The 21-year-old soldier arrested today for allegedly plotting to attack Fort Hood appears to be the same “conscientious objector” who was viewed as a peacemaker by anti-war activists last year, after he refused to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq because he claimed it violated his Muslim faith.
When Pfc. Naser Abdo applied for CO status last year, the utterly discredited Iraq Veterans Against the War organization posted a message in support of him on its website, and asked readers to donate to his legal defense fund. And Kimber Heinz, a writer for the far-left website Truthout, unluckily chose to profile Abdo in a 2010 article entitled, “One Year After Fort Hood: The Missing Story of Muslim Peacemaking.”
Earlier this week, I wrote about the astonishing success of a new video promoting Israel’s side of the Middle East conflict produced by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Ayalon’s “The Truth About the West Bank” debunked Arab myths about Israel’s position and put forward a straightforward argument that whatever the ultimate disposition of the territories, the notion Jews have no right to be in the West Bank or their presence is “illegal” was false.
This video, which has already been viewed nearly 200,000 times, drove Palestinian advocates nuts, because it shows how wrong are the world’s assumptions about Israel. Apparently, it was also enough to drive some liberal Jews up the wall as well. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was driven to profanity to describe Ayalon’s efforts which contradicts, at least in part, the mainstream Jewish liberal conventional wisdom to which he subscribes. But in addition to snidely referring to the film as “cheesy” (it is anything but) and “sinister,” he claimed its production showed the Israeli Foreign Ministry had become settlement advocates and that in doing so it was telling the Palestinians to “f___ off.”
Yesterday, I wrote about two instances in which Republican opposition to John Boehner’s debt ceiling bill had perhaps taken things a step too far and ended up strengthening Boehner’s hand in the process.
Unfortunately, tempers got so high they have yet to come back to earth, and some of the pro-Boehner Republicans who were targeted by the Republican Study Committee are talking retribution. To recap, staffers with the RSC were caught targeting members of the House GOP for their support of Boehner’s plan, and when this came to light, RSC chairman Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and his staff were treated to a hostile dressing down at a caucus meeting.
Gov. Rick Perry’s support for New York’s same-sex marriage decision seemed like a sign the Republican Party might be changing its stance on the issue. But the potential presidential candidate walked back his statements today and reiterated his commitment to a federal marriage amendment.
“I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’ and that it’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue,” said Perry during an interview with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. “Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann’s speech to the National Press Club might have been an opportunity for the Tea Party’s heroine to fire a shot across the bow of her longtime antagonists in the GOP leadership–coming only hours before the vote on House Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling proposal. Instead, the presidential candidate was careful to express her admiration for Boehner, even though she said she wouldn’t vote for any measure—including his—that raised the debt ceiling.
While almost all of her fire was directed at President Obama, Bachmann made it clear she wouldn’t vote for any compromise measure. If the cut, cap and balance plan passed by the House last week didn’t meet her approval, there was no way she was going to back Boehner’s second try at a debt ceiling solution. But her opposition to Boehner was not personal (she repeatedly praised Boehner’s efforts to solve the problem), nor did she treat the possibility of the House passing his bill as a calamity. In fact, she seemed to treat its passage as a fait accompli that would once again put the ball in the Democrats’ court. In other words, Bachmann gave the impression she would not be displeased were Boehner to succeed today but wanted no share of the responsibility for passing it.
Making predictions can be a perilous undertaking, but here are a few as the debt ceiling debate moves toward its denouement.
An agreement will be reached before the August 2 deadline. It won’t be ideal by any means — but all told it will be seen, and rightly so, as a substantive win for the GOP. Republicans will have outmaneuvered the president and his party, securing an agreement without tax increases, that includes some cuts, and creates a new precedent that spending restraint must accompany an increase in the debt ceiling.
In today’s online edition of the New York Times, University of Notre Dame philosophy professor Gary Gutting attempts a takedown of those who attempt to inject religion into secular political debates. His clear target is the religious right and the Tea Party who believe in limited government. Gutting writes that it is irritating to be confronted with “the irrationality of claims that distinctively modern questions about capitalist economics and democratic government were answered in the Bible 2000 years ahead of time,” such as those by the conservative Christian group The Family Leader’s Voting Guide.
Gutting has a point, but the problem with the piece–and much of the liberal disdain for conservative Christians and their Tea Party allies–is the same argument can be used to dismiss liberals who employ religious arguments on behalf of their own positions on the profoundly secular question of taxes, entitlements and the public debt. Coming as it did the day after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced congressional efforts to cut back on entitlement spending as part of a solution to the debt ceiling crisis, the omission was an extraordinary example of bias. The religious left is just as guilty as those on the right of trying to depict God as being on their side of the aisle.
Circumcision opponents suffered a legal defeat yesterday when a California court ruled the proposed referendum on banning the practice in San Francisco was to be taken off the ballot. Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi decided the referendum ran afoul of state law that forbids municipalities from banning legitimate medical procedures and was therefore “expressly pre-empted.”
While those who have promoted the referendum will probably appeal, the ruling may mean the bris banners may not have the opportunity to prevent Jews from performing their covenantal obligations by circumcising baby boys. Had the law been passed, performing a circumcision would have been a punishable offense.
It’s getting harder for Democrats to blame Tea Partiers for blocking a debt ceiling deal, now that all 53 Senate Democrats (and independents) have signed a letter saying they will not support Boehner’s plan. But Sen. Harry Reid gave it a final try this morning:
“A small group of radical Republicans who don’t represent mainstream America… have refused to move one inch towards compromise,” said Reid.
“There has been a spate of these members of the House of Representatives that have said they would rather see the nation default on its financial obligations than cooperate,” he continued.
Most commentators agree congressional Republicans would be blamed for the consequences if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. This morning, Matt Lewis has a post reminding readers why the GOP is at such a disadvantage: the mainstream media will blame the GOP; the Republicans have a branding problem on these issues since they appear to strongly dislike government and the entitlement checks it writes; and the president is a Democrat, so his party has the bully pulpit.
He’s right, of course, though it seems at times the White House is trying to lose that last advantage. Press Secretary Jay Carney has been an even less amiable spokesman than his predecessor, Bob Gibbs. Fresh off telling MSNBC’s Chuck Todd he was parroting Republican talking points by asking what the president’s plan was, Carney has dusted off the old “Republicans are Nazis” insult in what I can only imagine was an attempt to alienate as many people as possible. Lewis’ colleague Neil Munro reports:
There is a clear and present danger of premature triumphalism when American counter-terrorism officials proclaim al-Qaeda is “on the brink of collapse.” As Daveed Garstenstein-Ross notes at National Review, we have been hearing such proclamations since 2003, and each time, al-Qaeda has managed to defy reports of its demise. In fact, the al-Qaeda network has shown an impressive ability to regenerate itself–hardly surprising since the resources needed to carry out a single terrorist attack, even one as high-profile as 9/11, are fairly small.
The only point I would add to Garstenstein-Ross’s excellent analysis is that we should remember ”Islamist terrorism” does not necessarily mean “al-Qaeda.” Al-Qaeda is the most famous such group, and with 9/11 it managed to pull off the most damaging terrorist attack ever. But numerous other radicals are setting off bombs with scant direction or assistance from al-Qaeda Central. These organizations range from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaeda in Iraq to the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani Network, Hezbollah, Kataib Hezbollah and Hamas. None of these groups has pulled off an attack on the scale of 9/11, thank goodness, but several of them have undoubtedly killed far more people–and dominated far more territory–than al-Qaeda Central ever did.
With 88 hours or so left to go until the White House’s declared deadline of August 2 for the debt ceiling to be raised, here’s the state of play:
Speaker of the House John Boehner is desperately trying to defuse the crisis with a split-the-baby piece of legislation that raises the debt ceiling for six months, matches its increase dollar-for-dollar in cuts (over 10 years), does not increase taxes, and takes it all up again at the end of the year—with an evenly divided partisan panel determining where things go now.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared Boehner’s bill dead in the water, because he has a bill that features cuts too but raises the debt ceiling high enough to take the country through until after the 2012 election. He is vowing to undertake a parliamentary maneuver in which the Senate takes up the House bill, strips it of all its provisions, replaces them with Reid’s provisions, and sends it back to the House—at which point the House will either have to accept it or vote it down. I call this a maneuver because Reid could also bring his proposal up in the Senate as its own bill and then bring his bill and Boehner’s bill into a conference committee where the terms can be hashed out between them, voted on again by both chambers, and sent to the president for a signature.
As President Obama grumbles on the sidelines of the debt ceiling debate, the growing chorus of dissent from liberals who are disgruntled with the White House is starting to be heard. While Monday’s night’s speech proved the president is still playing to his base with class warfare rhetoric aimed at the Republicans, many on the left are unhappy with the cuts to entitlements that Obama has appeared to accept. But an even bigger problem is the president’s supporters have come to realize how ineffectual his efforts have been in this crisis.
Though the president has acted as if all the political stars were aligning to favor his positions on the issue and ultimately his re-election, the impact of recent events on the enthusiasm level of his base must be extremely troubling.
Josh Kraushaar of National Journal provides a useful survey of swing state polls.
Kraushaar points out that while the national polls are useful in gauging the president’s popularity, the more instructive numbers are those from battleground states. “Those polls are even more ominous for the president,” according to Kraushaar, who cites data from Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan.
Kudos to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government for finally breaking a European taboo. At a press conference in Madrid last week, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe publicly declared that “there will be no solution to the conflict in the Middle East without recognition of two nation-states for two peoples. The nation-state of Israel for the Jewish people, and the nation-state of Palestine for the Palestinian people.” Then, lest anyone overlook the statement’s significance or think it a mere slip of the tongue, his ministry yesterday circulated copies of it.
This is truly groundbreaking. Until now, no EU country has been willing to state publicly that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement must recognize Israel as the Jews’ nation-state, though the EU routinely details the concessions it expects Israel to make.
In Gregory Levey’s How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment, he tells of sitting on a panel about the Arab-Israeli conflict when a Palestinian man in the audience leans in toward the Palestinian sitting next to Levey and says: “It’s easier to deal with the extreme Zionists. Much harder to deal with the moderates.”
I wondered about the meaning of this quote until I read Adam Kredo’s story in this week’s Washington Jewish Week, about the latest project from J Street. The group brought in seven former Israeli officials to lobby Congress and the White House to accept the 1949 armistice lines as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations–loudly and overwhelmingly rejected by Israelis and the Congress. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected those terms in his visit to the U.S., his popularity jumped, and formerly anti-Bibi Israelis were telling the Washington Post: “Now he’s our guy. He’s the voice of Israel.”