Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 23, 2011

Resisting the Cult of the Presidency

As Alana noted, Paul Ryan’s announcement that he will not run for president this cycle has disappointed many conservatives. But I think that disappointment is misplaced, and not just because I think Ryan made the right choice not to run.

There was a lot of excitement about the prospect of either a Ryan or Chris Christie candidacy–Christie being the stronger candidate of the two because of his executive experience, toughness, and lack of connection to Ryan’s controversial Medicare reform. And it’s possible either man would make a great president. But the clamoring for one of them to abandon his crucial post for a quixotic run at the presidency is more evidence that many conservatives have accepted what Gene Healy warned against–the cult of the presidency:

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As Alana noted, Paul Ryan’s announcement that he will not run for president this cycle has disappointed many conservatives. But I think that disappointment is misplaced, and not just because I think Ryan made the right choice not to run.

There was a lot of excitement about the prospect of either a Ryan or Chris Christie candidacy–Christie being the stronger candidate of the two because of his executive experience, toughness, and lack of connection to Ryan’s controversial Medicare reform. And it’s possible either man would make a great president. But the clamoring for one of them to abandon his crucial post for a quixotic run at the presidency is more evidence that many conservatives have accepted what Gene Healy warned against–the cult of the presidency:

Neither Left nor Right sees the president as the Framers saw him: a constitutionally constrained chief executive with an important, but limited job….

Few Americans find anything amiss in the notion that it is the president’s duty to solve all large national problems and to unite us all in the service of a higher calling. The vision of the president as national guardian and redeemer is so ubiquitous that it goes unnoticed.

Yes, the current economic challenges facing the country are immense, and the lack of seriousness by policymakers about our national debt is foolish and self-serving. But so far, Christie and Ryan have been two politicians to seriously confront the issue. Liberals don’t like Ryan’s plan–fair enough. But ever since the CBO director admitted Obamacare was incompatible with a sustainable budget–“Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path would almost certainly require a significant reduction in the growth of federal health spending relative to current law (including this year’s health legislation),” he pointed out–Ryan’s been the only one to put forth a serious plan on the national level. (And Democrats responded by making a video depicting Ryan throwing an old lady off a cliff.)

Christie has been doing this on the state level, cutting costs and reforming entitlement spending. In fact, Christie’s win in New Jersey was seen as a public rebuke to the president’s policies and priorities–as were Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts and Bob McDonnell’s landslide victory in Virginia. And they are by no means the only of their class. Should they all run for president? On the contrary, they all just got there, and they are all in the midst of important work with national implications.

Conservatives should remember Christie is a socially conservative, budget-cutting, corruption-busting reformer who was elected governor in New Jersey. And it happens to be a comparatively powerful office, so real reform is possible. But not if he walks out on the state halfway through his first term. Ryan’s work is also critical to the narrative conservatives have been trying to build–namely, that the movement is full of young, intelligent, hard-working, charismatic reformers who are attempting to steer the country onto a more fiscally responsible course. But both the beauty and the challenge of keeping a republic require recognition that it’s not all about the presidency, nor should it be.

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Libya’s Rebels Unhappy with Russia and China

No one is an expert on Libya’s rebels, and we haven’t a clue who the next leader of the country will be or how he will be chosen. (Libya is very much a man’s world so the next leader absolutely will be a he.) Even so, small indications about what to expect from the future government do bubble up once in a while.

The Chinese are trying to ingratiate themselves with Libya’s future leaders after opposing the assistance given them by the West, and they’re meeting resistance. “We don’t have a problem with western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies,” says a rebel official in charge of the Agoco oil firm. “But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”

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No one is an expert on Libya’s rebels, and we haven’t a clue who the next leader of the country will be or how he will be chosen. (Libya is very much a man’s world so the next leader absolutely will be a he.) Even so, small indications about what to expect from the future government do bubble up once in a while.

