Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 19, 2011

GOP Sounds More Unified Note on Debt Ceiling

Last week, Jonathan noted one advantage Democrats have had so far in the debt ceiling debate: message unity. Republicans, on the other hand, were dealing with a constant flow of stories about GOP dissonance. Who was in charge of the party? Are the Tea Partiers or moderates calling the shots? The Democrats were happy to use the perception of a lack of discipline to erode the public’s faith in the GOP’s willingness to find solutions.

Today, however, I think Mitch McConnell found a way to turn it around. McConnell took to the floor today to urge Democrats to pass the House GOP’s “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill, which would cut spending, cap federal spending limits at 18 percent of GDP, and enact a constitutional balanced budget amendment (BBA). The House was to vote on the measure today, despite threats from President Obama that he will veto the bill.

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Last week, Jonathan noted one advantage Democrats have had so far in the debt ceiling debate: message unity. Republicans, on the other hand, were dealing with a constant flow of stories about GOP dissonance. Who was in charge of the party? Are the Tea Partiers or moderates calling the shots? The Democrats were happy to use the perception of a lack of discipline to erode the public’s faith in the GOP’s willingness to find solutions.

Today, however, I think Mitch McConnell found a way to turn it around. McConnell took to the floor today to urge Democrats to pass the House GOP’s “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill, which would cut spending, cap federal spending limits at 18 percent of GDP, and enact a constitutional balanced budget amendment (BBA). The House was to vote on the measure today, despite threats from President Obama that he will veto the bill.

Conservative groups have been pushing a “Cut, Cap, and Balance” pledge to encourage lawmakers to commit to passing such a bill. FreedomWorks was among the first groups to sponsor the pledge. Last month Dean Clancy, FreedomWorks’ legislative counsel and vice president for health care policy, warned in an op-ed that without a BBA, “spending reductions could be easily undone, after the next election, in fact.”

Of course, the House would be voting on the measure with or without McConnell’s involvement, but the minority leader was happy to remind Democrats in the Senate that they claim to support the principles behind the legislation. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, for example, has said this: “Over the years, I have supported a balanced budget amendment, spending caps, and spending cuts”—sounds an awful lot like what the GOP is bringing to the floor. McConnell has been making it clear that he prefers the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” approach. His Plan B, the proposal that would allow Obama to raise the debt ceiling without reforms but without Republican approval, is a last resort.

There’s no question the Tea Party is still relevant. This is their issue, and they represent a significant organic movement of Americans who oppose Obama’s approach to the debt. They remain utterly unconvinced the debt ceiling should be raised without structural reforms. The GOP is going to offer serious cuts and force Obama to veto it. They’ve also got McConnell’s plan in his back pocket, which forces the president to own the consequences of raising the debt ceiling without cuts. Both position the GOP to effectively push back against the claims they aren’t prepared to solve the problems of the debt ceiling and the debt itself.

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Bachmann’s Ordeal Illustrates a Brutal Nominating Process

Michele Bachmann is not my ideal presidential candidate by any means. But watching what she and her family are now having to endure – from, as Jonathan noted, the report in the Daily Caller about Representative Bachmann frequently suffering from stress-induced migraine headaches which have led to hospital visits and involves heavy pill use to control her condition; to the twisted and perverted attacks on her during the Bill Maher Show; to allegations that her husband is a repressed gay man — is a reminder of how brutal the presidential nominating process can be.

Obviously a serious medical condition would be relevant information to know prior to people casting votes. Ms. Bachmann has responded to the Daily Caller story, saying, “Like nearly 30 million other Americans, I experience migraines that are easily controlled with medication…. I have prescribed medication that I take whenever symptoms arise and they keep the migraines under control. Let me be abundantly clear – my ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines and will not affect my ability to serve as Commander in Chief.”

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Michele Bachmann is not my ideal presidential candidate by any means. But watching what she and her family are now having to endure – from, as Jonathan noted, the report in the Daily Caller about Representative Bachmann frequently suffering from stress-induced migraine headaches which have led to hospital visits and involves heavy pill use to control her condition; to the twisted and perverted attacks on her during the Bill Maher Show; to allegations that her husband is a repressed gay man — is a reminder of how brutal the presidential nominating process can be.

Obviously a serious medical condition would be relevant information to know prior to people casting votes. Ms. Bachmann has responded to the Daily Caller story, saying, “Like nearly 30 million other Americans, I experience migraines that are easily controlled with medication…. I have prescribed medication that I take whenever symptoms arise and they keep the migraines under control. Let me be abundantly clear – my ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines and will not affect my ability to serve as Commander in Chief.”

This story obviously isn’t over; we’ll be hearing more about Bachmann’s medical condition in the days and weeks ahead. My point is simply that in this country, more than most, we demand that those who seek to lead us be put through the kind of intense examination of our lives that would unnerve most ordinary people.

It’s not simply that one should expect that every misstep and error in judgment in one’s life will be revealed and covered; it is that cartoon images, false stories, and scurrilous rumors have a way of breaking through as well. “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” Winston Churchill said even before the Internet age. And no candidate of either party is given a free pass, though there’s no question in my mind that certain figures (like Bachmann and Sarah Palin) trigger a somewhat sickening obsession and pathological hatred among some people.

Here’s the other thing: You can warn candidates what to expect in advance — but there’s nothing that can prepare you for being at the center of the storm. The people who run for president are expected to go through a lot. Sometimes I wonder if they’re expected to go through too much, and as a result of it our politics and society suffer.

In watching what Ms. Bachmann is having to endure Governor Mitch Daniels, who decided against running for president for personal reasons, may decide that he made the right decision after all. When the nominating process begins to push away good people, it’s a shame for them, and for us.

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Obama’s Prospects Look Bleak in Virginia

Katie Glueck of the Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting story on how President Obama looms over the impending U.S. Senate race in Virginia between former governor and DNC chairman Tim Kaine and former governor and ex-Senator George Allen. But what I found particularly interesting is the polling data that showed that among Independent voters there, the president’s approval rating is 41 percent while 54 percent disapprove. This indicates two things: first, Kaine is going to emphasize his tenure as governor rather than DNC chairman, when he worked closely with Obama; and second, the president faces an uphill climb in Virginia.

