Who won the debate?
First, Mitt Romney because he managed to go two hours with no one really laying a glove on him which means that he keeps his frontrunner status. Pawlenty had the most to lose and he lost most of it. Spending the first hour of the debate playing an attack dog may have seemed like a good idea but he sounded awful doing it. Michele Bachmann slaughtered him and lost no ground by standing on her principles, even when she was clearly wrong as on the debt ceiling. But she seemed to wear down over the course of the two hours. Rick Santorum scored points but he’s so hopelessly behind it doesn’t make any difference. The same goes for Newt Gingrich.
The bottom line. Romney stays on top. Bachmann still in a strong position. Pawlenty looks to be finished.
And Rick Perry seems poised to join the frontrunners on Saturday.
I agree with Jonathan the Romney “gaffe” is not fatal. I’m not sure it’s a gaffe at all, as I think this clip, which has gone viral, is a big net plus for Romney. For the first time, he showed some passion and some Reaganesque I’m-paying-for-this-microphone! backbone. Confronted by a bunch of liberal provocateurs, he stood up to them but treated them politely. That always plays well with the average guy.
As for the gaffe of saying corporations are people, I think that could hurt him only with people who wouldn’t vote for him under any circumstances anyway. After all, “the corporations” serve the same political purpose among the far left in this country that the Jews did for the Nazis and the bourgeoisie did for Communists: the all-purpose villains responsible for whatever ails society at the moment.
There have been many eloquent attempts to mine the cause of the British riots in the deepest recesses of the British national character. Whatever flaws may be exposed in the state of contemporary Britain, to my mind the reason why the riots have raged of control is fairly straightforward. It is the reason why nearly all riots occur: a failure of effective, aggressive policing. To understand what I’m talking about, simply compare the ongoing British riots with the Los Angeles riots of 1992 and the Crown Heights (New York) riots of 1991.
In each case there was a proximate cause for the explosion: In Los Angeles, the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King; in New York, the death of an African-American child in an accident caused by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew; in London, the shooting death of a black criminal suspect named Mark Duggan at the hands of Metropolitan Police officers. In each instance, too, the headline event tapped into deeper discontent in aggrieved, marginalized communities. But–and this is the critical point–that discontent would not have resulted in out-of-control rioting if the police had stepped in firmly and massively to restore order at the start. They did not. In all three cases, the police response was half-hearted and delayed, thus allowing the disorder to build on itself. When young men see other young men running riot through the streets, breaking shop windows and helping themselves to whatever is inside, they will make a quick cost-benefit calculation: is it worth it to join in? If the police are largely absent from the streets, the decision is a no brainer. Only the probability of arrest will curb their runaway id.
Worries about the way funds are spent haven’t been enough to prevent the continued flow of U.S. taxpayer money to Gaza. But apparently, Hamas may succeed where others have failed. The terrorist group’s efforts to exercise control over various non-governmental organizations that operate in Gaza may finally lead to the suspension of America’s $100 million aid program.
Hamas is apparently seeking to audit the books of all foreign funded non-profits in Gaza. But if these groups allow any contact with the Islamist regime there, let alone give it the power to influence their decisions or policies, it would be a violation of U.S. law. The question now is whether the Obama administration will obey the law and cut off the money or instead find a way to evade the restrictions mandated by congressional action.
The same politician who vowed to “change the political map and end gridlock” just a few years ago is now blaming his presidential failures…on partisan gridlock. How’s that for change you can believe in:
President Obama blasted Congress from the road on Thursday, saying things would be worse if lawmakers returned to Washington.
It is hard to believe anyone could be outraged by the U.S. government paying for contractors to train the African Union peacekeepers trying to keep Somalia from totally spinning out of control. Those armed forces are the only thing standing in the way of a complete takeover of the country by the Shabab, the Taliban-like militia which has close links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There is absolutely no appetite in Washington for sending any troops into Somalia, beyond perhaps an occasional Special Operations raid; everyone remembers all too vividly the Black Hawk Down disaster of 1993. So how do we stop the Shabab? The CIA has an active presence there. But that’s not enough. We also need to provide arms and training to African Union peacekeepers, and because we’re not willing to send even U.S. trainers, that job has been contracted out indirectly to a security company called Bancroft Global Development, based in Washington.
Bancroft’s role is the subject of a breathless, page one expose in the New York Times today. The article includes these passages about a roguish former French Army officer named Richard Rouget who works for Bancroft:
Amid the renewed bout of hand-wringing over American decline (see, e.g., this Washington Post story Pete referred to earlier), Mike O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution delivers a welcome rejoinder in the Los Angeles Times.
O’Hanlon ponts to U.S. strengths–ranging from demography (we’re not aging as fast as our competitors) to R&D spending (we spend more than a third of the global total). He concludes the U.S. is not only the “greatest country on Earth” but the one with the “most promising future.”
The big news so far out of Iowa today didn’t have to do with tonight’s debate. It was a comment made by Mitt Romney as he spoke at the Iowa State Fair while being heckled by a gaggle of leftist provocateurs. While being peppered with interruptions challenging him to answer how he would deal with the deficit, Romney said the one thing he wouldn’t do was to raise taxes on people. The heckler interjected that taxes should be raised on corporations. Romney, who was standing only a few feet away quickly responded, “Corporations are people, too.”
As the film clip circulated around the Internet, Democratic strategists and their ad men started to salivate. There’s little doubt we’ll be seeing this exchange for as long as Romney is a presidential candidate. But though the former Massachusetts governor will be mocked mercilessly, anyone who views the full exchange — and that should include Democrats — should know there was nothing wrong with what he said.
At the Examiner, Phil Klein predicts Ron Paul will pull off a victory in Ames on Saturday, which could potentially destroy the last of the poll’s credibility as a national political gauge:
When Paul launched his candidacy last time, his team was just winging it and figuring out things as they went along — and they weren’t really trying to win the straw poll. This time, Paul spent $31,000 to secure the top placement at the event and by all accounts has been making an earnest attempt to win.
Were Paul to win, I imagine it would be used more to discredit the poll than to start to take him seriously as a viable candidate, which could play into the hands of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty if he has a poor showing.
One of the early buzzwords of the Republican primary race was “authenticity.” It has since faded a bit, but it might be worth reexamining as Rick Perry enters the race.
A clear definition of authenticity is never supplied, but (as with Potter Stewart and obscenity), we purport to know it when we see it. And it was, for many GOP voters, noticeably absent in the case of Mitt Romney. But Tim Pawlenty had his own struggles with authenticity, as he seemed to become increasingly uncomfortable in his own skin. Michele Bachmann’s popularity was partially explained by her authenticity–the genuine nature of her beliefs both heartened her supporters and frightened her opponents. But Perry’s interview with Mark Halperin, published this morning, reveals above all else a confident and comfortable candidate:
In the spring of last year, the Obama administration picked a fight with the Israel over the routine approval of some housing starts in Jerusalem because it coincided with a visit to the country by Vice President Joe Biden. Washington ginned this “insult” to Biden up into a full-scale attempt to undermine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Though that effort failed, as would subsequent ambushes for Netanyahu set by the White House, the after shocks still linger as Obama’s precedent-setting attack on Jewish Jerusalem has become a major problem for the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Today, the Israeli government gave the final approval for the construction of the same apartment buildings in the Ramat Shlomo district of the city that were deemed such an affront to Biden’s honor. We can expect the routine condemnation of these homes from both the administration as well as other critics of Israel. But while the debate over the status of Jerusalem is, as Seth wrote earlier today, nothing new, it is important to note the significance of this particular controversy and to understand why it signaled an unprecedented policy shift on the city’s future by the United States.
It’s amazing it’s actually come to this. British police are still terrified to use necessary force against gangs of violent looters out of fear of the legal ramifications. But instead of the obligation of law enforcement to do its job, the government is apparently considering curtailing free online expression in order to contain the unrelenting street riots:
“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organized via social media,” [Prime Minister David] Cameron said. “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.”
Assume you are a senior political aide in the Obama White House. This morning, while eating a bowl of Cheerios, you read the front page of the Washington Post, where you found an above-the-fold story by Joel Achenbach. The story, titled “Is debt downgrade an alarm bell for a great nation in decline?” quotes Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served Jimmy Carter, who was jettisoned from office after his first term in large part because of the sense his policies were ushering in a period of American decline.
According to Brzezinski, “We have been for decades now the number one global economic power. But an increasing question mark is whether we are going to remain one.”
In recognition of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I’ve written an article for the September issue of COMMENTARY on the ways in which the United States has successfully prosecuted the war on terror. We have just released it online. I hope you enjoy it:
On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALs put one bullet through the chest and one through the head of Osama bin Laden—nine years, seven months, and 20 days after al-Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people in the name of Islam. Historical eras are rarely framed as neatly as this. Though not precisely a decade after 9/11, the secret mission in Pakistan on May 1 was close enough to impose some poetic shape on the period in which the United States first fought back against Islamist terrorism.
Within minutes, discussion of Bin Laden’s death was dominated by a term not common to war-making or foreign policy, but one crucial to wellness and pop-psychology spheres: closure. “New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It is my hope that it will bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.” New York Senator Chuck Schumer sounded a similar note: “This at least brings some measure of closure and consolation to the victims and their families.” Across the Hudson, in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie commented on the “extraordinary sense of closure” brought about by the killing.
Read the rest of this COMMENTARY Special Preview here.
There will be plenty at stake tonight at the Ames Debate that will be broadcast on Fox News at 9 pm. Mitt Romney will try to capitalize on the economic crisis by sounding like an experienced business executive and looking presidential. Michele Bachmann will be looking to build her strength in a state where she has been surging in the last two months. Tim Pawlenty will be hoping to save his candidacy by striking a different and hopefully more aggressive tone than his passive performance in New Hampshire back in June. Ron Paul will be playing to his usual enthusiastic pack of libertarians. And the others will be looking to take pot shots at the frontrunners in order to get noticed.
But the biggest question looming over this debate will be about the man who isn’t there: Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is set to announce his presidential candidacy on Saturday in order to overshadow the results of the Iowa straw poll held that day.
Mitt Romney’s latest campaign talking point about Standard & Poor’s upgrading the Massachusetts credit rating under his governorship hit a snag today when both the Wall Street Journal and Politico unearthed his 2004 pitch to the credit agency. It turns out his presentation touted the same sort of tax revenues Tea Partiers fought against during the recent debt ceiling debate. Politico reports:
But Romney’s case to S&P is a far cry from the anti-tax absolutism of the Republican Party he hopes to lead. Indeed, it bears a far closer resemblance to the right-of-center grand compromise rejected by House Republicans this year — dismissed because it would include new taxes and end tax breaks President Barack Obama described as “loopholes” — or the more modest compromise that passed, than to the Cut, Cap, and Balance plan Romney “applauded.”
Presidents generally love to visit Jerusalem, but hate talking about it. Not the city per se—they’ll happily gush over the beauty, history and intensity of the city. But ask them to identify where they are when they’re in Jerusalem, and you won’t be impressed.
The issue has come up again this week, and got a dose of controversy when the Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper caught the Obama administration scrubbing photo references to Jerusalem’s location. The photo captions had been changed from “Jerusalem, Israel” to “Jerusalem.” The Washington Jewish Week’s Adam Kredo then noted a perusal of the photo archives of George W. Bush finds Jerusalem unidentified as being in Israel as well. Jennifer Rubin called Elliott Abrams, who objected to the suggestion the Jerusalem policy of the Bush and Obama administrations are comparable. Rubin dismissed the comparison between the two presidents on Israel, generally, as one between the Bad News Bears and the Yankees (Bush is the Yankees here), and she is, of course, correct.
In an astonishing piece today in the Jewish Week, Ari L. Goldman recounts his experiences as a reporter for the New York Times during the riots that broke out in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991 after a Lubavitch driver in a motorcade tragically hit and killed a black child with his station wagon. Goldman—telling his story for the first time on the 20th anniversary of the riots—reveals the absurd lengths to which the paper for which he worked attempted to make it seem as though the culpability for the riots rested equally between those attacking Hasidim and the Hasidim who were defending themselves against attack. All this happened while the New York Police Department stood by and deliberately failed to intervene, in one of the stunning moments of the mayoralty of David Dinkins that led to his defeat two years later at the hands of Rudy Giuliani and the complete overhaul of city policing strategy that led to the vertiginous crime drop, which proved to the be the salvation of New York City: