THE PRESIDENT HAS TOO MUCH LATITUDE TO ORDER DRONE STRIKES
WALL STREET JOURNAL
U.S. drone policy must also be consonant with smart foreign policy. This means a strike must be undertaken only when it includes the near-certainty that the target is a highly dangerous terrorist, that the strike is likely to succeed, that collateral damage will be minimal and there is no viable alternative… Such considerations would rule out “signature” strikes, which target people who are behaving in ways that resemble how terrorists tend to behave—such as groups of men carrying weapons in areas frequented by terrorists. …The standards I am arguing for here would lead to fewer drone strikes. There is a danger that policy can be too restrictive, making impossible what should be difficult. But the process that currently exists for authorizing drone attacks lacks sufficient controls, especially when the targets are U.S. citizens.
IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD ON GUNS
Law enforcement officers and many gun control advocates believe that universal background checks and tough gun trafficking law together will do more to slow down the murder tally caused by guns than anything else Washington can do. That includes passing gun safety provisions that I support, such as an assault weapon ban and the regulation of high-capacity magazines. While both of those measures have gained great support after Newtown, police officers say neither would have as big an impact of a universal background check system. …So, for now, it seems likely that the single most important piece of gun safety legislation before Congress is also the bill most likely to be passed into law. For once, it seems, the laws of modern American politics seem to be tilted toward what is best for the people.
THE COOLIDGE LESSON
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Coolidge met with his budget director, Gen. Herbert Lord, on his first day in office and routinely thereafter. The two men soon announced that they would deepen planned cuts in two politically sensitive areas: veterans and on District of Columbia public works. “I am for economy, and after that I am for more economy,” Coolidge told voters—who gladly kept him in the White House when he ran in 1924. Coolidge’s…advantage was insight into what might be called fiscal trust. The president understood that ambitious budget cuts would be accepted if he could “align” them with ambitious tax cuts. …Coolidge…insisted on twinning tax cuts with budget cuts, so voters and markets would never be betrayed.
WALL STREET JOURNAL
First President Obama rehabilitates the reputation of the Cayman Islands as a tax shelter by nominating Jack Lew to be Treasury Secretary, and now Mr. Obama’s most famous business cheerleader Warren Buffett is bidding to revive the good name of the private-equity leveraged buyout. Can someone verify that Mitt Romney lost the election? … The usual media critics of private equity are ignoring 3G Capital’s takeover history, perhaps because of the role of Mr. Buffett, the billionaire patron saint of taxing the rich. The proposed deal is even being portrayed as one sign of the return of business animal spirits and a healthier economy. So much the better if they’re right, but Mr. Romney is still entitled to some head-shaking about deal-making and political double standards.
ABDICATION, THEN VACATION
For the record, all sides bear responsibility for this self-destructive turn of events. What President Obama now calls a “really bad idea” was generated by his own economic policy team. What Speaker John Boehner now refers to as a “meat ax” passed the House at his urging with 174 Republican votes. All involved would protest that across-the-board cuts were intended only as the unthinkable alternative to a rational plan approved by the so-called supercommittee. “The sequester is ugly,” explained Boehner at the time, “…That’s why we have to succeed.” But no one loses money betting against the success of the federal government on budget issues. And many in American politics are now trying to find the sequester’s inner beauty, which brings to mind the country music classic: “She’s looking better every beer.”