President Obama is still trying to pose as the adult in the room–blaming partisans for the debt ceiling crisis. But in his latest speech on the situation, in which he scorned the Republicans for playing politics, the president stuck to his own political agenda rather than playing a constructive role in a standoff in which he has been reduced to the role of an impotent spectator.
Obama’s advocacy this morning for higher taxes — a stance that even congressional Democrats have abandoned — and insistence a deal must give him a pass on the debt until after he is re-elected illustrated his detachment from the real problem of dealing with the government’s addiction to spending. But while he didn’t go overboard with class warfare rhetoric in quite the same way as he did on Monday, the president repeated his call for Congress to be deluged with calls and e-mails this weekend. What good will come from a transparent attempt to pressure Congress as it struggles to find a compromise the White House has done nothing to advance? Like almost everything else the president has done during this showdown, this speech strengthens the suspicion Obama’s goal is exactly the disaster he says he’s trying to avert.
Rick Perry made a shrewd decision to officially stay off the ballot in the Iowa straw poll next month, as a way to escape expectations and cause his potential rivals to underperform (since his supporters are planning to write him in). But that tactic is not an option this weekend in Denver. Perry will give one of two keynote addresses tonight, on the opening day of the Western Conservative Summit, which will be held through Sunday.
The conference will also feature Herman Cain, John Bolton, and Rick Santorum, as well as a host of conservative media personalities. The conference, sponsored by a think tank affiliated with Colorado Christian University called the Centennial Institute, will also include a straw poll, and Perry’s name will be on it–the first such test of his (as yet unofficial, but likely) candidacy.
George Will — after having recapitulated to Laura Ingraham his conservative credentials, which are impressive –said he supports the legislation being pushed by Speaker Boehner and explains why:
I happened to adore the Tea Party. I have no substantive difference with them on any important matter. But it’s important to understand how much they’ve won already. Harry Reid has proposed what the president denounces as an unbalanced idea. That is … all cuts and no new revenues. They’ve moved, in other words, the Senate Majority Leader, far in their direction. They should remember it seems to me that Barack Obama got into terrible trouble by overreaching with the stimulus, and then overreaching with the health care plan and the country recoiled from it. And our Tea Party friends don’t want to seem to the country to be similarly overreaching.
The most recent poll by the Pew Research Center finds that 41 percent of registered voters say they would like to see Barack Obama re-elected, while 40 percent say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win in 2012. In May, Obama held an 11-point lead. This shift is “driven by a steep drop-off in support for Obama among independents,” according to Pew.
Only 31 percent of independent voters want to see Obama reelected, down from 42 percent in May. And where Obama held a seven-point lead among independent registered voters two months ago, a generic Republican holds an eight-point edge today. And for the first time in his presidency, a majority (54 percent) disapprove of Obama’s performance. (Only 36 percent of independent voters approve of Obama, down from 42 percent last month and 49 percent in late May.)
There has been nothing but bad news lately for Barack Obama. The economic picture darkens almost daily as the recovery has slowed to a halt with little growth and high unemployment. His personal approval numbers are terrible, making his re-election uncertain at best. But this week he did get one break. Republican purists who have blocked passage of a debt ceiling increase may have given Obama the one thing he needed most this summer: a new scapegoat for the economy.
For two and a half years, Obama has been blaming George W. Bush for America’s economic straits. It was a reasonable, if unfair, position to hold for about a year. But after the passage of his billion dollar stimulus boondoggle and then the adoption of his cherished national health care plan, there was no denying that Obama “owned” the economy. The vast expansion of the debt and of entitlement spending on Obama’s watch is unprecedented, and it was the cause of the massive electoral backlash that put the Republicans back in control of the House of Representatives last fall. But by allowing their caucus to be saddled with the blame for the failure to deal with the summer’s debt crisis, the GOP may have given the president a new narrative with which he will attempt to explain the disastrous economy he has presided over. Though it will be the rankest piece of historical revisionism heard in years, it may be that in the coming weeks and months, the story coming out of the White House will be one in which it was the House Republicans who destroyed America’s economy in the summer of 2011.
John’s post reminds me of the time when the man with the plan rode to the rescue from Wall Street.
The United States has had the world’s largest economy for so long (at least 125 years) that no one now alive remembers when we didn’t. You’d have to be well 0ver ninety to remember a time when the center of the financial world was somewhere other than New York. The dollar has been the world’s reserve currency for more than 60 years. So few remember when the “almighty dollar” wasn’t so almighty or when the country’s credit rating was less than triple A. But such a time did indeed once exist.
The Twitter Duel between Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and blogger Jeffrey Goldberg about Ayalon’s widely-viewed video (214,000 views and counting) illustrates the difficulty of holding a debate in 140-character increments — particularly when arguing the video asserted Israel would retain the West Bank “forever” and Palestinians should “f— off,” which the video did not.
The video explained the history supporting the characterization of the West Bank as “disputed territory.” One would think the term “disputed territory” inherently acknowledges the existence of competing arguments and the consequent need for negotiation, but we need not speculate: Ayalon reviewed the same history in a December 30, 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “Israel’s Right in the ‘Disputed’ Territories,” which concluded with these words:
In the great 1979 comedy The In-Laws, New Jersey dentist Alan Arkin finds himself enmeshed in a global plot by intelligence agent Peter Falk, who maintains his calm in the face of all difficulties. Finally they find themselves in front of a firing squad in Central America. “What’s the plan?” Arkin says eagerly.
“There’s no plan, Shel,” says Falk. “”I’m all out. What you got?”
I understand why 25 or 30 House Republicans don’t like Speaker John Boehner’s plan to raise the debt ceiling. It doesn’t do enough to deal with lowering the nation’s indebtedness, they say. Even though it doesn’t raise taxes, it represents a capitulation to liberal attitudes about government, they say. And so on. So they won’t support it, and so Boehner has put off a vote on it.
But what I want to know from them is what Arkin wanted to know from Falk: What’s the plan? What happens now? And I fear the answer is: There’s no plan, Shel.
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.