Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Turning Point?

By Roger Kimball
December 19, 2014

Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel

I was pleased to see that President Obama announced today that there would be a public screening of The Interview at the White House on Christmas day. It took guts to stand up to the cyber bullies, whoever they are, who have terrorized the cry babies in Hollywood and sown fear among the rancid celebrities of the preening class. Many commentators on my side of the aisle were surprised at Obama’s forthright condemnation of this brazen act of cyber terrorism and his new-found resolve to stand up to America’s enemies. I was pleased, too, to see that he has replaced Susan Rice with John Bolton as National Security advisor and is setting up a cyber defense task force headed by General Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and the NSA. It has taken a while, but at last Barack Obama seems to understand the gravity of the many threats America faces on the international front and I am pleased that he has been so candid about putting American interests first.
Just kidding, of course. There will be no public screening of The Interview at the White House on Christmas, and if there were, you can bet last devalued dollar that neither John Bolton nor General Hayden would have received a ticket.
No, the real question people should be asking themselves is this: Now that the President is seeking to “normalize” relations with the Communist hell hole of Cuba, is there any totalitarian enemy of the United States that he has not sought to cozy up to?
Russia? check. Hillary hit the reset button years ago, remember?
Iran? absolutely: what more could Obama do to assure that Iran becomes a nuclear power?
China? Obama made a special trip there to agree that the United States to hamstring its economy by adopting emissions standards that China wouldn’t have to adopt for decades.
And on it goes. Someone told me last night that Obama was hoping to normalize relations with the Taliban, but (as far as I know) that turns out to be an unfair rumor.  He is only hoping to normalize relations with the PLO while at the same time punish Israel, which has the temerity to make everyone else in the Middle East look bad by being the region’s one liberal democracy and, moreover, by being more technologically innovative than any of its neighbors.
But here’s a question I really cannot answer: how far can Obama go before he gets some real pushback? Yesterday it was Cuba. (When are you going to issue Cuba’s “torture report,” Senator Feinstein?) A few days ago we discovered that Obama invented a new word for “ukase:” it’s “memoranda.”  “President Obama,” USA Today reported, “has issued a form of executive action known as the presidential memorandum more often than any other president in history — using it to take unilateral action even as he has signed fewer executive orders.” Who knew? But wait, isn’t “unilateral action” exactly the sort of thing the Constitution was designed to impede? Well, yes, but we should know by now how much Obama regards the Constitution as a check on his power.
Still, it would be good to know how far the American people are willing to let Obama go.  We know that establishment time-servers like John (you-can-do-any-thing-you-like-Obama-and-I’ll-only-pretend-to-object) Boehner are too deeply implicated in the status quo to offer any serious push back. What about the rest of our elected officials? The longer they’ve been in Congress, the more securely are their lips sewn to the teat of public largess and bureaucratic privilege. It was just this eventuality that folks like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton sought to prevent, but we’ve had more than two hundred years of lawyerly hermeneutical ingenuity chip, chip, chipping away at Constitutional safeguards to rely on those fusty old ideas of checks and balances and those “auxiliary precautions” that Madison spoke of in Federalist 51. (“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,” Madison wrote, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”  How are we doing on that score?)
It’s not every day that you get to have a ringside seat at the birth of despotism.  The entertainment value is likely to be quite high, though I predict the story will not have a happy ending.

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