Thursday, December 8, 2016

Bob Barr

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congress

No sooner had the election results rolled in late last Tuesday night, heralding a Donald Trump victory and continued Republican control of both houses of the Congress, than many Republicans began calling on Speaker Ryan to get the House ready to start passing Trump’s agenda. The better call would have been to remind both Ryan and Trump that it is not when the House of Representatives serves as a rubber stamp for the President, that good and fiscally conservative actions result. Rather, it is when there is a degree of positive tension between the House majority and the President of the same or a different party that the system constructed many decades ago by our Founders, actually works best.

It is a team effort, to be sure, and President Trump has every right to press for enactment of his legislative and fiscal agendas. But Paul Ryan, as Speaker and Leader of the House of Representatives, has an equally important responsibility to ensure that the President’s agenda fits within the budgetary and legislative agendas of the House and of the majority of members elected thereto. Truly, the last thing President Trump should want, is a Speaker who salutes and says “Yessir” whenever the President calls.

While many students of history focus on the differences between the House and the Senate in terms of their procedural powers; the perhaps more relevant focus should be on the relationship between the House of Representatives and the President.

Recent history is full of examples of the bad things that happen when the House forgets or willfully ignores its separate responsibility to carefully consider and amend a president’s legislative proposals; or blindly pushes a president’s budgetary proposals simply because that president happens to be of the same political party as the majority. President George W. Bush’s vaunted “No Child Left Behind Act,” sent to the House in January 2001 and rushed though both houses with little real consideration, turned out to be a law widely panned by educators and many Republicans as costly and unworkable.

Just a couple of years later, Bush demanded the GOP-controlled House pass the prescription drug benefit bill, despite cries by conservatives that its projected costs were drastically and artificially under-estimated. It passed, and has in fact turned out to be hugely more expensive than the Bush Administration’s projections.

The good news is that in Trump and Ryan, there appears to be the ingredients for success in this regard. For one thing, and unlike the current President who almost never dismounted from his high horse to climb the steps of Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress (even of his own Party), Trump shows no such arrogance. In fact – and as he notes in his books – Trump enjoys the art of negotiating; a critical component of good legislation. Moreover, he respects a tough and informed adversary and is disposed to run roughshod over weak opponents – a characteristic some of his early GOP Primary opponents recognized too late.

Ryan, too, seems to have a good head for negotiating; although his job in a Trump-Ryan tete-a-tete will be more difficult since Trump only has one point of view (his) to worry about, while Ryan has many to keep in mind and in line.

The House and its leadership must never forget that its fiscal responsibility is owed not to the incoming or any president, but to the people and the future of our country. Thus, and here again unlike during the first Administration of George W. Bush, if President Trump asks the House to pass a budget that, for whatever great reasons he cites, busts the budget and increases the federal deficit, Ryan must say “No.” As we recall, it took less than two budget cycles for new President Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress to bust the balanced budget so laboriously crafted in 1997 between then-Speaker Gingrich and then-Democratic President Bill Clinton; and Washington has never looked back since.

The runaway budget deficits that became a hallmark of the George W. Bush Administration were a primary factor in the GOP losing control of the House in 2006 for two cycles; and it was in those few years that Obamacare became law, Dodd-Frank was enacted, and all manner of other legislative and executive actions decisions made, which now are ripe to be addressed and undone.

America is on the cusp of an historic opportunity to once again enact constitutionally- and fiscally-sound legislative and budget measures. While it may appear counter-intuitive, to aid in accomplishing this, President Trump should resist demanding a House of Representatives that rubber stamps his every decision. Instead, he should welcome one that will sometimes challenge him and occasionally say “No” – because that’s a recipe for real change, good change, and long-lasting change.

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law enforcement

There was a point in time when federal law enforcement was the standard-bearer for policing. Agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and the Secret Service were the gold standard for professionalism and integrity that state and local agencies looked up to. This was the case when I worked closely with federal law enforcement during my tenure as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990. But, things have changed.

More often than not, in recent years, federal law enforcement agencies find themselves in the news not for breaking a massive, complex investigation; but defending the misdeeds of its agents or the mistakes of its leaders. Add to this the massive growth in federal criminal laws, and the inevitable bureaucracies such growth spurs, and you have a recipe for disaster.