The Chinese are trying to ingratiate themselves with Libya’s future leaders after opposing the assistance given them by the West, and they’re meeting resistance. “We don’t have a problem with western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies,” says a rebel official in charge of the Agoco oil firm. “But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”

Muammar Qaddafi has few real friends in the world, but thug regimes from Caracas to Moscow have been sticking up for him anyway. He isn’t exactly Moscow’s or Beijing’s man, but that’s how he is perceived.

The Muslim Brotherhood in next-door Egypt desperately wishes it was the other way around. I recently interviewed one of its leading officials, Esam El-Erian, in Cairo. He yelled at me and my colleague Armin Rosen for an hour. One of his phantasmagorical grievances is his accusation that Qaddafi is an American tool. “Qaddafi is your man,” he said. “Who protected Qaddafi’s military coup d’etat? Who protected him? You had all this military power. You could have stopped him. Who protects all the dictators of the Arab world? Your men are there everywhere, from the king of Morocco to the king of Bahrain.”

The handful of Egyptians who have paid exactly zero attention to what has been happening might find this plausible, but no one in Libya—no matter how badly they are informed—could possibly believe anything of the sort. The people I met there on my visit in 2005 understood perfectly well our government and their government were mutually hostile, that the United States was their tyrant’s nemesis, that no blame whatsoever could be heaped on the West for the daily oppression they suffered. Qaddafi’s sulfurous fulminations against the United States have been a constant longer than I’ve been alive. They likewise know perfectly well that the U.S. and NATO were instrumental in their liberation, that without us the Brother Leader of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya would still be their master.

None of this means Libyans will emerge as pro-American as the Albanians, the Kurds or the Israelis. They probably won’t. At this point, however, Russia and China need to worry much more than we do about being de-friended.

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Palin, Bachmann Falter in Iowa Poll

According to a new Public Policy Polling survey out today, any boost Michele Bachmann might have had in Iowa after her straw poll victory has already evaporated. And despite warnings Rick Perry would irritate Iowans by overshadowing the Ames event with his South Carolina announcement, he’s now polling first in the state:

Polled for the first time here, Perry leads with 22 percent over Romney’s 19 percent, Bachmann’s 18 percent, Paul’s 16 percent, Herman Cain’s 7 percent, Newt Gingrich’s and Rick Santorum’s 5 percent, and  Jon Huntsman’s 3 percent.  Santorum had not been polled here before either.

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According to a new Public Policy Polling survey out today, any boost Michele Bachmann might have had in Iowa after her straw poll victory has already evaporated. And despite warnings Rick Perry would irritate Iowans by overshadowing the Ames event with his South Carolina announcement, he’s now polling first in the state:

Polled for the first time here, Perry leads with 22 percent over Romney’s 19 percent, Bachmann’s 18 percent, Paul’s 16 percent, Herman Cain’s 7 percent, Newt Gingrich’s and Rick Santorum’s 5 percent, and  Jon Huntsman’s 3 percent.  Santorum had not been polled here before either.

The poll also includes some bad news for Sarah Palin, if she’s still considering a run. If she entered the race, she’d only pull in 10 percent, and would have no impact on Perry’s or Romney’s numbers. However, she would siphon some support away from Bachmann and Paul.

Bachmann is the one who’s hurt the most by these numbers. She needs to illustrate she can still keep a hold on the populist, socially conservative voters who dominate the Iowa Republican electorate. But this poll shows she’s quickly losing this ground to Perry, despite the significant amount of time and money she’s spent campaigning in Iowa. Unless she can regain momentum in the state, she won’t have a path to the nomination.

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Re: Pace of Debt Increase Historic

Peter quotes CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller as writing the debt increase under Obama has been “the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.”

That’s not quite correct. The debt has risen about 40 percent under Obama, in a little more than two and a half years. But it rose more than 4,000 percent in four years under Abraham Lincoln, 2,000 percent in Woodrow Wilson’s last four years, and 640 percent in FDR’s last four years. Of course, those three presidents had to fight wars of utterly unprecedented size. The debt under Obama has ballooned partly because of the recession and increased entitlement costs, but also to a major extent in pursuit of a political agenda that most of the country finds obnoxious.

