Mem´ries, may be beautiful and yet
What´s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget.
-- "The Way We Were" --
The current crop of leading presidential candidates is so bad they make Joe Biden look good.
How could we say such a thing?
We simply choose to remember three things about Biden which are too painful to forget.
(1) The Syrian civil war started in March 2011 with pro-democracy demonstrations in the city of Deraa. The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad responded with a brutal repression that made the opposition grow exponentially. A civil war ensued in which over 200,000 Syrians were killed, 11 million were forced from their homes, and 4 million fled their country.
Only five months after the war began, on August 18, 2011, President Obama came down hard, with both feet. He declared that Assad should "step aside."
Two years later, Vice President Biden left no doubt about his position on Syria; it was Obama´s. "President Obama and I, and nearly all of our partners and allies, are convinced that President Assad, a tyrant, hell bent on clinging to power, is no longer fit to lead the Syrian people and he must go."
Biden disclosed the U.S. had provided over $50 million in "non-lethal assistance" to the Assad opposition. No figures were given for lethal assistance.
Reports released by Wikileaks showed President George W. Bush began secretly assisting the Assad opposition in 2005. The present Obama and Biden war, then, is simply the continuation of Bush´s policy, but openly. Nothing new there; it is an incarnation of the 1832 dictum of Carl Von Clausewitz: "War is merely the continuation of politics by other means."
And politics, it is. The U.S. war in Syria does not require -- at least so far -- United States ground troops. Obama/Biden are fighting Assad with proxy Syrian rebel soldiers.
What Obama/Biden are doing is completely wrong morally and strategically.
(i) Their politics by other means are contributing to the colossal humanitarian crisis being played out right now before the astonished eyes of the entire world. As you watch the endless flow of refugees -- half of all Syrians have fled their homes -- keep in mind that
(ii) not only has the end of Assad not been achieved, he has outlasted Bush and will likely outlast Obama/Biden.
The tap root of the disaster:
We have noted in numerous posts that when it comes to terrorists, the United States Government has no analysis. That is why, in creating and supporting Syrian proxy troops, the United States literally does not know what it is doing.
The smoking gun: apparently, ISIS was among the anti-Assad rebel groups funded, trained and equipped by the United States. Our post of October 17, 2014:
"We have noted in prior posts that, blinded by an ideology, the CIA and Pentagon are ignorant of the cause of terrorism: middle class rebellion. The practical implications are enormous. That ignorance is what renders them incapable of distinguishing rebels (notably "moderate" ones) from rebels turned or about to turn into terrorists.
Ignorance is, in one word, why the United States Government is wholly incapable of vetting terrorists like ISIS. (As this blog has shown, in case after case the American authorities have proven themselves unable to identify terrorists literally sitting three feet in front of them.)"
The potential legal implications of Washington´s incompetence are monumental. For starters, to the extent it created and bungled the Syrian crisis, the doors are ajar to charges of misfeasance, if not malfeasance. Our October post continued:
"Ignorance or inattention does not save the CIA or Pentagon -- or Obama [or Biden] -- from a malfeasance verdict. They cannot claim that when we helped ISIS we did not know what ISIS would become, and walk. Consequences, not intentions, count."
How Obama and Biden may have aided and abetted ISIS in its early days is shrouded in secrecy. They know that if the veil is torn off, the prospect of impeachment rises logarithmically.
Now it´s our turn to come down hard, with both feet:
We are calling for the United Nations to create an International Criminal Tribunal for Syria.
The world is changing. When colossal humanitarian crises occur, it is not only acceptable but practicable to compel irresponsible people in positions of responsibility to be held legally accountable. The United Nation´s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is an example; as of 2009, 29 people were convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Another noteworthy case: the International Criminal Tribunal for The Former Yugoslavia resulted in 74 convictions.
We leave it to a International Criminal Tribunal for Syria to determine, among other things,
(i) the nature and extent of criminal and civil liability of world leaders such as Assad in his country´s crisis. What would make a Syrian Tribunal truly impartial and unprecedented: given their openly avowed participation in the Syrian civil war, Obama/Biden would not be exempt from investigation and prosecution.
(ii) A competent, uncompromising investigation of the Syrian crisis would encompass a welter of related subjects, i.e., whether or not the White House aided and abetted ISIS.
Exhibit 1 of violations in Syria of International Humanitarian Law is presented at the top of this post.
To conclude this point, I do not know if Joe Biden is guilty or innocent of crimes against humanity in Syria. I do know that until an International Tribune finds him innocent, the evidence against him is probative.
(2) My second reason for not voting for Biden is domestic.
In the first months of the Obama/Biden Administration, Biden threw down the gauntlet.
On May 26, 2009, he observed that during the George W. Bush Administration
"middle-class incomes actually fell -- they fell more than 3 percent... [M]iddle-class Americans actually saw their share of the pie shrink by 3 percent. Folks, that's not acceptable. That's not the way this country is supposed to work. And we're about setting about to change that.