This current decline of federal law enforcement can be traced back to at least the Clinton Administration, when the politicization of the Department of Justice reached a level not seen since the Administration of Richard Nixon.

The 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), but ultimately involving federal agencies from the FBI to the Department of Defense, was a colossal and tragic screw up resulting in the deaths of four agents and more than six dozen civilians (including many children). Yet, despite the Attorney General nominally taking the “blame” for the mess, not a single federal employee was disciplined in the aftermath. “Accountability” was just a fig leaf.

The Clinton Justice Department found itself at the center of one political firestorm after another – from the bungled investigation surrounding illegal contributions to the campaign of then-Vice President Al Gore, to the almost-comically mishandled seizure and deportation to Cuba of youngster Elian Gonzalez.

Unfortunately, things were little improved at the Justice Department during the subsequent Administration of George W. Bush. The open political pressure brought to bear on a number of U.S. Attorneys during the Bush Administration cast a pall over this group of non-partisan prosecutors. The perception of the Department as the pinnacle of respect for constitutional rights, was further diminished when Bush’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez testified before Congress that the “great writ of habeas corpus” was not a constitutionally-guaranteed right.

Matters would sink even lower under the Executive leadership of Barack Obama.

Symptomatic of a “Bureaucracy Gone Wild,” one of the first scandals of the Obama Administration was the ATF’s “Fast and Furious” operation, in which Department of Justice officials approved the intentional sale of firearms to known gun traffickers, then lost track of those weapons. Rather than admit its fault and hold those responsible accountable, the Department ducked and dodged all attempts by congressional investigators to find out what went wrong; continuing a tradition begun nearly two decades earlier.

Most recently, we are witnessing the impact of inept leadership at the FBI under Director James Comey. Rather than handling the twin investigations of possible “pay-to-play” allegations between the Clinton Foundation and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the improper use of e-mail accounts, as the Justice Department and the FBI historically conducted themselves – by not commenting on or allowing themselves to be drawn into divulging details of ongoing investigations – this FBI Director appears to have gone out of his way to comment and characterize ongoing investigations. In so doing, he has undercut the credibility of his agency that had been its stock-in-trade for decades.

Add to Comey’s bungled leadership the highly improper meeting between former President Bill Clinton and current Attorney General Loretta Lynch smack-dab in the middle of the FBI’s investigations, and there is little wonder why citizen respect for the government is at an all-time low.

The moral and professional failures of law enforcement officials have not been limited to the ATF, the FBI and the Office of the Attorney General. Even the Secret Service, one of the most respected of federal law enforcement agencies, has seen its stock plummet as its ranks fell victim to scandals from hookers in Colombia to drunk driving at home. Making matters worse for the Secret Service, when a high-ranking member of the House of Representatives – Jason Chaffetz – sought to investigate some of the problems plaguing the Service, it resorted to leaking potentially embarrassing information about the Congressman.

While Hollywood continues to churn out popular law enforcement programs extolling the exploits of the men and women who serve in those agencies, our next real-life president will have a much harder job rebuilding the tarnished reputation and less-than-stellar leadership of our country’s federal law enforcement system. But it is a task that truly ought to be high on the new President’s To Do List.

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wonder woman

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s . . . the United Nation’s latest Honorary Ambassador – Wonder Woman.

As death, destruction and mayhem continue to spread across the globe from Syria to Venezuela, the bureaucracy that is the United Nations has decided the best response to aggressive despots and global terrorism is placing their faith in a fictitious comic book hero. If one needed any further proof the U.N. has been reduced, quite literally, to a farce, this should remove all doubt.

The U.N.’s attempt to appropriate a beloved (if somewhat dated) comic book hero into yet another superficial, politically-correct campaign, would truly be “comic”-al if not for the taxpayer money used to support a bloated bureaucracy that has become no more effective at keeping global order than a social media slacktivist campaign. And, that’s when its officials are actually dedicated to a public good, rather than being busted for corruption or having its “peace-keeping” forces charged with committing atrocities in the Third World countries they are supposed to be helping.

