Yuval Levin and Keith Hennessey have written noteworthy pieces.
In National Review Online, Levin writes, “That debt explosion—which will be at the heart of our politics in the coming years—is different and unprecedented, and we have seen in recent months that the Left is completely unprepared to understand it, and the Right (with much help from the indispensable Paul Ryan) is only starting to grasp it. Simply put, that debate is all about health-care entitlements. And I mean all… Our debt explosion is a health-entitlement explosion, and to address it we have to fix the fundamental structure of our health entitlements. That means above all replacing the fee for service structure of Medicare, which is the chief driver of inefficiency across our health-care system.”
Keith Hennessey weighs in on the so-called Gang of Six plan, providing 17 – yes, 17 –reasons why it is “absolutely terrible fiscal policy.”
Both men back up their judgments with care, precision and measured arguments. But take a look for yourself.
In an apparent nod to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s wishes, Israel’s Knesset voted yesterday to turn down a proposal to investigate left-wing non-governmental organizations. But this decision won’t completely defuse the controversy about a previous measure passed by the body that allowed citizens to sue individuals or groups calling for boycotts of Israel or any region of the country. Netanyahu’s decision to back off on the latest of these measures proposed by his Yisrael Beitenu coalition partners shows he is sensitive to the way the issue plays abroad.
As I wrote previously, these efforts to clamp down on foreign-funded groups seeking to undermine Israel from within are counter-productive. These bills turn pro-boycott groups into martyrs rather than isolating them. But as Americans continue to huff and puff about what they wrongly term anti-democratic legislation, it needs to be reiterated–this issue looks a little different from an Israeli perspective. Moreover, those Americans who have heightened Israel’s feelings of isolation are in no position to complain about these measures.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warm relationship with congressional Republicans has unnerved Democrats since the Clinton administration. But perhaps this was most visible when Bibi’s trip to the U.S. in May was preceded the day before by President Obama’s controversial remarks about the 1967 lines and the peace process.
The ensuing days saw congressional leaders embrace Bibi and push back against the White House (joined by Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Steny Hoyer). There was even the unprecedented incident in which DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz personally asked Bibi not to let Republicans criticize her party on Israel. Sensing the Democrats were in trouble with Jewish voters, Tablet Magazine’s Marc Tracy decried the “Republican political operatives who would like nothing more than to use Israel as a wedge issue to peel away Jewish voters who voted even for Barack Obama over John McCain by a more than three-to-one margin.”
In his response to my earlier posting on Mongolia, Jonathan Tobin brings up the flip side to Mongolia’s historical legacy:
While we can sympathize with Mongolia’s troubles in the last century, any country that accords Genghis Khan–one of history’s great mass-murdering conquerors–the status of founding father, undermines its stance as a lonely democracy fighting for independence against authoritarian bullies.
Gov. Rick Perry’s Day of Prayer proposal and well-publicized chats with God are clearly aimed at attracting social conservatives, but there’s one obstacle that could stand in his way: Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee is no fan of Perry, as he makes clear in this recent email to supporters:
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is still flirting with a run, and it’s the type of flirting even his wife approves of. The Dallas Morning News reports that a campaign button collector ordered a “Perry for Governor 2010” button from Perry’s office. What he got back was a button, all pressed and ready to go, that reads, “Perry – President – 2012.” So if Perry’s not running, then that button will be a REAL collector’s item. For all his new found commitment to hyper-conservatism, he’ll get to explain why he supported pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage Rudy Guiliani last time.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. If, like me, you care about the future of American power–if, like me, you believe the United States has been the greatest force for good in the world during the past 100 years and the U.S. armed forces have been our most effective instrument of power projection–then you should be scared about what is being cooked up among budget negotiators on Capitol Hill.
The so-called Gang of Six–Democratic Senators Kent Conrad, Dick Durbin, and Mark Warner, and Republicans Saxby Chambliss, Mike Crapo, and Tom Coburn—are cooking up what is billed as a bipartisan package that would cut nearly $900 billion from the defense budget during the next decade. That’s more than double the $400 billion in cuts that President Obama unveiled in April. Previously, Obama had said it would not be acceptable to cut $1 trillion from defense, as proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Commission, but now he’s sounding sympathetic toward the Gang of Six proposals.
For those who don’t watch Fox’s “Red Eye,” Thaddeus McCotter is a virtual unknown. The Michigan congressman is running for the Republican presidential nomination, however, and in keeping with his personal style, the McCotter campaign is a bit unorthodox.
