Rep. Anthony Weiner’s story about hackers breaking into his Twitter account is completely plausible. So why is he acting so guilty about it? It’s the congressman’s evasiveness, not his original explanation, that’s drawing so much attention to the story. After days of dodging questions, Weiner held a useless press gaggle today, where he refused to answer even the most basic inquiries from reporters
Here’s the complete list of questions Weiner was asked, in order (via the CNN video):
“Was that picture of you?”
“Why did you hire a lawyer? Why not let law enforcement handle it?”
“Can you say if you’re concerned if there’s hacking going on with members of congress? That’s a serious thing. Aren’t you concerned if someone’s looking at your sensitive information?”
“Are the Capitol Hill police already looking into it?”
“Was it hacked or was it a prank?”
“Can you tell us why you were following a 21-year-old college student [on Twitter]?”
After each question, Weiner responded with a different version of “This is a distraction” and “I’m going to get back to the conversation I care about.”
One frustrated reporter finally shot back that, “This distraction might go away if you answered some of the questions that are out there.”
“I’m not convinced of that,” replied Weiner. (He’s not alone there).
One thing is for sure. The story certainly isn’t going to go away after his bizarre press appearance. How difficult would it have been for him to say it wasn’t him in the photo? How difficult would it have been for him to ask the police to investigate the hacking?
Weiner isn’t going to be able to dodge legitimate questions for much longer. His odd behavior today just ensured that.
In today’s Washington Post, Perry Bacon Jr. wonders whether Mitt Romney may “take health care off the table as an issue in the 2012 election if he wins the nomination.” If Romney were the Republican candidate, that would be true. The author of Massachusetts’s RomneyCare would be in no position to run against Obamacare.
But despite the mainstream media’s insistence on treating Romney as the putative GOP frontrunner because of the money he’s raised and his name recognition, that is also precisely the reason why he can’t win the Republican nomination.
As Bacon writes, we can be sure that President Obama will not be running on his record as the man who shoved a massive government health care bill down the throats of an unhappy America since, as the writer concedes, the bill is still unpopular.
The Post writer thinks Romney’s doubling down on his support for a government health care program is a manifestation of the candidate’s integrity that will help him overcome his image as a flip-flopper. But there are two problems with that formula. First, the one thing that unites Republicans is their abhorrence of Obamacare and it is unlikely that even the lack of many viable alternatives to his candidacy will convince many Republicans to back him. Second is the fact that there are still plenty of other issues on which Romney is a flip-flopper so it isn’t likely that he’ll live that moniker down anytime soon.
The fact is any Republican who wins the presidential nomination next year will have to run against Obama on health care. To comprehend that basic fact of contemporary political life is to understand why Romney has little or no chance of being the nominee.
Gov. Rick Perry appears to be inching even closer to a presidential run. Earlier today the Texas governor vetoed legislation that would require Amazon.com and other online retailers to collect sales tax from customers in the state. This could be an early warning sign that he plans to enter the 2012 race.
By vetoing the bill, Perry risks angering many of his constituents in the state, as well as other Texas Republican lawmakers who supported it. But the veto will also bolster his national reputation as a small-government, anti-tax conservative.
As Perry has shown more interest in entering the presidential race, enthusiasm for his candidacy has grown.
“I think Gov. Perry could well get in,” Bill Kristol predicted on Fox News Sunday, praising job creation in Texas during the governor’s term and describing him as a “Tea Party favorite.” The Republican nominee needs to have a proven record and be appealing to grassroots conservatives, Kristol said. “Perry checks both those boxes at once,” he said. “I think Perry could be formidable if he got in.”
Republicans are anxious to find a candidate they can get excited about, and Perry’s veto may indicate that he is becoming excited at the prospect too.
As the New York Times report about the fears of Coptic Christians makes clear today, the increasing influence of Islamists in Egypt in the wake of the collapse of the Mubarak regime calls into question the security of non-Muslim minorities. Some will simply ascribe the tragedy that seems to be unfolding to the perils of increasing democracy in societies where there is no tradition of either genuine religious freedom or the rule of law. That may be true, but Egypt’s problem runs deeper than merely blowback from the Arab Spring.
