Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 15, 2011

Blaming It All On the Tea Party

With the breakdown of negotiations on a so-called grand bargain on the debt limit demanded by President Obama, liberal commentators have sought a convenient scapegoat to account for the impasse. Not surprisingly, they have begun by rounding up the usual suspect: the Tea Party. Its intransigence, so the line goes, has sunk this great deal.

For two years now, “Blame the Tea Party First” has been the Democrats’ favorite mantra. “Firsters” invoke the Tea Party to make sense–for themselves–of the otherwise inexplicable fact of large-scale public opposition to President Obama, and they hold the Tea Party responsible for many of the nation’s deeper problems, from incivility in our discourse to an inability to set aside intransigent partisanship.

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With the breakdown of negotiations on a so-called grand bargain on the debt limit demanded by President Obama, liberal commentators have sought a convenient scapegoat to account for the impasse. Not surprisingly, they have begun by rounding up the usual suspect: the Tea Party. Its intransigence, so the line goes, has sunk this great deal.

For two years now, “Blame the Tea Party First” has been the Democrats’ favorite mantra. “Firsters” invoke the Tea Party to make sense–for themselves–of the otherwise inexplicable fact of large-scale public opposition to President Obama, and they hold the Tea Party responsible for many of the nation’s deeper problems, from incivility in our discourse to an inability to set aside intransigent partisanship.

Generosity in describing one’s foes is a rarity, especially among conspiracy theorists. But Firsters have carried their animus against the Tea Party to unprecedented heights by failing to credit it with what is today right before everyone’s eyes. Without the Tea Party, there would be no debt limit negotiations going on, just as there would have been no budget reduction deal last December. Without the Tea Party, President Obama would not be posing as the judicious statesman, but would be pushing –as in truth he still is–for more stimulus and further investments in high-speed rail. Whatever pressure now exists to treat the debt problem derives directly or indirectly from the explosion of energy that has been generated by the Tea Party.

In lambasting the Tea Party movement for its stubborness, Firsters have silently acknowledged what for two years they had all but denied. Instead of being in fact a front for racism or opposition to abortion, the “baggers,” as they have been derisively called, are genuinely insistent on cutting spending and containing the growth of government. Everything is less complicated than it seems. Supporters of the Tea Party are who they said they were.

A stroll down memory lane provides a reminder of the Firsters’ shifting characterizations of the Tea Party. About the only constant in their analysis has been its political opportunism. The baggers have been charged with seven deadly sins.

1. They are uneducated poor racists. All honor for this accusation goes to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who referred to the grassroots movement as “astroturf,” comprised of swastika-carrying radicals. Since then others have joined in: Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson saw “no coincidence” in “the birth of a big, passionate national movement — overwhelmingly white and lavishly funded — that tries its best to delegitimize… the first African-American president.”

2. They are uneducated poor dupes. In this description, the racism is not denied, but it is almost beside the point; the real issue is that Big Money has been manipulating the ignorant and gullible masses. Paul Krugman, the Nobel-prize- winning economist turned film-critic, offered this helpful advice to Tea Party activists in the New York Times,: “This is not the movie you think it is.  You probably imagine you’re starring in ‘The Birth of a Nation’ but you’re actually just extras in a remake of ‘Citizen Kane’…[in which Kane] just puts politicians on his payroll.”

3.  They are privileged whites who don’t want to pay their fair share. As poll evidence started to show, Tea Party supporters were not as poor or as dumb as was initially thought. On the contrary–for this CBS/NewYork Times Poll, at any rate– they were older, wealthier, and better educated than the general public. Never mind. Firsters just adjusted the image, having it that these people just wanted to protect their own, indulging, as Harold Meyersson would have it, in a “politics of racial resentment and the fury that the country is no longer only theirs.”

4. They are folks with understandable concerns, but they don’t comprehend what will solve our problems. This is probably the most sympathetic and patronizing treatment of the Tea Party, and it gained ground as the size of the Tea Party itself became apparent. It had to be treated now with some delicacy. Yes, Firsters acknowledged, these are mostly good and decent people–they may even care dearly about their children–but they need some guidance. In the time-honored tradition of legislators to revise and resubmit their remarks, Nancy Pelosi now began to find common turf with the Tea Party: “We share some of the views of the Tea Partiers.” The president let it be known “that there are strains in the Tea Party that are troubled by what they saw as a series of instances in which the middle-class and working-class people have been abused or hurt by special interests and Washington, but their anger is misdirected.”

5. They are just the old-conservatives rebranded. This is the Ecclesiastes argument, that there is nothing new under the sun. Although slightly angrier than other conservatives, and maybe just a little bit more libertarian, in fact they are pretty much “full spectrum” conservatives concerned not only with fiscal issues but social issues. They offer nothing different than the Republican Party of old. According to a New York Times sketch of the movement, “They do not want a third party and say they usually or almost always vote Republican.” Almost six in ten went so far as to hold a favorable opinion of former President Bush.

6.  They are parts of a fragile and conflicting coalition.  This charge, like the last one, brought some consolation, as it indicated that the movement was weaker than thought and would not be able to withstand the test of holding together in real votes. Scholars took the lead on this characterization, with a team led by Harvard Professor Theda Skocpol arguing that the “affection of grassroots Tea Partiers for major programs like Social Security is at odds with the policies pushed by many of the elite national organizations that fund their protests.”

7. Supporters are historical fetishists, concerned with quaint and outmoded things like the principles of the Revolution and the Constitution. E.J. Dionne, one of the first Firsters, has been long lecturing the Tea Party folks that they have been serving the wrong part of history, 1773, rather than the Constitution, which was a pro-government document. He recently lectured his “friends in the Tea Party” that they are “drawing all the wrong conclusions” which will lead to “some remarkably foolish choices.” Jill Lapore, professor of history at Harvard who has written a full length book on the movement, goes a step further than Dionne, condemning the movement for the folly of an “originalism” that would seek to apply directly the ideas of yesteryear, even if correctly understood, to today. She would evidently throw out of court, as would Dionne, the originalism of one Tea Party supporter who had the temerity to offer this application of the Founders’ political system: “I’m sick and tired of them wasting money and doing what our founders never intended to be done with the federal government.”

Despite the accident of its name, the Tea Party is not a political party, but a political movement, according to Peter Berkowitz, “one of the most spectacular grass roots political movements in American history.” A feature of such movements in American politics, whether on the Left or the Right, is that they are unformed and inchoate. Their boundaries–who is in and who is out–remain ill-defined, as there is no authoritative organizational structure that exercises control of the “members.” It’s therefore almost always possible for interested investigators to find, somewhere, what they are looking for. So the Tea Party movement has had its share of ideologues (Ron Paul) and flakes (Christine O’Donnell)–although the same might be said, respectively, of the Democratic Party’s Sheila Jackson Lee and Anthony Weiner.

