Truth is the 1st casualty

Governments lie.

Even more so when the issue is war.

Obamadebate

“We will crush al-Qaeda,” Barack Obama insisted during the second presidential debate on Oct. 7, 2008. “That has to be our biggest national security priority.”

At various times, Obama has declared al-Qaeda to be “on the run,” “decimated” and “on their heels”. In Jan. 2014, he was quoted in a New Yorker article likening al-Qaeda to an ineffectual junior varsity team.

But just one week after ISIS carried out the Paris terrorist attacks, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda killed 20 people in Mali.

Then, in early December, al-Qaeda fighters seized two major cities in Yemen as part of its effort to expand its influence in the country.

So much for the collapse of al-Qaeda.

On multiple occasions Obama has also asserted that the last American troops in Afghanistan would return home by the end of his presidency, concluding the longest war in U.S. history. But fighting with the Taliban still rages.

On Dec. 21, a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle slaughtered six American troops and injured two more near Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. And American troops will still be there when Obama leaves office.

“With control of — or a significant presence in — roughly 30 percent of districts across the nation, according to Western and Afghan officials, the Taliban now holds more territory than in any year since 2001, when the puritanical Islamists were ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks,” the Washington Post reported today.

As Afghan security forces deal with over 7,000 dead and 12,000 injured in 2015,  U.S. Special Operations troops are increasingly being deployed into harm’s way to assist their Afghan counterparts, according to the Post.

But Obama still insists American troops aren’t at war in Afghanistan any more, just “training and advising”.

Of course, the Soviet government wasn’t exactly honest with its people when it sent troops into Afghanistan in 1979 either, or during its next 10 years of war there.

The Soviet Union sent over 100,000 soldiers to fight in Afghanistan, withdrawing only after at least 15,000 of its soldiers (and more than a million Afghans) had been killed.

SovietsAfghanistan

Soviet BMP-1 mechanized infantry combat vehicles and soldiers move through Afghanistan, 1988

Oral testimony from the Soviet soldiers reveals that during much of the war the Soviet government told its people little more than that their children were building hospitals and schools, helping the Afghans build a socialist state and “…bravely protecting the frontiers of the fatherland…in the execution of (their) international duty.”

In fact, there’s a long history of deception in American wars, too.

In 1898, President McKinley said the USS Maine had been sunk in Havana Harbor by a Spanish mine, killing 266 officers and enlisted men and justifying the Spanish-American War. It turned out burning coal in a bunker triggered an explosion in an adjacent space that contained ammunition.

USSMaine

The destruction of the USS Maine

Then there’s the U.S. war in Vietnam.

In 1964, President Johnson ordered retaliatory attacks against gunboats and supporting facilities in North Vietnam after attacks against U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Spurred on by Johnson, the U.S. Senate passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing the president “to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” Only two Senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, voted “no”.

But reports of the attacks were a lie, as were so many reports on the progress of the war in subsequent years and incursions into Laos and Cambodia.

And so began the tragedy known as the Vietnam War.

VietnamUStroops

Wounded U.S. soldiers await a medevac helicopter during a war that in time claimed 58,000 American lives..

David Halberstam wrote an often-cited book “The Best and the Brightest” about the overconfident, foolish people who pursued the war.

“The basic question behind the book,” he said later, “was why men who were said to be the ablest to serve in government this century had been the architects of what struck me as likely to be the worst tragedy since the Civil War.” (The term “Best and the brightest “ has often been twisted since then to mean the top, smart people, the opposite of Halberstam’s original meaning)

Years later, Daniel Ellsberg, who made the explosive Pentagon Papers public, said, “The Pentagon Papers…proved that the government had long lied to the country. Indeed, the papers revealed a policy of concealment and quite deliberate deception from the Truman administration onward.”

And then, of course, there were the “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.

“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more,” U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. “…should we take the risk that he will not someday use these weapons at a time and a place and in a manner of his choosing, at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond? The United States will not and cannot run that risk for the American people.”

powell

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations

And so the war began.

