Category archives: Government

The View from my Adirondack Chair

by Robert Morrison

August 29, 2014

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Labor Day Weekend. I’m getting a head start today by having lunch in my back yard with a good friend.

Working from home has its decided benefits. It’s been a good and productive week for me. (I hope my boss agrees). My friend and I will be sitting in my favorite birthday gift — my new Adirondack chairs. This very American invention seems to symbolize peace, order, creativity. Sitting side-by-side with a friend, in animated conversation, is one of life’s joys.

But there is a certain bittersweet quality to these days. We have never had a nicer summer in Maryland. Blue skies, low humidity, picnic suppers at the sea wall in Annapolis, watching red sails in the sunset, enjoying a summer of peace.

Yet the world has seemingly never been in worse shape, but here at home, peace is precious. The Mideast is exploding. War between Israel and Hamas brings condemnation — as usual — of those who are defending themselves from terrorists. From Gaza, Hamas has been tunneling under the Israeli primary schools and staging rocket attacks on their hospitals. The French have an old expression for this: “This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.”

The president this week announced to the world: “We have no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS.” Truth be told, this president has no strategy yet for dealing with ISIS, Iran, the PLO, Russia, or China, or Boko Haram. Not since Jimmy Carter’s uncertain course has the Ship of State been so obviously adrift.

I had the honor of interviewing President Carter’s own choice for Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Malcolm Toon had been a thirty-year diplomat. He told me in 1982 that the only time in his career that he feared for the United States was when Carter was president. “I had never seen the Soviets so contemptuous of American weakness,” Amb. Toon told me then.

President Bush erred, badly, in saying he had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and had seen “a good man.” He looked into the Russian strong man’s soul, Mr. Bush announced. Russian dissident writer Vladimir Bukovsky spoke to a Victims of Communism Dinner shortly thereafter. Asked about George W. Bush’s statement, Bukovsky deadpanned, with his lugubrious Slavic intonations: “I have looked into eyes of many KGB agents. I have never found it a particularly soulful experience.”

It took years for George Bush to gain a better understanding of Putin and his conduct. But at least he got it. Not so this administration. Vice President Joe Biden related how he had told Putin “I don’t think you have a soul at all.” This prompts one to ask: Is there a Nobel Prize for Jackassery?

The Obama administration’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, is famous for her evoking of “Soft Power,” whatever that is. But in the UN this week, she declaimed that the Russians had to stop “lying” about their activities in Ukraine. Why, Madame Ambassador, must they stop lying? Are you going to invoke Soft Power against them? Liberalizing Czech Communists tried Soft Power in 1968. The Kremlin crushed that Prague Spring under the tank treads of their T-34’s. So much for Soft Power.

We in America can thank God for our safety — and thank the U.S. military, too. There’s a quote — probably misattributed to the great English writer George Orwell — that says “people sleep safely in their beds because rough men are ready to do violence in their behalf.”

What the U.S. military does is not violence. The U.S. military has always been a force for peace. When obliged to use force, even deadly force, it is not engaged in violence. The “authorized use of deadly force” is what distinguishes legitimate and civilized nations from those — like Russia under the Communists, like the Nazis in Germany, like Hamas, Iran, or ISIS today — whose use of force is always violence, never legitimate.

Every Sunday, my wife and I join in prayers at Chapel for the families of young Americans who have died the previous week defending us. We thank God for the sacrifice of these heroes. They are not rough men ready to do violence. But they are brave men, capable men, men and women ready to defend our peace, our freedom, our laws and our Constitution, with their very lives.

To my friends and dear readers enjoying this last breath of summer may I share this poem?

The Last Rose of Summer

Tis the last rose of summer,

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone;

No flower of her kindred,

No rosebud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes,

Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

To pine on the stem;

Since the lovely are sleeping,

Go, sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter,

Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Where thy mates of the garden

Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,

When friendships decay,

And from Love’s shining circle

The gems drop away.

When true hearts lie withered,

And fond ones are flown,

Oh! who would inhabit

This bleak world alone?

Conservatism’s Good - and Under-reported Ideas

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 24, 2014

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) today unveiled a plan designed to “expand (economic) opportunity in America—to deliver real change, real solutions, and real results” (http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=389081#.U9FlzkCuo7k).

It is likely there are proposals and assumptions in Ryan’s plan with which I agree, and others with which I do not. What has caught my attention is the way some of the media are covering his remarks. Here are some examples:

Ryan’s plan is substantive, far-reaching, and clear. It has much to commend it. Let’s also grant for the sake of argument that in addition to wanting to offer proposals that offer real hope, Ryan wants to dispel some of the stereotypes about Republicans not caring for the poor. That’s perfectly understandable and politically valid.

