Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 20, 2011

Syria’s Nedas: Videos Show Shot Protesters Dying in the Streets

The first video was uploaded July 4 and is inching toward 40,000 views. There aren’t many details as to time and place, but the best guess is that it comes from the July 4 protests at Latakia. Protesters were murdered there in late June – that’s the context for the second video – and pro-democracy activists again flooded the streets on July 4 yelling anti-Assad chants. Please observe your graphic content warning:

Meanwhile, the administration – either cowed by Khamenei’s warning to stay out of Syria or more probably just too obstinate to backtrack from its myopic obsession with Syrian engagement – still has problems explicitly calling for Assad to step aside. Obama’s refusal to demand Assad’s exit during his speech was one thing, and it’s worth flagging Rick’s post about how that became State’s official line. But the Secretary of State’s constant declarations that Assad is running out of time to “reform” have become borderline self-caricature, even if we’re now into “lost his legitimacy” territory. Why not just say it?

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The first video was uploaded July 4 and is inching toward 40,000 views. There aren’t many details as to time and place, but the best guess is that it comes from the July 4 protests at Latakia. Protesters were murdered there in late June – that’s the context for the second video – and pro-democracy activists again flooded the streets on July 4 yelling anti-Assad chants. Please observe your graphic content warning:

Meanwhile, the administration – either cowed by Khamenei’s warning to stay out of Syria or more probably just too obstinate to backtrack from its myopic obsession with Syrian engagement – still has problems explicitly calling for Assad to step aside. Obama’s refusal to demand Assad’s exit during his speech was one thing, and it’s worth flagging Rick’s post about how that became State’s official line. But the Secretary of State’s constant declarations that Assad is running out of time to “reform” have become borderline self-caricature, even if we’re now into “lost his legitimacy” territory. Why not just say it?

At this point, Assad could sign a declaration mocking the State Department for pretending he’s a reformer – something he’s actually explicitly done before – and it still wouldn’t work. He could follow up by reading that declaration personally on Al Jazeera, playing it on loop 24/7 on Syrian State TV, and then printing the transcript on flags waved by soldiers as they murdered protesters. And even then the administration’s reaction would probably be limited to an expression of deep concern and a comment about how awesome it is Al Jazeera broadcasts real news instead of infotainment like our decadent Western cable outlets.

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Dissatisfaction with Obama Will Affect Democratic Lawmakers

Yesterday, I wrote a post calling attention to the fact that in Virginia, the president’s approval rating among Independents is 41 percent while 54 percent disapprove of him. “In the end,” I wrote, “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.”

Today, we learned that since May, President Obama has experienced a 14-point negative shift in his job approval rating among North Carolina voters. Forty-four percent of voters polled by the Civitas Institute said they approve of the job Barack Obama is doing while 52 percent said they disapprove. (In May 2011 Obama’s job approval rating stood at 51 percent approve v. 45 percent disapprove.)

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Yesterday, I wrote a post calling attention to the fact that in Virginia, the president’s approval rating among Independents is 41 percent while 54 percent disapprove of him. “In the end,” I wrote, “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.”

Today, we learned that since May, President Obama has experienced a 14-point negative shift in his job approval rating among North Carolina voters. Forty-four percent of voters polled by the Civitas Institute said they approve of the job Barack Obama is doing while 52 percent said they disapprove. (In May 2011 Obama’s job approval rating stood at 51 percent approve v. 45 percent disapprove.)

Democratic voters overall approve of Obama’s performance (72 percent approve v. 25 percent disapprove). In contrast, almost nine in 10 Republicans (87 percent) disapprove of the president’s performance. And so do 60 percent of unaffiliated voters. “This is the largest swing we have seen in the president’s job approval and could be another sign that Obama’s support in North Carolina is waning,” said Civitas Institute President Francis De Luca.

There also appears to be some negative spillover to Democratic lawmakers, including Democratic Governor Bev Perdue. Forty-four percent said they hold a favorable opinion of her while 47 percent said their opinion is unfavorable, with more than half of unaffiliated voters (51 percent) viewing her unfavorably.

Governor Perdue should get in line now; the list of Democrats who are going to disassociate themselves from the president between now and the first Tuesday in November 2012 will be a long one.

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Perry’s Fundraising Is Getting Attention

On top of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad poll for President Obama today, there is some good press for one Republican who seems on the verge of jumping into the race. Though not exactly breaking news, Reuters is reporting on Rick Perry’s fundraising network, something that will make him a formidable opponent in either the nomination race or the general election.

According to Reuters: “As governor, he has raised $103 million since 2001, with nearly half of that coming from big donors giving $100,000 or more, according to Texans for Public Justice. During the last cycle alone, he raised about $39 million.” The report notes that the money “cannot be used for a presidential run but is an indicator of his ability to garner support.”

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On top of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad poll for President Obama today, there is some good press for one Republican who seems on the verge of jumping into the race. Though not exactly breaking news, Reuters is reporting on Rick Perry’s fundraising network, something that will make him a formidable opponent in either the nomination race or the general election.

According to Reuters: “As governor, he has raised $103 million since 2001, with nearly half of that coming from big donors giving $100,000 or more, according to Texans for Public Justice. During the last cycle alone, he raised about $39 million.” The report notes that the money “cannot be used for a presidential run but is an indicator of his ability to garner support.”

Perry’s longevity as a Republican executive, as well as his time spent as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has given him a fairly impressive network of donors and connections, and there is still plenty of money left to be raised in the GOP primary season. He has groups that can raise unlimited funds already raising money for him, like the California-based Americans for Rick Perry. And Cleta Mitchell told Reuters that the RGA’s expanded base of big-money donors has a lot to do with Perry’s fundraising abilities. “Many, many conservative donors who used to be big donors to the RNC (Republican National Committee) have gravitated to the RGA and Perry’s been a big part of that,” she said.

Given that the Obama campaign is aiming at raising $1 billion, the potential GOP nominees will have to prove they can compete. The “electability” of a potential nominee is important to Republican primary voters, and Perry’s fundraising may help him make the case that he is electable.

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Dems Are Not Willing to Do “Whatever is Necessary” to Avert Financial Collapse

Senator Tom Harkin gave a press conference in which he decided to elevate the public debate by referring to those with whom he disagrees as a “cult fringe.” But apart from this example of liberal civility, Senator Harkin made this claim: “Democrats are willing to do whatever is necessary to raise the debt ceiling.”

That statement is simply and demonstrably false. Democrats are not willing to do “whatever is necessary” to raise the debt ceiling. And I can prove it. If they were, Democrats, including the president, would embrace the only plan that has been presented and secured enough votes for passage in the House or Senate: The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011.

