By RALPH PETERS – (NYPost)
Looking back on the four years of his first administration, President Obama can be proud: He made the US welcome among the family of nations again; he reduced our reliance on military force; and he gave us peace by reaching sensible accommodations with our enemies.
The lies told about him in the 2008 election were exposed as sheer bigotry. Far from being “soft on radical Islam,” President Obama was the first world leader to welcome Jewish refugees after Iran’s nuclear destruction of Israel’s major cities (his only caveat – a fair one – was the refusal to accept Zionist military officers and their families, in light of Israel’s excessive retaliation).
He also demonstrated his resolve in the face of extremism when he overruled the obstructionist advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ordered our military to cross the border into Pakistan in force. The subsequent debacle, as Pakistan cut off supply routes to Afghanistan and threatened a nuclear response, was entirely the fault of our generals on the ground, not of the administration.
Fortunately, President Obama’s willingness to talk to our enemies rescued the situation. After laying down their arms, our troops were allowed to evacuate Pakistan and Afghanistan in peace. The Taliban’s return to power in Kabul did not result in an excessive bloodbath, and al Qaeda is not permitted the unrestricted freedom it enjoyed in the country prior to 2001.
State Department surveys prove that the Afghan population welcomes Sharia law, the closure of girls’ schools and other such cultural choices. Our reparations payments to Kabul (as with those to Havana) are only just. Opium production is, arguably, no worse than in the past.
We also have seen peace in Iraq. Claims that our troop withdrawal was responsible for the resurgence of al Qaeda and the subsequent civil war are nothing but Republican campaign propaganda. With the International Sunni Alliance in firm control of Iraq – after Israel’s wanton destruction of Iran – order prevails in the streets. As for the Turkish and Arab suppression of the Kurds, our diplomats regard it as a small price to pay for regional stability. Biased reports of massacres and concentration camps remain unsubstantiated.
Our relations with the Muslim world have rarely, if ever, been better. The current $320 per barrel price of oil allows long-oppressed states to develop themselves without the yoke of neo-colonialism or invasive efforts to force democracy upon their populations. As UN Ambassador Ayers noted, “We can state with pride that the US not only respects, but embraces cultural differences.”
Relations with Russia are also at a high unthinkable a mere four years ago. Moscow’s legitimate concerns for the welfare of its citizens in the “near abroad,” as well as for ethnic Russians persecuted by so-called free democracies, fully justified its peace-preservation military deployments into Ukraine and other regional states. The subsequent referendums on re-unification with Russia, while displaying a few inevitable irregularities, have been judged free and fair by the Jimmy Carter Memorial Foundation.
While the deployment of Russian forces into the NATO-member Baltic states to protect ethnic Russians proved controversial, President Obama’s personal intervention kept us – and NATO – out of war. Partisan charges of “Finlandization” distort the generous terms of the neutrality guarantees Moscow provides for the former NATO members.
After the internationally brokered (with President Obama in the lead) demilitarization of eastern Poland, it’s clear to all responsible parties that Russia’s legitimate claims have been fully satisfied and we may expect peace in our time.
President Obama resisted yet another war trap as China lost patience and finally reclaimed its long-lost province, Taiwan. Furthermore, the reduction of the US military presence in Japan and South Korea has deflated strategic tensions in East Asia to the lowest level in over one hundred years. Again, President Obama gave us peace.
(The resulting peace dividend from our president’s 25% cut in the defense budget has allowed our government, in a public/private partnership with the Chicago-based Rezko Foundation, to provide subsidized housing for almost six million new immigrant families from developing countries. No other administration policy has raised the world’s esteem for us more profoundly than our “Global Balance” instant-citizenship immigration reforms.)
In our own hemisphere, President Obama has supported the cause of justice, human rights and trade unions, cutting off military aid to Colombia, killing the proposed free-trade agreement with that country, and expressing humane understanding for the long freedom struggle of the FARC and other liberation groups.
Preferring a sensible rapprochement with Venezuela to needless confrontation, our president went to Caracas and negotiated a regional division of labor with democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez. The end of our destructive trade embargo against Cuba, our formal apology for the deprivations we imposed, and our generous reparations payments have inaugurated a new era of friendship with our long-suffering neighbors to the south.
The only complaint Democratic Party cadres fairly may lodge against the Obama administration’s foreign policy is that we still have not fully opened our border with Mexico. Resistance among right-wing fanatics in Washington and bigots around the country remains too strong for now.
As for Mexico’s presidential contest, President Obama has made it clear that, while he would prefer that a reputed drug-cartel leader not be elected, the US will respect the will of the Mexican people and strive for good relations with any future Mexican government.
One can only ask how much higher our 16.2% unemployment rate – an obvious legacy of the Bush years – might be if President Obama had not restored America’s standing in the world and re-negotiated unfair trade treaties imposed on American workers by previous administrations.