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Peter quotes CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller as writing the debt increase under Obama has been “the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.”

That’s not quite correct. The debt has risen about 40 percent under Obama, in a little more than two and a half years. But it rose more than 4,000 percent in four years under Abraham Lincoln, 2,000 percent in Woodrow Wilson’s last four years, and 640 percent in FDR’s last four years. Of course, those three presidents had to fight wars of utterly unprecedented size. The debt under Obama has ballooned partly because of the recession and increased entitlement costs, but also to a major extent in pursuit of a political agenda that most of the country finds obnoxious.

As Byron York points out in the Washington Examiner, of this fiscal year’s estimated $1.399 trillion deficit, $338 billion is attributable to lower federal revenues (compared with fiscal 2007, the last year of prosperity), and $343 billion on “income security”–food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, etc.–again, over and above the costs of those programs in 2007. So $681 billion of the deficit is due to the recession. Social Security and Medicare increases amounted to $281 billion of the deficit. That means $437 billion–almost a third of the total deficit–is due to increased spending on a Democratic wish list masquerading as “stimulus.” As York explains,

There is no line in the federal budget that says “stimulus,” but Obama’s massive $814 billion stimulus increased spending in virtually every part of the federal government. “It’s spread all through the budget,” says former Congressional Budget Office chief Douglas Holtz-Eakin. “It was essentially a down payment on the Obama domestic agenda.” Green jobs, infrastructure, health information technology, aid to states — it’s all in there, billions in increased spending.

No wonder his Gallup and Rasmussen favorable/unfavorable ratings are in the tank. I hope the president is enjoying his sojourn with the insufficiently taxed millionaires, billionaires, and corporate-jet owners who inhabit Martha’s Vineyard in the summer. I suspect it’s going to be a bumpy autumn back in Washington.

 

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Biden’s Morally Disgraceful China Comments

In his remarks at China’s Sichuan University, Vice President Biden, in response to a question, said, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family.  The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.”

This is a remarkably obtuse and morally disgraceful statement. The policy the vice president is so understanding of, after all, involves forced abortion, involuntary sterilization, and gendercide. As Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, put it, “China’s One Child Policy causes more violence to women and girls than any other official policy on earth. To merely mention the economic consequences is to turn a blind eye to the terrible human suffering caused by forced abortion. Chinese women are literally dragged out of their homes, strapped to tables and forced to abort.”

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In his remarks at China’s Sichuan University, Vice President Biden, in response to a question, said, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family.  The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.”

This is a remarkably obtuse and morally disgraceful statement. The policy the vice president is so understanding of, after all, involves forced abortion, involuntary sterilization, and gendercide. As Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, put it, “China’s One Child Policy causes more violence to women and girls than any other official policy on earth. To merely mention the economic consequences is to turn a blind eye to the terrible human suffering caused by forced abortion. Chinese women are literally dragged out of their homes, strapped to tables and forced to abort.”

The current political debate is focused, for understandable reasons, on economic matters. But from time to time it’s worth recalling just how morally bankrupt modern liberalism has become. What the vice president of the United States is endorsing isn’t simply a right to an abortion; it is the (violent) act of abortion, even against the wishes and will of the mother.

There is something deeply corrupt in an ideology that considers even forced abortions as beyond criticism and meriting our sympathy. And the fact Biden’s comments apparently didn’t create even a stir among most journalists tells you everything you need to know about the dominant moral sensibilities of many within the political class.

Hubert Humphrey once said the moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped. Whatever the drawbacks to liberalism in the age of Humphrey, it had much more to commend than modern-day liberalism, whose indifference to the most vulnerable members of the human race–unborn children–is chilling.

 

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New Low in Obama’s Most Recent Gallup Daily Tracking Survey

In addition to Rick’s post, pointing out President Obama’s rating in the Rasmussen “Presidential Index” has hit a new low, we can add this: the president’s most recent Gallup daily tracking survey shows Obama’s approval/disapproval is now 38 percent v. 54 percent–a new low.

This gap, a staggering 16 points, means we’re going to hear the Obama team make more and more references to Harry Truman and his come-from-behind victory in 1948. The fact no president has replicated the Truman feat isn’t terribly encouraging news to Obama, his aides and his allies.

 

In addition to Rick’s post, pointing out President Obama’s rating in the Rasmussen “Presidential Index” has hit a new low, we can add this: the president’s most recent Gallup daily tracking survey shows Obama’s approval/disapproval is now 38 percent v. 54 percent–a new low.

This gap, a staggering 16 points, means we’re going to hear the Obama team make more and more references to Harry Truman and his come-from-behind victory in 1948. The fact no president has replicated the Truman feat isn’t terribly encouraging news to Obama, his aides and his allies.

 

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Pace of Debt Increase is Historic

CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller points out that the latest posting by the Treasury Department shows the national debt has now increased $4 trillion on President Obama’s watch. The debt was $10.626 trillion on the day Obama took office. The latest calculation from Treasury shows the debt has now hit $14.639 trillion.

According to Knoller, “It’s the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.”

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CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller points out that the latest posting by the Treasury Department shows the national debt has now increased $4 trillion on President Obama’s watch. The debt was $10.626 trillion on the day Obama took office. The latest calculation from Treasury shows the debt has now hit $14.639 trillion.

According to Knoller, “It’s the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.”

Knoller could have added that like so much of what Obama has achieved –whether it has to do with his jobs record (a loss of 2.2 million since he was inaugurated, putting him on track to have the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era), chronic unemployment (worse than the Great Depression), the housing crisis (worse than the Great Depression), the share of the eligible population holding a job (the worst since the Carter presidency), and plunging consumer confidence (also the worst since the Carter presidency) — the president’s handling of the debt belongs in a category all its own.

Obama is turning out to be a historic president, but in all the wrong ways.

 

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Verizon Strike Ends with Union Whimper

Verizon’s union employees are finally ending an ugly two-week strike after strong-arming the company into conceding…well, pretty much nothing. Verizon has agreed to extend the union workers’ current contracts indefinitely while it restarts negotiations with the union. But it didn’t agree to the demands that prompted the strike, such as taking an increase in health care costs off the table.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America tossed out some face-saving spin to their members:

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Verizon’s union employees are finally ending an ugly two-week strike after strong-arming the company into conceding…well, pretty much nothing. Verizon has agreed to extend the union workers’ current contracts indefinitely while it restarts negotiations with the union. But it didn’t agree to the demands that prompted the strike, such as taking an increase in health care costs off the table.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America tossed out some face-saving spin to their members:

CWA and IBEW leaders ended the strike after a 12-hour meeting where the company finally agreed to a bargaining process that will allow us to reach an agreement, not to put the same proposals back on the table over and over again or refuse to respond to union proposals.

The unions did not agree to any of the company’s concessionary demands to reach agreement. Instead, it was the solidarity we showed on the picket lines and the massive public support that lined up behind us that created the opportunity for progress.  We have tough issues to bargain and will press our demands for good jobs aggressively.

Right – so the union leaders walked out of negotiations with Verizon and forced their members to picket for weeks without pay just so they could head right back to the negotiating table, with no guarantee any of their major demands will be fulfilled. Way to go, Team Labor!

The left isn’t trying to hide its disappointment. At the American Prospect, Josh Eidelson writes the strike showed IBEW and CWA still have the organizing power, but lack the influence they once did:

The strike was an impressive show of large-scale solidarity. At best, it may have tempered the company’s ambitions to undo 50 years of contract improvements in these negotiations, but it didn’t take the largest worker concessions—including increased health-care costs—off the table. The limits of this strike are a painful reminder that, even if workers can protect their current contracts, Verizon has been winning its 16-year war to reduce their relevance.

Since the majority of Verizon’s unionized employees work in an increasingly anachronistic sector of the company – and Verizon’s closest competitors don’t have to deal with unions – Eidelson is right. And by conducting fruitless strikes like this one, union leaders don’t help their cause. Members simply won’t want to take the time, energy and financial risks that come with walking the picket line if the results aren’t worth it.

Also, in related news, the repercussions of the strike can’t be making the White House happy.

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Obama Shouldn’t Ignore Ron Paul’s Gallup Numbers

The response to Ron Paul’s candidacy has been, once again, a combination of derision and disregard. But the latest Gallup poll should give the White House reason enough not to ignore the Texas congressman.

Gallup has Paul trailing Obama in a head-to-head matchup by two percent, 47-45. If President Obama was looking for yet another indicator the public has lost confidence in his management of the economy, this is it.

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The response to Ron Paul’s candidacy has been, once again, a combination of derision and disregard. But the latest Gallup poll should give the White House reason enough not to ignore the Texas congressman.

Gallup has Paul trailing Obama in a head-to-head matchup by two percent, 47-45. If President Obama was looking for yet another indicator the public has lost confidence in his management of the economy, this is it.

This does not mean that Paul–who stands almost no chance to win the GOP nomination–is a general election threat to Obama. Certainly, his campaign will make the case he’s polling better against Obama than Michele Bachmann does (Obama leads her 48-44). It’s a fair argument to make when the discussion turns to Paul’s “unelectability.” But the real lesson the White House should take from this poll, in which Romney beats Obama and Perry ties him, is voters are attracted to candidates who focus on their top three issues: jobs, jobs and jobs.

Paul said some fairly naïve things about foreign policy at the last Republican presidential debate, asking “What’s so bad” about Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Rick Santorum, polling nowhere near the frontrunners, took Paul to task for it. Yet Santorum didn’t gain and Paul didn’t lose from the debate. Paul’s comments would get more attention if he were the nominee, but the point is voters have seen Paul for years now and apparently find him no more objectionable than the president of the United States.

The White House was already aware (or should have been) of the necessity of appearing serious about the economy, especially job creation and, to a lesser extent, debt. Republican primary voters are not itching for an Obama-Paul general election, for the most part having rejected Paul’s preferred policies. But the fact Republicans find Paul too extreme, yet he still runs even with Obama, is another stark warning for the White House: convince the voters you have a serious plan to create jobs, or pack your bags.

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West’s Libya Effort Still Unfinished

With Muammar Qaddafi’s downfall imminent, does Barack Obama stand vindicated? To a certain extent, yes. Obama showed courage in intervening to prevent Qaddafi from retaking Benghazi and slaughtering its inhabitants. If he had not acted, it is doubtful Britain and France would have done so, and Qaddafi would have been in power for years to come. Instead, he becomes the third Middle Eastern despot to fall this year, thus providing further momentum for the forces of the Arab Spring. But just because Qaddafi is out of power doesn’t mean the outcome in Libya will be a good one, or the hesitant way in which Obama waged war was the right way to go.

Ultimate success in a war effort can erase memories of many blunders along the way. Who, after all, remembers the numerous missteps made by U.S. forces in the early days of World War II? In Libya, few will remember Obama’s blunders in not asking for congressional approval of the war effort and not committing enough American air power to hasten Qaddafi’s downfall–but only if Libya emerges as a shining exemplar of the Arab Spring.

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With Muammar Qaddafi’s downfall imminent, does Barack Obama stand vindicated? To a certain extent, yes. Obama showed courage in intervening to prevent Qaddafi from retaking Benghazi and slaughtering its inhabitants. If he had not acted, it is doubtful Britain and France would have done so, and Qaddafi would have been in power for years to come. Instead, he becomes the third Middle Eastern despot to fall this year, thus providing further momentum for the forces of the Arab Spring. But just because Qaddafi is out of power doesn’t mean the outcome in Libya will be a good one, or the hesitant way in which Obama waged war was the right way to go.

Ultimate success in a war effort can erase memories of many blunders along the way. Who, after all, remembers the numerous missteps made by U.S. forces in the early days of World War II? In Libya, few will remember Obama’s blunders in not asking for congressional approval of the war effort and not committing enough American air power to hasten Qaddafi’s downfall–but only if Libya emerges as a shining exemplar of the Arab Spring.