Given the porousness of the movement, any serious analysis demands perspective and discipline, qualities that in political commentary today are in short supply. What Firsters have instead provided is a grab bag of charges from which they pick the one that best fits the need of the moment. On some days it may be that the Tea Partiers, as Michele Bachmann so colorfully expressed it, are a bunch of “toothless hillbillies coming down out of the hills,” on others that they are some country-club Republicans teeing up for a round of golf. One moment the movement is weak and fragile, another it has captured the Republican Party, which, according to David Brooks, “has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.” Where these characterizations do not undermine themselves by contradiction, they often amaze by their absurdity. In the most malicious and persistent charge–that of racism, which serves as a prophylactic to protect O’bama from any criticism–the evidence offered is a small number of African Americans in the movement. But how many African Americans, already the most liberal group in America, should one expect to join a movement opposing Barack Obama?  And of course when one does, like Herman Cain, and upon a strong showing in a debate wins the respect of the hordes of racists, he immediately becomes subject to the most unseemly attacks by those free of any hint of racial prejudice.

In this week’s controversy, Firsters are promoting the narrative of Barack Obama as the great statesman of the hour, willing to go the extra mile for a great bargain. Somewhere and sometime, according to this fantastic account, Obama experienced an 11th-hour conversion to spending restraint. Only no one–no one–has seen or knows what he wants. It is the phantom of the budget, staged with wondrous smoke and mirrors and accompanied by the old refrain, now growing stale by repetition, of Obama worship. We are witnessing the sorry spectacle of high-minded commentators, who only recently were chanting in unison for greater transparency in our politics, and who now bite like a school of perch at the cheap plastic lures and leaks being tossed out by White House flaks. These are men and women without an ounce of pride in either themselves or their craft.

At the end of the day, the choice the nation faces is pretty clear–even if both sides will at one day face a point of reckoning. One side wishes a more constrained federal government and greater austerity in our welfare programs. It will hold or cut these programs to the point where it finds it cannot go much further, at which time other remedies may need to be considered. If one wants a model for this approach, it is necessary to look no further than the policies of some of the red-state governments (or Great Britain). The other side wishes a federal government at and beyond the level of 2008 and beyond the current level. If one wants a model for this approach, the blue-state of Illinois or California will do just fine. This side will continue to maintain and expand government, cutting national defense to the bone and adding more “revenues,” up to the point it becomes literally unsustainable. That point has not been reached yet.

This is the choice the nation faces. As of 2011, it has not been definitively made. Perhaps 2012 will be the year of the Tea Party.

James W. Ceaser is professor of politics at the University of Virginia and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. John York is a graduate student in politics at the University of Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Iran’s Nuclear Program Picking Up Steam

Reuters is reporting that diplomatic sources in Vienna indicate Iran is in the process of installing newer and more advanced models of centrifuges to refine  uranium that may be used to create nuclear weapons. These machines replace the older, more accident-prone centrifuges whose mishaps have slowed the development of the Iranian program. The new centrifuges have the potential to drastically shorten the time frame for Tehran’s gaining nuclear capability.

There are some doubts about the Iranians’ ability to use the more advanced models. However, the idea their technical backwardness is a permanent bar to a nuclear weapon seems more a function of a Western desire to avoid dealing with the threat than with hard intelligence. The centrifuges are reportedly being installed inside a mountain bunker, and they are further proof that an Iranian bomb is not the distant threat that optimists would have us believe.

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Reuters is reporting that diplomatic sources in Vienna indicate Iran is in the process of installing newer and more advanced models of centrifuges to refine  uranium that may be used to create nuclear weapons. These machines replace the older, more accident-prone centrifuges whose mishaps have slowed the development of the Iranian program. The new centrifuges have the potential to drastically shorten the time frame for Tehran’s gaining nuclear capability.

There are some doubts about the Iranians’ ability to use the more advanced models. However, the idea their technical backwardness is a permanent bar to a nuclear weapon seems more a function of a Western desire to avoid dealing with the threat than with hard intelligence. The centrifuges are reportedly being installed inside a mountain bunker, and they are further proof that an Iranian bomb is not the distant threat that optimists would have us believe.

It bears repeating that the Iranians view the low-key diplomacy of the Obama administration on this issue as weakness. First, after a vain attempt at appeasement through “engagement” and then a fruitless campaign that imposed only weak United Nations sanctions on Iran, Obama has convinced Tehran he isn’t serious about stopping their nuclear program.

For a time, it was believed the Stuxnet computer virus would be sufficient to end the nuclear threat. Although the virus caused a long delay, the Iranians have apparently overcome the problem. While intelligence estimates as to when their program will produce a weapon may vary, the installation of advanced technology should temper the optimism of those who foolishly believe the Iranians will never figure out how to create a bomb.

This latest evidence of the Iranian determination to continue until they get a bomb ought to convince the West their reliance on weak sanctions is a recipe for disaster. The clock is ticking toward the moment when the world will have to deal with the announcement that Iran has tested its first nuclear weapon. Such a development would pose a dire threat to Israel, as well as the entire Middle East. Neither Washington nor Jerusalem can afford to sit back and wait until that day dawns.

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DOJ Thinks Allegations Against NewsCorp Are Thin

Apparently, Department of Justice officials think the allegations against NewsCorp are light on facts, but have decided to open a file on them anyway because of pressure from lawmakers–pressure which apparently didn’t convince the DOJ to investigate the ACORN scandal, 2008 voter intimidation claims, and other incidents that might have been damaging to the Obama administration.

Time Magazine’s Massimo Calabresi spoke with FBI officials, who seemed to concede allegations that News of the World reporters hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims are tissue-thin. The 9/11 claims were first published by the Mirror, a British tabloid, and they’re based on the second-hand account of an anonymous source, who supposedly got the information from an unknown private investigator from New York.

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Apparently, Department of Justice officials think the allegations against NewsCorp are light on facts, but have decided to open a file on them anyway because of pressure from lawmakers–pressure which apparently didn’t convince the DOJ to investigate the ACORN scandal, 2008 voter intimidation claims, and other incidents that might have been damaging to the Obama administration.

Time Magazine’s Massimo Calabresi spoke with FBI officials, who seemed to concede allegations that News of the World reporters hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims are tissue-thin. The 9/11 claims were first published by the Mirror, a British tabloid, and they’re based on the second-hand account of an anonymous source, who supposedly got the information from an unknown private investigator from New York.

Here’s what the FBI investigation will entail, according to Calabresi:

Here is my understanding, from conversations with officials from various parts of the Justice Department, of what is going on: None of my sources would speak for attribution since the investigation hasn’t begun yet and the political atmosphere is so charged. The FBI has opened a file and will look into whether or not the allegations warrant an actual investigation. That means finding out if there is anything to substantiate the charges in the Mirror‘s article. That, in turn, means trying to find this supposed former New York cop-turned private investigator who supposedly told a source who supposedly told the Mirror that the News of the World once asked him to get 9/11 victims’ phone records. The FBI can then ask this PI all about what the News Of The World asked him to do, and can then see if they actually did it. The FBI can also contact families of the victims of 9/11 and ask them if they have any reason to believe they may have been hacked.

