There Once was an Executive Administration that Did Whatever They Wanted

Prisoner Swap

Clay Olsen | June 4, 2014

Five terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay were released last week in exchange for an army man that had been held for five years by the Taliban. The five terrorists that are now freely roaming the earth were high-level Taliban operatives that have committed their lives to jihad (if you are not a Muslim, you deserve death). The American that was rescued was a deserter. He left his unit. Six honorable and courageous members of our armed forces died trying to find him and bring him out of captivity. Negotiations were made with terrorists, and perhaps terrorists will now assume that we will continue to negotiate with them.

Every time I read about events like the prisoner exchange that occurred last week, I cannot help but recall the Schoolhouse Rock video that I saw in elementary school that explained how the three branches of government work. Then I think of the philosophy behind this structure. Why did the Framers establish it? Well, because an increase in power and/or a decrease in accountability leads to corruption. Mankind is imperfect, and those with authority must be overseen by others. Left unchecked, one branch of government might simply do as they see fit without considering the consequences.

That is what I see in this “scandal”: a branch of government who has already reached the border of its power and has stuck its toe across it to test the waters; then they have moved their entire foot across, then their body and are prepared to dive in. Putting aside the details of the swap, look at the big picture. The President authorized an exchange with the Taliban, a terrorist group that seeks to take as many innocent lives as possible in the name of their god (jihad). Prisoner exchanges require the Executive Branch to inform Congress 30 days before the swap. This is law, not a suggestion; and yet, the law is blatantly broken without repercussions. When you don’t discipline a child, that child gets the idea that he can do whatever he wants. That is a huge problem considering the scale that this clever metaphor correlates to.

After Congress and the world finds out about this exchange, we find ourselves in a (unfortunately) familiar situation. A huge story, which very few people knew about while it was happening, with many questions left unanswered by those on the outside. I turn on the news today (several days after the swap occurred) and a news commentator says that there are so many questions that need to be answered, “but let’s not jump to conclusions until we have everything figured out.” I have a feeling that this commentator might be saying this tomorrow and the next day and next week and next month and on and on and on until the story dies out. That in fact seems to be the strategy of this administration: do as they wish and if something negative leaks out, cold shoulder the questions until they stop.

History would prove this to be true. Over a year and a half after four Americans died in Bhengazi, a Congressional committee is still fighting to simply find answers to legitimate questions. Last summer, it is uncovered that the IRS was targeting and harassing groups because of the ideas and beliefs that these groups held. What happens? No news coverage, no firings, we only get to see the use of the Fifth Amendment. Instead the head of the IRS at the time is asked to lead the implementation of Obamacare and is personally thanked by the President at a presidential dinner. Scandal after scandal are starved of all information and accountability and is then swept under the rug, and there is little doubt that this prisoner exchange story is next.


We the People of Turkey, Brazil, and Syria

Protestors outside the municipal theater in downtown Rio de Jainero June 17th, 2013
Photo Courtesy of Christophe Simon, AFP/Getty Images via USATODAY

Danny Zeng | June 25th, 2013

This week as we wrestle with landmark decisions from the Supreme Court, the controversial “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, and the President’s climate change agenda, we are reminded of the robustness of our democracy. All three branches of government are acting in concert to engage in issues of immense importance to the public. They are leading the political discourse at our nation’s capital that filter through news organizations, talk shows, blogs, YouTube updates, and podcasts to the American people, who then have the luxury of consuming these daily soundbites – and oftentimes boiling tirades-  from people of opposing views without having to give concern to our physical safety or that of our friends and families. And yet these precious freedoms that allow us to have constructive, heated, and  ultimately vibrant discourse about the direction of our country, the merits of a legislation, and the conduct of our public officials are foreign to so many across the globe who enjoy so little freedom in the public sphere.

As I read about what is happening in Turkey, Brazil, and Syria, I am ever so grateful for the kind of hard fought freedoms that we enjoy here in the U.S., even though we are constantly reminded of their slipperiness.  Despite the public ire over IRS targeting conservative groups, government wiretapping reporters, drone attacks against American citizens, or NSA tapping of our phones, the American people largely vocalize our disagreements, peacefully, through non-violent democratic channels. On the other hand,  over 93,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, and over thousands are injured and four confirmed dead in Turkey in recent weeks as result of the anti-government protest. The Turkish police was firing tear gas and rubber bullets at their own people.  Most of these issues can be understood from the perspective of freedom: a perennial political and economic ideal that mutually sustains each other through capitalism and democracy, a political notion popularly articulated by the late Milton Friedman in 1962 and many others.