As our president remarked just the other day in a re-election campaign speech in Dearborn, Michigan: “Wealth redistribution isn’t just an American issue – it’s a global issue. Better that Americans should be a little poorer, if that means our brothers in Egypt and Bolivia can become a little richer.”
Under President Obama, America’s back!
More Predictions Below the Fold, but I believe the one above is perhaps the most accurate…
OBAMA 2012: A TERM OF FI$CAL PAIN
By NICOLE GELINAS – (NYPost)
This Tuesday, we’ll find out who wins the presidential election – Michigan Governor Hillary Rodham Clinton or Republican candidate Charlie Crist of Florida. An exhausted President Barack Obama will soon return home to Illinois. But he can do so in the knowledge that he tried his best, and leaves a solid foundation for the next president, even if most voters can’t see it yet.
It’s hard to imagine now, but when Obama first took office, the experts thought that the consumer-led recession that had deepened precipitously in the fourth quarter of 2008 would be short, with the economy starting to recover in the fall of 2009, at the latest. Economists thought back then that the now-famous Black, Black Monday – the Monday after Thanksgiving 2008 when it became clear that consumer spending for the holiday season would drop by double digits – was a good thing. They figured that it meant that the pain would be deep, but short, as banks would quickly start to lend again.
Obama 2012: Ralph Peters: His Triumphs Abroad
Obama 2012: Jonah Goldberg: Four Years Later
That’s why the Democrats howled when Obama gave a pre-inauguration speech on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in which he seemed to backtrack on many of his election promises.
First, Obama, alarmed at the market’s continued drop, declared a moratorium on tax increases of any kind for his entire first term, most importantly keeping the 15% capital-gains rate in place. The Dems couldn’t figure out why Obama was coddling the rich. But as we now know from Bob Woodward’s book, “Cool Amid the Chaos,” Obama had listened to his University of Chicago economic advisers. They had told him privately that raising taxes on capital gains would add one more reason for people to stay out of the market, when the nation desperately needed people to start investing again in the hopes of future gains.
The Dems howled even louder when Obama reneged on his promise to make massive government cash payments to tens of millions of American households who don’t pay federal taxes (he had called this plan a “tax cut” before the election).
Instead, Obama used some of that money to enact a zero capital gains and dividends tax rate on households earning under $250,000. Households are eligible for the rate after checking off a box on their income taxes, in exchange for a $1,000 one-time cash payment, to opt into a government plan to start investing 3% of their income in well-diversified global stock and bond index funds. For households earning under $50,000, the government now matches $2 for every $1 household contribution to such funds.
Of course, it took two years to get these plans enacted. Despite the best efforts of Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Charlie Rangel, who wanted to save the remnants of New York’s main industry, Wall Street, Obama had to wait until after the 2010 Congressional election to cobble together a coalition of conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass the plan.
It also took Obama two years to pass reasonable financial-industry regulations. At first, many Congressmen of both traditional parties simply wanted revenge – especially after $2 trillion in government capital injections into banks and other financial institutions during 2008 and 2009 couldn’t get those institutions to start lending freely again. It turned out that the banks were right not to lend liberally, since credit-card defaults and auto-loan defaults have exceeded all previous records and expectations. The smart banks, by lending conservatively and thus conserving capital, saved themselves and the government’s investment from bankruptcy. Obama was right to wait until tempers cooled – but waiting added more uncertainty to the markets and further retarded recovery.
In the end, any hope that Obama could boast of an economic recovery under his watch ended with the Great Inflation. The seeds of the inflation were planted even before Obama took office, and seem obvious in retrospect. Well into 2009, farms and other suppliers couldn’t get trade credit to keep production going, just as easy money around the world would push up worldwide demand for goods and services in 18 months’ time. While both demand and supply fell sharply, in the end, supply fell more than demand, meaning higher prices at a terrible time.
The inflation has carried its own cost: a second, more severe recession that carried into the primary season, as the Federal Reserve jacked up interest rates to try to preserve the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency. Obama was right not to run a futile re-election campaign, instead concentrating on doing his job.
Today, though, things do look like they’re getting better. Inflation seems to be abating. Working-class and middle-class Americans are pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the world’s stock markets through the government’s investment program, putting capital into the economy and putting people back to work. Stimulus-era road and mass-transit projects are bearing fruit, laying the infrastructure groundwork for a real private-sector recovery (even though Obama annoyed the unions by signing an emergency executive order exempting the projects from normal federal work rules and wages, saying he wanted to get the biggest bang for every taxpayer dollar).
It was too late for Obama, though. The truth may be small comfort, but it’s this: while recovery from a 25-year financial bubble was always going to be slow and painful, the president, by refraining from raising taxes and from putting punitive new regulations on business, likely made it less slow and less painful.
The new president will benefit, and so will the nation.
Nicole Gelinas, a Chartered Financial Analyst, is a contributing editor to City Journal.
OBAMA 2012: FOUR YEARS LATER
A LOOK BACK AT HIS PRESIDENCY
By JONAH GOLDBERG – (NYPost)
It’s hard to believe that just four years ago, some were talking about Barack Obama as a national savior, a secular redeemer, a “light worker.” Even more shocking, President Obama lost the nomination of his own party to none other than Hillary Clinton. How did we get here?
There are no shortage of recriminatory theories for President Obama’s precipitous fall from would-be messiah, to near pariah. Discussions with leaders within the Democratic Party, including prominent former members of the Obama administration, give a kaleidoscopic picture of missed opportunities, wrong turns and embarrassing blunders.
The first mistake many cite was actually made before Obama was even elected: the selection of Joseph Biden as his vice president. During the campaign, all eyes were on John McCain’s running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. But even then there were signs of the troubles to come (ironically, Biden’s biggest “gaffe” – about Obama being tested early in his presidency – proved eerily prescient).
Still, nothing prepared the country for some of former Vice President Biden’s comments while in office. Early on, when he told the Russian foreign minister he’d “rather punch a nun in the throat” than cooperate on an Iranian nuclear deal, the Obama administration knew they had a problem on their hands.
The strange comments and behavior kept coming: at an international summit on child poverty, he accused the Dalai Lama of issuing a “brain fart,” he phoned Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts at home and called him a “[re]tard in short pants,” and of course the several stories – clearly leaked by aides to the president – of Mr. Biden sitting in the president’s chair in the Oval Office and being more than reluctant to get out when asked to do so by the president.
The last straw was Biden’s complaint, emphatically offered at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, that he would have more influence over foreign policy if he were black. His staff’s effort to dismiss the incident as a joke – at the normally comedic event – fell short largely because Biden shouted “I am not joking!” two dozens times in speech that lasted less than 10 minutes. The fact that Biden had not been invited to speak at the dinner in the first place only added to the controversy.
Ultimately, the embarrassment became too much and Mr. Biden became the first vice president to resign from office since Spiro Agnew.
The subsequent battle over Obama’s replacement sapped his presidency of much of its energy. Indeed, many credit Hillary Clinton’s decision to run against Obama to her anger at being passed over twice for the vice presidency. The failure of two of Obama’s ostensibly bipartisan picks – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords – because they were too “rightwing” only made him seem weak compared to the firebrand liberal 111th congress. Charges that the Obama presidency was really a Trojan Horse for a Pelosi prime ministership only grew louder when he was forced to accept Henry Waxman as his vice president.
Indeed, the overconfidence of Congressional Democrats posed another major challenge to the Obama presidency. During the 2008 election, Obama’s conservative critics had long complained that the then-freshman senator had little to no record of standing up the leftwing base of his party in part, they argued, because he himself was much more leftwing than he had let on.
Whatever the truth of that, what is not contested is that the Congressional Progressive Caucus – the largest partisan bloc in the Congress when Mr. Obama was elected – believed that the new president was “one of us” according to many sources contacted for this article.
The CPC, colloquially known as the “big swinging caucus” after an unfortunate joke by then-Republican Minority Leader John Boehner after a scandal involving Rep. Barney Frank (see side story), pushed Barack Obama on a wide array of fronts: they demanded very large cuts in the military budget, a sweeping government expansion into the role of healthcare, and in a move that experts agree caused the Wall Street Panic of 2010, they persuaded Mr. Obama to make the government’s partial ownership of the remaining “Big Five” banks permanent. Representatives Frank and Charlie Rangel argued that the stakes, bought by the Bush treasury department, in the banks provided, in Frank’s words, a “once in a lifetime opportunity to inject some social justice into the capitalist system.” Or as Senator Jesse Jackson Jr. said, “if we’ve got them by the b – – – s already, why let go?”
Americans also don’t like it when White House press secretary Keith Olbermann tells them that complaining about higher taxes is “racist.”
A general consensus among political observers is that Obama’s essential problem was that he was oversold and too naive and arrogant to realize he wasn’t as his most devoted fans believed. A senior Democrat on Capitol Hill marveled: “In 2008, this guy promised to send everyone to college, vastly increase foreign aid, create a ‘civilian national security force’ that was just a well-funded as the U.S. military, his wife said he’d fix our ‘broken souls,’ and he said he’d make the oceans stop rising, all without increasing the deficit. The amazing thing is he thought it was all true. He makes Jimmy Carter look like he should be on Mt. Rushmore.”
Another advisor compared Obama to Max Bialystock, the con man from the Mel Brooks’ film “The Producers.” In the movie, Bialystock sells 100% ownership of the play to dozens of investors. “Barack Obama sold 100% shares in his presidency to every constituency imaginable and they all thought they were at the front of the line after inauguration day.”
Meanwhile, in a sign of the bitterness within the Democratic Party these days, former vice president Joe Biden has not endorsed a candidate. But he did say that President Obama could be a great leader in his second term “if he would only learn that the square circle grows moss only when the fat man bathes in dirty moonlight.”