Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
It’s been a rough last few months, and I’m not just referring to the alarming presidential contest between the two most egomaniacal, morally-compromised and disliked candidates in electoral history.
Perhaps it’s divine intervention that I’ve been intermittently away from my column to care for, mourn and deal with the affairs of my Mom, who passed away before I attended the Republican National Convention as a Colorado delegate.
A staunch critic of GOP elites, I ran to be a delegate (at my Mom’s urging) because I wanted to help select a presidential nominee who’d unite the “Party of Lincoln” around its bedrock principle – the democratic self-government of a free people.
My pre-convention column argued for allowing delegates to vote their conscience – for Donald Trump or whomever – yielding the strongest nominee to oppose Clinton whose Espionage Act violations and cover-up make her the most brazenly dishonest presidential candidate since Nixon. Her election would advance the banana-republic notion that the powerful are above the law.
The column elicited severe rebukes, the most scolding from Trump supporters. While Clinton backers played the “liar” card, Trumpsters told me to Think Again, grow up and get over my “high falutin ideals.” I was called airhead, globalist and RINO, and my columns were bashed for being “so formulaic they’re almost unreadable.”
In Cleveland, I was among the troublemakers who protested the RNC’s Mao-like suppression of dissent regarding the party rules, which had produced the weakest presidential nominee in modern GOP history. I left dispirited, feeling like a Republican in name only. Now with Election Day nearing, my swing state’s mail-in ballot awaits my vote for president, the most gut wrenching of my life.
As expected, the election has been an ugly slugfest punctuated by predictable surprises – leaks about Trump’s taxes and the 11-year-old video of his grotesque predatory boasting, and WikiLeaks disclosures revealing Clinton Inc. corruption. The biggest shocker is that each party nominated the one candidate the other could beat.
Meanwhile, a real electoral bombshell hit: Obamacare premiums are skyrocketing nationwide as consumers, providers and more insurers desert the law that’s hurting those who can least afford it. It’s a debacle foreseen by critics, though not their media “fact-checkers.”
In steamrolling his signature policy reform, President Obama relied on “the stupidity of the American voter,” as Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber notoriously boasted, getting away with false claims including: premiums would decline; illegal immigrants wouldn’t get subsidies; not one dime will be added to the deficit; and “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”
In an illuminating New York Times interview, White House aid Ben Rhodes (whose brother is President of CBS News) boasted similarly, describing the manipulative tactics used to sell Obama/Clinton foreign policies, including the unpopular Iran nuclear deal, which guarantees the mullahs will eventually get their nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Describing the White House spin machine, Rhodes bragged, “We created an echo chamber” of “prominent Washington reporters and columnists” to “carry our message effectively…saying things that validated what we had given them to say.” Hence, “warmonger” was the smear assigned to Iran deal critics.
Here’s the undemocratic playbook used to short-circuit the honest debate on which national consensus depends: make false claims, spin the media, co-opt the bureaucracy to evade laws/break rules, stonewall investigations, smear adversaries, and label self-inflicted controversies “phony scandals” until the truth becomes any story that sticks.
Consequently, no one’s ever held accountable for the resulting wreckage: unaffordable health insurance, dying vets, terrorist attacks, sanctuary city tragedies, IRS harassment, and murdered U.S. diplomats and border guards. Not surprisingly, only 19 percent of Americans say they trust the government most of the time, down from 73 percent in 1958, according to Pew Research Center.
That’s because Washington is so politicized, even institutions charged with equal enforcement of laws have been sullied. Dueling media accounts of the FBI probes into Clinton’s national security-imperiling violations and the Clinton Foundation’s pay-for-play practices reflect the smoldering rift between disgruntled FBI agents and their higher-ups at the Bureau and Justice Department.
Filmmaker Michael Moore described Trump as a Molotov cocktail thrown at the self-dealing ruling-class system. Clinton, who preaches redistribution of wealth while living like a monarch off her public office, personifies the politically corrupt status quo. Worse then her sense of entitlement and lying is her quarter-century of behaving as if laws are for the little people, not the echo chamber’s aristocracy.
Unfortunately, inside the echo chamber the aristocrats can’t hear the Molotov cocktail-hurling legions outside. Though I shudder at the thought of President Trump, and worry about his authoritarian inclinations, I’m rooting for the little people to burn down the chamber.
Think Again – At the risk of sounding formulaic, might the introduction of an aggressive pathogen like Trump provoke a healthy antibody reaction, helping restore the checks and balances necessary for the democratic self-government of a free people?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Amid unending political horserace punditry – who’s up, who’s down in the wake of Supreme Court rulings, Congress’ Trade Promotion votes, Iranian nuclear negotiations, and the racist Charleston massacre – let’s Think Again about the most important concern: are the American people winning or losing?
Are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – the national promise Americans celebrate on July 4th – secure in this year of the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary? That watershed moment in the annals of human liberty curbed a tyrannical monarch, like the American founding it helped inspire.
Initially an agrarian backwater in a socially stratified world, America unleashed boundless creativity and industriousness by asserting human equality, becoming history’s greatest economic wonder. While Great Britain’s well-being (real GDP per capita) increased 14-fold between 1800 and 2007, America’s grew 32-fold.
Today, as Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Washington aristocracies prosper, Americans are suffering crisis levels of job insecurity, economic stagnation and poverty. Will immigrants who’ve left societies where one’s start pre-determined one’s end discover that social mobility isn’t much better here?