The role of the ahl al-dhimmah—religious minorities protected in principle under Muslim law but still subjected to discrimination and often mistreatment—is the kind of topic that those who wish to promote good relations with the Muslim world often treat as out of bounds for civil discussion. The mere utterance of the word dhimmi is enough to risk an unfair accusation of anti-Muslim bigotry. Yet it goes to the heart not only of Egypt’s problems but those of the Middle East in general.
Although they make up approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population, Coptic Christians understand that the sensibilities of the Muslim majority are such that any assertion of equal rights or self-defense against discrimination is treated as a blow against Islam that will not be accepted. Thus, they must hope that whatever government emerges from the post-Mubarak transition will be able to protect them against the whims of an intolerant majority.
At the same time, it must also be understood that much of the anger against Israel in the region has little to do with disputes about borders as it does with revulsion against a Jewish majority state in which Muslims are the minority. As it happens, Israeli Arabs have, as has often been pointed out, more democratic rights (including the right to vote and hold office, seek legal redress in independent courts, and speak out via a free press) than those living in any Muslim country. But the idea that the Jews—who were reduced to dhimmitude in the Muslim world for 13 centuries—now rule over even a tiny portion of that part of the world is simply unthinkable to many Muslims.
Concern about the safety of the millions of Christians in the Egypt that will emerge in the coming months needs to be an integral element to U.S. policy toward that new government. But those who care about Middle East must also understand that the same dynamic that drives discrimination and violence against the Copts is just another aspect of the same ideology that refuses to accept Israel’s legitimacy and keeps alive the war against the Jewish state 63 years after its rebirth.
In a Republican presidential field that is low on personality Herman Cain is an entertaining diversion. The pizza magnate has a charismatic style and is a good speaker. He also knows a few things about the foolishness of government intervention into the marketplace. But it appears that he is reading out of Sarah Palin’s playbook when it comes to coping with his shortcomings.
In a profile of the candidate in yesterday’s Washington Post, Cain says that those who have had the temerity to point out his almost complete ignorance about foreign affairs and security policy (not an unimportant point to make about someone who aspires to be commander-in-chief), like conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer are a manifestation of the of the gulf “between the establishment and the “real world.” This is the same defense of her lack of seriousness that was made by Sarah Palin in December when she too criticized the sage Krauthammer for expecting her to be “hoity toity.”
Populism is an interesting tactic to use against out of touch Washington liberals but it doesn’t work when candidates employ it as a defense of ignorance. Krauthammer is as far from official Washington’s idea of conventional wisdom as either Cain or Palin. But he is spot on when it comes to spotting candidates who lack not only the qualifications to deal with serious issues but the ability to even fake it.
Cain is an obvious example of the latter. In the Post profile, he attempts to excuse his astonishing gaffe in which he revealed that he had no idea what the “right of return” meant in Middle East politics when asked about it by Chris Wallace on Fox News:
“It would have helped if he would have said Palestinian right of return,” said Cain, adding, “Return to the bar? Return home?” Cain said he was focused in the interview on pronouncing Benjamin Netanyahu’s “name right.” He is currently reading a book on Israel.
Does he think that is supposed to reassure us that he has the faintest idea of what he’s talking about? He also stands by his comment in the first GOP presidential debate in South Carolina in which he said he had no opinion about the future conduct of the war in Afghanistan but would “listen to experts.” He says he’ll let the country know what he plans to do sometime between Election Day in 2012 and his inauguration!
If Sarah Palin runs, we may get a more full-blown test of the efficacy of using populism as cover for a lack of attention to the hard-core details of issues and presidential demeanor. But until that happens, we’ll just have to content ourselves with catching up with Herman Cain’s reading list.
With their victory in the special election in New York’s 26th district last week, Congressional Democrats are feeling their oats. While their optimism is understandable, the notion that they can ride Medicare demagoguery back to majority control of Congress is debatable. Nevertheless, if the country’s mood is changing from one of outrage about deficits, taxes, and spending to one of fear about entitlement reform, it is well to ask what sort of party do Congressional Democrats think they are? The answer is a caucus that is not only obsessed with expanding the entitlement state, but one that is also increasingly isolationist.