As columnist Sydney Schanberg wrote, “We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The faux fight against ISIS

dronesISIS

ISIS is on the run. Just read the headlines.

Official: local ISIS leader killed in western Mosul, Sept. 2015; US Airstrikes In Iraq Kill Three Senior ISIS Leaders, Including Baghdadi’s Key Aide, Sept. 2015; White House confirms key ISIS leader killed in US air strike, Aug. 21, 2015; Afghan agency: ISIS leader killed in drone strike, July 2015; U.S.: ISIS No. 2 killed in U.S. drone strike in Iraq, Aug. 2015; Pentagon officials: Prominent ISIS recruiter killed in airstrike, Aug. 2015; Top ISIS leader killed in coalition airstrike, July 2015; ISIS Leader Killed in Airstrike in Syria, June 2015; ISIS hacking leader killed by drone strike, Aug. 2015; Senior ISIS leader killed in extremist-held Hawija, July 2015; ISIS leader confirmed killed by U.S. forces, May 2015; Special Ops Kill ISIS Commander, Free His Family Slave, May 2015; Senior ISIS leader killed during raid, May 2015; Senior ISIS leader killed in U.S. raid in Syria, May 2015; U.S. special forces storm Syria’s Deir ez-Zor, kill senior ISIS commander, May 2015; Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ‘seriously wounded in air strike’, April 2015; CNN: US Has Secret ‘Kill List’ of Top ISIS Leaders, Feb. 2015; Iraqi police: new ISIS commander in Anbar killed, Jan. 2015; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces that Iraq and the U.S.-led coalition have killed 50 percent of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) top commanders, Jan. 2015.

HAVE WE WON YET?

Disillusionment and despair: the Trump turmoil

Donald Trump isn’t a candidate.

Donald-Trump-Caricature

He’s a stand-in for the alienation and disillusionment so many Americans feel as both the Republican and Democratic parties have failed us.

How could it be otherwise when so much seems so wrong and fakery, misdirection, and outright lies by both parties have been so pervasive?

Consider:

  • The past several decades have seen the most sustained rise in inequality in the United States since the 19th century after more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression. By some estimates, income and wealth inequality are near their highest levels in the past hundred years.
  • The 2009 $830 billion stimulus package, with a claimed focus on shovel-ready projects, was supposed to fix things after the Great Recession. The legacy instead – a slow growth economy. The first 23 quarters of the recovery, which officially began in June of 2009, had an annual rate of growth of just 2.1 percent.
  • The distribution of wealth in the United States is even more unequal than that of income. The wealthiest 5 percent of American households held 54 percent of all wealth reported in 1989, rose to 61 percent in 2010 and reached 63 percent in 2013.
  • 71 percent of Americans say life has gotten worse for middle-class Americans over the past 10 years.
  • Today’s fifty-somethings may be part of the first generation in American history to experience a lifetime of downward mobility, in which at every stage of adult life, they have had less income and less net wealth than did people who were their age ten years before.
  • There is now less economic mobility in the United States than in Canada or much of Europe. A child born in the bottom one-fifth of incomes in the United States has only a 4 percent chance of rising to the top one-fifth.
  • Young Americans (ages 18-34) are earning less (adjusted for inflation) than their peers in 1980 ; the college graduating class this year left with an average student debt of $35,051.
  • In 1986, President Reagan signed legislation that was supposed to fix the illegal immigration issue once and for all. Three million applied for legal status and about 2.7 million received it. Today, about 11.7 million immigrants are living in the United States illegally. So much for the fix.
  • Despite all the “mission accomplished” and “victory is at hand” assurances, America has been at war in the Middle East for the past 15 years, with little to show for it, billions of dollars down a rathole, thousands of American soldiers dead and wounded, and continuing chaos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
  • Despite the billions the government has spent on poverty-related programs, half of children age three and younger live in poverty.
  • The White House wants to “press the reset button” on one of Washington’s biggest challenges: its increasingly troublesome relationship with Russia,” Vice President Biden, 2/7/2009; “We’re going to hit the reset button and start fresh (with Russia),” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 3/6/2009
  • “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it.  If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.” President Obama, 6/6/2009.
  • “I ended the war in Iraq, as I promised. We are transitioning out of Afghanistan. We have gone after the terrorists who actually attacked us 9/11 and decimated al Qaeda.” President Obama, 9/14/2012
  • Despite assurances from some politicians that all’s well, the Medicare program has $28.1 trillion in unfunded liabilities over the next 75 years. Together with Social Security’s $13.3 trillion shortfall, the government has accumulated entitlement spending commitments that far exceed our capacity to pay for them.
  • In the 2012 election cycle, a tiny elite of the U.S. population, just 0.40 %, made a political contribution of more than $200, providing 63.5% of all individual contributions to federal candidates, PACs and Parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign to date, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era.