That is, to put it mildly, far from certain at this point. Indeed, news accounts from Tripoli describe a state of chaos and a power vacuum that could bode ill for Libya’s future. The immediate post-Qaddafi period will be an acid test of whether the administration and its allies did enough planning and preparation to avoid a prolonged insurgency of the kind that has plagued both Afghanistan and Iraq.

So far, the president has continued to say no U.S. ground troops will be sent to Libya. If we don’t commit any force of our own (which would effectively demand a new UN Security Council resolution), that makes it more doubtful our allies will do so. Thus, Libyans may well be on their own to resolve their problems.

Perhaps they will; certainly the Transitional National Council has given some positive indicators its heart is in the right place. But if the Libyans fail to get their act together, and their nation becomes a failed state, make no mistake: For all the talk about how Libyans must determine their own future, a share of the blame for a negative outcome will come to rest in Washington, London and Paris. Having provided the support that enabled the rebels to prevail, the NATO powers, and the U.S. most of all, can hardly wash its hands of the country. The wisdom of Obama’s decision to intervene still rests in the balance.

 

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Loss of Manas is Nightmare for U.S. in Afghanistan

While Washington’s attention has been focused on events in Syria and Libya, once reliable Kyrgyzstan has served notice that in 2014, it will no longer allow U.S. forces to use the Manas Air Base, an important logistic hub, for our operations in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan’s about face is a triumph for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes to flip Kyrgyzstan and outbid the United States, much as the Kremlin did with Uzbekistan’s Karshi-Khanabad air base, from which U.S. forces were expelled in 2005. With the Manas route about to be closed, the United States becomes more reliant–and susceptible to pressure–from Pakistan and Turkey.

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While Washington’s attention has been focused on events in Syria and Libya, once reliable Kyrgyzstan has served notice that in 2014, it will no longer allow U.S. forces to use the Manas Air Base, an important logistic hub, for our operations in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan’s about face is a triumph for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes to flip Kyrgyzstan and outbid the United States, much as the Kremlin did with Uzbekistan’s Karshi-Khanabad air base, from which U.S. forces were expelled in 2005. With the Manas route about to be closed, the United States becomes more reliant–and susceptible to pressure–from Pakistan and Turkey.

Never mind this setback, however. American national security should never stand in the way of good, old-fashioned diplomatic sycophancy.

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Bad News for the Housing Market

The Associated Press reports the number of people who bought new homes fell for the fourth straight month in July, putting sales on track to finish this year as the worst on records dating back half a century.

According to the Commerce Department, sales of new homes fell nearly 1 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 298,000. That’s less than half the 700,000 economists say represent a healthy market.

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The Associated Press reports the number of people who bought new homes fell for the fourth straight month in July, putting sales on track to finish this year as the worst on records dating back half a century.

According to the Commerce Department, sales of new homes fell nearly 1 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 298,000. That’s less than half the 700,000 economists say represent a healthy market.

As a reference point, last year was the worst for new-home sales on records that go back nearly 50 years.

In addition, sales of previously occupied homes fell in July for the third time in four months, and they are trailing last year’s 4.91 million sales, the fewest since 1997. In a healthy economy, people buy roughly 6 million existing homes annually.

Sales of new homes have fallen 18 percent in the two years since the Great Recession officially ended. The AP goes on to report, “A telling sign of how bad things have gotten for the housing industry: Prices have dropped more since the recession started, on a percentage basis, than during the Great Depression of the 1930s. And it took 19 years for prices to fully recover after the Depression.”

We’ll see whether the president’s speech in September does anything to resuscitate the housing market.

Count me skeptical.

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Obama Hits New Low in Rasmussen Poll

President Obama’s rating in the Rasmussen “Presidential Index” has hit a new low. Today he is at Minus 26 – a 56-point swing from the Plus 30 he registered after his first full day in office. The total of likely voters who not only “disapprove” but “strongly disapprove” is now at 45 percent, with 56 percent disapproving overall.