Yet with that said, why should he or anyone have to dispel a notion that is, itself, patently false?

Conservatives have long offered myriad proposals to help address issues of economic opportunity, educational failure, family collapse, and the struggles of millions of Americans wrestling with at-best modest incomes and dwindling hopes.

Yet the standard media narrative – heartless conservatives who pine for “orgiastic tax-cutting, the slashing of government programs, the championing of Wall Street” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/magazine/can-the-gop-be-a-party-of-ideas.html) – clings to the conservative movement like plastic wrap.

Why? Simply because so many in the “mainstream” media repeat it so often and, concurrently, so seldom report on the many ideas conservatives have generated that are designed to address intransigent social and economic problems. This is maddening, even if predictable, and also one of the principal reasons conservatives now operate their own print and electronic media outlets and networks.

Of course, sometimes a conservative spokesman will say something untoward or excessive. Pick a politician, Left or Right, who sometimes says things not almost immediately regretted. Do such offensive but incidental comments characterize entire movements, whole patterns of philosophy and ideas? No. Yet much too often, conservatives are portrayed as the purveyors of greed and callousness because of the few stupid statements of a few people.

Economic indicators cannot measure the values held by our children, or the suffering felt by broken families,” according to my old boss, U.S. Senator Dan Coats (R-IN). “We have discovered that our growing GNP also includes massive prison construction to house a lost generation, drug counseling in elementary schools, suicide hotlines, teen pregnancy centers, and clinics for battered children” (https://wikis.engrade.com/morality1/morality4).

The Senator said this in a speech in 1991. Since then, at least two things haven’t changed: The media’s general stereotyping of conservatives as heartless materialists, and their failure to report conservative ideas about how best to help our fellow citizens in need.

To death and taxes, perhaps media disinterest in conservative proposals should be added as an inevitability. This is not excuse for conservatives not to “stay in there pitching,” but a reminder that the next time you’re tempted to ask, “Why don’t conservatives say something about (pick your issue)?,” in all likelihood they already have.

New Video: Meriam Ibrahim Freed: Religious Freedom Activists Play Crucial Role

by FRC Media Office

July 24, 2014

Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins expressed deep gratitude and relief early this morning after learning that Meriam Ibrahim and her family arrived in Italy.


Meriam is a Sudanese Christian, married to a U.S. citizen, who was sentenced to death by a Sudan court for the “crime” of converting from Islam, and 100 lashes for “adultery.” Meriam spent months in a notoriously rank Sudanese prison with her 21-month-old son and her newborn daughter. More than 53,000 people signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition launched by FRC asking President Obama to grant her expedited safe haven in the United States. Yesterday, Perkins testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations regarding her case.

FRC’s Tony Perkins Urges for Meriam Ibrahim’s Release before House Subcommittee

by FRC Media Office

July 23, 2014

Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins testified today before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations regarding the case of Meriam Ibrahim.  You can read the testimony here.

Nearly 53,000 people signed a WhiteHouse.gov petition launched by FRC asking President Obama to grant her expedited safe haven in the United States.

Barack Obama and Constitutional Originalism

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 22, 2014

According to the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism, “Originalism is the view that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with its original meaning — that is, the meaning it had at the time of its enactment.”

Yep — that’s what conservatives believe. The written text had and has a defined meaning, alterable only by amendment. As Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) has written, “The Constitution itself is not a document of convenience. It specifies an onerous process — bicameralism and presentment — to pass legislation. It imposes a system of checks and balances among the branches. Perhaps most important, it limits the types of power the federal government can exercise.”

That’s not what President Obama believes, however. In his article, “A Brief History of Obama’s Biggest Constitutional Flops,” constitutional scholar Damon Root writes, “Despite his training as a former constitutional law lecturer, President Barack Obama continues to push dubious legal theories that fail to persuade even the most liberal justices to vote in his favor.”

Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Mr. Obama expressed great frustration with the “constraints” of the Constitution, observing of the Supreme Court under the late Chief Justice Earl Warren, “… the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, as least as it’s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted in the same way that, generally, the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.”

At least Mr. Obama admits, albeit grudgingly, that the Founders actually meant something definitive when they wrote the Constitution — even though the then-law school lecturer implies we need to “break free” of such limitations.

So it came as a surprise today when his spokesman cited original intent in chiding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for issuing a ruling stating that the wording of the Affordable Care Act does not give license to the federal government to “subsidize health insurance premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange.”

You don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “I think that was a pretty clear intent of the congressional law.”

So, now President Obama is concerned with the intention of federal law? Well, that’s great news. I wonder how that will apply to, say, the First and Tenth Amendments of the Constitution, which he has, up to now, only applied at best erratically. Their meaning, and the meaning of the Constitution generally, can be known through the Federalist Papers, James Madison’s “Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention in 1787,” and the ratification debates held in the states as the early Republic wrestled with whether or not to affirm the Constitution itself.

However, the original intent of any document is expressed in its text, not in what we wish it would be. And the text of Obamacare provides no basis for the federal subsidization of health insurance premiums for, again, “people in the three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange.”

You can’t have it all ways, Mr. President — either originalism based on the clear meaning of the text matters or it doesn’t.

Court Delivers another Blow to Obamacare

by Emily Minick

July 22, 2014

Earlier this month the Supreme Court ruled that the Obama Administration could not force family businesses, like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, to violate their conscience in order to earn a living.

Another blow to Obamacare was delivered by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals today in a 2-1 decision, Halbig v. Burwell, affirming that the Administration has to follow their own law, as written and can’t either make it up or change it as they go along. The court ruled that federal subsidies to assist individuals in purchasing insurance are only available to those who purchase healthcare through an exchange created by their state, not a federally created exchange in a state. The Affordable Care Act text is extremely clear, only individuals who live in states that have set up their own healthcare exchange are eligible to receive income subsidies to assist in lowering the cost of purchasing healthcare.

The problem is many states did not set up their own exchange for a variety of reasons, including the cost of developing and running an exchange, and in some cases because they disagreed with the principle of Obamacare in general. Even some states that did originally decide to set up a state exchange, like Oregon, later dissolved it due to high cost and joined the federal healthcare.gov exchange. This year, 36 states decided to forgo developing and creating their own state exchange and instead opted to have the government create an exchange to operate in their state. Recent news reports also say that Massachusetts, if their exchange is not working properly in time for upcoming 2015 enrollment this fall, will plan on joining the federal exchange in their state.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows for this possibility and says the federal government will create an exchange in the state if the state doesn’t. The issue is the ACA doesn’t say that money can go to the federally created exchange in those states. The Administration funded subsidies in these states anyway and thus the lawsuit with the option delivered today. Individuals in these 36 states who needed to purchase healthcare, if not provided by their employer, looked to the federally created exchanges to satisfy the individual mandate requirement. A recent study by HHS found that 87 percent of individuals who purchased healthcare on the federally created exchange were eligible to receive an income subsidy.

Now, this ruling could derail the entire Obamacare train.

  1. Plans on the healthcare exchanges were not as cheap as individuals originally thought they would be. Between high deductibles, high monthly premium costs, and lack of participating providers in certain designated areas, people did receive a sticker shock when they shopped on the marketplace last year. Now, if this ruling stands, individuals will not have the luxury of having the high cost of premiums masked by income subsidies if their state did not set up their own exchange.
  2. Assuming that no other states back out of operating their own exchange this upcoming plan year, individuals in 36 states will have to cover the entire cost of healthcare premiums on their own. This could result in thousands of individuals opting to pay the tax penalty rather than pay for the high cost of many of these exchange plans. If less people purchase healthcare, especially young people, there will be less healthy people in the pool, which could raise rates even more because healthcare insurance companies will have to compensate for the cost of covering pre-existing conditions.
  3. If there is one thing that Americans should realize about Obamacare by now, it’s that the executive branch does not have the power to write the law, enforce the law and interpret the law however it sees fit. The executive is in charge of faithfully executing the law. To date there have been 42 changes to Obamacare. Today’s ruling affirms that the President cannot change a law just because it is unpopular.

What does this ruling mean for average Americans? The ruling in Halbig v. Burwell affirms that the President cannot pick and choose what parts of the law he wants to follow. This ruling also illustrates to the American people that Obamacare really is as bad as Republicans said it would be. The Administration cannot mask high premiums, failed state exchanges, broken websites, and unenforced provisions with income subsides to those prohibited from receiving them according to the text of the Affordable Care Act.

Illiberal Liberalism

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 21, 2014

Last week, we witnessed the Left’s determination to enforce abortion-on-demand as the highest good of American society. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) held a hearing on his legislation that would “make it harder when not impossible for states to enforce measures that protect women as well as unborn children,” writes Thomas Messner. “In provision after provision S. 1696 puts not a thumb but a fist on the scales in favor of abortion providers and against both unborn children and mothers who face the fear and uncertainty of unexpected pregnancy.”

