Friday, January 30, 2015

Good Legs, Bad Legs

I was thinking the other day that it is good that George Orwell isn't alive to see what's happening. Then I reflected that perhaps it would be better if he was; he might actually have something to say about it. Perhaps he could snap us out of the stupor into which we've fallen... and make it clear whether two legs or four legs are, in fact, better.

Only the most recent examples:

The White House has begun an advertising campaign to support the President's illegal alien amnesty executive order. Now, the President had stated on over twenty separate occasions that he did not have the Constitutional authority to issue such an order. I heard him say it myself. Yet, when he did issue the order, he claimed that it was within his Constitutional authority to do so.

Two legs or four?

The thrust of the current PR campaign is to convince the American public that amnesty is good for the economy. Yet just six years ago in one of his memoirs (how many is a man entitled to?), the President stated that amnesty for illegals would be bad for the economy.

Four legs or two?

The President celebrated the release of Sgt. Bergdahl in a Rose Garden ceremony, and his National Security adviser declared on television that he had served honorably and with distinction. Now the Army has concluded that he was a deserter and will bring charges against him, and the White House is doing everything it can to prevent both the release of the findings and the pressing of charges. "Bergdahl is a hero," runs the logic, "and so we must not allow the public to know that he is a deserter."

Two legs or four?

And now, in the latest Orwellian contortion of logic, the Administration declares that the Taliban are not a terrorist organization. These are the same Taliban who offered a safe haven to Al Qaeda in Iraq from which 9/11 was planned, who have carried on an unrelenting and merciless campaign of terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who shot a Nobel Peace Prize winning child in the head for trying to attend school, who slaughtered an entire school full of children, and who, just yesterday, murdered two Americans in an attack on an airbase disguised as Afghan soldiers. They are the same Taliban who stone women to death for adultery, cut off the hands of thieves, and behead people in soccer stadiums for violating Sharia law. They are, by any conceivable definition of the word, among the most dangerous terrorists in the world. Yet, as of today, according to Mr. Obama's press secretary, they are not a terrorist organization, they are an "armed insurgency."

And why? The Administration negotiated with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban terrorist leaders. But the longstanding policy of the United States has been that we do not negotiate with terrorists. Yet we did negotiate with the Taliban, and so, deductively, the Taliban must not be terrorists. They are, instead, an armed insurgency. Just like the Continental Army.

Four legs or two?

Orwell made famous the question of how many legs are good, how many bad, to make the point that some leaders will distort logic to any extent necessary to serve their personal and political agendas. Doing so has been a hallmark of the Obama Administration. And allowing this President to get away with such egregious lies and contradictions has been a hallmark of the media which did so much to put him, and keep him, in office. It should come as no surprise to anyone that a President who boasted that he had campaigned in 57 states cannot tell the difference between two legs and four. And mercifully, he will be gone in a year and a half. What troubles me is that the same servile media who have covered for him these past six years will still be in place after he is gone.

And Hillary Clinton looms.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kim and Sony

I suppose it is time for me to comment on the Sony Pictures hacking scandal. Now, before I begin, I must say that I have worked on many projects at Sony, and I have long regarded their executive team as one of the best and brightest in the studio system. For me, SPE is a kind of second home in the film business. In particular, Amy Pascal, the co-CEO, whom I have known for some twenty years, has become a good friend. I consider her to be among the most honorable, intelligent, sincere, honest and supportive executives in the industry, and her friendship is among the proudest possessions of my career.

Now to hear her pilloried in the press by people who cannot even pronounce her name properly is painful to me. On the strength of a few casual, joking remarks about the President's taste in films, she has been branded a racist. This accusation is obscene. Amy Pascal has given more opportunities and breaks to people of color than anyone I know in the business. There is not a racist instinct in her being. But such is the reflexive venom and vulture-like mercilessness of the cable news cycle.

