August 16, 2014

“Don’t Do Stupid Stuff”…Really!…So Stop Doing Stupid Stuff.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below


Actually, President Obama didn’t say “stuff” he really said – well, you know. Nonetheless, conflating bumper sticker drivel with policy (foreign or domestic) has never been a good idea, and we thank Hillary Clinton for saying what so many democratic pros have known, but have been reluctant to express publicly.

We suppose every White House has done its share of stupid stuff. FDR tried to stack the Supreme Court. Harry Truman (in our view, one of our greatest presidents) issued his infamous” Executive Order 9835, which established “loyalty boards” throughout the land that could, and did, investigate every federal applicant, and whose findings were not subject to appeal. Under Dwight Eisenhower the ill-fated Bay of Pigs was planned and under John Kennedy it was executed. Lyndon Johnson parlayed “an incident” in the Golf of Tonkin (which seems never to have quite happened) into a massive escalation in Viet Nam. Richard Nixon, oh why go there. Then there’s Jerry Ford’s famous and incomprehensible “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration’. Jimmy Carter’s stupid stuff still plague us to this day, but our least harmful favorite was his nationally televised admonition during the height of the energy crisis;  “(we must keep) our thermostats…at 65 degrees in the daytime and 55 degrees at night…(to save) half the current shortage of natural gas.” Ronald Reagan suffered Iran-Contra, unbeknownst to him, right under his nose, and Bush (41) invited the nation to read my lips when pledging to the Republican National Convention with forked tongue that there would be no new taxes. Bill Clinton could have spared the country a linguistics lesson on what the meaning of “is” is, and George Bush dragged America into Iraq simply because he was certain the world would be much better off without Saddam Hussein (with or without WMD).

All of which brings us to President Barrack Obama and his ill-advised definition of government policy – “don’t do stupid sh…stuff.”  The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a very astute and erudite American knew and (so advised) that passing transformative legislation on a purely partisan basis was, well, doing stupid stuff. But President Obama did just that with Obamacare, and, indeed, as our readers know, we think that was pretty stupid stuff.

He alone decided to tell the nation during a televised address before Congress, the members of which he had to convince to vote for his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor and if you like your health insurance plan you can keep your plan...period.” Now, we know that he knew that wasn’t true.  In fact, his staff urged him not to say that, because they knew it was blatantly false, but he overrode them and stepped right into the stupid stuff.  An NBC investigation found that the Obama administration knew that between 40% and 67% of individual policyholders would lose their coverage under the law’s new requirements. But doing stupid stuff worked, so he kept doing it. He promised that during his first term the cost of insurance premiums would decrease $2400 per family. No one believed that was possible, and it wasn’t.  Actually, the average cost of insurance increased about $3500 per family. Making that promise was stupid stuff too. Perhaps, the deepest stupid stuff was when President Obama told the nation that if Obamacare increased the deficit by one dime he would veto it. Now, everyone in the Administration knew (and we mean everyone) that that was patently false. Even the Congressional budget Office has acknowledged that the deficit, because of Obamacare, will exceed $1trillion during the first decade of its passage. Now, this is deep, deep stupid stuff.

Then again, the stupid stuff just seems to be everywhere. IRS targeting of conservative message groups applying for tax-exempt status was really doing stupid stuff.  And the loss of the hard drives of everyone of interest in the Congressional investigation – more stupid stuff – or, depending on who wrote what on those hard drives, maybe not so stupid.

In the area of foreign affairs the stupid stuff has also been piling up.  Scrapping (in order to curry favor with Putin) the missile defense treaty that was carefully crafted with Czechoslovakia and Poland by his predecessor was, well, stupid stuff.

 President Obama sent Secretary of State Clinton to Russia to offer Putin (literally) a “reset” button to symbolize our “strategy” of improved relations. But Putin really wasn’t buying what Obama was selling. Putin was eying the re-creation of some semblance of the old Russian Empire.  Okay, let’s give the President credit for trying.  But the Obama Administration had no strategy to fall back on in the case of Putin ignoring the reset button.  So we, essentially, stood by and watched as Putin unwound a feeble democracy in Russia, swallowed Crimea and sponsored a bloody separatist movement in Ukraine. We stood there, knee deep in stupid stuff.

Announcing, far in advance, the dates by which we would pull all troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan was also, we believe, doing pretty stupid stuff. Not supporting the truly moderate Arab factions who had taken the fight to Bashar Assad in Syria was stupid stuff. Without western support the Islamic radicals quickly filled the void, and they have morphed into the barbaric Islamic State (or ISIS).

President Obama says the decision to pull all of our troops out of Iraq wasn’t his call. The Iraqis made him do it, he now says, because they wouldn’t agree on the terms of our continued presence there. Really? Jackson Diehl Deputy editorial page Editor of the liberal-leaning Washington Post is astonished.

“That Obama is somehow not responsible for the Iraq pullout would be news to anyone who remembers his announcement of it when he bragged of fulfilling his “promise” to end “America’s war in Iraq”; or his subsequent election campaign, in which he tirelessly proclaimed that the tide of war is receding. The sudden disclaimer certainly raised eyebrows among the numerous senior officials who have said both on and off the record, that Obama resisted leaving behind a stay-on force, slashed its size far below that proposed by military commanders and expressed relief when a legal snag provided him a pretext to pull the plug on Iraq altogether.”  ISIS running rampant over much of Iraq is the consequence of the vacuum we left behind. More stupid stuff.

What’s most disturbing about Obama’s current position, Diehl writes, is that his retreat in Iraq and passivity in Syria did much to create the ugly monster the United States now faces in the Islamic State, an organization that is more powerful, more vicious and more ambitious than al-Qaeda prior to Sept, 11, 2001.

The criticism of Obama’s precipitous pullout of Iraq far transcends the usual cast of Republican or neo-conservative naysayers. It has now been voiced by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, by the Democratic chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, by four former ambassadors to Iraq and by Obama’s own former Ambassador to Syria.

Then there is Iran, which insists that it will not agree to give up its right to enrich Uranium nor, it appears, have they agreed to disassemble any of their far-too-many centrifuges. Exactly what we have accomplished in our on-going negotiations with Iran is a bit of a mystery. With nothing concrete apparently accomplished, we have agreed to a four-month extension of the talks, and, in return, to unfreeze $2.8 billion in Iranian assets that have been frozen in the United States. If, at the end of the day, all we are left with is an unverifiable promise by Iran not to weaponize their nuclear capability we will have spent a lot of time and provided a lot of sanctions relief to Iran for little in return. Now, that too would constitute doing a lot of stupid stuff.


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2 responses to ““Don’t Do Stupid Stuff”…Really!…So Stop Doing Stupid Stuff.”

  1. susan duman says:

    I am a “junkie”. I think have pretty good insight, but the manner in which the 2 of you can put something together, do your research, and have it out to all of us is uncommonly brilliant.

  2. Bill Osterman says:

    Domestically how about Dodd=Frank? Internationally do not forget his “red lines!”

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