With the Congressional Budget Office projecting Greek-proportions of U.S. debt within 25 years, and a nuclearized Iranian terrorist state looming, are we bequeathing our children lower living standards and a weaker and vulnerable America?
The author of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, captured the dilemma: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history. Whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”
Echoing Jefferson in his recent Time commentary, former presidential candidate and Colorado senator Gary Hart lamented the erosion of America’s founding purpose – the democratic self-governance of a free people.
“Our European ancestors came to these shores to escape social and political systems that were corrosive and corrupt. Two and a quarter centuries later, we are returning to those European practices,” Hart argued, concluding, “We are in danger of becoming a different kind of nation, one our founders would not recognize and would deplore.”
Considering the unaccountability of Washington’s increasingly powerful and unelected ruling elite – from nine Supreme Court justices with lifetime appointments to the colossal administrative state – is government’s power still citizen-driven?
Are Americans as free to control how we live, what we believe, and where we dedicate our labor and its fruits, or must we slavishly defer to elites wielding uninhibited power?
Given calls to abolish the tax-exempt status of religious institutions whose definition of marriage now diverges from the Supreme Court’s, will individual dissidents be similarly hounded, jeopardizing their careers and reputations?
If a female photographer can discriminate, choosing not to photo-shoot a bachelor party featuring a female stripper, can a Christian photographer decline to shoot a same-sex wedding?
Saved twice by the Supreme Court’s judicial rewriting, will Obamacare deliver the affordable, patient-centered health care its supporters promised, or will skyrocketing costs and narrowing provider networks impede access, disproportionally hurting sick Americans?
Though an Obamacare and same-sex marriage supporter, Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley argued “there are valid concerns when the Court steps into an issue with such great political, social and religious divisions.”
Moreover, in ignoring its constitutional duty to implement laws – writing them instead – the Court circumvents the political process our constitution’s separation of powers was designed to facilitate, undermining the people’s consent upon which government legitimacy depends.
Unlike the blindfolded Lady Justice on whose objectivity and impartiality our free society relies, the Court jeopardizes its integrity and imperils civil society when it operates more like a political institution than a legal one, concerned less with the rule of law and constitutional adherence than winning agendas.
Thankfully, in South Carolina – the state that moved first to secede from the Union in 1860 because it denied “all men are created equal” – we’re witnessing the ordered liberty our founding ethic was expected to foster.
They’re showing the world how to “combat hate-filled actions with love-filled actions,” as Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of the murdered reverend Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. put it. In Charleston’s diverse melting pot, prejudices are dissolving through exposure to disparate voices and moral suasion, as freedom of expression is respected.
Inspired by the magnanimity of grieving Emanuel AME Church families, Gov. Nikki Haley proclaimed “a moment of unity in our state, without ill will.” Declaring no winner or loser in respecting those who wish to display the confederate battle flag on private property, Haley announced, “it’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.”
The people of South Carolina are winning as they prove a righteous and thoughtful citizenry dedicated to society’s safety and happiness, can indeed self-govern.
Think Again – as Americans look beyond fireworks this July 4th, may we see more than political horseraces, perceiving our nation’s enduring notion that free and virtuous citizens – not ruling elites – are our fate’s best masters.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Aired-out uproariously on Saturday Night Live, “Deflate-gate” has been a national fixation since word broke that the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs in their Super bowl birth-clinching victory over Indianapolis. The alleged cheating controversy has even pumped up the lovability of the oft-despised Seattle Seahawks.
However, Think Again if you believe Deflate-gate is merely hot air. Though overblown, Americans’ disquiet reflects our fairness instinct and commitment to equality of opportunity – the ideal that all competitors in the race of life, no matter their status, can succeed on a level playing field.
Sensing a slanted NFL field, Seahawk Richard Sherman questioned the close relationship between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriot owner Robert Kraft, calling it a “conflict of interest.”
Sherman’s unease resonates in an America increasingly distrustful of society’s umpires. President Obama spoke to this anxiety in last week’s State of the Union address. “This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” he declared, labeling this “middle-class economics.”
Yet the story of our five-year-old recovery is how poorly working Americans have fared. With workforce participation at forty-year lows, “America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is the widest on record,” Pew Research recently reported. From 2010 to 2013, household incomes fell for all except the most affluent 10 percent, a 2014 Federal Reserve survey revealed, with the bottom 40 percent suffering disproportionately.
So while Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Washington boom, the rest of America suffers crisis levels of job insecurity, economic immobility and government dependency, with a record 50 million living in poverty.
That’s because our economy’s playing field is askew, warped by a cronyist system -- long in the making -- that is neither “middle-class economics” nor Thomas Jefferson’s ideal: “a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.”
Free to pursue their individual life objectives, American entrepreneurs -- and immigrants fleeing societies where one’s start pre-determined one’s end -- transformed an agrarian backwater into human history’s greatest economic wonder. Between 1800 and 2007, economic well-being (real GDP per-capita) increased 32-fold in America compared to 14-times in Great Britain and 5-times in India.
It’s not a miracle; it’s the free market where rivals meet in open competition, generating a continuous stream of innovation, choice and value. In return for pleasing customers and being good corporate citizens, entrepreneurs earn profits.
As government has grown, so have its anti-competitive powers, corrupting the free market with corporate cronyism -- the incestuous relationship between Big Government and Big Business that rewards political connections over competitive excellence.