To my mind there are two principal questions that arise out of the hacking scandal. The first is: Why was The Interview made in the first place? It appears to be a silly, shallow comedy, scarcely worth local attention, let alone international debate. Now I am aware, perhaps more than most, that the studios routinely crank out such glossy insignificance. But why, through the years-long production process, did no one say: Change the dictator's name. We all would have known who was being referred to, and the whole mess might have been avoided.

The answer is a phenomenon I have often observed in Hollywood: Once a film is green-lighted and goes into production, no one asks any of the fundamental questions anymore. There is simply too much at stake: millions of dollars, hundreds of jobs, dozens of careers. So if anyone (like me, for instance - I am famous for it), dares to raise a basic question, such as: Is this necessary? Does this make sense? Is it any good? Isn't it stupid or dangerous? he or she (usually me) is simply fired. Once the giant engine of production is set in motion, no one is allowed to derail it with even a hint of reality. Now, we all know that, like the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, the government of North Korea has no sense of humor. And yet no one at Sony appears to have said: Won't making this film have serious political repercussions? It simply reinforces a point I have long argued -- that if any other business were run like the film business, it would be out of business.

The second question that arises is: Why did Sony decide to pull the film? I thought at the time, and I still think, that the correct course would have been to put the film into as wide a release as possible, challenging the public to rally to it as an affirmation of the power of free speech, even if it meant charging a buck for admission. That the public would have responded appears to be proved by the fact that The Interview has made fifteen million in its secretive, selective release. People seem to want to see it precisely because the North Koreans have threatened reprisals (though there is absolutely no evidence that the hackers are capable of carrying out such violence).

The Interview might thus have been transformed from an embarrassment into a cause célèbre, a rallying point for those of us who refuse to be intimidated by bullies and tyrants. Instead, Sony compounded the fiasco by seeming to cave in to pressure from, of all places, Pyongyang. This craven capitulation before thuggishness sets a very dangerous precedent that goes beyond Sony and even the film business: it represents nothing less than an abandonment of faith in the principle of free speech in face of official intimidation.

And so I think that Sony's decision not to release the film, based on the apparent unwillingness of theater chains to distribute it, was a serious mistake, but a fairly typical response of institutional self-preservation. When push comes to shove, protect the institution. This, to my thinking, reveals a deeper fault than even the hackers could have exposed; namely, that the instinct of any corporate body in the face of moral crisis is not courage but fear; not self-examination but self-defense.

This is the same reflex that was exhibited by the Catholic Church and Penn State in response to their child sex abuse scandals, and it is always self-destructive. What Sony really needs to learn from this experience, it seems to me, is not how to revamp its technology, but its corporate courage.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Which Ones Are the Roses?

I have from time to time quoted here from my favorite poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, both from his published poems and from his diaries and notebooks. With regard to the latter, I have made the point that they contain prose that is finer and more lyrical, more poetical and profound, than most other writers' polished work. And yet these were notes that he jotted down, usually inspired by his observations of Nature.

I read from Hopkins every day, and just yesterday I came across the following notebook entry (October 29, 1870), prompted by an early frost:

...I found one morning the ground in one corner of the garden full of small pieces of potsherd from which there rose up (and not dropped off) long icicles  carried on in some way each like a forepitch of the shape of the piece of the potsherd it grew on, like a tooth to its root for instance, and most of them bended over and curled like so many tusks or horns or, best of all and what they looked likest when they first caught my eye, the first soft root-spurs thrown out from a sprouting chestnut. This bending of the icicle seemed so far as I could see not merely a resultant, where the smaller spars of which it was made were still straight, but to have flushed them too.

And a few days before, he noted this about the flood of the nearby river:

...Yesterday it was a sallow glassy gold at Hodder Roughs and by watching hard the banks began to sail upstream, the scaping unfolded, the river was all in tumult but not running, only the lateral motions were perceived, and the curls of froth where the waves overlap shaped and turned easily and idly... Today the river was wild, very full, glossy brown with mud furrowed in permanent billows through which from head to head the water swung with a great down and up again. These heads were scalped with rags of jumping foam. But at the Roughs the sight was the burly water-backs which heave after heave kept tumbling up from the broken foam and their plum heap turning open in ropes of velvet...

