In which Barack Obama resembles James Buchanan

November 26, 2013
"Obama's true predecessor"

“Obama’s true predecessor”

Not in the sense of “after him, a civil war,” of course. That line of thinking, which I’ve occasionally seen, is a bit overwrought. But something Stanley Kurtz wrote today made me think of Jimmy B.

Discussing what may have motivated Obama to ink this bad deal with Iran, Kurtz discounts the idea that it was done to give the administration a win after the Obamacare debacle. Rather, Kurtz thinks that Obama did this because his support has shrunk to his hardcore base, and that base hates the very idea of violent conflict with Iran. To keep from losing this last group, which is already angry over Obamacare’s problems, Obama is willing even to sign an agreement that wreaks havoc on the US position in the Middle East, as long as it postpones conflict with Iran. Kurtz writes:

Americans are weary of war and few on any political side were inclined to bail Obama out of his Syrian “red line” misadventure. Yet there is still a strong constituency for taking action when core American interests are threatened. That constituency, unfortunately, stands largely outside of Obama’s base.

To the extent that this analysis is valid, it means that as long as Obamacare is on life-support (for the next three years, by most accounts), Obama’s policy inclinations and political survival alike will conspire to dictate American weakness on the world scene. With Obama down to his dovish core supporters, we are paralyzed abroad.

And it’s this that makes me think of the hapless Pennsylvanian. Faced with a potential crisis, trapped by his ideology and party supporters who loathed the idea of federal intervention against the states, Buchanan sat there and temporized and let the problem fester until he could hand it off to Lincoln and say “You deal with it!”

And so it is with Obama and whoever succeeds him.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


CA High-Speed Rail Fail: Judge derails Gov. Brown’s choo-choo?

November 26, 2013
"Train wreck"

“Train wreck”

Darn Judge Michael Kenny and his concern for the law! Doesn’t he know he’s standing in the way of the future?

A Sacramento judge put the brakes on California’s plans to build a bullet train after dual rulings Monday blocked the sale of $8 billion in bonds and ordered the rail authority to rewrite its funding plans for the huge project.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that there was “no evidence in the record” to support the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s request in March to sell the bonds from Proposition 1A, a $10 billion measure approved by voters in 2008 that allowed the bullet train project to move ahead.

In a separate but related case, the judge sided with the Kings County Board of Supervisors and two homeowners who sued the rail agency, saying it had failed to detail how the project will be financed, as legally required, before seeking bond money to begin construction.

The judge’s rulings leave the future of the $68 billion project in question. The state has been trying to get the first 130-mile segment in the Central Valley built using $3.24 billion in federal funds and $2.61 billion in Prop. 1A bond money. The rail authority has already signed a construction contract to build the first 29 miles of track from Madera to Fresno.

The judge rejected opponents’ calls for that contract to be rescinded.

The judge’s ruling seems a reasonable one, as he sticks to the question of CHSRA’s authority to sell bonds (1); the contract is a separate matter and, if the State can’t raise the money to pay for it, also moot.

Naturally, this ruling is going to get appealed by proponents of this boondoggle all the way to the State Supreme Court, if need be. Let’s hope they uphold Judge Kenny’s ruling; then maybe we can escape from this fiasco having wasted only $600 million.

I’m not, however, getting my hopes up. The legislature might try to rewrite the law to allow the bond sales. This would be difficult and subject to court challenges, as the original measure approving HSR was a public ballot initiative, and changing it might require another vote, something Brown opposes because the California public has turned against the project. He wouldn’t want to risk a public rejection that would definitively kill his 1930s retro-future dream. Whichever way this goes, it’s going to be a long fight.

As they say, “stay tuned!”

Footnote:
(1) I almost wrote “”bongs.” Fitting, seeing as this is California.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#IranDeal: It wasn’t just the Israelis and the Saudis Obama backstabbed

November 26, 2013
"Left to rot."

“Left to rot.”

There’s been a lot of talk since the weekend about the deal brokered between Iran on the one hand, and the US and its European partners on the other, that supposedly somehow represented a breakthrough in the quest to prevent the Iranian mullahs from getting their hands on nuclear weapons. Discussions have centered around diplomacy and grand strategy, and the motives of the Iranian and US governments. Matter of “high politics,” as they might have said in the 19th century.

But the agreement touches people on a very personal level, too. Left unmentioned in any of the negotiations are Americans trapped in Iranian prisons, men such as Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor from Idaho who was accused of the horrid crime (in Iran, under Islam) of preaching the Gospel and helping to establish home churches (1). Abedini was yanked off a bus, his passport taken from him, and he was consigned to Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

And, in the negotiations leading to this wonderful deal, the US never mentioned him once:

Two words are nowhere to be found in the pages of text that spell out a new interim nuclear deal with Iran: Saeed Abedini.

Now some supporters of the American pastor, who’s been detained in Iran for more than a year, are accusing U.S. officials of betraying Abedini by signing off on an agreement that doesn’t get him out of prison.

“We were across the table from the Iranians, and we did not bring home Americans. To me that’s a tragedy and that’s outrageous,” said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s family in the United States.

While analysts debated the nuclear agreement’s pros and cons, Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, said she was trying to comfort her two young children.

“It’s very painful,” she told CNN’s “The Lead” on Monday. “My kids were crying this morning, saying, ‘God, don’t let Daddy die. Bring him home.’ “

One would think an American government, leading a nation founded on principles of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, would have raised a stink about Abedini at these negotiations, something along the lines of “You want sanctions lifted and your sequestered cash released? Give us Abedini and we’ll talk.” (2)

But then one would remember Barack Obama is in charge. Defending Americans in danger abroad is a bit alien to him, as we learned in Libya.

Via Bryan Preston, who connects Abedini’s abandonment to his Christianity and draws a parallel to the Obama administrations attacks on religious liberty here. I disagree with Bryan on this: nations have often sacrificed individuals for “reasons of state” when a higher goal was at stake. In the Obama administration’s case, the nuclear deal with Iran was paramount, and if the government was willing to blindside Jewish Israel and Muslim Saudi Arabia with this, they weren’t going to let the fate of Saeed Abedini (or Robert Levinson) stand in the way. It’s shameful and cynical, to be sure, but not religiously motivated.

RELATED: There are several good articles explaining why this deal stinks. At The Weekly Standard, John Bolton calls this “abject surrender.” Writing at PJM, Michael Ledeen points out, among other excellent observations, that the Iranian treasury was almost empty, but we’ve now agreed to give them billions. Genius. Eli Lake at The Daily Beast quotes an expert who says this comes close to a “nuclear 1914 scenario.” How fitting, with the hundredth anniversary of World War I approaching. James Carafano calls this a deal based on a dangerous fantasy — Munich II. My own observation is this: Regardless of the restrictions placed on the Iranian public nuclear program by this deal, if you think there isn’t a secret program run in parallel by the military that is still going full-speed, you’re high.

This deal makes war more likely, not less.

PS: There’s a support page for Pastor Abedini at Facebook, and a web site for Robert Levinson.

Footnote:
(1) Abedini’s offense was compounded by being himself a convert to Christianity from Islam. Under Islamic law, that is the crime of apostasy and is punishable by death. I suppose the Iranians thought they were being merciful for just sticking him in jail for eight years.
(2) Not that I’m a religious person, but I believe very strongly in the natural right of all humans to freedom of speech and religion, and, within very broad bounds, government should stay the heck out. No law is legitimate that oppresses those rights, and an American government that won’t stand up for its citizens’ rights in the face of a tyranny that tramples both is craven.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)