Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 2011

Times Slams Dems for Budget Delays

It’s not often that the New York Times’s editorial board sides with the Senate Republicans on an issue, but apparently the Democrats’ budget dereliction has become too problematic to ignore. In an editorial today, the Times called out Senate Democrats for failing to produce a budget plan of their own:

But there will be no vote on a budget by the Democratic majority of the Senate, the traditional method for stating the majority’s priorities in black and white dollar signs. That’s because the Budget Committee has not agreed on one. And that’s because a good plan by the committee chairman, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, was deferred by Senate leaders, who feared that the plan’s tax increase on millionaires would make Democratic senators ripe targets for Tea Party attacks.

The Times also admonished Democrats for choosing the “safe political path,” adding that this tactic “will let down those who sent them to Washington.” Senate Republicans have been saying as much for weeks, but the fact that the Times is now jumping on board shows that the narrative of slacker Democrats is gaining traction and could become increasingly problematic for them. The left seems to be growing tired of the party’s passivity, and wants it to launch a robust defense of liberal economic policy. Of course, the American public won’t be as thrilled about the massive tax hikes that would naturally be included in any Democratic budget plan, so that scenario is exactly what Republicans are hoping for.

It’s not often that the New York Times’s editorial board sides with the Senate Republicans on an issue, but apparently the Democrats’ budget dereliction has become too problematic to ignore. In an editorial today, the Times called out Senate Democrats for failing to produce a budget plan of their own:

But there will be no vote on a budget by the Democratic majority of the Senate, the traditional method for stating the majority’s priorities in black and white dollar signs. That’s because the Budget Committee has not agreed on one. And that’s because a good plan by the committee chairman, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, was deferred by Senate leaders, who feared that the plan’s tax increase on millionaires would make Democratic senators ripe targets for Tea Party attacks.

The Times also admonished Democrats for choosing the “safe political path,” adding that this tactic “will let down those who sent them to Washington.” Senate Republicans have been saying as much for weeks, but the fact that the Times is now jumping on board shows that the narrative of slacker Democrats is gaining traction and could become increasingly problematic for them. The left seems to be growing tired of the party’s passivity, and wants it to launch a robust defense of liberal economic policy. Of course, the American public won’t be as thrilled about the massive tax hikes that would naturally be included in any Democratic budget plan, so that scenario is exactly what Republicans are hoping for.

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The Left Is Decreasingly Relevant to Politics of Israel

Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress unwisely waded into Israeli politics once again last week, writing about a phenomenon that he terms “post-Jewish Zionism.”  This is his theory that Christians and conservatives are becoming increasingly pro-Israel, a concept that isn’t exactly groundbreaking.

But according to Yglesias, the impact of this is that American Jews—who are typically politically liberal—are becoming “decreasingly relevant to the politics of Israel.”

“The existence of Christian Zionists is, of course, not new,” Yglesias wrote. “But what is new is that Israeli politics has drifted toward the hawkish right over the past ten years even as Jewish Americans remain on the progressive left.”

The insinuation is that American Jews have a more “progressive” perspective on how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than either Christian Zionists or Israelis themselves, and that these conservatives may hijack the issue and push solutions that don’t mesh with the values of typical American Jews.

It’s true that some (though not all) Christian Zionists don’t support a two-state solution, which puts them out of sync with the politics of most of the American Jewish community. However, while American Jews are progressive on social issues, they take a far more pragmatic and conservative stance on Israel.

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Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress unwisely waded into Israeli politics once again last week, writing about a phenomenon that he terms “post-Jewish Zionism.”  This is his theory that Christians and conservatives are becoming increasingly pro-Israel, a concept that isn’t exactly groundbreaking.

But according to Yglesias, the impact of this is that American Jews—who are typically politically liberal—are becoming “decreasingly relevant to the politics of Israel.”

“The existence of Christian Zionists is, of course, not new,” Yglesias wrote. “But what is new is that Israeli politics has drifted toward the hawkish right over the past ten years even as Jewish Americans remain on the progressive left.”

The insinuation is that American Jews have a more “progressive” perspective on how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than either Christian Zionists or Israelis themselves, and that these conservatives may hijack the issue and push solutions that don’t mesh with the values of typical American Jews.

It’s true that some (though not all) Christian Zionists don’t support a two-state solution, which puts them out of sync with the politics of most of the American Jewish community. However, while American Jews are progressive on social issues, they take a far more pragmatic and conservative stance on Israel.