The Left has been losing the battle for the sanctity of life and the well-being of their mothers. Repeatedly, state and federal courts have upheld the right of states to limit access to elective abortion according to legal precedence, the Tenth Amendment, and simple decency.

Enraged, liberals like Sen. Blumenthal are seeking to vitiate entire bodies of law so as to impose their radical agenda of sexual autonomy and abortion at any stage of pregnancy (subsidized by the federal government, no less) on the American people.

This mentality informs not only the Left’s approach to abortion; it is much broader than that, sweeping across the political horizon: Liberalism’s illiberalism, its insistence on a program of extreme social change through whatever means — the courts, legislation, regulatory and tax policy, etc. — can achieve it, regardless of the will of the people or their elected representatives.

Following are some compelling quotes about illiberal liberalism, about the Left’s tantrum-like emphasis on coercing their fellow citizens into a regime of profound social transformation.

Government leaders routinely ignore laws they are sworn to uphold. This is more than intolerant. It is illiberal. It is a willingness to use coercive methods, from government action to public shaming, to shut down debate and censor those who hold a different opinion as if they have no right to their views at all.” Kim R. Holmes, Distinguished Fellow, Heritage Foundation

In some respects the Obama Democrats want to go further — and are complaining that they’re having a hard time getting there. Their form of liberalism is in danger of standing for something like the very opposite of freedom, for government coercion of those who refuse to behave the way they’d like.” Michael Barone, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Why are you expected to abandon your conscience the moment you step into the commercial world? Why is it mandatory to violate your liberty in order to protect the wishes of others? Indeed, why would a gay couple want, say, a Christian opposed to gay marriage to photograph their wedding or prepare their cake? It hardly seems the best way to ensure a satisfactory job. One suspects that it is an exercise in humiliation, an attempt to force those with unfashionable scruples to affirm what they reject. It is, in short, a calculated effort at intolerance.” Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

Conservatives are put into awkward positions of critiquing liberal ideas on grounds that they are impractical, unworkable, or counterproductive. Yet rarely, at least outside the religious sphere, do they identify the progressive as often immoral. And the unfortunate result is that they have often ceded moral claims to supposedly dreamy, utopian, and well-meaning progressives, when in fact the latter increasingly have little moral ground to stand upon.” Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Good Policy More Important Than Good Photos

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 16, 2014

President Obama is an intellectually curious man, and is to be applauded for this. He follows in the tradition of such giants of the mind as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Such curiosity is noteworthy both because of its relative rarity and its relevance to the job of President. Our Chief Executive should be intellectually engaged, particularly given the extensive, imperative, and complex problems facing our nation and our world.

That said, it is a bit alarming to read about Mr. Obama’s recent penchant for late night dinners with physicists and soccer team owners. Here’s how the New York Times captured it: “In a summer when the president is traveling across the country meeting with ordinary Americans under highly choreographed conditions, the Rome dinner shows another side of Mr. Obama. As one of an increasing number of late-night dinners in his second term, it offers a glimpse into a president who prefers intellectuals to politicians, and into the rarefied company Mr. Obama may keep after he leaves the White House” .

His preferences for company are perfectly fine; that is, in my view, not an issue. Rather, there is the issue of his disingenuousness. For example, Mr. Obama refuses to visit our border on the pretext he doesn’t want a “photo op,” something so unbelievable that even John Dickerson of Slate writes, “The issue is not his unwillingness to engage in this particular form of presidential art. He’s making a choice: when a photo-op isn’t to his advantage, he elevates avoiding it to a high-minded ideal” .

Every politician likes opportunities to be photographed and filmed to his or her advantage. This is about as radical as saying that water runs downhill: Good visuals are to politics what icing is to cake. So, claiming that he doesn’t want to appear in a crisis-laden region because he doesn’t want to exploit it for political purposes is, frankly, phony. He and his advisors might feel there is no upside to his going to the border politically; I suspect he’s not going because illegal immigration is a terribly difficult issue and he doesn’t want to be photographed anywhere near it. But to claim that he is above “photo-ops?” C’mon, Mr. President.

In addition, in the realm of bad visuals, it looks disturbing to see the President wining and dining with the world’s elite while Latino toddlers languish in wire-fenced cubicles in south Texas, as Israel is on the verge of war, as Russia seems poised to invade Ukraine, as many millions of Americans remain unemployed, underemployed, or too discouraged to look for work , and so on.

Eating with the wealthy and powerful in elite international locations is not the photo-op you want, Mr. President, or that America needs. Good visuals should be incidental to good policy. If Mr. Obama takes that to heart, his enduring record will be much more profound than good B-roll.

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