Thursday, January 22, 2015
Of the two Wall Street Journal editorial writing superstars, Dan Henninger and Bret Stephens, Henninger is the more laid back, and as such, he's less prone to expressing anger at outrages that one commonly encounters in the news these days. Alas, Barack Obama has the ability to infuriate even the most placid of observers and such was the case as Henninger watched Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Barack Obama was 15 minutes into his State of the Union speech when I arrived home to watch it, having just walked back from seeing “American Sniper.”
Watching a movie about a Navy SEAL who served four tours fighting in Iraq was not the best way to enhance the experience of a Barack Obama speech. As a matter of fact, it was pretty unbearable.
Announcing the decision at the White House on Oct. 21, Mr. Obama said, “After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.” (Emphasis added.)
Military analysts at the time, in government and on the outside, warned Mr. Obama that a zero U.S. presence could put the war’s gains and achievements at risk. He did it anyway and ever since Mr. Obama has repeatedly bragged about this decision in public speeches, notably to the graduating cadets of West Point last May.
In January, months before that West Point speech, the terrorist army of Islamic State, or ISIS, seized back control of both Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province. The month after the West Point speech, the city of Mosul and its population of one million fell to Islamic State, and here we are with the barbarians on the loose there, in Yemen, in Nigeria and in France.
Watching “American Sniper,” it is impossible to separate these catastrophes from seeing what the Marines did and endured to secure northern Iraq. Again, anyone is entitled to hate the Iraq war. But no serious person would want a president to make a decision that would allow so much personal sacrifice to simply evaporate. Which, in his serene self-confidence, is what Barack Obama did. That absolute drawdown was a decision of fantastic foolishness.
In the one spontaneous moment of Tuesday evening’s speech, Mr. Obama cracked back at some chiding Republicans that he’d won two elections. And he’s right. The first election was a remarkable, historic event for the United States. His second election was a historic electoral mistake, leaving the country and the world to be led by a president who is living on his own fantasy island.
He said in the State of the Union that we are leading “a broad coalition” against ISIS. We are? What coalition? Mainly it’s the Iraqi army and Kurds battling for survival alongside U.S air support.
The president said we are “supporting a moderate opposition in Syria.” But twice in 2014 Mr. Obama derided the Syrian moderates as dentists, pharmacists and teachers. U.S. support for the moderates is de minimis.
On Ukraine, Mr. Obama said, “We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small.” But bullying is exactly what Russia’s Vladimir Putin is doing to Ukraine because Mr. Obama refuses to give its army even basic defensive weapons.
Then there’s the grandest foreign-policy self-delusion of the Obama presidency—the never-ending nuclear arms deal with Iran. Mr. Obama said we’ve “halted the progress of its nuclear program.” Slowed perhaps but no one thinks we’ve “halted” Iran’s multifacility nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile project. Only in the Obama fantasy is it halted.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey foreign-policy Democrat, who sat bolted to his seat during the speech, said the next day that the administration’s talking points on Iran now sound “straight out of Tehran.”
A summary of Obama's brilliant foreign policy initiatives and their consequences is provided by Peter Wehner in Commentary magazine.
Trashing the domestic portion of Obama's SOTU was W. Bradford Wilcox, also in the WSJ.
Guess which kind of family was left out in the cold by President Obama as he unveiled his plan to help middle-class families in his State of the Union address? The traditional two-parent family with a single breadwinner.
The president pitched his plan as part of an agenda in which “everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules” in part by “lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.” But by design or omission, his plan does virtually nothing for married families with a parent at home, usually the mother.
The president’s plan would triple the existing child-care tax credit to $3,000 for two-earner families with children under 5 and a combined income of less than $120,000, and it would establish a new $500 credit for families in which both spouses work. The plan would provide tax relief—which would no doubt help with the cost of child care, commuting, etc.—to middle-class families with both parents in the workforce. But families who choose to have a parent at home would see none of this tax relief.
The White House has trumpeted the plan’s “fairness.” But according to data from the Census Bureau, today about one-quarter of married families have a parent at home, more than one-third of married families with young children have a parent at home, and an even larger share of married families will have a parent step out of the workforce for several months to care for the children. It seems patently unfair to offer a plan targeting middle-class families that excludes such a large share of American families.
This approach is all the more mystifying because the White House had other, more-inclusive policy options to help families. For instance, in a bid to shore up the economic fortunes of all working families, Sens. Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Marco Rubio(R., Fla.) have proposed expanding the child tax credit to $3,500 from its current $1,000 and extending it to payroll taxes, i.e., Social Security and Medicare.
The Lee-Rubio plan would do a lot for millions of working- and middle-class families, whether or not they have two parents in the workforce. As Messrs. Lee and Rubio wrote in an op-ed for this newspaper in September, their proposal is rooted in a recognition that all families, not just two-earner families, “shoulder the financial burden of raising the next generation of taxpayers, who will grow up to fund the Social Security and Medicare benefits of all future seniors.”
If Mr. Obama were interested in helping all families and finding bipartisan ground in the new Congress, he could have adopted some version of the Lee-Rubio plan.
Wilcox doesn't say so but Obama's proposal - rewarding parents who transfer a significant portion of the care of their children to federally subsidized day care - is entirely consistent with the "progressive" strategy, (as depicted in the Life of Julia cartoons), of diminishing the role of the family while expanding the role of government. That strategy's ultimate goal is a citizenry universally dependent on the state, which is perilously close to realization as George Will explains.