Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 27, 2011

It’s Giuliani Time Again—for Now

This may be more a product of Republican apathy with the current field of presidential candidates than a burning desire for a Giuliani candidacy, but the former mayor is currently leading the GOP race in the latest CNN poll.

The survey of 473 Republicans has Giuliani at 16 percent, Romney at 15 percent, Palin at 13 percent, Ron Paul at 12 percent, and Herman Cain at 10 percent, with other potential candidates all garnering less than 10 percent each.

It’s useless to read a lot into polls at this point, but this one could have a practical impact on the field. There hasn’t been much media focus on Giuliani, and this development is likely to change that, especially if it’s reproduced in other polls. Giuliani is reportedly close to a decision on whether to enter the race, and a finding like this could help sway him toward a run.

Giuliani would be a long shot to win the nomination, but his candidacy could potentially be a spoiler for Romney. According to the same CNN poll, Romney leads the GOP field with 19 percent if Giuliani doesn’t enter the race. The two would be competing for virtually the same demographic of moderate Republicans in the Northeast. Both would be focused on New Hampshire, and while Giuliani has a rocky history there, he could end up siphoning off some of Romney’s support. So really the only practical purpose of a Giuliani bid would be to complicate Romney’s strategy.

This may be more a product of Republican apathy with the current field of presidential candidates than a burning desire for a Giuliani candidacy, but the former mayor is currently leading the GOP race in the latest CNN poll.

The survey of 473 Republicans has Giuliani at 16 percent, Romney at 15 percent, Palin at 13 percent, Ron Paul at 12 percent, and Herman Cain at 10 percent, with other potential candidates all garnering less than 10 percent each.

It’s useless to read a lot into polls at this point, but this one could have a practical impact on the field. There hasn’t been much media focus on Giuliani, and this development is likely to change that, especially if it’s reproduced in other polls. Giuliani is reportedly close to a decision on whether to enter the race, and a finding like this could help sway him toward a run.

Giuliani would be a long shot to win the nomination, but his candidacy could potentially be a spoiler for Romney. According to the same CNN poll, Romney leads the GOP field with 19 percent if Giuliani doesn’t enter the race. The two would be competing for virtually the same demographic of moderate Republicans in the Northeast. Both would be focused on New Hampshire, and while Giuliani has a rocky history there, he could end up siphoning off some of Romney’s support. So really the only practical purpose of a Giuliani bid would be to complicate Romney’s strategy.

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Must Israel Make Concessions in Advance of September UN Brawl?

In the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful trip to Washington, Israel’s critics are in a grouchy mood. President Obama failed in his effort to ambush Netanyahu—they can’t deny that—and the result was a reaffirmation of American support for Israel that effectively ends any further diplomatic freelancing by the White House. But unhappy Israel-bashers claim it doesn’t matter.

They say Israel is still isolated diplomatically and will be forced—whether or not Bibi’s fans like it—to capitulate to international territorial demands without getting anything from the Palestinians in exchange. Either that, or the Jewish state will find itself being treated like the new South Africa after the United Nations recognizes an independent Palestinian state inside the 1967 borders with no swaps.

So does that mean that Netanyahu must take “bold” steps to give in to the Palestinians or face a diplomatic “tsunami” this fall? Despite the hopes of those who think the wrong guy won the fight between the two leaders last week, the answer is no.

First of all, the idea that Israel has the power to head off the confrontation in the UN in September is a fallacy. The spectacle of the world’s lining up to bash Israel at the UN will be daunting, but it will get the Palestinians nowhere. In the end, the United States will veto the resolution in the Security Council and that will be that. Israel won’t be any more or less diplomatically isolated than it is today. All that will have been accomplished will be to have proven (again) that the Palestinians won’t talk. The Arabs will be angry with the United States, but essentially nothing will have changed when the dust settles.

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In the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful trip to Washington, Israel’s critics are in a grouchy mood. President Obama failed in his effort to ambush Netanyahu—they can’t deny that—and the result was a reaffirmation of American support for Israel that effectively ends any further diplomatic freelancing by the White House. But unhappy Israel-bashers claim it doesn’t matter.

They say Israel is still isolated diplomatically and will be forced—whether or not Bibi’s fans like it—to capitulate to international territorial demands without getting anything from the Palestinians in exchange. Either that, or the Jewish state will find itself being treated like the new South Africa after the United Nations recognizes an independent Palestinian state inside the 1967 borders with no swaps.

So does that mean that Netanyahu must take “bold” steps to give in to the Palestinians or face a diplomatic “tsunami” this fall? Despite the hopes of those who think the wrong guy won the fight between the two leaders last week, the answer is no.