Remember, too, that Virginia was a showcase state for Democrats in 2008. Obama carried it against John McCain; it was supposed to symbolize the rise of the Democratic Party under Obama as traditionally Republicans states were being snatched up by Democrats. But only a year later – in the 2009 gubernatorial election – Republican Bob McDonnell won by nearly 20 points. And now, 16 months before the 2012 election, President Obama is underwater by 13 points among Independents.

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Katie Glueck of the Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting story on how President Obama looms over the impending U.S. Senate race in Virginia between former governor and DNC chairman Tim Kaine and former governor and ex-Senator George Allen. But what I found particularly interesting is the polling data that showed that among Independent voters there, the president’s approval rating is 41 percent while 54 percent disapprove. This indicates two things: first, Kaine is going to emphasize his tenure as governor rather than DNC chairman, when he worked closely with Obama; and second, the president faces an uphill climb in Virginia.

Remember, too, that Virginia was a showcase state for Democrats in 2008. Obama carried it against John McCain; it was supposed to symbolize the rise of the Democratic Party under Obama as traditionally Republicans states were being snatched up by Democrats. But only a year later – in the 2009 gubernatorial election – Republican Bob McDonnell won by nearly 20 points. And now, 16 months before the 2012 election, President Obama is underwater by 13 points among Independents.

In the end, presidential races come down to winning and losing states – and a lot of traditionally Republican states (like Indiana and North Carolina) that Obama picked off in 2008 will be out of reach for him come 2012. And my guess is Virginia will fall into the category as well.

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Re: By Israeli Left’s Standard, U.S. Pledge Would Be Fascist, Too

Evelyn, that reminds me of a story Ariel Sharon tells in his memoirs, about how Jewish pride is a prerequisite for survival:

When Mr. Begin was elected prime minister, he left for the United States on a state visit. At the airport a beautiful leavetaking ceremony was held for him. Flags and banners were flying, Israeli Air Force jets were flying over, all the dignitaries were there to see him off. After shaking hands with the group that had assembled there, Mr. Begin walked along the line of flags and banners until he came to the national flag, and there he paused and bowed his head. This was broadcast directly on the radio and then described in the newspapers. And the reporting had an element of sarcasm in it, a touch of mockery about the fact that Mr. Begin had actually bowed his head in front of the flag.

Sharon then goes on to describe the ceremony held in Egypt after Israel and Egypt signed their peace agreement:

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Evelyn, that reminds me of a story Ariel Sharon tells in his memoirs, about how Jewish pride is a prerequisite for survival:

When Mr. Begin was elected prime minister, he left for the United States on a state visit. At the airport a beautiful leavetaking ceremony was held for him. Flags and banners were flying, Israeli Air Force jets were flying over, all the dignitaries were there to see him off. After shaking hands with the group that had assembled there, Mr. Begin walked along the line of flags and banners until he came to the national flag, and there he paused and bowed his head. This was broadcast directly on the radio and then described in the newspapers. And the reporting had an element of sarcasm in it, a touch of mockery about the fact that Mr. Begin had actually bowed his head in front of the flag.

Sharon then goes on to describe the ceremony held in Egypt after Israel and Egypt signed their peace agreement:

The announcers described how two tall Egyptian officers were holding swords in their hands and escorting a third officer who was carrying the Egyptian flag. They described how the officers approached President Sadat, and how Sadat bowed and kissed the flag. As they pictured the scene, the announcers’ voices were in a state of high excitement. And it sounded very natural. After all, it was a great event for Egypt, and the Egyptian national flag symbolized all that the moment meant. That’s how the radio reporters described it, with the dignity and emotion it deserved. And these were exactly the same people who had shown such an edge of cynicism when Mr. Begin bowed to the Israeli flag. And this, if you ask me, is the problem. Not security, not the economy, not whether a peace conference should have an international umbrella, only this. And if we could solve this, we could solve all the rest.

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Sinking Polls Contradict Obama Claims

Last week, a Gallup Poll showed President Obama receiving only 39 percent of the vote against an unnamed Republican candidate. Today we learn, courtesy of Scott Rasmussen, that his poll, too, finds the president now earns his lowest level of support yet against a generic Republican candidate in a hypothetical 2012 election matchup (a generic Republican earns support from 47 percent of likely voters while the president picks up 41 percent of the vote). And over the weekend, according to Gallup, Obama’s approval rating sank to 42 percent approval v. 50 disapprove.

What’s interesting is these sinking polling numbers are occurring in the midst of the debt ceiling debate, which (we’re constantly being told) Obama is not only winning but dominating. What I suspect is happening is that everyone involved in this matter is being hurt, from Republicans on Capitol Hill, to Congress as an institution, to Obama himself. And one individual who is not being stained by this mess is the eventual GOP nominee, whoever that person is.

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Last week, a Gallup Poll showed President Obama receiving only 39 percent of the vote against an unnamed Republican candidate. Today we learn, courtesy of Scott Rasmussen, that his poll, too, finds the president now earns his lowest level of support yet against a generic Republican candidate in a hypothetical 2012 election matchup (a generic Republican earns support from 47 percent of likely voters while the president picks up 41 percent of the vote). And over the weekend, according to Gallup, Obama’s approval rating sank to 42 percent approval v. 50 disapprove.

What’s interesting is these sinking polling numbers are occurring in the midst of the debt ceiling debate, which (we’re constantly being told) Obama is not only winning but dominating. What I suspect is happening is that everyone involved in this matter is being hurt, from Republicans on Capitol Hill, to Congress as an institution, to Obama himself. And one individual who is not being stained by this mess is the eventual GOP nominee, whoever that person is.

It is almost accepted as received truth the GOP made a mistake in turning the debt ceiling debate into a fight over principle. Perhaps. But perhaps the president did as well.

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By Israeli Left’s Standard, U.S. Pledge Would Be Fascist, Too

Did you know most Americans would be considered fascist by a significant portion of Israel’s left? Neither did I, until a few days ago. But that’s the inescapable conclusion from the left’s reaction to a new Israeli Education Ministry directive requiring Jewish kindergartens (Arab schools would be exempt) to start the week by raising the Israeli flag and singing the national anthem, Hatikvah.

“It looks like a competition between members of the Likud [the ruling party] to see who can push us faster into the arms of fascism,” thundered Prof. Gabi Solomon of the University of Haifa.