And still, the U.S. government keeps shoveling millions of dollars annually into the global bureaucracy on the East River in Manhattan.

Last year alone, American taxpayers subsidized more than $650 million of the U.N.’s general budget (22 percent), and more than $2.2 billion for its peacekeeping missions (28 percent). Now, thanks to the largesse of the American taxpayers, oppressed girls and women in countries that engage in institutional misogyny, including Pakistan, India, and the Congo, can rest easier at night knowing Wonder Woman has their backs.

As is the nature of all government bureaucracies, the U.N. long ago lost sight of its original mission; blinded by its own self-importance as it extends its reach far beyond simply fostering “international peace and security” and “respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” And, the U.N.’s politically-correct mentality, reflecting the pacifist worldview of its European members rather than America’s strong-willed spirit of defending liberty, has reduced its efficacy to the level of holding a picture of a hashtag on Twitter. This may be fine for Democrats who glow warmly at the mention of “international cooperation,” but to those who actually care about equal rights and self-determination, such actions ring hollow.

If the U.N. were truly committed to empowering women across the world, it would reject countries like Pakistan and Iran, which oppose rights for women, from positions of “leadership” on such issues. And, if the organization truly was committed to the self-determination and freedom of individuals, it would cease embracing its relentless campaign to undermine the concept of an individual right to keep and bear arms – the centerpiece of its Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which unfortunately also enjoys the support of many Democrats in the United States, including most notably, Hillary Clinton.

Worse still, as the ATT clearly demonstrates, the U.N.’s globalist idealism is often more than simple raw hypocrisy, and reaches into the domestic affairs of the United States, where it has no proper place. It is one thing if other countries decide to kowtow to the U.N.’s gun control bidding while they hold hands and sing Kum-Ba-Ya; but Republicans have a hard enough time in the United States protecting our Constitution and freedom from Democrats, without a host of international bureaucrats interfering.

The interests and guiding philosophy of America are far different than those of the United Nations and the vast majority of its member states – many of which deeply and openly despise our country and what we represent.

America does not need comic book super heroes to remind us about equal rights and individual liberty. America’s heroes are and always have been real-life heroes – from the men who launched our nation and crafted our guiding blueprint in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, to the men and women today serving in our armed forces who daily risk their lives in the noble pursuit of Liberty.

Let the United Nations and its Fancy Pants bureaucrats hang pictures of Wonder Woman on their wall and bow down before her. As for me, I’ll keep pictures of George Washington and Ronald Reagan hanging in my office.

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trump

When Politico Magazine recently asked historians what figure in America’s history compared to the mythos of Donald Trump, answers ranged from Henry Ford to William Randolph Hearst. Yet, there is one historical comparison these experts missed – Andrew Jackson.

Jackson and Trump could not have come from more different backgrounds – Jackson, a gruff war hero and “Man’s man” from humble upbringings in a remote part of the Carolinas, and Trump, who was raised in New York City among great wealth and opportunity. Both men, however, developed a shared appetite for adversarial confrontations with “enemies,” and a distaste for “authorities” who dared stand in their way.

Neither man was known for cool headedness, particularly when it related to personal attacks. Fancying himself a frontiersman, and living in the days where disputes often were settled by duels, Jackson is said to have kept 37 pistols at-the-ready for such occasions. Though not all of Jackson’s alleged 100+ duels ended in shots fired (duels most often were tests to see which man “backed down” first, rather than as the fatal shootings portrayed in Hollywood Westerns), Jackson did kill at least one opponent who called him a coward, and took a bullet to the chest in the showdown.

Trump, the city-slicker, has chosen to hold his “duels” in court, and is known for his incredibly litigious nature, especially involving slights or so-called “defamations” against his or his family’s character. Trump’s threats of libel lawsuits have become so comically frequent, a website was setup to track the number of days since his last threat against a critic.

Such confrontational attitudes also influenced how each of these men approached public policy.