Our tax code is a cronyist masterpiece, allowing well-connected individuals and big companies like GE to lobby for, win and exploit tax breaks, rendering their tax bills negligible and affording lawmakers unending contributions.
Equally distortive are corporate welfare programs sold as economic saviors -- the 2009 stimulus, cash-for-clunkers, farm bill, bailouts, Export-Import Bank loan guarantees and Dodd-Frank “Wall Street reform.” Each benefits well-connected private companies, forcing Americans who “work hard and play by the rules” to subsidize elites who don’t.
Then there’s cronyism’s granddaddy, Obamacare, “the product of an orgy of lobbying and backroom deals,” according to Steven Brill, whose new book “America’s Bitter Pill” details how the $3-trillion-a-year health industry’s largest stakeholders – drug and medical device companies, hospitals, insurers – profited, at taxpayers’ expense.
When profits accrue to those with the most to invest in politics -- and the most to lose in the free market -- wealth and opportunity shift from ordinary people to the government and its friends. That’s why Americans struggling to maintain living standards must contend with ever-increasing prices in government-controlled sectors -- housing, health, and education.
Most worrisome, the small business sector, which generates two-thirds of new jobs, is languishing. Unable to grow in a market that protects large corporations from competition, and disproportionately burdened by an explosion of regulatory red tape, small business deaths now exceed business births for the first time in the Brookings Institution’s thirty-plus-year history of data collection.
So who are the greedy Gordon Gekko’s? Those who prudently risk hard-earned money to continuously deliver life-enhancing benefits – iPhones, 3-D printers, medicines, refrigerators – or cronies who relegate competitors, consumers, employees, and investors to the sidelines of a rigged game?
To protect our freedom and broadly share prosperity, shouldn’t we disperse power away from economic leeches, returning it to economic producers whose raison d'être is the fulfillment of needs and desires?
Think Again – It’s human nature to want competitive advantages -- whether tax breaks or deflated footballs. That’s why a free society needs referees with only enough power to assure fair competition, not so much that they become self-interested players in the game.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
In an ironic twist, the long-awaited sequel to the cult-classic “Dumb and Dumber” opened as Americans discovered that in the eyes of our Political Class, we’re like the film’s low-IQ duo – “stupid voters.”
Caught dropping truth bombs in a series of videos, MIT professor and Obamacare co-architect Jonathan Gruber describes how policymakers hid the Affordable Care Act’s true nature. “Call it the stupidity of the American voter,” Gruber chortled, since “that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”
But who’s the dunce considering Gruber is now persona non grata in capitals where he’s earned millions of taxpayer dollars for his wizardry?
Prior to Obamacare’s enactment, Americans overwhelmingly approved their health insurance plans -- 86 percent, according to Time Magazine’s July 2009 poll. Fearing their health system-upending plan wouldn’t survive public scrutiny, Gruberites launched an operation to obfuscate and deceive.
Without a vote to spare, there wasn’t time to Think Again about Obamacare’s numerous taxes, employment disincentives and cross-subsidies from healthy to sick (including those with unhealthy behaviors) and young to old.
"We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it," Nancy Pelosi insisted, demonstrating how raw political ambition trumped the consent of the governed in passing modern history’s most consequential law.
In our era of secretly negotiated lawmaking, “comprehensive” legislation (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank’s “Wall Street reform” and the Senate’s Immigration bill) means complex enough to hide the special interest-laden truth.
“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber explained, which is why the 2,409-page “bill was written in a tortured way” to game the arcane Congressional Budget Office’s system for measuring legislation impacts. “If CBO scored the [insurance] mandate as taxes, the bill dies,” Gruber admitted.
Armed with CBO’s contorted conclusions, politicians and their media minions wielded them like weapons, including at the Supreme Court, which upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality by deeming the mandate a tax.
To achieve other politically treacherous measures, like limiting tax deductions on employer-provided health benefits, Gruberites designed the “Cadillac Tax” on expensive plans. “Mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people,” was possible, Gruber contends, because “the American people are too stupid to understand the difference.”
In revealing Obamacare’s deceptions, “Grubergate” upsets Thomas Jefferson’s self-government truism -- “whenever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government.” By conspiring to misinform and manipulate, Gruberites have engendered distrust of the institutions they’re empowered to run.
More interested in advancing partisan agendas than assuring government’s legitimacy and durability, Gruberites endanger the constitutional stability that’s enabled America to become the freest and most productive society on earth, deviating from history’s norm – tyranny, instability and stifled human potential.
Unfortunately, by circumventing the debate and consensus on which pluralistic democracies depend, Gruberites prove Jefferson’s observation that “even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
As America’s constitutional framers understood, process matters to orderly self-government. To constrain Gruberites, the founders designed a liberty-preserving system founded on popular consent, limited government, and equality under the law. To check abuse, they separated political powers among co-equal branches, pitting “ambition against ambition.”
That’s why President Nixon was wrong to tell interviewer David Frost, “When the President does it, that means it isn’t illegal.” Similarly, President Obama is wrong to claim authority for sweeping legal changes – like amnesty-by-fiat for 5 million illegals -- if Congress doesn’t pass laws he likes. Presidents are entitled to discretion in executing, not vacating, the law.
According to Jonathan Turley, constitutional scholar and Obama policy-supporter, the President’s unprecedented separation-of-powers violations render him “the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid -- the concentration of power in any single branch.” If Presidents can enact consequential changes in defiance of Congress, the law and public will, what can’t they do?
Unilaterally legalizing millions of low-wage workers – a magnet for millions more -- to compete with America’s economically distressed working class mirrors the imperial and unfair rule we overthrew in 1776. Absent rapid job growth, it’s also a recipe for poverty and dependency, straining the society to which immigrants are drawn. Americans aren’t stupid or heartless to insist on the right to control whom we admit and in what numbers, no matter what Gruberites say.
Saturday Night Live mocked Obama’s King George-like views and his “go big or go home” immigration overhaul in its Schoolhouse Rock parody: “How a Bill Becomes Law.” First it passes Congress; then the President signs it. Even lame-duck Presidents must operate within constitutional bounds, using the bully pulpit and the legislative process -- not imperial edicts -- to advance policy goals.
Think Again – Ambitious Gruberites are an enduring threat to government of, by and for the people. Wouldn’t it be dumb not to deploy all available checks and balances to curtail them?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
“The people have spoken…. and they must be punished,” former New York City mayor Ed Koch famously vented in defeat.
In sweeping away waves of Democrats in Tuesday’s midterm election – even in blue states like Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts – a punished and disrespected American people have vented, silencing the politicians whose agenda and tactics they soundly rejected.
In this collective Think Again election, Harry Reid was demoted for allowing hyper-partisanship to trump the constitutional integrity of the Senate, known as the “world’s most deliberative body” -- except under Reid’s leadership.
Though Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s fate awaits a December run-off, she typified the political class’ disdain for constituents, attributing electoral woes to their sexism and racism. “The South hasn’t always been the friendliest place for African Americans,” she told NBC correspondent Chuck Todd during her campaign’s frantic homestretch, nor “a good place for women to present ourselves.”
But with the American Dream slipping beyond reach for ordinary citizens, and amid unease over America’s increasingly weak standing in the world, how is dissing one’s constituents a winning message?
Apparently, that’s shrewd politics, even in a state that thrice elected Landrieu and just re-elected its Indian governor, according to the New Republic’s Brian Beutler who applauded “Landrieu’s candor [because it] came in the service of her political interest.”
Herein lies America’s gravest problem, one that Tuesday’s midterm tsunami should help mitigate: Rather than do the right thing even when no one is looking – the definition of integrity – today’s self-serving leaders routinely do the wrong yet politically advantageous thing, even when everybody’s looking.
Whether in the Rose Garden, TV interviews, before Congress, or on the campaign trail, political elites have promised the unattainable, spun the news cycle with false narratives, stonewalled investigations, and smeared adversaries. Absent honest disagreement and accountability, the “truth” becomes any story that sticks, allowing them to coast on benevolent intentions, above their policies’ wreckage.
Labeling successive controversies “phony scandals” -- Obamacare chaos, dying veterans, murdered U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, IRS harassment, NSA snooping, Syria’s red-line erasure – they’ve managed to stay atop the responsibility-evading tight rope. Despite overwhelming foreign and domestic concerns, most campaigns refused to discuss Americans real preoccupations, paying dearly.
For too long politicians have played the identity politics trump card to win political advantage at the expense of the public good. Actively fomenting social unrest, they’ve cynically divided Americans into warring camps while short-circuiting the deliberation and debate on which national consensus in a pluralistic democracy depends.
Doubling down on the War on Women shtick, campaigns courted female voters like the Neanderthals they claimed their opponents to be. Consider the menacing Colorado ad about condom shortages because “Cory Gardner banned birth control,” or the contention that “A vote for Tom Cotton is a vote against Arkansas women.” Ironically, even Joni Ernst – now Iowa’s first female senator and a combat veteran -- was accused of waging a war on women.
Of Republicans, Congressman Charlie Rangel declared, they “believe that slavery isn’t over and that they won the Civil War!” Actually, Republicans – the Party of Lincoln -- did win the Civil War and passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments abolishing slavery and granting voting and due process rights to former slaves, though Democrats work hard to convince otherwise.
Reporting on these race-baiting efforts, the New York Times noted “how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression... -- invoking Trayvon Martin’s death, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Jim Crow-era segregation -- to jolt African-Americas into voting.”
The Times was surprised that “the effort is being led by national Democrats and their state party organizations.” In North Carolina, Harry Reid’s “super PAC” ran a radio ad linking senate candidate Thom Tillis to the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, garnering four Pinocchios from the Washington Post. Additionally, incendiary leaflets distributed at black churches featured “a grainy image of a lynching,” foreshadowing a reversion to a pre-civil rights era if Sen. Kay Hagan lost.
To counter the cynical race baiting, Louisiana state senator Elbert Guillory and his Free At Last PAC ran ads across the south noting that while senators Landrieu, Hagan and Mark Pryor promised to be champions of the black community, the white-black gap grew in virtually every socio-economic category -- fatherless homes, high school dropouts, incomes, poverty, incarceration, and joblessness.
Ultimately, Guillory’s message – not Landrieu’s -- resonated. Even deeply red South Carolina re-elected a female Indian governor and a black US senator proving that southern voters judge on character and competence, not skin color or gender. Making America’s promise accessible to every demographic requires honest leaders who hew to their constituents’ concerns, not their own.
Think Again – in Koch’s ironic wisecrack was the insight that American voters punish failing leaders, not vice versa. May this be the lesson our new crop of leaders draw from their victory.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
If character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking, WWII General Dwight Eisenhower radiated it on D-Day’s eve, writing ”any blame … is mine alone” in never-delivered remarks known as “In Case of Failure.”
In making one of history’s toughest and most consequential decisions -- unlike those chronicled in Hillary Clinton’s new memoir “Hard Choices” -- Eisenhower prepared for the worst as 150,000 men readied for a veritable suicide mission 70 years ago this month.
Willing to shoulder failure’s blame, even without knowing its reason, Eisenhower publicly attributed the anticipated victory to liberty’s cause and the Allied troops’ “courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.”
Trusting him to put the national interest before his own, Americans liked Ike, twice electing him president, assuring America’s reliability as a guarantor of peace, prosperity, stability and freedom.
Unfortunately, as a parade of disturbing scandals and glaring incompetence engulf Washington and our national psyche, one thing is certain – Eisenhower’s style of servant-leadership is in short supply today.
More prevalent are self-serving leaders who routinely do the wrong (yet politically advantageous) thing – even in the Rose Garden when everybody’s looking -- while refusing to Think Again about their misdeeds, never mind assume responsibility or apologize.
As if in the Soviet Union where dissidents joked, “The future is known; it’s the past that’s always changing,” today’s national leaders promise the unattainable, spin the news cycle with false narratives, stonewall investigations, smear adversaries, and label self-inflicted controversies “phony scandals.” Absent honest disagreement or accountability, the “truth” becomes any story that sticks as they coast on benevolent intentions, above the devastation.
Through successive controversies – Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS, NSA, Syria’s red-line, Obamacare, and the Veterans Administration -- this responsibility-evading strategy has worked, thanks to a mythologizing media who “censor or block stories that don’t fall in line with the message they want sent,” as former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson described.
Now comes the Bergdahl Swap in which the Obama Administration – perennially unwilling to negotiate with Republicans they’ve called “hostage-takers” – struck a deal with hostage-taking terrorists to trade five Taliban commanders for U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
Presidential author Bob Woodward called the decision “nefarious and stupid” because it ignored military and intelligence recommendations and flouted federal law requiring congressional notification. Like Benghazi, administration Svengalis crafted and “bull horned” fraudulent talking points, this time to cast a likely deserter as a war hero who “served with honor and distinction.”
But unlike Benghazi, the story didn’t stick and a bi-partisan uprising ensued. Without a YouTube hate-video to blame for the spontaneous demonstration, President Obama dismissed it as “a controversy whipped up in Washington” for which he’ll “make no apologies.”
Clinton also dislikes questions and apologies. Asked on her book tour if she’ll turn over her Benghazi-related notes to the congressional committee charged with investigating the murders of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate, Clinton instead suggested they read her memoir – called “a newsless snore” by Politico’s Mike Allen.
With genocidal insurgents overtaking Iraq and beyond, Clinton may regret her flippant response to a question about the swap. “These five guys are not a threat to the United States,” she asserted, as if 9/11 wasn’t hatched in the very petri dish to which the jihadists are returning.
With such out-of-touch and unaccountable leadership, it’s no surprise nearly two-thirds of Americans say we’re headed in the wrong direction, a new Bloomberg poll revealed.
But as Clinton might ask, what difference at this point does it make?
A decisive one, as the trouncing of Eric Cantor – the first Majority Leader ever to lose a primary – testifies. Fellow special-interest crony, Senator Thad Cochran, will likely be next.
Cantor got caught in a perfect storm of anti-Washington fever, economic unease and resentment over serial controversies including the refugee crisis on our southern border caused by derelict enforcement of immigration laws. Even a 25-to-1-money advantage couldn’t overcome the perception that Cantor favors Wall Street and K-Street over his Main Street constituents.
That his campaign donors support immigration policies that are magnets for low-income workers suggests Cantor doesn’t care about depressing the wages and job prospects of Americans already devastated by economic stagnation. Politicians who discuss immigration in terms of how we can assist those who break our laws are largely responsible for our illegal immigrant problem.
The reality is democracy doesn’t work without the right leadership, which accounts for other crises menacing Americans -- dying vets, released terrorists, refugee children, IRS harassment, NSA snooping, health care chaos, and murdered U.S. diplomats and border guards.
Amid so much failure, Americans must deny politicians amnesty for their incompetence, selfishness, dishonesty, and abuse of power.
Think Again -- To preserve liberty for successive generations, don’t we need leaders who are prepared to declare “any blame is mine alone?”
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Shouldn’t college students know as much American civics as they do pop culture?
MRCTV went to American University to find out, discovering few who could name a single US senator or the number of senators from each state, though most knew the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.”
Equally surprising are polls showing that only one-quarter of Americans can identify Joe Biden as the vice president or name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (religion, speech, press, assembly, petition), though over half knew at least two Simpson cartoon characters.
Before suggesting Americans’ ignorance is bliss, Think Again. “Fear always springs from ignorance,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, which is why fear mongering and placating assurances have enabled a ruling elite to wield enormous power over the people – our founders’ worst nightmare.
False promises and controversial payoffs enabled the narrow passage of Obamacare, which grants unelected bureaucrats control over 16 percent of the economy, empowering them to impose costly and freedom-infringing regulations.
Perhaps their most liberty-assaulting decree – and cunning given its election-year timing -- was the unprecedented Health & Human Services (HHS) mandate forcing employers to provide free contraception, including abortion-inducing methods, or face a $100 per day/per employee fine.