There have been examples of this so far for those paying close attention. One subtle suggestion of the unorthodox nature of the campaign was when McCotter hired what would normally be called a state director in New Hampshire. Why do I say “would normally be called”? Because the McCotter campaign, the new hire told Politico, is “not a title-driven campaign,” so he didn’t have one.
Byron York calls some attention to just how strong Sarah Palin looks in the newest Washington Post/ABC poll. But whether Palin chooses to run or not, the poll reveals one reason Mitt Romney is a relatively weak front-runner.
The poll asked respondents who lean Republican which of the candidates “best understands the problems of people like you.” In this, Palin leads with 23 percent. Romney follows with 18 percent, and Bachmann comes in third with 11 percent.
Our colleague Michael Rubin makes a good case for why we should care about Mongolia as well as why we should reject the realpolitik that would have the United States eschew friendship with small states that border on larger, dangerous countries. The instinct to abandon such states led the first President Bush to send dangerous signals to Russia as the Soviet Union was breaking up. Fortunately, the Baltic nations that spent a generation in Communist bondage won their freedom despite the mistakes made by the leader of the free world. The same lesson could apply to our on-again, off-again friendship for the Republic of Georgia, a fledgling democracy which lives in the shadow of a resurgent and aggressive Russian empire.
But even as we embrace the freedom of small nations, we must still remember just as history didn’t end with the fall of the Berlin Wall, it didn’t begin with the Treaty of Versailles either. The worm has turned several times since today’s victims were yesterday’s bad guys, but historical memory sometimes is longer than we think.
This Club for Growth video showing old clips of 20 Senate Democrats voicing “support” for a balanced budget amendment has been making the rounds lately. (Coincidentally, Senate Republicans have estimated that they need 20 Democrats to support the BBA in order for it to pass!)
And while the video might inspire false hope that the BBA has even the slightest chance of passing, it’s completely misleading. There are all types of balanced budget amendments, and the one Republicans have proposed would basically make certain GOP-favored economic policies constitutionally binding (spending below 18 percent of GDP, two-thirds majority approval for tax hikes). Democrats may support a balanced budget amendment, but almost certainly not that one.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is moving ahead with his plans for a state visit to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. While the United States and the European Union may consider Hamas a terrorist organization, Erdoğan instead describes Hamas as “resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land.”
Erdoğan may wish to use anti-Israel activism to propel Turkey’s leadership bid among Arab states, but he should take care with the precedent he sets. It is hard to square his demand that Israel apologize for killing nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara (one of whom held dual American citizenship) with Turkey’s refusal to apologize for the murders of hundreds of thousands, if not a million Armenians in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire; or its role in the deaths of myriad Kurdish civilians during its fight against the Kurdish insurgency of the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, the Turkish government leveled hundreds of Kurdish villages as it tried to create a cordon sanitaire along its frontiers with Iraq and Iran.
As Jake Tapper joked on twitter, “There have now been more stories written about Obama and Jewish voters than there are Jewish voters.” If you want to read another one, click here for the HuffPo’s coverage of J Street’s new poll.
What’s interesting about the poll isn’t what it finds about Jewish public opinion, because what it finds is pretty neatly in line with what most polls find about Jewish public opinion. What’s interesting is that J Street, three years after its founding, still doesn’t seem to understand something very basic about Jewish opinion. The poll found that while Obama has a 60 percent approval rating among Jews,
Some 56 percent of respondents to the J Street poll disapproved of the job he was doing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while 44 percent approved.
As the maneuvering about the debt ceiling continues, the dynamic of the debate has shifted to one question: Will House Republicans be buffaloed into surrender on the question of tax increases?
Senate Republicans are starting to stray off the reservation to support compromise measures such as the Gang of Six plan that includes higher taxes and lower spending cuts than the plan the GOP had rejected in the past. That means the pressure on the House majority to let everyone in Washington off the hook for a potential default is growing every day, with many Republicans openly talking of their fear of being branded as the villains of the story in the event of a partial government shutdown.
It turns out that News Corporation, the so-called “Republican Party communications arm,” donated more to Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 than it has to any other politician ever, according to a new report by the Sunlight Foundation:
The biggest all-time recipient of contributions from News Corp. is President Obama. It should be noted that the totals for News Corp.’s contributions also include money from employees of the organization and their family members. Obama being listed as the company’s top recipient might surprise some people because of its highly publicized involvement with his political rivals, like Sarah Palin who was the vice presidential candidate in 2008 and reportedly still under contract with Murdoch-owned Fox News as a paid commentator.
The latest Fox News poll shows the president’s approval-disapproval rating underwater. Forty-five percent of voters approve of the job Obama is doing while 46 percent disapprove, making this his lowest approval for the year so far.
