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


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.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Bowe Perplex

I am watching the unfolding of the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with some interest. We all welcome his liberation from captivity with the Taliban; however, there are three rather thorny aspects to the story, two of which, at least, have yet to be played out.

One is, of course, the testimony of his fellow soldiers that the sergeant willingly walked away from his guard post and delivered himself to the Taliban, having become disillusioned, or as he put it, disgusted, with America's role in Afghanistan. These fellow soldiers go on to point out that at least six of the sergeant's colleagues were killed in the attempt to rescue him. However, every combat situation is liable to be confused, and sometimes it is impossible to determine exactly what happened. The truth of all this remains to be seen, though I note that the mainstream media has been careful to distance itself from claims that the sergeant is a hero, pending, I suppose, the determination of whether he was, in fact, a deserter. It would be embarrassing, to say the least, if they trumpeted his heroism, only to see him eventually court-martialed for desertion or worse. (It is interesting to note that on this point, Secretary of Defense Hagel has refused comment.) But on these questions, all of us must wait for answers, and hope that they are forthcoming from the administration, which probably saw the sergeant's release as a no-lose situation, especially in light of the current VA scandal.

The second aspect to this story, however, is not in doubt: The president broke the law in negotiating for the sergeant's release in exchange for terrorist leaders held at Guantanamo, without first notifying Congress. Whatever may prove true of Sgt. Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban, the fact seems clear that, once again, this administration has shown its willingness to break the law when it sees fit to do so, and when it believes it can get away with it under cover from the media. I do not know how many times I have had to write on this blog about Mr. Obama violating the law and his oath of office, as he did, for example, when he unilaterally assumed the authority to condemn American citizens to death because of alleged terrorist associations, or as he continues to rewrite the health care law every few weeks to try to stave off its worst effects and failures. When he assumed office, he laid his hand on the Bible and swore to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He apparently added under his breath: Unless I disagree with them.

Now, Abraham Lincoln, whom I regard as the greatest of all American presidents, often intervened to grant pardons to young Union soldiers who had been condemned to death for desertion or falling asleep at their posts. Usually, he freed them with the understanding that they would return to their regiments and serve honorably for the duration of the war. He did this for two reasons: first, because he was a compassionate man, and second, because he had the authority to do so, given the power of the pardon. But even if you assume that President Obama shares Lincoln's compassion for soldiers, you cannot claim that he also has the power to do what he has done. The law is clear: He was required to notify Congress thirty days in advance of any such negotiation requiring the release of known terrorists. (If you want to argue that notifying Congress might have resulted in a leak that would have thwarted the affair, then you are simply echoing Obama's own logic; namely, that I will break the law on the grounds that obeying it might interfere with what I am doing. That Nixonian logic would be a slick defense for any criminal to offer in court.)

And here is the third aspect of this matter, which also remains unresolved: Will the release of five dangerous international terrorists, who have already shown their eagerness to murder Americans, have the consequence that we might well suspect it will? Will these men, once freed, resume their fanatical jihad against the people of this nation? I think the answer is clear: They will, the instant they have the ability to do so. And so we must ask ourselves: Has the Obama Administration purchased the life of one man, who may have voluntarily defected to the Taliban, at the cost of the lives of other Americans in the future? I fear that the answer may be Yes.

(Of course, if Sgt. Bergdahl's colleagues are correct, and he did desert to the enemy, then the irony of all this may be that we will see him freed from the Taliban only to be sentenced to prison in this country. That, however, I cannot imagine the administration will allow: To borrow a line from the novel Catch 22: He can either be a black eye or a feather in our cap. And to that end, it seems that several members of the sergeant's platoon have already been required to sign oaths not to discuss the matter.)

Whatever proves to be the case, the release of Sgt. Bergdahl thus presents us with a difficult perplex: Is it wise to trade the lives of captured soldiers for the freedom of captured terrorists? But more importantly: Should we excuse lawbreaking by the President of the United States in the name of a purported compassion?

Again, Lincoln provides the answer. In 1864, he acceded to General Grant's request to suspend the prisoner of war exchange with the Confederacy, which had been ongoing since the start of the war. Grant pointed out that Union prisoners, once freed, were released from the service, while Confederates were immediately returned to the fighting. This, Grant argued, only served to prolong the war, providing the Rebels with troops to make up for those they had lost, and whose loss they could not afford. Suspending the exchange was a difficult decision for Lincoln, but he bowed to Grant's logic and did so. The result was that over 50,000 men died in the camps as the result of starvation, disease, abuse and neglect. Thus, Lincoln made the decision that it was not justifiable to exchange our soldiers for those of the enemy, since that would only enable and encourage them to continue the fight.