I make this point simply to highlight how ludicrous this debate has gotten. For Democrats as well as for many reporters and commentators, tax increases are talismanic. Their argument for higher taxes isn’t economic so much as it’s moral. They view increasing taxes as an act of virtue and opposition to higher taxes as evidence of a moral defect. And so for liberals, the notion we should raise the debt ceiling by capping spending without raising taxes – in the aftermath of an unprecedented two-year spending binge, I might add – is not only wrong; it simply doesn’t compute.

Here’s the dirty little secret of this debate: If President Obama embraced the legislation Republicans passed last night, this crisis would be solved. The debt ceiling would be raised. But the president, his Democratic allies, and many members of the fourth estate have placed a higher priority on raising taxes than they have on averting a default and a financial collapse. Which tells you just about everything you need to know.

 

Senator Tom Harkin gave a press conference in which he decided to elevate the public debate by referring to those with whom he disagrees as a “cult fringe.” But apart from this example of liberal civility, Senator Harkin made this claim: “Democrats are willing to do whatever is necessary to raise the debt ceiling.”

That statement is simply and demonstrably false. Democrats are not willing to do “whatever is necessary” to raise the debt ceiling. And I can prove it. If they were, Democrats, including the president, would embrace the only plan that has been presented and secured enough votes for passage in the House or Senate: The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011.

I make this point simply to highlight how ludicrous this debate has gotten. For Democrats as well as for many reporters and commentators, tax increases are talismanic. Their argument for higher taxes isn’t economic so much as it’s moral. They view increasing taxes as an act of virtue and opposition to higher taxes as evidence of a moral defect. And so for liberals, the notion we should raise the debt ceiling by capping spending without raising taxes – in the aftermath of an unprecedented two-year spending binge, I might add – is not only wrong; it simply doesn’t compute.

Here’s the dirty little secret of this debate: If President Obama embraced the legislation Republicans passed last night, this crisis would be solved. The debt ceiling would be raised. But the president, his Democratic allies, and many members of the fourth estate have placed a higher priority on raising taxes than they have on averting a default and a financial collapse. Which tells you just about everything you need to know.

 

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PPP Poll for Obama: From Bad to Worse

Public Policy Polling teased their new poll today on Twitter by suggesting they had “very bad numbers for Obama.” They followed that tweet with this: “Think Obama’s reelection prospects are worst they’ve been in a year based on this month’s poll.”

The ominous warnings weren’t exaggerations. The numbers are terrible for the president. First of all, for the first time, PPP has Romney polling even with Obama, at 45 percent. But there’s more bad news for the president:

There are two things particularly troubling in his numbers: independents split against him by a 44/49 margin, and 16 percent of Democrats are unhappy with the job he’s doing while only 10 percent of Republicans give him good marks. Republicans dislike him at this point to a greater extent than Democrats like him and that will be a problem for him moving forward if it persists.

Romney takes advantage of those two points of weakness for Obama. He leads the president by nine points with independents at 46-37. And he earns more crossover support, getting 13 percent of the Democratic vote while only 8 percent of Republicans are behind Obama.

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Public Policy Polling teased their new poll today on Twitter by suggesting they had “very bad numbers for Obama.” They followed that tweet with this: “Think Obama’s reelection prospects are worst they’ve been in a year based on this month’s poll.”

The ominous warnings weren’t exaggerations. The numbers are terrible for the president. First of all, for the first time, PPP has Romney polling even with Obama, at 45 percent. But there’s more bad news for the president:

There are two things particularly troubling in his numbers: independents split against him by a 44/49 margin, and 16 percent of Democrats are unhappy with the job he’s doing while only 10 percent of Republicans give him good marks. Republicans dislike him at this point to a greater extent than Democrats like him and that will be a problem for him moving forward if it persists.

Romney takes advantage of those two points of weakness for Obama. He leads the president by nine points with independents at 46-37. And he earns more crossover support, getting 13 percent of the Democratic vote while only 8 percent of Republicans are behind Obama.

Additionally, if you allocate undecided voters based on their approval/disapproval numbers, Romney would lead by four. In that same scenario, Obama only leads Bachmann among undecideds by two; Pawlenty would tie the president in this category.

This poll comes on the heels of yesterday’s post by Nate Silver, in which he averaged the major general election polling and put it through his formula to account for such things as name recognition. Silver’s results showed Rudy Giuliani beating Obama in a general election matchup and Mitt Romney just two points behind. The good news for Obama in that post was that even accounting for name recognition, Rick Perry still trailed him by six points.

And in a data point that doesn’t sound very positive for either Obama or the GOP candidates, when controlling for everything except name recognition, only Giuliani (a man who has little or no chance of actually being nominated) outperforms “Generic Republican.” Nonetheless, today’s PPP poll eclipses any of that and spells serious trouble for Obama.

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Americans for Peace Now “Joins” Settlement Boycott Movement

Americans for Peace Now (APN) announced yesterday it is joining a boycott of the Israeli settlements — but not because it approves of delegitimization tactics. No, the free-speech champions at APN say they’re simply taking a stand against “flagrant attack[s] on the basic democratic value of freedom of expression” – aka Israel’s misguided anti-boycott law – by “joining” the same boycott movement they’ve already publicly been a part of for more than a year.

APN has long maintained that boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) of Israel as a whole are “counterproductive and misguided.” But according to the group’s official statement on BDS from April 2010, “a more constructive approach would be to shift the focus from Israel to the West Bank and the Golan Heights.” The tactics they suggested include:

- efforts aimed at highlighting the point of origin of products originating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank or Golan Heights, to permit people to make informed choices in their purchasing and consumption;

– efforts to raise awareness about companies based in or operating in settlements, to permit people to make informed choices about their investment options;

– efforts to raise awareness about private U.S. funds flowing to settlers and settlements and to explore ways to curb such funding;

– efforts to exempt products originating in settlements from U.S. preferential trade benefits; and

– efforts to bar U.S. government purchase of products originating in settlements

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) announced yesterday it is joining a boycott of the Israeli settlements — but not because it approves of delegitimization tactics. No, the free-speech champions at APN say they’re simply taking a stand against “flagrant attack[s] on the basic democratic value of freedom of expression” – aka Israel’s misguided anti-boycott law – by “joining” the same boycott movement they’ve already publicly been a part of for more than a year.