That’s the only way to interpret the vote late last week in which virtually the entire House Democratic caucus endorsed a demand that the Obama administration accelerate its plans to withdraw completely from Afghanistan but to negotiate a deal with “all interested parties” in the country, meaning the Taliban. All but eight House Democrats voted for the amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that narrowly failed by a vote of 215 to 204, with 26 Republicans joined the Democrats on the issue. As Politico noted, many in the House Democratic leadership that opposed previous efforts by leftists to undermine the war effort in Afghanistan—Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, for example—joined with them this time.
Although some are characterizing this vote as mere “impatience” with the stalled conflict and anger about Pakistan’s double game in the region after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in that country, the decision of Congressional Democrats to play the anti-war card is still a curious one. After all, the war is being fought now by a Democratic administration. Though President Obama has sent the country mixed signals about his intentions at times, he has also been clear that he would not cut and run from the place.
Americans may be tired of the war and some may be misled into thinking the killing of one terrorist is a good excuse for abandoning the war against the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists who are still a potent threat. But the idea that the country is truly ready to abandon the so-called “good war” in Afghanistan (as opposed to the “bad war” in Iraq, which has already been largely won) is probably unfounded.
Democrats are hoping that invoking Paul Ryan’s name will be enough to wash the taste of their 2010 defeat out of their mouths. But they need to be careful. If they wish to return to power they need to take into account that 2012 won’t be a repeat of 2006 when an anti-Iraq war wave gave them control of Congress. With their own Democratic president still committed to fighting in Afghanistan, it won’t do him or their electoral prospects any good to be perceived as a party of anti-war extremists who are willing to hand a victory to the Taliban.
Recently the efforts to draft Gov. Chris Christie into the 2012 race seem to have died down, even though there is still a lot of enthusiasm for drafting Gov. Rick Perry or Rep. Paul Ryan.
But that isn’t stopping a group of top Iowa donors from flying to New Jersey today to encourage Christie to run. It’s highly unlikely that he will. He hasn’t finished a full term and he’s currently tied up with the state legislative session. But the fact that he’s even having the meeting shows that he probably has national aspirations at some point down the road—potentially in 2012.
The Des Moines Register spoke with Steve Forbes, who’s unsatisfied with the current crop of candidates and wants Christie or Ryan to enter the race. “I think there will be others in the race, even though they don’t know it today,” Forbes said. “You’re looking at an incomplete field.”
If the wooing of Christie tells us anything, it’s that Republicans are still letting their eyes wander away from the current field. Despite the fact that many analysts are saying that Republicans have to choose from the candidates already running, many conservatives are still unwilling to accept it.
Just a week after the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report showing that Iran is conducting work on atomic triggers and detonators as well as uranium fuel, the New Yorker is attempting to throw cold water on the whole idea that Tehran is a nuclear threat.
Seymour Hersh, a writer whose bias against Israel and any effort to restrain anti-American Islamists calls into question the validity of his “research,” suggests that the whole brouhaha about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions is a scam. Indeed, his New Yorker piece takes the view that the Obama administration’s fears about Iran are as unjustified as George W. Bush’s warnings about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. As with many other apologists for Iran, Hersh seems motivated more by wanting to foil the Israelis (who have no desire to live with an existential threat) than by real evidence of Iranian innocence. Hersh claims that Obama is overstating the actual intelligence evidence, but as so often with him, he expects his readers to take that on faith. Faith in Hersh’s unerring instincts to oppose American interests and to endanger Israel, that is.
But the problem with Hersh’s Iranian thesis is that the evidence that points to Iranian nukes is considerable. The IAEA—an agency that has never been a source of alarmism about Iran—raises serious questions that Hersh can’t answer. If Iran is merely pursuing peaceful uses of nuclear energy then what are the mullahs doing by trying to construct triggers and detonators whose only practical purpose is to set off nuclear weapons?
Anyone who has followed this story for years will know that Iran has always tried to play it both ways on nukes. On the one hand, the regime of Sayyed Ali Khamenei has claimed no interest in nuclear weapons. On the other, the Iranians have made their pursuit of nukes a major source of national pride, which has created a certain ambivalence on Tehran’s part about keeping the program covert.
The IAEA report last week ought to scare Americans who thought the Stuxnet virus would solve the Iranian problem without further sacrifice or effort. Although Hersh claims the whole subject is something of a hoax—a typical claim for him—there is so much evidence on this subject that the only one blowing smoke on Iran is obviously Hersh.
