Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Finest Week of Obama's Presidency

The gods are smiling on Barack Obama and he is basking in what can be called the finest week of his presidency. On June 24th, 25th and 26th Obama reaped victories that would cement his legacy and none was his own doing. Republicans in the Congress and Republican nominated Chief Justice John Roberts helped Obama have a legacy making week compared to a week earlier when his presidency looked not just lame duck but practically dead.

Obama rode to the White House in 2008 by presenting himself as the more populist candidate compared to Hillary Clinton. Obama shouted from rooftops about how Hillary had supported Bill Clintons massive trade bill, NAFTA. Hillary feebly protested that she had had reservations about the free trade bill that her husband continued to wave as legacy making bill and one that signifies the arrival of the new trade friendly Democratic leadership at the Oval office. Canada, one of the nations covered by NAFTA, was alarmed at Obama's shrill rhetoric and wondered if President Obama would shred NAFTA. Of course, candidate Obama was wiser and was fully aware that that was not his intentions and that his posture was just that, a posture, to win elections thanks to a gullible electorate that eagerly swallowed the bromides he freely dished while the press swooned at his feet. Nevertheless Obama dispatched, in secrecy, Austan Goolsbee, a key member of his economic policy team and one who would later serve his administration, to the Canadian embassy to assure America's neighbor that campaign rhetoric is not to be taken seriously. When news of such a visit leaked the press which should have thrown a fit at such brazen hypocrisy and chutzpah instead heaved a sigh of relief that their darling Prince was not Karl Marx after all and the electorate sleep walked into the voting booth to elect Obama as President. Unfortunately for him the dogs of war, that he unleashed against free trade bills and free trade as an economic policy, came to haunt him in 2015 as he prepared to sign a history making trade deal with a host of Asian countries.

Obama met his match in Elizabeth Warren in 2015. Warren, now hailed the new liberal lioness of the Democratic party, practically charged the hill and led a revolt by Democratic legislators against their own president in voting down the trade bill (TPP - Trans Pacific Pact). What was worse Warren made Obama look like he was a Republican out to sell the blue collar worker. Charges of secrecy and clandestine clauses flew thick and fast. Obama took to the airwaves with his signature haughtiness and addressing Warren by first name, Elizabeth, characterized her as 'just a politician'. Obama has this annoying habit of referring to everyone by their first names even during solemn occasions like their titles do not rank for him. Even when he nominated Kerry for Secretary of State he kept referring to him, not as 'Senator Kerry', but as 'John' like Kerry was a John of the street. The liberal press never minded all that until he did it one of their own idols like Warren. Obama's breaking point with his controversial pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright was when Wright referred to Obama as 'politician'. Running as one who sought to portray himself as not a run-of-the-mill politician to Obama that was a damaging characterization and a personal affront. Now, Obama uses what he considers an insult to belittle Warren. 'Just a politician'. The defeat of the TPP in the Senate sent shock waves in the Capital.

A notorious quote from Mitch McConnell, Republican minority leader of the Senate in 2008, that still circulates is one where he called on his party to ensure that Obama, the newly elected president, would be a 'one term president'. Democrats quote that remark to showcase how the GOP was unwilling to work with a newly elected president from the word go. Until 2014 mid-terms, when the GOP retook the Senate majority, the GOP was often, sometimes fairly too, blamed for blocking the president's agenda in Congress. However, there was always grumbling both within the White House and amongst GOP that the real spoiler in the senate was the pugnacious and pugilistic Senate majority leader Harry Reid (Dem-Nevada). When the GOP took over the Senate the liberal press and their ideological poodles dreaded a complete deadlocked governance. On the contrary Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan rode to Obama's rescue. They both told the White House to work on getting as many Democratic legislators on board while they use procedural tricks and plain bargaining to whip up the votes from the GOP. The White House, New York Times reported, was amazed to see the professionalism of McConnell and Ryan. Both McConnell and Ryan delivered Obama a GOP led victory on June 24th. As he touted the bill during a special press conference Obama conveniently forgot to thank the GOP.

Obama's signature legislative achievement, a pyrrhic victory when it was signed in 2009, was the healthcare overhaul that is now derisively referred to as 'Obamacare'. Hillary Clinton, who bears the scars of a bruising effort for a sweeping healthcare overhaul in Bill Clinton's presidency that almost derailed his presidency, presented a health care plan in 2008 that included mandating individuals to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Then candidate Obama blithely derided the mandate and railed against it despite every serious health care reformer saying that an 'individual mandate' is unavoidable if healthcare reform is to be undertaken. President Obama, as one would expect, gladly forgot candidate Obama's promises and overhauled America's gargantuan health care industry and the center piece of the legislation was an individual mandate. Hillary did not get a "I am sorry I was wrong" card.

Expanding healthcare to the many million uninsured was the key deliverable of the reform. America spends much on per capita health care than any industrialized rich economy with the results being just comparable to the rest. Bending the cost curve thus became a selling point. Obama went to town on both counts knowing fully well that, based on internal discussions, cost containment was not a feature of the plan and in fact it was not even certifiably possible. The healthcare roll out that happened, sadly after the 2012 election, was an unmitigated disaster. If the roll out had happened prior to the election Romney would've been elected in a landslide. Little wonder that Obama had legislated that the roll out happen after the election.