That amounts to $47 million annually for arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, whose devoutly Christian owners, the Green family, oppose the mandate with pilgrim-like fervor.
Just because they started a business, the Greens argue, doesn’t mean they must leave their religion in the pews. The First Amendment guarantees their right to live and work by their faith, and they won’t give it up without a fight.
For 44 years, the Greens have operated Hobby Lobby as they do their lives, in accordance with Biblical principles. They close on Sunday to honor the Sabbath, pay justly by starting full-time employees at nearly twice the minimum-wage, maintain a free health clinic at their Oklahoma headquarters, and offer Cadillac-level health benefits for 13,000 employees, covering 16 out of the 20 Obamacare-mandated contraception drugs. And they won’t pay for four abortion-inducing methods, all cheap and ubiquitous.
Their Supreme Court case will determine whether the federal government can force corporations owned by individuals to choose between moral beliefs and government dictates, or face crippling IRS-enforced penalties.
Hobby Lobby argues the HHS mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- passed nearly unanimously and signed by President Clinton – which says the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” without “compelling” justification and using “the least restrictive means.”
With half the population already exempted from Obamacare and it’s contraception mandate, how could there be a compelling interest in forcing conscientious objectors to comply when their non-compliance is hardly burdensome?
While admitting the mandate forces the Greens to violate their Christian faith, the government argues religious liberty is forfeited when people go into business for profit, meaning companies could also be required to pay for abortions, and kosher butchers could be forced to break ritual laws -- an outcome all media corporations should oppose, or risk losing their first amendment freedoms.
If the government didn’t insist its interests trumped the First Amendment, it could make abortifacients available otherwise, which would be “a win for everybody,” according to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
“I’m a liberal Democrat who supports Obamacare. But I think the constitutional right of the free exercise of religion trumps my own personal, political views,” concluding, it’s not “a complex case.”
Unfortunately, a win/win solution is not the preferred outcome for mandate supporters like Senator Barbara Boxer whose rhetorical bombs transform dissenters like Hobby Lobby into War on Women combatants.
Misconstruing Hobby Lobby’s plea not to buy abortifacients for employees as “denying women birth control,” Boxer declared the company is anti-woman and hypocritical for having “no moral objection to men getting Viagra” -- as if procreation-aiding drugs resemble pregnancy-ending ones. Stoking more fear, she mused whether vaccinations and HIV drugs might be “their next moral objection.”
Throughout our liberty-loving history, Americans have endorsed Voltaire’s enlightened principle – “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” No more.
In abandoning this principle, we now assassinate the character of non-conformists, like Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who was purged last week for contributing $1000 to the 2008 passage of Proposition 8 in California. Meanwhile, no political leader dares to face the gathering mob despite sharing Eich’s views on marriage until recently.
Once the mob forms, no dissenter is legitimate, no sunlight can disinfect, no society is free, and no constitutional right is secure.
Regardless of one’s views on contraception, abortion or marriage, this can’t be our destiny.
Think Again – if Americans want to retain our right to prefer pop culture to politics, we must preserve our individual liberties.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
In the waiting room of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s radiation treatment center, I discovered that in the race of life, those running to stay on the track are among the most determined, hopeful, and courageous. They’re also grateful, for it’s in the sanctuary of sympathetic and expert care where cancer patients experience calm and clarity after the storm of diagnosis and decision-making.
As if living with cancer-induced anxiety weren’t enough, many Sloan-Kettering patients must Think Again about their treatment since the cancer center is among many prominent hospitals no longer “in network” for most Obamacare-compliant insurance plans.
Americans already have the world’s best health care system. The question is how to make it broadly accessible, especially to the most vulnerable. Claiming a monopoly on moral and political virtue and disparaging as uncompassionate obstructionists those who opposed the 2,700-page Affordable Care Act, lawmakers drove its passage promising increased access, lower costs and, “if you like your doctors, you can keep them, period.”
Now it’s broken hearts and spirit -- not just broken promises, websites, and insurance systems -- that plague intrepid patients, to their providers’ frustration. Meanwhile, healthy Americans laboring under stagnant wages are recoiling from sticker and doc-shock, proving CS Lewis’ maxim that “those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
“Pay more for less” isn’t a winning slogan, but it’s the truth. The collusion of government and insurance companies to limit competition and consumer choice has impaired Americans’ freedom to be value-oriented shoppers and imperiled our property and privacy rights.
Americans want patient-centered and patient-owned health care and an array of competitive choices to assure price stability, service quality, and access to all. But rather than consider targeted and less disruptive changes like insurance portability, tort reform, tax credits and high-risk pools, Obamacare proponents further straightjacketed the healthcare system with one-size-fits-all mandates, taxes, and micro-management by an inept bureaucracy.
Yet lawmakers won’t wear the straightjacket they designed for Americans. Senator Reid’s staff is exempted from Obamacare and, according to the Los Angeles Times, Congress and staffers enjoy “more generous benefits packages, VIP customer service from insurers and the same government-subsidized premiums they’ve always enjoyed.”
This is government over the people – not our founders’ vision of government of, by and for the people. They wanted America to be the exception to human history’s rule where tyranny, bondage and stifled human potential defined life for the vast majority. While French revolutionaries were sticking dissenters’ heads on bayonets, America’s revolutionaries established self-government and enshrined popular consent and human equality – the idea that no one by nature can be the ruler of anyone else – in our founding documents.