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Did you know most Americans would be considered fascist by a significant portion of Israel’s left? Neither did I, until a few days ago. But that’s the inescapable conclusion from the left’s reaction to a new Israeli Education Ministry directive requiring Jewish kindergartens (Arab schools would be exempt) to start the week by raising the Israeli flag and singing the national anthem, Hatikvah.

“It looks like a competition between members of the Likud [the ruling party] to see who can push us faster into the arms of fascism,” thundered Prof. Gabi Solomon of the University of Haifa.

“Part of a growing trend of inculcating nationalistic and militaristic values,” screamed an Arab nongovernmental organization.

“This directive is reminiscent of education in a totalitarian society; it gives me the shivers,” charged a lecturer at a leading teacher’s college [Hebrew only].

“It’s brainwashing,” added a kindergarten teacher.

Like millions of other Americans, I attended a public kindergarten and elementary school that raised the flag every day and had its students recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.  I certainly never thought that made the American school system fascist, nor, I imagine, did most Americans. But by comparison, the Israeli directive is mild: It’s only once a week; it only applies to kindergartens; it a priori exempts an entire sector of society (the Arabs) that might be expected to find the practice uncomfortable; and unlike the Pledge, with its controversial reference to “one nation under God,” Hatikvah includes no mention of God at all. So if this directive makes Israel a fascist, totalitarian state, I can only conclude the America I grew up in was even more so.

Because the roots of Israel’s legal system are European rather than American, certain Israeli laws understandably make Americans uncomfortable. Like most European states, for instance, Israel allows greater restrictions on freedom of speech than America’s First Amendment would permit; hence certain statements that would be protected speech in America could be prosecutable as incitement to violence or incitement to racism in Israel. These differences make it easier for Americans to believe Israeli leftists who claim Israel is becoming an undemocratic country.

But what most Americans don’t realize is that what Israeli leftists term “anti-democratic” includes a lot of things Americans would consider perfectly legitimate. For instance, Israel’s leading civil rights organization, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, asserts that a law denying state funding to commemorations of the Nakba (literally, “catastrophe,” the Arabic term for Israel’s establishment) “crosses a red line in suppressing freedom of expression.” Yet how many Americans would feel that “freedom of expression” required their government to actually finance ceremonies mourning their country’s establishment as a catastrophe?

So next time you hear Israeli leftists talking about how Israel is turning fascist, just remember: If you don’t have a problem with schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, then in their eyes, so are you.

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Conventional Wisdom Frames a Faulty Storyline to Suit Obama on Debt

In his interview with Don Imus, CBS’s Bob Schieffer said that today’s vote on The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011 is a “total waste of time, the votes aren’t there to get the thing passed. Whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, and so it’s kind of part of this little Kabuki dance that we go through.”

Schieffer represents the Conventional Wisdom about as well as anyone — and in this case, the CW seems to be that the GOP plan is a “total waste of time,” unreasonable, unserious, and inflexible, while anything President Obama demands is fair, balanced, thoughtful and Solomon-like. But exactly why is it that Republicans should be expected to embrace higher taxes when, say, Obamacare is considered untouchable?

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In his interview with Don Imus, CBS’s Bob Schieffer said that today’s vote on The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011 is a “total waste of time, the votes aren’t there to get the thing passed. Whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, and so it’s kind of part of this little Kabuki dance that we go through.”

Schieffer represents the Conventional Wisdom about as well as anyone — and in this case, the CW seems to be that the GOP plan is a “total waste of time,” unreasonable, unserious, and inflexible, while anything President Obama demands is fair, balanced, thoughtful and Solomon-like. But exactly why is it that Republicans should be expected to embrace higher taxes when, say, Obamacare is considered untouchable?

Says who?

Obamacare, after all, is highly unpopular, extremely expensive, and deeply damaging to the national interest. But because it’s Obama’s signature domestic piece of legislation, the rest of us are supposed to view it as some kind of legislative masterpiece? Sorry, but I for one don’t accept those ground rules.

And why should the GOP be expected to cede ground on taxes when the White House, beginning a few weeks ago, began to privately pull back from structural reforms to entitlement programs? Why is it that a serious if imperfect plan (see Keith Hennessey’s fine analysis here): is deemed a “total waste of time” instead of the president’s veto threat being characterized as dismissive, intransigent, and irresponsible – especially since the president himself has yet to offer anything more than vague promises, shifting commitments, and banalities?

The answer is obvious: Most of the commentators framing this debate are acting on liberal precepts. They accept, in the main, Obama’s view of the world. And so they believe his negotiating position is fairly reasonable while the Republican approach is utterly irresponsible. What makes this whole thing somewhat amusing is people like Schieffer are so blind to their biases they don’t consider themselves anything other than objective. And so the storyline of this debate is that Obama has offered compromises and Republicans have been obstinate.

Let me offer another storyline for consideration: During an unprecedented two-year spending binge, the Republican Party has offered a concrete plan to raise the debt ceiling without raising taxes. But Barack Obama, a man of the left, has stubbornly insisted that taxes be raised — not because they are economically helpful but because higher taxes are part of the liberal catechism.

The mainstream media won’t accept this narrative, of course – but the public might be more open to it than most people–including some Republicans–might think.

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Gang’s Deal May Mean Business as Usual

At this point, many in Washington are so spooked by the possibility of an actual default in the aftermath of a failure to raise the debt ceiling, they are ready for any compromise. That explains the enthusiasm with which many in the Senate greeted the revival of the previously moribund “Gang of Six” Senate plan for a resolution of the budget impasse. But the eagerness with which President Obama also endorsed the proposal should alert Senate Republicans to the fact that this deal represents a significant retreat from the compromises proposed by House Speaker John Boehner when he attempted to negotiate his own “grand solution” with Obama earlier this month.

While the gang’s plan does call for tax simplification that would conform to longstanding Republican ideas about reform, there are only half a trillion dollars in immediate cuts with promises of far more in the future. On the surface it may seem as if it is a fair compromise because it includes spending reductions as well as some tax increases. But the devil is in the details. It is difficult to see how it arrives at the total of $3.7 trillion cuts that are promised.