As H.L. Mencken said, “Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right.”

 

Observations on media: Bill O’Reilly’s excellent wartime adventures and gotcha journalism

Bill O’Reilly’s excellent wartime adventures

Oh come on now, Billy.

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O’Reilly

Just admit it. You misspoke, fabricated, misled. Oh hell, you lied. You’ve claimed you reported from the Falkland Islands during the 1982 conflict between Britain and Argentina. Now you’re saying you didn’t.

“I said I covered the Falklands war, which I did,” he says, citing how he covered popular protests in Buenos Aires, about 1,200 miles from the Falklands, as a CBS News reporter.

But the fact is that in 2001 he wrote in his book, “The No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America”:

“You know that I am not easily shocked. I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falkland Islands, and in chaotic situations like the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.”

And in 2013, he said in a TV interview that he’d covered a protest “…in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands.”

Politico was right on when it noted that O’Reilly would likely attempt to dismiss the reporting on his lies by David Corn and Daniel Schulman of Mother Jones by dismissing them “…as left-wing zealots bent on his destruction.”

Yep.

Gotcha Journalism 

On the other side of the coin, eporters and opinionators are jamming Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin with inane questions about things they don’t really care about, but give them a chance to be annoying.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

It reminds me of when KOIN-TV played a gotcha game with five U.S. Senate candidates from Oregon in 1995, asking each of them seven questions. Congressman Ron Wyden got all seven wrong and suffered some embarrassment as a result. But few people would probably have gotten them right. One Wyden missed, for example, asked, “What is the average cost for a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a gallon of gas, and a pair of Levi’s jeans?”

And this was critical to serving effectively as a U.S. Senator?

In Walker’s case, a television reporter in London asked him whether he believes in evolution, the Washington Post asked him whether the president is a Christian, and reporters at a National Governors Association meeting in Washington hounded him on whether he agreed with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who accused President Obama of not loving America.

Walker’s answers, and non-answers, generated media criticism of his qualifications, including an over- the-top opinion column in the Washington Post by Dana Milbank asserting that Walker had “displayed a cowardice unworthy of a man who would be president” and “…ought to disqualify him as a serious presidential contender.”

Let the campaign silly season begin.

Obama insists “I’m OK, you’re OK” in response to global terrorism

President Obama, speaking to an audience that included unrepentant leaders from repressive countries who couldn’t care less and who regularly brutalize their people and deny them basic human rights, argued on Thursday that force of arms was not enough and called on all nations to “put an end to the cycle of hate” by expanding human rights, religious tolerance and peaceful dialogue.

Barack_Obama_in_tank

“Oh sure, the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen actively plots against us, terrorists have murdered ambassadors, Americans have been killed at Ft. Hood and during the Boston Marathon, in Syria and Iraq the terrorist group we call ISIL has slaughtered innocent civilians and murdered hostages, including Americans, and has spread its barbarism to Libya with the murder of Egyptian Christians, we’ve seen deadly attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, Paris and Copenhagen, the Pakistan Taliban has massacred schoolchildren and their teachers, al-Shabaab has launched attacks from Somalia across East Africa, and in Nigeria and neighboring countries, Boko Haram kills and kidnaps men, women and children,” Obama said. “But hey, shit happens.”