If the allegations are really as baseless as law enforcement seems to believe, then they should fall apart under the tiniest scrutiny – which could make an investigation a good thing for NewsCorp. Many politicians – especially Democrats – have acted as if there’s a strong case against the media empire, and that could start to damage its reputation in the U.S. But as Calabresi points out, there’s really nothing substantial here yet. The lack of named sources makes it hard to place a lot of trust in the Mirror’s article, and the British tabloid press isn’t exactly known for its accuracy.

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Carter’s Malaise Speech in the Age of Obama

Does it feel like the country is falling apart now? Thirty-two years ago today, it seemed a lot worse when President Jimmy Carter delivered his famous “malaise” speech in which he seemed to blame the country’s problems on the people rather than their leaders. While Carter didn’t actually use the word “malaise” in the speech, his deep pessimism about America and its place in the world was an apt symbol of his failed presidency, especially in light of the resurgent optimism that characterized the national spirit in the years his successor Ronald Reagan sat in the White House.

The main point of his speech was the energy crisis of 1979 and his championing of measures such as import quotas and possible gas rationing. These ideas turned off more Americans than his attempt to rally them to embrace shared sacrifice. Carter’s talk about a “crisis of confidence” spoke louder about his own beliefs than that of the country. But reading the speech again today, what also strikes me is how similar Carter’s rhetoric sounds to some statements President Obama has made recently.

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Does it feel like the country is falling apart now? Thirty-two years ago today, it seemed a lot worse when President Jimmy Carter delivered his famous “malaise” speech in which he seemed to blame the country’s problems on the people rather than their leaders. While Carter didn’t actually use the word “malaise” in the speech, his deep pessimism about America and its place in the world was an apt symbol of his failed presidency, especially in light of the resurgent optimism that characterized the national spirit in the years his successor Ronald Reagan sat in the White House.

The main point of his speech was the energy crisis of 1979 and his championing of measures such as import quotas and possible gas rationing. These ideas turned off more Americans than his attempt to rally them to embrace shared sacrifice. Carter’s talk about a “crisis of confidence” spoke louder about his own beliefs than that of the country. But reading the speech again today, what also strikes me is how similar Carter’s rhetoric sounds to some statements President Obama has made recently.

Obama is not the pessimist Carter was. While he can be as clueless as Carter when it comes to foreign policy and working with the Congress, Obama’s pugnacious and self-regarding tone springs from a self-confidence Carter appeared to lack while president. But when it comes to the messy business of democracy, in which not everyone shares your opinion, the two had more in common than I would have thought.

Here’s a passage from Carter’s July 15, 1979 address to the nation:

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

While some of this might have been said at any time in the last 222 years, it is interesting to see how similar these words are to President Obama’s own dismissal of the Congress of his own day, saying they listen only to “lobbyists and special interests.” Obama’s pose of Olympian detachment from partisan wrangling is anticipated by Carter’s all-too-familiar use of the same tropes. Like Carter, Obama seems to believe only his ideas are “balanced,” while those of the Republicans and the many Democrats who opposed him were merely partisan or part of a corrupt bargain with special interests.

Another striking point is the way Carter seems to berate Americans for showing too much individualism rather than embracing collective values and shared benefits:

There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others.

Anyone looking for the roots of Obama’s invocation of shared sacrifice as well as the collectivist impulse at the root of his health care bill can see the similarities to those themes in that line from the “malaise” speech.

Carter’s speech resonates because it is perhaps the best example of political tone deafness in presidential history. Carter had no idea how badly his gloomy reflections (which illustrated his own dark mood better than that of his countrymen), would be received. The question for Barack Obama as he tries to play some of the same notes in the course of his own presidential crises is whether he is as connected to public opinion as he thinks he is.

Carter’s presidency was doomed by his obliviousness to the opinions of ordinary Americans. For all of the pugnacious optimism about his own presidency apparent in Obama’s comments, he, too, must be wary of a similar miscalculation as he attempts to blame everyone but himself for a looming debt disaster.

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Testing Political Theories Against Reality

Last night, while reading Journals, a book consisting of the previously private reflections of the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., I came across this March 7, 1981 entry:

I guess I was wrong about the Reagan crowd. They turned out to be considerably more doctrinaire than I expected them to be. In domestic policy they seem really to believe that reducing the budget and cutting taxes will produce prosperity without inflation. The more likely effect, it seems to me, of cutting taxes for the rich and social programs for the poor is to rekindle social tensions. Still I think Reagan should have the chance to play his hand. If his policy succeeds, it will be a miracle, but a pleasant one; if it fails, then we will at least have got free-market therapy out of our system, and then can move on to something else.

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Last night, while reading Journals, a book consisting of the previously private reflections of the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., I came across this March 7, 1981 entry:

I guess I was wrong about the Reagan crowd. They turned out to be considerably more doctrinaire than I expected them to be. In domestic policy they seem really to believe that reducing the budget and cutting taxes will produce prosperity without inflation. The more likely effect, it seems to me, of cutting taxes for the rich and social programs for the poor is to rekindle social tensions. Still I think Reagan should have the chance to play his hand. If his policy succeeds, it will be a miracle, but a pleasant one; if it fails, then we will at least have got free-market therapy out of our system, and then can move on to something else.

In fact, Reagan’s policies produced precisely the opposite of what Schlesinger predicted. It was the powerful antidote to stagflation. During Reagan’s  presidency, the economy grew at a blistering rate. Unemployment, inflation, and interest rates all dropped. The social tensions Schlesinger predicted did not come to pass. And as a result, Reagan was re-elected in a landslide.

Now Schlesinger had this much right: there is something quite useful in testing various theories against reality. In this instance, the economic program President Reagan wanted is the one (more or less) he got, over the fierce objections of liberals and many Democrats. As a result, they predicted social trauma and economic calamity. What we got instead was the inverse. And yet Schlesinger never revised his views in light of his test results. What this suggests is that Schlesinger wasn’t able to re-interpret his political/philosophical worldview based on empirical evidence.

The irony in all this is that Schlesinger — who worked for President Kennedy and later wrote a paean to him — respected JFK for his detached, non-ideological mind. “When he was told something,” Schlesinger said of Kennedy in A Thousand Days, “he wanted to know what he could do about it. He was pragmatic in the sense that he tested the meaning of a proposition by its consequences.”

So what does one do when consequences eviscerate the meaning of a proposition? A few people re-examine the proposition. Most people attempt to distort the consequences in order to continue to affirm the proposition.

I don’t mean to suggest Schlesinger is a unique or even a particularly unusual example of ideological rigidity. That is something many of us struggle with, to one extent or another. It’s part of the human condition to search for facts that reinforce our philosophical precepts. Those precepts aren’t easily uprooted, nor should they be. They are, after all, the products of our experience, our subconscious mind and hopefully of some reflection.

Nor do I mean to suggest every political ideology is equally wrong or equally disassociated from reality. I’m a conservative, not a progressive, because I believe conservatism much more closely conforms to human nature and basic truths.