In fact, when it comes to Israel, it is the progressive left that appears to be the most out-of-touch with the politics of the Jewish community. A recent poll conducted by Frank Luntz for CAMERA showed that nearly three-quarters of Jewish Americans opposed the idea of Judge Richard Goldstone appearing before Congress, while only 5 percent supported it. This puts it firmly at odds with the left-leaning lobby J Street, which actually facilitated meetings between members of congress and Judge Goldstone.

Further, 81 percent of American Jews say they would be more likely to vote for a representative who signed a letter deploring Palestinian incitement. Compare this to J Street’s position: back in March, the group publicly opposed a Congressional letter condemning Palestinian incitement.

As for the new Palestinian-Hamas unity deal, 77 percent say Israel should “refuse to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority until Hamas renounces terrorism and officially recognizes Israel’s right to exist.” This seems to contradict with President Obama’s recent speech to AIPAC, in which he said that “no matter how hard it may be [for Israel] to start meaningful negotiations under the current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option.”

And when it comes to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement—an anti-Israel campaign promoted by many left-wing fringe groups—71 percent of American Jews are opposed.

On the central issues, 78 percent believe it is either “very necessary” or “100% and totally necessary, no exceptions,” for Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state. 84 percent believe that the Israeli government is committed to establishing a genuine peace with the Palestinian people. And 77 percent consider Palestinian incitement to be a major obstacle to peace, in contrast to 12 percent who believe the settlements and another 12 percent who believe the “occupation” is to blame.

So to say that Zionism in America is drifting away from the Jewish communities is simply untrue. If anything, the polling shows that, when it comes to Israel, there’s a divide between American Jews and the larger progressive community.

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Obama Scraps Decades-Old Policy of Even-Handedness on Israel

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as Jonathan noted, single-handedly prevented last week’s G-8 summit from explicitly endorsing the 1967 lines as a starting point for Israeli-Palestinian talks. What made this remarkable, however, was not merely that Harper once again provided the lone pro-Israel voice in an international forum. It’s that Harper, rather than the U.S. president, was the one Israel’s prime minister telephoned for help — because Barack Obama has blatantly abandoned a longstanding American tradition of insisting that international forums meet minimal standards of even-handedness.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of this shift. For decades, when Israel wanted help defending its case in an international forum, it dialed Washington. It didn’t matter whether Democrats or Republicans occupied the White House; Washington was always the address.

That’s because successive U.S. presidents all adopted a simple policy: You can’t target Israel while giving the Palestinians a free pass. You can’t condemn Israeli military operations without also condemning the rocket fire or suicide bombings that prompted them; you can’t demand Israeli concessions at the negotiating table without also demanding Palestinian concessions. As then-UN Ambassador John Danforth explained in a masterful exposition of this policy in 2004, that is how America defines “even-handedness,” and it won’t accept anything less.

But it’s precisely this policy that Obama has abandoned – and that Harper has stepped in to defend. As the latter told reporters after the summit, he doesn’t share Israel’s opposition to mentioning the 1967 lines in principle. What he objected to was the G-8’s attempt to make demands of Israel without also mentioning the concessions Palestinians will have to make for a two-state solution.

“You can’t cherry pick elements of that speech,” Harper said, referring to Obama’s May 19 Middle East policy address. “I think if you’re going to get into other elements, obviously I would like to see reference to elements that were also in President Obama’s speech. Such as, for instance, the fact that one of the states must be a Jewish state. The fact that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized.”

Not so long ago, it would have been the U.S. president insisting on that basic modicum of even-handedness. It’s a measure of how far Obama has undercut the American-Israeli alliance that Jerusalem is now forced to dial Ottawa instead.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as Jonathan noted, single-handedly prevented last week’s G-8 summit from explicitly endorsing the 1967 lines as a starting point for Israeli-Palestinian talks. What made this remarkable, however, was not merely that Harper once again provided the lone pro-Israel voice in an international forum. It’s that Harper, rather than the U.S. president, was the one Israel’s prime minister telephoned for help — because Barack Obama has blatantly abandoned a longstanding American tradition of insisting that international forums meet minimal standards of even-handedness.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of this shift. For decades, when Israel wanted help defending its case in an international forum, it dialed Washington. It didn’t matter whether Democrats or Republicans occupied the White House; Washington was always the address.

That’s because successive U.S. presidents all adopted a simple policy: You can’t target Israel while giving the Palestinians a free pass. You can’t condemn Israeli military operations without also condemning the rocket fire or suicide bombings that prompted them; you can’t demand Israeli concessions at the negotiating table without also demanding Palestinian concessions. As then-UN Ambassador John Danforth explained in a masterful exposition of this policy in 2004, that is how America defines “even-handedness,” and it won’t accept anything less.

But it’s precisely this policy that Obama has abandoned – and that Harper has stepped in to defend. As the latter told reporters after the summit, he doesn’t share Israel’s opposition to mentioning the 1967 lines in principle. What he objected to was the G-8’s attempt to make demands of Israel without also mentioning the concessions Palestinians will have to make for a two-state solution.

“You can’t cherry pick elements of that speech,” Harper said, referring to Obama’s May 19 Middle East policy address. “I think if you’re going to get into other elements, obviously I would like to see reference to elements that were also in President Obama’s speech. Such as, for instance, the fact that one of the states must be a Jewish state. The fact that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized.”

Not so long ago, it would have been the U.S. president insisting on that basic modicum of even-handedness. It’s a measure of how far Obama has undercut the American-Israeli alliance that Jerusalem is now forced to dial Ottawa instead.

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More Neoconservatism From Obama

President Obama said today that Poland’s transformation from a corrupt and oppressive Soviet satellite state into a free country ought to be a model for those Arab nations seeking to rise above their own historical experiences. He asserted that Poland, the country that suffered cruelly under the Tsars, the Nazis and the Communists only to become a functioning democracy when it finally regained its independence ought to provide inspiration for Arab and Islamic societies that seek freedom.

Obama has been at pains to praise his hosts during his visit to Poland. He has good reason to do so. Obama betrayed both Poland and the Czech Republic in his first year in office by revoking America’s commitment to provide those countries with missile defense in a vain attempt to appease Russia. The goal of this presidential European tour is to re-establish the close ties with our oldest allies and friends (such as Britain) that Obama did so much to downgrade since taking office.

But his bouquet to the Poles is also yet another instance of the president adopting the rhetoric and the arguments of neoconservatives, the ideological group that liberals like Obama used to love to hate. It was the neo-cons who spent the first decade of the 21st century arguing that America had a duty and a need to promote democracy around the world, especially in those areas like the Middle East, where democracy was virtually unknown (outside of Israel, that is). Liberals derided this belief as either a cynical cover for American imperialism or a hopelessly naïve expression of ignorance about Arabs and Muslims who, were told, did not share our values.

But, as with the first part of his Middle East policy speech last week (the part before he attempted to tilt the diplomatic playing field in favor of the Palestinians and against Israel), that promoted a freedom agenda that sounded perilously similar to the words of the despised George W. Bush, Barack Obama has yet again set forth his neocon profession of faith.

In truth, America’s freedom agenda is a much easier sell in Poland, which has always seen itself as part of the West despite its location next to Russia, than in the Arab Middle East. The Poles needed help ridding themselves of their oppressors, not in formulating a democracy. The problems faced by those who wish to establish democracies in the Arab world are far greater.

Nevertheless, it is nice to see Obama agree with the neoconservative formulation that freedom is for everybody not just those lucky enough to live in the West. The world will be a better place if he, and the liberals who elected him, follow up on those sentiments.

President Obama said today that Poland’s transformation from a corrupt and oppressive Soviet satellite state into a free country ought to be a model for those Arab nations seeking to rise above their own historical experiences. He asserted that Poland, the country that suffered cruelly under the Tsars, the Nazis and the Communists only to become a functioning democracy when it finally regained its independence ought to provide inspiration for Arab and Islamic societies that seek freedom.

Obama has been at pains to praise his hosts during his visit to Poland. He has good reason to do so. Obama betrayed both Poland and the Czech Republic in his first year in office by revoking America’s commitment to provide those countries with missile defense in a vain attempt to appease Russia. The goal of this presidential European tour is to re-establish the close ties with our oldest allies and friends (such as Britain) that Obama did so much to downgrade since taking office.

