Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Doesn’t the deficit matter any longer?

News that the federal budget deficit grew by 17 percent in the past fiscal year makes me wonder.

How is it that “real Republicans” continue to lend their support to a man who calls himself a Republican but on whose watch the deficit is allowed to grow at this breakneck pace?

Donald Trump made a lot of campaign promises while winning the presidency. He said the deficit would plummet. It hasn’t.

It grew to about $771 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Now I get that there are factors contributing to that deficit. The Trump tax cuts, for one. Another has been a boost in defense spending.

But juxtaposed to this deficit lies a curious set of potential issues that could send it into deep space. The wall Trump wants to build along our southern border is going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Then there is that infrastructure improvement package that the president said should cost more than $1 trillion. He wants to improve, repair, renovate, rebuild our nation’s highways, bridges and airports.

Where in the name of fiscal responsibility is he going to get that money? Oh, I know! He’ll borrow it, just like President Barack Obama did in 2009 when he inherited a national economy in collapse — and which Trump and other Republicans criticized to the hilt at the time, even as the economy began to revive itself.

Obama and his spendthrift policies did help reduce the rate of growth in the annual deficit dramatically during his two terms in office. In President Bush’s final year, the deficit exceeded $1 trillion; the Obama administration and Congress managed to cut that annual amount by roughly two-thirds.

Now it’s climbing — inexorably, according to many economists — back toward that trillion-dollar figure.

Deficit hawks — and I consider myself a deficit hawk — are alarmed. If not, they should be alarmed.

Yet the question remains about those real Republicans. The president you embrace doesn’t adhere to anything approaching regular Republican fiscal orthodoxy. Why do you keep clinging to this individual’s coattail?

Let’s call him ‘Slippery Mitch’

In the spirit of Donald J. Trump’s knack for attaching pejorative nicknames on certain politicians, I want to hang a label on the U.S. Senate majority leader.

Let’s call him “Slippery Mitch” McConnell.

Oh, my. The fellow is hard to pin down, no matter how direct the questioning becomes. Consider what happened this morning on “Fox News Sunday.”

The program moderator Chris Wallace sought to ask McConnell whether the Senate would consider a U.S. Supreme Court nomination in 2020 if one were to become available. Why did Wallace pose the question? Because McConnell blocked then-President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

McConnell said the president shouldn’t be allowed to pick a justice in an election year. He prevented Garland from getting a hearing before the Senate.

But, Wallace wondered … what about 2020, when we’ll have another presidential election?

McConnell wouldn’t answer Wallace’s direct question, which was whether he would proceed with a confirmation process if Donald Trump nominated someone in 2020. McConnell then tossed out the notion that he blocked Obama’s nomination of Garland on the fact that the Senate was led by a party that differed from the president.

Wallace picked up on McConnell’s change of motivation and wanted to know if that rule still applied, given that both the Senate and the presidency could be controlled by Republicans.

McConnell still refused to answer the question, casting it as a hypothetical.

Wallace grills McConnell

And … so it goes on and on.

None of this is a surprise. Politicians by their nature are prone to slip and slide away from direct questions … which I reckon explains why the media and others are so quick to praise those rare politicians who are willing to speak directly and candidly.

“Slippery Mitch” McConnell has shown just how elusive an experienced pol can become.

Hypocrisy rules the day in Kavanaugh fight

Hypocrisy is king in Washington, D.C.

Not the truth. Not nobility. Not high ideals or soaring rhetoric.

It’s hypocrisy that rules. It has cemented its vise-grip on U.S. politics and government. The Brett Kavanaugh battle is over and the judge is now Justice Kavanaugh, the ninth member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Who is the Hypocrite in Chief? I’ll hand that dubious honor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

You’ve read on this blog already my distaste for the hypocrisy exhibited by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal — who once lied about serving in the Vietnam War — and his lecturing of Kavanaugh about whether lying about one thing means he lies about all things.

The Hypocrite in Chief (dis)honor goes to McConnell because of the ramrod job he pulled in shoving Kavanaugh’s nomination through. And then he blames Senate Democrats for “obstructing” the process and for “playing politics” with this nomination.

McConnell wrote the book on obstruction in early 2016 upon the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The justice died in Texas and McConnell immediately declared that President Barack Obama would not fill the vacancy created by Scalia’s death. Obama went ahead with his nominating process, selecting U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia.

Garland didn’t get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He didn’t get the courtesy of meeting with Republican senators privately. McConnell said that the president was not entitled to replace Scalia during an election year. He gambled that a Republican would win the 2016 election and then would be able to nominate someone of his choosing.

McConnell’s cynical gamble paid off. Donald Trump won. He nominated Neil Gorsuch to the high court. The Senate confirmed him.

And all the while McConnell tossed out “obstruction” epithets at Senate Democrats who were rightfully steamed that a Democratic president had been denied the right to fulfill his own constitutional duties in seeking to fill a Supreme Court seat.