My point is simply this: The challenge we all face – but especially those of us who make our living in the world of politics and public affairs – is to ensure our view of the world takes into account evidence and maintains intellectual integrity. The essential feature of philosophy is the search for truth, for knowledge of the whole. And even if none of us can fully apprehend these things, we need to be careful not to place our defense of a political philosophy above the quest for truth or keep it sealed off from facts and data, including inconvenient facts and data. Because if we aren’t careful, we can end up like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. — well-educated but, on political matters at least, intellectually sclerotic and unwise.

 

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Another Obstacle for Romney and Bachmann: Home-State Blues

Supporters of Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann–the two GOP frontrunners–tout their experiences as Republican leaders in blue states as evidence they can be strong general election candidates. But their home states (especially the media) haven’t been playing along. Just how much would their inability to win their home states matter in 2012?

While a hostile press is no guarantee they couldn’t win the state, I doubt anyone would put money on Romney winning Massachusetts. For her part, Bachmann’s outspokenness as a religious, socially conservative woman has earned her the scorn of liberals in Minnesota (and elsewhere). Both states are among the bluest in the nation.

The Boston Herald leads today with the cover headline: “Get a Clue, Mitt!” (The headline accompanying the online story is “Mitt Romney’s red-faced run.”) The story is unflattering, but pales in comparison with some of the hits he’s taken from other local press.

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Supporters of Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann–the two GOP frontrunners–tout their experiences as Republican leaders in blue states as evidence they can be strong general election candidates. But their home states (especially the media) haven’t been playing along. Just how much would their inability to win their home states matter in 2012?

While a hostile press is no guarantee they couldn’t win the state, I doubt anyone would put money on Romney winning Massachusetts. For her part, Bachmann’s outspokenness as a religious, socially conservative woman has earned her the scorn of liberals in Minnesota (and elsewhere). Both states are among the bluest in the nation.

The Boston Herald leads today with the cover headline: “Get a Clue, Mitt!” (The headline accompanying the online story is “Mitt Romney’s red-faced run.”) The story is unflattering, but pales in comparison with some of the hits he’s taken from other local press.

So, while it’s obviously possible for a Republican to win the presidency without Minnesota or Massachusetts, does it make a difference for Bachmann and Romney? The answer from history would seem to be: Yes.

The last candidate of either party to win the presidency without winning his state of residence was Richard Nixon in 1968, but even that example is flawed because Nixon had moved to New York by that time, yet his political career had been in California, which he won in 1968. That means you would have to go back to 1916, when Woodrow Wilson lost New Jersey on his way to re-election. If we discount Nixon, the only other exception is James Polk in 1844. (Now there’s a slogan. “Show ‘Em That Polk Wasn’t A Fluke: Vote Romney!”)

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that home-state enthusiasm can be a powerful lift to a campaign. George W. Bush didn’t win Minnesota or Massachusetts either, but he had an effective ground game emanating from Texas. A candidate without a state often looks adrift and rambling. Another reason is that low local popularity and a home state mostly devoid of good press can be a constant, free source of negative advertising by challenging or unraveling the candidate’s legislative accomplishments in that state. (On this Romney is something of an exception, since the Massachusetts press is willing to give him credit for his health care reform–though this may do more harm than good.)

Obviously, winning your home state is no guarantee of winning the election–just ask John Kerry or George H.W. Bush.

So perhaps this is where Rick Perry has an advantage. There will no doubt be negative press in Texas if he runs, but there will also be plenty of encouragement and a hearty base of support. Of course, even if he does run, those advantages would not fully kick in until the general election. First he’d have to win the nomination. Actually, first he’d have to declare his candidacy.

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Regime Change Required to Achieve Our War Aims in Libya

Better late than never, the Obama administration has finally recognized the National Transitional Council as the rightful government of Libya. Note that since March 17, the U.S.and our allies have employed military force against the government of Muammar Qaddafi, which means de facto, we were intervening on the side of the rebels. Yet it has taken the U.S. this long–nearly four months–to do something roughly two dozen nations had already done: namely to extend diplomatic recognition to the rebels.

It would be fascinating to hear from the administration why it decided to wait so long and why it finally decided to take this step now which could and should have been taken months ago. From the outside, it appears to be of a piece with the bungling and mismanagement which has characterized this war effort. As a result, Qaddafi is still hanging onto power, and our NATO allies are running short of munitions.

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Better late than never, the Obama administration has finally recognized the National Transitional Council as the rightful government of Libya. Note that since March 17, the U.S.and our allies have employed military force against the government of Muammar Qaddafi, which means de facto, we were intervening on the side of the rebels. Yet it has taken the U.S. this long–nearly four months–to do something roughly two dozen nations had already done: namely to extend diplomatic recognition to the rebels.

It would be fascinating to hear from the administration why it decided to wait so long and why it finally decided to take this step now which could and should have been taken months ago. From the outside, it appears to be of a piece with the bungling and mismanagement which has characterized this war effort. As a result, Qaddafi is still hanging onto power, and our NATO allies are running short of munitions.

Now there is talk of somehow negotiating Qaddafi’s removal–though why he would voluntarily step down when he is wanted by the International Criminal Court, remains something of a mystery. It is said Qaddafi might remain in Libya, which raises a different point: why would he trust any assurances issued by the rebels when in Egypt members of the former regime are now being lined up for trial?

This would not be an issue if President Obama were willing to recognize that, War Powers Act or not, we really are at war.  This requires decisive action to achieve our war aims–which by this point have clearly expanded beyond humanitarian considerations to regime change.

 

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Bachmann’s Fundraising Shows Weakness

The much awaited figures for Michele Bachmann’s fundraising in the second quarter of the fiscal year reported today did nothing to burnish her image as the up and coming Republican. Her total of $2 million raised in the last three months plus two million more shifted from her congressional campaign account illustrated that for all of the progress her candidacy has made in the last several weeks, she seems to lack the infrastructure and staff work that more established hopefuls have already put into place. The high expectations her poll figures have produced means pulling in only $2 million has to be considered something of a disappointment.

Bachmann’s excuses for this showing will center on the fact that at the start of the quarter she barely had a campaign, let alone the sort of organization that would allow her to rake in the big bucks. Her Internet fundraising operation, key to a grass roots populist candidacy such as hers, so far lacks the sophistication and promotional efforts needed for her to harness the energy of enthusiastic Tea Party and conservative Christian backers.

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The much awaited figures for Michele Bachmann’s fundraising in the second quarter of the fiscal year reported today did nothing to burnish her image as the up and coming Republican. Her total of $2 million raised in the last three months plus two million more shifted from her congressional campaign account illustrated that for all of the progress her candidacy has made in the last several weeks, she seems to lack the infrastructure and staff work that more established hopefuls have already put into place. The high expectations her poll figures have produced means pulling in only $2 million has to be considered something of a disappointment.

