America's Best Choice
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“They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.” — Jim Malone, The Untouchables.Call it “gangster government”— an over-glorified protection racket that favors those who tow the party line, and viciously retaliates against those who dare to depart from the dogma of the Dear Leader.
Barack Obama simply does not view the world as Reagan did, in terms of good versus evil, as a world divided between the forces of freedom on one side and totalitarianism on the other. For the Obama administration the advancement of human rights and individual liberty on the world stage is a distinctly low priority, as we have seen with its engagement strategy towards the likes of Iran, Burma, Sudan, Venezuela and RussiaWe commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall to celebrate the collapse of communism, to honor those who died resisting communism, and to resolve that never again will peoples and nations allow so evil a tyranny to terrorize the world. Yet, at a time when the United States currently faces challenges as complicated as those confronted by Reagan (war in Afghanistan, the global fight against Islamist terrorism, the rise of a nuclear-armed Iran) Obama is bent on apologizing for our nation’s actions, betraying Cold War allies, and dithering on troop deployments.
During the election campaign, Barack Obama's cool detachment was a winning quality, the "No Drama Obama" a welcome contrast with the "Mr Angry" John McCain, never mind the hot-headed "I'm the decider" President George W Bush.
A year into his presidency, however, Mr Obama seems a curiously bloodless president. If he experiences passion, he seldom shows it. It is often anyone's guess as to whether an event or issue truly moves him. He has spent more than two months considering a troop increase but do we know how he really feels about the Afghan war?
In a sign that the Obama honeymoon truly is over, I began to hear this week the first stirrings of a wistfulness about Mr Bush. "I never thought I'd hear myself say it," one Democrat told me. "But Obama makes you feel that at least with Bush you knew where he was on something."
When Mr Bush's Republicans were defeated in the 2006 mid-term elections, it was the President himself who stepped up and declared that his party had received "a thumpin'". The Democratic defeats on Tuesday were not on anything like the same scale but Mr Obama acted as if nothing at all had happened.
Mr Obama had campaigned for Jon Corzine, New Jersey's Democratic governor, five times, twice just last Sunday. But when Mr Corzine lost by four points in a state Mr Obama won by 15 last year - a 19-point swing to Republicans - White House aides just shrugged. In Virginia, which Mr Obama won by six points last year, prompting Democrats to declare an historic political realignment in the state, the Democratic candidate went down by 17 points in the biggest landslide since 1961 - a 23-point swing to the Grand Old Party.
It took Senator Mark Warner of Virginia to admit that his party "got walloped". For three days, Mr Obama maintained a studied silence about the results while his aides blamed them on local factors that had nothing to do with the President. And to think that it was Mr Bush who was always accused of being "in denial".
More serious perhaps was Mr Obama's strange disconnectedness over the Fort Hood massacre of 13 soldiers by an Army major and devout Muslim who opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had praised suicide bombing and shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he opened fire. Maybe Mr Obama had been reading the American press, much of which somehow contrived to present the atrocity as a result of combat stress due to soldiers going on repeated war deployments (though Major Nadal Hasan had not been on any) and therefore, no doubt, Mr Bush's fault.
When the television networks cut to the President, viewers listened to him spend more than two surreal minutes talking to a gathering of Native Americans about their "extraordinary" and "extremely productive" conference, pausing to give a cheery "shout out" to a man named Dr Joe Medicine Crow. Only then did he briefly and mechanically address what had happened in Texas.
On Friday, when most of the basic facts were available, Mr Obama tried again. It was scarcely any better. He began by offering "an update on the tragedy that took place" - as if it was an earthquake and not a terrorist attack from an enemy within - and ended with a promise for more "updates in the coming days and weeks". Completely missing was the eloquence that Mr Obama employs when talking about himself. Absent too was any sense that the President empathised with the families and comrades of those murdered.
It was a reminder that for the past 16 years Americans have had two Presidents who would often extemporise and express emotion. President Bill Clinton could certainly "feel your pain" while Mr Bush sometimes struggled to hold back tears. Mr Obama is more like President George Bush Snr, who famously communicated his concern for people by blurting out: "Message - I care."
The White House argues that Mr Obama was not on the ballot last week and there is therefore no need to fret. The problem with this complacency is that voters were angry about the state of the economy, which Mr Obama can't keep blaming on his predecessor. With unemployment now above 10 per cent, Mr Obama needs to show Americans that he can relate to what they're going through, and take responsibility.
It could do him good to show he has a bit of fire in his belly. Perhaps he might make a decision or two based on gut instinct and deep conviction. In other words, maybe he should try being a bit more like Mr Bush.
H.R. 3962 provides that an individual (or a husband and wife in the case of a joint return) who does not, at any time during the taxable year, maintain acceptable health insurance coverage for himself or herself and each of his or her qualifying children is subject to an additional tax.” [page 1]When confronted with this same issue during its consideration of a similar individual mandate tax, the Senate Finance Committee worked on a bipartisan basis to include language in its bill that shielded Americans from civil and criminal penalties. The Pelosi bill, however, contains no similar language protecting American citizens from civil and criminal tax penalties that could include a $250,000 fine and five years in jail.
“If the government determines that the taxpayer’s unpaid tax liability results from willful behavior, the following penalties could apply…” [page 2]
Prosecution is authorized under the Code for a variety of offenses. Depending on the level of the noncompliance, the following penalties could apply to an individual:
• Section 7203 – misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.
• Section 7201 – felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years. [page 3]