Sunday, April 20, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama is getting a number of critical report cards on his foreign and domestic policies lately.

Here at home, Janet Yellen, in her first monetary policy address as the head of the Federal Reserve Board, said the labor markets were still weak, and that it will likely take two years or more before the U.S. fully recovers from its recession. Ouch.

If Yellen's forecast proves right, this means it will have taken Obama's administration nearly eight years to lift our economy out of its long and painful lethargy.

She expressed grave concern that the economy's 6.7 percent unemployment rate was still significantly above the jobless level the Fed considers normal.

While Yellen was voicing some anguish over the large number of long-term unemployed and those who can find only low-paying, part-time work, Obama was campaigning in Oakdale, Penn., dishing out job-training grants at a local community college.

Obama has been spending tens of billions of dollars on a wasteful, duplicative maze of job-training programs that do nothing to create new jobs.

That would require much stronger economic growth, but under his anti-job policies, growth has been painfully slow, less than 2 percent last year, and job creation remains anemic.

More recently, the president has turned to several of his party's threadbare fallback positions -- including raising the minimum wage to $10.10. The Congressional Budget Office slapped down his idea, saying that it would destroy at least 500,000 primarily low-wage jobs and possibly as many as 1 million.

Instead of talking about incentives to boost job-creating capital investment and business expansion, Obama and the Democrats talk only about fairness, gender equality, employer health care mandates, and making businesses and wealthier people pay "their fair share."

With his party facing its toughest election challenges in years, "and burdened with persistently high unemployment, Obama is playing the race, gender and class cards. Fabricating fear and injustice, such tactics keep the economy in slow gear and make worse the very people the president professes to help," says University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.

The lackluster economy and his unpopular Obamacare law will be the overriding political issues in the November elections.

But Obama's failures extend across the foreign policy landscape, too. And some of the criticism is coming from the liberal news media.

In a front-page story Thursday, The Washington Post took the president to task for his failed policy, announced three years ago, to refocus U.S. attention on Asia, which his advisers said would become a pillar of his foreign policy.

"The result, as Obama prepares to travel to the region next week, has been a loss of confidence among some U.S. allies about the administration's commitment at a time of escalating regional tensions," Post correspondent David Nakamura said in a devastating critique of Obama's Asian policy.

"Relations between Japan and South Korea are at one of the lowest points since World War II, and China has provoked both with aggressive actions at sea despite a personal plea from Vice President Biden in December," he reported.

Even the Asian policy's original architects were harshly criticizing the administration's handling of it.

"Relations have gone from being generally positive at the strategic level among the great powers to extremely difficult," says Kurt M. Campbell, a former assistant secretary of state who helped develop the pivot strategy toward Asia.

Under this administration, it has become "a much more challenging strategic landscape," Campbell said.

Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rolled out the policy in 2011, announcing that the new U.S. strategy would turn away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and shift attention to China's growing dominance.

But their "pivot" strategy has since turned into a series of stumbles in the past year, with one crisis after another in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and in Asia.

Obama's long-delayed strategic plan to negotiate a 12-nation Pacific free trade agreement -- an effort to reassert U.S. influence in the heart of Asia as a counterbalance to China's rise -- was blocked by congressional Democrats. Such is the power of anti-trade labor union bosses in the Democratic Party.

The Post noted ominously that the stakes for the failed Asia pivot were "perhaps as high for Clinton" -- who, by the way, was given the job of secretary of state despite little or no experience in foreign affairs.

"As she weighs a White House bid in 2016, her supporters have cited the Asia strategy as one of her most significant accomplishments," Nakamura writes.

A quick look around the world shows the rest of Obama's foreign policies are in shambles.

A militarily aggressive Russia, under Vladimir Putin's dream of rebuilding the old Soviet Union, has seized the Crimea peninsula and is now plotting to seize Eastern Ukraine, too.

Many observers think the Baltic states will be his next target, as he tests the West's resolve, while Obama talks only of stepping up economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts.

In the Middle East, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, armed to the teeth by Putin, has for many months been escalating his saturation bombing assault on rebel-held towns, killing thousands of innocent civilians -- with hardly a peep from the White House.

There are growing reports of hundreds of rebels turning over their weapons to the Assad government, weakening the resolve of the rebellion.

Elsewhere, the Taliban is stepping up its lethal attacks in Afghanistan's central cities, and terrorist bombings are tearing Iraq apart. In Pakistan, the Taliban just announced Wednesday that it was ending its cease-fire.

In recent weeks, U.S. intelligence has been picking up growing threats from al-Qaida cells across the region. It is obvious that Obama's claims in his 2012 campaign that he had al-Qaida "on the run" were untrue.

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