But his bouquet to the Poles is also yet another instance of the president adopting the rhetoric and the arguments of neoconservatives, the ideological group that liberals like Obama used to love to hate. It was the neo-cons who spent the first decade of the 21st century arguing that America had a duty and a need to promote democracy around the world, especially in those areas like the Middle East, where democracy was virtually unknown (outside of Israel, that is). Liberals derided this belief as either a cynical cover for American imperialism or a hopelessly naïve expression of ignorance about Arabs and Muslims who, were told, did not share our values.

But, as with the first part of his Middle East policy speech last week (the part before he attempted to tilt the diplomatic playing field in favor of the Palestinians and against Israel), that promoted a freedom agenda that sounded perilously similar to the words of the despised George W. Bush, Barack Obama has yet again set forth his neocon profession of faith.

In truth, America’s freedom agenda is a much easier sell in Poland, which has always seen itself as part of the West despite its location next to Russia, than in the Arab Middle East. The Poles needed help ridding themselves of their oppressors, not in formulating a democracy. The problems faced by those who wish to establish democracies in the Arab world are far greater.

Nevertheless, it is nice to see Obama agree with the neoconservative formulation that freedom is for everybody not just those lucky enough to live in the West. The world will be a better place if he, and the liberals who elected him, follow up on those sentiments.

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Romney and Ethanol: Serial Panderer Just Can’t Help Himself

Mitt Romney wants us to believe that he is a man of principle, a paragon of political decency and common sense whose business acumen and personal integrity will help him lead the country back to greatness. But even though he looks the part of a man with steel in his spine, the former Massachusetts governor proved once again this week that he is merely a garden-variety politician who wants to be all things to all people.

The latest example of this character trait came on Thursday when he told Iowans, “I support the subsidy of ethanol. I believe ethanol is an important part of our energy solution in this country.”

The ethanol boondoggle is good for Iowans who grow corn but bad for America. The federal subsidy for the fuel additive is a long-running scandal that even those who benefit from it know must come to an end in an era of budget crises. Yet for decades, it has been an article of faith that those who wish to win the Iowa caucuses must pledge allegiance to ethanol.

Tim Pawlenty is betting that a refusal to play that game will help, not hurt his presidential candidacy. Pawlenty’s statement of opposition to the ethanol subsidy when he formally declared his intention to run earlier this week was a daring step but one that might prove to be good politics. Opposing ethanol allows the former Minnesota governor to establish himself as the mainstream candidate whose concern for the country’s future is such that he won’t go along with business as usual corruption even if it means discomfiting some Iowa farmers. It also allowed him to outflank Michelle Bachmann, a potent rival in the state for Pawlenty, who will have some explaining to do to Tea Party activists who believe all such government handouts are wrong if she waffles on the issue.

Romney’s backing for ethanol calls into question his pose as the guy who can make the tough decisions to balance budgets and eliminate waste and fraud. Though he’d like to be the man he speaks about when he puff his presidential qualifications, he just can’t help being who he is: a weathervane who goes back and forth on the issues depending on where he is and whose votes he wants. Even in Iowa, a state that he may not even actively contest next winter, Romney can’t stop pandering.

Mitt Romney wants us to believe that he is a man of principle, a paragon of political decency and common sense whose business acumen and personal integrity will help him lead the country back to greatness. But even though he looks the part of a man with steel in his spine, the former Massachusetts governor proved once again this week that he is merely a garden-variety politician who wants to be all things to all people.

The latest example of this character trait came on Thursday when he told Iowans, “I support the subsidy of ethanol. I believe ethanol is an important part of our energy solution in this country.”

The ethanol boondoggle is good for Iowans who grow corn but bad for America. The federal subsidy for the fuel additive is a long-running scandal that even those who benefit from it know must come to an end in an era of budget crises. Yet for decades, it has been an article of faith that those who wish to win the Iowa caucuses must pledge allegiance to ethanol.

Tim Pawlenty is betting that a refusal to play that game will help, not hurt his presidential candidacy. Pawlenty’s statement of opposition to the ethanol subsidy when he formally declared his intention to run earlier this week was a daring step but one that might prove to be good politics. Opposing ethanol allows the former Minnesota governor to establish himself as the mainstream candidate whose concern for the country’s future is such that he won’t go along with business as usual corruption even if it means discomfiting some Iowa farmers. It also allowed him to outflank Michelle Bachmann, a potent rival in the state for Pawlenty, who will have some explaining to do to Tea Party activists who believe all such government handouts are wrong if she waffles on the issue.

