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Benghazi after Obama's Reelection

Yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State Douglas Frantz said that the State Department's response to Benghazi had been "thorough and transparent."  He praised State's ARB (Accountability Review Board) report and said that "to suggest anything has been hidden or that accountability has been averted requires willful ignorance of these facts."  This is once again lawyer speak of the highest order and the American public absolutely needs to understand what it is and what it is not.  Frantz is almost certainly correct when he says that the ARB was thorough and transparent in everything that it investigated.  I honestly doubt that anyone in State below the seventh floor did anything remotely wrong in the very strict legal sense of the word and that is all that the ARB actually investigated.  From the Sixth Floor down, policy drives absolutely everything that those career bureaucrats do.  As Charlene Lamb noted under oath, security for the consulate in Benghazi was not upgraded because to do so would have gone against policy.  Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen were far too experienced to have covered anything up in their report, but they are culpable in a morale sense for what they did not investigate.

The most glaring problem with the ARB report is that Pickering and Mullen did not even interview the lady that was in charge of the Department - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The lady that famously responded to Congressional questions about the death of four Americans in Benghazi by asking "What difference does it make?"  (I fault that same set of Congressional leaders for not following up their interview with the Secretary more aggressively.  By so doing, they were just as negligent as Pickering and Mullen.)  Within State, the Secretary is the ultimate arbitrator of policy.  Each individual occupying that office handles it slightly differently by delegating different amounts of responsibility to various Assistant Secretaries, but ultimate responsibility always rests with the Secretary.  As a given policy question becomes more important, the degree of personal involvement on the part of the Secretary intensifies.  When the consulate in Benghazi was attacked a year ago, Libya was front and center as a foreign policy question of importance.  Nobody in State, at any level, would have done anything inconsistent with the Secretary's desires.  To have done otherwise would have been to ruin one's career.

Not everything that happens in the State Department has a paper trail and we have seen evidence of that unfortunate fact of life in the Benghazi tragedy.  Here is what we do know.  Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted to portray their efforts against terrorism worldwide in the best possible light during the run-up to the presidential elections of November 2012.  In Libya, the policy required that we do everything possible to portray political stability.  My guess is that we adopted that policy for a number of reasons.  Clearly the President's claim that he had al Quaeda on the run was an important part of the mix, but the individuals involved in the implementation of that policy might well have believed (naively) that it was the best way to encourage the new Libyan government to stand up to the task of nation building.  I suspect that Ambassador Chris Stevens had been in agreement with the Obama/Clinton policy objectives earlier, else he would not have been chosen for the ambassadorial position, but in the days just before 9/11 he obviously had serious security concerns.  He and his staff repeatedly requested additional security, but their requests were denied and mission security was significantly reduced immediately prior to 9/11.  I presume that the policy rationale for not positioning adequate military response teams in the area prior to 9/11 was the same perceived need to portray political stability in the region.

This takes us to the night of 9/11/12 when the consulate was attacked and four Americans were killed including Ambassador Chris Stevens, the Personal Representative of the President of the United States.  Why did we not respond to the attack and why did we actively try to portray it as being a demonstration that went awry?  It is abundantly clear that all of the decision makers in our government including the President and his Secretary of State knew from the outset of the attack that it was being perpetrated by terrorists.  Obviously, I do not know the rationale that these people used to avoid mounting a rescue effort, but I can only speculate that it was exactly the same as had been used earlier to deny additional security - nation building and the forthcoming election.  Subsequent to the attack, the President, and the Secretaries of State and Defense could add the excuse that "there was not enough time" for any American relief force to reach Benghazi.  This insulting falsehood begs the question of how they knew in advance how long the fight at the consulate and the annex would last.  It also demands that we ignore the fact that there were military assets that could have been usefully applied in real time with minimal risk, F-16s at the head of the list.