Bachmann’s excuses for this showing will center on the fact that at the start of the quarter she barely had a campaign, let alone the sort of organization that would allow her to rake in the big bucks. Her Internet fundraising operation, key to a grass roots populist candidacy such as hers, so far lacks the sophistication and promotional efforts needed for her to harness the energy of enthusiastic Tea Party and conservative Christian backers.

If she can manage to put together a better online effort in the coming months, then she may be able to start raising the big bucks from a broad base of small contributors that could help put the nomination within reach. But if she fails to do so, this shortfall will put a brake on both her momentum and her ability to compete with the cash-rich Mitt Romney.

Having lifted herself from the second tier to leading alternative to the frontrunner in just a few weeks, Bachmann no longer has the ability to fly below the radar. The congresswoman’s fast start has set high expectations that require her to do more than just skate by. If Bachmann’s performance in the Iowa straw poll in August or the next fundraising report again falls short of what we believe a first-tier candidate must do, her hopes will suffer.

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Hypocritical Obama Heads to the Brink

Today’s news conference provided further evidence that President Obama is determined to push the debt ceiling crisis to the brink. In his statement, the president said nothing new, repeating his demagogic attacks on Republicans and claiming their stand against raising taxes is ideological while deeming his own equally ideological stand on the same subject is moderate and above the fray.

Obama’s position is consistent if unbending. He says the people are with him and the only thing Republicans can do is to accept his “balanced approach” and give in on taxes in order to avoid being blamed for the debacle of a default or government shutdown. The president didn’t budge an inch today as he patronized his opponents and asserted they were listening to no one but “lobbyists and special interests.”  With rhetoric like that, how can we avoid the conclusion the president thinks it is in his political interest to bring on the very fiasco that he claims to be working to avoid?

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Today’s news conference provided further evidence that President Obama is determined to push the debt ceiling crisis to the brink. In his statement, the president said nothing new, repeating his demagogic attacks on Republicans and claiming their stand against raising taxes is ideological while deeming his own equally ideological stand on the same subject is moderate and above the fray.

Obama’s position is consistent if unbending. He says the people are with him and the only thing Republicans can do is to accept his “balanced approach” and give in on taxes in order to avoid being blamed for the debacle of a default or government shutdown. The president didn’t budge an inch today as he patronized his opponents and asserted they were listening to no one but “lobbyists and special interests.”  With rhetoric like that, how can we avoid the conclusion the president thinks it is in his political interest to bring on the very fiasco that he claims to be working to avoid?

The president was again guilty of everything that he accused the GOP congressional leadership of doing: posturing rather than problem solving and stuck in an ideological position with a refusal to admit the possibility a deal can be made on any terms but his own. He demands specifics on cuts and revenues from Republicans while making “concessions” on the out-of-control entitlement spending that is bankrupting the nation which remain amorphous and loosely defined. His claim to be a budget cutter after increasing the debt and entitlement spending via the stimulus and Obamacare during his presidency raises hypocrisy to an art form. Despite his claim to be the one who wants a long-term solution to the debt crisis, those are terms guaranteed to make any deal in the long or short term impossible.

He’s taking a big gamble not only with the country’s financial health but also with his own political future. He knows the poll figures he cites that back up his insistence on “revenue” increases are manipulated in order to get a result that doesn’t illustrate the people’s abhorrence of greater debt and opposition to raising taxes during an economic slowdown. The sinking economy Obama now “owns” will take a huge hit if he maneuvers the country into a partial government shutdown. He may say the voters are with him, but he’s kidding himself if he thinks he won’t be blamed for his role in this crisis.

 

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DeMint: I’ll Stop ‘Plan B’ in the Senate

There has been one question surrounding Mitch McConnell’s proposed “Plan B” for raising the debt ceiling—giving President Obama the ability to raise the limit on his own, temporarily, so the Republicans would not be held accountable for either a default or the lack of spending cuts in the event a “grand bargain” could not be reached: Could the plan pass the House?

Most of the attention has been focused on what Eric Cantor, who has become the voice of the more conservative House members, will accept. It has been assumed the key to passing McConnell’s plan in the Senate (and perhaps ultimately in the House as well) would be the Democrats’ approval.

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There has been one question surrounding Mitch McConnell’s proposed “Plan B” for raising the debt ceiling—giving President Obama the ability to raise the limit on his own, temporarily, so the Republicans would not be held accountable for either a default or the lack of spending cuts in the event a “grand bargain” could not be reached: Could the plan pass the House?

Most of the attention has been focused on what Eric Cantor, who has become the voice of the more conservative House members, will accept. It has been assumed the key to passing McConnell’s plan in the Senate (and perhaps ultimately in the House as well) would be the Democrats’ approval.

But those assuming that made one mistake: they forgot about Jim DeMint. The South Carolina Tea Party favorite just announced via Twitter that he will “use every tool in Senate to stop passage of ‘Plan B’ blank check debt limit increase.”

DeMint rarely makes idle threats, so this is probably the final nail in the coffin of “Plan B.” Though John Boehner sought to downplay divisions within his ranks by saying he and Cantor are “in the foxhole” together, it is really he and McConnell who now find themselves sharing an increasingly empty foxhole.

This will also only amplify the attention on the GOP’s intraparty stress–a troublesome narrative for the GOP leaders. If McConnell needs DeMint’s approval, and Boehner needs Cantor’s, the Republicans and Democrats may be even farther apart on this issue than previously thought.

The New York Times has a story this morning on the ideological battle of which the debt ceiling negotiations are but one theater. “What makes a bipartisan ‘grand bargain’ so elusive is less the budget numbers, on which compromise could be in reach, than each side’s principles, which do not lend themselves to splitting the difference,” reporter Jackie Calmes writes.

DeMint just loudly reiterated his principles. So, what’s Plan C?

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LIVE BLOG: President’s Press Conference

11:36 We’re talking too much about debts and deficits which means we can’t talk about spending money on community colleges. Community colleges????

11:34 It comes down, says Obama, to “who’s trying to get things done.” That is an odd formulation; what voters want is for politicians to do things the voters think are good ideas and block things that are bad ideas.

11:31 As usual, the longer Obama goes, the more he begins to lose his cool. He attacks Republicans on trade deals, on failing to support his infrastructure bill…

11:25 “If the American people looked at this, they might say, ‘Boy, some of these choices are tough. But they don’t require us to” do anything about Social Security or Medicare, lower federal aid for college, deal with veterans benefits….So where are the tough choices again?

11:22 “We don’t need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs,” Obama says about the balanced-budget amendment. “We need to make tough choices.” Like, you know, spending $700 billion on TARP and bailing out the auto companies and a stimulus of $863 billion and passing health care. Lots of tough choices there.

11:19 Obama fears morphing into Carter, so he’s trying desperately to morph into Clinton, including the triangulating.

11:17 The only specific cut of any sort Obama mentions by name is ethanol subsidies. The only one.

11:15 Obama’s demeanor has changed entirely from the press conference earlier in the week. He’ s feeling far more confident that he has the wind at his back.

