President Obama says it’s time to turn his attention to jobs, as if the recent debate was the one thing holding him back from tackling unemployment. As the Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway points out, this isn’t the first time Obama has promised to “turn his attention” to the economy. Unfortunately, each time he’s tried, other issues have always seemed to get in the way.
“It’s increasingly clear that the Obama administration devoted all of its energy upfront to passing the stimulus package and Obamacare and then expected the economy and entitlements to sort themselves out while they coasted until the next campaign,” Mark writes. “At a certain point, you pivot so many times you’re just going in circles, like someone put a blindfold on Obama and told him we’re playing Pin the Tail on the Economy.”
Now that Rick Perry appears to be on the verge of declaring his candidacy for the Republican nomination and has already settled into the second-place slot in the polls behind Mitt Romney, some of the commentary has turned to how these two candidates feel about each other. The verdict: not exactly warm and fuzzy.
From today’s Austin American-Statesman:
A heated 2006 conversation in Austin is often recounted in Perry circles. Romney was the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and had hired TV adman Alex Castellanos to help Republican candidates across the country.
This startling detail appears in a story published today at MSNBC.com about radiation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant:
Two workers at the plant died in the initial earthquake and tsunami disasters on March 11 and a third died from a heart attack on May 14 while working in a waste disposal building. All three deaths were unrelated to nuclear radiation.
No one has died from the radiation leaked at Fukushima. Amazing, when you consider the accident caused Germany to forswear nuclear power altogether, and anti-nuclear activists in every free country have been pushing their governments to follow suit. What’s even more amazing is the story itself is headlined “Death in seconds” and details newly discovered pockets of radiation at the plant “that could lead to incapacitation or death after just several seconds of exposure.” We shouldn’t be callous about the potential long-term damage, and few things are scarier than an unstoppable nuclear meltdown, but it sure seems like a political meltdown immediately supplanted the original disaster.
So, the budget battle is over. Or is it? In the way typical of Washington, lawmakers have reached a deal that, while it includes some immediate budget cuts, defers the biggest decisions for future resolution. Now it will be up to the super committee to figure out how to cut at least $1.2 trillion in spending, or else automatic cuts will be enforced in the fall, with half falling on defense, the other half on Medicare and other social programs.
Opinions differ as to whether the automatic cuts will take place, but Bill Kristol worries they might be, and I’m inclined to agree. That would be a catastrophe for the future of American power: The armed forces can survive, barely, the $350 billion in cuts over 10 years mandated by the first part of the budget package. They could not survive, at least not in their current form, an extra $600+ billion in cuts.
One bright side about the debt ceiling deal passing: maybe now we’ll actually find out exactly what it’s going to do.
The wording of the deal is so vague (intentionally? because of the last-minute time crunch?) that national security experts who focus on the defense budget for a living have had a hard time agreeing on how it will impact defense.
Jonah Goldberg has a remarkable rant about press bias over at National Review Online you really have to read. He takes on the fact that liberal commentators and liberal politicals now feel entirely free to refer to conservative Republicans, especially those aligned with the Tea Party, as terrorists, jihadists, thugs, dictators, and the like, without fearing the consequences of media blowback. But I’m struck by a quality shared by all those who engage in increasingly uncontrolled rhetoric about the role of the members of Congress who opposed a debt-ceiling increase and any deal: They sound impotent.They are hurling violent words at the people they dislike because they cannot believe their own arguments are not winning the day.
As it happens, I too think a failure to raise the debt ceiling would have been wildly reckless. But for those who voted as they did, the most minimal elementary fairness should be extended: They told their constituents they wouldn’t. They ran for election in 2010 promising to do what they could to change the relationship of the body politic to the federal government, to reverse the spending mania in Washington, and to hold true to principles of limited government. They won. They were presented with bills they thought failed the test. They voted against those bills. In what conceivable universe is this entirely appropriate behavior by elected officials trying to fulfill their campaign promises tyrannous, terroristic, jihadist, or anything else? Opposing tax hikes is the act of a jihadist? Wanting larger cuts in government programs is terrorism? Exercising the right to assemble into a loose coalition to oppose such things is dictatorial?
It isn’t, of course. These words are tossed about because the people who speak them are becoming aware of the fact that they have lost the national argument they believed they had won in 2008. They are revealing themselves as losers, sore losers, bad losers. And Joe Nocera, Paul Krugman, Fareed Zakaria, and others aren’t making arguments. They’re throwing petulant tantrums.
This brand new Gallup poll isn’t just an interesting read, it also backs up several of the points House Homeland Security Chair Peter King has been trying to make during his radicalization hearings. Out of all religious groups Gallup surveyed, Muslim Americans are the least likely to have confidence in the FBI and military institutions. They also don’t feel represented by most of the Muslim American organizations currently operating in the U.S., including the controversial Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
King has stressed the tension between Muslim Americans and law enforcement could obstruct or hinder FBI investigations. While the numbers don’t sound dangerously low, just 60 percent of Muslim Americans say they have confidence in the FBI, compared to 75 percent or more of Americans of other religious backgrounds.
This week’s New Yorker has a riveting account by freelance journalist Nicholas Schmidle of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Reading it, I was reminded of this hilarious satirical video which has “The Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden” bragging to all the patrons of a San Diego bar about his achievement. It looks as if some of the participants in the raid–or at least those involved in its planning–talked to Schmidle.
I don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with that–not much in the way of operational details seems to have been compromised in this article, at least not beyond what has already been reported. The only real news nugget is the special operators had made previous, unreported forays into Pakistan; but that should hardly come as a shock, given the already extensive reporting about another form of U.S. special operations in Pakistan–namely, the Predator strikes. Still, the Special Operations community is undoubtedly guilty of hypocrisy: they pull a tight blanket of secrecy around their operations but peel it back when they have an especially notable success to publicize.
As President Obama’s approval drops to 40 percent and independents are fleeing him in droves, as the economy continues to stagger and comparisons to the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter are increasingly being made by Democrats, it’s worth recalling the almost cult-like reverence Obama inspired after his election. You need not go further than this November 7, 2008 broadcast of “The Charlie Rose Show,” which featured a conversation with David Remnick of The New Yorker and historians Alan Brinkley and Michael Beschloss.
“The extraordinary outpouring of celebration, joy, and hope all over the world at this election is something I could never have imagined in my lifetime,” according to Professor Brinkley.”There’s a discipline to Obama that is so extraordinary,” he raved. And then he added: “I don’t think we’ve had a president since Lincoln who has the oratorical skills that Obama has. Obama has that quality that Lincoln had.”
The Associated Press touched off a round of Knesset-ology yesterday when it reported, based on an Israeli TV report, Benjamin Netanyahu “has agreed to negotiate the borders of a Palestinian state based on the cease-fire line that marks off the West Bank.” The story termed this a “dramatic policy shift.”
Was Netanyahu now capitulating to President Obama’s declaration that negotiations start at the 1949 armistice lines? Did something change? Unfortunately, the subsequent articles in the Israeli and American press weren’t much help. Both sides are being vague about what it actually means, but it’s all based on one question: whether the 1949 armistice lines (also referred to as the 1967 lines) should be treated as though they constitute an international border. Curiously, however, we were given a reminder this week of an actual international border where U.S. assets have been attacked and its clear boundary recognition ignored. Yet the president, far from giving a national speech hectoring the leader of that country (as he did to Netanyahu) seems unmoved.
Here’s one more reason why many Democrats are privately loving the debt ceiling deal – it “deems” a budget for the next two years, allowing them to avoid a showdown like the one that nearly ground the government to a halt last spring.
COMMENTARY obtained a memo sent out by the Senate Democratic Policy & Communications Center, which shows Democrats raving about the budget gimmick (emphasis mine):
Last week, the Palestinian Authority sought an urgent Arab League meeting to discuss its financial crisis: PA employees received only half their salaries in July, because donor states had delivered only one-third of their promised $970 million in aid. The delinquents were mainly Arab states, not Western ones, and UN development economist Raja Khalidi offered an instructive explanation for this fact in an interview with Haaretz this week:
“Even two generations after 1948, no Western donor, especially European and American, can be oblivious to their historic responsibility [for the Palestinians’ plight], and to the immediate security and political interests that the continuation of this conflict implies. Hence anything needed to keep a lid on things is to be expected, and indeed comes without asking the cost. As for Arab donors, they do not feel at all the historic responsibility for this situation.”
Alana is absolutely correct that defense remains on the chopping block as a result of the debt-ceiling compromise. The first wave of cuts will include $350 billion taken from the Department of Defense and other security agencies during the next ten years: less than President Obama and most Democrats wanted but still a significant hit. Really worrisome is the potential for another $600 billion in defense cuts this fall if budget negotiators cannot reach agreement on a combination of other measures to reduce the public debt. That’s enough to eviscerate the military and bring back the hollow force of the 1970s.
But that’s not a foregone conclusion. Much will depend on how much fortitude Republicans display this fall in defending defense. That’s why it is good to see House Republicans rallying to the armed forces’ defense–and not only them. Mitt Romney has also taken a stand against the debt-ceiling compromise which he worries ”opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table.” Although he is accused of vacillating on foreign affairs, Romney has actually been a consistent champion of the troops–and the funds needed to fund them. I trust other Republican presidential candidates will join him in voicing their support for fully funding the government’s most essential function.