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At this point, many in Washington are so spooked by the possibility of an actual default in the aftermath of a failure to raise the debt ceiling, they are ready for any compromise. That explains the enthusiasm with which many in the Senate greeted the revival of the previously moribund “Gang of Six” Senate plan for a resolution of the budget impasse. But the eagerness with which President Obama also endorsed the proposal should alert Senate Republicans to the fact that this deal represents a significant retreat from the compromises proposed by House Speaker John Boehner when he attempted to negotiate his own “grand solution” with Obama earlier this month.

While the gang’s plan does call for tax simplification that would conform to longstanding Republican ideas about reform, there are only half a trillion dollars in immediate cuts with promises of far more in the future. On the surface it may seem as if it is a fair compromise because it includes spending reductions as well as some tax increases. But the devil is in the details. It is difficult to see how it arrives at the total of $3.7 trillion cuts that are promised.

Though there is talk of some reform of the entitlements that are sinking the nation, the plan is vague about how that is accomplished. It rejects a balanced budget amendment that many in the GOP rightly think could act as a deterrent to efforts to evade fiscal discipline ,and it keeps the biggest new and costly entitlement — Obamacare — off the table. Since the tax increases are to be passed separately from the cuts and the rollbacks on entitlements, House Republicans who believe their mandate is to change a failed system rather than to enable it to continue can be forgiven for wondering if they are being played for suckers.

Only the most trusting of souls can believe the Democratic majority in the Senate and the White House can be relied upon to follow through with all of these promises once they have pocketed the debt ceiling increase. Indeed, if the gang’s plan is the basis for a debt ceiling deal, it is hard to believe Obama and the Democrats will not find a way to delay the cuts they don’t like so as to continue to engage in their cherished Mediscare demagoguery during the 2012 election.

While a way to raise the debt ceiling must be found, a vague deal that would essentially act as a roadblock to genuine reform of entitlements and spending while also raising taxes would have to be considered a defeat for Republicans who came to Washington this year determined to end the business as usual attitude of the Congress. Perhaps their hopes were always unrealistic, but the eagerness with which some Republican senators are seizing on this idea as a way out of a difficult problem says more about their distaste for standing up to the White House than it does about the virtues of the plan.

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DeMint: “Suicidal” for GOP to Vote for McConnell Plan

At the Heritage Foundation today, Sen. Jim DeMint said that it would be “suicidal” for House GOP members to vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s “Plan B” for the debt ceiling, but he stopped short of saying he would actively work to oust Republicans who support the proposal.

“I’m going to be very involved in primaries, but I don’t have plans right now to be involved in primaries against [Republican] incumbents,” said DeMint.

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At the Heritage Foundation today, Sen. Jim DeMint said that it would be “suicidal” for House GOP members to vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s “Plan B” for the debt ceiling, but he stopped short of saying he would actively work to oust Republicans who support the proposal.

“I’m going to be very involved in primaries, but I don’t have plans right now to be involved in primaries against [Republican] incumbents,” said DeMint.

Other conservative leaders have already vowed not to support GOP lawmakers who vote for McConnell’s plan. FreedomWorks, American Majority Action, Let Freedom Ring and the Club for Growth sent a joint letter to congressional Republicans today, announcing that the conservative groups will “refrain from backing any Member of Congress or candidate for federal office, or a leadership position in a Republican Caucus, who supports the McConnell—Reid—Pelosi ‘Cut, Run, and Hide’ plan, to the extent that our various legal structures  and rules allow.”

While DeMint might not be actively involved in these efforts, he warned that third-party challenges could be disastrous for the GOP.

“I think for Republicans to cave on this after what happened with the continuing resolution, again, I think you see a deterioration in our base of support and a whole lot of third-party activity,” said DeMint. “I’m afraid this is make-or-break time for Republicans.”

With 2012 being a presidential election year, it’s hard to imagine established conservative groups will have the resources or time to support a substantial number of third-party bids. So except for lawmakers already receiving significant backing from these groups, the threat may not be enough of a deterrent.

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Pie Incident Shows Pettiness of Murdoch Critics

Rupert Murdoch’s opponents may have jumped the shark with the pie-in-the-face attack during his testimony today. Not only did Murdoch come off as a sympathetic figure, but his political enemies exposed themselves as people motivated by hatred for the media mogul rather than ethical concerns.

The legendary newspaper titan appeared diminished as he stumbled through the questioning, alternatively pounding the table with his fist, interrupting his son with non sequiturs, and pleading ignorance to many of the questions.

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Rupert Murdoch’s opponents may have jumped the shark with the pie-in-the-face attack during his testimony today. Not only did Murdoch come off as a sympathetic figure, but his political enemies exposed themselves as people motivated by hatred for the media mogul rather than ethical concerns.

The legendary newspaper titan appeared diminished as he stumbled through the questioning, alternatively pounding the table with his fist, interrupting his son with non sequiturs, and pleading ignorance to many of the questions.

“This is the most humble day of my life,” he interjected at one point.

“The great old man of newspapers looked hopelessly out of touch in the early stages of the father and son grilling in front of MPs today,” wrote the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh.

Whether Murdoch’s behavior was genuine or an intentional strategy, his doddering testimony may have helped boost his public image. Instead of coming off as divisive, he seemed like a fairly harmless octogenarian on the brink of retirement.

Cementing this image was the activist who hit Murdoch with a pie in the face. After all, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for an 80-year-old man getting attacked – on live TV, on the “most humbled” day of his life – by an obnoxious young comedian.

The attack “transformed Murdoch into a sympathetic figure, an old man under attack from a young one,” wrote Paul Owen at the Guardian. “He ended the session having the last word, able to express his contrition to the country.”

And fortunately for Murdoch, it may have transformed the storyline. The pie incident is currently dominating headlines, and much of the coverage is sympathetic. The Los Angeles Times led its story on the hearing with, “News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch endured not only verbal blows but also an attempted physical attack Tuesday.”

Murdoch’s opponents were hoping to embarrass him. Instead, they ended up looking petty and politically-motivated – which is probably the best outcome News Corp. could have hoped for.

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Does Perry’s “Toughness” Give Him an Edge?

President Obama has earned a reputation as lacking toughness. His liberal base, manifestly unwilling to confront or criticize America’s enemies, would say this is by design–the mark of an enlightened global citizen. But the reputation exists whether by accident or intent.