Just prior to the 2012 election a serious effort to shutdown Obamacare came in the form of a case challenging the individual mandate. When John Roberts was nominated by Bush to be Chief Justice of US Supreme Court then Senator Obama voted against him. But it was Roberts who rescued Obama that year by siding with the liberal majority on the bench to save the individual mandate, without which the entire Obamacare would collapse, by creatively and appropriately calling the fines a 'tax'. A second attempt to derail Obamacare then came up on a technicality of words used the legislation.

Obamacare, often presented as an innovative free-market reform with health exchanges where users can pick and choose insurers, also promised subsidies to those who cannot afford the premiums but, thanks to the individual mandate, are now compelled to buy insurance. Where State governments which were supposed to setup their own exchanges the federal government, the legislation stipulated, would do it for them. However, the legislation said that subsidies would be paid for those who bought insurance via 'state run exchanges'. GOP run states, naturally, did not setup their own exchanges and some Democrat run states like Maryland closed their state exchanges because they floundered and the federal exchanges served the customers in both cases. Customers now got subsidy irrespective of which exchange they bought insurance from. The law suit argued that customers are eligible for subsidies only when they bought it through state run exchanges and not when they buy from federal exchanges.

Obamacare enthusiasts like to boast about how many millions, previously uninsured, got healthcare now. 80% of Obamacare insurance customers receive some amount of subsidy from the federal government making it the largest wealth transfer in US history because the cost of those subsidies are paid by variety of people who are just a sliver of the tax payers.

While the case was grinding its way to the US Supreme Court a shocking revelation came to light. It is now commonly conceded that one of the big factors behind Romney's loss in 2012 was the video of him saying that 47% Americans do not pay taxes (a truth). Now a video surfaced of health care advocate and consultant to the White House, Jonathan Gruber, telling an audience that bending the cost curve as a reason to pass health care reform was fantasy and a cooked up one because if the truth, that only expanding access was the goal, nobody would've voted for it. In a further insulting comment Gruber praised the gullibility of the American voter, which, he said, helped in obfuscating the real goal and still being able to sell it. I'd call this Obama's "WMDs in Iraq" moment except in Bush's time nobody had indeed known there were no WMDs whereas here is a senior consultant who openly confessed that the bill was passed by blind siding the American voter by 'just politician' Obama. The revelations were a storm in a tea cup and Obama, abetted by a still fawning press, moved on.

On June 25th the US Supreme Court, again led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the man Obama voted against, saved the day for Barack Obama and the millions of Obamacare customers who are dependent on the subsidy. Roberts, aided by the liberal majority, finagled their way through with legalese and let the subsidies stand irrespective of which exchange a customer bought the insurance from. With this case Obamacare's place is secured. Many of the taxes in Obamacare actually go into effect after the 2016 presidential elections thus yet another time gullible American voters can vote for a democrat while they are blissfully unaware of the price tag of this gargantuan legislation. And even if they are aware of the price tag why should they care because, after all, its the minority hard working rich who'll pony up the price.

It is funny to watch Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and the democrats latch on the gay marriage issue in an attempt to portray the GOP as bigots. It was Bill Clinton, eager to appear as the new Democrat, who signed the now much maligned 'Defense of Marriage Act' which defined marriage as a heterosexual union. In 2008 candidate Obama affirmed his faith in marriage being the union of a heterosexual couple. It was politically inconvenient in 2008 for Obama to say otherwise and hence the politician said what was needed to win the election. 'Just a politician'. In 2012 Joe Biden, as Vice President, blurted out, as he often does, that Obama actually might support same-sex marriage. Now Obama was outed and had to come out. In a breezy interview Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage. While discussing the repeal of the even more notorious Clintonian compromise that was called 'don't ask don't tell' practice in the US army, being his own narcissistic self, Obama referred to the US army as "they fight for me". More than the backlash from GOP Obama was worried about the backlash from within the Black Churches, many of which were staunchly opposed to same-sex marriages. Obama called black pastors and asked for their support before he came out in support of same-sex marriage.

On June 26th the US Supreme Court ruled that states cannot bar same-sex marriages by passing laws against them. Now Roberts joined the minority conservative judges and demurred that the US Supreme Court had no business deciding which kind of marriage is legal because there is simply no constitutional question involved. The ruling nevertheless pretty much has ensured that same-sex marriage is here to stay in USA. And that's good.

Thus came to a close a historic week that in 3 days pretty much ensured far reaching decisions were made. This may very well be Obama's finest week before he rides into the sunset. As I write this a historic deal with Iran is closed. Whether it'll pass the Congress remains to be seen and whether the deal will deliver its promise of a nuclear free Iran, for at least decade, remains to be seen. Asked about the deep and valid concerns by many about Iran's intentions to honor the deal and the unthinkable consequences if Iran welches on the deal Obama, the narcissus incarnate, replied "the deal has my name on it" so if it goes south in 20 years "me legacy" will be tarnished. The man's hubris is breathtaking. Little does he realize that it is no consolation to the millions of Soviet dead that it was Molotov's tarnished named on the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Little does Mr. Narcissus realize that the Brits who died in World War II did so thinking of Nevill Chamberlain's 'peace in our time'. For the sake of the peace of the world lets hope the Iran deal stands.

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