Greg Corombos of Radio America and Andrew Johnson of National Review react to Brian Williams taking a leave of absence as anchor of NBC Nightly News. They groan as Bob Woodward reveals the Obama administration has no strategy in the fight against ISIS and that the White House is micromanaging the fight on a day to day basis. And they slam Democrats for suddenly claiming to be too busy to attend Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress.
Archives for February 2015
Ronald Reagan left the White House more than 26 years ago, but his legacy still dominates the American political landscape, and a former Reagan political director says the Gipper’s record and principled positions explain why.
Reagan was born on February 6, 1911. Friday would have been his 104th birthday. When Reagan died in 2004, tens of millions of Americans turned out to honor him in California and in Washington. Long before the former California governor ascended to the presidency, he attracted a dedicated group of activists who worked tirelessly for his insurgent campaign against incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in 1976 and for his successful White House bids in 1980 and 1984.
Frank Donatelli was a young operative in those early campaigns and later served as political director in the Reagan White House. He says it was easy to see why so many conservatives flocked to Reagan nearly 40 years ago.
“The country was headed in a fundamentally wrong direction in the 1970s. The economy was stagnating and we were on the defensive all around the world to Soviet communism. We needed somebody strong, somebody with a vision to reverse these trends. Reagan stood out as someone who had very strong beliefs, but more importantly, somebody that could actually implement those beliefs in a coherent program,” said Donatelli, who says the difference after eight years of reagan was obvious to most people.
“In the Reagan years, we saw a disastrous economy transformed into the fastest-growing economy that we’ve had in a long time, 18 million new jobs. On the foreign policy front, we began the process that ultimately saw the demise of the Soviet Union and international communism,” said Donatelli.
While the Reagan administration witnesses many fierce partisan battles on both foreign and domestic issues, today Democrats rarely invoke Reagan except to point out issues where they think his statements help their current positions. Donatelli thinks this stems from multiple motivations, some honorable and others less so.
“There is a segment of the Democratic Party that has honestly looked at the Reagan years and said his record was pretty good and the country was better off eight years after he was elected. Then there’s the other part of the party, like the current president, who quotes Reagan when it’s convenient for him. In other words, he’ll find these tiny little areas where he and Reagan seemingly agree and he uses that just to attack the rest of the Republican Party,” said Donatelli.
The vast majority of the time, according to Donatelli, Obama’s invocation of Reagan comes in a grossly misleading way.
“The classic example was him citing Reagan’s support for a 28 percent capital gains tax, which is what is in his budget. Of course, what he doesn’t point out is that Reagan favored 28 percent for all income and Obama’s now over 40 percent and trying to go even higher. So it’s very selective quotations on the president’s part,” said Donatelli.
For Republicans, Reagan still dominates policy debates and his legacy can be seen in every presidential race as multiple candidates jockey to claim the mantle of Reagan.
“They say nothing succeeds like success. The Lombardi Trophy is named for the man who won the first two Super Bowls, so politicians will always look for successful models to emulate,” said Donatelli.
These days, Republican factions often argue over where Reagan would fall along the GOP spectrum. Moderate sometimes assert Reagan wouldn’t even have a home in today’s party because it’s moved so far to the right. Conservatives point out Reagan challenged a moderate president of his own party and would among those standing on principle vs. taking the route of political expedience. Donatelli says they’re both right and they’re both wrong.
“Reagan was always a conservative and took conservative positions and tried to move the political spectrum to the right. That being said, he was not on a fool’s errand. He was always somebody practical enough to understand the importance of governing. So I don’t think you’d ever see him go over the side of the cliff. I think you’s always see him look to make the best deal possible,” said Donatelli.
“I think that’s something that we seem to be missing now. There’s a feeling that government just doesn’t work and so many of our institutions are broken. I don’t think that was the case when Reagan was president. I think the public is looking for somebody that can somebody that begin to repair some of our big institutions,” he said.
Donatelli says there are ultimately two versions of a president’s legacy. When it comes to the voters, he says the verdict is obvious.
“Here we are all these years later and I think the country has concluded that the eight years of Reagan’s presidency were an unqualified success,” said Donatelli.
As for history’s judgment, Donatelli says that tends to ebb and flow over time. He says when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, Reagan was not viewed all that favorably but his reputation has been greatly burnished over time. In the long run, he believes the towering achievements of the Reagan years will look very good over the test of time.
“Everybody’s legacy goes up and down. However, I do think that the idea of 18 million new jobs and the end of Soviet communism and totalitarianism is something that will survive the ages and that the president’s legacy will continue to be very strong,” said Donatelli.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review applaud Tom Brokaw for reportedly finding the Brian Williams lie unacceptable and worthy of his ouster. They also slam President Obama for trying to make a moral equivalence between the atrocities of ISIS and the crusades, the inquisitions, slavery and segregation. And they groan as the Obama administration rolls out the new foreign policy strategy of “strategic patience.”
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia) says President Obama’s budget is simply more taxes to pay for even more spending and he says congressional Republicans will take a much more responsible approach to cutting spending and improving the nation’s fiscal health.
On Monday, Obama unveiled his $3.99 trillion budget for Fiscal Year 2016. It calls for higher taxes on investors and more fees on large banks in order to pay for “free” community college for students and tax credits for families with two working parents to pay for day care. It also makes major infrastructure spending a priority. Deficits only get bigger in Obama’s ten-year projection. If his budget were adopted in full, well over eight trillion dollars would be added to the national debt over the next decade.
Chairman Price says Obama is doing the same thing year after year and expecting different results.
“The president wants to tax more just to spend more. That’s the kind of policy that doesn’t get us a growing economy,” said Price.
“His proposal never balances, ever. (It) never ever balances. It’s more taxes, more spending, more borrowing. Remember what that means to each and every American. Every single dollar that’s taken for taxes or every single dollar that’s borrowed is a dollar that can’t be used to pay for an education for a child, to buy a house, to buy a car, to pay rent. to pay a mortgage. All the things that the American people are so desirous of doing are harmed by what the president’s proposal is. We think there’s a better way,” said Price.
For starters, Price says Congress will have a united front in the budget process after years of partisan clashes and some years of Democrats simply failing to produce a budget.
“It will be a budget that will get to balance, that will lay out that path for solving and strengthening and securing the Medicare and Medicaid programs and the health and retirement programs for our country. We’ll lay the policies in place that would provide for pro-growth activity in our economy, whether it’s tax reform or energy policy,” said Price.
The Obama budget calls for an end to spending caps mandated by sequestration, calling for seven percent increases in defense and discretionary spending. On Monday, Obama said the additional spending was vital to national security and the care of veterans and he slammed the existing caps as “mindless austerity.”
Price says that’s some interesting revisionist history.
“It’s curious because this ‘mindless austerity’ was actually his idea. The sequester was the president’s idea and it’s one of the few things where Republicans and Democrats have agreed with each other over the past four years on how to begin to control spending,” said Price.
The chairman says House Republicans will probably issue their budget late next month. He believes they will likely propose a framework that would lead to a balanced budget within ten years. So how will GOP budget leaders begin to chisel away at our deficits? Step one, according to Price. is to pass spending bills in a responsible way.
“It’s a significant amount of money that can be saved by doing appropriations bills through regular order, which means that the committees in the House and the Senate deal with them individually and they come to the floor of the House and the Senate individually as well,” he said.
“It’s not just the money that can be saved here for the federal government. It’s also all the kinds of regulatory schemes that have been put in place by this administration can be addressed in that way to limit what the EPA is doing, to limit what the National Labor Relations Board is doing to harm job creation. We can do those kinds of things through the appropriations process in a way that’s virtually impossible to do in any other way,” said Price.
Price expects little common ground between the parties, but he does believe Republicans and President Obama could pursue some common priorities if both sides are so inclined.
“I think there can be progress. The president has recognized that the level of taxation at the business level is harming job creation and is harming American businesses. We hope there’s common ground there. The president has suggested that there’s some reform that he might be open to on the international tax side so we can create more jobs and have more resources for research and development and growing our economy,” said Price.
Before the appropriations battles begin over Fiscal Year 2016, Congress is still mired in the fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from the end of February through September. The House approved a bill that does not include funding for Obama’s unilateral immigration policy to legalize some five million people in the U.S. unlawfully. Senate Republicans have tried multiple times to advance that bill but have come nowhere near the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles.
Price says the best way to fund homeland security efforts while stopping what Republicans consider an unconstitutional power grab is to keep the heat on Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
“If they pass the bill that we passed through the House that would hold the president to account on his unilateral action then that would be wonderful. We would move to the president’s desk and then the American people can see exactly who’s standing in the way of appropriate reform of our immigration system,” said Price.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review are impressed that Jordan’s King Abdullah wants to personally fly bombing missions against ISIS. They also rip Brian Williams for lying about being shot down in Iraq for almost 12 years. And they discuss the rising tide of scandal against Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.
The chairman of a key congressional subcommittee says the Obama administration is increasingly refusing to cooperate with departmental inspectors general and he says it’s time to publicly name those obstructing critical investigations.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, is a member of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee and is the new chairman of its government operations subcommittee.
In August, 47 inspectors general complained to Congress that government agencies were hindering investigations by declaring many documents privileged and claiming they could not be turned over. The full committee heard testimony on Wednesday from the inspectors general of the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps. Meadows says the problem has not gotten any better.
“Not much progress has been made, so we’ve asked them to start naming names. We want to know who within the agencies are stonewalling the inspectors general, because they’re the first line of defense for the American people,” said Meadows.
Meadows says the refusal of government to be responsive to taxpayers is leading to some government employees getting away with unethical and possibly criminal behavior.
“One instance that we heard about was a federal employee at a high level with 16 counts of sexual harassment allowed to get off scot-free and retire. It’s troubling when you have that going on, so we’ll be drilling down on that to make sure that they get the information they need,” said Meadows.
Are there steps lawmakers can take besides publicly identifying officials refusing to cooperate with investigators? Meadows says there are and Congress will be exploring them.
“One, we can look at the Freedom of Information Act. That’s part of our jurisdiction to allow the free flow of information there. Most of those are not being complied with. There will have to be more lawsuits from the private sector there. On a federal level, I think what you’ll start to see is strong cooperation with subpoena power from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to help,” said Meadows.
The IRS will remain on the front burner for the committee as well. Meadows says the subcommittee he chairs is about to shine the light on the tax collectors over a a major fiscal headache about to strike due to the new health care law.
“You’ll see some additional hearings with regard to the IRS, specifically as it relates to the Affordable Care Act. We’ve got information that would lead us to believe that close to three million people who are enrollees in the Affordable Care Act are actually getting the wrong subsidies and they’ll be getting a tax bill next year,” said Meadows, who says his work is primarily focused on Americans getting a much better value for their tax dollars.
“We’ll be holding a series of hearings there as well as a few others on how to make our government employees a lot more accountable and efficient,” he said.
Meadows is also one of the founding members of the new House Freedom Caucus, which is designed to prod leadership towards pursuing the conservative agenda promised in the midterm election. At the top of the agenda is finding a way to stop the funding of President Obama’s unilateral action on immigration, which conservative critics describe as executive amnesty.
Last month, the House of Representatives approved funding for the Department of Homeland Security while withholding money for implementation of Obama’s program to grant legal status to some five million adults in the U.S. illegally. On Tuesday, the Senate failed to clear a procedural hurdle, making it very unlikely the bill will even get to Obama’s desk. The president has already promised a veto if it were to pass both chambers.
So what is the House Freedom Caucus strategy now that the first one appears likely to fail? Meadows says it’s too soon to concede and says the GOP could end up “possibly bifurcating some of the appropriations, where you allow the national security to continue to be funded but yet the president’s actions not funded.”
As conservatives fight to block Obama on immigration, Meadows says we can expect the House Freedom Caucus to be actively involved in other debates as well.
“I think we’ll see some workplace enforcement issues, as it relates to the federal government, to allow for an easier process of not only rewarding good behavior in the federal government but punishing bad behavior,” said Meadows.
“And then transparency. I met with my Democrat ranking member the other day and looking at transparency in terms of emails and the way that we communicate, so that the American public can actually see what is going on and hopefully weigh in,” said Meadows.
Meadows says the most important function of the House Freedom Caucus is to remind everyone on Capitol Hill who they work for.
“We’ve got to listen to the people that get us here. Somehow, when people come to Washington, D.C., they automatically believe that they need to think differently. I find my best ideas come from back home in North Carolina where I’m representing. So if we listen to those people and let their voice count, things will work out,” said Meadows.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review applaud House Republicans for voting to repeal Obamacare. They also slam President Obama for his emotionless reaction to ISIS murdering a Jordanian pilot by burning him alive. And they sigh as North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis suggests restaurants should not be forced to make their workers wash their hands after using the bathroom.
As “American Sniper” continues to smash box office records week after week, retired U.S. Army Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin says the film is striking a chord in millions of Americans who love their country and believe in defending freedom regardless of the liberal chatter seeking to diminish the film or the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.
Boykin spent 36 years in uniform, was an original member of Delta Force and served as commander of all Green Berets. He concluded his career as deputy undersecretary of defense and is now executive vice president at the Family Research Council.
The general says Chris Kyle’s story shows moviegoers the very best of America and they wish our leaders were a lot more like him.
