It is hard to know which of four "continuing to unravel" subjects has been the most mismanaged, creating the most long term detriment to the United States:
1. The Middle East - Benghazi non-engagement (demonstrating the ability to attack Americans with impunity); meaningless ultimatums on Syria; Egyptian turmoil. We will never know what could have been done with the Arab Spring opportunity, but we do know the result of "leading from behind" for our friends and for our influence.
2. Obamacare - admission that mandated employer insurance is unworkable (at least until after the next election); costs for the healthy young more than doubling; large insurers refusing to participate in exchanges. Restructuring one sixth of our economy is way beyond the ability of Kathleen Sibelius - or any central bureaucracy.
3. The IRS - use of the tax collectors to intimidate political opponents. The first step toward recovery is admitting the problem, a step which the administration refuses to take despite the testimony of the Inspector General, knocking down the Left's claim that "progressive" groups were also targeted.
4. The NSA - tracking virtually all domestic telephone messages; monitoring extensive international e-mail traffic running through American servers; bugging of our allies at home and abroad; lying to Congress about surveillance. Much more is needed than demeaning Snowden as "just a 29-year old hacker".
Maybe a hostile Middle East doesn't matter too much to us. Obamacare promises to become increasingly unpopular, causing a few million extra unemployed and a few trillion dollars more of debt until the Republicans are strong enough to reform the reform. The IRS scandal is the most direct attack on our freedom; hopefully Darrell Issa will stay focused on the core issue.
My vote for the most lasting damage goes to the NSA fiasco, demonstrating the potential of the 21st Century police state, the lack of effective judicial / Congressional oversight, and the damage of an administration incapable and unwilling to have an honest discussion of the trade-offs with Americans and our foreign allies. Two aspects yet to develop:
- The first month's reaction to the Snowden disclosures had a tone of "Americans shouldn't worry; the really intrusive stuff is restricted to the foreigners." That should perhaps be expected from an administration which plays everything for domestic political gain, but - like with the extensive use of drones in Pakistan - Obama has demonstrated an insensitive arrogance guaranteed to turn foreign friends away and his Secretary of State would pass off bugging of 38 allied missions as "not unusual".
- The commercial implications are little mentioned. We own the internet, from the management of domain names, to the home of social media, to the production and operation of servers. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo were initially vocal that they only provided information to NSA when required and the NSA's PRISM program was for foreign communications. One can bet that the next generation of the global internet will not be America-centric, regardless of where the technical innovation comes from.
Edward Klein's "The Amateur" nailed it. We are paying a huge price for putting a Chicago community organizer in charge of the world's greatest economic, military, and technological power. Some on the Right believe that Obama's damage is deliberate; a more charitable interpretation is insular incompetence.
This week's video, courtesy of an alert California reader, gets us back to a bit of much-needed levity.
bill bowen - 7/5/2013