As I have remarked before, no one sees the world in this way anymore. We are losing our sense of Nature, and with it, our sense of our own humanity. Earlier in my life this numbing disconnect was a question of speed and an obsession with productivity and materialism. Now, increasingly, it is a question of technology. Everywhere I turn, people's faces are fixated on miniature screens, of cell phones and iPads and laptops. Even at the dinner table people not only do not talk to one another, they no longer so much as look at one another, so fascinated are they by the virtual reality in their palms. And this palmistry, I fear, bodes the future. Yet it is nothing new.

Recently I read with my son Ray Bradbury's short story "The Veldt" about children in his imagined future so addicted to the fantasy world of their electronic devices that they lose all sense of humanity, morality, even reality. They prefer the pixilated projections on the walls of their room to contact with their fellow human beings, even with their parents. And that, in Bradbury's story, results in tragedy.

Our current obsession with a miniature video world is, I think, stripping us slowly but surely of an essential aspect of our humanity: the ability to see Nature, and to understand that we are a part of it, and not of the virtual flat-screen world. That manufactured world is an adjunct to our consciousness, not an expression of our essence. And while that adjunct is useful and entertaining, the essence is what we are and why we are on Earth. To the extent that the virtual world is supplanting the Natural world, especially in the lives of our children, our future is in peril.

We must, I believe, rescue our young people from the addiction to electronics just as we would from an addiction to nicotine or alcohol. For both serve to dull and distort and destroy consciousness, and with consciousness go morality and humanity.

Hopkins clearly understood that Nature is the affect of the divine; that through it we gain an understanding not only of ourselves, but of that transcendent reality from which our souls spring. Nature, in his view, is what connects us to the truth about our humanity - our human nature: that it is beautiful and ordered, spontaneous and meticulously plotted and paced by a spirit that both infuses us on Earth and summons us to eternity. For him, Nature is a mirror in which our destiny is reflected.

Now, I am not saying that we should all go gazing at the icicles, but we must retain a basic understanding of and sensitivity to the world of Nature around us. We ought to encourage our children to spend at least some time learning about Nature, and to looking at it and thinking about it; time, in effect, to take the world outside into our world within. If we do not, I fear, that Nature within us will wither and die.

Not long ago I asked a young friend of mine to look after my garden while I was out of town. As it was very hot, I asked her to please water the roses. She looked at me with a bland expression and inquired, "Which ones are the roses?"

Wake up and smell them? She couldn't even dream of them. And that, in itself, is a tragedy.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Stunned...

In watching television news, I find myself experiencing more and more frequently a moment of stunned silence.

Just now, while getting ready to pick up my son at school, I turned on CNN and watched a senior correspondent report that government officials had been saying that the besieged Syrian city of Kobani was of no importance. It was, she quoted them as saying, "just a spot on the map." But now all that has changed, she went on to say, "because ISIS wants it, and we don't want them to have it."

...

(The ellipsis represents my moment of stunned silence.)

It is the fact that the enemy wants a city or town or bridge or anything that makes it important! Gettysburg was just a spot on the map, until the enemy wanted it. Passchendaele was just a spot on the map until the enemy wanted it. El Alamein was just a spot on the map until the enemy wanted it. It is not the place, but the enemy's intention to occupy that place that makes it a military objective.

Yet the senior CNN reporter dutifully recounted the inane proposition that Kobani, which has been under attack for weeks, is only now of military importance "because the enemy wants it."

Does anybody know anything anymore? Will public officials and media personalities say anything, no matter how stupid and pointless and misleading, as long as someone in authority has said it to them first? Where has this vapidity come from?

Recently, the head of the Centers for Disease control, a respected physician, was asked by a Congressional panel whether it was possible to contract Ebola from someone sitting next to you on a bus. He replied, No, you can't get Ebola from someone on a bus. He then went on to add that, if you are sick with Ebola, you should not get on a bus, because you could give it to someone else.

...

You can't get Ebola from someone on a bus, but you can give Ebola to someone on a bus?! And the media dutifully reported this. Not dismissed it, not laughed at it, but passed it on to the public. It makes you want to scream.

We didn't used to be this way. As I recall, public officials and news people used to say things that actually contained some truth, or at least some common sense. Or perhaps I'm just mis-remembering or being romantically nostalgic. But wasn't making patently false and meaningless statements what got Richard Nixon fired? Wasn't that what Watergate was all about: the fact that our leaders could not just look us in the eye and lie or say something transparently stupid, and get away with it? When did that change?

As always, I think, it comes from the top. President Obama has lied about so many things so many times and gotten away with it so often, that everyone who works for him or reports on him simply falls into line. Another lie? Go on, they'll buy it. Another meaningless declaration? Why not? They're not smart enough to know the difference.

The president's most recent statement on Ebola made it clear to me at least that he has no idea what he is talking about, and, to my relief, at least one national news commentator had the courage to say so publicly. While insisting that he would not impose a travel ban on people from the affected countries, Obama repeated the inane assertion that doing so would just make things worse. For whom? For us?! Keeping a deadly disease for which there is no vaccine out of the US will help protect us, not threaten us! A six year old could tell you that. We do not allow health care workers who have had contact with an Ebola patient to get on an airplane and travel anywhere. Why should we allow foreign nationals from the affected countries to get on airplanes and come here?

But Obama mouthed what is now the party line (a line written for him, no doubt, by some aide) that a travel ban would make it harder to get medical personnel and supplies into West Africa. Let me put this in capital letters so no one can misunderstand: NOBODY IS SAYING BAN MEDICAL AID FLIGHTS! That would be foolish, and would make things worse. Simply stop issuing visas for the US to people living in the affected countries. That way, no matter what country they travel to on the way, they would not be able to get from there to here. Is that clear enough, Mr. President?

It is insane, even criminal, for the State Department to continue to issue visas to people from countries which are experiencing an Ebola epidemic. But John Kerry, bumbler that he has proved to be as Secretary, is no doubt merely following the line spouted by Obama, who, himself, has doubtless not even examined the stupidity of it, just as he did not read his intelligence summaries on ISIS.

And what of the 3600 US service members who are being sent to West Africa? They have been given four hours of training in infectious disease (which is four more than the new Ebola Czar has), and yesterday, a government official hinted that they might come into contact with infected people, contradicting previous assertions. What happens when they come back? They will be quarantined for twenty-one days, yet the World Health Organization says that the incubation period may in fact be sixty-one days. So we may have dozens, perhaps hundreds of at-risk people being released into the population with forty days of incubation period left. And from the president on this critical question? Nothing. Because he does not know; because he cannot lead; because he is clueless.

Meanwhile, America is, apparently, just a spot on the map, which the enemy - either or ISIS or Ebola, or both - wants. That makes us a target. And I for one do not want them to have it.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Oaths of Office

We are now at war again, and again in the Middle East. I reflect with great melancholy that this nation has been at war, hot or cold, in one place or another, the entire length of my lifetime. Now comes Barack Obama, who was elected on an oath of getting us out of war, easing us into his second. Does anyone remember Libya, and the pathetic precedent of "leading from behind"? In that war, there were only four casualties (still unaccounted for), and in this one, in which Obama swears to use air power alone, he hopes there will be none.

Obama, it seems, believes that it is OK to get into a war, so long as no one gets hurt. Well, that is just stupid. Every military expert I have heard has said that his strategy to deal with ISIS will not work, that air strikes alone will not work, that ground troops are inevitable. Yet Obama continues to swear to us, right up to the eve of an election, that no American ground forces will be involved. Keep in mind, of course, that the Pentagon has admitted to the presence of some 1600 American troops on the ground already, which raises the question: How many boots on the ground constitute 'boots on the ground'? Clearly, in Obama-math, it is not 1600. Is it 2000? 5000? 16,000? He will not say; and he will not say because, I think, he does not know, or want to know.

I am reminded of one of the more macabre moments in the Nixon Administration when, having been assured solemnly by Tricky Dick that there were no American ground forces in Laos, we learned that the bodies of American servicemen were being retrieved from that country. Nixon sent out his press secretary, the hapless Ron Ziegler, blandly to inform the public that "Those reports do not contradict the president's statement." The corpses be damned; believe the president!

Apart from all the violated oaths and broken promises, our truth remains that Barack Obama emerged from the boondocks of Chicago politics with nothing but a smile, a Harvard degree, and a catchy slogan. But now that Hope and Change have revealed themselves to be haplessness and chicanery, can we all not just admit that the president is clueless, has always been clueless, will always be clueless? That in six years in office he has learned nothing, that he has no more executive skills or ability to lead now than when he assumed office? That a quip once made about Ronald Reagan is true of Barack Obama: His learning curve doesn't. But, you say, Gwyneth Paltrow thinks he's super, and should have dictatorial powers.

I rest my case.

In the last century, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury predicted that we would eventually reach a state of perpetual war. This would be so in order to justify increasing government power and subversion of individual liberty, and to cover for the scurrilous incompetence of pseudo-leaders. Well, my friends, does it not seem that the dire-est predictions of yesterday's science fiction have become our reality? And does it not appear now that the darkness the literary pessimists described is crowding around us even as I write? Someone observed that Obama is the president that Richard Nixon dreamed of being, and I agreed with the observation. Now, however, I would go farther, and say that Obama is the phenomenon that Orwell and Bradbury feared: amiable incompetence coupled with corruption, hubris, deceit, and unconcern.

I think it is only when the twin crises of ISIS and Ebola become one; that is, when ISIS begins using virus as a weapon of war, that the great mass of our citizenry will finally stir itself into active consciousness that our purported leaders are failing in their most basic Constitutional duty - to keep us safe. In the meanwhile, Barack Obama remains president, still grinning, still lying, still in over his head, and having repeatedly broken the most important promise of all - his oath of office.

The Real Crisis is Confidence

I have been silent on all of the events of recent weeks, simply because there has seemed to me no point in commenting on them. Things in this country stumble and stagger from bad to worse, with no hint of leadership in sight and no sense of direction. However, yesterday came the straw that finally broke the back of my silence.

I told my twelve year old son that President Obama had succumbed to public pressure and appointed someone to head the national effort to prevent the Ebola virus from erupting inside America. I asked him what he thought the minimum qualification for such a person should be. "He should be a doctor," he replied. "A doctor who specializes in what?" I asked. "Infectious diseases," he said.

I then told him that the man Obama had chosen for this critical post has neither qualification; in fact, he is a political hack, a vice-presidential staffer and lobbyist, with absolutely no background, experience, or expertise in any field of medicine or public health.

I put it to you that if a bright twelve-year-old can see that a doctor specialist ought to have been chosen for the job of "Ebola Czar," why couldn't the President of the United States see it? I have argued here since 2009 that Barack Obama is incompetent (and he has demonstrated this fact to anyone who has been paying attention), but this goes beyond incompetence; this is idiocy. Dangerous idiocy.

The only rationale that I have heard for this inexplicable choice came from one of the president's few remaining defenders. "They trust him at the White House," she said. Well, the problem it seems to me is not whether they trust one another at the White House, but whether we trust them. Judging by every single poll one could cite, that is the real problem, and this appointment has only made it worse.

And now, it seems, this Ebola Czar, whose unpreparedness for power rivals that of Nicholas II, will report, not to Obama, but to Susan Rice! This is the same Susan Rice who stated on national television that the Benghazi attack was prompted by a video (since proved untrue), and stated on national television that Sgt. Bergdhal served with honor and distinction (since proved untrue), and stated on national television that the Turkish government had agreed to allow us to use their bases to fight ISIS (immediately proved to be untrue). Fecklessness reporting to fatuousness -- that should inspire confidence in the American public.

(And today we learn that the president called an Ebola summit at the White House... and the new Ebola Czar did not attend. The idiocy becomes imbecility.)

I could catch myself up, I suppose, by pointing out the ISIS debacle, in which the president dismissed the savages as amateurs only to find them within months the single greatest terrorist threat we have ever faced. And then, in typical fashion, he put the blame for his ignorance and inaction on his intelligence agencies, which, as it turns out had been warning him about ISIS for two years. We then learned that Obama, who said himself that his greatest failing is laziness, had not been reading his intelligence briefings. In other words, he had not been doing his homework, which is something I would never tolerate in my twelve-year-old. 

I could remind my readers that after an American journalist was beheaded on television by these same amateur whiz-kids, that Obama took a moment from his Martha's Vineyard vacation to issue a pro-forma expression of outrage, and immediately resumed his round of golf. And that during the ISIS buildup, when they were occupying a third of Iraq, he launched into a series of political fundraisers, which seems to be his instinctive response to any crisis.

I could mention, too, that we did, in fact, have what is being called an Ebola Czar (or Czarina), in a Dr. Nicole Laurie, an official of the federal government charged with preparedness for something just like Ebola, who has not been seen or heard from since the crisis started. What we do know about her is that she detoured money intended to find an Ebola vaccine to the company of a Democratic donor for research into smallpox. 

The level of corruption, incompetence, callous indifference, and hubris in the Obama Administration is stunning. What other president would have been allowed to get away with this, with the collusion of the mainstream media? What chief executive of any country in the world that was not actually exporting bananas and cocaine could remain in office given this woeful track record? 

In Britain, and in other parliamentary systems, there is such a thing as a vote of No Confidence. Such votes are taken when events have overwhelmed the government to such an extent that the public no longer has confidence in its ability to lead. I submit that that moment has now arrived in this nation, and, had we the ability to take a No Confidence vote, Obama would be back organizing on the South Side of Chicago from whence he came (and what evidence do we have that he did even that effectively?)

But our Founders, in their wisdom, and, I suspect, in their desire for greater stability in government, did not invest us with the power simply to vote the emperor out of office when he was revealed to have no clothes at all. And so, the best we can hope for is that the Republicans take control of the Senate, resulting in total gridlock in government, and in this way, prevent Barack Obama from doing any more damage than he has already done. 

Then, after a sterile and frustrating two years, we can put him out to pasture on the golf course, which is what he seems to prefer anyway.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Where is Gore?

I remember, during the depths of Watergate, a remark made by the novelist Gore Vidal. Commenting on the fact that some people were still defending Richard Nixon despite all the evidence of his paranoia and perfidy, Vidal said: Richard Nixon could go on national television and strangle his wife Pat to death, and there would be some people who would say, 'No, no... he didn't strangle her; she fainted and he was holding her up by her neck.'

I mention this because I find myself wondering why there is still anyone who will defend Barack Obama at this point in his presidency. And yet, despite all the evidence of his incompetence and the corruption and ineptitude of his administration, there are still those, especially in the mainstream media, who leap to his defense with each unfolding crisis and scandal. A commentator yesterday was talking about how feckless, weak, ineffectual and corrupt is the prime minister of Iraq. He might as well have been talking about the President of the United States.

