In late June, JTA’s Ron Kampeas wrote an in-depth profile of Michele Bachmann, highlighting her pro-Israel bona fides and her excellent relationship with the Jewish community in her congressional district. The article noted that unlike many politicians, Bachmann’s affinity for Israel was sparked by her time living there for a summer as a teenager.
“She was informed on the minor details of what’s going on,” Jenna Mitelman (who interviewed Bachmann for the blog site TCJewFolk), told Kampeas for the piece. The comment is consistent with what others say about her–that Bachmann’s firsthand experience in Israel during her formative years, as well as her religious upbringing that taught the value in the relationship between the Jewish people and the Christian community, has given her an informed, sensitive and heartfelt appreciation for the state of Israel.
In the midst of an increasingly polarized deficit fight, Sen. Tom Coburn may have achieved the impossible by bringing liberals and conservatives together in opposition to his disastrous $9 trillion deficit reduction plan.
The first major problem with the plan: it calls for $1 trillion in defense cuts during the next decade. That’s further than even Sen. Kent Conrad dared to go in his widely-criticized proposal, which reportedly included $900 billion in defense reductions during the same time period. And it’s far more radical than Obama’s own recommendation to slash the defense budget by $400 billion.
This afternoon on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, a group of 75 “protesters” gathered to protest politicians. Or the debt. Or the nature of politics in general. The event was organized by “No Labels,” a non-partisan organization designed to overcome the partisan aspect of politics and encourage politicians to look beyond their reelections to instead focus on what’s best for the American people.
Before the rally a tourist asked me what the group’s stance was. When I told her, she responded, “Oh, so they’re liberals.” The desire to just get things done absent a clear strategy is classic liberal behavior. Without deciding what one stands for, how can a settlement be reached on any issue? One of the group’s manufactured chants, yelled meekly in the glaring 90+ degree sun was “Wanna get a deal. Wanna get it done!” These pre-manufactured chants, along with pre-manufactured signs, were staged for a group of camera crews who were reporting not on a rally, but on a photo-op.
If there was one achievement that symbolized the accomplishments Rudy Giuliani achieved in New York during his years as mayor, it was the drastic reduction in the graffiti that had previously defaced so much of the city. The effort to get rid of this form of vandalism was part of the “Broken Windows” strategy in which the police endeavored to stop the spread of behavior that engendered the feeling of neglect and decay that caused so many New Yorkers to believe there was no alternative to tolerating high crime rates.
But while graffiti has been held in check, if not eliminated in New York, such vandalism appears to be undergoing a revival of sorts in numerous cities around the country. In reporting on this trend, the New York Times asks whether this is being caused by the economic downturn or the increasing acceptance of graffiti as “art” in an era of debased standards. But the answer to the newspaper’s question may be something altogether different.
Conservative activist James O’Keefe traded in his pimp hat for a Russian accent during his latest undercover sting operation, in which he pretends to be an affluent European drug dealer attempting to obtain Medicaid benefits from an Ohio government office. Once again, the con apparently worked. Government employees are shown on video assisting O’Keefe in applying for medical assistance, after he tells them that he sells drugs, pimps out his underage sister and recently purchased an $800,000 car:
In response, Ohio employees tasked with disbursing federal Medicaid dollars are shown coaching the men through the process of applying for benefits. “If it’s not something registered here, maybe I just wouldn’t mention it,” a Franklin County Medicaid officer named Traci Daniels tells the men, when asked whether they should mention owning a vehicle that retails for nearly $1 million, as they apply for government aid designed to help poor people. “Not that I can say that. You didn’t hear that from me. But, that would right there, that would throw him off. He would be immediately not qualified.” Daniels also tells the men to describe their occupation as babysitting, though she apparently believes they are drug dealers.
Haaretz is reporting that an Istanbul bombing previously credited to a Kurdish terrorist group was actually the work of Hezbollah. According to a story first reported in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the May attack was undertaken by the Lebanese Islamist terror group in a failed attempt to murder Israel’s consul general in the city. The explosion is believed to be in retaliation for the death of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran earlier this year.
This attack on Turkish soil may be one of several events convincing the Islamic government there a rapprochement with Israel may be in their strategic interest.
