Clarice's Pieces: Kentucky McConnell and the Temple of Pork

I was really happy when I read in the Washington Post that soon-to-be demoted to Minority Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi has turned to director Steven Spielberg to "rebrand" the House Democrats.

The story offered me a way out of my quandary -- what to title this column today.  The Tea Party and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, The Sugardaddy Express, Pelosi Park.  Anyway, just as I selected the present title, the NY Daily News said the Spielberg story was false.  I suppose after fawning all over Castro and making a video montage for Kerry, Spielberg's decided to limit his creative political work to  raising money and endorsing checks.

But I'm keeping the title anyway because it reflects my respect to the fantastic job Mitch McConnell did in the lame duck session of the Senate.  I know some conservatives have been apoplectic that he was unable to turn back all of Obama's initiatives.  Some are furious about the passage of DADT's repeal and New START, and their disappointment is made all the stronger by the latest media meme that Obama is a "comeback kid" and that the now-ended session of Congress was the "most productive" ever.

Undoubtedly the Democrat crowing will persuade some that the party and its leader are back in the groove.  Get real.  The DREAM Act, the tax deal, and the Omnibus Spending Bill were their highest priority, and they lost all of those even though they held the majority.  And then there was the less heralded but also significant addition of accountability and fraud prevention provisions in the 9-11 Health and Compensation Act for which Senator Coburn must be credited.  In Coburn's case, a special note should be made that he checked the attempt by Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to legislate by anecdote, making an observation so good it should be engraved on the walls of the Capitol:

I'm pleased the sponsors of this bill agreed to lower costs dramatically, offset the bill, sunset key provisions, and take steps to prevent fraud.  Every American recognizes the heroism of the 9/11 first responders, but it is not compassionate to help one group while robbing future generations of opportunity.  I'm pleased this agreement strikes a fair balance and improves the bill the majority attempted to rush through at the last minute.  [Emphasis supplied.]

I agree absolutely with Jennifer Rubin, who said that to stage a comeback, Obama will have to "do what the left loathes -- cut domestic programs, rework entitlement programs, stand up to foreign adversaries (Obama's legacy is irretrievably ruined if Iran gets the bomb on his watch), cut back on growth-restricting regulations and keep tax rates low. And so long as unemployment remains at historic highs, Obama's chances of re-election remain poor." 

Another one of my favorite commentators, the Telegraph's Toby Harnden -- who was more pessimistic last weekend, suggesting that Obama is more likely  than not to be re-elected -- was a bit more gimlet-eyed as the week ended.

Throw into the mix the start in earnest of the 2012 election campaign and you don't need to be a dyed-in-the-wool cynic to predict that bipartisanship in Washington will be short-lived -- and Obama's "comeback" is unlikely to extend into February.

In any event, many of those offering up opinions on the two pieces of legislation the Republicans could not stop didn't notice that the victories for the Dems were neither as sweeping nor as momentous as press accounts suggested.

The Weekly Standard reports this GOP memo, proving again that the devil is in the details -- or to put it another way, Obama cannot put the New START into effect without meeting a lot of Republican demands:

With the adoption of amendment 4904 to the New START Resolution of Ratification, the President must certify prior to entry into force of the treaty that it is the policy of the United States to qualitatively and quantitatively improve the US missile defense system.  This includes deployment of all four phases of his own Phased Adaptive Approach, with the last phase having a capability against ICBMs that could hold at risk the US homeland, as well as the continued development of the two-stage ground-based interceptors as a technological and strategic hedge to the PAA.  The amendment further expressed the position of the United States that the deployment of these systems does not constitute a basis for questioning the effectiveness and viability of the treaty, and therefore would not give rise to circumstances justifying Russian withdrawal from the Treaty.  This much more directly confronts the Russian position on the matter, when compared to the feckless unilateral statement issued by the United States at the signing of the treaty.  The amendment requires the President to communicate all of this to Russia at the time of the exchange of the instruments of ratification.  The amendment also provided an Understanding that the treaty preamble does not impose a legal obligation on the parties, which will be included in the instrument of ratification.    

Amendment 4864 was adopted by consent to the Resolution of Ratification, which requires the President to certify prior to entry into force of the treaty that he intends to modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems, namely a heavy bomber and air-launched cruise missile, an ICBM, and an SSBN and SLBM.

Amendment 4892 was adopted by consent to the Resolution of Ratification, which requires  the President to certify prior to entry into force of the treaty that he intends to accelerate to the extent possible the design and engineering phase of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) building and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF); and request full funding, including on a multi-year basis as appropriate, for these facilities upon completion of the design and engineering phase for such facilities.

When those two amendments are combined with the President's commitment to provide annual updates to the 1251 report concerning the budget plan to modernize the US nuclear complex, the Congress will have a substantial basis to provide the resources necessary for the President's own plan to modernize the entire US nuclear complex.  Secretary Gates has made clear that this modernization is a prerequisite to any nuclear reductions. 

After jamming New START through the Senate in a lame duck session where the Senate was concomitantly attending to a variety of other duties, and consequently achieving the lowest vote count ever for a ratified major arms control treaty, the Obama Administration is probably looking around wondering what is next for its nonproliferation agenda, now that CTBT is effectively off the table.  It would appear incumbent upon Republicans to provide the Administration with that agenda, beginning with a focus on the true nonproliferation threats of Iran and North Korea.

As for DADT's repeal, it doesn't mean that openly gay men and women will automatically be admitted to the service.

As Legal Insurrection observes, there's a lot in the details to be resolved first:

Contrary to popular media hype, repeal of the law does not itself require the military to allow open service by gays: (b) EFFECTIVE DATE.-The amendments made by subsection (f) shall take effect only on the date on which the last of the following occurs:

(1) The Secretary of Defense has received the report required by the memorandum of the Secretary referred to in subsection (a).

(2) The President transmits to the congressional defense committees a written certification, signed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating each of the following:

(A) That the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report's proposed plan of action.

(B) That the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f).

(C) That the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.

In any event, on March 25 of this year, Secretary of Defense Gates issued a memo tightening substantially the forms of evidence which might be used to establish a DADT violation and requiring that separation from service of men and women for violating the act have to be approved by generals or  flag offices.  This means that in effect, DADT was of very limited application already.

The new Congress will be challenged to repeal ObamaCare and to substantially reduce the funds flowing to agencies to carry out its mandates prior to repeal.  The president and the last Congress put unprecedented power in the hands of the bureaucracy to act.  Doubtless they anticipated the loss of legislative power which would have allowed them to continue to run roughshod over us.  We have to keep an eagle eye out to see that congressmen do their job.  But when they do, as McConnell did with a poor hand -- a Democrat majority aided by a number of leftover squishes -- they deserve our praise and support.