Yesterday, the president told us he might have to cut off Social Security checks for seniors unless a debt deal is reached by August 2. And today Sen. Harry Reid turned the fear-mongering up a notch, declaring that failing to come to an agreement by the deadline will mean “no schools for our children.”
“If we don’t reach agreement, it could mean no Soc Sec checks, no paychks 4 troops, no schools for our children,” Reid wrote on Twitter.
Consider this a followup to yesterday’s post about the abysmal state of our cyberdefenses, and about how the last thing we should be doing is cutting the budget for electronic warfare. This morning, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III rolled out the Pentagon’s newest new cyberstrategy (cue this post about DOD’s fixation on changing management schemes), and as part of the rollout, he related an anecdote from March.
Apparently, someone penetrated the Pentagon’s computers and transferred 24,000 files to parts unknown. Oops:
The Defense Department lost 24,000 files to “foreign intruders” in the spring in what appears to be one of the most damaging cyberattacks to date on the U.S. military, a top Pentagon official acknowledged Thursday. But Lynn said that, over the past few years, all manner of data has been stolen, some of it mundane, some of it concerning “our most sensitive systems, including aircraft avionics, surveillance technologies, satellite communications systems, and network security protocols… It is a significant concern that over the past decade, terabytes of data have been extracted by foreign intruders from corporate networks of defense companies,” Lynn said.
It was to be expected the Knesset’s passage on Monday of an ill-considered law allowing citizens to sue those who advocate boycotts of Israel or Israeli regions and institution would generate criticism of the Jewish state. The best that can be said of this episode is that the rebukes issued by both the United States and the European Union were fairly mild, and that appears to be as far as it will go. Even better news is that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who took responsibility for the legislation’s success, seems to understand that however justifiable the law may seem to most Israelis, further measures are a mistake.
Though (as I wrote on Tuesday), this legislation was a mistake, worries about the future of Israeli democracy are absurd. Israel remains a vibrant and free democracy, especially when compared to the civil liberties records of other democracies when they are at war. Anti-boycott laws are quite common around the democratic world, and though this particular legislation is wrong-headed because it allows speech rather than material acts enforcing an illegal boycott to be punished, the idea it represents an effort to stifle legitimate dissent cannot be sustained.
John suggests President’s Obama’s walkout yesterday was not a fit of pique, but reflected polling showing Republicans will be blamed if the debt ceiling is not raised. Perhaps Obama has learned what Henry Kissinger once said was an important principle in negotiations: never get angry, except on purpose. But this anger seems childish: the president who asked 10 days ago that no one issue ultimatums is now issuing angry ones, telling Republicans they must raise the taxes he could not get a Democratic Congress to raise — or Grandma is toast.
Is there no one willing to get intentionally angry about the way laws are now being made: a Gang of [Enter Number] meets in secret, followed by secret talks with the Vice President, followed by secret talks at the White House, concluding with major legislation enacted a day after the legislative language is prepared, with the public finding out what’s in the law after that. Why not enact a 90-day extension of the debt ceiling, with a requirement that the President produce a public proposal with sufficient specificity that it can be scored, evaluated and debated — and then have negotiations on C-SPAN, as he once promised while in a calmer mood.
Pete is exactly right when he says that the Gallup poll finding low approval ratings for President Obama isn’t surprising, and that these numbers are clearly bad for his reelection hopes.
This helps explain the president’s obvious anxiety over the raising the debt limit. As John Sides explains, the conventional wisdom that Bill Clinton benefited from winning his showdown with Newt Gingrich in 1995 is only half-right. Clinton won by Gingrich losing, but the president himself didn’t experience much help in the polls at the time. So Mitch McConnell may be right that the Republican Congress will lose this showdown, but that is cold comfort to Obama, who isn’t running against McConnell or John Boehner or even Eric Cantor. Obama is running against, for now, “generic Republican,” who holds an eight-point lead over him.
Earlier today, I highlighted a new Gallup poll showing that President Obama is trailing a generic Republican candidate by eight points. This poll helps to explain why.
Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the country fell to 16 percent in July, the lowest in more than two years. (In February 2009, during the height of the Great Recession, satisfaction with the way things were going in the country was one point lower, at 15 percent.)
Pollsters John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell defended their Jewish voters poll against heavy criticism today, charging that a recent Washington Post article disputing their findings was a biased “hit job.”
“I probably know more about polling in my little finger, over 40 years, than that person [Washington Post polling manager Peyton Craighill] has ever,” Caddell told me during a conference call with reporters.
On Greg Sargent’s Washington Post blog, Craighill claimed the McLaughlin-Caddell survey was “a clear example of advocacy polling” that did not “represent neutral, independent research.”
I agree with John that Obama misspoke when he cautioned Eric Cantor, ”don’t call my bluff.” But was it because he meant to say, “don’t call my bet,” thinking he has a winning hand, or because he botched the metaphor, not understanding poker? Poker, after all, is a quintessentially American game, with origins going back to the 18th century and which reached its modern form in the mid-19th on river boats plying the Mississippi and its tributaries. There is so much about this country and its character that seems alien or unfamiliar to the president.
