Rush Limbaugh took exception to my comments on Donald Trump earlier this week. Having read on the air what I wrote, Rush said, “So that’s the inside-the-Beltway view. Somebody from outside the Beltway has dared enter the scene and they don’t like it. They really don’t like it.” Trump is a threat to what Rush refers to as the “Ruling Class.” If you read the full transcript, you’ll find that Rush objects to those of us who consider Trump, at least in the realm of politics, to be “unserious.”
On this matter I have a few thoughts, the first of which is that Rush’s populist, outside-the-beltway figure isn’t from, say, Des Moines, Iowa, or Dixon, Illinois. He comes to us from Manhattan, which may be more out of touch and elitist in its views than perhaps any place in America, with perhaps the exception of Hollywood.
In any event, geography actually has nothing to do with what I said about Trump. If he lived in Georgetown my critique would have been identical to what it is. And if I lived in Richland, Washington; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Colorado Springs, Colorado; or Palm Beach, Florida, my words and sentiments would be same as they are. As it happens, most of the people I’m inclined to support for president are outside the Beltway figures (governors). And the figures inside the Beltway I most admire—including Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio—are people whom Rush himself has also praised.
After Rep. Paul Ryan faced a handful of boos at a largely calm town hall meeting the other day, Rep. Nancy Pelosi released a statement crowing, “Chairman Ryan, the people, including your constituents, are talking. Are you listening?”
Pelosi might want to take her own advice and listen to the standing ovation Ryan received for his budget plan at a town hall in Greenfield, Wisconsin, earlier today. The Weekly Standard’s John McCormick caught the video:
“Ryan faced a larger number of hecklers at this event than previous ones,” McCormick says, “but they were just a sliver of the max capacity crowd. The vast majority of those present stood and applauded Ryan after one constituent rose to thank the congressman for producing his plan to rein in the federal budget.”
That there is opposition to Ryan’s budget at town hall meetings is hardly surprising—Americans aren’t politically monolithic. It would be suspicious if all of Ryan’s constituents supported his plan. But the media’s attempt to depict this mild opposition as a major news story shows to what extent reporters rely upon predetermined narratives. Comparing the current atmospheres at town hall meetings to the atmosphere in 2009 may be a great way to frame a news story, but it doesn’t mesh with reality.
Two days ago, Sen. Mark Kirk tweeted that the Fatah-Hamas unity government would put the Palestinian Authority’s U.S. aid at risk, and this morning his office followed up by emailing a memo outlining the legal implications of the deal.
Kirk, along with Rep. Nita Lowey, helped to author the restrictions on U.S. assistance to the PA, and he writes that under the Section 1107 provision of the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act, no U.S. funds may be provided for:
1) salaries of personnel of the Palestinian Authority located in Gaza;
2) assistance to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas; or
3) any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, unless the President certifies to Congress that “such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly accepted and is complying with” the core requirements of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which are:
a. publicly acknowledging the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist; and
b. committing itself/themselves and adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States Government, with the Government of Israel, and with the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (commonly referred to as the ‘Roadmap’)
Based on this language, Congress clearly would have no choice but to cut off aid to a Fatah-Hamas unity government. Moreover, Hamas has (unsurprisingly) shown that it has no plans to adhere to the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. If there was any doubt about this, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called on Fatah today to renounce its recognition of the state of Israel.
New York Times political blogger Nate Silver is always interesting to read even when he is providing statistical support for liberal conventional wisdom. In today’s edition of his Five Thirty Eight blog, though, Silver attempts to debunk the idea that rising gas prices will doom Barack Obama’s chances for reelection. “[G]as prices had very little effect unto themselves,” he claims: “instead, the question is how they affected broader economic measures like inflation and G.D.P.”
True enough. But though Silver admits that “when energy prices are high, a number of other things are going wrong with the economy as well,” he goes on to say that “in the hypothetical world, where gas cost $5 per gallon but everything else was just fine, President Obama’s approval ratings would be better.” Silver’s point is that there is no “simple, one-to-one correspondence between gas prices and Mr. Obama’s approval.”
But this is the merest sophistry. If gas prices go through the roof, as they just might were unrest in the Middle East to start shaking the foundations of even seemingly stable countries such as Saudi Arabia, they would have far-reaching effects on virtually every sector of the economy. Prices of all goods would skyrocket and the impact on consumer behavior would be considerable. Just think back to the mood of the country in the summer of 2008 when gas prices last threatened to reach $5 per gallon. If gas costs that much then everything else cannot possibly be “just fine.”
The problem goes deeper than bad economic statistics. While there are other factors that play into the state of the economy, this is one that has the ability to alter everything else and hits home to the average voter in a way that even the rate of unemployment does not. While there will always be those whose environmental alarmism or fundamental hostility to capitalism will cause them to think reducing the ability of Americans to drive their vehicles is a good thing, most voters rightly see it as an intolerable infringement on their personal liberty. Barack Obama cannot afford a gasoline price of $5 or more a gallon.
Charles Krauthammer tackles President Obama’s “leading from behind” doctrine at the Washington Post today. He finds two reasons for the adminisration’s discomfort with American leadership. First, the White House believes “U.S. relative power is declining.” And second, they believe “we are reviled” internationally. As Krauthammer writes, this second concept is nothing new:
It is the fate of any assertive superpower to be envied, denounced and blamed for everything under the sun. Nothing has changed. Moreover, for a country so deeply reviled, why during the massive unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Syria have anti-American demonstrations been such a rarity?