Oftentimes in a democracy, people take their issues to the streets, a sign of either economic or political distress. The mix of the two could be fatal to a sitting regime, as evidenced throughout the history of great kingdoms and empires. Present protests happen for the same reasons. The source of protest in Brazil stems from “a strike against a 9-cent bus-fare hike,” a seemingly small if not utterly incomprehensible fuse – for many Westerners at least – that it’s simply awe-spiring. The episode strikes me as a non-graphic replay from a similar incomprehensible-to-the-West display from Arab Spring two years ago, when a Tunisian vegetable peddler set himself on fire in front of a governor’s office. These massive protests against government corruption and graft are testaments, to the chagrin of many big-government advocates I’m sure, that governments with incoherent economic policies are doomed to fail from within as college students, working class, and middle class citizens rise up against an administrative state and layers of public fat that take away from productive sectors in the economy. Economic freedom is invariably linked to political freedom. Both, in my mind, have to harmoniously co-exist for true prosperity and progress.

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A Day that will Live in Infamy

Pearl Harbor survivor William Muehleib stands at attention during the National Anthem during the Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Today marks the 70th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base which pulled the US into a war with Japan. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Pearl Harbor survivor William Muehleib stands at attention during the National Anthem during the Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Today marks the 70th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base which pulled the US into a war with Japan. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

College Republicans at Texas Executive Board | December 7th, 2012

Today, we pay tribute to thousands of brave Americans who lost their lives on December 7th, 71 years ago, as result of sudden aerial attack from then Imperial Japan. There should be no doubt that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a game-changer in history: it allowed the U.S. to give up its isolationist stance and proactively intervene abroad. The U.S. involvement during the war arguably ended it sooner, allowing countries to rebuild and return to normalcy after years of global suffering. The men and women stationed in O’ahu were believers of freedoms and liberty. The world was divided at that time between peaceful nations and imperial hegemonies. On the European front, the Nazis invaded Soviet Union and advanced to the gates of Leningrad by December of 1941. In the meantime, thousands of Jewish people were sent to concentration camps, deprived of life, liberty, and basic human dignity. On the Asian-Pacific front, the Sino-Japanese war has been raging on mainland China for years. The Japanese forces ruthlessly massacred thousands of Chinese civilians in the city of Nanjing in 1937, raping innocent women and committing massive looting across the city. The atrocities committed during the war seem so far-fetched from present realities, at least among free nations. However, let us not forget that even today there are many injustices remain around the world, in certain parts of Africa and in the Middle East. History would have turned out differently if the Americans were not involved during the war. If we have indeed chosen to pursue isolationism at the time, then we would have forsaken the cause of liberty for all, and the free world would have then been at the mercy of violent dictators, whose psychopathic avarice for power was an affront against human progress. The brave men of women who fought under our banner in WWII deserve our utmost respect and gratitude for their sacrifices not only for our country but indeed for humanity. Their memories will live on as we proceed to preserve and maintain the legacy of freedom passed down to our generation. God bless America.

If Not Us, Then Who?

By Danny Zeng

Today is the last presidential debate between the two candidates in this heated election season. The subject will be over foreign policy, an area that most Americans, I would say myself included, are not educated enough to to know fully what is going on. But I believe common sense suffices to have a broad position on foreign policy. After all, simplifying complex issues using principles as guidance is the closest approximation to good decision making. If we all exercise a certain level of common sense, then we all be better off.

A brief review of the last four years signal that we have not lived a quiet four years: Gaddafi is dead; Mubarak is done; Bin Laden has been decimated; Arab Spring fanned across Middle East and Norther Africa, providing hope for millions living under totalitarian regimes; even places like Russia and China, pockets of democratic idealism sprung up and challenged the status quo. This administration has achieved some deserved victories, but it has failed in larger part to lead the free world without a coherent vision; indeed, challenges remain and the world searches for the proactive leadership in us.

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Remember 9/11: Honor What America Stands For

It’s been 11 years since that horrible day back in 2001 that shocked a nation and indeed the world. Close to 3,000 innocent American lives were lost that dreadful September morning. Our country went into chaos mode for days. Our economy took a hit. America, as an idea, was under attack. America has never been the same again after that day. On this day, 11 years later, we shall not only remember those victims lost and affected by the tragedy, for indeed they and their families deserve our prayers and support, but we shall also recognize the impact of 9/11 on our national politics and policy making. America’s innocence was robbed in that day. The bastion of democracy was under siege. The heart of capitalism was dealt a severe blow. The strength of our freedom has been severely undermined. And yes, the role of government has become ever so expansive, and we need to be aware of this trend amidst intense rhetoric on national security.

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