I’m not sure he holds the winning hand. Imagine this scenario. It’s August 1 with no agreement. World financial markets are as jumpy as can be, with wild swings in equities, gold, U.S. treasuries and commodities. The House passes a bill that raises borrowing authority for three months and imposes spending cuts of $90 billion, a billion a day. Such a bill would, surely, pass the House easily. The bill goes to the Senate. There Harry Reid can keep it off the floor. Would he, and take on the sole responsibility for the impending default? I don’t think so. Would the 53 Democrats in the Senate then vote it down? Not with many of them up for re-election in states that went strongly Republican in 2010. So it goes to the White House. Does Obama sign it, or veto it? If he signs it, he just folded his hand, i.e. he was bluffing. If he vetoes it, he has sole ownership for the consequences of an American default, and they would be ugly. A stroke of the pen and financial markets breathe a huge collective sigh of relief, and we dub it the Obama rally.
As the wave of Arab popular protests swept through the Middle East, we heard the disingenuous calls for the Arab Spring to “come to Israel”—as if the Palestinians in Gaza weren’t being ruled by a murderous Palestinian theocracy and those in the West Bank by the corrupt authoritarian Mahmoud Abbas.
But it seems the Palestinians—especially the youth—were unmoved by the anti-Israel incitement and instead have begun to lash out at the stifling and discriminatory state they would be handed over to if Palestinian national independence were fully realized.
Writing at ForeignPolicy.com, Rachel Shabi tries to put as much of the blame on Israel as possible, but she has exposed a central flaw in the drive to create a Palestinian state: There is almost no support among the younger generations of Palestinians for the United States to enable the creation of a Mubarak-like dictatorship in the West Bank and Gaza.
According to the most recent Gallup Poll, registered voters by a “significant margin” now say they are more likely to vote for the “Republican Party’s candidate for president” than for President Obama in the 2012 election. The margin is eight points — 47 percent v. 39 percent. And among the all-important Independents, Obama’s gap is double digits (44 percent v. 34 percent).
In Gallup’s understated conclusion, “President Obama’s re-election prospects do not look very favorable at this point — if the election were held today, as measured by the generic presidential ballot.”
As I wrote on Tuesday, it has become increasingly clear the goal of President Obama and the Democrats in the debt-ceiling crisis has been to force a seemingly catastrophic event like a default or a facsimile thereof, in order to paint their Republican antagonists as extremists who prize their ideology over the good of the nation. The model for this is the 1995 government shutdown in which President Clinton outmaneuvered the leaders of the Republican Congress. But the one thing they lacked that would allow them to duplicate that turn of events was someone to play the role of Newt Gingrich, the petulant foil who made Clinton’s victory possible.
But in the last couple of days, Democrats are acting as if they’ve found a stand-in for Gingrich: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid tore into Cantor in an ad hominem rant on the floor of the Senate that may set back even further the always-testy relationship between the two Houses of Congress. Reid said Cantor was too “childish” to be at the negotiating table at the White House with other leaders and blasted him for leaving previous talks about the debt-ceiling crisis with Vice President Biden. Another member of the Senate leadership, Chuck Schumer, issued a separate attack on Cantor.
The battles between teachers unions and Republican governors have had several consistent elements, one of which is the open and inappropriate anti-reform politicking at public schools. Last year, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie proposed cutting state aid to school districts and asked teachers to make minor contributions to their health benefits, he encouraged voters to reject their school budgets (which are subject to public referendum) if their local teachers refused to make the contributions and accept a one-year pay freeze. The Monroe Township School District responded by saddling students with a mandatory homework assignment: They were instructed to interview their parents as to why they were voting against their education. Christie responded with one of the most famous quotes of his tenure, accusing the schools of “using the students like drug mules to carry information back to the classroom.”
Earlier this year, during the fight over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposals to limit union organizing and bargaining power, it came to light that University of Wisconsin professor William J. Cronon may have used his university email account to organize opposition to Walker.
But the most egregious violation of professional ethics–and quite possibly state election laws—was revealed yesterday.
The mistrial that has been declared today in the federal perjury trial of former baseball great Roger Clemens is an apt moment for both the government and the public to reassess Washington’s ongoing efforts to prosecute suspected steroid users. Now that the wave of superficial moral outrage against those who used so-called performance enhancing drugs is petering out, it is to be hoped that more Americans will see the enormous effort being expended by the federal government to punish men like Barry Bonds, Clemens and cycling star Lance Armstrong as prosecutorial overkill.
Let’s stipulate upfront that steroids are bad and the use of an illegal substance that may or may not actually help you win games or races is not a good thing. But it should never have been made a federal issue, let alone the launching point for a crusade to imprison famous athletes. The government has yet to demonstrate why the use of these substances is so terrible that it justifies the enormous resources that have been marshaled in order to build cases against Bonds, Clemens and Armstrong.