“I think Americans are so fed up in terms of what they see as a lack of leadership in the Congress and the White House and every sector of our society that they are drawn to a movie like this because it shows a real hero, a real leader, a person who understands what their transcendent cause is, what’s worth fighting, sacrificing and even dying for. That’s a very strong and powerful message and I think it attracts Americans to it,” said Boykin.
Despite the records revenues, “American Sniper” is not without its critics. Filmmaker Michael Moore has called snipers cowards. Actor Seth Rogen likened it to propaganda watched by Nazis in the film “Inglourious Basterds.” An MSNBC reporter referred to Kyle as a racist who enjoyed going on “killing sprees” in Iraq while other left-of-center media outlets have questioned the veracity of Kyle’s account of his time at war.
“First of all, does anyone really care what Michael Moore thinks? Does anyone care what Seth Rogen thinks? I certainly don’t. I don’t think most of the people that I know care what they think,” mused Boykin.
But the general does think there are more troubling reasons underlying the cool reaction to the film from the political left.
“The left has been so anti-Iraq, anti-Afghanistan, anti-war. What this is doing is not glorifying war. I think just the opposite. It is not portraying the American soldier as a bloodthirsty, drug-crazed psychopath as so many of the Vietnam-era movies did, but it is portraying him as a human and it’s showing the toll that it takes on them,” said Boykin.
But he says liberal hostility goes even deeper.
“The left wants to be heroes to be people from the left. When you make heroes out of people that are clearly patriot,s that are conservative, that have a deep appreciation for the first amendment, not only the freedom of religion but also the freedom of speech. I think it’s just too much for the left, but who cares? Who care what they say?” said Boykin.
In addition to the underlying qualities of Kyle, Boykin says “American Sniper” offers viewers an important look at the realities and impact of war.
“I think it’s one of the most realistic portrayals of the actual toll of war, not only the death and injury of Americans as well as the enemy fighters but also the emotional toll,” said Boykin.
“I think the movie does a very good job of bringing out what happens to a person when they’re in an environment like that and exposed to so much killing and carnage and so forth. I think they show that very accurately in terms’s of Bradley Cooper’s character as he plays Chris Kyle,” he said.
Kyle is credited as being the most lethal sniper in American military history. Boykin says the work of Kyle and other special forces snipers is hugely important to the success of ground combat operations.
“A good sniper is irreplaceable. A good sniper who is really good at not just his marksmanship but is mentally switched on to understand the environment and know where he should be observing and what looks out of place and knows when and when not to pull the trigger is very critical to the mission,” said Boykin.
Boykin, who commanded special forces for much of his military career, says great snipers like Kyle can do even more.
“More importantly, a good sniper that can give verbal directions to a foot patrol or a convoy and things to avoid and place to go and maneuver is just as important as being able to take a shot,” said Boykin, who says snipers of Kyle’s caliber “saved an untold number of lives.”
Story after story tells of audience members sitting silently through the closing credits of “American Sniper” and then filing out of theaters without saying a word. Boykin says there are ways to channel that powerful experience into help for real-life heroes. First, he says reaching out to veterans and their families can make a huge difference.
“I hope they understand that veterans have paid a dear price and I hope that translates into programs to hire veterans, to supports veterans and their families,” said Boykin.
The general also hopes moviegoers will hold Washington officials to account on keeping the U.S. military strong and not shackled by arbitrary spending caps through sequestration. He also says the pressure needs to keep coming to make sure our heroes get the care they deserve.
“I hope that it gets America fired up to want to have a strong military and to want to take care of our veterans instead of letting them die at VA facilities because they can’t get a colonoscopy or something. That’s just one of the most egregious tragedies in the last 50 years I think,” said Boykin.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review react to terrible Iowa poll numbers for Chris Christie and other news that suggests Jeb Bush is snagging major donors in Christie’s backyard. They also discuss the GOP’s oddly weak ability to handle questions about childhood vaccinations and media drooling for the chance to brand Republicans as anti-vaccine wackos. And they react to a slim plurality of Iowa GOP voters agreeing with Mike Huckabee that Beyonce’s music constitutes “mental poison.”
President Obama is urging Congress to adopt the priorities he lays out in his new federal budget that would cost over four trillion dollars for just the next year, but Republicans say the president refuses to change course after American voters roundly rejected his current economic strategy.
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-New Jersey, also says Obama’s fiscal approach would greatly burden future generations and make spending on real priorities increasingly difficult.
Obama’s federal budget for Fiscal Year 2016 would cost north of four trillion dollars. He calls for a series of tax increases on investors and corporations in order to pay for specific, targeted tax credits for working families. Obama calls it “middle class economics” and stated Monday that those policies plus spending on education, infrastructure and other priorities amount to investments we can’t afford not to make.