Then came the Kavanaugh nomination. McConnell greased it to allow Kavanaugh to be confirmed after a perfunctory secondary FBI investigation that — big surprise! — turned up no corroboration to the allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a young woman in the early 1980s.

The obstructionist named McConnell then had the temerity to hammer at Senate Democrats for their own resistance to Kavanaugh’s nomination.

So … take a bow, Hypocrite in Chief Mitch McConnell.

Beto doesn’t need Barack’s blessing?

Barack Obama is handing out political endorsements the way GIs handed out chocolate bars during World War II.

The former president has endorsed 11 Texas candidates — all Democrats, of course. Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat in the middle of a dogfight campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz hasn’t received an endorsement from the 44th president.

Not surprisingly, O’Rourke says he isn’t worried about it. He told the Texas Tribune he doesn’t need an endorsement from President Obama. According to the Tribune: “I don’t think we’re interested (in an endorsement)” O’Rourke said after a town hall … “I am so grateful to him for his service, he’s going to go down as one of the greatest presidents. And yet, this (election) is on Texas.”

Obama issues endorsements

There might be a couple of ways one can take that statement. One is that President Obama isn’t terribly popular in Texas; he lost the state to GOP rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012. Another is that the Texas election deals uniquely with Texas issues and that an endorsement from a national politician carries little weight.

Whatever he means, my sense is that he won’t disavow an Obama endorsement were it to come between now and Election Day.

How could a candidate refuse such a blessing from someone who — and I agree with O’Rourke on this one — is going to be remembered as one of the nation’s “greatest presidents”?

McConnell needs some self-awareness counseling

Ay, caramba!

What in the world is with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, griping about Senate Democrats who want to delay by one week the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court?

He bitched from the Senate floor about the “obstruction” of Democrats seeking an FBI probe to examine the veracity of sexual assault charges brought by Christine Blasey Ford and two other women against Kavanaugh.

Doesn’t this man remember anything? Doesn’t he remember how he led a year-long obstruction of President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court? Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016; his body wasn’t barely cold when McConnell said Obama would be denied the opportunity to replace him with a nominee.

The president nominated Merrick Garland. McConnell then said Garland wouldn’t even get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. McConnell denied Obama the opportunity to fulfill his constitutional responsibility, which is to fill vacancies on the federal bench.

He said the president should carry out that task during an election year.

Baloney, man!

So now the majority leader is yapping because Democrats insist on an FBI probe into whether the newest high court nominee is fit to serve? Give me a break.

How about some self-awareness, Mr. Majority Leader?

SCOTUS picks, then and now

Let’s review briefly the course that two U.S. Supreme Court nominations took.

In early 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died. President Barack Obama not long afterward nominated Judge Merrick Garland to succeed the conservative judicial icon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t wait for the nomination to come forward. He declared within hours of Scalia’s death that Obama would not replace Justice Scalia under any circumstance.

The SCOTUS seat remained vacant for the rest of that year. Donald Trump got elected president and then nominated Neil Gorsuch. The Senate heard from the nominee, then confirmed him.

It was the delay that enraged so many Americans.

The Republican Senate majority had no problem dragging its feet to await the outcome of the 2016 election.

What a change has occurred.

Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court. The president then nominated Brett Kavanaugh to succeed him. Judge Kavanaugh went through the confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee. Then a woman came forward to allege that the nominee assaulted her sexually when they were in high school. Then we hear from two more women who said essentially the same thing.

The GOP majority was having none of it. The committee heard from one of the women and from Kavanaugh.

Now the Judiciary panel is going to vote today whether to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination. The majority says it cannot wait. It has to rush this nomination forward. The questions about what happened in the early 1980s? Hey, minds are made up.

Let’s rush forward.

So … one president’s nomination gets stonewalled for a year. Another one’s selection hops on the fast track.

To think that Majority Leader McConnell has the gall to accuse the other side of “playing politics.”

Do you recall the GOP lawsuit to toss out Obamacare?

Once upon a time — it now seems so long ago — then-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner filed a lawsuit that sought to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Barack Obama was president of the United States. Boehner and his congressional Republican colleagues had tried but failed to toss out the ACA. So, Boehner thought he’d try another course, through the court system.

Then a funny thing happened. Boehner quit the speakership and left Congress. He got really frustrated with the TEA Party wing of his Republican caucus in the House. So he walked away.

Oh yeah, then we had this election in 2016 and a Republican, Donald J. Trump, got elected president. He’s tried to toss out the ACA, too. He cannot get the job done.

I keep wondering: Whatever became of that lawsuit? Boehner seems to have walked completely away from the public policy discussion that fueled so much of his awake time when he was speaker of the House.

As for the court system, I keep wondering if it has taken a powder on this notion of adjudicating a civil lawsuit that seeks to rid the law books of the Affordable Care Act.