APN has long maintained that boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) of Israel as a whole are “counterproductive and misguided.” But according to the group’s official statement on BDS from April 2010, “a more constructive approach would be to shift the focus from Israel to the West Bank and the Golan Heights.” The tactics they suggested include:

- efforts aimed at highlighting the point of origin of products originating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank or Golan Heights, to permit people to make informed choices in their purchasing and consumption;

– efforts to raise awareness about companies based in or operating in settlements, to permit people to make informed choices about their investment options;

– efforts to raise awareness about private U.S. funds flowing to settlers and settlements and to explore ways to curb such funding;

– efforts to exempt products originating in settlements from U.S. preferential trade benefits; and

– efforts to bar U.S. government purchase of products originating in settlements

In other words, efforts aimed at boycotting products from the settlements. Which is pretty much the same stance APN is taking right now, and trying to play off as a principled response to Israel’s new anti-boycott measure.

If APN’s latest action was really about outrage over the new law, it wouldn’t have proposed settlement boycotts well before the law even existed. The group has shown it is more interested in opposing Israeli government policies it dislikes than protecting democratic values. After all, there’s nothing more disingenuous than American activists railing against “the threat today to Israel’s democracy,” while supporting a boycott to undermine the policy of a democratically-elected government in a country they don’t even live in. For better or worse, Israel’s leadership supports the settlements. If APN finds that problematic, it should take it up with the Israeli public which put those leaders in office.

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The Most Foolish Story About Israel Ever Published in The New York Times

It is an old cliché that for journalists history is what happened the day before yesterday. Ancient history is what happened last week. No better example of this axiom can be found than in today’s New York Times story about various protests going on in Israel. The conceit of Ethan Bronner’s feature is that the wave of protest movements that spread across the Arab world this year has had some influence on the Jewish state. According to Bronner, Israelis have been inspired by their counterparts in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria to demonstrate against their government’s economic policies.

The foolishness and sheer ignorance of the country’s history of protest movements is staggering. Not only is there no analogy or even the faintest connection between Arab efforts to overthrow authoritarian tyrants, the idea Israelis needed Arab inspiration to generate protests against the government of the day is simply absurd.

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It is an old cliché that for journalists history is what happened the day before yesterday. Ancient history is what happened last week. No better example of this axiom can be found than in today’s New York Times story about various protests going on in Israel. The conceit of Ethan Bronner’s feature is that the wave of protest movements that spread across the Arab world this year has had some influence on the Jewish state. According to Bronner, Israelis have been inspired by their counterparts in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria to demonstrate against their government’s economic policies.

The foolishness and sheer ignorance of the country’s history of protest movements is staggering. Not only is there no analogy or even the faintest connection between Arab efforts to overthrow authoritarian tyrants, the idea Israelis needed Arab inspiration to generate protests against the government of the day is simply absurd.

Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time in Israel can tell you that street demonstrations, protest tents or movements based on dissatisfaction with the status quo is not only not an innovation, it is a staple of the country’s political culture. I can say from personal experience that in my visits to the Knesset or the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem during the past decades, I am hard pressed to remember a time when there weren’t protests of some sort going on. If it wasn’t Ethiopian immigrants wanting the government to bring their relatives left behind to Israel, it was the families of prisoners of war, victims of terror, the elderly or the poor.

While this year’s Knesset dustup over the price of cottage cheese may have been unusual, the notion of protest marches and demonstrations about the economy or unemployment is not. There have been many marches in past years from the Negev and various other places to Jerusalem highlighting economic issues. The only difference today, as Bronner rightly notes, is Israel’s economy is more prosperous than ever, and the economic stewardship of the Netanyahu government is widely perceived as sound.

But the main point here is not to debate the justice of contemporary Israeli economic protests. It is to point out an all too obvious fact about the country the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief seems to have missed. The political culture of Israel is inherently anarchic. Israel is not Prussia. Protests, strikes and all forms of public disagreements there are not exceptional, they are ordinary. The “new consumer protest culture” is merely a variation on one of the country’s oldest themes. Moreover, the notion that a nation in which cynicism about politics and politicians is as deeply ingrained as it is in Israel and where public respect for the rules is so scant has anything to learn from the fledgling Arab attempts to hold their rulers accountable is laughable. While the Times has run many far more damaging and fundamentally misleading articles about Israel, I doubt they’ve ever published a piece as foolish as this one.

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Islamism and the National Counterterrorism Strategy

In World War II we fought the Nazis, and during the Cold War we fought the Communists. Today, however, we fight wars but are too constrained by political correctness to even define the enemy.  When the Obama administration released its National Strategy for Counterterrorism (NSCT) last month, it acknowledged that there was an ideological component to terrorism, but it refused to define it.  As the American Islamic Forum for Democracy’s head M. Zuhdi Jasser noted, “In order to actually counter this ideology, our government must take the additional step of identifying it for what it is: a militant form of political Islam, or ‘Islamism.’ Although the NSCT uses the term ideology 20 times within a 17-page document, its failure to identify the exact nature of this ideology suggests a continued unwillingness to confront the root cause of terrorism.”

Enter the American Islamic Leadership Coalition, which issued a statement today that identified clear-headed improvements necessary if the United States hopes to counter terrorism effectively:

If we ever truly hope to defeat Islamist terrorism we have to recognize that the battle is first and foremost ideological. But we must also recognize the deep diversity of the Muslim community, and we must identify our counter-terrorism partners by the ideological positions of their organizations.

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In World War II we fought the Nazis, and during the Cold War we fought the Communists. Today, however, we fight wars but are too constrained by political correctness to even define the enemy.  When the Obama administration released its National Strategy for Counterterrorism (NSCT) last month, it acknowledged that there was an ideological component to terrorism, but it refused to define it.  As the American Islamic Forum for Democracy’s head M. Zuhdi Jasser noted, “In order to actually counter this ideology, our government must take the additional step of identifying it for what it is: a militant form of political Islam, or ‘Islamism.’ Although the NSCT uses the term ideology 20 times within a 17-page document, its failure to identify the exact nature of this ideology suggests a continued unwillingness to confront the root cause of terrorism.”

Enter the American Islamic Leadership Coalition, which issued a statement today that identified clear-headed improvements necessary if the United States hopes to counter terrorism effectively:

If we ever truly hope to defeat Islamist terrorism we have to recognize that the battle is first and foremost ideological. But we must also recognize the deep diversity of the Muslim community, and we must identify our counter-terrorism partners by the ideological positions of their organizations.

For too long, both under President Obama and the Bush and Clinton administrations preceding him, the squeaky wheel got the grease. Groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) spoke the loudest, screamed Islamophobia, and became the center for U.S. government engagement. But rather than address the problems of certain Islamic exegesis legitimizing terrorism, they obfuscated and sought to blunt any incisive discussions which might associate Muslim Brotherhood interpretations of Islam with the enabling of terrorism.  It is time to recognize that the American Muslim community is diverse. Some groups are forces for good, and others are not.  We should work with those groups which embrace American values of tolerance and liberty first and foremost.

The American Islamic Leadership Coalition continued with specific recommendations for a revised National Strategy for Counterterrorism:

  • Clearly and publicly define the ideology of al-Qaeda and the terror organizations that we seek to defeat;
  • Distinguish between the religion of Islam and Islamist ideology (“a distorted interpretation of Islam”), whose adherents seek to conflate their own theocratic, statist agenda with Islam itself;
  • Acknowledge the diversity of American Muslims, and recognize that genuinely pluralistic, tolerant and spiritual Muslim leaders possess the theological legitimacy, authority and credibility required to counter Islamist ideology and movements from within Islam, and should be encouraged and supported in their efforts to do so;
  • Engage non-Islamist Muslim groups to help develop and implement effective counter-radicalization programs that affirm the principles of liberty and individual rights;
  • Facilitate the production of compelling content (“narratives”) and their distribution, through proactive use of the Internet, which is one of al-Qaeda’s primary means of ideological indoctrination and recruitment;
  • Support the development of robust, on-the-ground efforts to expose the brutal reality of Islamist oppression, violence and terror, and contrast it with American values.

Let’s hope someone in the White House is listening so the United States can avoid, in the parlance of the Obama administration, any further “man-made disasters.”

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Talking Turkey-Part III

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Turkey last week and made time to gently chide the Turkish government for its crackdown against the free press. As I’ve mentioned here before, “Reporters without Borders” now ranks Turkey among the world’s worst offenders against journalists and the media. Answering questions as a town hall meeting, Clinton said, “If there is an area that I am concerned about with recent actions, it is the area of freedom of expression and freedom of the media… I do not think it is necessary or in Turkey’s interests to be cracking down on journalists and bloggers and the Internet.”

Kudos to Clinton, but she misses a larger point: As Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan morphs into a Turkish version of Vladimir Putin, he has been targeting not only journalists, but other civil society activists, professors, and both serving and retired military officers. For too long, Erdoğan has counted on ideological blinders among Europeans and American diplomats who assume if the victim of a political purge is a military officer, somehow that must be just and a victory for democracy. But, if Erdoğan cracks down on journalists without evidence, then it is safe to assume his harassment of retired military officers is just as arbitrary. Rather than simply support freedom of the media in Turkey, Clinton should support freedom for everyone under the law. To pick and choose with rule-of-law is to signal to Erdoğan that he can, literally, get away with murder so long as his victims aren’t of the fourth estate.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Turkey last week and made time to gently chide the Turkish government for its crackdown against the free press. As I’ve mentioned here before, “Reporters without Borders” now ranks Turkey among the world’s worst offenders against journalists and the media. Answering questions as a town hall meeting, Clinton said, “If there is an area that I am concerned about with recent actions, it is the area of freedom of expression and freedom of the media… I do not think it is necessary or in Turkey’s interests to be cracking down on journalists and bloggers and the Internet.”

Kudos to Clinton, but she misses a larger point: As Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan morphs into a Turkish version of Vladimir Putin, he has been targeting not only journalists, but other civil society activists, professors, and both serving and retired military officers. For too long, Erdoğan has counted on ideological blinders among Europeans and American diplomats who assume if the victim of a political purge is a military officer, somehow that must be just and a victory for democracy. But, if Erdoğan cracks down on journalists without evidence, then it is safe to assume his harassment of retired military officers is just as arbitrary. Rather than simply support freedom of the media in Turkey, Clinton should support freedom for everyone under the law. To pick and choose with rule-of-law is to signal to Erdoğan that he can, literally, get away with murder so long as his victims aren’t of the fourth estate.

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First Lady’s Walmart Initiative Angers Labor Union

Trying to combat obesity by opening more Walmarts might seem like a counterproductive strategy (Exhibit A), but it’s one of the initiatives being spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama in her quest to encourage “healthier living.” She’s also teamed up with Walgreens and SuperValu to help them expand their stores to low-income urban and rural areas.

But her efforts are sparking criticism, and not just from the right. Many liberal activists are opposed to Walmart, insisting it puts local vendors out of business and has unfair worker practices. For example, shortly after Obama announced her initiative today, I received this statement from the United Food and Commercial Union Joe Hansen:

“The First Lady’s commitment to addressing childhood obesity in the U.S. is laudable and the UFCW commends her for her enthusiasm for such a worthy endeavor. But with income disparity between the rich and the poor at more extreme levels than during the Great Depression, Walmart must be held accountable for its track record of lower standards for millions of retail workers. … The White House should laud employers who are fueling economic recovery by creating good jobs where workers can afford to take care of their families and buy the healthy food their children deserve.”

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Trying to combat obesity by opening more Walmarts might seem like a counterproductive strategy (Exhibit A), but it’s one of the initiatives being spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama in her quest to encourage “healthier living.” She’s also teamed up with Walgreens and SuperValu to help them expand their stores to low-income urban and rural areas.

But her efforts are sparking criticism, and not just from the right. Many liberal activists are opposed to Walmart, insisting it puts local vendors out of business and has unfair worker practices. For example, shortly after Obama announced her initiative today, I received this statement from the United Food and Commercial Union Joe Hansen:

“The First Lady’s commitment to addressing childhood obesity in the U.S. is laudable and the UFCW commends her for her enthusiasm for such a worthy endeavor. But with income disparity between the rich and the poor at more extreme levels than during the Great Depression, Walmart must be held accountable for its track record of lower standards for millions of retail workers. … The White House should laud employers who are fueling economic recovery by creating good jobs where workers can afford to take care of their families and buy the healthy food their children deserve.”

Unions obviously have their own personal agenda for targeting the anti-union Walmart, which has been ranked by Forbes as a top company to work for. But considering Big Labor’s recent frustrations with President Obama, it’s interesting the First Lady is choosing to pursue this particular initiative.

There are many positive aspects of Michelle Obama’s plan, though. Expanding successful chains like Walmart would help bring jobs to low-income communities, and potentially encourage shoppers to choose groceries instead of fast food. There’s also the benefit of the chain store’s lower prices, which would put less financial stress on struggling families and draw in new consumers from neighboring communities. The boon to the local economy would more than make up for any loss of area businesses that unions say they’re concerned about. For years, unions and liberal activists have campaigned to block Walmart stores in certain urban areas (D.C., for example). But with White House support — and a feel-good narrative about “healthy eating” — Walmart might actually have a shot at overcoming this.

