President Barack Obama has earned a reputation as an accomplished liar. It appears to be a trait that he shares with his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I must say that Mr. Obama has been far more successful at covering his lies than has Ms. Clinton despite the fact that he has been subject to greater scrutiny – at least until now. Remember, Mr. Obama was able to bury the information that disclosed his lies about Obamacare for almost four years. In marked contrast, Ms. Clinton has had virtually every lie she tells discredited within days – at times hours.
Ms. Clinton told us that the reason she put all of her state department correspondence on her personal computer is that she didn’t want to carry around more than one communications device (one for her government correspondence and others for her personal use). Quickly videos were discovered showing her claiming to use multiple devices (laptop, tablet, smartphone and Blackberry) with ease. Then experts detailed that that you don’t need separate devices to access multiple email servers.
Then came the defenses of the indefensible Clinton Foundation. First Ms. Clinton said that all donors had been disclosed on IRS forms. Within hours evidence of donors not disclosed on the IRS forms was presented. Then Ms. Clinton said that is was a natural mistake involving only a handful of donors. And within days a list of over 1,000 donors that had not been disclosed was discovered. Then Ms. Clinton said that the IRS forms filed were a mistake but that all of the donors had been disclosed on the Clinton Foundation website. And now it appears that they have not been but rather that such contributions have been “bundled” with other undisclosed donors to hide the donor and the amount of the donation.
And that is just on the domestic front. On the international scene, Mr. Obama, with the assistance of Ms. Clinton, has earned a reputation as a feckless leader who buckles in the face of hostile governments and is willing to stab our allies in the back at the drop of a hat. Think Israel, the Ukraine, the victims of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Egypt as it revolted against the tyrannical regime of the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan. So widely is Mr. Obama held in low repute that the leaders of two-thirds of the Arab leaders have rejected Mr. Obama’s request for an Arab summit to “deal” with Iran – not actually to deal with the evil that is Iran but rather to strong arm those leaders into accepting the agreement that will permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
But that isn’t the purpose of this column. Rather it is to express dismay that the Congress has not only been complicit by omission in regard to Mr. Obama’s and Ms. Clinton’s actions but that it has failed to act to reassert itself as a co-equal branch of government. Poll after poll demonstrates that the public does not trust Mr. Obama – and less so Ms. Clinton. In fact, it is fair to say that Mr. Obama’s support is down to the “yellow dog Democrats” – albeit these are mostly from the urban North rather than the Deep South.
Those same polls show that Congress is held in even lower repute although there has been some improvement in its standing. But the curious thing is that Mr. Obama’s decline is due to his actions – both foreign and domestic; while Congress’ repute is due to inaction. They, the members of Congress, don’t do anything – they DON’T do ANYTHING.
The founding fathers produced a constitution that was designed to create three equal branches of government – each to serve as a check on the others. In its simplest terms, the Constitution set the responsibility for determining the laws with the Congress, set the responsibility for executing the laws with the Executive Branch, and set the responsibility for determining the interpretation and constitutionality of the law with the Judicial Branch. The primary system of checks and balances inherent in that structure was to assure that one branch could not operate independently from the others. Forced collaboration ensured that America did not revert to a monarchy or dictatorship.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when Congress began to cede its authority to the Executive Branch but you can certainly find instances of it during the New Deal administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Over time, and under Republican and Democrat presidents alike, Congress has moved more and more towards “target” legislation – a statement of goals with a cession of particulars to the Executive Branch. Cynics such as me would conclude that the members of Congress – never the sharpest tools in the bag – have found “target” legislation to be the easiest means of proceeding. After all they can espouse wonderful ideas about how the world should be at the same time they shed responsibility for how those ideas are implemented. A prime example has been the current immigration laws that Mr. Obama has openly flouted through a series of executive orders granting de facto amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
But nowhere is the danger of a self-impotent Congress greater than in international affairs – particularly with a president who has repeatedly proven his analysis, strategies, solutions and implementations to be so consistently wrong. The most recent instance involves Mr. Obama’s negotiations with Iran.
Mr. Obama, shadowed by Secretary of State John Kerry, reported with wide-eyed enthusiasm that they had reached a structure for an agreement with Iran over its ongoing pursuit of nuclear weapons. He noted all of the safeguards, including monitoring, that had been agreed to as the foundation. Mr. Obama’s assurances were overshadowed almost immediately by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran and the only voice that counts, who declared Mr. Obama to be a liar and dismissed virtually every element of Mr. Obama’s assurances, as never included in the negotiations.
It is at this moment that the United States Senate – in fulfillment of its constitutional duties relating to approval of treaties with foreign governments – should have driven a stake through the heart of this charade. There was a great deal of sound and fury as various senators (Republican and Democrats alike) rushed to the microphones to condemn “the deal” and Mr. Obama’s negotiating skills. But when it came to doing something concrete to protect the country and its allies, the Senate (Republican and Democrat alike) punted. They sacrificed their authority to approve treaties and instead allowed Mr. Obama to proceed towards his disaster. As reported by The Guardian:
“The US Senate on Thursday advanced legislation that would allow Congress to review a nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, clearing a major hurdle after weeks of Republican infighting threatened the bill’s passage.
“Senators overwhelmingly voted 98-1 in favor of the bill, with only Tom Cotton against its passage. Under the compromise, Congress would have 30 days to both review any nuclear accord with Iran and pass a resolution of disapproval. In the event that lawmakers passed such a resolution, Barack Obama would be unable to lift some of the congressional sanctions on Tehran.” [Emphasis supplied]
Look there is a difference. Under proper protocols a treaty with a foreign nation CANNOT take effect unless approved by the Senate. Under this resolution the treaty takes effect unless it is disapproved by the Congress within thirty days. Of late Congress has demonstrated they cannot even find the toilet paper in thirty days. And more importantly if the regular order of business continues in the Senate, a minority of its members can keep the issue from even coming to the floor for a vote –let alone come to the floor within thirty days. (Tuesday vote on closure for “fast track trade authority” reminded us of how impotent the Senate has become.)
And even if the Congress can muster the votes to reject the treaty within the prescribed thirty days, the only penalty is that certain sanctions imposed against Iran by the Congress cannot be lifted by Mr. Obama. That’s no penalty; that is the current law (and it’s being violated by Mr. Obama already).
The net effect of this act is that the Congress has abetted Mr. Obama’s dangerous policy towards Iran. Iran will get virtually all of its frozen assets and money back immediately. It will continue unabated to complete its nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles. It will violate every term of the agreement including the monitoring requirements. And the world will do nothing to stop it because the “big dog” in the fight has already rolled over and surrendered.
I have never been very supportive of term limits because it transfers the power of “institutional knowledge” from congressional members to the bureaucrats. But given the fact that we continue to send ninety percent of these “four flushers” back election after election, something has to be done to instill pursuit of the commonweal instead of job protection in our Congress. Term limits may be the only choice left.