In my last post, I mentioned Rudy Giuliani’s strategy for winning the Republican nomination: Skip Iowa and base a campaign around New Hampshire. He is not the first candidate this year to announce such a move (since Giuliani hasn’t declared yet, his announcement is purely hypothetical). So it’s worth pondering: Does Iowa still matter?
The Iowa caucuses hold a peculiar place on the path to the Republican nomination. But it’s fair to wonder if the state really is the bellwether Iowans proclaim it to be, at least as compared with New Hampshire, which holds the first primary. A look at the data shows just how different the preferences of the two states’ voters can be and how that will impact this election. Read More
The Romney campaign’s reliance on big-money donors has received a lot of attention, but President Obama and the DNC may have also raked in up to $60 million-plus from ultra-wealthy bundlers – nearly 70 percent of the campaign’s total haul.
The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the Obama campaign only disclosed broad ranges of how much each individual bundler contributed. If the bundlers pulled in the maximum for their category, then the total amount could be much higher than previously reported:
These broad categories mean the true amount collected for Obama’s re-election could be even greater than $35 million. In fact, if the maximum amounts raised by these 200-plus elite moneymen and women are used, the total could be as high as $60 million. That’s 70 percent of the total announced haul. And that amount could be higher still, since for the 27 individuals who bundled more than a half-million dollars there is no maximum amount given.
Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain had a brief surge after the May South Carolina debate, but since then he has spent much of his time frittering away his small advantage by making gaffes that he’s had trouble explaining. While we’ve previously discussed his lack of understanding of foreign policy issues, another topic that has bedeviled him is his attitude toward Muslims.
Previously, Cain said he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or to a federal judgeship. He later backed off that statement and told me last week when I appeared with him on “The John Stossel Show” on the Fox Business Channel he only meant he just wanted to make sure any possible cabinet members were not terrorists. He had no answer when I asked why he would consider someone who could possibly be a terrorist for such a position. Yesterday, he dug himself in even deeper on the question of Muslims by making another puzzling statement.
It’s hard to believe President Obama could be having problems with Jewish voters in New York City of all places, but this Siena College poll suggests he may even be losing Jewish support in one of the most liberal enclaves in the country.
The poll, which surveyed about 70 Jews and thus needs to be taken with a serious grain of salt, found that just 35 percent would vote to re-elect Obama in 2012, while 52 percent would vote for someone else. It follows other recent nationwide polls, which have also shown a dip in Obama’s Jewish support.
I am someone who believed it was time for Hosni Mubarak to go. I also believe Egypt must make the painful transition to democracy, while also being cognizant of the danger that militants could use the resulting chaos to seize power. Thus, I am of two minds about reports the Egyptian military is planning to carve out an extra-constitutional role as a defender of secularism. There is obviously a self-serving motive here: Egypt’s armed forces are a big business that control lots of companies. Generals have gotten wealthy off the resulting lucre, and they want to protect their cash cow. This exerts a considerable cost on the Egyptian economy by crowding out more productive investment and forcing entrepreneurs to pay bribes to get a piece of the action. The army should stick to its military mission and expose its perks and payoffs to greater public scrutiny.
But there is little doubt Egypt’s transition to democracy is a perilous one, and some of the perils could be mitigated if the military commits itself to being a guardian of a relatively liberal and secular state. The obvious model is Turkey, which for decades was a quasi-democracy where the military would step in from time to time to make sure that the secular principles of Ataturk were adhered to. Now we are seeing the consequences of the army’s diminished role with the Erdogan government steering the country in a more anti-Western, anti-Israeli direction. Turkey at least has some tradition of pluralism that exerts some degree of control–however minimal–over the Islamist government.
During the weekend, Politico ran a story on Rudy Giuliani’s pronouncement that if he runs for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, he will do things differently this time around. But is his “new” strategy really new, or is it meant to cement the (erroneous) conventional wisdom about his 2008 run?
Giuliani has worked diligently–as have campaign reporters–to establish as fact that the former New York City mayor’s last election campaign was based on ignoring the early primary states, winning Florida with the help of Charlie Crist, and allowing that (and the “comeback” storyline sure to accompany it) to propel him through Super Tuesday and eventually the nomination.