To preserve individual freedom, they designed a government system that separated political powers and dispersed authority, pitting “ambition against ambition” to check political impulsiveness. To force consensual deliberations and thwart large mistakes like Obamacare, the Senate was to be the “necessary fence” against the “fickleness and passion” of the House where transient majorities rule.
But lawmakers more interested in advancing partisan agendas than assuring government’s legitimacy and durability have chipped away at the system that enabled American society to become the freest, most productive and most decent in human history.
They’ve passed massive, lobbyist-written and unread laws on party-line votes; concentrated power in the Executive branch and the unaccountable administrative state; and most recently, activated the “Nuclear Option” in the Senate to eliminate the filibuster (a 60-vote threshold requiring consultation with the minority) on Presidential nominees – a two-century old tradition.
Ironically, Americans aren’t so polarized. Though politicians exploit wedge issues to foment divisions, we’re united in wanting to limit the size, power and cost of government. We know that to overcome our challenges, individual citizens must wrest decision-making authority away from Washington.
Fifty years ago, on the one-hundredth anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, President Kennedy was en route to Dallas where he was assassinated. In commemorating these anniversaries, Americans recall why these leaders are revered – because they united us around shared values, summoning us to assure liberty’s survival for subsequent generations.
Kennedy declared, “the cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it,” imploring us to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for our country.” Lincoln roused a fractured citizenry to finish the soldiers’ work so that “these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Exhausted by democracy’s follies, we should recall these words and heed their advice.
Think Again – rather than allow politicians to divide us, remember we’re all freedom-loving Americans eager to realize our full potential in the race of life.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
With several political climaxes looming, it serves to recall “High Noon” starring Gary Cooper as Will Kane, the beleaguered marshal who single-handedly confronts paroled murderer Frank Miller and his gang. As civil society’s elected protector, Kane is a reluctant hero, abandoned by his cowering and self-interested townsfolk. Improbably victorious, he departs town, flinging his badge with contempt for the citizens who wouldn’t defend the rule of law on which their freedom, prosperity and security depend.
Though protagonists in our national Kabuki Theater claim to care about us, Think Again before allowing them to join Kane on the moral high ground. In verbal shootouts over Obamacare, the continuing resolution, the debt ceiling and Syria, our lawmen resemble Kane’s fair-weather constituents for whom self-interest trumps the common good. By failing to anticipate and resolve America’s imminent threats before they reach High Noon climaxes, politicians undermine America’s interests and squander their legitimacy.
There’s a Kane-like resentment smoldering in far-flung territories for lawmakers who trade political favors for donations; pass incomprehensible, lobbyist-written, and unread laws; and grant ever-increasing authority to the intrusive and unelected bureaucracy. Lawmakers may arrive in Washington believing it’s a cesspool, but after harnessing governmental power and dispensing billions, they discover it’s a hot tub made inviting by the collusion of big government, big business and big special interests.
Yet while Washington booms, Americans endure depressed wages, economic stagnation, and high unemployment. To stimulate the sluggish economy, the Federal Reserve is continuing it’s near-zero interest-rate policy, cushioning the accounts of stock-market investors and bankers, while crushing the financial plans of ordinary Americans, imperiling retirement savings, and exacerbating income-inequality.
Though Washington manufactures little beyond economically injurious legislation, regulations, and bills for taxpayers to fund, it enjoys the nation’s highest median household income, up 23 percent since 2000, compared to a 7 percent decline nationally. That’s because federal spending ($3.5 trillion) now absorbs nearly one-quarter of the economy, up from 18 percent ($1.76 trillion) in 2000, causing a tripling of the national debt – a growth rate the Congressional Budget Office says is unsustainable. Furthermore, with unfunded liabilities exceeding $75 trillion and without reforms, Social Security and Medicare won’t exist for younger Americans.
Given this fiscal picture, and with tax revenues hitting a record high, can we trust politicians like Nancy Pelosi who now assert “the cupboard is bare; there’s no more cuts to make?” How can lawmakers claim to be for hardworking families and younger Americans without addressing the unsustainability of our growing debt and entitlement obligations, knowing these taxpayers must pay the bills?
Lawmakers’ rank hypocrisy and lawlessness were exposed this month when the White House agreed to grant Congress and its staffers a special exemption from Obamacare – the 2,700-page law they imposed on the citizenry – by continuing special taxpayer-funded insurance subsidies. This Washington self-dealing comes after granting over 2,000 waivers to political allies and illegally suspending major parts of the law, including the employer mandate and subsidy verification requirements -- fiats that invite rampant fraud at taxpayer expense.
So concerned with the law’s unintended consequences, the AFL-CIO declared it “will lead to the destruction of the 40-hour work week” while devastating “the health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.” As the New York Times reported last week, "having an insurance card does not guarantee access to specialists or other providers." Furthermore, as businesses skirt Obamacare’s expensive provisions by eliminating jobs and reducing hours, what difference does coverage for pre-existing conditions and 25-year old children make to those who lose their plans and doctors?
You know something's wrong with a healthcare law that results in fewer doctors, nurses, and hospital beds, but more IRS enforcers. And for those who insist the government stay out of your bedroom, steel yourselves to answer intrusive questions about your private life for data mining purposes -- or pay hefty fines.
As the country churns from Obamacare’s impacts, the clock approaches High Noon on budget and debt ceiling decisions to which escalating health care costs are central. Yet, the President declared Washington a negotiation-free zone, a curiosity since real outlaws like Russia’s Putin and Syria’s Assad are now negotiating partners.