Calling the slaughter of thousands of Ukrainians by Russian-backed rebels supplied with Russian equipment “a hiccup on the pathway to peace”, Obama insisted that the cease-fire that came into effect in eastern Ukraine on Sunday was holding. “The Russians are honorable, peace-loving folks,” he said, “and I’m sure that if Putin and I got together he’d be overwhelmed by the force of my personality and insist that the rebels pull back.”

As the rebels raised their flag over Debaltseve, Ukraine and celebrated their humiliating defeat of the Ukrainian forces, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope that this wouldn’t scuttle the peace deal.

Promising “swift, meaningful punishment for those who terrorize peaceful nations”, Obama called for another conference to be held at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. that would “offer more strong words in response to beheadings , immolations, child-killing, and other barbarities.”

“We’ll take an important step forward as governments, civil society groups and community leaders from more than 60 nations will gather in Washington for a global summit on countering violent extremism,” Obama said. “Our focus will be on community organizing, which I know a heck of a lot about, and empowering local communities.”

Dismissing concerns about his feckless foreign policy, Obama  said, ” Not to worry. I’m OK you’re OK.”

 

Musings: cowardly snipers, Selma, the Oregon Cultural Trust and failing schools

Lot’s of random thoughts lately.

Cowardly snipers

That great progressive American patriot, Michael Moore, made another of his well-informed, well-reasoned comments the other day on his Twitter account. Speaking out about Clint Eastwood’s movie, “American Sniper”, Moore said, “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”

Current and former American soldiers alive today because of the effectiveness of American snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan had no comment.

AmericanSniper1

Selma

The hyperventilating critics of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrayal in the movie, Selma, need to chill out.

Joseph Califano Jr., a top assistant to Johnson, said, for example, that the movie took “dramatic, trumped-up license” with the truth and “falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and as opposed to the Selma march itself.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965

It’s a MOVIE, folks, not a documentary. And, by the way, where were all you historical accuracy nuts when the idolatrous TV and theater movies about John F. Kennedy omitted scenes of his sexual escapades and the hagiographies about his brother, Ted Kennedy, skipped over his responsibility for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne?

Oregon Cultural Trust

The billboard on Broadway urges donations to the Oregon Cultural Trust. “Donate/Match, get the whole match back,” the billboard says.

CulturalTrust-Billboard

The way the program works is you add up your donations for the year to one or more of the participating cultural nonprofits and then make a donation to the Cultural Trust in an equal amount. Your donation to the Cultural Trust will come back to you dollar for dollar at tax time when you claim your cultural tax credit.

In 2009, the Legislature stole $1.8 million from the Trust for Cultural Development account of the Oregon Cultural Trust to deal with state budget pressures. The Senate tried to defend itself by claiming it just took money from Oregon Cultural Trust license plates, not public donations.

Horsepucky! It was out-and-out theft.

So don’t trust ’em. If they were willing to break the public trust over a lousy $1.8 million, they’ll do it again. Don’t donate a dime to the Trust this year, or next. We both know the Legislature will raid it again someday.

Failing schools

In his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, President Obama said he wants the federal and state governments to cover 100 percent of the junior college tuition for students who meet minimal standards. Of course, the program wouldn’t really be free. Obama wants to raise taxes to pay for the fed’s share.

And the proposal ignores the fact that the biggest problem at community colleges isn’t the cost, but the dismal completion rate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, at 2-year degree-granting institutions, only 31 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a certificate or associate’s degree in fall 2009 attained it within three years. This graduation rate was just 20 percent at public 2-year institutions.

Portland Community College graduation

Portland Community College graduation

Part-time junior college students don’t do well either. Even when given four years to complete certificates and degrees, no more than a quarter make it to graduation day, according to a Complete College America report to the nation’s governors. The rest wander aimlessly through too many class choices, get committed to jobs, relationships mortgages and more and end up with nothing finished and backbreaking debt.

Of course, it’s not just the junior colleges that fail. Too many students arrive ill-prepared by their K-12 educations to succeed at higher education and channeled into remedial courses that don’t work.

United Streetcar and Earl Blumenauer’s misplaced boosterism

Only a politician would want to throw good money after bad, arguing that a failed company should get MORE federal dollars.

The Washington Post, in a Nov. 29 story picked up by both Willamette Week and the Portland Business Journal, told of how Portland’s United Streetcar, supposedly destined to reinvigorate the U.S. streetcar business, failed miserably.

unitedStreetcar

In 2005, Oregon’s own Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) secured $4 million for Portland to buy an American-made streetcar. The contract went to Clackamas-based United Streetcar, a company founded that year, “Leading the way for today’s urban transport needs,” the company’s website says.

United Streetcar was formed in December 2005. It is a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works, Inc., which recently became a division of Vigor Industrial.

Despite White House cheerleading, United Streetcar became a symbol of ineptitude, with frequent missed deadlines and cost overruns. It ended up building just 18 streetcars for three customers, and still couldn’t deliver them on time. According to the Post, the company has no new orders and the facility built to produce up to 24 streetcars a year is dormant.

But Blumenauer, arguing that the U.S. needs to make streetcars and not give the business to foreigners, wants the government to double down. Specifically, he wants the Feds to order 500 or 1,000 streetcars and give some U.S. companies a shot at making 50 or 100 each.

“That would get production humming,” Blumenauer told the Post.

Does he even remember the United Streetcar fiasco, or care?

In a classic instance of the Peter Principle at work, in August 2010, President Obama appointed Chandra Brown, President of United Streetcar, to the Department of Commerce Manufacturing Council. “Throughout her career, Chandra Brown has demonstrated how good leadership can allow smart companies to do well on the bottom line, do right by their employees, and do good for the country,” said Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Chandra Brown

Chandra Brown

Then, in March 2013, President Obama again helped Brown fail upwards again by appointing her Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

I guess Blumenauer figures that if Brown can mess up and move up, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t help United Streetcar do the same.

Obama and Immigration: shoot me now or shoot me later

“Shoot me now or shoot me later,” Javert belted out in Les Miserables.

In the same vein, you know Obama’s going to do it. It’s just a matter of when.

President Obama is going to issue sweeping executive orders on immigration, but just not yet. Instead, he’s going to do it when he thinks there will be less political damage.

immigration1

immigration2

Earlier this year Obama said that inaction by Congress was going to force him to make major immigration changes by executive order before the end of summer.

But on Sept. 7, Obama said he’d wait until after the November elections to take action. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Obama said he would act before the end of the year. “…it’s going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration…,” he said.
Pollster Pat Caddell took a more cynical perspective, asserting that Obama, by deciding to defer action until after the November elections, is really saying, ‘Hey, dummies after you’ve voted, then I’m going to drop this on you.”

Obama’s decision allows liberal Democrats running in liberal states or districts to publicly whine and complain about the delay while allowing Democrats in conservative states or districts to try to avoid the subject altogether.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, for example, were all worried that executive actions by Obama would jeopardize their tight races in conservative-leaning states. Now they can rest easier.

But some Democrats and Republicans may find that delay is not without its costs.

As the New York Times reported, Angela M. Kelly, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said Latinos are going to expect Mr. Obama to take even more expansive executive action later this year, given the delay.

Ferguson: No reason for blacks to vote for Democrats

Building on the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Democrats are trying to mobilize blacks to help them keep control of the Senate.

In black churches and on black talk radio, black civic leaders have begun invoking Michael Brown’s death in an effort get black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, according to the New York Times.

But why would informed blacks vote for Democrats?

“The data is going to indicate sadly that when the Obama administration is over, black people will have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category,” says Tavis Smiley, a PBS host and political commentator.

Tavis Smiley, PBS Commentator

Tavis Smiley, PBS Commentator

In January 2009, when President Obama took office, the national unemployment rate was 7.8 %. In contrast, the unemployment rate for blacks was 12.7% and the rate for black youth was 21.8 %.

In July 2014, the national unemployment rate was 6.2%; the unemployment rate for whites was 5.3 %. In contrast, the unemployment rate for blacks was 11.4% and the rate for black youth was 24.8 %.

In August 2014, the unemployment rate for blacks, 11.4 %, was almost double the 6.1 % rate for the overall population.

“The 2-to-1 employment disparity between African Americans and whites is not closing and appears to be a permanent part of the economy,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, senior director of NAACP’s economic department.

The income gap between black and white households is also about the same now as it was when Obama took office.

Moreover, recent black college graduates ages 22 to 27 have an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent. That’s more than double the 5.6 percent unemployed among all college grads in that age range and almost a 300 percent increase from the 2007 level of 4.6 percent, before the Great Recession, according to the Center for Economic Policy and Research.

An estimated 10.6 percent of black women age 20 or older are unemployed, a figure unchanged from a year ago, according to the Labor Department.

With justification, all this is causing some blacks to question whether Obama and the Democrats deserve their almost automatic support.

Bruce Dixon, Black Agenda Report

Bruce Dixon,
Black Agenda Report

“When Barack Obama leaves the White House in January 2017, what will black America, his earliest and most consistent supporters, have to show for making his political career possible. We’ll have the T-shirts and buttons and posters, the souvenirs. That will be the good news. The bad news is what else we’ll have … and not,” said Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report.

Obama won 96 percent of the black vote in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012.

There’s simply no reason for that level of support to continue.

Obama’s executive orders on immigration: A feast for special interests

“A government above the law is a menace to be defeated.”
Lord Scarman

“This is a nation of laws,” President Obama proclaimed on Tuesday during his plea for calm in Ferguson, MO.

Yes it is. And the President of the United States, who appears to be unable or unwilling to work with Congress on immigration, shouldn’t be focusing his energies on how to go around it.

obama-cnn

“America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the president, am obligated to enforce the law. I don’t have a choice about that. That’s part of my job,” Obama said in March 2011, at an event hosted by the Spanish-language television network Univision.

“There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president,” Obama added.

So there’s something very dispiriting about his administration’s current maneuvering, in collusion with an array of special interests, to bypass Congress and circumvent immigration law through executive orders.

It reminds me of my time as staff on a committee of the House of Representatives when an impatient constituent complained about House inaction on a piece of legislation. Rep. Edwin Forsythe (R-NJ), the ranking minority member of the committee, replied that the Founders intended Congress to be deliberate. “It keeps a lot of bad bills from passing,” he said.

Instead of letting that legislative process play out, there’s something odious about all the special interests sidling up to Obama and his advisors behind closed doors to plead their case. They haven’t succeeded in pushing Congress to pass an immigration bill to their liking, so they’re happy to win by going in the back door.

This is where special deals for special interests, many of which have likely contributed generously to Obama and Democrats, can get their rewards without public exposure.

In an interesting juxtaposition of stories in today’s New York Times, one story highlighted Obama’s disengagement with Congress. “…nearly six years into his term, with his popularity at the lowest of his presidency, Mr. Obama appears remarkably distant from his own party on Capitol Hill, with his long neglect of would-be allies catching up to him,” the story said.

Meanwhile,another story outlined Obama’s plans to use executive orders to make “potentially sweeping changes to the nation’s immigration system without Congress.”

”America cannot wait forever for them to act,” Obama said of Congressional Republicans.

But the unwillingness of Congress to act on a president’s priorities shouldn’t mean defaulting to unbridled executive action. Rather, it should lead to more aggressive effort to secure Congressional votes.

When faced with Congressional resistance to his civil rights proposals, President Johnson didn’t retreat to the oval office to invent spurious ways to bypass Congress. As Robert Caro has so ably documented, Johnson worked every angle, twisted every arm, and glad-handed every critic to secure passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

According to Caro, when Johnson embarked on his campaign for a civil rights bill, his allies cautioned him about using up his political capitol on a important but doomed effort so soon after ascending to the presidency following Kennedy’s assassination.

Johnson’s reply? “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”