To put this in perspective, George W. Bush, in his last full month in office, was at 43 percent “strongly disapprove” and Minus 30 overall – at the end of an exhausted eight-year administration pummeled throughout by the MSM. Barack Obama is at virtually that level after two-and-a-half years, having started with historic goodwill and an MSM fully invested in his success. To appreciate the magnitude of the Rasmussen results, it is useful to view them in the chart-form developed by Boker tov, Boulder! Take a look.

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President Obama’s rating in the Rasmussen “Presidential Index” has hit a new low. Today he is at Minus 26 – a 56-point swing from the Plus 30 he registered after his first full day in office. The total of likely voters who not only “disapprove” but “strongly disapprove” is now at 45 percent, with 56 percent disapproving overall.

To put this in perspective, George W. Bush, in his last full month in office, was at 43 percent “strongly disapprove” and Minus 30 overall – at the end of an exhausted eight-year administration pummeled throughout by the MSM. Barack Obama is at virtually that level after two-and-a-half years, having started with historic goodwill and an MSM fully invested in his success. To appreciate the magnitude of the Rasmussen results, it is useful to view them in the chart-form developed by Boker tov, Boulder! Take a look.

It is a long time until November 2012, but one of the useful aspects of the Rasmussen poll is it reflects “likely voters” (not simply adults or registered voters), and measures their intensity. As Professor Larry Sabato has observed, elections are decided by those who show up; those who strongly disapprove are very unlikely to stay home, and they are approaching an absolute majority. As the BtB chart graphically illustrates, they exceed Obama’s total “approve” percentage (44 percent, of which only 19 percent “strongly approve” his performance). The differential is effectively a force multiplier that makes today’s poll results even more ominous for the president.

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No Dark Horses: Paul Ryan Won’t Run

It’s a disappointment to many conservatives, but it never sounded like Paul Ryan’s heart was in this anyway. The Draft Ryan movement gave it an admirable try, but in the end, Ryan’s instincts were telling him no.

Here’s the congressman’s statement to the Weekly Standard:

“I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party’s nomination for president. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress.”

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It’s a disappointment to many conservatives, but it never sounded like Paul Ryan’s heart was in this anyway. The Draft Ryan movement gave it an admirable try, but in the end, Ryan’s instincts were telling him no.

Here’s the congressman’s statement to the Weekly Standard:

“I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party’s nomination for president. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress.”

So, there you have it. The field is pretty much set – with the exception of one large, looming question mark. Will Sarah Palin take the plunge? Now that the Tea Party conservatives have Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry to choose from, time is running out for Palin to mount a successful bid for the nomination. Her coyness is also reaching the point where it’s starting to wear on some conservatives, who resent being strung along on a ride that smacks more of a publicity tour than a presidential campaign. If Palin enters the race only to bomb out, she’ll do serious damage to her stature as a conservative icon.

There’s also the question of Palin’s electability in a general election. Republicans – even very conservative ones – are more interested in nominating a candidate who can beat Obama than one who gives them a thrill up the leg. Palin has high national negatives that Romney, Perry, and even Bachmann, don’t have (at least not yet).

And with the latest Gallup poll showing the current top-tier candidates have the presidency within their grasps, will Republicans risk it all with a candidate who has little chance of winning a general election?

While trying to predict Palin’s next move is as useless as trying to predict next month’s weather, there are certainly more than enough reasons for her to sit 2012 out. So let’s get used to the current field, because Ryan was the last serious chance at a dark horse candidate.

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Obama’s Jobs Record: Worst of Any President in Modern Era?

“Unless the economy turns around in the next 18 months, Obama is on track to have the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era. That would be an accurate statement.”

This judgment comes not from Sarah Palin but from Glenn Kessler, fact checker for the Washington Post. Which makes the judgment triply damaging to the president, since the Post is not known as an anti-Obama newspaper.

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“Unless the economy turns around in the next 18 months, Obama is on track to have the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era. That would be an accurate statement.”

