Today in Iowa, Rick Perry was asked about the Federal Reserve and, in a halting 45-second answer, went off on chairman Ben Bernanke: “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost teacherous…treasonous in my opinion.” The clip is here. Liberals on Twitter exploded immediately in outrage after Think Progress posted it, with the economist Nouriel Roubini actually comparing Perry to the Norwegian mass murderer and saying he should be put in a mental institution.
I think it’s pretty clear from the clip that Perry was trying to play folksy straight-talkin’ populist guy while taking up a complicated issue, using colorful dirt-kicker language to connect to his al-fresco audience as he might in his home town of Paint Creek. And in the early going on Twitter, I suggested the harrumphers were knowingly making a mountain out of a molehill to bring him down a notch. I was wrong.
Sixty years ago Ralph Branca earned baseball immortality by throwing the pitch that Bobby Thomson hit for a home run that ended the 1951 National League playoff in which the New York Giants broke the hearts of Brooklyn Dodger fans. Images of Branca lying face down weeping in the Dodger clubhouse after the game ran in newspapers around the country. But Branca was no sore loser. He is remembered today as much for the fact that he always reacted to his unwanted celebrity with grace and good humor and even become friends with Thomson in later years.
But despite all the ink that was spilled about him over the years a feature in today’s New York Times by Joshua Prager reveals that there is an angle to his story that has never been revealed until now: Branca’s mother was Jewish and many of his aunts, uncles and cousins perished in the Holocaust.
According to E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, “a new Obama — or, in many ways, the old Obama of 2008 — is about to reappear.”
Into a phone booth Mr. Obama enters and out comes the Man of Steel.
According to Dionne, “The president’s speech last Thursday in Holland, Mich., was the first sign that the competitive Obama is reemerging. His target, like Harry Truman’s in 1948, was an obstructionist Republican Congress. He condemned ‘the refusal of some folks in Congress to put the country ahead of party’ and urged that it ‘start passing some bills that we all know will help our economy right now.’” (Set aside the fact that if a Republican had uttered these same words about Democrats, Dionne would be livid, saying that the GOP president was acting in a disgraceful manner by accusing his opponents of being “unpatriotic.”)
President Obama may be enduring a summer from hell as his approval numbers head south along with an economy on the brink of a double dip recession. But according to Norman Ornstein there is no need for Democrats to despair. Writing in the New Republic, the veteran think tank scribe says there is a clear precedent for Obama’s re-election: Harry Truman’s victory in 1948. Orenstein believes all we have to do is substitute Obama for Truman and the current GOP-controlled House of Representatives for the “do nothing” 80th Congress that FDR’s successor used as a punching bag on his way to re-election and you have formula for Democratic success.
Though the analogy breaks down in other ways the biggest problem with this scenario is that Barack Obama is not Harry Truman.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s leader, has released a new video. In it, Zawahiri covers the usual ground about destroying America, the “criminal country which has spread corruption in the world.” But he also offers some tactical analysis regarding the Arab Spring: “In Tunisia and Egypt, opportunities for preaching have been opened and only God knows until when these opportunities will last,” he said. “Therefore, the Muslims and the mujahedeen should benefit and take advantage of them to reveal the truth.”
In exploiting the Arab Spring, Zawahiri is far ahead of the thinking of our own leaders. While Barack Obama is content to say things like “The future of Egypt will be determined by its people” and hope for the best, our enemies recognize an urgent opportunity in these popular revolts. Arab autocracy kept the same lid on both jihadist and democratic aspirations, but only proponents of the former are capitalizing on their new circumstances. Coercive Gulf money is pouring into Egypt by the billions; regional Islamists, too, are heading in to stake a claim in the country’s future; and, yet, Obama clings to the doctrine of American Butt-Outism. The war on terror remains fundamentally a battle of ideas. And in that battle, as in our actual fights, only our side has determined that it’s time to stop.
Mitt Romney christened Obama’s Midwest jobs campaign the “Magical Misery Tour” this morning, and that description’s starting to sound pretty accurate. In Minnesota today, Obama brought the doom and gloom as he scolded congress for the slumping economy, and spouted half-hearted appeals for optimism (“We’ve got so much going for us, that folks [around the world] would gladly trade places with us,” he assured the crowd).
The president also blamed a “string of bad luck” over the past few months – including the Arab Spring, the debt problems in Europe and the Japanese Tsunami – for his failure to boost the economy:
Charles Murray had a different reaction than I did to the fact that at last week’s debate all of the GOP candidates said they would refuse to accept a “real spending cuts deal” that offered $10 in cuts for every $1 in increased taxes. “If taxes cannot be raised under any circumstances,” I wrote, “then we have veered from economic policy to religious catechism.”