We can go even further. Many of these opposition groups have actually called on the U.S. for assistance during their revolutions. And in too many of these situations, we’ve turned these groups down. The general Arab public is not railing against the U.S.; it is the “paper tiger” autocrats who have long used anti-Americanism as a tool to hold onto power.
And, as Krauthammer writes, the American liberal elites want to see U.S. power diminished, not the “international community”:
Who truly reviles America the hegemon? The world that Obama lived in and shaped him intellectually: the elite universities; his Hyde Park milieu. . . . It is the liberal elites who revile the American colossus and devoutly wish to see it cut down to size. Leading from behind—diminishing America’s global standing and assertiveness—is a reaction to their view of America, not the world’s.
This goes back to the administration’s idea that America’s power is declining, and we need to begin to accept as much by taking on a smaller international role. If anything, Libya proves how divorced from reality this view is. The “international community” has shown that it needs the U.S. to lead. France, Great Britain, and other countries that previously derided American hegemony are now practically begging the U.S. to take the reigns in Libya. Whether we like it or not, we are the world leader, and there’s simply no other nation that can take on this role.
Investor’s Business Daily ran an interesting editorial yesterday (h/t: Instapundit) comparing the recovery from the 1981–’82 recession with the recovery from the 2007–’09 recession. The comparison goes a long way toward explaining why Ronald Reagan won reelection, carrying 49 states, while Obama is well on his way to being a one-term president.
After the end of the ’81–’82 recession unemployment fell sharply as growth expanded dramatically. Twenty-seven months after the official end of that recession, unemployment had fallen to 7.5 percent from a peak of 10.8 percent. At the same point after the recent recession, unemployment had fallen not 3.3 percentage points, but only 1.4 percentage points. The reason is not hard to find. In the seven quarters following the ’81–’82 recession, GDP growth averaged 7.1 percent (on an annual basis). In the current post-recession span it has averaged only 2.8 percent. We need 2.5 percent growth just to absorb increases in the work force. The first quarter of 2011 had only a 1.8 percent increase in GDP.
The two economies are not exactly comparable, of course. Manufacturing jobs, to which workers can be quickly summoned back, make up a much smaller percentage of the total jobs today. Inflation fell sharply in and after the ’81–’82 recession, while it is increasing today. Housing prices had not suffered nearly the hit they have taken in recent years, adversely influencing people’s perception of their ability to spend money. The microprocessor revolution was much less advanced then than now, when firms contemplating expansion are more likely to look to investing in new technology than in new employees (although the new technology will create more jobs in the long run).
But Reagan’s low-tax-rates, less-regulation, America-is-the-hope-of-the-world philosophy also differs sharply from Obama’s, in which taxing the rich, turning always to the government for answers, and America-causes-the-world’s-problems are cherished principles.
If Obama sticks with that ideology, and it’s hard to see how he can abandon it now, he’s got a big reelection headache.
If you were wondering about the decline of American exceptionalism, the news that Superman is renouncing his American citizenship is more proof of how far the worm has turned. According to the Huffington Post, in Action Comics #900 the Man of Steel says he’s giving up his U.S. passport.
Of course, Superman did come to this country as an illegal immigrant. The native of Krypton crash-landed in Kansas without a valid visa. Unlike Barack Obama, he would not be eligible for the presidency. Although I can’t claim to have read all of the Superman opus (at least, not recently), I imagine at some point in the saga a grateful nation naturalized him without forcing him to pay a fine and return to his home star system and await his turn for legal entry into the country.
However, in the latest Superman comic, the hero has decided that his American connection interferes with human-rights activism. You see, Superman recently visited Tehran to express his sympathy non-violently with demonstrators seeking to overthrow the Islamist tyranny in Iran. But on his return to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, he is chastised by the unnamed president’s national security adviser. The fictional NSC is infuriated by the superhero’s actions. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs see Superman as an American icon and view his peaceful protest as an act of war. In response, Superman says he will go to the United Nations to renounce his American citizenship the better to continue his superhero activism from a global rather than a parochial American perspective.
“ ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’—it’s Not Enough anymore,” Superman declares.
A few things about this comic (or should I say “graphic novel”) are confusing.
A bipartisan congressional delegation has joined the growing chorus of lawmakers threatening to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if it goes through with its plan to form a unity government with Hamas.
“This is a time for clarity. The Palestinian Authority has chosen an alliance with violence and extremism over the democratic values that Israel represents,” the delegation said in a press release. “The United States should not aid an entity whose members seek the destruction of the State of Israel and continue to fire rockets and mortars at innocent Israeli children. If the Palestinian Authority follows through on this decision, American law dictates that US assistance to the Palestinian Authority will end.”
The members of Congress issued the statement after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Thursday morning. The delegation was made up of Reps. Ted Deutch (D–Fla.), Dennis Cardoza (D–Calif.), Eliot Engel (D–N.Y.), Jack Kingston (R–Ga.), Allyson Schwartz (D–Pa.), John Barrow (D–Ga.), Tim Murphy (R–Pa.), Ben Chandler (D–Ky.), and Larry Kissell (D–N.Car.).
It’s promising that members of congress seem willing to take the necessary steps to oppose the Fatah-Hamas axis. The Obama administration has remained fairly quiet on this issue, but let’s hope that the outcry from Congress prompts a more robust response from them as well.