But the really alarming news for the president is this: Voters are more than twice as likely to say the economy is getting worse than to say it is getting better. The poll found that 58 percent of voters think the economy is getting worse while only 26 percent think things are getting better economically. In addition, by a 15 percentage-point margin, more voters say the Obama administration has made the economy worse (49 percent) rather than better (34 percent).
As I mentioned yesterday, my wife and I spent our summer vacation this year in Mongolia, a trip I’d recommend to anyone. The Mongols are friendly, the air is clean, and there is much to see for anyone interested in history, religion, or nature. (The only thing Mongolia lacks is a good beach.) If ever there was a country that lost the lottery on neighbors, it was Mongolia, sandwiched between a sometimes hostile, bullying Russia and an even more bullying China. I am reminded of that apt headline in The Onion in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Georgia: “U.S. Advises Allies not to Border Russia.”
Indeed, while we were there, people were complaining about Russia playing hardball with fuel sales, sending the price of gasoline skyrocketing, and the price of food and all other goods along with it. While Mongolia has some gas deposits of its own (nothing compared to its coal resources), it has trouble developing it as neither China nor Russia wish Mongolia to be energy independent.
The American economy is unwell. The growth of manufacturing slowed in the spring, as did job growth, which was a dismal 54,000 jobs in May. Unemployment is rising again. Gasoline is nearly $4 per gallon, reducing tourism and retail sales while increasing the cost of everything from airfares to package delivery. And the housing sector, where so much personal wealth is invested, continues to retreat, with prices now down to 2002 levels. Not since the Great Depression three generations ago has recovery come so slowly after an economic crisis. Once again, as has been the case since the crisis began in 2007, most of the discussion about this has come to center on what the federal government can and should do to create growth. The problem is that the government has spent more than two years and more than $1.5 trillion trying to fix things, with what can charitably be described as limited results.
The Federal Reserve Board has arguably been more active since 2007 than at any other time in its history, structuring bank bailouts, injecting liquidity into the system, slashing interest rates and keeping them low, and working hand in hand with both the Bush and Obama administrations. Now it has just about shot its bolt. Its $600 billion effort in 2010 to speed up the economy through a second round of “quantitative easing” has proved ineffective. And the Fed has almost no room to maneuver when it comes to interest rates; they can’t fall below zero, after all.
So much for what the unelected powers in Washington can do. The situation is even more sobering when it comes to the policy choices of elected Democrats. Economists on the left, such as Christine Romer and Paul Krugman, want Congress to enact further Keynesian fiscal stimulus. They claim that the $814 billion stimulus package of 2009 wasn’t large enough to do the job of getting the economy growing strongly. The age-old truism that one shouldn’t throw good money after bad would seem to apply here; but even if it didn’t, the notion is risible from a practical standpoint. The public appetite for further stimulus spending is nonexistent. The election of 2010 made it abundantly clear that the public wants the government to spend less, not more.
Click here to read the rest of this article from the July/August issue of COMMENTARY.
Tim Pawlenty is rolling out what can be described as the Pawlenty Campaign 2.0–the scrappy underdog swimming against the tide of his rivals’ money and organization. It’s all about managing expectations and clearing low bars.
He’s even got the New York Times and Politico running stories on it, with Politico’s a mostly positive review of the strategy. The problem for Pawlenty is that this is a terrible idea, for three main reasons.
Yesterday, as Jonathan noted earlier, President Obama told KMBC television:
They do expect that their President is going to be thinking about them every single day. And is going to be focused on how we win the future. And if next November they feel like I’ve been on their side, and I’ve been working as hard as I can, and I’ve been getting some things done to move us in the right direction, I’ll win. If they don’t, then I’ll lose. And that’s not to say the other candidate is irrelevant. But it does mean I’ll probably win or lose depending on their assessment of my stewardship.
Those are words the president will come to regret.
When National Public Radio fired commentator Juan Williams last year, they may have hoped it would be a one-day story. But what followed was a major controversy that wound up costing a number of executives at the network their jobs. But the ordeal isn’t over for NPR. Williams has written a new book about his firing from the network that is coming out next week. The advance interviews that Williams and his wife are giving to the media make it clear he believes he was just too black and too independent to survive in what is a cloister for white, college-educated liberals.
In an interview with Politico, Williams details the way NPR tried to censor his comments and sought to have him disassociate himself from Fox News, where he also served as a commentator. Even worse, despite NPR’s claim of Olympian objectivity, Williams says its left-wing bias is reinforced by a desire to please large contributors such as George Soros: