Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 28, 2011

Perry-Romney Feud: Hype or Reality?

Given the fact the two heaviest hitters in the Republican presidential race are probably going to be slugging it out until late spring next year, there’s every likelihood the confrontation between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry is going to get nasty. But for those who can’t wait until the mud starts flying for real, Politico gives us a preview of the imminent Romney-Perry smackdown today. According to author Maggie Haberman, it’s already “personal” between the two.

The origins of this grudge supposedly date back to a 2006 dispute. But the article’s main assertion has less to do with Perry’s capacity for holding a grudge than it does with the idea that virtually everyone at the highest levels of the GOP thinks Romney is a phony. Which leads me to wonder whether talk of a genuine feud between Romney and Perry is more hype than reality.

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Given the fact the two heaviest hitters in the Republican presidential race are probably going to be slugging it out until late spring next year, there’s every likelihood the confrontation between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry is going to get nasty. But for those who can’t wait until the mud starts flying for real, Politico gives us a preview of the imminent Romney-Perry smackdown today. According to author Maggie Haberman, it’s already “personal” between the two.

The origins of this grudge supposedly date back to a 2006 dispute. But the article’s main assertion has less to do with Perry’s capacity for holding a grudge than it does with the idea that virtually everyone at the highest levels of the GOP thinks Romney is a phony. Which leads me to wonder whether talk of a genuine feud between Romney and Perry is more hype than reality.

It may well be Perry and his camp are still upset about Romney’s decision when he was the head of the Republican Governor’s Association to hire Alex Castellanos, a political campaign consultant who was also working for an independent running against the Texas governor that year. And Perry may also resent the idea repeated in the article that Romney thinks he’s stupid. Yet the personal animus factor in the race may be more the widespread notion Romney is disliked and distrusted by most GOP politicians. The scuttlebutt from the 2008 Republican debates and primaries was Romney and his staff held themselves aloof from the other campaigns, and the former Massachusetts governor was incorrigibly insincere.

Romney’s behavior has been noticeably more relaxed and confident this time around than it was four years ago, but these perceptions are hard to shake. This is especially so true for Romney, because he has a documented history of flip-flopping on some issues.

There’s no question Perry and Romney are as different as can be in terms of background, personality and their style of campaigning and governing. With so much at stake it would be surprising if a long, hard campaign such as this one didn’t lead eventually lead to hard feelings. But it strikes me, the focus on the “Romney is a phony” story line here may not tell us much about how this race will develop.

For all of his faults, Romney is by now a known quantity. What we don’t know heading into 2012 is just how well Perry will weather the incredible strain a presidential run can put on a man. Perry has parachuted into the race and found himself anointed the frontrunner almost immediately. Rather than worry about Romney’s little rich boy syndrome, we need to see whether Perry follows up his gaffe in which he accused Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke of “treason” with more of the same or if he is able to exhibit some grace under pressure.

With the exit of Tim Pawlenty from the GOP contest, journalists have been deprived of the grudge match that had developed between him and Minnesota rival Michele Bachmann. If Romney and Perry were to equal or surpass the enmity those two exhibited, it would be a godsend to writers about politics. But it’s entirely possible the talk of a feud between the two is the real phony in the race. Astute observers should worry less about their feelings about each other and more about whether Perry can avoid mistakes that could erase the gains he has made in the last two weeks.

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Abbas Still Looking for Pre-UN Bribe

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has reiterated his determination to go ahead with his attempt to get the United Nations to recognize an independent Palestinian state without asking it to make peace with Israel. But, as the Jerusalem Post reports, he is not averse to being bribed to back away from an effort he knows is doomed to failure with more Israeli concessions. Abbas said yesterday he would give up on the UN effort in exchange for Israel halting all settlement building and agreeing on the 1967 lines as the basis for future negotiations. But he also added he would never agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

What exactly Israel would then negotiate is unclear, because it would have effectively given up all its cards prior to the talks. Nor is there any reason for Israel to make unilateral concessions if in the end the Palestinians are still unwilling to end the conflict, as would be the case if they recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state. But, as has been apparent since 2008, Abbas’ goal is not negotiations but the avoidance of them.

