The latest Gallup poll today brings more good news for burgeoning frontrunner Mitt Romney. Republicans say they prefer a presidential candidate who can beat President Obama over a candidate that they agree with on the issues, by 50 percent to 44 percent.
And contrary to conventional wisdom, it doesn’t appear to be the staunch right-wingers who are insisting on an ideological litmus test for candidates. Self-described “conservative Republicans” chose the winnable candidate over the issues candidate, 52 percent to 42 percent. In contrast, self-described “liberal/moderate Republicans” favored the candidate who they agreed with on the issues, 51 percent to 43 percent. Conservatives apparently believe that the stakes are too high to let purity get in the way of defeating Obama.
So let’s take a look at where this line of thinking would leave the contenders at the moment. If the primaries were simply based the candidates’ current chances of success in the general election, then Romney would be the hands-down victor. The Real Clear Politics average has Obama edging Romney out 48.2 percent to 42.5, with each of the other candidates losing to Obama by more than 10 points.
Last week, the Obama administration resumed its attempt to pressure Israel into agreeing to the 1967 lines as the starting point for future peace talks. This point, like previous disputes with Obama over Jerusalem and settlement freezes, is intended to entice the Palestinians to return to peace talks. But while Washington obsesses over its attempt to hammer the Netanyahu government into submission, few here are paying attention to a much more important story: the way the Hamas-Fatah unity pact is transforming Palestinian politics.
As the Jerusalem Post reports today, those who expected Hamas would allow Fatah-connected technocrats to continue to run the Palestinian Authority were mistaken. Rather than merely ceding power to men like current PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, the terrorists of Hamas have literally stuck to their guns in negotiations over the formation of a coalition government to run independent Gaza and the autonomous West Bank. The upshot is, the moderate Fayyad, who is considered by both the United States and Israel as a man interested in peace and building a viable Palestinian economy, is being chucked out of office. Though tension between the two movements and their “military” wings continues to simmer, the pact is not breaking up. The result will be a PA in which the rejectionists of Hamas have a clear veto.
While apologists for the Palestinians have spoken of the unity pact as a prerequisite for peace, the ability of Hamas to nix Fayyad also means they have the power to ensure additional far-reaching compromises necessary for a pact with Israel are also never going to happen. A PA government in which Hamas has that much pull is one that is obviously never going to give up on the right of return for the descendants of Palestinian refugees or agree to the “swaps” of territory that is part of America’s push for recognition of the 1967 lines.
But rather than draw the obvious conclusion peace will be impossible until Fatah disassociates itself from Hamas, the president and Secretary of State Clinton are proceeding on the false assumption the PA will return to the talks and accept the concessions Washington is attempting to squeeze out of the Israelis. Instead of seeking to appease the Hamas-Fatah government, Obama and Clinton ought to be warning the Palestinians that the presence of terrorists in a PA administration will legally obligate the United States to put an end to the flow of American aid to the PA.
It speaks volumes about how out of touch with reality American foreign policy is these days. The Obama administration is so focused on its feud with Netanyahu, they have ignored a sea change in Palestinian politics that has rendered their argument with Israel completely moot.
In his Washington Post column, Michael Gerson writes, “In Palin vs. the press, neither side has acquitted itself particularly well. Palin became a less sympathetic figure than she once was. The media managed to undermine a low reputation. Their codependence exposes our political culture to ridicule.”
And last night, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart brilliantly mocked the media’s obsession with the release of thousands of her e-mails from when Palin was governor of Alaska. “Yes, every negative inference that Sarah Palin has ever made about the ‘lame stream media’ was on full display last Friday… the media went full team coverage on the arbitrary release date of non-urgent material… for some reason the media went to Def Con One for the release of the non-Pentagon Papers.”
One can see just how desperate the media was to find some scandal– something embarrassing about Palin–and how distraught reporters were nothing was found. Read Gerson, watch Stewart, and take a brief moment to lament the state of the modern media in America.
The Daily Beast (rightly, in my opinion) has castigated congressmen for upping their travel at a time of serious financial strain. However, in her haste to criticize two congressmen for a junket to Istanbul, writer Laura Colarusso may have missed a larger story. Colarusso writes:
“…The Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians paid for Republican Reps. Ted Poe of Texas and Scott Garrett of New Jersey to go to Turkey with their wives to meet with members of the Turkish House of Representatives. The trip, which cost more than $21,000, included a boat tour of the Bosphorus and visits to several major Turkish landmarks like the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. Poe, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, defended the trip, saying, ‘I only participate in foreign trips that I deem relevant and beneficial to my work’ and that the focus on Turkey is appropriate because it belongs to ‘a region that is in turmoil.’”
Colarusso does not ask, however, what exactly the Turquoise Council is and who is behind it? The answer, apparently, is Islamist cult leader Fethullah Gulen. (Like Iran’s Mujahedin al-Khalq, the Gulenists sponsor a number of front organizations with which to approach politicians and policymakers.) Gulen, who fled Turkey after a video surfaced of him endorsing overthrow of the Turkish Republic, now resides at a shadowy compound in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania which are guarded by submachine-wielding gunmen. His followers sponsor the Turkish newspaper Zaman and its English counterpart Today’s Zaman, both of which play host to virulent anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. A brief background on Gulen’s ideology and reach is here. Perhaps someone might ask the honorable representatives why they, in effect, endorsed Gulen by accepting the Turquoise Council’s junket.. If they did not intend to make such an endorsement, they should respond to why they and their staffs did not ask the origin of the money–which they, in effect, accepted.
Jon Huntsman will reportedly announce his presidential bid on June 21 in New Jersey, a venue choice that would set him apart from the other candidates in the field. Other contenders such as Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann have made their announcements in early primary states. So why has Huntsman settled on New Jersey? At Politico, Maggie Haberman takes a stab at it:
“A smart colleague reminds us that Ronald Reagan kicked off his formal general election campaign in 1980 with a Liberty Park speech, as Jon Huntsman is doing for his primary effort.
But there’s another, more recent , and far more local, candidate who announced a campaign with Lady Liberty as a backdrop: Steve Levy, the Democrat-turned-Republican who ran for New York governor briefly in 2010. Levy announced upstate as well, but his downstate declaration was at Battery Park City, with the statue as his scenery.”
Haberman points out both Huntsman and Levy share the same strategist, John Weaver. But unlike Huntsman, Levy was announcing his bid for New York governor, which is a good explanation for his choice of backdrop.
As for Huntsman, his campaign strategy is to skip over Iowa and focus on New Hampshire, Florida and South Carolina. The New Jersey announcement does put him in the general proximity of New Hampshire. And his campaign may also believe it will catch the attention of South Florida residents, many of whom are New York and New Jersey transplants. Huntsman has already indicated that after his announcement he’ll head to directly to New Hampshire and then to Florida.
Like other Republican presidential candidates, Huntsman has previously reached out to Gov. Chris Christie, and the potential to score that key endorsement could also be driving his decision. Or maybe none of these explanations are true, and Huntsman only chose New Jersey because he knew he’d get a lot of media attention when reporters attempted to decipher his underlying strategy. Crafty move, Huntsman!
On May 22, New York magazine published a cover story by Gabriel Sherman entitled, “Fox News made a circus out of the Republican Party.” The sub-head read, “And boy, does Roger Ailes regret it now.”
Not as much as Gabriel Sherman, I suspect. Think of Monday’s GOP debate in New Hampshire. There stood the seven Republican clowns. Doubtless, they entered the room with bike horns, colored handkerchiefs, and squirting flowers tucked into secret pockets and primed for action. And what preposterous lunacy was unleashed on America? Tim Pawlenty started things off by saying he had a plan to “cuts taxes, but it also dramatically cuts spending.” Mitt Romney quickly noted, “You can tell how to get jobs going in this country, and President Obama has done it wrong. And the ideas Tim described, those are in the right wheelhouse.” The circus’s third ring exploded with action when Newt Gingrich said, “The Congress this year, this next week ought to repeal the Dodd-Frank bill, they ought to repeal the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, they ought to start creating jobs right now, because for those 14 million Americans, this is a depression now.” What high jinks.
America was formally introduced to Michele Bachmann last night. The poised and articulate woman on the stage in New Hampshire was nothing like the caricature of a Tea Party bomb thrower the mainstream media led the country to expect. Critics will attempt to downplay Bachmann’s strong showing as nothing more than a case of exceeding low expectations. But if that is what her rivals for the nomination are thinking today, they are making a mistake. In a field of largely bland candidates, she stands out as a person with energy and strong principles.
Heretofore, Bachmann has been viewed as a Sarah Palin clone or, at best, a rerun of Mike Huckabee and his surprisingly strong primary run in 2008. Either way, she was seen as a candidate with no real path to the nomination, let alone a chance of victory in November 2012. But the idea she is only competing for the title of best second -tier candidate underestimates both the candidate and the impact of the populist Tea Party movement that adores her.
After two straight poor debate performances by Tim Pawlenty, the image of him ducking a chance to take on Mitt Romney to his face on “Obamneycare” will linger. Though Pawlenty has many virtues, gutlessness is not a character trait Americans want in their president. Which means the idea Bachmann was a possible spoiler for Pawlenty in Iowa may have it backwards. Going forward, perhaps we ought to think of her, not Pawlenty, as the standard bearer for the social conservative wing of the party.
Today, many are envisioning the two winners of the debate — Romney and Bachmann — as the most likely to emerge from the early primaries as the main GOP contenders. That may be subject to revision in the unlikely event of another major candidate such as Paul Ryan jumping in, but it is a reasonable scenario. But if it does come down to just the two of them, the assumption that Romney is the certain nominee may be a misperception of the political realities of 2012.
Score another one for George W. Bush — and Barack Obama. After excoriating his predecessor during the 2008 campaign, President Obama has adopted most of his policies on fighting terrorism and other national security issues. The latest evidence comes courtesy of North Korea which sent a ship suspected to be carrying missile technology to Mynamar (the country once known as Burma). The vessel — flagged in Belize — was tracked by a U.S. Navy destroyer. Because Belize is a member of the Proliferation Security Initiative — a Bush initiative to create an “alliance of the willing” to stop WMD–the U.S. received permission to board the vessel.
The Obama administration blinked by refusing to carry out the boarding for fear of an armed confrontation with North Koreans. But the NSC point man on proliferation issues (my former boss Gary Samore), then brought the ship’s existence to the attention of various Southeast Asian nations, including Burma. Before reaching its destination, the vessel turned back, all the while being tracked by U.S. surveillance aircraft and satellites.
The New York Times, which broke the story, doesn’t make explicit what led the ship to turn back. But whatever the case, this is a victory for the Proliferation Security Initiative — and a tribute to the continuity in American foreign policy. Whatever the campaign rhetoric, winning candidates usually find once in office there are good reasons why their predecessors acted as they did. Obama is only the latest to make that discovery. Given how left-wing his views are, it is very much to Obama’s credit that, on a number of foreign-policy issues (though not all: Israel remains an unfortunate exception), he has not allowed himself to be blinded by ideology.
Several things struck me about last night’s GOP debate. The first is with the exception of Herman Cain, each of the candidates acquitted themselves well. (Ron Paul belongs in a special category, given his rather eccentric beliefs.)
Michele Bachmann helped herself the most. She clearly emerged from the shadow cast by Sarah Palin. Bachmann was poised, played up both her professional and life experiences and was reassuring. Mitt Romney not only emerged from the debate unscathed; he looked impressive and in command. He seems much more comfortable in his own skin and is a superior candidate than in 2008. And I for one was grateful for how he distanced himself from Herman Cain’s views toward Muslims and “loyalty proofs.”
Tim Pawlenty marginally hurt himself by seeming to back down from a health care confrontation with Romney. Pawlenty’s challenge is to put to rest the concern he’s not a strong or commanding figure; last night’s performance, at least in that one instance, reinforced the impression of a certain softness. But no lasting damage was done. Rick Santorum came across as principled, authentic and an unapologetic social conservative. Newt Gingrich did fine – but given the disrepair of his campaign, he needs to stand head and shoulders above the other candidates. Last night he was merely in the middle of the pack. Read More
President Obama is hoping to woo Hispanic voters by clocking-in a quick minute today in Puerto Rico. Though the visit has been widely publicized as a “major trip” (he’s the first president to visit the U.S. territory in 50 years), Obama will reportedly be spending just five hours on the island. Most of that time will be spent at a DNC fundraiser and doing media interviews — the president will apparently only be out in public for one hour, when he gives a speech at the airport:
Obama will make a brief speech on arrival at Muniz Air National Guard Base and then visit La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion in the Western Hemisphere, according to a White House document.
The president also will attend a Democratic National Committee event before returning to Washington on Tuesday night.
To some Puerto Ricans, the trip is too short to merit significance.
“I think it’s a public relations visit. I say it as a Democrat. This visit does not satisfy me,” said Sen. Cirilo Tirado of the island’s Popular Democratic Party.
This is a transparent PR attempt, especially since it sounds like Obama will spend more time talking to the media than mingling with the public. The president is planning to devote a substantial amount of money and energy to try to win Florida in the general election. Courting the Puerto Rican communities in Orlando and Tampa could give him the edge he needs.
Recep Erdogan’s re-election at the very least solidifies another four years of Islamist rule. Some analysts argue the election was a victory for democracy because the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not have enough seats to impose a new constitution without getting at least some support from other parties. Alas, there might be less here than meets the eye.
The Islamists control the security forces and have eviscerated the judiciary. Anyone who criticizes Erdogan risks getting named a coup plotter in Erdogan’s fantastical conspiracy theory. Long story short, four of those elected by the opposition to parliament have already been accused of crimes, and Erdogan can simply threaten anyone who does not comply with the same. If that doesn’t work, bribery might. Regardless, Erdogan seems a shoe-in for the presidency if he switches Turkey to a presidential system, as he has indicated he would. Therefore, he may enhance his power even further.
Against this backdrop, it is time Congress stop ignoring its oversight role. The Obama administration seems intent on selling Turkey the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, replete with stealth technology and the backbone of our national defense for generations to come. On one hand, Turkey is part of the consortium building the jet, but their contribution is to the fuselage. They will not have access to the most high-technology parts until we sell them the planes.
The problem is trust: The Turkish Air Force has held secret war games with the Chinese Air Force, and the new head of the Turkish intelligence services has been as much a cheerleader for the Islamic Republic of Iran as he has been an antagonist for the United States. The question, alas, is not whether Turkey would sell America’s secrets to Beijing or Tehran, but whether they might simply provide them to our enemies. The simple fact of the matter is trust in the Turkish-American relationship is a thing of the past, and the White House should not leverage America’s security secrets because of diplomatic nicety. Regardless, as Turkey brags about its good neighbor policy toward Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, it’s unclear why Turkey would even need such a high-tech jet fighter.
What begs belief is that as the Obama administration prepares to move forward with this sale, the Congress would not do so much as require the Pentagon to report on the F-35’s vulnerabilities to technology transfer should it fall into Turkish hands.
At the Daily Telegraph, Michael Weiss has published what appears to be a Syrian government memo indicating the Assad regime organized the “Nakba Day” border raids that led to the deaths of 13 rioters on May 15.
In the document, the mayor of Al Qunaytirah reportedly orders Syrian security forces to allow a caravan of buses to cross the Israeli border into the Golan Heights, in order to provoke the IDF and the rioters to “engage physically with each other in front of United Nations agents and offices.” Here is the translated version from Weiss’s article: Read More
Hugh Hewitt conducted an extraordinary two-hour interview of David Mamet on Friday. The transcript is worth reading in its entirety — not least for Mamet’s description of his high school experience.
Mamet recounted that public schools kept putting him in remedial classes for a “learning defect” (boredom induced by the teachers themselves). His life changed when he transferred to the Francis Parker School in Chicago and encountered “the greatest teachers I’d ever met” – survivors of the Holocaust:
And they were Jews who’d fled the Nazis, either got out in the 30s, or survived and came over in the 40s. And the board of the Francis Parker School found these people running elevators and scrubbing floors on their hands and knees, and people with multiple doctorates from the great universities of Europe, who couldn’t get accredited as a teacher in the Chicago public school system, and hired them. And so I was exposed to these genius teachers, these great, great teachers for two years.
Mamet’s description reminded me of Harvard Professor Ruth R. Wisse’s reminiscence in 2007 on receiving the National Humanities Medal for her “scholarship and teaching that have illuminated Jewish literary traditions.” In her award-profile, she traced her passion for teaching to the new Jewish immigrants who were her grade school teachers in Montreal:
I had brilliant teachers at my Jewish day school. These young men had no better opportunities. They were displaced intellectuals and went into primary education to our extraordinary benefit. They were engaged with life. At an early age I saw the calling of literature and teaching as inseparable from civic responsibility.
The teachers of the young David Mamet and Ruth Wisse were people who had escaped from or lived through the Holocaust, moved to new countries (often without family or property), reconstructed their lives — starting sometimes literally on their hands and knees — and transmitted to the next generation what was, in Mamet’s words, “the only thing they couldn’t take from [the Jews] at the border.”