Rick Perry, on the other hand, has a reputation much the opposite, which has given rise to the new Twitter account @RickPerryFacts. Christian Heinze at The Hill offers some of his favorites tweets from the account:

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President Obama has earned a reputation as lacking toughness. His liberal base, manifestly unwilling to confront or criticize America’s enemies, would say this is by design–the mark of an enlightened global citizen. But the reputation exists whether by accident or intent.

Rick Perry, on the other hand, has a reputation much the opposite, which has given rise to the new Twitter account @RickPerryFacts. Christian Heinze at The Hill offers some of his favorites tweets from the account:

The Roman Empire didn’t fall, Rick Perry tripped it.

Rick Perry can hold his breath for an entire Yanni concert.

Rick Perry’s calendar skips straight from March 31 to April 2. Nobody fools Rick Perry.

Rick Perry can kill two stones with one bird.

Here are some of my favorites from the Twitter feed:

Rick Perry can give bees and peanuts anaphylactic shock.

Sharks have a week dedicated to Rick Perry.

Rick Perry has never lost a sock in the dryer. Ever.

All of Rick Perry’s genes are dominant.

You get the point. But all this fun has a serious side, namely: Perry has made an indelible impression on enough voters to encourage this sort of thing. But will Perry’s reputation for toughness help him if he chooses to run for president?

The perception of “toughness” by voters is generally an emotional response, and it’s not as easy to transmit as one might think. For example, Herman Cain’s declaration that towns somehow can ban mosques was not viewed by voters as a “tough” stand on the issue, it was interpreted as wacky and offensive. Another question is: Does it pay to be tough? That is, should voters prefer to have a tough guy as president? Believe it or not, there is some scientific research on the subject, and the findings will delight Perry’s fans.

In 2001, researchers from the California Institute of Technology and the School of Economics at Tel Aviv University studied the science behind symmetric and asymmetric bargaining games. They concluded that when “the inherent toughness of the bargainer is observed by the opponent, this opponent will adjust his behavior accordingly, in a way which may enhance the actual payoff of the biased bargainer,” and that there may be an evolutionary element to “toughness.”

In any event, Perry isn’t shying away from it, and has even given some indication he would favor a muscular foreign policy, perhaps reinforcing the reputation. Katrina Trinko reports Perry met with former Bush administration foreign policy experts, including Douglas Feith, who was undersecretary of defense for policy as the administration was forming its response to the 9/11 attacks. (Feith was also one of the original targets when the Left began using the term “neocon” to mean “nefarious Jewish warmonger with divided loyalties.”)

Also important for Perry is that none of the current Republican candidates possess a reputation for toughness–they may have it, but there isn’t an immediate association in voters’ minds.

One thing to remember, though, is that the 2012 election, much like the 2008 election, is shaping up to be anything but a national security referendum. That may help Obama if he runs against a candidate who counts toughness as being among his chief virtues. But if the unemployment rate doesn’t drop and the economy doesn’t experience real movement in the right direction, the man who ordered the successful operation against Osama bin Laden will be wishing the election was about foreign policy.

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Assad’s Survival Threatens U.S. Interests

With each passing day, the situation in Syria worsens as government forces continue a violent crackdown on dissent that has already cost hundreds, if not thousands of lives. The latest reports also indicate the killing is taking on a sectarian nature as members of the minority Alawite sect to which the ruling Assad family belongs are being recruited to go into the streets to attack the regime’s critics. But those who claim this is none of America’s business need to take into account that while the Assad government is killing its own people with impunity, it is also continuing its policy of spreading deadly arms around the region.

The Australian is reporting that even as the Syrian army surrounded Hama threatening to massacre that city’s inhabitants, the regime has accelerated the shipping of missiles and other weapons to its Hezbollah terrorist allies in Lebanon. According to the newspaper, the Syrians have, with the help of imported technicians from Iran and North Korea, developed sophisticated missiles at a secret plant in the mountains near Hama. Operating with heavy financial aid from Iran, the Syrians have shipped SCUD missiles in the last year to Hezbollah in Lebanon in order to bolster the terror group’s ability to threaten Israel. But unlike Hezbollah’s existing arsenal of short-range missiles, these SCUDs put all of Israel –as well as Jordan and parts of Turkey–within range. As a source told the paper, this is the first time a terror group has ever possessed weapons of this kind.

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With each passing day, the situation in Syria worsens as government forces continue a violent crackdown on dissent that has already cost hundreds, if not thousands of lives. The latest reports also indicate the killing is taking on a sectarian nature as members of the minority Alawite sect to which the ruling Assad family belongs are being recruited to go into the streets to attack the regime’s critics. But those who claim this is none of America’s business need to take into account that while the Assad government is killing its own people with impunity, it is also continuing its policy of spreading deadly arms around the region.

The Australian is reporting that even as the Syrian army surrounded Hama threatening to massacre that city’s inhabitants, the regime has accelerated the shipping of missiles and other weapons to its Hezbollah terrorist allies in Lebanon. According to the newspaper, the Syrians have, with the help of imported technicians from Iran and North Korea, developed sophisticated missiles at a secret plant in the mountains near Hama. Operating with heavy financial aid from Iran, the Syrians have shipped SCUD missiles in the last year to Hezbollah in Lebanon in order to bolster the terror group’s ability to threaten Israel. But unlike Hezbollah’s existing arsenal of short-range missiles, these SCUDs put all of Israel –as well as Jordan and parts of Turkey–within range. As a source told the paper, this is the first time a terror group has ever possessed weapons of this kind.

The Syrian role in arming Hezbollah highlights the crisis in that country and the increasingly reckless use of force by a government desperate to hold onto power at any cost is something that ought to concern the entire world. Though the Obama administration spent its first years in office acting as if Damascus could be diverted from its Iranian alliance and make peace with Israel, those illusions seem to have been abandoned even by the dreamers in the White House.

While it is true the United States cannot fix every country that is broken or involve itself in every conflict, the Assad regime poses a threat not only to the lives of ordinary Syrians but to the entire region. Indeed, rather than the Syrian protests being an example of how the Arab Spring movement can undermine even the most ruthless of dictators, the outcome of the struggle there will be the harbinger of the end of any hope for Arab democracy or peace. A continued U.S. policy of indifference towards Assad’s efforts to perpetuate the Alawite/Assad family dictatorship is a mistake. So long as the Assads are in a position to threaten the region, American interests will remain under threat.

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Party Affiliation Determined Coverage of State-Union Battles

During the last several months, the governors of three states have gone toe-to-toe with powerful state unions in order to undo the harm done by their predecessors’ capitulations to state workers on wages and benefits. In Wisconsin and New Jersey, Republicans Scott Walker and Chris Christie were subjected to unprecedented abuse by the unions and their supporters. Yet in New York, Andrew Cuomo not only overcame union resistance, he managed to do so without much negative press, let alone the deluge of insults and demonization his colleagues suffered.

While some who have covered the New York story suggest the main difference for the treatment accorded Cuomo stemmed from his less confrontational tactics and personality, the truth is, the main difference is his party affiliation.

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During the last several months, the governors of three states have gone toe-to-toe with powerful state unions in order to undo the harm done by their predecessors’ capitulations to state workers on wages and benefits. In Wisconsin and New Jersey, Republicans Scott Walker and Chris Christie were subjected to unprecedented abuse by the unions and their supporters. Yet in New York, Andrew Cuomo not only overcame union resistance, he managed to do so without much negative press, let alone the deluge of insults and demonization his colleagues suffered.

While some who have covered the New York story suggest the main difference for the treatment accorded Cuomo stemmed from his less confrontational tactics and personality, the truth is, the main difference is his party affiliation.

It is true Cuomo is not as abrasive as Christie. Nor did he seek structural reforms as Walker did, because the Wisconsin governor rightly understood the only way these changes could be made permanent is to deprive the unions of their ability to hold the state hostage via collective bargaining.

But Cuomo’s principal advantage was that his identity as a newly elected Democrat meant the hitherto all-powerful state employee unions simply lacked the ability to mount a campaign smearing the governor as a heartless creature whose sole aim was to cause suffering, as Walker and Christie’s critics did. Any Republican governor who demanded the same cuts and givebacks that Cuomo put on the table would have been the subject of a major campaign aimed at delegitimizing his mandate to put the state’s financial house in order. Lacking the same political leverage their colleagues in Wisconsin and New Jersey possessed, the New York unions were forced to meekly bow to Cuomo’s dictates and accept drastic changes in compensation and benefits. Instead of being branded as a polarizing figure as was the case with Walker and Christie, Cuomo gets to play the state’s fiscal hero.

It is little surprise that after this success some are already talking up Cuomo s a Democratic presidential contender for 2016. Yet as much as he deserves the praise for taking on a tough situation, the main lesson of this story is to show just how biased is the coverage of the not dissimilar confrontations elsewhere. As much as the collective bargaining issue helped generate sympathy for Wisconsin unions which refused to accept responsibility for the state’s parlous financial health, Walker’s goals were very similar to those of Cuomo. It should also be noted that like Cuomo, Christie didn’t touch the collective bargaining issue. Yet, he was branded a “Nazi” by rabble-rousing union thugs just like Walker, a slur never aimed once at the governor of New York.

The moral of the story is that unions and their cheering section in the liberal mainstream media can call a fiscally responsible Republican any name in the book and make it stick. But Democrats with the same intent get to play by different rules of engagement that can allow them to get tough with unions without being smeared. To note, this is not to diminish Cuomo’s achievement, but it does give lie to the outrageous charges of the many media outlets that did their best to demonize Walker and Christie while barely saying a word about Cuomo.

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Chris Christie’s Fundraising Prowess Puts Dems On Defensive

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s popularity with national Republicans and many independents has led to constant chatter about the possibility of Christie running for president. While Republican primary voters (and countless campaign consultants) remain disappointed he has thus far rejected the idea, the Republican party in his home state couldn’t be happier.

That’s because Christie has been a fundraising machine for the New Jersey state GOP, which pulled in $1 million in the second quarter of the year. And the numbers are moving in the right direction: the party’s second-quarter numbers surpassed the $740,000 raised in the first quarter of the year. The Democrats raised $189,000 in each of the first two quarters of the year. In November, every seat in the state legislature is up for election.

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s popularity with national Republicans and many independents has led to constant chatter about the possibility of Christie running for president. While Republican primary voters (and countless campaign consultants) remain disappointed he has thus far rejected the idea, the Republican party in his home state couldn’t be happier.

That’s because Christie has been a fundraising machine for the New Jersey state GOP, which pulled in $1 million in the second quarter of the year. And the numbers are moving in the right direction: the party’s second-quarter numbers surpassed the $740,000 raised in the first quarter of the year. The Democrats raised $189,000 in each of the first two quarters of the year. In November, every seat in the state legislature is up for election.

State Democratic Party Chairman John Wisniewski gave his best attempt at dismissing the numbers. “With Christie in the governor’s office, we knew the Republicans were going to put up bigger numbers than they ever have in the past,” Wisniewski said. “Democrats are focused on what we do best, growing our base and bringing our message to front doors, union halls and local organizations all across New Jersey.”

This will present a challenge to Wisniewski, who became party chairman in January 2010, as Christie was taking office. Wisniewski’s most glaring weakness has always been his prickliness about intraparty squabbles, and Christie’s legislative successes against the ubiquitous and powerful public unions have only further divided the Democrats. And now he must deal with an exceedingly rare 5-to-1 fundraising disadvantage even when they have a 14-point voter registration advantage. Democratic State Senate President Stephen Sweeney is more popular among Republicans than he is among Democrats–no doubt in part because of his support for some of Christie’s legislation.

But that last point is really what’s behind Christie’s efforts to help the state GOP. There is only so much help he will get from Sweeney, even when Christie’s initiatives are popular. And that well might be about to run dry.

Earlier this month, Democrats defied Christie’s request to work together on a budget and instead released their own. Christie vetoed much of the Democrats’ spending and signed his version of it. Sweeney exploded. “This is all about [Christie] being a bully and a punk,” he told the Star-Ledger. “I wanted to punch him in his head.”

A more telling comment from Sweeney followed. “To prove a point to me — a guy who has stood side by side with him, and made tough decisions — for him to punish people to prove his political point? He’s just a rotten bastard to do what he did.”

Sweeney was doing two things with this remark. He was signaling to his liberal constituents and interest groups that he is not there to rubber-stamp Christie’s projects, and he was telling Christie that with an election coming up, he is out of political capital he can (or will) spend on conservative legislation–for now. What Christie needs–both if he wants to win reelection and if he wants to pass any legislation in a second term–is to have more Republicans in office. Democrats have a 24-16 advantage in the state senate, and a 47-33 lead in the assembly.

Christie may be a commanding personality occupying one of the most powerful governorships in the country, but he still needs the legislature to pass far-reaching reforms. For that, he needs a stronger Republican party at home. His fundraising success is the first step.

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RNC Calls for Investigation of Obama Campaign Video

After President Obama filmed a campaign video in what appeared to be the White House Map Room last month, there were allegations from conservatives that it may have violated fundraising rules that bar the president from soliciting donations in rooms where he conducts White House business. The Republican National Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday, asking the Justice Department to investigate the matter:

[RNC chair Reince] Priebus accused the president of recording a fundraising appeal in the Map Room of the White House. He said it is “not part of the White House residence, but rather ‘occupied in the discharge of official duties,'” and called for the Department of Justice to investigate.

The Map Room is located on the ground floor of the White House.

“According to multiple individuals with knowledge of the White House’s rooms and layout, the video appears to have been recorded in the Map Room…the White House Counsel has indicated that the video was filmed somewhere in the residential portion of the White House,” Priebus said.

It is illegal to solicit contributions for a political purpose from any area of the White House “occupied in the discharge of official duties,” or, used for purposes of official White House business.

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After President Obama filmed a campaign video in what appeared to be the White House Map Room last month, there were allegations from conservatives that it may have violated fundraising rules that bar the president from soliciting donations in rooms where he conducts White House business. The Republican National Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday, asking the Justice Department to investigate the matter:

[RNC chair Reince] Priebus accused the president of recording a fundraising appeal in the Map Room of the White House. He said it is “not part of the White House residence, but rather ‘occupied in the discharge of official duties,'” and called for the Department of Justice to investigate.

The Map Room is located on the ground floor of the White House.

“According to multiple individuals with knowledge of the White House’s rooms and layout, the video appears to have been recorded in the Map Room…the White House Counsel has indicated that the video was filmed somewhere in the residential portion of the White House,” Priebus said.

It is illegal to solicit contributions for a political purpose from any area of the White House “occupied in the discharge of official duties,” or, used for purposes of official White House business.

While the Obama campaign hasn’t said outright that the video was filmed in the Map Room, they did seem to imply that it was in comments to CNN.

“As we’ve said in the past, this was wholly appropriate and routinely done in past administrations,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “Many lawyers and experts have all said publicly that what this administration is doing is completely above board,” Schultz fired back.

The legal issues surrounding this are tricky, though some see it as a solid case against Obama. The Map Room is technically considered part of the White House residence, but Obama also conducts presidential business there, which some claim categorizes it as a room “occupied in the discharge of official duties.”

“[I]f the video was indeed filmed in the Map Room, where Obama tapes his non-campaign messages, the president violated the law and the White House lied about it,” wrote Jim Geraghty at the National Review online.

In the past, Obama has used the Map Room to film White House addresses, in addition to other campaign videos. But previous presidents have used the residential area of the White House to shoot fundraising appeals as well, which puts the RNC’s allegations on shaky grounds. While it seems unlikely the letter to Holder will lead to any legal consequences for Obama, his actions could potentially raise ethical questions about the use of the White House for campaign fundraising. And the fact that the campaign won’t admit to using the Map Room will certainly undercut Obama’s claim that he’s running an open and transparent campaign.

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Another Headache for Bachmann

The good news for Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign is the Tea Party favorite is now taken seriously enough that major news organizations are ready to ask questions about her fitness to be commander-in-chief. The bad news is she must now account for every health problem–large and small–in her medical history. That’s the only way to understand the sudden interest in Bachmann’s history of migraine headaches, which is the focus of a story in the Daily Caller today.

According to the Caller, Bachmann gets “terrible migraine headaches” that “put her out of commission for a day or more at a time.” According to a former campaign adviser who spoke anonymously, this raises the possibility that “she won’t be equal to the stress of the campaign, much less the presidency itself.”

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The good news for Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign is the Tea Party favorite is now taken seriously enough that major news organizations are ready to ask questions about her fitness to be commander-in-chief. The bad news is she must now account for every health problem–large and small–in her medical history. That’s the only way to understand the sudden interest in Bachmann’s history of migraine headaches, which is the focus of a story in the Daily Caller today.

According to the Caller, Bachmann gets “terrible migraine headaches” that “put her out of commission for a day or more at a time.” According to a former campaign adviser who spoke anonymously, this raises the possibility that “she won’t be equal to the stress of the campaign, much less the presidency itself.”

It’s hard to know just how seriously to take a story like this. If Bachmann is the victim of chronic migraines which cause her to be out of commission for days at a time on a regular basis then that would reflect on her ability to lead the nation, especially at times of crisis. But it’s not clear her problem is that serious. Even the Caller’s story, which spoke of her becoming ill and having to seek attention at an urgent care center during a trip to Los Angeles, noted she had still managed to keep to her schedule and gave speeches while there. Bachmann’s spokeswoman told the Caller the candidate takes medication for her problem, and it is under control.

That is probably as far as this will go unless she falls ill in the upcoming months and starts canceling events.  If, as the anonymous and possibly disgruntled former adviser is correct that she becomes “incapacitated” on a regular basis, we will find out soon enough on the campaign trail where secrets such as this cannot be kept. But if not, this attention given to what may be a minor health problem is just more evidence the Bachmann boomlet is being taken far more seriously than anyone could have imagined just a few months ago. After all, no one is asking questions about the health of candidates who have no chance of winning.

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Major Giuliani Donor to Meet with Christie About Presidential Bid

Apparently undaunted by previous failures to lure Gov. Chris Christie into the presidential field, a group of GOP fundraisers are meeting with the governor in Manhattan today in a last-ditch attempt to persuade him, according to Politico’s Mike Allen.

The latest contingent is being led by billionaire Home Depot founder and former New York Stock Exchange director Ken Langone, who is one of the most sought-after financial backers for Republican presidential candidates. Langone has always been a big Giuliani guy – he was one of the largest bundlers for the former mayor’s 1997 campaign – which may explain his affinity for Christie, who is often compared to a young Giuliani.

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Apparently undaunted by previous failures to lure Gov. Chris Christie into the presidential field, a group of GOP fundraisers are meeting with the governor in Manhattan today in a last-ditch attempt to persuade him, according to Politico’s Mike Allen.