Neither Jackson nor Trump are men to whom the word “No” applied when pursuing their agendas. For instance, when South Carolina attempted to nullify federal laws during Jackson’s Administration, he threatened to use military force against the state in order to get his way. And, when the Supreme Court issued a ruling on Native American inhabitants with which Jackson disagreed, he simply ignored the ruling. “[Supreme Court Justice] John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it,” Jackson famously declared; throwing a verbal gauntlet at the feet of the distinguished Chief Justice and his colleagues. The flouting of the Court’s ruling would lead eventually to the forced and tragic removal of Indians from southern lands, in what would become known as the Trail of Tears.

Trump, too, has shown little regard for limitations when it comes to outlining his vision for being President. Even though doing so would grant enormous (and likely unconstitutional) law enforcement power to federal and local authorities – not to mention astronomical costs – Trump repeatedly has stated plans to deport all illegal immigrants in the United States. Trump also has threatened punitive repercussions against CEOs who dare disobey his declaration that no American companies would be permitted to move their businesses outside the US without paying a heavy price.

Both men view Executive power as a tool to be wielded whenever necessary, and to whatever extent necessary, to implement and preserve their vision for law and order. This, too, may explain why both men used their positions of power and influence to expand their personal empires; Jackson through bribery and coercion to acquire real estate, and Trump through eminent domain and cash donations to politicians at all levels of government.

The striking similarities are reflected also in how both men see themselves — as anti-Washington “men of the people.” Jackson, for example, dismantled the Second Bank of the United States, which he saw as an unchecked tool of the privileged to oppress commoners. Trump, too, speaks to problems of the working class, and has made this populist rhetoric the centerpiece of his campaign against the Establishment; notwithstanding his life-long membership in that very Club.

Where Trump whines incessantly about battling a “rigged” system, Jackson actually lost his first try for the presidency in 1824 in what some might call a “rigged election.” The problem faced by Jackson was that, in a four-way race, he won a plurality but not a majority of electoral votes in the general election, but when the decision then went to the House of Representatives to decide the final winner, John Quincy Adams won. Like Trump, Jackson never forgot or forgave a slight; and the anti-establishment fervor he and his supporters stoked over the next four years led to his victory four years later.

After nearly two centuries, the restless soul of “Old Hickory” appears to have found a new host; one with access to money and levers of power Jackson could hardly have imagined.

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gender

Ahhh, the Good Ole Days. Boys were boys. Girls were girls. And “going to the bathroom” was a simple, private matter that required no direction from busybody lawmakers. Not anymore.

We no longer live in the era of “he” or “she.” In 21st Century American, the list of “gender types” is longer than the menu of flavors at a Baskin-Robins ice cream parlor. According to Tumblr – the social media platform serving as the “intellectual” epicenter of gender fluidity and other “social justice” nonsense – gender terms range from the basic, like cisgender (“the feeling of being the gender you were assigned at birth, all the time”); to the confusing, like vibragender (“a gender that is usually one stable gender but will occasionally changes or fluctuate before stabilizing again”); and to the genuinely bizarre, colorgender (“a gender associated with one or more colors and the feelings, hues, emotions, and/or objects associated with that color”). There appears to be no end to this madness.

Even the advocacy movement for such groups struggles to keep up with the amorphous definition of their constituencies. Whereas just one generation ago, the universally understood term for the gay community was “LGBT” (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual), the acronym today has ballooned to “LGBTQQIAAP” (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer-questioning-intersex-asexual-allies-pansexual). The rationale behind this alphabet-soup absurdity is to increase inclusion of groups that otherwise make up statistically miniscule elements of the population when divided into such niches. The practical effect is exclusion by inclusion. According to one of the “As” in the acronym – “ally” — anyone who is not sympathetic to the cause is automatically excluded from the movement –becoming, in effect, an enemy.

As a general rule, people can refer to themselves by whatever name, title, or pronoun by which they desire to be known. And, within reason, it is common courtesy to try to respect their wishes. However, respect in this regard is no longer a two-way street. Understanding and tolerance are no longer shown to anyone who either does not know what to call someone, or politely chooses to stick to traditional, biologically-based gender pronouns and identities. Such people are branded as “homophobic” or worse, and lumped together into one of the Left’s “basket of deplorables.”

Sports associations have proudly placed themselves at the forefront of this Gender Identity Strike Force. The college sports division Atlantic Coast Conference, for example, announced last week that it would pull all championship games out of North Carolina in retaliation against “HB2,” the state’s so-called “bathroom bill” which does nothing other than reflect centuries-old, biologically-based restroom usage.

Public schools also have taken up the gender-identity challenge. In Chicago and Kansas City, public school students and faculty could face “consequences” for “intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student’s gender identity” – with “identity” being wholly subjective and fluctuating.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Administration has drafted rules to levy fines on businesses of up to a quarter of a million dollars for not “respecting” a customer’s preferred terminology by which to be addressed. To avoid fines, the Big Apple’s Commission on Human Rights recommends “creating a policy of asking everyone what their preferred gender pronoun” might be, and “not limit the [customer database] options for identification to male and female only.”

It is one thing for a group of people or an individual to choose how to be identified; but a far different matter to employ the power of the law to force public and private businesses and individuals to engage in such nonsense; particularly when the list of pronouns by which individuals may choose to be addressed reads like a foreign language playbill.

By making gender identity identification a legal issue, the government gets to define the playing field for a societal debate about gender – something that, throughout human history until now, was never a topic needing debate in the first place. Worse still, in the Brave New World of Gender Identity Correctness, government is able to dictate to private citizens how to respond to such a debate, so as not to make anyone “uncomfortable.” But, as noted law professor Eugene Volokh suggests, “we should all feel uncomfortable about government regulators forcing people to say things that convey and support the government’s ideology about gender,” considering that such a debate makes no sense to most people in the first place.

Until recently, one might have though governments, universities, high schools, grade schools, and sports associations had more important things to worry about than bathroom protocols. Apparently not.

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oregon activists

The first tactic in starting a conflict is defining the enemy – and the federal government working with the mainstream media have successfully branded the activists occupying federal lands in Oregon as “Militia.”

The term, which has been successfully linked to images of crazed and camouflaged white supremacists and other right-wing extremists, provides the government with an excuse to aggressively act.

The view of the government was overtly released in 2009 by the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) which stated that Americans who prescribe to certain political views – even supporters of Ron Paul and Bob Barr – as “a threat to law enforcement officers.”

The report titled, “The Modern Militia Movement” bundled conservatives, veterans, ranchers and many others as “Militia” and “Rightwing extremists.”

The report also states that Militia use the Gadsden Flag and the term Molon Labe as their symbols.

The Gadsden Flag has become widely popular with the TEA Party movement and is even featured on license plates in Virginia.

The term Molon Labe is a Greek term that translates to“Come and Take Them!” and is a very common bumper sticker to promote 2nd Amendment rights.

Back to Oregon and the activists who have occupied federal lands, they have already lost the fight to be defined as peaceful – leaving a huge opening for aggression by the government as was seen in 1993’s Waco Seige and 1992’s Ruby Ridge confrontation that lead to the killing of a 14 year-old boy (shot in the back) and his mother.

In Waco, the Branch Davidians had been labeled as “Cult members” while in Ruby Ridge, the Weaver family had been labeled as “survivalists” and “white supremacists” although the racist claim was never proven and denied by the family.

The leader of the Oregon activists, Ammon Bundy, has previously been labeled a racist and Sen. Harry Reid has even defined the family as “domestic terrorists.”

Will the public fall for the toxic branding or see the actions of these Americans as a natural reaction to the overreach of federal authority?

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2016 GOP

Liberty Guard, founded by former Congressman Bob Barr, released their ratings recently that ranked each presidential candidate based upon a Liberty index.

Included in the scorecard are 17 candidates in total — 14 Republicans and 3 Democrats.

The GOP candidates include: Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Former Governor Jeb Bush (FL), Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Rand Paul (KY), Senator Ted Cruz (TX), Governor Chris Christie (NJ), Governor John Kasich (OH), Former Governor Mike Huckabee (AR), Senator Marco Rubio (FL), Former Governor George Pataki (NY), Former Governor Jim Gilmore(VA), Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA), and Senator Lindsey Graham (SC).

The Democratic candidates include: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-V), and Former Governor Martin O’Malley (MD). The complete scorecard may be found at www.libertyguard.org.