With all of Washington butting heads over the question of how to let the debt ceiling rise, the investor service Moody’s thinks it has a better idea: eliminate the debt ceiling altogether. According to Reuters, a new report for the investor’s service whose ratings are critical to the value of bonds says it believes the problem isn’t so much the debate over spending cuts versus taxes as it is the system whereby the Congress sets a limit on the national debt. This self-imposed restriction creates “periodic uncertainty,” according to Moody’s analyst Steven Hess.
Moody’s has threatened to devalue the United States’ AAA bond ratings if payments are missed as a result of the standoff between the White House and Republicans. But though the suggestion that the debt ceiling be eliminated would resolve this problem, the idea would only serve to allow the size of government to continue to grow unchecked. While the process has proven to be messy, giving Congress the ability to stop the growth of debt may prove to be the only way to halt the slide into insolvency. Though many decry the demands of House Republicans for an end to the spending orgy, without this check on the system, the government will be able to write itself a blank check.
On Friday evening we learned that Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs′ chief U.S. economist, reported that following another week of weak economic data, Goldman Sachs cut its estimates for real GDP growth in the second and third quarter of 2011 to 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, from 2 percent and 3.25 percent. Goldman’s forecasts for the fourth quarter and 2012 are under review, but even excluding any further changes, Hatzius reports, it expects the unemployment rate to come down only modestly to 8¾ percent at the end of 2012.
Hatzius went on to say:
The main reason for the downgrade is that the high-frequency information on overall economic activity has continued to fall substantially short of our expectations. … Some of this weakness is undoubtedly related to the disruptions to the supply chain—specifically in the auto sector—following the East Japan earthquake. By our estimates, this disruption has subtracted around ½ percentage point from second-quarter GDP growth. We expect this hit to reverse fully in the next couple of months, and this could add ½ point to third-quarter GDP growth. Moreover, some of the hit from higher energy costs is probably also temporary, as crude prices are down on net over the past three months. But the slowdown of recent months goes well beyond what can be explained with these temporary effects. … final demand growth has slowed to a pace that is typically only seen in recessions. .. Moreover, if the economy returns to recession—not our forecast, but clearly a possibility given
the recent numbers … [emphasis added]
The Arab Spring began in Tunisia and, unlike Egypt where the revolt against authoritarianism was hijacked by the military and its subtle alliance with the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, the North African nation is still seen as being on the road to democracy. But the first draft of the country’s new constitution appears to have enshrined opposition to Israel’s existence. According to this report in the Jerusalem Post, the new Tunisian constitution will not only enshrine Islam as the country’s state religion, it will explicitly ban ties with the state of Israel.
Tunisia has a history of secularism and devotion to education and modernization. It is no surprise that the new government would cater to public opinion by making Islam the state religion. But the move to ban any chance of reconciliation with Israel and to make support for the Palestinians part of Tunisia’s new charter is something else. Under the old regime, the small but still vibrant Jewish community was protected and tourism from world Jewry was encouraged. But Islamists are more of a force in Tunisia than before simply because they are no longer the objects of repression as they were under the now deposed authoritarian rulers of the country.
There is a lot of commentary about the political fallout from the debt ceiling debate. But at this point, several weeks after the issue has come to the fore and after three press conferences by the president, Obama seems to be incurring a bit of damage.
For example, the president’s three-day rolling average in the Gallup Poll has been 42 approve/50 disapprove (for July 13-15) and 44 approve/49 disapprove (for July 14-16).
Michele Bachmann’s presidential bid has steadily gained ground in the last two months. However, during this same period, a story about her candidacy has similarly morphed from a sidebar to a feature: Bachmann and the gays. In the last few weeks there has been increasing interest on the part of the press in a number of aspects of the relationship between the Minnesota congresswoman and the gay community. Yesterday, in its Sunday edition, the New York Times devoted a front page article on the issue while Politico followed up today with a piece about gay rights groups targeting the candidate.
Bachmann’s longstanding and passionate opposition to gay marriage and her husband’s alleged use of “reparative therapy” to “cure” homosexuals in his Christian-based practice have both become major stories. This raises the question whether the attention devoted to this topic as well as the increasing fury of gay activist groups will negatively impact her chances. The answer is, probably not in Iowa or other early conservative primary states. But if gays, rather than fiscal conservatism becomes the first thing you think of when Bachmann’s name is mentioned, this may wind up as an obstacle to her nomination.