I hold the policies of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama responsible for the Benghazi tragedy.  The death of four brave Americans is an important part of their responsibility, but so is the impact that Benghazi has had in the realm of foreign policy.  Ask yourself what message Benghazi sends to the world.  A few dozen thugs can kill the Personal Representative of the President of the United States and the President goes to bed without doing anything about it.  In the days following this abomination, both the Secretary of State and the President knowingly lied to the world about what happened and why.  The American public may have been bamboozled, but you can bet that no one outside of this country fell for the fairy tale that they told.  Too much of the American public is ignoring Benghazi, but our enemies are not.

During the Democratic Primaries in 2012, Candidate Clinton asked who the American people wanted to answer the telephone at three o'clock in the morning - her or Barack Obama.  Chris Stevens, Glenn Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith called and neither Obama nor Clinton answered their plea for help.  That may not be illegal, but it sure as hell is not right.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is America Exceptional?

As we all know, President Obama is very good with words.  His delivery of written speeches is superb as long as he has his teleprompter.  His legal background and nimble mind make him a wordsmith par excellence, even though he frequently gets into trouble when speaking off the cuff.  The run up to the present Syrian imbroglio is an excellent example of all of these characteristics.  Even Obama has had to recognize the "uneven" nature of his handling of this crisis.  His claim that results are what matters is a brilliant mechanism designed to help shift the public's attention from past ineptitude to the seemingly successful outcome of the Lavrov - Kerry talks in Geneva.  There is no question that the President is a political genius as regards domestic affairs, but his success is heavily dependent on a public that does not pay close attention to what is happening beyond the rhetoric - out in the real world.  This inattention on the part of a significant element of the public is, at root, what got him reelected in 2012 in spite of an unbelievably disastrous first term in office.

Much of the problem is unquestionably the media's fawning adoration of Obama and their unwillingness to ask critical questions of his administration, but unfortunately this is not the fundamental issue.  Ask yourself if the media could continue to do that if it was not what the bulk of the public wanted.  Nobody is forcing America to listen to this drivel.  We do it because we want to believe it.  I voted against Obama the first time around, but after his election, I very much wanted our first black president to succeed.  I saw his election as saying something profound about how this country had progressed during my lifetime.  As I saw him unroll the kind of change that he had been talking about in his campaign, I was increasingly disappointed, not because of the color of his skin, but because of the substance of his policies.  I suggest that not enough people in this country have critically analyzed Barack Obama's policies.  Much of the problem is that to do so is to be forced to recognize the very real dangers that face this country and to understand that the way forward is not going to be easy.  Much better to hide in the pop culture that surrounds us in an increasingly all-encompassing cocoon of fantasy.

In his recent Syria speech, President Obama argued the case for a military strike on Assad because of his use of chemical weapons, but then asked Congress to postpone their vote on the issue pending the results of the Lavrov - Kerry talks in Switzerland.  In that speech. the President stated that military action was necessary because it was the kind of thing that made America exceptional.  Earlier in his presidency, Obama had repeatedly made the case that America should not aspire to be exceptional.  Ludicrously, Vladimir Putin's op-ed in the New York Times chastised the President, saying that nations should not think of themselves as exceptional.

One can argue that this debate about whether or not America should think about itself as being exceptional is important or not.  I suggest that it is exceptionally important.  I believe in the old adage that one must either lead, follow or get out of the way.  Barack Obama is in the process of gratuitously giving up America's leadership role and I do not like it one little bit.  The world will have a leader and I see no country on the globe that I want to follow.  Nor do I want to get out of the way of radical Islamic terrorists and their stone age beliefs.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Agreement on Control of Syrian Chemical Weapons

The news out of Geneva appears to be good.  Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry have reached an agreement on Syria's chemical weapons.  According to press reports, Assad has one week to turn over an accounting of his chemical arsenal.  International inspections will commence in November and destruction of the chemical arsenal will start sometime next year.  Assuming these reports to be true, Lavrov and Kerry did their diplomatic job well.  I congratulate them, but it remains to be seen what actually happens on the ground in the future.  Diplomatic agreements are not the same thing as concrete action.  It is also important to note that chemical weapons are only one part of the complicated situation that is Syria.  Press reports already allege that Assad is moving chemical weapons and speculation exists that he intends to hide at least part of his chemical weapon store.  General Salim Idriss, a principal rebel leader, has made unconfirmed allegations that the Syrian government is continuing to use chemical agents on the battlefield.  Many cynical observers speculate that Assad is playing for time and does not intend to actually comply with any agreement brokered by the United States, even if his friend Putin is behind it.  Even more cynical observers speculate that Putin himself does not intend to see the Lavrov-Kerry agreement fully implemented.  All of these negative developments are, of course, possible, but for now, at least, the limited diplomatic track seems to be going smoothly.

As is their want, when palaver seems to be going well, diplomats understandably tend to want more and that is a good thing.  Rumors are being floated by both Russian and American sources that this agreement on chemical weapons might provide an opening to revive the stalled peace conference of yesteryear.  Some are hopeful that follow-on conversations between Kerry and Lavrov might provide an opening to actually resolve the Syrian civil war.  My guess is that both the United States and Russia will want to continue on the diplomatic track with an aim to renewing the call for a Syrian Peace Conference, presumably with an United Nations umbrella over it.  The critical issue at stake in such a conference is, of course, the longevity of Bashar Assad, both literally and figuratively.  Rebels not only want him out of power, they want him tried as a war criminal for what he has done to his people.  President Obama has said that Assad must go, but the President's political track record indicates that he could conceivably change his mind.  Assad does not appear to want to go anywhere and I assume that he does not want to be tried as a war criminal.  Presumably, Vladimir Putin has no personal attachment to Assad, but he does not want to see him ousted from power for fear that, in the process, Russia will lose it's naval base on the Mediterranean as well as the foothold that Syria represents for Moscow in Middle Eastern politics.  Various terrorist groups are actively trying to carve out a safe region within Syria for themselves.  Regional powers throughout the Middle East are watching with great interest.  In the meantime the carnage continues.

Cynics here in the United States, myself among them, fear that President Obama is in over his head and is not protecting American interests adequately.  We fear that the administration's recent handling of Syria makes the United States look feckless, inexperienced and weak.  There is no question but that recent Russian involvement has raised that country's stature and influence at the cost of American prestige.  Rebels fear that Obama is looking for a way to permit Assad, or someone just like him, to continue in power.  Terrorists are delighted that America and the rest of the world are permitting them to expand their physical base of operations in Syria.  It is not a good situation and it might well become even worse.  The elements for a wider conflict are present if too many mistakes are made by any of the players involved.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Syria and Terrorism

The so-called terrorist threat that we face in the world today is, in reality, a clash of cultures.  It is important to understand that fact when devising methods to deal with the challenge that it poses.  Many, if not most, of the foot soldiers in the various terrorist organizations that exist around the world live in extremely primitive societies.  Senior terrorist leaders may be relatively well educated, but their thinking and their actions, of necessity, are molded by the culture of their followers.  Less developed countries with significant terrorist organizations inside their borders are forced to find ways to accommodate at least some of the desires of these groups, lest they turn their wrath on the national leaders of that particular country.  The threat of assassination is a powerful way to focus someone's attention.  Those of us who live sheltered lives in more advanced cultures find this fact of life hard to fully comprehend.

At the start of his first term in office, President Obama, in his Cairo speech and elsewhere, reached out intellectually to the Muslim world in the hope that he could slow and perhaps reverse the growth of radical Islam.  Over and over again, during his presidency, he has tried to reason with the World of Islam in the hope that Muslims would rally against the terrorist threat.  His outreach failed not because Muslims are inherently bad people, but because his gesture was composed of vague intellectual arguments. Terrorists, on the other hand, offered specific violent action in defense of their position.  The vast majority of Muslims live in cultures that are less sophisticated than the halls of academia that have produced not just Barack Obama but also virtually all of the American liberal elite.  Social systems in most Muslim countries are rudimentary and tend toward acceptance of a theocracy which is increasingly radical in nature.  The simple fact of life is that as long as we try to reason with terror we will fail.  I agree with Teddy Roosevelt.  We should speak softly and carry a big stick.  President Obama certainly speaks softly enough, but his stick is too small.

President Obama's foreign policy contributes greatly to the terrorist challenge facing this country.  As we retreat from the world stage, one of the problems that it poses is that it projects weakness.  This emboldens the terrorist and increases the threat not only to America, but to all of our allies.  Our enemy is not impressed by the niceties of our legal system nor by our lofty ideals of liberty and fair dealing.  Our enemy is only influenced by raw naked power.  As we watch the Syrian story unfold we should keep this point in mind.  We should understand that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lavrov and Kerry on Syria

Secretary Kerry is meeting today with Russian Federation Foreign Minister Lavrov in Switzerland to discuss Syria.  I wish the two men well and hope that they can accomplish something useful in dealing with the mess in Syria.  Anyone who does not appreciate the seriousness of this human tragedy is an insensitive idiot.  Syria is a major international crisis.  Hundreds if not thousands of people are dying horrible deaths on a daily basis and the senseless carnage has been going on far too long.  Various regional powers have direct and indirect interests in the outcome of the struggle and our own interests are very definitely engaged.

During the last century, I worked on Southeast Asian Affairs in the State Department for several decades.  I studied the languages, history, economies, and politics of the various countries and felt that I had a good basic understanding of what was going on in the region.  I had access to virtually all of the classified and unclassified reporting being done by all of the agencies of our government.  I also read the American newspaper reporting of the day and found it incomplete at best and inaccurate at worst.  Today, I have only the American press to rely on for my information about Syria.  I can see the political bias that colors this reporting, but I do not have the background to see past it to the reality of what is going on.  For this reason, I have to admit that I do not have the faintest idea what we should do about Syria.  I do, however, have concerns.

A very few voices in this country advocate that we should intervene on behalf of the rebels and overthrow the Assad regime.  The polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans do not want to become involved.  The President has said that Assad must go, but appears unwilling to do anything concrete to help make that happen.  The regional experts tell us that we missed our chance to support a moderate nationalist movement and say that today the opposition to the Assad regime includes a number of groups that are enemies of the United States.  Many Americans seem to feel that, given this situation, we should just let the war of attrition between the two groups that do not like us continue for as long as they want to continue killing each other.  

The humanitarian problem with this solution is that a very large number of innocent civilians are in the middle of the conflict.  The recent use of lethal gas on the population has brought the horror of this war front and center.  Photography and videography of men, women and children dying horrible deaths has dramatized what used to be just statistics in a way that demands some sort of action on the part of the civilized world.  Presumably, that is what Kerry and Lavrov are discussing in Switzerland today and tomorrow.  Once again, I say that I wish them all of the very best of good fortune in their discussions, but I do not expect that they will be able to stop the killing.  At best all they will be able to do is deny the use of one weapon to those bent on killing their fellow human beings.

Inevitably, but unfortunately, Syria has become part of our domestic argument here in the United States.  Conservatives, myself included, fault President Obama for missing the opportunity (assuming it really existed) to support the Syrian nationalists in their opposition to Assad before al Quaeda embedded itself in the opposition.  We also fault him for making various redline threats that he was unwilling to back up when Assad called his bluff.  It is perhaps unfair, but understandable, given his long history of wordsmithing his way around the truth, that we do not believe him when he claims to have played a role in stimulating Vladimir Putin's recent proposal to put Assad's chemical weapons under some sort of international control.  It looks to me that he is grasping at Putin's ploy in the face of a probable Congressional vote to deny him the ability to strike the Assad regime with some sort of limited missile attack.

Conservative criticism of Obama in this situation includes skepticism as to the effectiveness of his proposed limited attack on Assad should the dictator not forswear the further use of chemical weapons.  I do not believe that Obama has any understanding of the use of military force.  At best, it is a very blunt instrument.  Assad has been engaged in a long war that has killed many of his best people, ravaged much of his country, and destroyed enormous amounts of his war making capability.  Although he would obviously like to avoid it, a limited attack on him would almost certainly be regarded as the cost of doing business.  It would also presumably anger him and very well might force him to retaliate.  President Obama has assured us that Syria can not mount a significant attack on America.  Apologies to the Commander-in-Chief, but that is a bunch of ignorant and dangerous foolishness.  Assad has chemical weapons.  He has a lot of friends among the various terrorist groups operating around the world - including those inside this country.  Put two and two together.  Even if he does not choose that route he has all kinds of regional opportunities to make the situation much worse for us and for our few remaining regional allies.

We conservatives are also wary of Vladimir Putin.  The humorists compare the skill set of the former KGB Colonel and the former Community Organizer and put their money on Putin.  I hope that they are wrong, but I fear that they are not.  It seems to me that Putin is primarily interested in maintaining his political position in Syria.  He does not give a hoot in hell for the Syrian people and he is more than happy to continue providing weapons to Assad as long as the dictator permits Russia to maintain it's port on the Mediterranean Sea.  Putin presumably fears that a successor regime might not be willing to ally itself with Russia and that would reduce Russian influence in the region.  We must remember that Putin is hell bent on reestablishing the world power status that was lost with the demise of the Soviet Union.  Assuming a deal is struck between Kerry and Lavrov, the probability is that Russia will play a critical role in supervising the control of the chemical weapons.  Irregardless of how that plays out in the future, it will be regarded regionally as a diplomatic victory for Putin.  If the future sees Assad defeat the opposition, Russian influence in the region will be further enhanced.  

The fact that America is virtually irrelevant to the outcome in Syria will also be noted by all and sundry.  It will inevitably further reduce our influence in the region and that is not a good thing, even though it fits into our president's goal of reducing the role that we play in the world.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bush gives Liberty Medal to Clinton on the Eve of Benghazi Anniversary

Last night Jeb Bush, Chairman of the National Constitution Center, presented the organization's Liberty Medal to Hillary Clinton.  I support bi-partisanship and both Clinton and Bush characterized the event as an example of the importance of bi-partisanship, but I confess that holding this ceremony on the eve of the anniversary of Benghazi is too much for me.  I can even accept that Clinton is sincere in her love of liberty, but I can not forget her role in Benghazi nor can I forget that she spent four years implementing a foreign policy that has severely weakened America's position in the world.  It is not enough to claim a love of liberty or to mouth bi-partisanship in an occasional speech.  People should be judged by what they do.  By that measure Hillary Clinton does not deserve to be honored with this or any other medal.  To do it on this day is a profound insult to four dead Americans.

The fact that Jeb Bush would do this on this day is enough to make me understand why so many conservatives have thrown up their hands and given up on the Republican Party establishment.  The event is powerful ammunition for those who claim that all of our current set of politicians are exactly the same once you dig down below a thin veneer of tactical disagreement.  I expect that the Clinton machine will find this to be useful ammunition in her 2016 presidential campaign and that is yet another reason why I can not fathom Jeb Bush's action except to think that he would find her to be an acceptable president.  I am sure that he would argue that he can honor her love of liberty and still disagree with her politically.  I also assume that Jeb Bush and I disagree as to the importance of Benghazi and the abysmal job that his friend Hillary did while running the State Department.

The next two elections are exceptionally important for a whole host of reasons.  I strongly advocate electing candidates at all levels of government that will slow down and, where possible, reverse the leftward drift in American politics.  Last time around, a significant number of conservatives stayed home and did not vote.  That was not the only reason why the Romney campaign failed, but it contributed to our defeat.  I understand my fellow citizen's distaste for many in the current class of Republican politicians, but we can not continue to boycott the elections if we are to rescue an America in decline.  Let's assume for a moment that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton face off with each other in the presidential elections of 2016.  How should conservatives react?  I argue that we have to hold our nose and vote for Jeb Bush.  Not to do so is to give Clinton four and perhaps eight years to solidify the Obama policies that are ruining this country.  We might not find Bush to be much better than Clinton, but at least he can be expected to make decisions that are less bad than Clinton.  That is reality in American politics.

Politics is a dirty business, but it is unfortunately critical to our quality of life.  We ignore it at our peril as has been proven with the two Obama elections.  I implore my fellow citizens to wake up and pay attention to what is happening to this country at all levels.  Too many of us are ignoring the very real dangers that face us.