Will President Rouhani of Iran, the planet’s largest exporter of terrorism, be next? Assad may now avoid using chemical weapons, but how many more innocents will die conventionally because two-years of American calls for Assad’s ouster -- and other saber rattling -- were empty cowboy rhetoric?
With strategic planning and leadership, these policy cauldrons have solutions, though not when elected officials scurry from their moral duties, like High Noon’s townspeople. There are scores of courageous Marshal Kane's in every town across America, except the one where the nation needs them most.
Think Again – wouldn’t you rally around this kind of leadership to avoid devolving into the Divided States of America?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
During the Civil War when the union’s preservation and slavery’s abolition were in doubt, President Lincoln roused the nation with his dream “of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” In rekindling our Founders’ vision, Lincoln helped assure that America would become the freest and most prosperous nation on earth, a status successive US presidents have dutifully maintained, or they were cast aside by voters.
As Americans Think Again about President Obama, consider that no president has won re-election amid such economic stagnation, declining incomes, high gas prices and business pessimism. Living astonishingly beyond our means and more indebted than any other nation in world history, Americans face a reduced standard of living, diminished opportunities for our children, and a weakened capacity to secure our national interests in a menacing world.
After trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, the 39-month old economic recovery has one-seventh the GDP growth rate of the Reagan recovery in which double-digit inflation and interest rates were also slain. With 261,000 fewer jobs today than January 2009 (despite population growth of 9 million), exploding poverty, government dependency, and income inequality imperil Lincoln’s dream.
During the economic turmoil of 2008, Obama sounded Lincoln-esque, promising to “provide good jobs to the jobless…secure our nation and restore our image as the last best hope on Earth.” But unlike Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton who understood the benefits of economic growth policies – more and better jobs, larger paychecks, growing tax revenues without tax rate increases, and deficit and debt mitigation -- Obama doubled down on government-centric and budget-busting policies.
Having inherited a government moving in the wrong direction on bailouts, spending, deficits and debt accumulation, Obama floored the gas. Though critical of Bush’s $4 trillion in accumulated debt and vowing to halve the annual deficit by now, Obama has run four successive trillion-dollar deficits – each nearly triple Bush’s average -- while increasing debt nearly $6 trillion to a sum ($16.1 trillion) that exceeds the US economy. Historically, America’s economy has grown faster than its debt -- until Obama, under whom debt is growing $2.50 for every dollar of GDP growth.
With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, manditory expenditures for Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are exploding, consuming more annually than the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and TARP bailouts. Rather than address the looming entitlement crisis, Obama’s budget projects massive deficits and $20 trillion in debt by the end of his second term. So fiscally irresponsible, not one member of Congress -- not even a single Democrat -- has voted to approve either of Obama’s last two annual budgets.
Meanwhile, with Democrats in complete control of Congress through January 2011, Obama’s signature legislative “reforms” – Obamacare and Dodd-Frank – ignored Republican solutions, and imposed thousands of complex regulations and new taxes on the private economy, nearly paralyzing job creation and economic growth.
Though sold as “Wall Street reform”, Dodd-Frank makes bailouts more likely by designating selected banks “too-big-to-fail” and failing to reform the financial crisis’ real culprits -- housing-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With smaller banks competitively disadvantaged, lending is down, consumer prices are up, and expensive consultants, like the former chiefs-of-staff to both Dodd and Frank, are in demand.
Neither is Obamacare meeting its promises. Insurance premiums are up $2,500 and according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Obamacare will cost nearly twice its original estimate, leave 30 million Americans uninsured, and cause 20 million people to lose their employer-provided health insurance. Additionally, it imposes 20 new taxes on families and small businesses and incentivizes employers to hire part-time instead of full-time workers.
Thanks to recent technological breakthroughs, America is now the most energy-endowed nation in the world. Allowing the responsible development of our resources would generate millions of jobs while turbo-charging the economy and revitalizing distressed communities. Yet despite promising an “all-of-the-above” energy policy while investing $90 billion in uncompetitive green energy companies, Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline and reduced drilling permits on public lands by 36 percent, compared to increases of 116 and 58 percent under Bush and Clinton, respectively.
Meanwhile, GDP growth slumped to 1.3 percent in the second quarter, but Obama proposes to increase tax rates on “millionaires and billionaires” (individuals and small businesses making over $250,000) to promote fairness, after opposing them in 2010 when the economy was growing at twice its current rate. But how can it be fair to implement a policy that the CBO considers economically injurious and would yield only enough revenue to fund 8.5 days of government spending? Given Obama’s track record, how could another four years of the same policies result in enough economic growth to overcome our economic challenges?
Mindful of these challenges and eager to diffuse the debt bomb while preserving entitlement programs for future generations, Governor Romney proposes to expand the private economy with spending, regulatory, tax and entitlement reforms reminiscent of those enacted by Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton – modern America’s most successful economic stewards. Romney proposes to cut tax rates by 20 percent for all Americans while maintaining the same share of taxes paid by the wealthy. But unlike Bush, he’ll pay for them by eliminating expensive loopholes only accessible to wealthy individuals and companies like GE.
Divided as we were during the Civil War, Americans long to be unified by a leader, like Lincoln, committed to expanding liberty and increasing individual opportunity -- the source of human flourishing and America’s promise.
Think Again – only by restoring these cultural bulwarks can we pass our children a strong America, and remain the last best hope of earth.