First of all, the idea that Israel has the power to head off the confrontation in the UN in September is a fallacy. The spectacle of the world’s lining up to bash Israel at the UN will be daunting, but it will get the Palestinians nowhere. In the end, the United States will veto the resolution in the Security Council and that will be that. Israel won’t be any more or less diplomatically isolated than it is today. All that will have been accomplished will be to have proven (again) that the Palestinians won’t talk. The Arabs will be angry with the United States, but essentially nothing will have changed when the dust settles.

The worst mistake Netanyahu could make would be to budge an inch this summer as pressure again builds on him. He knows that any concessions made now will simply be pocketed by the Palestinians, but would fail to gain Israel any peace or international support. The Palestinians are choosing this route specifically to avoid negotiations. They won’t come back to them until their UN gambit has come a cropper.

Moreover, anyone who bets on rational behavior from the Palestinians hasn’t been paying attention to them the last several decades. In the next few months, Hamas and Fatah could fall out, leading to a collapse of either one of the two forces, reconfiguring the diplomatic map perhaps to Israel’s advantage.

But even more important is the fact that, after the UN initiative fails, the Palestinians will be forced either to launch a new intifada, which would make any talk of concessions or negotiations nugatory, or to come crawling back to peace talks. While the chances that either Fatah or Hamas will ever recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn are nil, there is no point in Israel giving anything up now in advance of real negotiations should they ever restart. A Congressional initiative to cut off funds to the Fatah-Hamas alliance running the PA could also strengthen Netanyahu’s hand.

Israelis want peace, but right now “bold” moves by Netanyahu would make the restart of peace talks even more unlikely. As difficult as the next few months may be for both Bibi and Israel’s friends to endure, the last thing he should do would be to concede territory merely to please Obama and the Europeans.

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Is Ryan Leaving the Door Ajar for 2012?

Rep. Paul Ryan has been very careful in how he addresses speculation that he may enter the 2012 race. He’s avoided shutting the door to a run, saying on Tuesday that he has “no plans to run for president . . . not really.” He expanded on this last night during an interview on Fox News’s Special Report:

“I really believe I can do more for this cause where I am right now as chairman of the House Budget Committee. I have no plans to do this—it takes an enormous undertaking to do this—and right now where I am at this moment, I need to focus on this budget fight we’re in. This summer we’re going to be spending a lot of time in budget fights and to me, that’s where I can make the biggest contribution to the debate right now.”

As Bill Kristol points out at the Weekly Standard, “the door is ajar—not ‘right now,’ but after the summer, and if no one else is able to show the kind and quality of leadership that’s needed.”

Over the past week, Ryan has been very open about his desire to see the GOP presidential candidates lead on the budget issue. But so far the current crop of hopefuls has been hesitant to aggressively back the Ryan plan.

“[I[f you apply conservative principles to the budget and debt problems, it’s going to look a lot like this plan,” Ryan told the National Journal in an interview last night. “It would be wrong for us to insist that every single idea in our proposal be in a candidate’s plan. But, you’ve got to be ready to solve this problem.”

Ryan called the budget debate a “Churchillian-type of moment in history,” and said that “The polls are predictable. They are regrettable. But this is a unique time in our history. We can’t go wobbly.”

Ryan understands that the GOP has a unique opportunity with this election. He was likely hoping that someone like Mitch Daniels, who could turn the election into a defense for conservative economic principles, would enter the race. Another candidate who has this ability could still materialize. But if that doesn’t happen, Ryan will have to decide whether he will let this “Churchillian-type of moment” go to waste, or step into the ring.

Rep. Paul Ryan has been very careful in how he addresses speculation that he may enter the 2012 race. He’s avoided shutting the door to a run, saying on Tuesday that he has “no plans to run for president . . . not really.” He expanded on this last night during an interview on Fox News’s Special Report:

“I really believe I can do more for this cause where I am right now as chairman of the House Budget Committee. I have no plans to do this—it takes an enormous undertaking to do this—and right now where I am at this moment, I need to focus on this budget fight we’re in. This summer we’re going to be spending a lot of time in budget fights and to me, that’s where I can make the biggest contribution to the debate right now.”

As Bill Kristol points out at the Weekly Standard, “the door is ajar—not ‘right now,’ but after the summer, and if no one else is able to show the kind and quality of leadership that’s needed.”

Over the past week, Ryan has been very open about his desire to see the GOP presidential candidates lead on the budget issue. But so far the current crop of hopefuls has been hesitant to aggressively back the Ryan plan.

“[I[f you apply conservative principles to the budget and debt problems, it’s going to look a lot like this plan,” Ryan told the National Journal in an interview last night. “It would be wrong for us to insist that every single idea in our proposal be in a candidate’s plan. But, you’ve got to be ready to solve this problem.”

Ryan called the budget debate a “Churchillian-type of moment in history,” and said that “The polls are predictable. They are regrettable. But this is a unique time in our history. We can’t go wobbly.”