The President and I have set a very basic and measurable goal that we'll be held to, I'm sure. We said that our -- judge us in terms of our economic policy, not merely on whether or not the Gross Domestic Product begins to grow. That's not sufficient. But when middle-class incomes begin to grow, and when people aspiring to the middle class get a shot to become part of it -- that's the measure."
A very basic and measurable goal. Joe, we wholeheartedly agree with you. You asked for a quantitative judgement day.
Here it is:
Every year the United States Census Bureau divides the national income pie into five equal portions from richest to poorest. It then determines what share of the pie went to each fifth. The data are here: Historical Income Tables: Households. Go to "Table H-2. Share of Aggregate Income Received by Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent of Households, All Races: 1967 to 2013." 2013 is the latest year for which figures are available.
The middle portions 2, 3, and 4 comprise a quantitative definition of "middle class." In 2009, the first year of the Obama/Biden Administration, the middle class received 46.4% of the national income. In 2013, the figure had fallen to 45.8%.
Folks, that´s not acceptable. Where did the missing .6% go?
Not to portion 1, the poorest group. Their share of the income pie fell from 3.4% to 3.2%.
That leaves only one alternative.
The share of national income going to the wealthiest portion in 2009-13 rose from 50.3% to 51.0%. Particularly noteworthy is that the share going to the top 5% of households jumped from 21.7% to 22.2%.
Conclusion: during the Obama/Biden Administration the rich got richer, the poor and the middle class poorer. That trend has existed at least since 1967, when the middle class received 52.3% of the national income, the poor 4.0%, and the rich 43.6% (the super rich or top 5% -- 17.2%)
In 2009, Joe Biden became Chairman of the Middle Class Working Families Task Force. He announced he would boldly go where no Democrat or Republican had gone before in over 40 years: reverse the impoverishment of the middle class.
Look at the Census Bureau data again. Biden failed.
Our summary judgement is shared by at least one person of note: Joe Biden. On October 2, 2012, he acknowledged that the "middle class has been buried the last four years."
Biden does not deserve a chance to fail again. He is not fit to lead the American people, and must go.
That´s the measure.
(3) My third reason for not voting for Biden: he is a thief.
Turn the clock back 27 years.
In 1987, Biden was running for president when he plagiarized a speech delivered by UK Labour Leader Neil Kinnock. When other incidents of plagiarism surfaced involving speeches by John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, as well as Biden´s student paper in a legal methodology class at Syracuse University, Biden was forced to withdraw. His presidential campaign lasted only three and a half months.
* * *
We take seriously a potential Joe Biden presidential candidacy.
A CNN poll* released September 10 showed Biden with 20% support among possible Democrat primary voters, compared to 37% for Hillary Clinton and 27% for Bernie Sanders. Biden scored better than Clinton in trial heats against all major GOP opponents in the general election.
Biden stated that his wife Jill "has always been -- had a true north, a moral compass." We call upon Jill to give her wayward husband a sense of direction, take out the hook and annul the national spectacle that should never have started. To wit:
Joe is flirting with talk show hosts and the American electorate about a possible presidential candidacy; he wants to give the appearance of being drafted.
Here, he faces a singular dilemma. There is no draft for president. And so, the proverbial bottom line appears.
Joe Biden is flirting with himself.
Update -- September 19.
Over the past week readers raised two important questions about the above post.
1. Why is skepticism warranted regarding the innocence of Biden and Obama in the Syrian civil war?
Here are two reasons:
(i) We have noted previously that doubts in the employment of violence is a key factor which defines and distinguishes a non-terrorist from a terrorist. Indeed, self-doubt is the sine qua non why one man´s freedom fighter is not another man´s terrorist.
Our post of 9/24/2014 "ISIS: Winston Churchill Speaks" examined in depth the questioning and self-doubt accompanying the use of violence by non-terrorists who find themselves compelled to commit violence in order to prevent even greater violence. We presented two classic cases, Winston Churchill and Harry Truman:
"90-166,000 died in Truman´s bombing of Hiroshima; 39-80,000 died in the bombing of Nagasaki. In Churchill´s area bombings, one million German civilians were killed or wounded, 7.5 million were rendered homeless ...
[C]ontrary to popular belief Churchill and Truman retained in consciousness the ambiguity of their devastating bombings and their noble intentions:
(a) "Are we beasts? Are we taking this too far?" Churchill asked regarding the Allied bombing of the Ruhr in 1943.
(b) In 1949, on the verge of tears, Churchill told his son Randolph who had said Allied area bombing of Germany was equal in "horror" to the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, "Tens of thousands of lives were extinguished in one night. Old men, old women, little children -- yes, yes, children about to be born."