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Talking Turkey- Part II

Gen. David Petraeus, wearing his new hat as director of Central Intelligence, made an unannounced visit to Ankara on Monday, according to Turkey’s flagship daily Hurriyet. Turkish sources cited in the newspaper said greater cooperation between Turkey and the United States to fight the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (known better by its Kurdish acronym, the PKK) would top his agenda. Petraeus’ visit comes against the backdrop of fighting between the PKK and the Turkish army which killed 13 Turkish soldiers.

The United States should certainly assist other countries in their fight against terrorism but, simultaneously, the State Department, Pentagon, and the CIA should ensure that any country receiving anti-terror assistance likewise commits itself to fight terrorism without regard to political sympathies. The current Turkish leadership actively supports Hamas. According to Hurriyet yesterday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may visit Gaza tomorrow, crossing from Egypt in order to show his support for the rabidly anti-Semitic terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction. There is no logical way to condemn the PKK as a terrorist group and yet embrace Hamas as legitimate.

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Gen. David Petraeus, wearing his new hat as director of Central Intelligence, made an unannounced visit to Ankara on Monday, according to Turkey’s flagship daily Hurriyet. Turkish sources cited in the newspaper said greater cooperation between Turkey and the United States to fight the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (known better by its Kurdish acronym, the PKK) would top his agenda. Petraeus’ visit comes against the backdrop of fighting between the PKK and the Turkish army which killed 13 Turkish soldiers.

The United States should certainly assist other countries in their fight against terrorism but, simultaneously, the State Department, Pentagon, and the CIA should ensure that any country receiving anti-terror assistance likewise commits itself to fight terrorism without regard to political sympathies. The current Turkish leadership actively supports Hamas. According to Hurriyet yesterday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may visit Gaza tomorrow, crossing from Egypt in order to show his support for the rabidly anti-Semitic terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction. There is no logical way to condemn the PKK as a terrorist group and yet embrace Hamas as legitimate.

It is time the United States use its leverage and demand any country receiving counter-terror assistance to sign onto a common definition of terrorism and to cease any direct or indirect support for terrorist groups, no matter how sympathetic foreign governments might be to their cause. Gen. Petraeus should realize  the war on terrorism cannot be won so long as his partners believe terrorism to be legitimate. The same goes for Congress and any U.S. department which funds the anti-terrorism campaign in Turkey regardless of whether Turkey turns around and supports terrorism against U.S. allies.

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Heroic Journalism Versus Bad Journalism

Liberals have been overdosing on schadenfreude as they watch Rupert Murdoch and other News Corporation executives squirm under questioning about the News of the World hacking scandal. The defense that all British tabs have done similarly awful things isn’t working, because most of the previous hacking and snooping has been at the expense of royals and other elites rather than the ordinary victims at the heart of this story. But, as Americans chime in with their often politically motivated disgust at Murdoch and his minions, Carl Bernstein’s rant is of particular interest. His role in uncovering the Watergate scandal is still widely considered the gold standard of investigative journalism.

Few denunciations of Murdoch have been louder or less temperate than those of Bernstein but, as Mickey Kaus writes in a brilliant takedown of Bernstein at the Daily Caller, the former star reporter of the Washington Post is in no position to complain about journalists who break the normal rules of civilized society in pursuit of a story. As Kaus notes, in All The President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein say they used the latter’s contacts in the phone company to obtain private calling records of individuals. This was both unethical and illegal, but nobody minded.

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Liberals have been overdosing on schadenfreude as they watch Rupert Murdoch and other News Corporation executives squirm under questioning about the News of the World hacking scandal. The defense that all British tabs have done similarly awful things isn’t working, because most of the previous hacking and snooping has been at the expense of royals and other elites rather than the ordinary victims at the heart of this story. But, as Americans chime in with their often politically motivated disgust at Murdoch and his minions, Carl Bernstein’s rant is of particular interest. His role in uncovering the Watergate scandal is still widely considered the gold standard of investigative journalism.

Few denunciations of Murdoch have been louder or less temperate than those of Bernstein but, as Mickey Kaus writes in a brilliant takedown of Bernstein at the Daily Caller, the former star reporter of the Washington Post is in no position to complain about journalists who break the normal rules of civilized society in pursuit of a story. As Kaus notes, in All The President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein say they used the latter’s contacts in the phone company to obtain private calling records of individuals. This was both unethical and illegal, but nobody minded.

That’s the rub. While everyone claims to be shocked and angered at unethical journalistic practices, our willingness to either hang or honor the journalists in question tends to rest on the people they are investigating. So long as reporters go after unpopular figures such as rich people or royals or politicians you don’t agree with, anything goes. But if journalists go outside the box while ferreting out information about people you like or perceive as innocent, then the only remedy (as is the case with those associated with News of the World), is jail.

To note the hypocrisy of critics like Bernstein or the political motivations of many of Murdoch’s critics is not to excuse what happened. But let’s not pretend the current feeding frenzy at Murdoch’s expense has anything to do with a belief in privacy. There is no object difference between the practices of the Post’s heroic pair (whose various methods of snooping were the moral equivalent of hacking today) and that of Murdoch’s despised crew. The only distinction between Woodward and Bernstein and the British tabloid snoops are the objects of their curiosity. Journalists who break the rules to bring down unpopular politicians win Pulitzers. Those who do so to snoop on the families of crime victims may end up in prison. Perhaps most of us are comfortable with that outcome, but let’s not pretend this is based on any objective standard of conduct.

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Talking Turkey- Part I

I’ve been offline for a couple weeks in Mongolia on vacation with my lovely wife. Because we transited China, it was too dangerous to bring computers, and so I have been offline for longer than I have at any point in the last decade.

There has been much going on in Turkey, Iran, and the broader Middle East. I do want to quibble with Jonathan Tobin’s piece on Turkey. Jonathan rightly looks at efforts to repair the relationship between Israel and Turkey and writes:

If this rapprochement happens, it will prove two common assumptions about the Middle East are totally wrong. One is that the Netanyahu government is ideologically too rigid and incompetent to conduct Israeli foreign policy. Given the skillful way he has held off pressure from the Obama administration while rekindling relations with Turkey, it appears the Likud-led coalition has a firm grasp on the nation’s interest. By the same token, Erdoğan’s apparent willingness to kiss and make up with Israel shows he is more worried about Turkey’s strategic needs than his ambition to be the leader of the Muslim world.

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I’ve been offline for a couple weeks in Mongolia on vacation with my lovely wife. Because we transited China, it was too dangerous to bring computers, and so I have been offline for longer than I have at any point in the last decade.

There has been much going on in Turkey, Iran, and the broader Middle East. I do want to quibble with Jonathan Tobin’s piece on Turkey. Jonathan rightly looks at efforts to repair the relationship between Israel and Turkey and writes:

If this rapprochement happens, it will prove two common assumptions about the Middle East are totally wrong. One is that the Netanyahu government is ideologically too rigid and incompetent to conduct Israeli foreign policy. Given the skillful way he has held off pressure from the Obama administration while rekindling relations with Turkey, it appears the Likud-led coalition has a firm grasp on the nation’s interest. By the same token, Erdoğan’s apparent willingness to kiss and make up with Israel shows he is more worried about Turkey’s strategic needs than his ambition to be the leader of the Muslim world.

While the talks appear ongoing, it would be a mistake to read too much into an apparent Turkish shift into pragmatism: As a very senior Australian official explained to me recently during a trip to Canberra, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu often feigns pragmatism just prior to making a new demand or undertaking an especially controversial step. Turkey’s willingness to walk back from its full-fledged apology demands must be seen in the context of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s preparations to recognize fully Palestinian independence this September, and perhaps then to supply their Palestinian partners with arms and materials banned by current Israeli border protocols.

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Media Coverage of Fiscal Debate is Discouraging

Last night, from the floor of the House, Representative Paul Ryan delivered forceful remarks about our fiscal situation. In the course of his comments, Ryan made this point:

Here’s the problem we have right now, Mr. Speaker. We have a leadership deficit. I keep hearing.… “The president’s got a plan. The president’s offering  balance.” The president hasn’t offered a thing yet. Nothing on paper. Nothing in public. Leading on reporters at press conferences is not leadership. Giving speeches according to the CBO is not budgeting.

The president did inherit a tough problem. No two ways about it. What did he do with this problem? He drove us deeper into debt. One trillion dollars of  borrowed money for a stimulus that was promised to keep unemployment below 8 percent and went up to 10 percent and now it’s at 9.2 percent. A stalled economy. A budget the president gave us that doubles the debt in five years and  triples it in 10 years. That’s not leadership.

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Last night, from the floor of the House, Representative Paul Ryan delivered forceful remarks about our fiscal situation. In the course of his comments, Ryan made this point:

Here’s the problem we have right now, Mr. Speaker. We have a leadership deficit. I keep hearing.… “The president’s got a plan. The president’s offering  balance.” The president hasn’t offered a thing yet. Nothing on paper. Nothing in public. Leading on reporters at press conferences is not leadership. Giving speeches according to the CBO is not budgeting.

The president did inherit a tough problem. No two ways about it. What did he do with this problem? He drove us deeper into debt. One trillion dollars of  borrowed money for a stimulus that was promised to keep unemployment below 8 percent and went up to 10 percent and now it’s at 9.2 percent. A stalled economy. A budget the president gave us that doubles the debt in five years and  triples it in 10 years. That’s not leadership.

Chairman Ryan is doing the job reporters should be doing, which is to expose the myth that President Obama is the only “adult” in Washington, the one individual who has presented a reasonable and exquisitely balanced plan.

Obama’s game is transparent. He wants others to make the hard fiscal decisions while earning credit for making tough fiscal choices. There are many words to describe what the president is doing – cynical, shameless, contemptuous, audacious and unprincipled among them. But one thing he’s not doing is providing leadership.

The fact so many members of the press are allowing the Obama narrative to go unchecked and unchallenged isn’t surprising. But it is discouraging. The combination of intellectual laziness, a predisposition to believe what Obama is saying, and pre-existing political biases help explain what is driving the media’s coverage of this debate — and, in a broader sense, they help explain why journalism is among the least respected professions in American life.

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Will House Democrats Really Oppose Plan B?

House Democrats are registering their disapproval of Mitch McConnell’s Plan B, which would allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling without cuts but also without approval from Republicans, in the event a deal cannot be reached.

The plan initially split Republicans between those who saw it as a savvy way to stick Obama with the blame (or credit) for raising the debt limit without cuts and those who are staunchly against any plan that will raise the debt limit without spending cuts. But it has also split Democrats, who have acknowledged both its usefulness as a fail-safe and a way for the GOP to strengthen its hand by avoiding blame for either a default or a lack of spending cuts.

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House Democrats are registering their disapproval of Mitch McConnell’s Plan B, which would allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling without cuts but also without approval from Republicans, in the event a deal cannot be reached.

The plan initially split Republicans between those who saw it as a savvy way to stick Obama with the blame (or credit) for raising the debt limit without cuts and those who are staunchly against any plan that will raise the debt limit without spending cuts. But it has also split Democrats, who have acknowledged both its usefulness as a fail-safe and a way for the GOP to strengthen its hand by avoiding blame for either a default or a lack of spending cuts.

“I’m not a fan of the McConnell proposal,” Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, the senior Democrat on the Budget Committee, said yesterday. “It’s designed to protect mostly Republican members of Congress from taking responsibility for votes that they’ve already made.” Democratic whip Steny Hoyer echoed Van Hollen’s remarks.

Conservative House Republicans have been circulating a pledge to vote against Plan B, meaning the plan would need Democrats–probably a significant number of them in the House–to pass. So are Democrats signaling that they would kill the plan, which has the president’s support?

It’s possible, but highly doubtful, that Democrats would cross the president on this. More likely, we’ll see a replay of the battle over the looming government shutdown in April. Despite the widely held belief that Republicans would be blamed more for the shutdown, Obama was nervous about any loss in market confidence–nervous enough to support a deal when congressional Democrats were itching for a shutdown they could blame on the GOP.

So this is probably a negotiating tactic, but one that could backfire on the Democrats. If they successfully transmit the idea the McConnell deal is good for the GOP and bad for Obama, and then facilitate that deal anyway, Republicans will be glad Hoyer and Van Hollen, among many others, chose to speak up.

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U.S. Sitting on Sidelines About Syria

It appears I was premature last week in praising the administration for following Ambassador Robert Ford’s lead and finally turning decisively against the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. Now the Los Angeles Times reports the administration is back-tracking. The newspaper notes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “backed off on Saturday, saying the administration still hopes that Assad’s regime will stop the violence and work with protesters to carry out political reforms.” The article goes on to explain:

The change in tone reflects the continuing debate over whether Syria’s ruler is likely to survive the  current turmoil, and how best to use the limited diplomatic tools available to pressure him.