This judgment comes not from Sarah Palin but from Glenn Kessler, fact checker for the Washington Post. Which makes the judgment triply damaging to the president, since the Post is not known as an anti-Obama newspaper.

As if to prove the point, Kessler adds a caveat to his statement: “But [Obama] also became president in the midst of the worst recession of our lifetimes–and it seems a real stretch to make him personally responsible for every one of those lost jobs, without bothering to offer a shred of evidence for the claim.”

Of course, no president is “personally responsible” for every lost job in America. The point is that like every other president, Obama is being judged by what unfolds on his watch. As for not offering a shred of evidence for the claim Obama is on track to have the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era: Kessler’s own article provides the empirical evidence (it comes to us courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics). And the case against Obama’s policies and why they have had a injurious effect on our economy has been endlessly made.

One gets the sense the verdict offered by Kessler is a reluctant one, but one he cannot really dispute. And the fact that Kessler is willing to make the claim he did — with or without caveats — is notable.

Expect Kessler’s words to appear in a Republican ad near you.

 

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Democrats Have Another Problem in NY-9 Besides Israel

Next month’s special election to replace the disgraced Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th congressional district is being viewed in some quarters as a referendum on President Obama’s attitude toward Israel. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch has called on the district’s voters to back Republican Robert Turner in the race so as to send a message to Obama to back off on his pressure on the Jewish state. In response, the Democratic candidate David Weprin has sought to make it clear he wants no part of Obama, even going so far as to say he hasn’t decided whether to endorse him.

It’s not clear if any of this will make enough of a difference for the 29 percent of the district’s voters who are Jewish. But it turns out Israel may not be Weprin’s biggest problem with that important slice of the electorate. Instead, it may be his vote in the New York state legislature in favor of gay marriage that could prove to be his heaviest burden.

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Next month’s special election to replace the disgraced Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th congressional district is being viewed in some quarters as a referendum on President Obama’s attitude toward Israel. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch has called on the district’s voters to back Republican Robert Turner in the race so as to send a message to Obama to back off on his pressure on the Jewish state. In response, the Democratic candidate David Weprin has sought to make it clear he wants no part of Obama, even going so far as to say he hasn’t decided whether to endorse him.

It’s not clear if any of this will make enough of a difference for the 29 percent of the district’s voters who are Jewish. But it turns out Israel may not be Weprin’s biggest problem with that important slice of the electorate. Instead, it may be his vote in the New York state legislature in favor of gay marriage that could prove to be his heaviest burden.

According to City Hall News, Weprin is being flayed in the Orthodox community not just for his affirmative vote on gay marriage but also for comparing the measure to intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews or between citizens of different races.  In a June 15 speech in the State Assembly, Weprin noted as an Orthodox Jew, he was not in favor of intermarriage and his own rabbi would not perform one, but this didn’t mean his religious beliefs should be the law of the land.

“My religion is very important to me personally, but this is not a religious issue. I think everyone here would agree that we should not be outlawing marriages between Jews and non-Jews or interracial marriages.”

Weprin’s decision to invoke Judaism in this manner is not going down well, especially among Orthodox Jews. While it might be argued this group is more likely to vote Republican than other Jews anyway, it creates yet another problem for Democrats who are worried about a backlash against their party’s leader.

The 9th is considered a competitive district for Republicans in deep-blue New York City. Yet, while Turner’s 39 percent of the vote in 2010 against Weiner was considered a good showing, it will take more than disgust over their former representative’s shameful exit from politics to give the GOP the extra 11 percent they need to get to a majority.

That gives Weprin, the well-respected scion of a local political dynasty, a fair margin of error in the coming vote. If Democrats are able to make the race turn on traditional party loyalties or on the average New Yorker’s distaste for Republicans, Weprin should have no trouble holding onto the seat. But if this race is about Obama and Israel or even about Weprin’s own stand on gay marriage, with motivated voters turning out to send a message in a low-turnout special election, that increases the GOP’s chances for an upset.

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