Romney’s backing for ethanol calls into question his pose as the guy who can make the tough decisions to balance budgets and eliminate waste and fraud. Though he’d like to be the man he speaks about when he puff his presidential qualifications, he just can’t help being who he is: a weathervane who goes back and forth on the issues depending on where he is and whose votes he wants. Even in Iowa, a state that he may not even actively contest next winter, Romney can’t stop pandering.

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Memorial Day 2011

For nearly a century and a half—ever since President U. S. Grant declared “Let us have peace” in officially proclaiming a national day to commemorate all who had been killed in the Civil War—we the people of the United States have set aside a day to remember American soldiers, the best among us, who have fallen in battle. Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was a sectional observance for several decades—the Southern states held a separate Confederate Memorial Day. Not until the Spanish-American War, when Northern and Southern soldiers together came under fire again for the first time in thirty years, did Memorial Day became a national day of remembrance. (This is a history that I have sketched in before. In a moving post at the Weekly Standard this morning, Leon and Amy Kass place the date of the expanded national holiday after World War I.)

American culture has become a victim culture, more comfortable with commemorating slaughter than heroism. The shift can be traced by comparing Allen Tate’s famous “Ode to the Confederate Dead,” first published in 1927, to Robert Lowell’s reply, “For the Union Dead,” read aloud at the Boston Arts Festival in 1960. A native of Kentucky who contributed to the Southern Agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand, Tate acts as a guide to a Confederate cemetery, where the “wind whirrs without recollection.” He urges the visitor:

Turn your eyes to the immoderate past,
Turn to the inscrutable infantry rising
Demons out of the earth—they will not last.
Stonewall, Stonewall, and the sunken fields of hemp,
Shiloh, Antietam, Malvern Hill, Bull Run.
Lost in that orient of the thick-and-fast
You will curse the setting sun.

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For nearly a century and a half—ever since President U. S. Grant declared “Let us have peace” in officially proclaiming a national day to commemorate all who had been killed in the Civil War—we the people of the United States have set aside a day to remember American soldiers, the best among us, who have fallen in battle. Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was a sectional observance for several decades—the Southern states held a separate Confederate Memorial Day. Not until the Spanish-American War, when Northern and Southern soldiers together came under fire again for the first time in thirty years, did Memorial Day became a national day of remembrance. (This is a history that I have sketched in before. In a moving post at the Weekly Standard this morning, Leon and Amy Kass place the date of the expanded national holiday after World War I.)

American culture has become a victim culture, more comfortable with commemorating slaughter than heroism. The shift can be traced by comparing Allen Tate’s famous “Ode to the Confederate Dead,” first published in 1927, to Robert Lowell’s reply, “For the Union Dead,” read aloud at the Boston Arts Festival in 1960. A native of Kentucky who contributed to the Southern Agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand, Tate acts as a guide to a Confederate cemetery, where the “wind whirrs without recollection.” He urges the visitor:

Turn your eyes to the immoderate past,
Turn to the inscrutable infantry rising
Demons out of the earth—they will not last.
Stonewall, Stonewall, and the sunken fields of hemp,
Shiloh, Antietam, Malvern Hill, Bull Run.
Lost in that orient of the thick-and-fast
You will curse the setting sun.

Smothered by the cemetery’s silence, the visitors abruptly realize that the soldiers buried all around them have been reduced to a “verdurous anonymity.” Nothing remains but to “bow/ Our heads with commemorial woe. . . .” The martial tradition of the South, which continues to see it overrepresented among military recruits, leads to abashed reflection and respect.

Robert Lowell, by contrast—descended from Boston Brahmins and destined to become America’s favorite anti-war poet—is startled into poetry by Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s memorial in Boston Common to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, a black unit that included two sons of Frederick Douglass. The monument to them, Lowell famously writes, “sticks like a fishbone/ in the city’s throat.” Reflecting upon a memorial to the regiment that led a bloody assault upon Battery Wagner, Lowell is angered by the state of race relations in America a century later; “the terrible injustice, in the past and the present, of the American treatment of the Negro is the greatest urgency to me as a man and as a writer,” he explained afterwards.

God knows that America’s treatment of its black citizens ought to stick in the throat of more than just Boston. The novelist Walker Percy once called it America’s original sin. But perhaps not every day on the American calendar should be victims’ day. Perhaps not today at least. Colonel Shaw and the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts were not victims, even if—as Lowell is careful to note—“Two months after marching through Boston,/ half the regiment was dead.” The men were heroes, and deserve to be remembered as heroes.

How can a generation fired by the urgency of injustice learn anew to bow its head in commemorial woe? It will have to relearn the language of memory and respect. A good place to start is the excellent website maintained by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War—the descendants, appropriately enough, of the Grand Army of the Republic—where a rich vein of essays, speeches, poems, and prayers can be found. Print out some of the prayers to take along with you to the veterans’ cemetery today.

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The ‘Jim Crow’ Voter ID Canard

The front page of today’s Sunday New York Times leads with a story about the move in several state legislatures to require citizens to produce a photo ID when voting. The conceit of the piece is that this is a Republican plot aimed at suppressing the minority vote via “Jim Crow” laws that will make it difficult for the poor and the elderly to participate.

Republicans answer quite reasonably by pointing out, as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said when signing one such bill into law that, “If you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on an airplane, you should show a picture ID when you vote.”

The attempt to paint voter ID laws as racist is clearly a political tactic aimed at delegitimizing any effort to halt voter fraud. Democrats who oppose such laws claim that there is no evidence of attempts to steal elections via the votes of those who ineligible to vote (such as persons who are not citizens or illegal aliens) or who have already voted in another district.

But the problem with this argument is that stuffing ballot boxes with ineligible, fictitious or multiple votes by the same person is as American as apple pie. Such practices date back as far as colonial days and have been pursued with vigor in big cities and small towns and in every region and state of the union. The stakes involved in democratic elections are high and not just in terms of policy. Government patronage of one form or another has always been a standing temptation to cheat on the local, state and federal levels.

So are Democrats and liberals who oppose voter ID trying to tell us that we have reached an age of such political righteousness that we no longer should fear the possibility of stolen elections? This is, of course, a preposterous suggestion. It is even more preposterous when you consider that there are millions of illegal immigrants within our borders. Though I don’t subscribe to the fear mongering about the impact of the record number of illegals since most come here to work in the jobs that Americans don’t want and actually contribute to our society far more than they hurt it. But it is another thing entirely to say that we shouldn’t care whether non-citizens vote.

The working presumption on election security should be the same as that of airline security. We should presume that fraud is being planned at all times and act accordingly. It takes little or no effort to get a picture ID in this country especially since it is now a requirement in virtually every aspect of economic activity and travel. Voter ID laws are simply common sense. They are not racist or unnecessary and those who make such arguments are either deluded or grinding their own political axes.

The front page of today’s Sunday New York Times leads with a story about the move in several state legislatures to require citizens to produce a photo ID when voting. The conceit of the piece is that this is a Republican plot aimed at suppressing the minority vote via “Jim Crow” laws that will make it difficult for the poor and the elderly to participate.

Republicans answer quite reasonably by pointing out, as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said when signing one such bill into law that, “If you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on an airplane, you should show a picture ID when you vote.”

The attempt to paint voter ID laws as racist is clearly a political tactic aimed at delegitimizing any effort to halt voter fraud. Democrats who oppose such laws claim that there is no evidence of attempts to steal elections via the votes of those who ineligible to vote (such as persons who are not citizens or illegal aliens) or who have already voted in another district.

But the problem with this argument is that stuffing ballot boxes with ineligible, fictitious or multiple votes by the same person is as American as apple pie. Such practices date back as far as colonial days and have been pursued with vigor in big cities and small towns and in every region and state of the union. The stakes involved in democratic elections are high and not just in terms of policy. Government patronage of one form or another has always been a standing temptation to cheat on the local, state and federal levels.

So are Democrats and liberals who oppose voter ID trying to tell us that we have reached an age of such political righteousness that we no longer should fear the possibility of stolen elections? This is, of course, a preposterous suggestion. It is even more preposterous when you consider that there are millions of illegal immigrants within our borders. Though I don’t subscribe to the fear mongering about the impact of the record number of illegals since most come here to work in the jobs that Americans don’t want and actually contribute to our society far more than they hurt it. But it is another thing entirely to say that we shouldn’t care whether non-citizens vote.