The latest contingent is being led by billionaire Home Depot founder and former New York Stock Exchange director Ken Langone, who is one of the most sought-after financial backers for Republican presidential candidates. Langone has always been a big Giuliani guy – he was one of the largest bundlers for the former mayor’s 1997 campaign – which may explain his affinity for Christie, who is often compared to a young Giuliani.

Langone’s meeting with Christie also raises questions about how serious Giuliani is about getting into the race. The former New York mayor has hinted at a bid, but it’s notable that one of his top supporters (Langone was Giuliani’s NYC finance chair in 2008) is looking elsewhere.

After Giuliani dropped out of the 2008 presidential race and endorsed Sen. John McCain, Langone switched to supporting McCain as well. Like many of McCain’s top donors, he apparently hasn’t yet settled on a candidate for 2012. While Christie has said outright he’s not running for president, just the fact that he’s taking this meeting shows he’s leaving the door open to some extent. And if he does have presidential aspirations, the time to run might be now, when his political cache could potentially be at its peak.

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336 Homes Supposedly Threaten World Peace

Two years ago, Israel declared a 10-month construction moratorium–which the PA ignored for nine months, was finally dragged to the negotiating table, and then left a month later, ostensibly because Israel would not extend the moratorium the PA had ignored. Now, with negotiations nowhere in sight, Israel has announced tenders for 336 settlement units — 294 in Beitar Illit (a large community just outside Jerusalem) and 42 in Karnei Shomron (a small one).

If the “peace process” ever produces a peace agreement, Beitar Illit and Karnei Shomron will remain part of Israel. In January, the Washington Institute produced a detailed study, entitled “Imagining the Border,” mapping out a deal in which Israel keeps 80 percent of the settlers while annexing 4.73 percent of the West Bank — including Beitar Illit and Karnei Shomron — creating a contiguous Palestinian state with a 1:1 land swap. Neither Beitar Illit nor Karnei Shomron is an “obstacle to peace” — much less some new houses within them.

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Two years ago, Israel declared a 10-month construction moratorium–which the PA ignored for nine months, was finally dragged to the negotiating table, and then left a month later, ostensibly because Israel would not extend the moratorium the PA had ignored. Now, with negotiations nowhere in sight, Israel has announced tenders for 336 settlement units — 294 in Beitar Illit (a large community just outside Jerusalem) and 42 in Karnei Shomron (a small one).

If the “peace process” ever produces a peace agreement, Beitar Illit and Karnei Shomron will remain part of Israel. In January, the Washington Institute produced a detailed study, entitled “Imagining the Border,” mapping out a deal in which Israel keeps 80 percent of the settlers while annexing 4.73 percent of the West Bank — including Beitar Illit and Karnei Shomron — creating a contiguous Palestinian state with a 1:1 land swap. Neither Beitar Illit nor Karnei Shomron is an “obstacle to peace” — much less some new houses within them.

The Jerusalem Post reports the PA has responded to the announcement by accusing Israel of destroying the peace process, harming “not only Israeli-Arab peace, but also the entire world peace,” showing why it “prompts us to go to the UN.” Actually, the PA statement shows why its time has come and gone. Having rejected three offers of a state in the past decade, having announced in 2009 it was unwilling to negotiate further, having repeatedly failed multiple tests since, unable to form the rudimentary institutions of a state even after its vaunted two-year plan, unwilling to recognize a Jewish state (much less defensible borders for it), it now issues ludicrous press statements about areas it knows are not going to be part of a Palestinian state.

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Don’t “Call” Rick Perry Late For Dinner, But He Can Wait to Run for President

There was a consensus among political observers that Texas Governor Rick Perry was poised to jump into the Republican presidential race even before he told the Des Moines Register on Sunday, “I’m not ready to tell you that I’m ready to announce that I’m in. But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.” That statement seemed to remove any doubt about his plans. While Perry may be set to run, he may have realized placing his presidential ambitions in a religious context might be a little too much. On Monday, the Austin Statesman reported that the governor was walking back his “call” comment and denying there was anything religious about his decision.

My mother may call me for dinner. My friends may call me for something. There are people that are calling from all across this country into either me directly or to people that they know and saying, ‘Man, we wish you would consider doing this.’

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There was a consensus among political observers that Texas Governor Rick Perry was poised to jump into the Republican presidential race even before he told the Des Moines Register on Sunday, “I’m not ready to tell you that I’m ready to announce that I’m in. But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.” That statement seemed to remove any doubt about his plans. While Perry may be set to run, he may have realized placing his presidential ambitions in a religious context might be a little too much. On Monday, the Austin Statesman reported that the governor was walking back his “call” comment and denying there was anything religious about his decision.

My mother may call me for dinner. My friends may call me for something. There are people that are calling from all across this country into either me directly or to people that they know and saying, ‘Man, we wish you would consider doing this.’

As to whether he would run, on Monday, Perry went back to his standard line about making “a thoughtful, steady process of making a decision, and when we make that decision we’ll let you all know.”

We don’t know whether Perry is still making up his mind or whether this is just a tease to keep us interested while he makes the final preparations for entering the race. Given the moves his people are making in Iowa and elsewhere, the latter seems to be a safe bet.

Of course, that still leaves us wondering if he has really made up his mind, why waste all this time dithering when he could be organizing and campaigning? Though his name recognition and fundraising ability is such that a relatively late start won’t hurt him much, the longer he waits the more time Michele Bachmann, his principal rival for conservative, populist and Christian conservative voters, has the stage for herself.

The answer might be letting Bachmann get all the attention now may be exactly what Perry wants. The Minnesota congresswoman’s presidential stock continues to rise in polls, but this has also made her the focus of negative attacks from the liberal media who are eager to transform her image from the Tea Party heroine to a far right gadfly with issues about homosexuals.

As governor of Texas, Perry has been the focus of negative attention from the local press. In particular, he has taken abuse for what some claim is his lavish lifestyle at the state’s expense. If he does run, he will immediately vault to the first tier of candidates. That will mean the national press will begin their scrutiny of him and his family, a process that isn’t fun even if you have nothing to hide.

So while it appears he is still on course to run, Perry seems quite happy to spend the summer watching from the sidelines as Bachmann and frontrunner Mitt Romney absorb the attention of the media. That will still leave him plenty of time to run, and the press a little less time to rummage around in his personal life.

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