Ryan understands that the GOP has a unique opportunity with this election. He was likely hoping that someone like Mitch Daniels, who could turn the election into a defense for conservative economic principles, would enter the race. Another candidate who has this ability could still materialize. But if that doesn’t happen, Ryan will have to decide whether he will let this “Churchillian-type of moment” go to waste, or step into the ring.

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A Libyan Stabilization Force Must Be Ready to Go

News that Britain and France are planning to commit attack helicopters to Libya is welcome. Able to fly lower and loiter longer than fighter aircraft, they can be used to take out more precisely assets of the Qaddafi regime that have not been touched until now. Even more welcome would be news that the U.S. is committing its A-10s and AC-130s to pulverize ground forces—and tactical air controllers to guide them to their targets. That would certainly speed up the process of toppling the Libyan dictator, a goal that President Obama now seems committed to.

Even if more is not done, however, Qaddafi’s days are still numbered. He is feeling an inexorable squeeze as NATO aircraft pick apart his military, oil revenues decline, and the rebels make gains on the ground. Sooner or later, he will fall. What then? We have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan the consequences of being ill-prepared for a post-conflict situation. Chaos can quickly develop and with it the possibility of an opening for extremists. In this regard it is worth noting that Libya has been a major recruiting center for Al Qaeda and that it is a society with weak governmental institutions and a virtually nonexistent civil society (Qaddafi didn’t want any checks on his authority) but with powerful tribes. And those tribes have much to fight over—namely Libya’s oil revenues.

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News that Britain and France are planning to commit attack helicopters to Libya is welcome. Able to fly lower and loiter longer than fighter aircraft, they can be used to take out more precisely assets of the Qaddafi regime that have not been touched until now. Even more welcome would be news that the U.S. is committing its A-10s and AC-130s to pulverize ground forces—and tactical air controllers to guide them to their targets. That would certainly speed up the process of toppling the Libyan dictator, a goal that President Obama now seems committed to.

Even if more is not done, however, Qaddafi’s days are still numbered. He is feeling an inexorable squeeze as NATO aircraft pick apart his military, oil revenues decline, and the rebels make gains on the ground. Sooner or later, he will fall. What then? We have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan the consequences of being ill-prepared for a post-conflict situation. Chaos can quickly develop and with it the possibility of an opening for extremists. In this regard it is worth noting that Libya has been a major recruiting center for Al Qaeda and that it is a society with weak governmental institutions and a virtually nonexistent civil society (Qaddafi didn’t want any checks on his authority) but with powerful tribes. And those tribes have much to fight over—namely Libya’s oil revenues.

To head off the dangers that may come with “catastrophic success,” it is important for the coalition to plan now for stabilizing a post-Qaddafi Libya. If policymakers haven’t already done so, they ought to consult The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building put out by Jim Dobbins, Seth Jones, and their colleagues at RAND. In particular look at page 39, which lists “peak military levels for peace enforcement” in a variety of conflicts from 1945 Germany to 2003 Iraq. Iraq was on the low end of force levels—only 7 soldiers per 1,000 inhabitants. Germany was on the high end—101 soldiers per 1,000 inhabitants. This helps to explain why post-war Germany was so much more peaceful. Bosnia and Kosovo, also relatively successful exercises in nation-building, were in between—with 19 and 20 soldiers per 1,000 inhabitants, respectively.

What does that mean for Libya—a country that, according to the CIA Factbook, has a population of 6.6 million? If the aim is to replicate the Bosnia/Kosovo experience then 330,000 peacekeepers would be called for. If Iraq is the model, 94,000 peacekeepers would be needed.

Of course, as with all such metrics, these are very rough rules of thumb that need to be adjusted based on circumstances. In Libya there are a number of factors that suggest lesser levels of risk, including the fact that the eastern portion of the country around Benghazi has been relatively peaceful and stable under rebel control. So perhaps even 94,000 peacekeepers won’t be needed. But it is likely that a need substantial if smaller force will still be required, and it is imperative for NATO policymakers to begin planning for such a deployment. As part of that planning process, they need to shine greater public attention on this issue and make clear why a peacekeeping force would need to be sent. Otherwise they risk shock and opposition among publics that have not been prepared for yet another deployment.

The time to begin the process is now—not when Qaddafi is finally toppled. A stabilization force must be ready to go any time, so as to avoid losing valuable time when the day does come.

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Is There Such a Thing as Bad Publicity for a Second-Tier Candidate?

When you’re in the back of the pack of a presidential race and struggling for attention, the rule “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” has to apply. How else is Rick Santorum going to react to the news that pop singer Miley Cyrus flamed the former Pennsylvania senator on Twitter?

As PoliticsPA reports, the former star of the Disney Channel’s popular Hannah Montana Show has a grudge against Urban Outfitters because of claims that the chain has stolen jewelry designs. When she learned that company president Richard Hayne had donated to Santorum’s campaign, Cyrus took to Twitter to knock both Urban Outfitters and the ex-senator because of Santorum’s opposition to gay marriage. As Politico notes, the bad news for Santorum is that Cyrus has over two million Twitter followers. The good news is that most of them aren’t old enough to vote.

Apparently, this is the second pop culture attack on Santorum this month since actress Keira Knightley spoke about “googling” him on The Daily Show, a reference to the fact that gay activists have attempted to game the search engine in order to promote their effort to make his name synonymous with a gay sex term.

Of course, for any of this to hurt Santorum he would need more than a forlorn hope of being nominated or elected. Having Cyrus attack him—another symbol of teen stars gone bad—might actually give him something of a boost with conservative Republican primary voters.

When you’re in the back of the pack of a presidential race and struggling for attention, the rule “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” has to apply. How else is Rick Santorum going to react to the news that pop singer Miley Cyrus flamed the former Pennsylvania senator on Twitter?

As PoliticsPA reports, the former star of the Disney Channel’s popular Hannah Montana Show has a grudge against Urban Outfitters because of claims that the chain has stolen jewelry designs. When she learned that company president Richard Hayne had donated to Santorum’s campaign, Cyrus took to Twitter to knock both Urban Outfitters and the ex-senator because of Santorum’s opposition to gay marriage. As Politico notes, the bad news for Santorum is that Cyrus has over two million Twitter followers. The good news is that most of them aren’t old enough to vote.

Apparently, this is the second pop culture attack on Santorum this month since actress Keira Knightley spoke about “googling” him on The Daily Show, a reference to the fact that gay activists have attempted to game the search engine in order to promote their effort to make his name synonymous with a gay sex term.

Of course, for any of this to hurt Santorum he would need more than a forlorn hope of being nominated or elected. Having Cyrus attack him—another symbol of teen stars gone bad—might actually give him something of a boost with conservative Republican primary voters.

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Pawlenty’s Pitch-Perfect Launch

By almost universal acclamation, Newt Gingrich’s presidential launch was a disaster. But there was someone else who recently announced his candidacy with nearly flawless execution: Tim Pawlenty. In his announcement speech, Governor Pawlenty sought to create an appealing narrative: he is a truth teller who’s willing to make difficult but necessary decisions. But what made this storyline particularly effective was that he backed it up.

In Iowa, for example, Pawlenty said we couldn’t afford subsidies for ethanol. In senior-rich Florida earlier this week, he called for fundamental changes in Social Security and other entitlement programs. And when asked about the Paul Ryan budget plan, he gave this pitch-perfect response:

I applaud Congressman Ryan for his courage and his leadership in putting his plan forward. At least he has a plan. President Obama doesn’t have a plan. The Democrats don’t have a plan. And I really applaud his leadership and his courage in putting a plan on the table. Number two, we will have our own plan; it will have many similarities to Congressman Ryan’s plan, but it will have some differences, one of which will be we’ll address Social Security. He chose not to; we are addressing Social Security. And the Medicare part of our plan will have some differences, too. It will have some similarities also. So we’ll have our own plan. But if I can’t have my own plan — as president, I’ll have my own plan [but] if I can’t have that, and the bill came to my desk and I had to choose between signing or not Congressman Ryan’s plan, of course I would sign it.

Governor Pawlenty’s opponents will try to turn the truth-telling claim against him, pushing him to take unpopular stands on a range of issues in the name of truth-telling. We’ll see how he does in response. But Pawlenty has shown himself to be not only an impressive governor but also, at this very early stage, an impressive candidate. There are plenty of grueling tests ahead for Pawlenty to be sure; the GOP political gunfight hasn’t yet begun – and when it does Pawlenty will be the target of others. But it’s clear that the former Minnesota governor is a formidable individual who has assembled what looks to be a formidable team. And Pawlenty has already established a thematic rationale for his candidacy that is more appealing and more impressive than anyone else in the Republican field

By almost universal acclamation, Newt Gingrich’s presidential launch was a disaster. But there was someone else who recently announced his candidacy with nearly flawless execution: Tim Pawlenty. In his announcement speech, Governor Pawlenty sought to create an appealing narrative: he is a truth teller who’s willing to make difficult but necessary decisions. But what made this storyline particularly effective was that he backed it up.

In Iowa, for example, Pawlenty said we couldn’t afford subsidies for ethanol. In senior-rich Florida earlier this week, he called for fundamental changes in Social Security and other entitlement programs. And when asked about the Paul Ryan budget plan, he gave this pitch-perfect response:

I applaud Congressman Ryan for his courage and his leadership in putting his plan forward. At least he has a plan. President Obama doesn’t have a plan. The Democrats don’t have a plan. And I really applaud his leadership and his courage in putting a plan on the table. Number two, we will have our own plan; it will have many similarities to Congressman Ryan’s plan, but it will have some differences, one of which will be we’ll address Social Security. He chose not to; we are addressing Social Security. And the Medicare part of our plan will have some differences, too. It will have some similarities also. So we’ll have our own plan. But if I can’t have my own plan — as president, I’ll have my own plan [but] if I can’t have that, and the bill came to my desk and I had to choose between signing or not Congressman Ryan’s plan, of course I would sign it.

Governor Pawlenty’s opponents will try to turn the truth-telling claim against him, pushing him to take unpopular stands on a range of issues in the name of truth-telling. We’ll see how he does in response. But Pawlenty has shown himself to be not only an impressive governor but also, at this very early stage, an impressive candidate. There are plenty of grueling tests ahead for Pawlenty to be sure; the GOP political gunfight hasn’t yet begun – and when it does Pawlenty will be the target of others. But it’s clear that the former Minnesota governor is a formidable individual who has assembled what looks to be a formidable team. And Pawlenty has already established a thematic rationale for his candidacy that is more appealing and more impressive than anyone else in the Republican field

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The Bachmann-Palin Rivalry

As I previously noted, one of the most interesting and underreported aspects of Sarah Palin’s return to the presidential campaign radar screen this week is the conflict this creates with the Republican whom many consider to be her clone: Michelle Bachmann.

While it’s not clear whether Palin’s Northeast bus tour this weekend is an unofficial campaign kickoff or just a celebrity publicity event, Bachmann’s presidential push is going full steam ahead. After her “money bomb” e-mail netted her more than $250,000 in a little more than a day, the Minnesota congresswoman is preparing to announce her candidacy in Iowa soon. But, as Politico reports, the Bachmann camp is concerned, and with good reason, at the way Palin could torpedo her campaign.

Bachmann’s people say they are ignoring Palin’s activity but they are quick to point out that their woman has a longer and seemingly better political resume than the former Republican vice presidential candidate. They’re right about that but considering Palin’s enormous celebrity, there’s little question that the Alaskan’s entry into the race could quickly render Bachman irrelevant.

The dynamic between the two seems to be complicated. Palin campaigned for Bachmann last year and there’s very little, if any, difference between the two on the issues. Though the two not only appeal to the same demographic but also have eerily similar styles and personas, there appears to be some backbiting between the two camps. Palinites think Bachmann is strictly a knock-off of Palin while Bachmannites think Palin is a short-termer more interested in publicity than policy. Some are even speculating that it is Bachmann’s boomlet that is motivating Palin to get back on the road where she can reassert her status as the dominant GOP conservative female icon. That may be a bit simplistic but there’s no question that if Palin doesn’t run, Bachmann’s candidacy will dim Sarah’s star quite a bit.

Though Palin’s camp may think she can parachute into the race at any point in the next few months, Bachman’s head start in Iowa will make such a candidacy difficult. Though, as Alana noted earlier today, Romney’s people seem to think they can cruise to victory by bashing Palin or Bachmann, either of these charismatic women have the ability to beat him in a state where conservatives dominate. And their grass roots support among evangelicals and Tea Party activists in Iowa could sink Tim Pawlenty if he isn’t able to generate more momentum.

Until she withdraws her name from consideration as a Republican candidate, Palin will continue to overshadow Bachmann. Only when Palin’s presidential flirtation ends will Bachmann be able to stop looking over her shoulder.

As I previously noted, one of the most interesting and underreported aspects of Sarah Palin’s return to the presidential campaign radar screen this week is the conflict this creates with the Republican whom many consider to be her clone: Michelle Bachmann.

While it’s not clear whether Palin’s Northeast bus tour this weekend is an unofficial campaign kickoff or just a celebrity publicity event, Bachmann’s presidential push is going full steam ahead. After her “money bomb” e-mail netted her more than $250,000 in a little more than a day, the Minnesota congresswoman is preparing to announce her candidacy in Iowa soon. But, as Politico reports, the Bachmann camp is concerned, and with good reason, at the way Palin could torpedo her campaign.

Bachmann’s people say they are ignoring Palin’s activity but they are quick to point out that their woman has a longer and seemingly better political resume than the former Republican vice presidential candidate. They’re right about that but considering Palin’s enormous celebrity, there’s little question that the Alaskan’s entry into the race could quickly render Bachman irrelevant.

The dynamic between the two seems to be complicated. Palin campaigned for Bachmann last year and there’s very little, if any, difference between the two on the issues. Though the two not only appeal to the same demographic but also have eerily similar styles and personas, there appears to be some backbiting between the two camps. Palinites think Bachmann is strictly a knock-off of Palin while Bachmannites think Palin is a short-termer more interested in publicity than policy. Some are even speculating that it is Bachmann’s boomlet that is motivating Palin to get back on the road where she can reassert her status as the dominant GOP conservative female icon. That may be a bit simplistic but there’s no question that if Palin doesn’t run, Bachmann’s candidacy will dim Sarah’s star quite a bit.

Though Palin’s camp may think she can parachute into the race at any point in the next few months, Bachman’s head start in Iowa will make such a candidacy difficult. Though, as Alana noted earlier today, Romney’s people seem to think they can cruise to victory by bashing Palin or Bachmann, either of these charismatic women have the ability to beat him in a state where conservatives dominate. And their grass roots support among evangelicals and Tea Party activists in Iowa could sink Tim Pawlenty if he isn’t able to generate more momentum.

Until she withdraws her name from consideration as a Republican candidate, Palin will continue to overshadow Bachmann. Only when Palin’s presidential flirtation ends will Bachmann be able to stop looking over her shoulder.

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Romney Shouldn’t Be So Confident About Beating Palin

In the Playbook this morning, Mike Allen writes that Mitt Romney’s team is hoping Sarah Palin gets in the race, because they believe it will make it easier for him to win the primary:

Romneyworld strongly believes that if Palin gets in, he wins more easily. “The shock value would cause elected officials and party officials to rally around Mitt, because she’d scare the daylights out of them,” one official said. “And it would allow him to position himself very much in the middle of Republican, conservative thinking and avoid the fringe, and look more moderate for the general election.” Rep. Michele Bachmann would have the same effect, the adviser said. Either of them “gives Romney a bogeyman: ‘Stop this crazy woman.'” Another top Republican said he relishes the idea of a Palin candidacy: “She’ll be defeated, and we’ll be done with her.”

This may be just bluster and spin from Romney’s campaign, because they’re fools if they actually think a Palin candidacy would make Romney a sure thing. Romney is not, and will never be, a palatable candidate for many Republicans because of his health care stance. If he wins the nomination, it will only be by default, because the rest of the field is even more unappealing than he is.

Palin presents a problem for Romney because she is able to electrify the grassroots in a way that he can’t. Her campaign would dominate the media coverage, and suck energy and attention away from Romney. While it’s true that party and elected officials might balk at the idea of her candidacy because they think she can’t win in the general, conservative voters have also shown that they’re not easily swayed by the entreaties of GOP officials. So Romney shouldn’t be so sure about this.

In the Playbook this morning, Mike Allen writes that Mitt Romney’s team is hoping Sarah Palin gets in the race, because they believe it will make it easier for him to win the primary:

Romneyworld strongly believes that if Palin gets in, he wins more easily. “The shock value would cause elected officials and party officials to rally around Mitt, because she’d scare the daylights out of them,” one official said. “And it would allow him to position himself very much in the middle of Republican, conservative thinking and avoid the fringe, and look more moderate for the general election.” Rep. Michele Bachmann would have the same effect, the adviser said. Either of them “gives Romney a bogeyman: ‘Stop this crazy woman.'” Another top Republican said he relishes the idea of a Palin candidacy: “She’ll be defeated, and we’ll be done with her.”

This may be just bluster and spin from Romney’s campaign, because they’re fools if they actually think a Palin candidacy would make Romney a sure thing. Romney is not, and will never be, a palatable candidate for many Republicans because of his health care stance. If he wins the nomination, it will only be by default, because the rest of the field is even more unappealing than he is.

Palin presents a problem for Romney because she is able to electrify the grassroots in a way that he can’t. Her campaign would dominate the media coverage, and suck energy and attention away from Romney. While it’s true that party and elected officials might balk at the idea of her candidacy because they think she can’t win in the general, conservative voters have also shown that they’re not easily swayed by the entreaties of GOP officials. So Romney shouldn’t be so sure about this.

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Canada’s Harper Stands Up for Israel at G-8

It was no surprise that the G-8 countries endorsed President Obama’s call for Israel and the Palestinians to return to peace negotiations while specifically mentioning the controversial Middle East policy speech that he gave last week. But what was surprising was that the final communiqué of the summit did not mention the president’s insistence that the 1967 lines be the starting point for such talks. The reason for this was the stubborn refusal of one of the G-8 leaders to agree to pressuring Israel in this fashion.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was “adamant” about eliminating any mention of 1967 in the G-8 statement even though other leaders wanted to include it.

As the Post noted, Canada was denied a 2-year term on the United Nations Security Council last year largely because of its reputation as a stalwart friend of Israel since Harper became prime minister five years ago. By backing up Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of the 1967 lines, the Canadian delivered a stunning rebuke to his American ally.

The G-8’s endorsement of negotiations is an implicit rejection of the Palestinian attempt to avoid peace talks via a UN resolution endorsing Palestinian statehood. But none of the other countries present at the summit committed to joining the United States in pledging to vote against such a measure. When combined with Canada’s ability to stand off Obama on the mention of 1967, this failure means the summit cannot be considered a diplomatic success for the president.

It was no surprise that the G-8 countries endorsed President Obama’s call for Israel and the Palestinians to return to peace negotiations while specifically mentioning the controversial Middle East policy speech that he gave last week. But what was surprising was that the final communiqué of the summit did not mention the president’s insistence that the 1967 lines be the starting point for such talks. The reason for this was the stubborn refusal of one of the G-8 leaders to agree to pressuring Israel in this fashion.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was “adamant” about eliminating any mention of 1967 in the G-8 statement even though other leaders wanted to include it.

As the Post noted, Canada was denied a 2-year term on the United Nations Security Council last year largely because of its reputation as a stalwart friend of Israel since Harper became prime minister five years ago. By backing up Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of the 1967 lines, the Canadian delivered a stunning rebuke to his American ally.

The G-8’s endorsement of negotiations is an implicit rejection of the Palestinian attempt to avoid peace talks via a UN resolution endorsing Palestinian statehood. But none of the other countries present at the summit committed to joining the United States in pledging to vote against such a measure. When combined with Canada’s ability to stand off Obama on the mention of 1967, this failure means the summit cannot be considered a diplomatic success for the president.

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The GOP Nomination Is Very Much Worth Having

One of the arguments that’s been made as to why President Obama is vulnerable is that he’s presided over a sickly economy for his entire tenure. One metric as to just how anemic our economy and job growth have been comes to us courtesy of George Will, who points out that June will be the 68th month since 1948 with the rate at 8 percent or higher—29 of the 68 months under Obama. So more than 40 percent of the most severe unemployment of the past six decades has occurred just in the last two-and-a-half years. No postwar president has sought reelection with 8 percent unemployment. Right now the rate is 9 percent.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Barack Obama will be defeated. But it does mean he’s very much beatable—and the GOP nomination is, this time around, very much worth having.

One of the arguments that’s been made as to why President Obama is vulnerable is that he’s presided over a sickly economy for his entire tenure. One metric as to just how anemic our economy and job growth have been comes to us courtesy of George Will, who points out that June will be the 68th month since 1948 with the rate at 8 percent or higher—29 of the 68 months under Obama. So more than 40 percent of the most severe unemployment of the past six decades has occurred just in the last two-and-a-half years. No postwar president has sought reelection with 8 percent unemployment. Right now the rate is 9 percent.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Barack Obama will be defeated. But it does mean he’s very much beatable—and the GOP nomination is, this time around, very much worth having.

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Obama’s ‘Favorite Republican’ Backs Away From the President

Richard Lugar was considered a mentor and a friend to Barack Obama during their time in the Senate together, but with a tough primary fight looming for the Indianan next year as he seeks a seventh term, it appears that he has decided the last thing he needs is to be considered the president’s “favorite Republican.” With 2012 just around the corner, Lugar has become a frequent critic of the administration as well as a more loyal member of the Republican caucus.

Lugar is the senior Republican in the upper house and an old-school bi-partisan type as well as the Senate’s leading foreign policy “realist.” As Politico notes in an interesting feature on the Obama-Lugar breakup, in the weeks after the 2010 election when the Tea Party insurgency was riding high, Lugar made it clear he wouldn’t truckle to his party’s core constituency. He opposed a ban on earmarks and helped Obama push the START treaty with Russia through the lame duck Congress.

But with a popular Republican challenger seeking to capitalize on the unease about the senator’s establishment ways among the party’s grass roots, Lugar is now highlighting disagreements with his former Senate pal and even denying that they were ever close.  Lugar blasted the president for not consulting with Congress over the conflict in Libya and even withdrew his co-sponsorship of the “Dream Act” because of his anger at Obama’s decision to engage hyper-partisan demagoguery on immigration. Even more interesting is the fact that Lugar voted with fellow Republicans 82 percent of the time in the previous Congress. This year the number is 97 percent.

Lugar has obviously come a long way since he actually served as sounding board on foreign policy issues for Obama prior to the Democrat’s presidential debate with John McCain (though he says he voted for the Republican) in 2008.  But though Lugar now claims all the talk about his friendship with the president was an exaggeration, it’s more likely that his upcoming primary clash with Indiana state Treasure Richard Mourdock is what has concentrated his mind.

Democrats, who face an uphill challenge to hold onto to their slender majority in the Senate next year, are openly rooting for Mourdock to defeat. But just as Mourdock is not Christine O’Donnell, neither is red state Indiana comparable to blue Delaware. A Lugar primary loss would not necessarily translate into a November gain for the Democrats.

The Lugar re-election campaign will be an interesting test of the current state of the Republican Party as well as of how red Indiana really is. Though we can expect to hear a lot about how outrageous it is that GOP voters would even consider dumping a venerable institution like Lugar, after 35 years of his go-along-to-get-along style, it is hardly surprising that party activists yearn for a more forthright advocate for their beliefs.

Richard Lugar was considered a mentor and a friend to Barack Obama during their time in the Senate together, but with a tough primary fight looming for the Indianan next year as he seeks a seventh term, it appears that he has decided the last thing he needs is to be considered the president’s “favorite Republican.” With 2012 just around the corner, Lugar has become a frequent critic of the administration as well as a more loyal member of the Republican caucus.

Lugar is the senior Republican in the upper house and an old-school bi-partisan type as well as the Senate’s leading foreign policy “realist.” As Politico notes in an interesting feature on the Obama-Lugar breakup, in the weeks after the 2010 election when the Tea Party insurgency was riding high, Lugar made it clear he wouldn’t truckle to his party’s core constituency. He opposed a ban on earmarks and helped Obama push the START treaty with Russia through the lame duck Congress.

But with a popular Republican challenger seeking to capitalize on the unease about the senator’s establishment ways among the party’s grass roots, Lugar is now highlighting disagreements with his former Senate pal and even denying that they were ever close.  Lugar blasted the president for not consulting with Congress over the conflict in Libya and even withdrew his co-sponsorship of the “Dream Act” because of his anger at Obama’s decision to engage hyper-partisan demagoguery on immigration. Even more interesting is the fact that Lugar voted with fellow Republicans 82 percent of the time in the previous Congress. This year the number is 97 percent.

Lugar has obviously come a long way since he actually served as sounding board on foreign policy issues for Obama prior to the Democrat’s presidential debate with John McCain (though he says he voted for the Republican) in 2008.  But though Lugar now claims all the talk about his friendship with the president was an exaggeration, it’s more likely that his upcoming primary clash with Indiana state Treasure Richard Mourdock is what has concentrated his mind.

Democrats, who face an uphill challenge to hold onto to their slender majority in the Senate next year, are openly rooting for Mourdock to defeat. But just as Mourdock is not Christine O’Donnell, neither is red state Indiana comparable to blue Delaware. A Lugar primary loss would not necessarily translate into a November gain for the Democrats.

The Lugar re-election campaign will be an interesting test of the current state of the Republican Party as well as of how red Indiana really is. Though we can expect to hear a lot about how outrageous it is that GOP voters would even consider dumping a venerable institution like Lugar, after 35 years of his go-along-to-get-along style, it is hardly surprising that party activists yearn for a more forthright advocate for their beliefs.

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The Lasting Consequence of Schultz’s Apology

I want to add a few thoughts to Jonathan’s post on MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, who apologized for his vulgar comments about Laura Ingraham and was suspended by the network.

The apology was heartfelt enough, and Laura was gracious enough to accept it. But it’s also worth taking into account, as Jonathan does, that Schultz’s crude insult wasn’t (for him) anomalous. Anyone who has seen his program, even for brief periods, can’t help but be struck by the thuggish vocabulary he routinely employs. He doesn’t simply disagree with conservatives; he downright hates them. (In that sense, he was a logical replacement for Keith Olbermann’s time slot.)

What Schultz said about Ingraham, then, was perfectly in line with his concept of public discourse and therefore predictable. It’s also reasonable to assume that his remorse, while sincere, wasn’t spontaneous. It was undoubtedly inspired by a realization that he had upset MSNBC’s new management. That’s fine; for most of us even our best motivations are often tainted by pride and self-interest.

In any event, the acid test is whether, when Schultz returns, he has altered in any meaningful sense his ways. It’s not easy to change the habits of a professional lifetime. If Ed Schultz can do it—if he can become a passionate but not brutish voice on the left—more power to him. If he can’t, then his emotional (and much-commented upon) apology won’t count for very much at all.

I want to add a few thoughts to Jonathan’s post on MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, who apologized for his vulgar comments about Laura Ingraham and was suspended by the network.

The apology was heartfelt enough, and Laura was gracious enough to accept it. But it’s also worth taking into account, as Jonathan does, that Schultz’s crude insult wasn’t (for him) anomalous. Anyone who has seen his program, even for brief periods, can’t help but be struck by the thuggish vocabulary he routinely employs. He doesn’t simply disagree with conservatives; he downright hates them. (In that sense, he was a logical replacement for Keith Olbermann’s time slot.)

What Schultz said about Ingraham, then, was perfectly in line with his concept of public discourse and therefore predictable. It’s also reasonable to assume that his remorse, while sincere, wasn’t spontaneous. It was undoubtedly inspired by a realization that he had upset MSNBC’s new management. That’s fine; for most of us even our best motivations are often tainted by pride and self-interest.

In any event, the acid test is whether, when Schultz returns, he has altered in any meaningful sense his ways. It’s not easy to change the habits of a professional lifetime. If Ed Schultz can do it—if he can become a passionate but not brutish voice on the left—more power to him. If he can’t, then his emotional (and much-commented upon) apology won’t count for very much at all.

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