Charles, on the other hand, was annoyed that none of the eight challenged the false premise of the question. “There is no such thing as a real spending cuts deal,” he writes. “Experience indicates that lawmakers do not yet know how to craft legislative language that irrevocably binds Congress to its fiscal promises. That’s why all eight candidates could properly refuse to support a 10:1 spending cuts deal, or even a 100:1 spending cuts deal. They are not deals that would be honored.”
Tonight, COMMENTARY is hosting a public forum, “Ten Years of the War on Terror,” at the Ethical Culture Society in New York City, centering on our own Abe Greenwald’s article, “What We Got Right in the War on Terror,” which you can read here. Please join me, Abe, Andrew C. McCarthy of National Review and Ross Douthat of the New York Times for the discussion. The forum is from 6-8 pm. You can get your ticket in advance by clicking here for $10, or pay $15 at the door.
The buzz that greeted Rick Perry’s entrance into the GOP primary race has yet to dissipate, and continues to overshadow Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Iowa straw poll. In fact, reading some of the stories about the race, you’d think Bachmann had already dropped out.
There is certainly a lot to support the contention that Perry has passed Bachmann immediately—including plenty of solid polling. But there is one aspect of the election that isn’t playing into Perry’s hands: the primary schedule. While Perry should be a contender in the early states, he’s far from a sure thing in any of them. He’ll be expected to win South Carolina—but that will likely be the fourth primary, and one could argue Perry needs a win before that. This means that the Perry-Bachmann rivalry may have just given Iowa back its relevance.
It’s only Monday, but this isn’t shaping up to be a good week for President Obama. Peter writes that his approval ratings have dipped to 39 percent, and it’s looking increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will take up the case on the constitutionality of Obamacare before the 2012 election.
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, making it a virtual certainty that the case will end up before the Supreme Court at some point in the near future.
Last week, Salon’s Justin Elliott highlighted Rick Perry’s ties to the Aga Khan, the leader of the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam, and predicted the relationship could rile up the conservative anti-Shariah movement, potentially becoming an obstacle to Perry’s bid.
“That’s a partnership that has already prompted a bit of grumbling in far-right corners of the blogosphere and could conceivably become a primary issue if, as expected, Perry enters the presidential race,” wrote Elliott, in an article provocatively titled “Rick Perry: The Pro-Shariah Candidate?” But at least one prominent member of the anti-Sharia movement is laughing off the suggestion Perry’s friendship with the Aga Khan is a major cause for concern.
The report this morning that Florida Rep. Allen West may face a Tea Party primary challenge reminded me of the chat West had with us up in the bloggers’ lounge at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, just before heading down to the main stage to deliver his keynote address.
There were two questions in particular in which West’s answers revealed why anyone considering a primary challenge might want to rethink that plan. The first had to do with libertarian politics, and showed that West’s voters knew exactly what they were getting when they voted for him:
What if Keith Olbermann delivered a bellowing Special Comment in a forest and nobody heard it? We might soon find out.
Olbermann’s Countdown on Current TV hit an all-time low last week in the 25-54-year-old demographic. The show pulled in 85,000 viewers in the demo, which is slightly more than the number of people who attended the Washington Redskins’ first pre-season game against Pittsburgh. And Countdown averaged 208,000 total viewers. Olbermann’s summer seems to be going about as well as Obama’s.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, the editorial page looks over the field of Republican presidential candidates and finds them all wanting. The Journal’s editors analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three viable candidates remaining and worry whether any of them can unite the party and articulate policies that will put forward an agenda for growth and restraint of federal spending. They conclude saying that “if the current field isn’t up to that, perhaps someone still off the field will step in and run. Now would be the time.”
While the Journal is pretty much on target with all of its criticisms of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, conservatives who cling to the illusion someone better than these three will miraculously jump in from the sidelines are kidding themselves. The Republican nominee who will face off against Barack Obama in November 2012 will be named either Bachmann, Perry or Romney and whether they like it or not, those who believe the president ought not to be re-elected are going to have to make a choice among them.
It’s a testament to Rick Perry’s strength as a candidate that the left is already feverishly mounting a campaign to try to tear down his jobs record. The latest anti-Perry talking point is that the “Texas Miracle” is bunk because many of the jobs created in the state during the past year are minimum wage positions, and therefore, less significant than high-paying jobs. The Huffington Post’s Jason Cherkis reports:
The miracle is that anyone would call minimum-wage jobs a miracle. Of the all the jobs in Texas created last year, 37 percent paid at or below minimum wage — and the state leads the nation in total minimum wage workers, according to a recent New York Times report.
But this isn’t necessarily unique to Texas.
According to Gallup, 39 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance while 54 percent disapprove. Both data points are the worst numbers of his presidency. Philip Klein points out that no president since Harry Truman as been re-elected with approval ratings this low, this late into his first term. And no president since Franklin Roosevelt has been re-elected with unemployment this high. That sound you hear is of spreading panic among Democrats, who are lucky enough to get to run with the increasingly — and now massively — unpopular Mr. Obama at the top of the ticket.