Just consider the events of the past few weeks. The Veterans Administration has erupted in a scandal exposed by whistle-blowers whose consciences no longer permitted them to watch veterans die while VA hospital bureaucrats lied, falsified reports and collected performance bonuses. Now, cleaning up the mess at the VA was an issue on which Mr. Obama ran in his first campaign, and, five and a half years later, nothing has been done. Five leading Taliban commanders have been released in exchange for one American soldier, which the president trumpeted in a Rose Garden ceremony, and then, when the facts began to emerge about both the soldier and the terrorists, he attempted a whole series of lies to try to cover up the blunder. We are now witnessing the collapse of the country of Iraq, after 4500 American deaths and a trillion dollars of expense, and there are currently some 60,000 illegal immigrant children being warehoused on the border in a humanitarian crisis of our own making, and what did the president do? He went to California to raise funds and play golf (yes, yet another golfing vacation in the face of crises).

(On the question of the media response to Obama's blunders, I should point out that while the ISIS terror group had occupied about a third of Iraq, had taken its second largest city (population two million) and was driving on Baghdad, and while every other news source, reporter and expert was predicting the collapse of Iraq, MSNBC characterized the situation as "an outburst of insurgency" in which "a few towns had been taken" by the terrorists. Why this marginalizing and minimizing of the situation? Because MSNBC is nothing but a mouthpiece for the Obama Administration, and the facts messily contradicted the president's recent statements to the effect that terrorism was in decline, Al Quaeda had been defeated and the world has never been safer or more free from violence. This is shameful behavior on the part of NBC, the exact opposite of the principle enshrined by the Founders in the idea of a free press.)

And now what has happened? In the Congress's attempt to get, finally, to the bottom of the IRS scandal, that agency has reported that critical emails of Lois Lerner, whose continued silence stands at the center of the scandal, have been lost. Two years worth of emails! Richard Nixon "lost" eighteen minutes of tape and was impeached for it, but Obama's agents lose two years worth of documents, and the mainstream media registers barely a burp.

I am reminded of the fact that the filmmaker Michael Moore literally counted down the minutes that President Bush hesitated after being informed of the 9/11 attack. Yet Barack Obama was absent for eight hours during the Benghazi attack, and to this day we do not know where he was and what he was doing while four Americans were fighting and dying at their posts. Not deserting their posts, mind you, but manning them and defending them to their deaths. That is why it struck me as nothing less than blasphemy when Mr. Obama tried to explain the exchange of five mass murderers for Sgt. Bergdahl on the solemn grounds that we leave no man behind. Well, he damn well left Ambassador Stephens and his men behind in Benghazi. And what did the president do when at last he surfaced the next morning? He went to Las Vegas for a fundraiser and, no doubt, a round of golf. I am reminded of Governor Christie's question: What are we paying him for? Mr. Obama has yet to grasp the fact that he was elected as commander-in-chief, not fund raiser-in-chief or duffer-in-chief.

I lived through the depths of Watergate and remember those times vividly. The night of the Saturday Night Massacre, when the U.S. reached its gravest Constitutional crisis since the Civil War, we were all gathered around the television in a state of disbelief and fear. Yes, fear, since we knew that Richard Nixon, at that moment, was capable of anything. I am reaching that same state of fear now as I watch these scandals and crises unfold, and observe the implacable unwillingness of the mainstream media to acknowledge them for what they are: Irrefutable proof of the dishonesty, hypocrisy and dangerous ineptitude of this administration. The only difference between this time and Watergate is that Richard Nixon was capable of anything, while Barack Obama seems capable of nothing. That fact alone may yet save us.

I have written before that I have never in my lifetime seen such a leadership vacuum at the top of the American government as I am witnessing now. And that vacuum, like some horrible black hole of incompetence and scandal, seems to be growing every day, becoming denser and sucking more and more of our liberty and security into its gravitational maw. Not long ago, the Belgian people could not gather themselves sufficiently to choose a prime minister, and for some months the country carried on without one. At that time, I wondered aloud how long the United States could function without a president. We now have the answer: five and a half years. But the time has run out, and even as we watch the collapse of the Iraqi regime which we sacrificed so much to establish, we are also witnessing the collapse of the Obama Administration, which will also cost us, and the rest of the world, dearly before it is complete.