The scoring model examined each of the candidates on public statements, announced platforms/plans, and their voting record (either as an incumbent or past political service). In each of the categories: healthcare, national security, taxation, immigration, electronic privacy, 2nd Amendment, cronyism, budget, education, and ethics; liberty-minded sub-topics were used as the judging criteria.

Most notably (and unlike any other scorecard so far),Liberty Guard rated candidates on cronyism and ethics.

In releasing the scorecard, Liberty Guard Chairman Bob Barr emphasized, “The American people are tired of Beltway insiders and their cronyism. The scorecard is a reliable, unbiased way to see how the candidates stack up, issue by issue, on liberty-related topics.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) both outperformed their respective GOP counterparts by advocating and fighting for limited government and liberty-minded principles based on the Constitution. At the bottom of the list includes Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL).

“This scorecard is the first of its kind — ranking candidates on liberty matters, taking into account all a candidates’ past statements and positions as well as votes. This comprehensive effort will inform voters decisions as they sort out the wheat from the chaff,” Liberty Guard President Steve Thomas added. “The typical establishment candidates that would be flourishing in past elections are now suffering. Voters are making this ever more evident by citing their distaste for ‘career politicians.'”

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Obama-laughing

“I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Giuliana made this startling statement in defense of his earlier observation that Obama does not truly “love America.” Not surprisingly, Giuliani’s criticism had pushed the Left to apoplectic fits. Obama’s defenders rushed to the aid of their Savior-in-Chief; characterizing Giuliani as a washed-up “has-been” taking cheap shots at the man he failed to beat in 2008. Less expected, however, were the droves of Republicans who jumped aboard the “motives-don’t-matter” bandwagon.

While Giuliani’s initial criticism of Obama was not unlike that of other conservatives during the last six years, many Republicans lost no time jumping in front of the cameras to distance themselves from Giuliani and echo his mantra. “I don’t think it helps to question the President’s patriotism or motives,” said Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. He was joined by other Republican notables, including 2016 presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. Jeb Bush observed it was proper to question the President’s “policies” but not why he does what he does.

Like most “outrages” on the Left, the Democrats’ blustering was a time-tested trick to force squeamish Republicans to back down. In fact, the Democrats were using the very tool they have employed so effectively for years – question Republicans’ motives. How many times, for example, have we heard liberal wags claim that any criticism of Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder reflects Republican racial animus; or that opposition to redefining marriage is motivated by “homophobia?” Even GOP efforts to reform welfare is attributed to a mean-spirited hatred of the “poor.” In these and countless other instances, Liberals openly and shamelessly question conservatives’ motives; often in very personal terms.

Motives do matter; so why are so many Republicans so squeamish about admitting this, especially when such criticism is pegged to important matters of national security and other fundamental policy issues? Common sense dictates they should know better. Giuliani, who first rose to national prominence in the 1980s as the hard-charging United States Attorney in New York City, certainly must recall that establishing a motive or knowledge of bad acts is an essential element of a successful prosecution. It’s Criminal Law 101.

In the political arena, inquiring into and understanding why a decision-maker undertakes certain actions as opposed to others — actions that may affect our entire economy or our nation’s defense — is a vital first step in developing alternative policies and correcting mistakes.

For example, the refusal by Republicans to subject the President’s motives to public debate is doing exactly what Obama is doing with regard to ISIS — criticizing the terror organization’s actions without understanding the reasons it commits atrocities. If we do not understand the mind of the enemy, we doom ourselves to flailing around in the dark against an adversary without any real hope of defeating him.

President Ronald Reagan orchestrated the defeat of the Soviet Union not simply by criticizing the self-evident inefficiencies of the Soviet economy, or the deplorable living conditions created by its authoritarian regime. He did so by enunciating the moral depravity at the core of the Communist philosophy, as the “evil empire” it was. Only by understanding and articulating what motivated Communists was Reagan able to outflank them; ultimately sending the USSR to the “ash heap of history,” as he predicted would happen.