The working presumption on election security should be the same as that of airline security. We should presume that fraud is being planned at all times and act accordingly. It takes little or no effort to get a picture ID in this country especially since it is now a requirement in virtually every aspect of economic activity and travel. Voter ID laws are simply common sense. They are not racist or unnecessary and those who make such arguments are either deluded or grinding their own political axes.

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Sullivan, Goldberg, and Zakaria Walk into a Bar . . .

On November 11, 2010, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Clinton issued a Joint Statement, following a “friendly and productive exchange of views.” Andrew Sullivan, Jeffrey Goldberg, Fareed Zakaria, and Joe Klein have asserted that the November statement is a smoking gun, proving Netanyahu manufactured a confrontation with President Obama over his May 19 Middle East speech

At Time magazine, Klein wrote that Obama’s speech had employed the “exact formulation” from the November statement. Zakaria wrote in the Washington Post that the November statement shows “Netanyahu’s quarrel, it appears, is with himself.” In his Atlantic blog, Goldberg wrote it “fairly definitively proves that the whole contretemps over Obama’s radical new analysis of the Middle East crisis was ridiculous.” And Sullivan overtopped his Atlantic colleague, writing the statement confirms that Netanyahu is a “liar.”

The key portion of the November statement consisted of two sentences: (1) a U.S. description of the competing Palestinian and Israeli goals, and (2) a commitment about Israeli security requirements in any future agreement:

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On November 11, 2010, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Clinton issued a Joint Statement, following a “friendly and productive exchange of views.” Andrew Sullivan, Jeffrey Goldberg, Fareed Zakaria, and Joe Klein have asserted that the November statement is a smoking gun, proving Netanyahu manufactured a confrontation with President Obama over his May 19 Middle East speech

At Time magazine, Klein wrote that Obama’s speech had employed the “exact formulation” from the November statement. Zakaria wrote in the Washington Post that the November statement shows “Netanyahu’s quarrel, it appears, is with himself.” In his Atlantic blog, Goldberg wrote it “fairly definitively proves that the whole contretemps over Obama’s radical new analysis of the Middle East crisis was ridiculous.” And Sullivan overtopped his Atlantic colleague, writing the statement confirms that Netanyahu is a “liar.”

The key portion of the November statement consisted of two sentences: (1) a U.S. description of the competing Palestinian and Israeli goals, and (2) a commitment about Israeli security requirements in any future agreement:

The Secretary reiterated that “the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.” Those requirements will be fully taken into account in any future peace agreement. [Emphasis added]

Compare the above statement with Obama’s May 19 statement:

We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.

Obama’s May 19 statement did three things.  First, it made the “Palestinian goal”—quoting the November statement verbatim—the position of the United States. It endorsed a state “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” and asserted this formulation would establish “secure and recognized borders” for both Israel and the Palestinian state. 

What the Palestinians mean by “the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps” is actually the 1967 lines, with insignificant changes. Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO’s Washington envoy, asked on May 22 if it meant Israel might retain “some of those large settlements,” responded

Our position is very clear on borders. We said 1967 lines with minor modifications. We absolutely are not envisioning the land swap that the Israelis have been proposing—the five, six percent. We are talking about as little, as minor as possible of a land swap to accommodate certain interests and changes. But we are not envisioning a large land swap.

Thus the Palestinian “goal” set forth in the November statement, which Obama elevated into a U.S. position, is the 1967 lines with swaps representing “minor modifications.” It is, for practical purposes, simply the 1967 lines. 

Second, Obama adopted the Palestinian goal without a requirement that the Palestinians (i) recognize a “Jewish state”; (ii) accept borders that “reflect subsequent developments” (code words for major settlement blocs); (iii) agree to borders that “meet Israeli security requirements” (code words for defensible borders); (iv) concur that Israel security requirements be “fully taken into account” in any agreement; and (v) sign an agreement that “ends the conflict.” All those conditions, set forth in the November statement as the Israeli “goal,” are critical to Israel. Obama insisted on none of them. 

Third, the manner in which Obama endorsed the Palestinian goal—not consulting Netanyahu, giving him only a few hours notice, ignoring his objections, announcing the new position without waiting to meet with him the next day—was obviously intended to send a signal not simply to Israel, but to the European leaders he was scheduled to meet the following week, who would appreciate an American president endorsing the Palestinian position while overriding Israeli objections. 

These guys want us to believe Obama was just repeating the November statement and Netanyahu manufactured a crisis. It’s a joke, right?

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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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