In case there was any remaining doubt that President Obama’s statements on the 1967 lines were out of step with the American people, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellent in Journalism found that an overwhelming percentage of social media users sided with Israel on the issue:
By almost a 3-to-1 margin, bloggers and users of Twitter and Facebook expressed strong support for Israel over the Palestinians in the week following President Obama’s May 19 address on the Middle East, according to an analysis of social media conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Many of those expressing support also took President Obama to task for suggesting that peace in the region would best be achieved by creating a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.
The survey found that 60 percent of the Twitter/Facebook conversations about the president’s speech were pro-Israel. Twenty percent were pro-Palestinian, and 20 percent were “neutral” (i.e. giving a news update with no opinion attached).
According to the PEJ, these findings were unusual. With other contentious political topics the group has studied – such as the Ground Zero mosque and the 2010 election – opinions were more evenly divided.
But the survey results do correspond with the latest Gallup opinion polling, which has found that 63 percent of Americans sympathize more with Israelis, and 17 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians.
The PEJ numbers may also have some political implications for Obama. They indicate that politically-aware social media users – a prime demographic for the president’s 2012 reelection campaign – overwhelmingly side with Israel. And according to PEJ, these Israel supporters were very critical of Obama’s position on the 1967 borders:
Social media users who sided with Israel criticized Obama for not backing the U.S. ally strongly enough and consequently not upholding American values. Many used phrases suggesting Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus” or “stabbed Israel in the back.”
This is something the president may want to keep in mind next time he’s tempted to snub America’s closest ally.
If Sarah Palin really is planning running for president, she’s breaking all the rules. The question is, does it matter? The answer is no and yes.
Palin’s tour bus is shlepping her family around the Northeast this week, and in doing so she’s proving that you don’t need advance people, schedules, or a good relationship with the press to make a splash. Palin is a magnet for cameras and audiences. Wherever she goes and however she manages to get there she will garner as much attention as possible. Nobody in the media likes her lack of a schedule, since it makes their lives miserable. Politicians are also incensed at her refusal to make courtesy calls to let local party officials know about her visits or to coordinate with them.
The point here couldn’t be any clearer: the former Alaska governor is in business for herself. That’s not just a reference to the fact that she is as much a one-woman media conglomerate as a politician. It means that, not only does she feel as if she doesn’t need the cooperation or at least the neutrality of other Republicans, but that she is also anxious to prove that she has no use for them. And she’s right. Her ability to swoop in and out like the touring celebrity that she is and not a politician on the hustings illustrates the fact that her putative candidacy would not be politics as usual. She would fly over the normal political structure of a state that she contested and rely on her ability to make news by just showing up rather than meticulous preparation.
The tour is also proving that her several months of quiet did not diminish her star quality. She is every bit the media superstar today that she was a year ago. Those who claim that she cannot wait until the fall to declare a presidential candidacy are wrong. She can swoop in virtually any time she likes prior to the voting and still have a chance if voters are buying what she is selling. Whether most will think, as George Will said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that “she can be trusted with nuclear weapons” is another question.
But to concede that she can play by her own rules is not the same thing as saying that she won’t pay a price for doing so. If the poorly staffed and chaotic nature of her tour is an indication of how she thinks she can run a presidential campaign, then she may not be as smart as she thinks she is. Primaries and caucuses require what the politicians call a “ground game” to get out the vote. Her complete lack of organization will eventually come back to haunt her. So, too will a decision to treat all other Republicans, including the local parties, as if they were reporters from the New York Times.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be laughing his head off. As Abe noted yesterday, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report unveiled evidence that Iran has been working on technology to arm its missiles with nuclear warheads. It also disclosed evidence of Tehran’s work “on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.” If a smoking gun were needed, this is it.
Yet the “international community” hasn’t uttered a peep about the report. It’s too busy obsessing over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead.
Two days after the report’s publication, the G8 met in Deauville. Its concluding statement devoted six paragraphs to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notable for both their specificity (“we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011”) and their urgency (“The time to resume the Peace Process is now.”)
In contrast, Iran’s nukes merited exactly one content-free paragraph: