I am thoroughly alarmed about the cuts in the defense budget–both those already decided upon ($350 billion-$400 billion during the next ten years) and those that could still come in the fall (another $600 billion–$750 billion unless congressional negotiators can agree on a different menu of spending cuts and revenue enhancers). But not all share my alarm. Some positively welcome the prospect of deep defense cuts. They include, apparently, Fareed Zakaria, one of our most intelligent and provocative foreign policy commentators–and a committed centrist. Because Zakaria is hardly a wild-eyed pacifist, it makes sense to seriously consider his argument for cutting defense which are similar to those being made by other pundits and lawmakers.
He begins a recent Washington Post column by noting: “The Pentagon’s budget has risen for 13 years, which is unprecedented. Between 2001 and 2009, overall spending on defense rose from $412 billion to $699 billion, a 70 percent increase, which is larger than in any comparable period since the Korean War.”
In what’s becoming something of a pattern for the Obama administration, the way we’re conducting relations with Bulgaria is increasingly indefensible. Sofia is a NATO ally, an EU member state and has contributed troops to our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But–like so many other allies who made a point of supporting us in the early years of the Global War on Terror–treatment at the hands of U.S. Ambassador James Warlick has fallen somewhere between condescending neglect and active alienation.
Frustration with Warlick spans the the political spectrum. Things got so bad a few months ago that someone started a new media initiative calling for “A Day Without Warlick.” When asked about the campaign, the ambassador “laughed and pointed out it was part of democracy, which is a marvelous thing.” The dripping paternalism was about as well-received as you’d expect.
The labor unions warned Obama they weren’t happy with his economic policies last spring, and the president managed to alienate them even more with his approach to the debt ceiling deal and his failure to concentrate on solving the jobs crisis. But is the AFL-CIO furious enough to cut off Obama’s reelection campaign? Ben Smith reports:
In a sign of the labor movement’s disengagement from the 2012 federal races, my colleague Jonathan Allen reports that a new AFL-CIO Super PAC will be devoted to state legislative contests.
“Labor gave up on federal races,” said a senior Democratic official. Down-ballot races are “where their money is going,” said the source. “That tells you all you need to know about what kind of coattails the president is going to have.”
The internal drama of the Huntsman campaign revealed today was, many people reasoned, a good story struggling desperately to find an audience. After all, with Huntsman polling closer to zero than to any of the top candidates for the Republican nomination, even a complete implosion of his campaign would barely register an impact on the race.
Well, Daniel Drezner has done the story’s author–Jonathan Martin–a favor. Drezner, writing at his ForeignPolicy.com blog, says we should “expect decent odds that Huntsman would be the secretary of state in any incoming GOP administration (quick, name me an alternate candidate with sufficient gravitas). Even if he’s a sideshow to the current GOP nomination, he wouldn’t be if a Republican won in 2012. A story like this, on the other hand, might not help his chances to land a cabinet post.”
Today’s falling stock prices appear to comprise the biggest percentage drop since September 2008–the crash that ensured Barack Obama would be elected president that fall. At that time, there was no question who the public would blame for the calamity: lame duck President George W. Bush and anything and anyone associated with his eight years in office, including the Republican Party. This week, investors are apparently scared stiff about the continuing debt problems of Europe as well as by the after effects of the debt ceiling showdown in the United States. But the sword hanging over everything is the very real possibility the tepid recovery from the 2008 collapse may morph into another deep recession.
The question political observers must ask now is whether or not President Obama can evade responsibility for the disastrous economic situation?
Abe refers to a White House press release in which the Obama administration proudly announced today that to deal with the problem of mass atrocities, it is creating “an important new tool in this effort, establishing a standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board.”
This just shows the extraordinary incompetence of the Obama White House. They should have called it the Atrocities Prevention Panel.
During his fundraising trip to Chicago last night, President Obama said, “When I said ‘change we can believe in,’ I didn’t say ‘change we can believe in tomorrow.’ Not change we can believe in next week. We knew this was going to take time because we’ve got this big, messy, tough democracy.”
I went back and read Obama’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner remarks. This is the speech that did the most to catapult Obama to his victory in Iowa, which in turn helped catapult him to the Democratic nomination and, eventually, the presidency.
In a lengthy story published today in Politico, Jonathan Martin spills the bean on a riveting “drama” tearing apart the campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman. According to the story, campaign guru John Weaver is a big part of the problem. He is spreading the same magic of good will and efficiency that characterized his past efforts on behalf of John McCain, whose hopes of gaining the 2008 GOP nomination were not resuscitated until he jettisoned Weaver. Apparently, many close to Huntsman are begging the candidate to fire Weaver, but so far he is refusing to do so.
This is all fascinating, but the problem with the tale is the notion it is only the disunity within the Huntsman camp that has so far sabotaged his candidacy. Weaver may be poison, but not even a brain trust of the greatest political minds of the last century could transform Huntsman into a serious contender for the 2012 Republican nomination. Though some elites liked the idea of a wishy-washy dove on foreign policy who seemed to think ill of the GOP masses as the party’s standard-bearer, his was a pipe dream from the start.
Alana’s post about the Democratic spin on extending FAA funding – that Republicans are “holding it hostage” – is simply surreal. It’s surreal not just on its face, inasmuch as House Republicans have sent two different reauthorization bills to the Senate only to have them both rejected. There’s an even more fundamental hypocrisy that, set against the endless Keynesian lectures from the political and intellectual left, is almost impressive in its sheer brazenness.
There are two overarching impacts to the partial FAA shutdown. First, the government has lost more than one billion dollars in ticket taxes, and is set to lose more. Second, tens of thousands of construction jobs have been suspended (23,000 to 80,000 depending on whose number you use). The shutdown means, then, the government has been forgoing budgetary revenue and infrastructure expenditures for two weeks. You’ll recall those as the two elements that we’ve been told – endlessly, without pause – are the fundamental pillars of responsible fiscal policy.
In a shining example of why the House Homeland Security Committee’s hearings on radicalization in the Muslim community are so essential, the White House has released its long-awaited plan to combat homegrown extremism which provides almost no specific proposals for law enforcement officials.
The 12-page plan recommends law enforcement concentrate on combating extremism in local communities, but it’s careful to advise that no specific communities be singled out. “Any solution that focuses on a single, current form of violent extremism, without regard to other threats, will fail to secure our country and communities,” reads the plan.
For more evidence the debt ceiling debate has damaged the Obama presidency, consider this: A new Quinnipiac University poll shows the national debt ceiling deal did not “rescue President Barack Obama’s crashing job approval rating in Florida.” In fact, it has done the opposite.
According to the poll, Obama’s approval ratings are 44 percent approval v. 51 percent disapproval. Moreover, Florida voters surveyed after the deal say, by a margin of 50 v. 42 percent, Obama does not deserve to be re-elected. (He carried Florida by almost three percentage points in 2008.) As a point of comparison, Obama’s approval-disapproval rating was 47-46 percent before the deal, and as recently as late May Florida voters, by a margin of 50 percent v. 44 percent, supported Obama for re-election.
It can get repetitive to criticize every Nick Kristof column that dishonestly maligns Israel, but his column in today’s New York Times goes after American supporters of Israel–and falls flat.
It is based on J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami’s new book, and is a particularly illuminating example of the pretzel-like shape you’d have to twist yourself in to demonstrate some vague presence of support for the Kristof-Ben-Ami approach to Israel.
Later this month, Obama will take his pivot-to-jobs act on the road with a bus tour across the Midwest. Since the battleground-state bus excursion sounds suspiciously similar to a campaign event, CNS News asked the White House whether taxpayers or the Obama campaign would be funding the trip.
Take a guess at the answer:
As Mark Steyn pointed out a couple weeks ago, in Washington, announcing you have a plan absolves you from actually needing to have one. He was talking about Obama and the runaway debt, but the principle applies across the policy spectrum. Hence, today’s White House “Fact Sheet” on “new steps to prevent mass atrocities and impose consequences on serious human rights violators.” It states, in lyrical Do-Nothingese:
Today, President Obama is directing a comprehensive review to strengthen the United States’ ability to prevent mass atrocities. The President’s directive creates an important new tool in this effort, establishing a standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board with the authority to develop prevention strategies and to ensure that concerns are elevated for senior decision-making so that we are better able to work with our allies and partners to be responsive to early warning signs and prevent potential atrocities.
In English: “We have a plan.” This means, of course, that no plan is needed. Obama will promote his “Atrocities Prevention Board,” while doing nothing to prevent atrocities in Syria, where Bashar Assad has turned his military against thousands of innocents. All that’s needed is an Atrocities Czar to oversee the whole thing, and he can put this baby to bed.
I agree with Pete’s stand on prejudice against Muslims. Herman Cain’s comments about his unwillingness to appoint a Muslim to high office were outrageous. I wrote as much myself (here and here) and even told Cain this to his face on the air when we were both guests on the “John Stossel Show” last month. This sort of bias is contrary to our values and interests as a nation, and Pete is right to take to task any conservative who adopts such a stance.
But though I concur it is encouraging that a leading conservative like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would stand up against prejudice, the criticisms voiced by some conservatives about his appointment of Sohail Mohammed to a judgeship cannot be compared to Cain’s bias. The objections to Mohammed had nothing to do with absurd charges about sharia law. More importantly, Christie’s defense of the appointment on grounds of religious liberty is an attempt to divert attention from the appointee’s connections as well as the governor’s own questionable intervention to prevent the deportation of a known supporter of Hamas.
One of the troubling tendencies that has recently arisen among conservatism is an unfair animus toward Muslim Americans. This has found its most disturbing expression in GOP presidential candidate (and Tea Party favorite) Herman Cain, whose anti-Muslim bias runs so deep that it overrides his regard for our Constitution (see here:) Cain, for example, has declared he would not appoint a Muslim either to his cabinet or as a federal judge and also insisted on a “loyalty proof” for Muslim Americans.
Thankfully, this anti-Muslim strain isn’t dominant within conservatism. But what is discouraging is how few GOP lawmakers and conservative voices have been willing to confront it. Which is why I’m grateful New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke out in defense of his appointment of Sohail Mohammed to a state bench.
One of the nastier elements of local politics is the frequency with which rumors and smear campaigns play a role in elections. And one of the challenges for national candidates–especially for the presidency–is to contain the amplification of those whisper campaigns when they inevitably hit the pages of the country’s political gossip sites.
Though not officially in the race yet, Rick Perry is already finding himself confronted with exactly those types of smears. First was the rumor Perry is gay–pushed by Democratic opponents in Texas but rebroadcast in a Politico story in June. It turned out the unnamed source for the story might have been a liberal anti-Perry activist who has a history of targeting Perry with false accusations. Now comes a second story about Perry’s past that opponents are once again hoping will gain traction.
With the Dow Jones and SP500 on a downward slide so dramatic that we might see trading curbs installed before the close of day, talk in political circles has turned mordantly to the debt-ceiling deal—about which no one is enthusiastic and which therefore is already serving as an ideal scapegoat for everything that might go wrong over the next month. That’s sheer provincialism emanating from the political chattering classes. In fact, the debt deal came to fruition at exactly the same time as a series of devastating economic reports that indicate we will be lucky if the current moment is only a “slowdown” and not the beginning of—maybe even the middle of—a double-dip recession. You don’t need an economics degree to see the disaster in these numbers. Lower consumer confidence means less consumer spending, which means less demand, which means less economic activity, which means no improvement in employment figures and very possibly a worsening of unemployment. What we are seeing on Wall Street this week is that a coming recession is being “priced in.”
Businesses are not comfortable hiring, taking on new projects, or doing much of anything because they have no way to predict what kinds of policies politicians will enact over the next couple of years and the effect those policies will have on them. What I’ve been hearing over the past week from major investors in the markets in New York is that to a man, CEOs and others with whom they speak regularly are frightened and paralyzed when it comes to new projects. They all echo the alarming things said by the casino magnate Steve Wynn, an important Democratic donor: “I’m saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right.”
Democratic lawmakers are reportedly frustrated the media won’t just swallow their claims that the Republicans are “hostage-takers” who are blocking Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding and keeping 74,000 industry employees out of work. Of course, that’s because their claims are complete nonsense.
The FAA has been forced to partially shut down – and shed thousands of jobs in the process – because Democrats have blocked a House bill that would have funded the agency until after lawmakers return from recess. Democrats oppose the bill because it cuts subsidies to 13 rural airports in Sens. Harry Reid and John Rockefeller’s districts.
In the latest bizarre twist to the civil war still raging in Libya, the son of dictator Muammar Qaddafi announced the regime was allying itself with local Islamists. Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi told the New York Times this new alliance will drive liberals from the country, vowing: “Libya will look like Saudi Arabia, like Iran. So what?”
This is a strange turn of events, because the Qaddafis have spent most of the past few months attempting to portray the rebels as being in bed with Islamists, a line of argument taken up by many American critics of the NATO intervention in that country. It also comes only a week after Britain and France indicated they could live with a settlement which allowed Qaddafi to remain in the country, a concession that could only be seen as sign the West believes the regime is unlikely to be defeated on the battlefield.
So what does this startling statement portend?