For now, a State Department official said, it’s unclear whether the administration will ramp up the rhetoric and officially call for Assad’s departure.

“Whether we take it farther will depend on events on the ground,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities. We need to think through carefully what we say.”

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It appears I was premature last week in praising the administration for following Ambassador Robert Ford’s lead and finally turning decisively against the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. Now the Los Angeles Times reports the administration is back-tracking. The newspaper notes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “backed off on Saturday, saying the administration still hopes that Assad’s regime will stop the violence and work with protesters to carry out political reforms.” The article goes on to explain:

The change in tone reflects the continuing debate over whether Syria’s ruler is likely to survive the  current turmoil, and how best to use the limited diplomatic tools available to pressure him.

For now, a State Department official said, it’s unclear whether the administration will ramp up the rhetoric and officially call for Assad’s departure.

“Whether we take it farther will depend on events on the ground,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities. We need to think through carefully what we say.”

The headline might as well be “Administration is Clueless.”

Its confusion is especially bizarre given that in May, President Obama gave a speech on the Arab Spring in which he said: “There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and 0pportunity.”

There might be circumstances where it would be appropriate to risk charges of hypocrisy so as not to undermine a valued ally such as Bahrain. But c’mon, guys, this is Syria we’re talking about–Iran’s ally, Hezbollah’s sponsor. That the administration  can’t make up its mind about whether to push for Assad’s removal is beyond appalling. It’s puzzling. This is about as big an opportunity as we have faced in the region in decades–and the administration is sitting on the sidelines, mulling its options.

 

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Clinton Asks India to Counter China’s Growing Regional Influence

In late 2010, President Obama publicly announced his support for the (unlikely) idea that India should join the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member. That went a long way toward reversing Obama’s initial approach to India, which was to give it the cold shoulder.

Now it seems the bill has come due for the administration’s verbal generosity. Hillary Clinton today made two sensible requests of India’s leadership–one strategic and one economic.

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In late 2010, President Obama publicly announced his support for the (unlikely) idea that India should join the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member. That went a long way toward reversing Obama’s initial approach to India, which was to give it the cold shoulder.

Now it seems the bill has come due for the administration’s verbal generosity. Hillary Clinton today made two sensible requests of India’s leadership–one strategic and one economic.

“This is not a time when any of us can afford to look inward at the expense of looking outward. This is a time to seize the opportunities of the 21st century and it is a time to lead,” Clinton said, adding that India, as Reuters put it, “should exercise political influence to match its fast-growing economic muscle.”

What this means is the U.S. wants India to play a diplomatic shadow game with China, seeking to counter China’s expanding influence across Asia. It’s not quite a new “Great Game,” but rather resembles more a Cold War-style proxy battle. In fact, China has already been playing this shadow game with the U.S. for years, seeking to fill economic and political vacuums created by American democracy promotion and nation building abroad. This is an obvious move by the U.S., but a welcome one nonetheless.

Clinton asked India to step up its investment in Afghanistan, play a more significant role in regional forums like the annual East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, and increase its trade with Pakistan and other developing Central Asian countries. The U.S. also hopes to see the completion of a proposed natural gas pipeline in the region, of which India would be the destination.

Also on the energy issue, Clinton’s second request was that India water down strict consumer-protection rules that make nuclear plant suppliers liable in plant accidents. The rules are stricter than international norms, but were something of a political necessity because of the Indian public’s lingering memories of the 1984 Bhopal accident, in which an American chemical plant released toxins that killed thousands.

“Two reactor sites have now been set aside for American companies in the future,” an American official traveling with Clinton told Reuters. “It would be a very serious problem if India were to come out with regulations that were not in fact in compliance with (a global convention governing nuclear liability) and then left us out in the cold not being able to profit from all of the hard work that we’ve put into that.”

It is doubtful the regulations can be significantly altered, and meanwhile France and Russia are eagerly jumping into the Indian market with both feet while the U.S. sits on the sidelines. But Clinton’s trip seems to be hitting the right notes, and it is reassuring to witness some strategic thinking on the administration’s part.

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The House Puts the Palestinians On Notice

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives is expected to vote today to add conditions to U.S. aid to the Palestinians that will be tantamount to a cutoff.

The measure, part of the State Department financing bill, is likely to pass the Republican-controlled House but is expected to be dropped when it is reconciled with the Democratic-controlled Senate’s version of the same legislation. According to the Jerusalem Post, the rationale for the Democrats’ decision to spike a laundry list of pro-Israel items will be an interesting one: the Israelis themselves don’t want the U.S. to cut off aid to the Palestinians.

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The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives is expected to vote today to add conditions to U.S. aid to the Palestinians that will be tantamount to a cutoff.

The measure, part of the State Department financing bill, is likely to pass the Republican-controlled House but is expected to be dropped when it is reconciled with the Democratic-controlled Senate’s version of the same legislation. According to the Jerusalem Post, the rationale for the Democrats’ decision to spike a laundry list of pro-Israel items will be an interesting one: the Israelis themselves don’t want the U.S. to cut off aid to the Palestinians.

The bill will require that aid be halted if Hamas plays any role in the PA in the future and will also require the PA to stop all incitement against Israel and Jews. The bill will also specifically endorse President Bush’s 2004 letter to Israel promising U.S. support for Israel’s retention of Jerusalem and the settlement blocs in a peace deal and end the waiver that has allowed presidents to evade previous legislation that mandated the United States must move its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It also includes a measure banning aid to Lebanon if Hezbollah joins its government.

According to the Post, Democratic sources on the Hill claim the Israelis want the aid to continue to flow no matter what the Palestinians have done, though they admit if Hamas formally takes control of part of the PA government, there will be no question of any more American money going to it.

While the truth of this assertion depends upon whom in Israel you are talking to, the Democrats do have a point about Israelis wanting the PA to be able to function. Israel needs a Palestinian interlocutor no matter how dismal the chances for peace may be. Even if the PA’s leadership is incapable of signing a peace agreement, Israel has no wish to directly govern the vast majority of Arabs living in the territories. It would be quite happy were PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad allowed to go on with his state-building measures whose purpose is to build a viable Palestinian economy and infrastructure. But Fayyad has little support even within the ruling Fatah Party, and his future is uncertain because of opposition from Hamas in the wake of the terrorist group’s unity pact with Fatah.

As the PA seeks to evade peace talks via its United Nations gambit and embraces the Islamists of Hamas, the rationale for American support for Fatah’s government is evaporating. By continuing to support the Palestinians with U.S. taxpayer money even after the unity pact with Hamas, the Obama administration is sending them a destructive message. Far from being a pointless case of pandering to the pro-Israel community, now is exactly the moment when the United States ought to put the PA on notice that ongoing American support will be dependent on their good behavior. That means an end to efforts to circumvent the peace process and incitement to hatred against Jews in their official media.

As for Jerusalem, the waiver the Committee seeks to end made a joke out of the 1995 legislation that mandated the movement of the embassy. But even without the waiver, it is doubtful Congress can force the executive branch to act on this measure. The embassy issue, which was an evergreen of pro-Israel politics for decades, has faded in recent years as both Israel and American Jews realized the effort was futile. It is doubtful any American president will ever move the embassy in advance of a comprehensive peace deal, and the odds of such an accord ever being signed are slim and none.

While the House’s pro-Israel effort will probably be shot down in the Senate, the Republican majority on the Foreign Affairs Committee still deserves praise for firing a shot over Obama’s bow on these issues. The day is coming when it will no longer be possible to defend the ongoing flow of American funds to an entity in bed with terrorists. Sooner or later, American aid to the PA is going to end.

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Be Skeptical of That WaPo-ABC News Poll

The big news today in Washingon is a Washington Post-NBC News poll that shows both a pox on all your houses attitude toward the president and Democrats and Republicans on the handling of the debt issue, but a particular shadow over Republicans because while 58 percent of respondents said Obama was being inflexible in negotiations, 77 percent of them said Republicans were. Also startling is the fact that those who identify themselves as Republicans say Republican lawmakers are being too intransigent–and that 46 percent of Republicans say they believe a mix of tax cuts and spending cuts is the way to go, basically in a statistical tie with the 50 percent who say spending cuts only.

Such a poll is a dagger in the heart of the rejectionist stance of the Tea Partiers in Congress, no? No, actually. Why? Because this is a poll of adults. Not registered voters. Not likely voters. Adults. As a practical matter, a politician judges the danger to himself from a political stand based on how actual voters will respond. In this case, the poll offers no guide to that. Turnout in the 2010 midterm election that brought 63 new Republicans to the House was 41 percent of registered voters. Reigstered voters make up 61 percent of all adults. Therefore, the actual constituents to whom Republican House members must respond constitute something like 20 percent of the universe of adults who make up the respondents of this poll.

There are two reasons to do a poll of adults only on a complex matter involving Congress in a non-election year. One is cost; it is more expensive to do a rigorous poll of registered or even likely voters. The other is to skew the debate. I report. You decide.

 

The big news today in Washingon is a Washington Post-NBC News poll that shows both a pox on all your houses attitude toward the president and Democrats and Republicans on the handling of the debt issue, but a particular shadow over Republicans because while 58 percent of respondents said Obama was being inflexible in negotiations, 77 percent of them said Republicans were. Also startling is the fact that those who identify themselves as Republicans say Republican lawmakers are being too intransigent–and that 46 percent of Republicans say they believe a mix of tax cuts and spending cuts is the way to go, basically in a statistical tie with the 50 percent who say spending cuts only.

Such a poll is a dagger in the heart of the rejectionist stance of the Tea Partiers in Congress, no? No, actually. Why? Because this is a poll of adults. Not registered voters. Not likely voters. Adults. As a practical matter, a politician judges the danger to himself from a political stand based on how actual voters will respond. In this case, the poll offers no guide to that. Turnout in the 2010 midterm election that brought 63 new Republicans to the House was 41 percent of registered voters. Reigstered voters make up 61 percent of all adults. Therefore, the actual constituents to whom Republican House members must respond constitute something like 20 percent of the universe of adults who make up the respondents of this poll.

There are two reasons to do a poll of adults only on a complex matter involving Congress in a non-election year. One is cost; it is more expensive to do a rigorous poll of registered or even likely voters. The other is to skew the debate. I report. You decide.

 

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Top Obama Bundler Courts Chris Christie for President

President Obama’s class warfare rhetoric definitely helps him rally his progressive base, but it may be turning off some major political donors who supported him in 2008. Politico’s Mike Allen names a few of the high-profile fundraisers who tried to persuade Gov. Chris Christie to run for president at a meeting yesterday, and it looks like at least one – hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones – was a major Obama bundler in 2008. According to financial disclosures, Jones raked in between $100,000 and $200,000 for the campaign, but he doesn’t appear on Obama’s recently-released list of 2012 bundlers.

Other billionaires at the Christie event included  hedge fund titan Stan Druckenmiller and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who have both publicly railed against the president’s economic policies. And there were reportedly also unnamed attendees who claimed to be former Obama supporters who have grown disillusioned with the president:

Several of Langone’s guests said during the session that they are Republicans, but voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because they disagreed with having Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket.

Several said they were severely disappointed in the president. The biggest complaint was what some called “class warfare.”

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President Obama’s class warfare rhetoric definitely helps him rally his progressive base, but it may be turning off some major political donors who supported him in 2008. Politico’s Mike Allen names a few of the high-profile fundraisers who tried to persuade Gov. Chris Christie to run for president at a meeting yesterday, and it looks like at least one – hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones – was a major Obama bundler in 2008. According to financial disclosures, Jones raked in between $100,000 and $200,000 for the campaign, but he doesn’t appear on Obama’s recently-released list of 2012 bundlers.

Other billionaires at the Christie event included  hedge fund titan Stan Druckenmiller and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who have both publicly railed against the president’s economic policies. And there were reportedly also unnamed attendees who claimed to be former Obama supporters who have grown disillusioned with the president:

Several of Langone’s guests said during the session that they are Republicans, but voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because they disagreed with having Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket.

Several said they were severely disappointed in the president. The biggest complaint was what some called “class warfare.”

While this is a good sign for Republicans looking to pick off Obama backers, there hasn’t been any evidence yet that Obama’s ability to recruit wealthy donors has been seriously impacted. He’s raised at least $35 million from 244 bundlers so far this cycle, although it remains to be seen whether he’ll have as many bundlers as he did in 2008 (560). But for at least some wealthy fundraisers, the president’s bitter tirades about taxes on corporate jets don’t seem to be helping.

As for Gov. Christie, the presence of all of those high-powered kingmakers reportedly didn’t sway him from his previously stated decision not to run. However, the prospect of such major financial backing had to be tempting — maybe it’ll be something for Christie to mull over during his well-timed trip to Iowa next week.

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