"Let justice be done though the heavens should fall." --John Adams
Since at least April, the economic "recovery," such as it was, has nearly ground to a halt. But Barack Obama doesn't want to talk about that. Instead, his politically adept administration is working overtime to come up with as many distractions as possible to keep voters' minds off of the economy. Caveat emptor. Such is the backdrop for this week's events, albeit with a scandal that is far more than mere distraction.
From 2009 to 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran Operation Fast and Furious (a.k.a. Project Gunrunner), ostensibly a program to track U.S.-purchased firearms headed to Mexican drug cartels. Our readers know the history well -- thousands of guns "walked" across the border, and hundreds of lives were lost. The real purpose, of course, was to undermine the Second Amendment by vilifying gun owners and sellers, followed by instituting tougher gun control.
While most of the Leftmedia did their best to ignore the story, recent events forced even the networks to grudgingly acknowledge it as an issue worth coverage. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 23-17 along party lines Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his lies, inconsistencies and lack of cooperation during the investigation of Fast and Furious. The whole House will vote next week on the matter, and a contempt citation could lead to a civil lawsuit since Holder obviously wouldn't pursue a suit with a U.S. attorney. Holder called the contempt vote "unwarranted, unnecessary and unprecedented," a characterization that better describes Fast and Furious itself.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House committee, requested that the Justice Department release thousands of documents related to the inner workings of Fast and Furious, including details about the deaths of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata at the hands of murderers wielding weapons obtained through the ill-conceived operation. DoJ released some 7,000 documents to date, but that's a fraction of what Issa requested, and most of the paperwork handed over is only tangentially related to what the committee is seeking.
On Feb. 4, 2011, the Justice Department sent a letter to Congress denying the operation even existed. Ten months later, Justice retracted the letter. Holder insisted that the buck stopped with him, and he halted the program when he became aware of it. This week, Holder claimed that former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey knew about it, which is impossible given that it didn't begin until after the Obama administration took office. Challenged on this, Holder retracted his claim, though White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who couldn't remember Agent Terry's name, made the same absurd claim Thursday.
Then the administration moved to solidify its stone wall. Knowing full well the political consequences, Barack Obama claimed executive privilege, theoretically putting the documents out of Congress's reach, and escalating the not-the-economy debate. By claiming executive privilege, the president is implicitly admitting his own knowledge of or involvement in Fast and Furious, even though he has heretofore disavowed any advance knowledge. How then can executive privilege apply to something with no White House involvement? Either Obama was involved or he's making the bizarre claim that the Justice Department, which was not created by the Constitution but by Congress, is not, in fact, accountable to Congress.
Obama is overreaching, and his actions highlight his hypocrisy. As a senator in 2007 criticizing George W. Bush's White House, Obama expressed the view that executive privilege is really just a tool presidents use to hide inconvenient truths that they don't want to face. In fact, in seeking the cover of executive privilege from Obama, Holder cited Bush administration arguments regarding the firing of several U.S. attorneys -- the very episode Obama criticized in 2007, though in reality completely different from the one at hand.
Nevertheless, the facts here are so inconvenient as to merit Obama's spending his own political capital to bail out Holder and the Justice Department. Or worse, Obama is bailing himself out. Surely, Hispanic voters wouldn't take kindly to an Obama program that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Hispanics.
The bottom line, however, is that the crimes committed are far worse than the stonewalling and cover-up. Fast and Furious was a deadly disaster in conception and execution, and the White House and Justice Department must be held accountable.
This Week's 'Braying Jenny' Award
"Contempt of Congress? Contempt of Congress? To frivolously use that really important vehicle to undermine the person who's assigned to stop the voter suppression in our country -- I'm telling you, this is connected. It is no accident. It is a decision, and it is uh, uh, as clear as can be. It's not only to monopolize [Attorney General Eric Holder's] time, it's to undermine his name, to undermine his name, to undermine his name as he goes forward to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." --House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
"I could have arrested Karl Rove on any given day. I'm not kidding. ... If we had spotted him in the Capitol, we could have arrested him. ... [T]here were some specific [grounds] for his being in contempt of Congress. But we didn't." --Nancy Pelosi
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Government & Politics
Judicial Benchmarks: End-of-Term Court Rulings
The U.S. Supreme Court didn't issue its ruling on ObamaCare this week, meaning that next week -- the last before the Court adjourns for the summer -- is guaranteed to be interesting. The Court did rule on a few cases, though, including one case involving dues to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). As happens all too frequently, the Ninth Circuit Court was overturned in the process. The Associated Press reports, "The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that unions must give nonmembers an immediate chance to object to unexpected fee increases or special assessments that all workers are required to pay in closed-shop situations." The Ninth Circuit found that SEIU's annual notice was sufficient for Dianne Knox and other nonmembers, but the Supreme Court disagreed in its 7-2 ruling. Score another big defeat for Big Labor.