Now, Truman. Arthur Schlesinger wrote:
´Revisionist historians condemn Truman for his allegedly unrepentant decision to drop the bomb in 1945. In fact, Truman behaved like a man most shaken by the decision. He had directed that the bomb be used "so that military objectives are the target . . . and not women and children," and he was considerably disturbed when he learned that most of those killed at Hiroshima were civilians.
The day after Nagasaki he ordered that further atomic bombing be stopped. He told his cabinet, as Henry Wallace recorded in his diary, that the thought of wiping out another 100,000 people was too horrible. He didn't like the idea of killing, as he said, "all those kids."
I have a message for you cynics out there. Even if Truman and Churchill were faking it -- even if their morals were written in jello -- if Jihadi John is taken alive, you will see and hear nothing approaching what you just read. A total absence of any doubt and self-questioning will play itself out before your eyes. I could write his entire self-righteous, finger-pointing, wooden dialogue, but you´re going to see it time and again, when ISIS members are captured and appear in court."
On no known occasion has Joe Biden or Barack Obama expressed the slightest hesitation, much less remorse, about what they did and continue to do right now in Syria. No self-questioning; no self-doubts. They are a universe away from Churchill and Truman.
I leave it to you, dear reader, to draw the appropriate conclusion.
(ii) Both Biden and Obama think nothing of lecturing other nations on their moral incorrectness. The most recent example appeared in Obama´s visit to Kenya in July in which he denounced that nation´s stance on homosexuality. In Kenya sexual activity between men is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Biden´s and Obama´s self-assigned role as judge and jury of other countries´ ethics is a classic case of psychological projection:
Unconscious guilt is always a heavy, sometimes an unbearable burden. Relief is sought by projecting that guilt onto other people and cultures. Assad, Putin, Iran: all are, to a greater or lesser extent, garbage cans for receiving elements of the psychological shadows of Obama/Biden, i.e., their own unconscious elements which their conscious rejects as unacceptable.
Kenya is an especially profound case. The homeland of President Obama´s drunkard, woman-chasing, violent, liar father, Kenya serves as a trigger to make all sorts of unconscious elements come roiling to the surface. We hope Kenyans will see through Obama´s projections and related effusions, and get on with their affairs.
Unconscious: that is the consummatory word that simultaneously describes and explains Obama/Biden. They sleepwalk through life, completely unaware of the harm they have caused others. There is no point talking with such people; they cannot hear you.
Unconscious, unconscionable: the difference between them can be minimal.
2. Other readers are asking: it is easy to criticize Biden and his task force for not stopping the decline of the middle class. What is the solution?
The fact that there is solution makes Biden´s failure all the more unacceptable.
You will find an in-depth analysis of the decline of the middle class in The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion. Its central thesis: in the long run, the fundamental cause of the decline is tendencies inherent to capitalism, e.g., the specialization of labor. As long as capitalism is capitalism, those tendencies will not disappear.
For the short run, in the United States the cause of the middle class decline is the loss of property, notably homes. That property was unaffordable in the first place due in large part to house flippers who drove up home prices far beyond their real value.
Our post of November 12, 2012, "The Chaos Whisperer. Part 4: The Political Economy of House Flipping":
"From 2007-2012, 4 million foreclosures occurred. 6 million more are on the brink. Undoubtedly, many if not most of those ex-home owners are middle income people ...
It is not easy to get a handle on the damage which the post-2006 housing crisis inflicted on the middle class as distinguished from the other two classes. However, a highly probative clue is found in net worth (total assets minus deficits). The Pew Research Center concluded in August 2012 in an aptly-titled study, The Lost Decade of The Middle Class: "Net worth of middle-income families dropped 39% ... [from $129,582 in 2001 to $93,150 in 2010] as the housing market crash and Great Recession wiped out the previous advances. Over the 1983 to 2010 period, only upper-income families registered strong increases in wealth."
39%. Only a heavy-weight asset such as housing can account for such a great disappearing act ...
The failure to face the real cause of the millions of foreclosures is shared by the United States government. It is why Vice President Joe Biden´s middle class task force, as Biden himself admitted, is a total failure."
For our solution to the middle class property crisis -- a special tax on house flipping -- see our post of July 19, 2014, "El Dorado Gringo."
To conclude this discussion of the middle class decline:
Albert Camus presented the ethical dilemma of a person who sees a bully beating up a small man. Should the bystander get involved? "I am neutral," he declares and continues on his way.
Camus noted the bystander in truth is not neutral; he is on the side of the bully. In standing by and watching the middle class lose billions of dollars of assets in property foreclosures, Joe Biden was and is not neutral. He is on the side of the banks, the speculators, the house flippers.
If he enters the race for president, Biden will proclaim and defame to the heavens above that he had nothing to do with the decline of the middle class. Unconscious, he will never learn the lesson of two-year-old Alyan Kurdi:
There is no such thing as an innocent bystander.
*The methodology of CNN polls is deeply flawed. See our post of August 22, 2015, "President Trump?"