Monday, December 24, 2012

Obama: America’s Scrooge with pardon power

I was chatting with P.S. Ruckman, PardonPower blogger and the capo di tutti commuti, last week. Ruckman noted that if President Obama is going to issue Christmas pardons, he most likely would do so Friday night, or possibly on Christmas Eve. Or maybe there won’t be any Christmas pardons this year. Barack Obama has the worst clemency record of any modern president. And so far, there have been no post-election Christmas pardons.

In prepping for a recent column on the compelling reasons to commute the sentece of Clarence Aaron, despite the president’s dismal record of barely using his unfettered clemency power,  I watched this Dec. 10 conference at the Heritage Foundation on the subject.

It goes to competence. There’s clearly more applications that are deserving
and the fact that 40 percent haven’t even been decided in an adinistration  that takes pride on
making agencies competent and responsive to their function is to me indefensible.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Obama Expected to Name Kerry as Secretary of State

President Obama is leaning strongly toward naming John Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and unsuccessful Democratic nominee for president eight years ago, to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state, according to administration officials and friends of Mr. Kerry. 

But the announcement will be delayed, at least until later this week and maybe beyond, because of the Connecticut school shooting and what one official called “some discomfort” with the idea of Mr. Obama’s announcing a national security team in which the top posts are almost exclusively held by white men. 

The American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, who is black and was considered Mr. Obama’s leading candidate for the job, withdrew her name from consideration last week after opposition to her nomination grew in the Senate. 

For Mr. Kerry, 69, the appointment would fulfill an ambition that dates back many years. He had hoped for the post when Mr. Obama was first elected in 2008; since then, he has shepherded the passage of a critical arms-control treaty and conducted a series of quiet missions on behalf of the president, notably at moments of crisis with Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

But he would be entering an administration whose primary foreign policy strategies are already set, even as it tries to use American leverage in dealing with a Middle East that is veering toward hard-line Islamist governments and an Iran that is getting perilously close to a nuclear capability. 

With Ms. Rice out of the running, Mr. Kerry’s appointment “is the working presumption,” said a senior State Department official who has been preparing for the transition to a new secretary. But White House officials said the deal was not entirely done, because the lineup currently envisioned — with former Senator Chuck Hagel to head the Defense Department and the acting C.I.A. director, Michael J. Morell, likely to be named to the post permanently — looks a bit too much like national security teams of a previous era. 

For Mr. Obama, a national security team led by Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel, and their longtime colleague in the Senate, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., would be deeply experienced but also, in many ways, deeply conventional. All three were in the Senate during the cold war, long before Mr. Obama came on the political scene. All describe themselves as pragmatists rather than ideologues, and all became skeptics, then critics, of the American experiment in Iraq from the early days of the war. 

Still, administration officials said, for now there are no serious candidates for the State Department job other than Mr. Kerry. He would be the first white man to serve in the post since Warren Christopher left the job in early 1997. His successors have been Madeleine K. Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Mrs. Clinton. 

Mr. Kerry’s colleagues in the Senate have said that he would sail through confirmation hearings. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, has already begun jokingly calling Mr. Kerry “Mr. Secretary.” Both men are veterans of the Vietnam War and worked together to provide President Bill Clinton with political cover to grant diplomatic recognition to Vietnam. Mr. McCain said of Mr. Kerry recently that he would most likely win a large number of Republican votes for confirmation. 

The issue of the composition of Mr. Obama’s team arose anew when Ms. Rice withdrew. If she keeps her current post as ambassador to the United Nations, she will remain in Mr. Obama’s cabinet and on his national security team. She is also considered the likely successor to Thomas E. Donilon as national security adviser. But Mr. Donilon does not intend to leave that post for a year or two, his friends say, unless he is named White House chief of staff. 

Michèle A. Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense for policy, remains a candidate to become the first female defense secretary. But in internal discussions, White House officials have said that the challenge of the next few years will be working with Congress to shrink the defense budget and kill some major cold war-era weapons systems. For that, Mr. Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, is seen as better able to win votes from his former colleagues. 

Ms. Flournoy has also been mentioned as a possible C.I.A. director, but Mr. Morell, who ran the analysis division of the agency, is the favorite of C.I.A. officials. “Mike has been concerned about the over-militarization of the C.I.A.,” a senior military officer who has dealt with him said recently. “And so are many at the agency, who fear they have wandered too far from the job of analyzing trends and obtaining secrets.” 

John Brennan, a close aide to Mr. Obama and a former agency station chief in Saudi Arabia who has directed counterterrorism activity from his basement White House office, is also a candidate for C.I.A. director. But officials note that his current post already gives him sway over all 18 intelligence agencies. 

Mr. Kerry has worked hard to deepen his relationship with Mr. Obama. The president has at times considered him long-winded and a throwback to a previous generation of diplomats, aides said. But Mr. Kerry impressed Mr. Obama and Mr. Donilon when he was sent to deal with Hamid Karzai, the famously unpredictable president of Afghanistan, after Mr. Karzai’s supporters rigged a presidential election in 2009 and refused a second round of voting. 

Mr. Kerry also visited Pakistan several times to try to ease recurrent tensions, including a two-week visit after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Pakistani officials tried to get Mr. Kerry to write what they called a “blood oath” that the United States would never take action to seize Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Mr. Kerry found a diplomatic way out, saying the United States had no “designs” on Pakistan’s weapons. 

“It meant nothing,” a member of Mr. Obama’s national security team said later. “And it solved the crisis. Quite artfully.” 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Letter: Harper isn’t defending Quebec’s interests

It is interesting how the Conservatives are quick to denounce Justin Trudeau’s comments and defend Alberta’s interests and honour, but nowhere are Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cronies anywhere to be found to defend Quebec interests — ever. They’ve given in/up to the nationalists.

Mr. Harper’s actions and those of his party show that they are representative of the people who voted for them, and not all Canadians. The PM should represent all Canadians, not just Albertans.