In another ruling, the AP reports, "The Supreme Court has thrown out fines and sanctions against broadcasters who violated the Federal Communications Commission policy regulating curse words and nudity on broadcast television." The 8-0 decision did not include any finding on the constitutionality of the FCC's policy, only that broadcasters couldn't have anticipated that profanity uttered during an awards show or "fleeting" nudity during a prime time show would result in sanctions.
Hope 'n' Change: Catholic Group Rejects Contraception 'Compromise'
The Catholic Health Association, once a supporter of ObamaCare, announced this week that the health law's supposed compromise on the contraception mandate is unworkable. The CHA, which represents more than 600 Catholic hospitals as well as other related health care facilities, initially supported ObamaCare and its rule that forced employers to provide free birth control and sterilization services. When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops challenged the mandate as a violation of religious freedom, the CHA publicly split with the organization. In February, the group's president, Sister Carol Keehan, announced support of the White House "accommodation," which stated that religious organizations would not have to pay for contraceptive services, but they would still be required to provide them.
Then Keehan and her colleagues began a months-long review of the "accommodation" and determined that it was "unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns" of its members. If any element of ObamaCare survives the Supreme Court's impending ruling, the Catholic Church is sure to pursue a vigorous legal challenge of the law. With the CHA back on the right side, the litigious possibilities will surely increase.
News From the Swamp: Even Democrats Reticent to Raise Taxes
At least seven Senate Democrats facing 2012 election battles are on record stating they won't support any tax hikes without a comprehensive tax reform plan. Senators John Tester (MT), Joe Manchin (WV), Jim Webb (VA), Claire McCaskill (MO), and others have aligned with Republicans who claim that raising any taxes in the current economic climate would be disastrous for the country. This is not good news for Barack Obama, who is pushing for tax hikes on higher incomes as part of his overall class warfare campaign. He can't reverse himself at this point without giving Mitt Romney a huge advantage, but he's also unlikely to have comprehensive tax reform passed in the remaining months before the election. Perhaps he should have listened to his own tax panel members Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles when he had the chance last year.
New & Notable Legislation
The Senate passed a trillion-dollar, 10-year farm bill Thursday, by a vote of 64-35. Senators and some in the media hailed the wondrous bipartisan agreement on the monstrosity, and marveled at how it will "cut the deficit" by nearly $24 billion. However, we in our humble shop are still unclear how spending almost $1 trillion -- three-quarters of which will be for food stamps -- represents any "savings" whatsoever. The House still must consider the legislation, and its future there is unclear.
Apparently looking for things to pass the time between budgets, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Harry Reid (D-NV) plan to introduce legislation to create a United States Boxing Commission that would oversee all fights and work with the various local and regional commissions, promoters, boxers and managers. The call for a new boxing commission comes after a controversial split decision in a high-profile June 9 welterweight fight in Las Vegas that some claim was rigged. There are already numerous boxing commissions that oversee the sport, and, though they don't have the greatest reputations, adding government regulation to the mix won't guarantee any improvement.
Federal Reserve Downgrades Outlook
The Federal Reserve issued its latest report for 2012 economic and job growth and there is cause for worry. The Fed lowered the outlook for 2012 GDP growth to a range of 1.9 to 2.4 percent, while in April, the Fed was predicting still-anemic 2.4 to 2.9 percent growth. Indeed, beginning in April, markets began to look increasingly fragile, particularly as Europe deteriorated. The Fed also lowered its expectations for unemployment, now predicting 8 to 8.2 percent in the fourth quarter, whereas previous predictions were 7.8 to 8 percent. Looking ahead, the Fed expects unemployment to remain well above 7 percent through 2014.
Not to worry, though. Barack Obama's Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, says the U.S. economy has "obviously turned the corner," and things are looking up. The economy may have turned a corner, but it's a hard left and the bridge ahead is out.
And as for unemployment, we understand that the Obama campaign is hiring hecklers to follow Mitt Romney's campaign. Given the things they're shouting, we would definitely call these "shovel ready jobs."
Income Redistribution: Putting Drunken Sailors to Shame
Sometimes it seems as if Uncle Sam spends money just because he can. A prime example is the admission by a Congressional Research Service "expert" that the federal government spent $10 billion in stimulus money to create 355 permanent "green" jobs as part of the Department of Energy's 1603 renewable energy grant program. DoE defended the program, saying it "played a critical role in the dramatic expansion of America's renewable energy industry [by] leveraging more than $25 billion in private-sector investments." If individuals want to be foolish enough to chase these boondoggles, that's one thing, but taxpayers didn't ask for this waste.
From spending almost $60 million for loan guarantees to sweeten the deal for a Louisiana plant to create bio-based chemicals -- compounds that are already readily available -- to losing more than $250 million on failing battery maker A123, it seems as if the Obama administration has no problem throwing billions at the wall and seeing what, if anything, sticks.
Even the numbering system the government uses to identify contractors is under question. Dun & Bradstreet developed the current system three decades ago, and its nine-digit identifier, called the DUNS number, has been in use ever since. At a cost of $19 million a year, the government is now pondering how to improve the system, but chances are it won't be cheaper as federal officials will only add more complexity to the system.
Regulatory Commissars: Canadians Move Ahead With Pipeline
Because Barack Obama dragged his feet on approving the Canadian connection of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian government is considering other options for selling its oil, including building a pipeline to the Pacific Ocean and allowing export to energy-hungry China. More important, though, the Conservative Canadian government is pulling out all the stops to get this infrastructure built, including streamlining the approval process and cracking down on the excesses of environmental groups that hold up progress.
By pandering to environmentalists, another Democrat constituency was thrown under the bus by Obama's actions: Labor unions haven't had the opportunity to start the Keystone pipeline, losing out on tens of thousands of jobs.
Study: Fracking Doesn't Increase Earthquake Risk
This probably could have easily fallen under the category of common sense, but a study by the National Research Council confirmed that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, "does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events." The study further concedes that even the wastewater injection process, which does slightly increase seismic risk, has created few incidents when compared to the sheer number of wells in place.
The finding isn't going to stop radical environmentalists, though. The Sierra Club is still pressing on with an initiative called "Beyond Natural Gas," in which the goal is to prevent, by any means necessary, new natural gas power plants from being built. Just a few short years ago environmentalists hailed natural gas as a clean energy alternative to coal; that is, until it became significantly cheaper to produce domestically through processes such as fracking. They're also aghast that improvements in the technology of hydraulic fracturing led to the creation of thousands of jobs that don't meet their idea of green employment.
Since the price is right and more are employed in the industry, natural gas is now a dirty word to the Sierra Club. They must really hate the smell of progress in the morning.
Immigration Front: An Executive Power Grab
Last Friday, we noted a brand new immigration policy issued by Barack Obama. By executive order, he more or less enacted parts of the DREAM Act, which has yet to pass Congress. Specifically, for the next two years, Obama's Department of Homeland Security will no longer enforce deportation law on the children of illegal aliens, and those who are old enough to work will be granted work authorizations. To qualify, one must have been in the country for five years, have no criminal record and be enrolled in high school, college or the military.
The administration insists it is exercising "prosecutorial discretion," not legislating from the Oval Office. It is true that law enforcement officers, lawyers and judges have some discretion in enforcing and prosecuting laws, but it appears in this case that the administration will make the exception the rule. It's one thing to prioritize enforcement; it's another thing to issue a blanket exemption from the law for an entire class of people.
Even Obama admitted to a Hispanic crowd last year that he doesn't have the authority he just commandeered: "The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works." In another instance, he said, "America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the president, am obligated to enforce the law."
In yet another case, Obama was even more explicit. "With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that's just not the case," he explained, "because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed. And ... you know that we've got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch's job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws." All that just went out the window.
There are other implications here, as well. First, between 800,000 and 1.4 million illegal aliens are affected by this policy change. With headline unemployment at 8.2 percent and un/underemployment at 14.6 percent, what will an influx of a million people do to the job market? What will it do to the education system?
Second, Obama's action killed any hope of immigration reform in the near future. Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) cosponsored a version of the DREAM Act that Kyl said would be greeted with "tolerance by our most conservative friends, and enthusiasm from the rest." That, of course, is debatable, as immigration is a contentious topic, but all the same, the legislative branch is now robbed of its ability to work out a compromise. Rubio lamented, "People are going to say to me, 'Why are we going to need to do anything on this now. It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election.' ... And it is going to be hard to argue against that."
It's pretty clear that Obama deliberately derailed congressional action. After all, one of his mantras is running against the "do-nothing Congress," and he can now say he was prodded to action because they wouldn't do anything. More fundamental, though, is the utter contempt for Rule of Law that is the hallmark of this administration.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Progress Report
The more things change in the Middle East, the more they stay the same. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently examined U.S. relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes the petroleum-rich countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, and the committee didn't like what it found. In just two days this week, Kuwait suspended its parliament for a month due to growing internal political strife, and Saudi Arabia named Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud successor to the throne after the weekend death of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. Toss in the continuing uncertainty of the Arab Spring, chaos in Syria and the rise of radical Islamists in Egypt, the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and, finally, Iran's nuclear program with the existential threat it poses to Israel, and one can't help but think the region is fast approaching a tipping point.
With this in mind, the U.S. is planning a significant and continuing military presence of 13,500 troops in Kuwait in order to have the flexibility to respond to unexpected contingencies in the region. Several members of Congress wanted a core U.S. force to remain in Iraq, but the two countries couldn't come to terms. Instead, this U.S. force in Kuwait preserves the so-called "lily pad" basing that allows U.S. forces to move and strike quickly in the region.
Also this week, the societal sickness that plagues the Muslim world showed itself again in Pakistan, as Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur announced a ban on polio vaccines for children as long as the U.S. continues drone strikes in Pakistan, one of only three countries that have not yet eradicated polio. Bahadur commands Taliban forces based in North Waziristan, which is one of the main safe havens for terrorists fueling the Afghan insurgency that has been pounded by drone strikes. What more need be said about a culture that uses the threat of inflicting injury on its own children as a weapon of war?
Second Amendment: It's Not a Gun Problem
In yet another attempt to blame everyone except the perpetrator of gun-related crimes, a New Hampshire gun owner may be found liable for the murders of three people killed when his grandson stole and then used his firearm. A federal judge earlier ruled that the owner was not responsible, but attorneys for the opposing side disagreed, and now the case rests in the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Never mind that the killer broke into the owner's cabin and stole the gun (a real crime) and then used it to kill three people (also a real crime). Now the owner may share the blame for not "properly" securing the gun. We wonder if the locksmith who outfitted the cabin will also be held liable for installing a lock that was too easy to breach.
Speaking of ineffective gun policies, the city of Chicago is holding its annual Gun-Turn-In (GTI) event this weekend. In exchange for a ceded firearm, the city will hand over a $100 gift card, no questions asked. The city says that in the past six years, GTI has yielded more than 23,000 guns. What a relief. It's great to see such good ideas contributing to a safer Chicago. Oh, wait -- violent crime costs Chicago $5.3 billon annually, because, we would argue, its law-abiding citizens are deprived of their Second Amendment rights.
Village Academic Curriculum: For the Children?
It's been a rough couple of weeks for unions. First, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker resoundingly foiled their attempt to remove him from office, and now the teachers' unions in Washington, DC, and Chicago are learning the limits of their own power.
The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which assists children from low-income homes to attend the private school of their choice, was until recently in danger of being axed by the Obama administration. The OSP has helped thousands of families since 2004, and has been highly effective in increasing student achievement and graduation rates, especially when compared to the horrific 55 percent graduation rate at DC public schools. Obama originally sided with the teachers union and threatened to cut the program's funding, but he changed his mind after accounting for political ramifications. His performance ratings on the economy as well as the combined efforts of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to save OSP make it difficult for Obama to dispute the program's cost effectiveness: $8,000 for the vouchers, compared to $18,000 per child for the failing public schools.
The Chicago teachers' union also reared its ugly head once again. In a recent vote, more than 90 percent of union members voted to strike if the school district doesn't meet their demand for a 30 percent pay increase over the next two years. Chicago teachers are already among the highest paid in the nation, earning an average of $75,000 a year -- 50 percent more than the city's median family income. But this isn't enough, apparently. To his credit, Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn't backing down. Instead, he's offering a 2 percent pay raise next year while he attempts to close the school system's $700 million deficit. He also wants to extend Chicago's shortest-in-the-nation school day by 90 minutes (keep the kids in bad schools longer -- that'll fix it) and implement a merit program to reward good teachers.
Non Compos Mentis: Children Heckled for Singing Patriotic Tune
Last week, we noted the case of some New York City school kids barred from singing Lee Greenwood's patriotic hit, "God Bless the USA," for their kindergarten graduation. Unbelievably, the story grew a bit worse this week. Since the children couldn't express their love of America in their school, they gathered at a nearby playground to sing and wave American flags. But that's when a group of adults showed up and started heckling the children. "You Republicans can go to a Republican area and do that, we don't do that here," one of the hecklers shouted. "This is ridiculous, this is sad. This is so crazy. This is sad." The kids chanted "USA! USA!" to try to drown out the hecklers, but it's a real shame it came to that. The "adults" should know better, but, being Democrats, they've never learned their manners.
A man recently discovered that his ATM allowed him to make unlimited withdrawals. Despite having a small balance in the bank, he filled his pockets with more than $1.5 million in cash he didn't have, and proceeded to lose it all gambling. The bank eventually discovered the problem and put a hold on the account. The man did his best to stimulate the economy with his cash infusion, but the prosecution isn't going easy on him. For his part, he's blaming the bank for allowing him to withdraw the money in the first place. We should stop here and clarify that the suspect is not Barack Obama. No, the man in question is likely headed to prison, while Obama is running for re-election based upon robbing the national ATM. Only in America.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team