A Quinnipiac poll received a lot of attention this morning after it found that voters favor tax hikes in any deficit plan 67 to 25 percent. Now Rasmussen has released a contradictory poll, indicating that voters oppose tax hikes 55 to 34 percent.
So why the discrepancy? Ed Morrissey points out it might have to do with the way the questions were worded in each of the polls:
It isn’t just health insurance about which President Obama has trouble telling the truth. There’s automobile insurance as well.
As John Hinderaker reported last year on the Powerline Blog, during the “Health Summit” in February, 2010, Obama said the following:
You know, when I was young, just got out of college, I had to buy auto insurance. I had a beat-up old car. And I won’t name the name of the insurance company, but there was a company, let’s call it Acme Insurance in — in Illinois. And I was paying my premiums every month. After about six months I got rear-ended, and I called up Acme and said, You know, I’d like to see if I can get my car repaired. And they laughed at me over the phone. Because really, this was set up not to actually provide insurance, what it was set up was to meet the legal requirements. But it really wasn’t serious insurance. Now, it’s one thing if you got an old beat-up car that you can’t get fixed. It’s another thing if your kid is sick or you’ve got breast cancer.
Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll showing Michele Bachmann at 15 percent—only ten points behind Mitt Romney—may not have been surprising, but it has changed the dynamic. What was once the race between Not Romney and Not Palin has become Not Romney vs. Not Bachmann.
Conservative grassroots would love to have a serious challenger to Romney. Ironically, however, their search helps solidify Romney’s early lead because they can’t seem to settle on one that could peel off any of Romney’s establishment support.
Before his campaign self-destructed, Newt Gingrich’s election strategy centered on going all-out in Iowa, with the Ames Straw Poll being a key part of that plan. Now he’s confirmed that he won’t be competing in the crucial event:
Gingrich, whose campaign has been hit with a series of setbacks including the mass resignation of senior staff, is opting for a low-budget, shoe leather campaign. That includes skipping the Aug. 13 straw poll to concentrate efforts on the Feb. 6 first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses.
He will participate in the Fox News debate Aug. 11 in Ames and plans to be in Iowa the day of the straw poll, but not in Ames.
That’s OK, his staff says, because Iowa Republicans know Gingrich from his days as speaker of the U.S. House as well as his frequent TV appearances and frequent Iowa visits on behalf of Iowa candidates.
It’s not like Gingrich really had a choice here. His polling numbers have plummeted in Iowa, going from 14 percent in August 2010 to just 4 percent in last month’s TIR survey. And his cash-strapped campaign declined to bid on a lot at the Ames Straw Poll, which is essential for competing seriously in the event. A poor showing in Ames would be a disaster for the campaign.
JTA reported earlier this week that JDUB, the Jewish music promoter, announced it is closing. Lamented by the doyens of the self-declared American Jewish innovation sector, it is one of a series of signs of a collapse in funding for similar creative “start-ups” founded in the early 2000s. Heeb magazine, the self-declared “new Jew review” whose contributions to Jewish culture include publishing a picture of Roseanne Barr dressed as Hitler cooking burnt gingerbread man cookies, recently announced it was discontinuing its print edition. Jewcy.com was similarly forced to abandon plans for profitability when its major funders pulled out in February 2009.
The turn against these outfits by their funders should be welcomed as a potential indication of growing seriousness in American Jewish priorities. It is no doubt true there is nothing wrong with innovation in itself. Yet we should be wary of the enthusiasm generated by unsustainable appeals to passing whims about the nature of Jewish commitment.
The debate about which side has the edge in the debt-ceiling showdown continues. A new Gallup poll shows that most Americans are still opposed to raising the debt ceiling, a position that buttresses the Republicans’ reluctance to do so under the current circumstances. But liberal New York Times analyst Nate Silver claims the same survey demonstrates the Obama administration’s bargaining position advocating some spending cuts along with tax increases is closer to what the public wants than the GOP’s adamant refusal to contemplate higher taxes. But however you interpret that data, there is one element in this dispute in which the Democrats do have a clear advantage: unified leadership.
President Obama’s behavior during the talks may be wildly inconsistent as he alternately proposes compromises and then angrily stalks out of talks. But there is no doubt as to who is leading his side. It’s Obama’s show, and whether or not Americans are buying his pose as the only adult in the room (I doubt it), it’s still probably going over better than the mixed signals being sent by the Republicans.
Alana rightly called attention to a new poll which shows America’s favorability rating across the Arab world has plummeted and that President Obama’s favorable ratings are 10 percent or less. In Egypt, for example, the favorable/unfavorable split for America is 5 percent v. 95 percent, while three percent agree with the policies pursued by the president as against 86 percent who disagree.
The United States under President Bush was more popular in the Arab world than it is under President Obama.