Republicans are declaring the proposal dead on arrival. Garrett is the senior GOP member on the House Budget Committee. He says the Obama budget is disappointing but hardly surprising.
“This is just a lousy Groundhog Day repeat or as Yogi Berra would say, ‘This is deja vu all over again.’ You see the same thing from this president budget after budget. It increases taxes. It expands the size of the government. It expands the size of the same failed government programs that are not doing anything to create jobs,” said Garrett.
Garrett is also stunned at how both Obama’s budget and last months State of the Union message seem to contain any acknowledgement of the political upheaval that took place last November.
“The American public had rejected his spendthrift, bailout type of spending patterns that he had in the past. The American public has also rejected the idea that. And the American public has also rejected the idea that we have to live in an economic morass that we’ve lived over the last six years. We have to turn things around and I think that’s what the public is asking Washington to do,” said Garrett.
As for the new budget, Garrett says Obama is not only beating the same dead horse but is pursuing badly flawed economic policies.
“It is a failed policy. It is not what the American taxpayers are looking for. It’s certainly not what my constituents back in the fifth district in New Jersey are looking for. In short, they want a Washington that lives like they do, which means live within your means, come up with a budget that actually helps to expand opportunity, expand and create jobs and create more prosperity in the country. His goes in the opposite direction, ” said Garrett.
“For example, how can you possibly say raising taxes on spending and investment is a good thing? If you raise taxes on something, you discourage that activity. If you discourage saving and investment, that means you’re walking in the opposite direction of job creation. You’re discouraging good job creation and job growth,” he said.
In addition to the four trillion dollar price tag, the Obama budget also carries a $474 billion deficit in 2016. In the final year of the ten-year projection, Obama’s numbers work out to $687 billion in red ink.
“Those are the same sort of numbers we get year in and year out. I remember being in budget committee last year and asking the administration, ‘When does this budget balance? One year, five years, ten years, twenty years, forty years?’ Of course, the answer then is the same as this year’s budget. It never balances. That means that our kids (and) our grandkids are going to be the ones ultimately paying the price for the largesse that this president puts in his spending packages this year,” said Garrett.
Beyond the saddling of future generations, Garrett says the more deficit spending the U.S. racks up, the tougher it is to find room for anything else in the budget.
“The interest on the debt will be $229 billion. That’s a huge sum of money.It’s going to go up to over $780 billion by the end of this cycle. That’s more money than we spend on defense. That’s more money than we spend on Medicaid. That’s more money than we spend on all of the discretionary stuff combined. When you’re spending so much money on the interest on your debt, that means you don’t have any money to spend on the things they have to spend on,” said Garrett.
Critics of Republicans are quick to point out that GOP of control of Washington for much of last decade also led mounting debts crippling future generations. Garrett says that is inexcusably true but pales compared to what we’re seeing in this administration.
“I never defended the Bush administration’s spending. I often criticized what President Bush did, but President Obama is Bush’s spending on steroids,” said Garrett.
With Republicans now controlling both the House and Senate, a very different budget will be offered by the GOP in the coming weeks.
“It’ll be a realistic budget. It’ll be a budget that actually tries to live within our means and also tries to help promote growth and job creation. Once we have that laid out, the American public will have their choice and their voice will be heard. Do we have a budget that actually grows the economy or do we have one like we’ve seen in the past that stunts it, restrains it and leads to the dismal economic growth that we’ve seen over the last several years,” said Garrett.
The budget blueprints offered by the White House and Congress are really more like wish lists than practical expectations. Some previous Obama budgets have failed to draw a single vote of support in either the House or Senate, even among Democrats. Reality will clash with the wish list once the appropriations process kicks off in earnest later this year.
In the meantime, Republicans and Obama are preparing for a showdown over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which runs out at the end of this month. President Obama wants a clean extension. Republicans want to withhold funding to enforce Obama’s unilateral actions on immigration, citing them as unconstitutional. The House has already passed such a plan to withhold the immigration funds. The Senate has yet to take it up. Obama has promised a veto.
For Garrett, this showdown is about Obama honoring his word. The congressman says there is a simple way to address this standoff without ratcheting up the shutdown drama.
“Pass that bill and then, if he has other ideas on immigration policy and the like then he should be coming back to Congress and addressing those in the next step. But right now, it’s most important that we make sure that Homeland Security, that appropriations bill, a clean bill if you will, passes both houses and gets signed into law,” said Garrett.