As was true in the 1980s, so it is now in this 21st Century. Condemning the unconstitutional actions of the Obama Administration is appropriate and essential (even obvious). But this makes sense only if and when we begin to deconstruct the motivations for such actions in order to truly understand the enemy we face. Otherwise we are just shooting in the dark.

Many of today’s Democrats, reflecting the philosophy underlying this Administration, are no longer motivated solely by the benign desire to help others using the power of government. Instead, Obama and those in his Administration appear clearly to act based on a genuine disdain for and rejection of the American traditions of free markets, private property, and individual rights; principles they see as a moral blight on society rather than as a foundation from which to protect and strengthen our nation.

If the GOP truly hopes to defeat this brand of toxic “progressivism,” it had better learn to defend its positions aggressively, rather than backing down whenever the media or its political adversaries play the “motive” card.

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Shortly after the Iraqi city of Fallujah fell to the Islamic State (ISIS) in January 2014, President Obama was interviewed by The New Yorker. When asked about the loss of such an iconic city from the U.S. war in Iraq, Obama responded with his usual glibness: “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Less than six-months after he made those comments, Obama’s “jayvee team” would establish an Islamic “Caliphate” spanning two countries, with an estimated 31,000 fighters from all over the world pouring into its territory for a chance to die martyrs’ deaths while fighting the western armies of “Rome.”

Yet, even as ISIS grows in size and brutality, Obama and his Administration continue to harbor a fantasy world in which, to them, these horrendous acts of terrorists are on par with those committed here in America by Christians during the Jim Crow era;and fueled today in the global jihad not by religious zeal, but by poor economic conditions and anti-immigrant racism. This sophomoric view of the world is neither funny nor tolerable; it is in fact emboldening our adversaries from Moscow to Mosul, and from Havana to Beijing, with potentially devastating harm to the interests of the United States and our allies.

With few exceptions, Obama’s predecessors in the Oval Office navigated the complex and high-stakes arena of international diplomacy based on a sober assessment of the world as it is. Now, Obama and his advisors make decisions based on the world as they dream it to be; and, if reality happens to fall outside their tightly crafted narrative, it is either marginalized or dismissed outright.

This desperate attempt to shoehorn an increasingly unstable international environment into a situation in which Obama remains the stoic “Savior,” has turned the State Department into a sideshow, with spokespersons spouting gibberish that would be comical if not for the fact that these people represent the United States to the rest of the world.

In the tense standoff between Russia and Ukraine, then-State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki (who recently was promoted to the White House staff) tweeted a picture of herself holding a piece of paper with “#UnitedForUkraine” scrawled on it. The childish “diplomatic” gesture immediately prompted headlines such as, “Russia sends troops, Obama administration sends a selfie.” More recently, as ISIS leaders publicly execute Americans, Christians, homosexuals, and others it does not consider true believers, a State Department spokesperson suggested with a straight face a “root cause” for the growth of ISIS was a “lack of opportunity for jobs.”

As the White House tried to convince Americans that ISIS sprang-up out of Mesopotamia overnight – a fantasy that fit nicely with the reality that the Administration was utterly unprepared to deal the threat for many months — ISIS was very public about articulating its goals in the region; even publishing annual reports about its progress. In fact, it was Obama’s ill-advised and Hillary-backed intervention in Libya, sending that country tumbling into chaos, that ISIS found the foothold in the region it needed to expand.

“Obama’s intervention in Libya was an abject failure, judged even by its own standards,” writes Alan Kuperman, a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. “Rather than helping the United States combat terrorism … Libya now serves as a safe haven for militias affiliated with both al Qaeda and [ISIS].”

The reason the Obama Administration so badly bungled the Libya intervention is the same reason why State Department spokespeople continue to speak of the war with ISIS in the same terms it would use to explain drug addiction or inner-city poverty: It refuses to accept the world and the actors on the international stage cannot be controlled with political messaging and spin. Therefore, rather than admitting even basic truths about the challenges it faces — like Islamic terrorists are actually Islamic and adhere zealously to a “theology that must be understood to be combatted” — this Administration prefers to trumpet so-called intelligence reports focused on specters and boogeymen with which it feels more comfortable, such as domestic “right-wing sovereign citizen extremist groups.”

Obama’s “Amateur Hour” foreign policy has managed to both inject America blindly into action in the name of preventing terrorism, while at the same time marginalizing other legitimate terror threats. At this juncture, halfway through Obama’s second term, and with the Congress seeming to lack the backbone to force the Administration to remove its rose-colored glasses and forsake its trademark “hashtag” diplomacy substituting for true statesmanship, we and our allies will continue to play defense while ISIS and other terror groups flourish in the vacuum left by America’s exit as a true leader on the world stage.

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Government Surveilance

In 1964, Ayn Rand wrote that American society was quickly heading toward what she called “the stage of ultimate inversion,” in which “the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission.” Rand, who came to America to escape the tyranny of the Soviet Union, saw in mid-20th Century America a country following a similar course as the one she escaped; in which government ruled by “brute force” and increased its power as it eroded individual rights.

Now, more than three decades after her death, and with the age of the Internet in full swing, Rand’s fears of government “inversion” have become truer than ever. Last week’s bipartisan congressional passage of the FY 2015 Intelligence Authorization Act is clear proof of how far we have travelled down the road Rand predicted.

Since the mid-1990s, when anti-terror initiatives championed initially by the Clinton Administration and GOP leaders in the Congress provided the foundation for the massive federal surveillance apparatus in which we now live, privacy watchdogs have warned about the mission creep of federal authority deemed necessary to “protect us.” However, it was not until the 2013 leaks by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, exposing the breadth and technological sophistication of the government’s surveillance programs, that the public finally recognized what the blank check of “trust us” was really costing us.

As it does with every scandal it faces, the Obama Administration defended against the allegations with the usual gobbledygook, masked as promises of reform. Compounding the problem, the refusal by Republicans in Congress to so much as even debate limiting domestic spying, ensured that in spite of the overwhelming public outcry to the contrary, nothing would be done to limit the abuses. In fact, as last week’s vote on the FY 2015 Intelligence Authorization Act demonstrates, the only actions Congress and the Administration favor are those that expand government surveillance powers.

Buried in Section 309 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 are — for the first time in “public” statute — procedures for how federal agencies can retain “incidentally acquired communications” obtained through domestic surveillance programs, including communications known to be between U.S. citizens with absolutely no ties to “terrorism’ (which had served as the justification for the initial authority). As Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) explained in a Facebook message detailing the truly odious nature of the bill’s expedited passage, it was only after he quickly organized his legislative staff for a review that anyone noticed “one of the most egregious sections of law [Amash] encountered during [his] time as a representative.”

For years, the government’s ability to surreptitiously collect, analyze, store, and disseminate the private communications of U.S. citizens not suspected of violating any laws was based on dubious legal memos, classified decisions of the secret FISA courts, assumed powers in Executive Actions, and “plausible denials” concocted by federal officials responsible for conducting the very actions they were defending.

Congress’ most recent and feeble attempt at “reforming” that process in fact has enshrined in law those powers that, until now, existed in legal limbo. Any attempt at actual reform through court challenges now has been rendered even more difficult.

On the surface, Section 309 may appear an attempt to place a finite limit on how long government can retain the records of digital communications of U.S. citizens obtained without warrants or court orders. However, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Exceptions to the five-year limit carved out in the procedures, such as for communications “reasonably believed to have a secret meaning” or — a government favorite — communications “necessary to protect the national security of the United States,” renders moot any meaningful limitations.

But perhaps the most problematic language in Section 309 is the exception made for communications “reasonably believed to constitute evidence of a crime and is retained by a law enforcement agency,” which provides the legal authority to continue creating a digital rap sheet on virtually any U.S. citizen spanning federal, state and local governments, without any real consideration as to whether a crime has been committed.

Last week in this column, I explained how the government’s over-criminalization serves as a mechanism to control the citizenry. The government leverages minor, impossible-to-avoid criminal offenses to ensure cooperation when it so desires for either regulatory control or financial gain. The erosion of personal privacy through powers such as those found in the Intelligence Authorization Act serves only as a “multiplier” — moving us as at an accelerating rate toward that inversion state against which Ayn Rand warned us many decades ago.

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