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It’s Et tu, Brute Time

TOM BURGUM
Staff Columnist
burgum@lbknews.com

Being president can’t be all that much fun. If it isn’t enough that the opposition party is blaming you for all the ills of the world, sooner or later those who have supped at your political table turn on you. The latest blow to fall on President Obama came during an “Atlantic Monthly” interview with Hillary Clinton.

She directly criticized Obama’s failure to shape the forces fighting the Assad regime. She said, “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protest against Assad − there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle − the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have filled.”

Clinton finished with the stinging rejoinder to Obama‘s alleged organizing principle: “Great nations need organizing principles and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff is not an organizing principle.”

The interview in the Atlantic may be the beginning of her attempts to highlight her differences with Obama. This cannot be good news for the Obama administration, or for the Democratic Party.

Obama likely has a better appreciation of what Julius Caesar must have felt that March 15th so long ago.

In news closer to home, Reuters reported that President Barack Obama contends that his economic policies have benefited corporate America. “If you look at what’s happened over the last four or five years, the folks who don’t have a right to complain are the folks at the top,” Obama said in an interview conducted last week and posted on the Huffington Post’s website late in July. Give the president credit, he’s right about that.

The news for the people in the middle and lower economic strata is not as pleasant. The Washington Post reported that a new study from the Brookings Institution, a moderate-left Washington think tank, revealed that the American economy is less entrepreneurial now than at any point in the last three decades. Even more disturbing is that during the most recent three years of the study − 2009, 2010 and 2011 − businesses were failing faster than they were being formed. “This lack of economic dynamism, particularly the steep drop since 2006, may be,“ according to the Post, “one reason why our current recovery has felt like much less than a recovery.” Business dynamism, as explained by Brookings, “is the process by which firms continually are born, fail, expand, and contract, as some jobs are created, others are destroyed, and others still are turned over. Research has firmly established that this dynamic process is vital to productivity and sustained economic growth.”

More bad news because behind the August 2013 job figures is a disturbing reality. Since January 2009 the country has added a net total of 270,000 full-time jobs, but it has added 1.9 million part-time jobs, according to the House Ways and Means Committee. The first six months of 2013 simply mirrored the overall statistic. Keith Hall, a senior researcher at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, concluded that, “over the last six months, of the net job creation, 97 percent of that is part-time work.” Hall was head of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 to 2012. No question about it, Wall Street is doing well, Main Street isn’t. I don’t think that’s what Mr. Obama had in mind.

Finally, one has to ask oneself if events over the past few years call our politicians grip on reality.

I once wrote that then Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell appeared as presidential material early in his administration. A Republican, he still managed to work closely with the majority Democrats in the Virginia Senate to pass a monumental public works bill; unemployment fell to 5.4 percent during his tenure, indeed, a remarkable record.

Then the governor and his wife, in the words of Jim Geraghty, “turned themselves into walking infomercials for the dietary supplements produced by one of the governor’s top donors. And they many very well have behaved in a manner you and I would consider. . Not quite sane.”

Shortly after McDonnell endorsed Mitt Romney, Maureen McDonnell cornered Ann Romney and told her the anti-inflammatory supplement could “potentially cure MS.” “How do you do that? How“, asks Geraghty, “do you go up to a woman with multiple sclerosis and tell her that a dietary supplement produced by one of your top donors might cure her disease?” Indeed, how do you do that?

The last two decades feature some questionable political behavior. The aptly named, Anthony Weiner managed to destroy a promising political career when he emailed pictures of his private parts to interested females; very likely didn’t do much for his marriage either, I imagine. Marion Barry, then mayor of Washington, will be remembered for “the bitch set me up.” He should, in fairness, be remembered for telling reporters to ignore rumors that Jessie Jackson was going to run for mayor. “Jess? He ain’t goin’ to run nothin’ but his mouth,” was Barry’s memorable response.

Perhaps it’s just ignorance that afflicts some members of congress. Geraghty reminds us that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee believes that Neil Armstrong planted a flag on Mars. She also asserted that we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. Then there was Congressman Hank Johnson, fearing that the island of Guam would “tip over and capsize” if too many military personnel were stationed there.

On the other hand, maybe it’s just business as usual. Mark Twain in his day wrote: “Suppose you were an idiot; and suppose you were a member of congress; but I repeat myself.”

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