As Attorney General Eric Holder leaves town, it is clear that the Obama administration has learned that Congress can be strongarmed into not fully exercising its constitutional oversight duty, with minimal political blowback. Far from dissuading the White House from this type of thinking, Holder’s Department of Justice has often been an integral part of it.
Cliff Smith | All Articles
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Cliff Smith, a native of Seattle, has worked on Capitol Hill and in various other political and policy-focused capacities. He holds an MPP with a focus on international relations from Pepperdine University and a JD with a focus on international law from The Catholic University of America.
Last week, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who have been fighting simultaneous wars against the Iraqi Government and the Assad Regime, began marking a “ن”, pronounced “noon,” and standing for “Nazarenes,” on the door of Christians in Mosul, Iraq, as a signal that they would be driven out or killed. NBC news reports, the last Christian may already have left, or been killed, marking the first time in around 2000 years that Christians have not been present in this ancient city.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A young, little known state legislator from an important swing state enters a race for an open seat in the U.S. Senate. While a protege of an influential and popular Governor and part of a demographic group their party has struggled with, the candidate is none-the-less shunned by the national party and finds fundraising difficult.
Republicans have been assailed by the White House for criticizing the Obama administration’s policy toward the crisis in Ukraine without putting forward positive proposals. That criticism is increasingly untenable as a result of the efforts of an old Cold Warrior, Senator Dan Coats.
The late Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, a hawkish Democrat, famously said that, “'In matters of national security, the best politics is no politics.” Scoop was referring to domestic, partisan politics, of course. He practiced what he preached: many of his top foreign policy aides became part of the Reagan administration. Yet this was always more aspirational than real, predicated on the belief that everyone basically agreed that a strong, assertive America was best for peace, freedom and security. While everyone pays lip-service to this point of view on the stump, alternative views hold that excessive American strength is provocative and inclines us into unwise adventurism. Better to work with the “international community” to gain “consensus.” These differences are not explicitly partisan, but they do tend to overlap.
Congressman Frank Wolf, one of the last of the “Reagan babies” -- congressman first elected in the 1980 Reagan landslide -- has announced that he will retire at the end of his current term. For the first time in 34 years, Congress will be without a man that is one of those rare figures who is widely respected, effective and personable, principled and pragmatic.
In “It’s A Wonderful Life," Mr. Potter -- a “warped, frustrated old man,” as his nemesis George Bailey called him, taunts George with utter ruin. George and his Building and Loan business has been struggling against Potter’s monopolistic grasp on power in town for decades. George has managed to just barely survive, driving Potter crazy, but he’s constantly being beaten into a corner. Now, Potter is convinced that George, beset with scandal of Potter’s making, will finally collapse, leaving him to run the town alone. But George and his friends have a better hand than Mr. Potter realizes. It’s Potter who is really facing ruin.
The Obama Administration’s mismanagement of the Syrian crisis has been so obvious to most observers, and has drawn the ire of so many people from so many different political points of view, that there is little to be said that has not already been said. Yet there is one not-entirely-obvious aspect that hasn’t been widely discussed, and that is role of Obama’s energy policy has played, or rather not played, in his Middle East policy.
In November 1979, Georgetown Professor and Democratic activist Jeane Kirkpatrick published a now-famous essay called “Dictatorships and Double Standards.” An an ardent anti-Communist, Kirkpatrick had been suspicious of Jimmy Carter. By 1979, she was in full revolt. The article’s premise was that whenever faced with a choice between undemocratic but relatively benign forces and ideologically committed totalitarian, anti-American forces, the Carter administration always chose the latter.
It’s been over a decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and as it has in the past, America is increasingly turning inward. Even some Republicans are saying things like “We’ve got problems to take care of here,” “We just need to leave them alone and they’ll leave us alone,” and so on. Inevitably, this begins to affect our electoral politics. The brouhaha last week between Senator Rand Paul and Governor Chris Christie, both considered 2016 presidential contenders, is one example. Yet Congressman Tom Cotton's announcement that he will be running for Senate in his home state of Arkansas is arguably even more important to the debate.
Ideas are vitally important to a healthy political movement. They are vital, not only go governing, which should be obvious, but in terms of communicating what a political movement is all about and what it stands for. Thus, public intellectuals serve an important role in shaping public opinion, as well as the opinion of those in power.
In a development that has passed mostly without notice, 131 congressman recently signed a letter calling for increased engagement with Iran concerning their nuclear program in light of their new president, Hassan Rouhani's recent election. Spearheaded by Reps. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and David Price (D-NC), both members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, this letter is a noteworthy for its tone and fairly large number of signers, 18 of which are Republicans. Such a development reminds me of a quote by Sun Tzu:
Placekickers have the most frustrating position in the game of Football. If you do your job well, nobody notices. If they do take notice, they quickly forget. But if you miss a key kick, everyone despises you. Janet Napolitano probably feels a bit like a frustrated placekicker as she ends her tenure as Homeland Security Secretary. Yet this open seat allows President Obama to chart a new path for the department, if he has vision and leadership to seize the opportunity.
Secretary of State John Kerry recently went to Moscow to discuss the Syrian civil war. The former Democratic presidential nominee’s aim was to dissuade Vladimir Putin from sending arms to the murderous Assad regime. For his troubles, Kerry was kept waiting for over three hours, barely listened to, and then ignored. The Russians, it seems, had increased their military aid to Bashar al-Assad just as Kerry was traveling halfway around the world to ask them to stop propping up the Syrian dictator.