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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.’