11:13 So basically Obama that it’s not serious to cut the federal budget by $2.4 trillion but that only modest changes to Medicare and Social Security can result in trillions of dollars in savings.

11:12 Obama is saying they’ve identified cuts of over a trillion dollars in defense and discretionary spending. 11:10 “I’m not going to get into specifics,” Obama says about the cuts he’s willing to accept, and there is the nub. If he isn’t willing to get into specifics, how on earth can a “big deal” be made?

11:09 “Modest changes” in Medicare and Social Security can save trillions of dollars, Obama says. It’s all so simple!

11:04 Jake Tapper asks about what exactly Obama is willing to do when it comes to entitlement spending, what specific piece of entitlement spending is on the table. This is a question the ABC correspondent has been pressing on White House press secretary for days without result. Obama answers by saying he’s willing to look at all kinds of approached and mentions only specific programs he won’t cut. Then he says he supports some form of means-testing for people of his age. Which, given the fact that he won’t be collecting on Medicare for 15 years, won’t really help.

11:03 For the first time in a long time when it comes to political gamesmanship, Obama is showing some real canniness here. If he keeps talking and talking and talking about how he wants a huge amount of deficit reduction, over time he may succeed in connecting his name to the idea even if the administration is actually unserious about it.

11:02 Obama is very confident that he has the winning argument here, and he’s using polling data suggesting Republicans believe in “revenues”—i.e., tax increases—just as he does.

11:00 Obama reiterates that all Congressional leaders want the debt ceiling raised. But again, Obama says “we have a chance to do something big…to stabilize America’s economy for the next ten years.”

11:36 We’re talking too much about debts and deficits which means we can’t talk about spending money on community colleges. Community colleges????

11:34 It comes down, says Obama, to “who’s trying to get things done.” That is an odd formulation; what voters want is for politicians to do things the voters think are good ideas and block things that are bad ideas.

11:31 As usual, the longer Obama goes, the more he begins to lose his cool. He attacks Republicans on trade deals, on failing to support his infrastructure bill…

11:25 “If the American people looked at this, they might say, ‘Boy, some of these choices are tough. But they don’t require us to” do anything about Social Security or Medicare, lower federal aid for college, deal with veterans benefits….So where are the tough choices again?

11:22 “We don’t need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs,” Obama says about the balanced-budget amendment. “We need to make tough choices.” Like, you know, spending $700 billion on TARP and bailing out the auto companies and a stimulus of $863 billion and passing health care. Lots of tough choices there.

11:19 Obama fears morphing into Carter, so he’s trying desperately to morph into Clinton, including the triangulating.

11:17 The only specific cut of any sort Obama mentions by name is ethanol subsidies. The only one.

11:15 Obama’s demeanor has changed entirely from the press conference earlier in the week. He’ s feeling far more confident that he has the wind at his back.

11:13 So basically Obama that it’s not serious to cut the federal budget by $2.4 trillion but that only modest changes to Medicare and Social Security can result in trillions of dollars in savings.

11:12 Obama is saying they’ve identified cuts of over a trillion dollars in defense and discretionary spending. 11:10 “I’m not going to get into specifics,” Obama says about the cuts he’s willing to accept, and there is the nub. If he isn’t willing to get into specifics, how on earth can a “big deal” be made?

11:09 “Modest changes” in Medicare and Social Security can save trillions of dollars, Obama says. It’s all so simple!

11:04 Jake Tapper asks about what exactly Obama is willing to do when it comes to entitlement spending, what specific piece of entitlement spending is on the table. This is a question the ABC correspondent has been pressing on White House press secretary for days without result. Obama answers by saying he’s willing to look at all kinds of approached and mentions only specific programs he won’t cut. Then he says he supports some form of means-testing for people of his age. Which, given the fact that he won’t be collecting on Medicare for 15 years, won’t really help.

11:03 For the first time in a long time when it comes to political gamesmanship, Obama is showing some real canniness here. If he keeps talking and talking and talking about how he wants a huge amount of deficit reduction, over time he may succeed in connecting his name to the idea even if the administration is actually unserious about it.

11:02 Obama is very confident that he has the winning argument here, and he’s using polling data suggesting Republicans believe in “revenues”—i.e., tax increases—just as he does.

11:00 Obama reiterates that all Congressional leaders want the debt ceiling raised. But again, Obama says “we have a chance to do something big…to stabilize America’s economy for the next ten years.”

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Israeli Leaders Need to Stop Covering Up Palestinian Intransigence

Earlier, I cited a new poll showing two-thirds of Palestinians reject any two-state solution that entails recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland, while the same majority sees a two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone toward Israel’s eradication. It also showed 72 percent deny Jewish history in Jerusalem, 53 percent support educating schoolchildren to hate Jews, and 73 percent support the Hamas charter’s call for killing Jews behind every “rock and tree.”

But perhaps even scarier than the poll itself was the delusional response of Israeli leaders when briefed on it by pollster Stanley Greenberg and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project, which commissioned it. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli leaders said “they were encouraged by Palestinian support for talks.” Indeed, 65 percent of respondents preferred talks to violence as a tactic for achieving their goals. But what good is that if there’s nothing to talk about – which there isn’t as long as Palestinians deny the Jewish state’s right to exist?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded much more sensible in an interview with author Etgar Keret last month: He said forthrightly the conflict is “not about territory,” but about the Jewish state’s right to exist, and will therefore remain unsolvable until Palestinians recognize “Israel as a Jewish state.” Keret then asked what, if so, could be done to further peace: Read More

Earlier, I cited a new poll showing two-thirds of Palestinians reject any two-state solution that entails recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland, while the same majority sees a two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone toward Israel’s eradication. It also showed 72 percent deny Jewish history in Jerusalem, 53 percent support educating schoolchildren to hate Jews, and 73 percent support the Hamas charter’s call for killing Jews behind every “rock and tree.”

But perhaps even scarier than the poll itself was the delusional response of Israeli leaders when briefed on it by pollster Stanley Greenberg and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project, which commissioned it. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli leaders said “they were encouraged by Palestinian support for talks.” Indeed, 65 percent of respondents preferred talks to violence as a tactic for achieving their goals. But what good is that if there’s nothing to talk about – which there isn’t as long as Palestinians deny the Jewish state’s right to exist?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded much more sensible in an interview with author Etgar Keret last month: He said forthrightly the conflict is “not about territory,” but about the Jewish state’s right to exist, and will therefore remain unsolvable until Palestinians recognize “Israel as a Jewish state.” Keret then asked what, if so, could be done to further peace:

Netanyahu told me right away that the practical plan for advancing the peace process is to reiterate this at every opportunity.

“You have to see the effect it has on people,” he said, smiling. “You say it and they just remain slack-jawed.”

Just that day, he said, during a conversation with local politicians, he saw it happening before his eyes. Another writer at the table pointed out that we’ve said it more than once and it hasn’t convinced most countries. Netanyahu nodded and said the Palestinians have been spreading their lies for more than 40 years, and lies that have become so deeply entrenched cannot be uprooted quickly.

 

Netanyahu is dead right: The only way to make progress is for Israel to keep explaining the conflict’s real cause until the world finally internalizes it and begins addressing it. For Palestinians will never accept a Jewish state unless convinced it’s necessary, and the only way to so convince them is for the world to make clear that it won’t support Palestinian statehood absent such acceptance.

For that reason, Netanyahu was also right when he told Bulgaria’s foreign minister a few days later peace would come faster if Europe stopped treating Palestinians “like a spoiled child” and instead began to “tell the Palestinians the truth” about the concessions they will need to make for any agreement – like recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and dropping their demand to resettle Palestinian refugees in Israel – instead of only spelling out the concessions it wants Israel to make. For again, as long as the international community refuses to say otherwise, Palestinian will keep thinking they can secure Israel’s retreat from the territories without having to give up their quest for its destruction.

The problem is even Netanyahu himself rarely follows his own advice. Instead, he and other Israelis leaders endlessly declare the Palestinians really want peace, and thereby allow the world to maintain this fiction. Indeed, had Israel not actively assisted the Palestinians in spreading this lie, it never would have “become so deeply entrenched.”

Nobody will defend Israel’s interests if Israel’s own leaders don’t. Thus, until they start telling the truth, consistently and unanimously, the world will keep upholding the convenient fiction that peace is achievable if only Israel would concede a little bit more. And peace itself will remain an unattainable dream.

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There’s No Gratitude in Politics

Alana’s right to question the decision of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) to join the mob piling on embattled media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But, as Ben Smith points out at Politico, their decision to join the chorus of bashers is even more hypocritical than you may have thought. During the 2010 election cycle, News Corp. donated $124,550 to Senate Democrats while giving only $27,700 to Republicans.

If the DSCC thinks Murdoch is so bad, will they be giving all that money back anytime soon? Don’t hold your breath.

Alana’s right to question the decision of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) to join the mob piling on embattled media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But, as Ben Smith points out at Politico, their decision to join the chorus of bashers is even more hypocritical than you may have thought. During the 2010 election cycle, News Corp. donated $124,550 to Senate Democrats while giving only $27,700 to Republicans.

If the DSCC thinks Murdoch is so bad, will they be giving all that money back anytime soon? Don’t hold your breath.

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DSCC Launches Anti-Murdoch Campaign

It’s one thing for members of Congress to call for investigations of Rupert Murdoch, but there’s something disquieting about the fundraising arm of a political party targeting a media organization because they don’t like what it publishes. Will any journalists or free press organizations speak up in defense of News Corp. on this? Doubtful:

The DSCC has launched a petition to “Stand With Democrats & Demand that Murdoch Come Clean on Spying,” as they put it in the ad that is the first thing anyone Googling “Rupert Murdoch” will see today. …

“Murdoch’s empire often unfairly targets Democrats and progressives, but this recent scandal goes so much further and is only growing by the day,” says the petition. “Senators Robert Menendez, Jay Rockefeller, Frank Lautenberg, and other Democrats are pushing for investigations. They need your support. It’s time for Rupert Murdoch to come clean and immediately tell the American people whether his company targeted any Americans here at home. Sign our petition to demand the truth.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no problem with Murdoch being investigated if there are credible allegations of wrongdoing against him (as opposed to a politically-motivated fishing expedition), and the FBI is already on the case. I just think if the DSCC was running political ads targeting the owners of CNN or the Washington Post Co. instead of News Corp., other members of the fourth estate would be rightly outraged.

It’s one thing for members of Congress to call for investigations of Rupert Murdoch, but there’s something disquieting about the fundraising arm of a political party targeting a media organization because they don’t like what it publishes. Will any journalists or free press organizations speak up in defense of News Corp. on this? Doubtful:

The DSCC has launched a petition to “Stand With Democrats & Demand that Murdoch Come Clean on Spying,” as they put it in the ad that is the first thing anyone Googling “Rupert Murdoch” will see today. …

“Murdoch’s empire often unfairly targets Democrats and progressives, but this recent scandal goes so much further and is only growing by the day,” says the petition. “Senators Robert Menendez, Jay Rockefeller, Frank Lautenberg, and other Democrats are pushing for investigations. They need your support. It’s time for Rupert Murdoch to come clean and immediately tell the American people whether his company targeted any Americans here at home. Sign our petition to demand the truth.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no problem with Murdoch being investigated if there are credible allegations of wrongdoing against him (as opposed to a politically-motivated fishing expedition), and the FBI is already on the case. I just think if the DSCC was running political ads targeting the owners of CNN or the Washington Post Co. instead of News Corp., other members of the fourth estate would be rightly outraged.

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New Poll Shows Real Cause of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Here’s a poll you will not see covered in your daily paper, because it throws the real cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into uncomfortably stark relief: Asked whether they agreed with President Barack Obama’s statement that “there should be two states: Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people and Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people,” only 34  percent said yes; 61 percent disagreed. Moreover, a whopping 66 percent said the Palestinians’ goal should not be a permanent two-state solution, but a two-state solution as an interim stage en route to the ultimate goal of a single Palestinian state in all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – a goal that amply explains their opposition to recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

This was a serious poll, conducted by American pollster Stanley Greenberg and the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion by means of face-to-face interviews in Arabic with 1,010 adults in the West Bank and Gaza. And the findings only get worse. As the Jerusalem Post reported:

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Here’s a poll you will not see covered in your daily paper, because it throws the real cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into uncomfortably stark relief: Asked whether they agreed with President Barack Obama’s statement that “there should be two states: Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people and Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people,” only 34  percent said yes; 61 percent disagreed. Moreover, a whopping 66 percent said the Palestinians’ goal should not be a permanent two-state solution, but a two-state solution as an interim stage en route to the ultimate goal of a single Palestinian state in all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – a goal that amply explains their opposition to recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

This was a serious poll, conducted by American pollster Stanley Greenberg and the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion by means of face-to-face interviews in Arabic with 1,010 adults in the West Bank and Gaza. And the findings only get worse. As the Jerusalem Post reported:

Asked about the fate of Jerusalem, 92 percent said it should be the capital of Palestine, 1 percent said the capital of Israel, 3 percent the capital of both, and 4 percent a neutral international city.

Seventy-two percent backed denying the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62 percent supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage, and 53 percent were in favor or teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools.

When given a quote from the Hamas Charter about the need for battalions from the Arab and Islamic world to defeat the Jews, 80 percent agreed. Seventy-three percent agreed with a quote from the charter (and a hadith, or tradition ascribed to the prophet Muhammad) about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.

All these findings contradict the accepted wisdom that the root of the problem is Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza, so if Israel would just raze
the settlements, peace would break out tomorrow. Withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza won’t help if Palestinians don’t accept the existence of a Jewish
state in any borders and see the two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone toward the ultimate goal of Israel’s eradication – exactly as prescribed by the PLO’s famous Phased Plan of 1974, which called  for establishing a “Palestinian national authority” in any territory available and then using it as a base for “completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory.” It seems for most Palestinians, almost 20 years of peace talks haven’t changed this ultimate goal one whit.

