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:
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.)
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.”
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.
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.
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
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 Timesstory 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.”