Of course, Mr. Obama, who once was mystifyingly compared to Lincoln, does not see this. If it is true that Sgt. Bergdahl defected to the Taliban, for whatever reasons, and that six of his fellow soldiers died trying to recover him, and that more Americans will be murdered by the terrorist lunatics he has freed, then he and the rest of us may have cause to regret this release. But the overriding question remains that of presidential lawlessness, for that precedent will come back to haunt us in future. A commentator observed recently that Barack Obama is the kind of president that Richard Nixon dreamed of being. I am afraid he may be right.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cooked Books

At last, a scandal that may actually have some impact on the Obama Administration. Whistle blowers have confirmed what we have known for decades -- that the Veterans Administration's healthcare system is a cesspool of incompetence, corruption and sheer disdain for human suffering and need. 40 veterans have so far been identified as having died for lack or care, and because of abuse and neglect. And what began as one VA hospital in Arizona having been exposed for cooking the books to hide its incompetence and inhumanity, so that bureaucrats could collect their performance bonuses, has now grown to an investigation of over 30 facilities across the nation. The sweet little scam that these bureaucrats have been running is to create false lists of veterans who are claimed to have received medical care so that the bureaucrats might be rewarded for meeting their performance quotas. Meanwhile, the vets have been made to wait weeks, even months, for an appointment to see a doctor, and, in some cases that we now know of, have died as a result.

The president, of course, has claimed, as he always does, that he learned of this shocking state of affairs only when he read about it in the newspapers. Now, he has said the same thing with regard to several other scandals, declaring days or even weeks after the fact that the situation is "unacceptable," and that he is "mad as hell" about it. Empty rhetoric, lack of leadership, incompetence and unconcern: these are the Obama style. But, having campaigned on his determination to correct the disgrace at the VA, and having been in office for five and a half years, these particular chickens have come home to his Oval Office to roost. He cannot claim he knew nothing about it (his habitual excuse), since his administration had been warned several times about the situation at the VA hospitals, specifically in 2010 by the Government Accounting Office, which cited the phony waiting lists and faked treatment numbers. No, Obama cannot smile and shinny his way out of this one with the help of the media, for, even if some of us don't much care about reporters being harassed by the government, or citizens groups being targeted by the IRS, or guns being sold illegally to drug cartels in Mexico, or massive NSA spying, or American citizens being marked for summary execution without due process, or even about a U.S. ambassador being murdered in Libya, everybody cares about veterans and how they are treated. So this albatross, at least, has fallen firmly around President Obama's neck, and even his servants in the press can't seem to shake it off him.

But to me, the larger question is this: Who in this nation can fail to understand that the same kind of bureaucrats with the same attitudes toward their jobs and the public who created the scandal in the VA will also be responsible for the healthcare of all of us under Obamacare? If they would do this to veterans who need care urgently, what do you think they will do to the average guy who needs an appendectomy or just a routine checkup? Let me make this clear: Obamacare is in the charge of the federal bureaucracy, and, by and large, federal bureaucrats, as they have shown in the VA scandal, don't give a damn about people or their suffering or their rights. They care about their jobs, their bonuses and their pensions.

And if you think for one moment that such bland, anonymous functionaries aren't going to ration care and set up panels to enforce the rationing, and watch your dear Aunt Millie waste away and die because she's 85 after all and in chronic ill health and the quality of her life doesn't merit the effort to keep her alive, all you have to do is read Barack Obama's response to a journalist who asked him what we should do when an elderly and ill relative is denied the care she needs because there is not enough to go around. Did he outrage against the idea? Did he even try to deny it? No, he said in so many words that all you can do is help the person come to terms with her death and say goodbye. And this is because Obama is, himself, the uber-bureaucrat, incompetent, uncaring and capable only of phony, staged ire at the very behavior which he models from the top down.

The knee-jerk reaction of the liberals to any challenge to socialized medicine is to say (as was recently said to me), "So, you want to see people die!" No, I do not. But the foolishness of the assertion does not, apparently, dissuade leftists from making it. However, we are now seeing people die -- people who have served and, in some cases, risked their lives for the nation -- in the only government-run healthcare system that currently exists in America, the model for the single-payer national system that so many on the left desire. And if I am right, that Obamacare was merely a Potemkin-style way-station on the road to socialized medicine, then the VA system is what we all have to look forward to. Though the media will try to deny it, this is more than just another scandal of this corrupt administration: It is a warning to all of us.