This is the root of the conflict and has been ever since Britain first backed a “national home for the Jewish people” in the 1917 Balfour Declaration. It’s why no
Palestinian leader has ever been able to say “yes” to any Israeli offer – and never will be able to, no matter how much the offer is improved, unless this  changes. Until the international community recognizes this and starts working to change Palestinian public opinion, the “peace process” will continue to be mere wasted effort.

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No Winners in Debt Crisis? Don’t Tell Bachmann.

Many pundits on both the left and the right are convinced Michele Bachmann’s boomlet is bound to collapse sooner or later. They believe she is too extreme to be taken seriously by the American people once they learn more about her. They also think her gaffes and scrutiny of her family will undo her. But instead of losing steam, the Tea Party heroine keeps gaining ground in polls. Part of the answer to this puzzle is to be found in Politico’s story about the way the Minnesota representative has, almost by accident, become the sole winner of a debt ceiling crisis that is threatening to sink both President Obama and the GOP congressional leadership.

The irony is being a backbench member of the House of Representatives was always thought too obscure a post to generate enough attention for a serious presidential candidate. But it is that status which is helping Bachmann stay in the news. Bachmann is an outsider in the House with no leadership responsibilities and no ties to either John Boehner or Eric Cantor that would motivate her to support any compromise on the issues of debt and taxes. The crisis has ramped up coverage of issues on which she is vocal while leaving her free to opine on television and on the stump and damn any thought of a short or long-term solution that doesn’t strictly conform to her own vision. While other Republicans are either bargaining with the White House or trying to sound like sober deal makers, Bachmann can wave the bloody shirt of debt and taxes all she wants to the applause of the GOP grass roots.

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Many pundits on both the left and the right are convinced Michele Bachmann’s boomlet is bound to collapse sooner or later. They believe she is too extreme to be taken seriously by the American people once they learn more about her. They also think her gaffes and scrutiny of her family will undo her. But instead of losing steam, the Tea Party heroine keeps gaining ground in polls. Part of the answer to this puzzle is to be found in Politico’s story about the way the Minnesota representative has, almost by accident, become the sole winner of a debt ceiling crisis that is threatening to sink both President Obama and the GOP congressional leadership.

The irony is being a backbench member of the House of Representatives was always thought too obscure a post to generate enough attention for a serious presidential candidate. But it is that status which is helping Bachmann stay in the news. Bachmann is an outsider in the House with no leadership responsibilities and no ties to either John Boehner or Eric Cantor that would motivate her to support any compromise on the issues of debt and taxes. The crisis has ramped up coverage of issues on which she is vocal while leaving her free to opine on television and on the stump and damn any thought of a short or long-term solution that doesn’t strictly conform to her own vision. While other Republicans are either bargaining with the White House or trying to sound like sober deal makers, Bachmann can wave the bloody shirt of debt and taxes all she wants to the applause of the GOP grass roots.

The media’s concentration on the subject also helps her because it diverts attention from her competitors who are not similarly positioned. It also has also distracted the public from the growing number of stories being written about Bachmann’s background as well as that of her husband. While a discussion of the allegedly anti-gay nature of Marcus Bachmann’s Christian counseling practice may not hurt his wife’s presidential hopes in Iowa or many other parts of the country, that story as well as others that portray her negatively have the potential to do her some damage eventually. Many observers believe Bachmann’s rise makes it inevitable the liberal media will do their best to tear her down in the same manner that turned Sarah Palin into a right-wing piñata.

While the Palinization of Bachmann may be only a matter of time, right now it is being put on hold while the nation holds its breath about the debt ceiling crisis. In the meantime, Bachmann is gaining strength, raising money and establishing herself as the leading populist conservative presidential contender. No matter what happens in the coming weeks about the debt, Bachmann appears to be the big winner of a crisis she will do nothing to help solve.

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Can Republicans Survive the Debt Deluge?

After weeks of fruitless negotiations, the debt-ceiling showdown is coming down to a pair of unanswered questions. Is President Obama really prepared to risk the debacle that a failure to raise the debt ceiling might cause for the economy? And are the Republicans prepared for the deluge of abuse the president and his cheering section in the mainstream media are about to rain down on their heads if they stand their ground and refuse to go along with the tax increases that Obama demands as part of the price for an agreement?

The answer to the first question is yes. Everything the president has said and done in recent days shows he is not merely prepared to face the negative consequences for the economy that a blowup on the debt would incur; he is inviting them. Obama’s goal is to avoid making the tough choices he’s always prattling about prior to the 2012 election. Since he believes the polls that tell him his demagogic attacks on the Republicans about taxing the rich will absolve the Democrats of blame for the crisis, he appears to be seeking the fiasco that he claims to be working to avoid. Obama thinks he is in a no-lose position. Either the GOP will fold and agree to tax increases or he will saddle them with all of the responsibility for the impact of the debt crisis.

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After weeks of fruitless negotiations, the debt-ceiling showdown is coming down to a pair of unanswered questions. Is President Obama really prepared to risk the debacle that a failure to raise the debt ceiling might cause for the economy? And are the Republicans prepared for the deluge of abuse the president and his cheering section in the mainstream media are about to rain down on their heads if they stand their ground and refuse to go along with the tax increases that Obama demands as part of the price for an agreement?

The answer to the first question is yes. Everything the president has said and done in recent days shows he is not merely prepared to face the negative consequences for the economy that a blowup on the debt would incur; he is inviting them. Obama’s goal is to avoid making the tough choices he’s always prattling about prior to the 2012 election. Since he believes the polls that tell him his demagogic attacks on the Republicans about taxing the rich will absolve the Democrats of blame for the crisis, he appears to be seeking the fiasco that he claims to be working to avoid. Obama thinks he is in a no-lose position. Either the GOP will fold and agree to tax increases or he will saddle them with all of the responsibility for the impact of the debt crisis.

The answer to the second question is less than clear. Those Republicans who remember 1995 are understandably worried that going to the brink with the White House will expose them to the same kind of abuse that sank the GOP-led Congress in that dispute. Though they have avoided most of then House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s foolish mistakes in confronting President Clinton, they know a principled stand against further growth of government and taxes will be portrayed in much of the mainstream media as extremism. A president always has the advantage in a duel with a divided Congress ,because he can speak with one voice while the party out of power cannot. Though the voters put them into office to cut the size of government and lower taxes, that cause will be lost if they allow the president to paint them as rabid obstructionists.

That makes it imperative that House Republicans respond to the president’s brinksmanship by quickly passing their own debt plan with no tax increases and force either Senate Democrats or the president to veto it. If they cannot pull together and do that, then chances are they play right into Obama’s hands. Obama will back down and accept a short-term plan only if he thinks he will be blamed for the debt fallout. Though there is a faction in the House that actually thinks a default would be a good thing, the GOP must pull itself together and act. Their goal must be to survive the coming onslaught and keep the fight for smaller government alive.

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