Is the law perfect? No. Is it the “disaster” that Donald Trump says it is? No. It has put millions of Americans on health insurance who otherwise didn’t qualify or who couldn’t afford it.

As for the Boehner lawsuit he filed with considerable fanfare before he decided he’d had it up to here with the TEA Party, its dormant status suggests to me that when it came to throwing his weight around, the House speaker was all hat and no cattle.

How about sharing credit, POTUSes 44 and 45?

Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump are arguing over who deserves the credit for the nation’s booming economy.

Trump keeps hogging all the credit. Obama is reminding us that Trump inherited an economy on the upswing.

Trump says the tax cut has spurred job growth. On his watch, the unemployment rate is at historic lows, job growth is booming, as is the stock market.

Oh, but Obama says the nation’s economic stimulus package approved not long after he took office has spurred much of the growth. The nation has been on an upward climb since 2011.

I know this won’t happen. Ever! How about the men sharing the credit?

Why won’t it happen? Obama and Trump are politicians of different political parties. They obviously detest each other. Trump fomented the Big Lie for years about Obama’s place of birth. Obama has recently taken the gloves off with Trump, calling him out by name in his attempt to help Democrats get elected to Congress in the 2018 midterm election.

I am inclined to side with President Obama. I know: no surprise there. It’s just that Donald Trump has continued to speak untruthfully about the nature of the economic recovery and about the base line he inherited. He calls the economy a “disaster,” which it clearly wasn’t when he took office.

My hope is a futile one. Still, it’s good to remember that when our Special Forces took out Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the then-president — Barack Obama — made sure to spread the credit to where it was due. He praised the anti-terror work done for many years across two administrations, Republican and Democrat.

Is there that kind of sharing to be expressed these days with a relatively robust economy? Hah! Hardly.

ISIS is still out there … somewhere

The Islamic State has faded in recent weeks from the front end of Americans’ consciousness, or so it seems.

There was a time when terror attacks throughout the Middle East were occurring and ISIS was claiming responsibility for its latest heinous act. It seems that the terrorists have gone a bit quieter of late. I know it’s foolish to presume they aren’t plotting and conniving ways to inflict damage to innocent people.

Do you remember during Barack Obama’s second presidential term how it became somewhat fashionable to refer to ISIS by a name deemed to be detrimental? Secretary of State John Kerry often would refer to the terrorists as Daesch, which reportedly is deemed in the world of Islamic terrorists as a derogatory reference.

Kerry would use the term to get under Daesch’s skin, rankle them, get ’em to make a foolish mistake.

Then we might hear about a drone strike, or some military action that wiped out an ISIS leader, or a Daesch leader, if you prefer.

I wrote about the terrorist group while I was blogging for Panhandle PBS.

ISIS kicks up recruitment activities

Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency by proclaiming that “I know more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me.” Well, he really doesn’t.

However, for the time being, ISIS — or Daesch — continues to feel the heat of the world’s greatest military machine. As we mark the 17th year since the 9/11 assault on this country, let’s keep these monsters at the top of our minds, even if they aren’t making news.

How will Cruz explain his change of heart toward POTUS?

Whenever the two major candidates for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Ted Cruz meet in a joint appearance, I am hoping whoever questions them will ask Cruz a critical question about his relationship with Donald John Trump Sr.

If it were me, I would ask him: Senator, you once called Donald Trump a pathological liar; you called him amoral; you called him gutless coward. How is it that you now welcome him to Texas to campaign for you? How do you justify this remarkable change in attitude toward a man you seemed to loathe when you both were campaigning for the GOP nomination in 2016?

If given a chance for a follow up, I might ask him to explain the president’s loathsome comments about Cruz: You took them personally, senator. Do you no longer feel the intense anger you expressed in the moment?

I also am thinking that Cruz’s opponent, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, is likely to ask the incumbent a lot of questions along those lines himself.

OK, I know what many of you are thinking. This isn’t new. Political foes for many years have buried the hatchet. Team of rivals, anyone?

To wit:

  • Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigned against each other in 2008; they said some incredibly mean things about each other. Obama got nominated, then elected and selected Clinton to be secretary of state.
  • Obama also ran hard and aggressively against Sen. Joe Biden in 2008 and then named Biden as his vice presidential running mate.
  • Sens. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson didn’t care for each other when they ran for the Democratic nomination in 1960. Then they teamed up and won the election.

That was then. The here and now presents another set of questions.

Trump disparaged Cruz’s father, suggesting he might have been complicit in JFK’s murder; he ridiculed the senator’s wife, Heidi. He called Cruz “Lyin’ Ted.”

Sen. Cruz’s response to all of that was intense and seemingly visceral anger — and justifiably so.

But … the men have let bygones be bygones. Yes?

I am left to wonder what it takes for a politician to tell us what they really think. I also have to wonder if Cruz’s outrage was feigned or was it for real.

As for the president, well, I don’t believe a single thing that flies out of his mouth.