Category Archives: Ronald Reagan

How Bad Is ‘Worst’?

The New York Post reported today that a plurality of respondents in a recent poll (33%) named President Obama as the worst President since World War II.  George W. Bush came in second with 28%, and Richard Nixon was a distant third at 13%.    So now I’m somewhat comforted to know that it’s not just me.

When I used to rail at Bush, I would call him derisively  ‘Our Fearless Leader.’  But I can’t call Obama that: he isn’t fearless, and I’ve never seen him actually lead.

People used to say that Jimmy Carter was our worst President.  B’ut his problem was that he was once a naval officer, and approached the Presidency the same way: address problems forthrightly, and take the necessary measures to deal with them, even though it may be difficult or painful.  Obama, in contrast, seems perfectly happy kicking the can down the road.

But if he’s that bad of a President, can we do something about it?  Some of the conservative Web sites that I read suggest that Obama should be impeached.  Its a charming thought, but, alas, I don’t see it happening.

We began the process of impeaching President Nixon because it appeared that he was using the power of his office to subvert our democratic system.  (Nixon resigned at that point, and we never got to the bottom of what actually happened.)  We impeached President Clinton (but failed to convict him) because of alleged personal crimes (he lied under oath).   While these crimes had no discernable impact on his ability to govern, they were nevertheless crimes.

We can reasonably say that President Obama is not respecting that part of the Constitution that requires him to ‘faithfully execute the laws.’  But the Constitution is deliberately vague on that point.  The Founders expected that a President might have to deal with conflicting constraints, and anticipated that he might have to use some professional judgement in executing the laws.  So the requirement is more of a guideline.

Moreover, impeachment was never meant as a remedy for policy decisions that one might disagree with, or alleged disrespect for the office, or lying to the American people (which for the typical politician comes almost as easily as breathing).  For those, the appropriate remedy is not to re-elect the man or his party.  But we did re-elect Obama in 2012, and by a substantial margin.

Some have suggested that the President could be charged with treason.  But that won’t work either.  In the absence of a declaration of war, the executive gets to decide who the enemy is.

In brief, our Constitution was never designed to deal with the case of a President who pursues his own agenda, with apparent disregard not only for the Constitution and the rule of law, but for common sense.  The Founders presumed that such a man would never become President.

But we elected him, not once but twice….

The Trouble with Ukraine

The story, according to the news media:

The good people of Ukraine, yearning for freedom and prosperity, seek a closer relationship with the European Union.  But the government of Ukraine, with it’s President supported by the Russians, wants a close relationship with Russia.  The matter came to a head during the last week of the Winter Olympics, and the government was thrown out.  The new provisional Ukraine government wants a new relationship with the European Union, which would also bring billions in aid.

Meanwhile, the Russians have moved into the Crimea, a peninsula in the southeast of Ukraine that is ethnically Russian and the site (for years and years) of a Russian/former Soviet naval base.  The troops don’t carry Russian insignia, and when pressed, Russia indicates that they’re merely protecting their interests and the Russian population.

So we’re led to believe that the provisional Ukraine government stands for freedom and constitutional democracy, and all good things.  It’s a good story.

And if I believed it, I might feel differently.  But I wonder:

  • Are our hands clean in this exercise?  Or did we put the Ukrainians up to it?
  • It appears that this provisional Ukraine government is made up of the worst kind of right-wing reactionaries–the spiritual if not physical descendants of the Ukrainians who stood with Nazi Germany in the 1940s.  Why are we supporting these people?
  • The government that was deposed had been validly and noncontroversially elected.  What is the justification for throwing them out?
  • If Ukraine joins the European Union, they will indeed get aid.  But most of the aid will be in the form of loans that will have to be paid back.  Ukraine will have to take austerity measures to be able to repay the loans, like Greece.
    • Is this a ploy to acquire for the Europeans (and deny to the Russians) Ukraine’s coal and natural gas?
    • If the people of Ukraine understood the dimensions of the issue, would those in favor of joining the European Union still be enthusiastic about it?

Once upon the time, we were the strongest and most productive nation on Earth.  We could and did go meddling in the affairs of other countries not only because we could do it, and we thought it was right, but because we could withstand the consequences of our actions.  The rest of the would couldn’t do very much to hurt us.  And we had enough common sense not to mess around in our adversary’s home turf, which, in fairness, might result in consequences that we couldn’t shuck off.

But we’re not the country we were fifty years ago, nor even during the Reagan administration.  The Russians can inflict far more severe consequences on us than we can on them, because we are hugely and catastrophically in debt to the rest of the world.

The best thing we can do in Ukraine is to leave it alone.

Reagan Was Wrong

Ronald Reagan, on balance, was one of our better Presidents.  Although the Soviet Union would probably have collapsed anyway, he accelerated the process; he reversed the trend toward bigger government; he made us feel better about ourselves, which seems silly, but is important, as it leads us to solve problems for ourselves, instead of moaning and wailing for the government to do it.

But there was one point where Reagan was mistaken.  He believed that tax cuts were an effective way to constrain the government: it the revenue isn’t coming in, then it can’t be spent.  Of course, his own administration did otherwise, ushering in the ear of huge deficits.  He proposed that he could cut taxes, increase defense spending, and still balance the budget.  I guess two out of three isn’t bad.

But now that we have the perspective of over two decades,  it’s clear that reducing taxes does not constrain government.  On the contrary: as long as someone out there is willing to lend, the politicians are willing to borrow.  Only when there is really and truly no more money will they stop.  But even then, they will rarely shut anything down.  Instead, they reduce its budget so that it works half-assedly.

And if we can come up with a gimmick in order to keep spending, like the current ‘quantitative easing’ by the Federal Reserve, so much the better.

Anything to avoid facing reality….