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Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has reiterated his determination to go ahead with his attempt to get the United Nations to recognize an independent Palestinian state without asking it to make peace with Israel. But, as the Jerusalem Post reports, he is not averse to being bribed to back away from an effort he knows is doomed to failure with more Israeli concessions. Abbas said yesterday he would give up on the UN effort in exchange for Israel halting all settlement building and agreeing on the 1967 lines as the basis for future negotiations. But he also added he would never agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

What exactly Israel would then negotiate is unclear, because it would have effectively given up all its cards prior to the talks. Nor is there any reason for Israel to make unilateral concessions if in the end the Palestinians are still unwilling to end the conflict, as would be the case if they recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state. But, as has been apparent since 2008, Abbas’ goal is not negotiations but the avoidance of them.

Ever since the Palestinian Authority rejected Israel’s offer of an independent state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem back in 2008, its leader Mahmoud Abbas has been doing all he could to avoid being put in a similar situation. Because he knows no matter what concessions Israel makes on borders or settlements, he cannot survive the aftermath of signing a peace deal, Abbas must continue to dodge negotiations despite the desperate efforts of the Obama administration and the European Union to get him to come back to the table. That is the rationale for the PA’s UN adventure.

This UN gambit is doomed to failure since the General Assembly cannot create a state by itself anymore that it can transform Palestinian political life. Under the current circumstances where Gaza is ruled by the Hamas terrorist movement and the West Bank is kept under the thumb of the PA only by virtue of the protection of the Israeli army, a viable independent Palestinian state is more of a theoretical notion than anything else. And despite the predictions of a “diplomatic tsunami” that would swamp Israel, it is Abbas who has more to fear from the fallout of this confrontation since it is he, and not Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who stands to lose the most if the defeat of his measure results in more Palestinian violence.

Abbas’s notice of his willingness to be tempted to stay away from the UN is, like the entire project, merely a deception. The only purpose of the exercise is to heighten Israel’s isolation and increase pressure on Jerusalem, not to get closer to a resolution of the dispute. More talk of settlements and borders are a distraction from the core issue of whether the Palestinians can live with a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Abbas says he wants a Jew-free Palestinian state next to an Israel where the “return” of the descendants of Arab refugees would transform a Jewish state to a bi-national or Arab one. That is a prescription for future war not peace.

So long as Abbas isn’t willing to talk about a Jewish state living in peace alongside a Palestinian state, we will know he is merely continuing his bluff and not speaking in good faith. Were he ever to do so, he would find that as they did in 2000, 2001 and 2008, the Israelis are willing to make peace on terms that would give him his state. There is no reason for Israel to give in on borders, territory, Jerusalem or anything else until Abbas or his successors change their tunes.

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Hurricane Irene as the “Harbinger” of More Warming Propaganda

Few aspects of contemporary debate are as dreary as the politicization of weather. Government officials have always known — or at least should have always known — they will be blamed for natural disasters, especially if they are not conducting rescue or cleanup activities with sufficient zeal. But just as depressing and unenlightening is the practice of using instances of extreme weather — be they hot or cold, wet or dry — as “proof” the planet is warming.

The arrival of Hurricane Irene this morning in the Northeast was used as an excuse for the New York Times to trot out the theory the increasing number of highly destructive storms is yet another indicator the planet is melting. Under the headline “Seeing Irene as a Harbinger of a Change in Climate,” the Times article promised to explain how warming is responsible for more hurricanes that do more damage. Except, much like Irene herself, which was no treat for those in low-lying coastal areas but was otherwise nothing close to the apocalypse predicted only a couple of days ago, the piece did no such thing.

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Few aspects of contemporary debate are as dreary as the politicization of weather. Government officials have always known — or at least should have always known — they will be blamed for natural disasters, especially if they are not conducting rescue or cleanup activities with sufficient zeal. But just as depressing and unenlightening is the practice of using instances of extreme weather — be they hot or cold, wet or dry — as “proof” the planet is warming.

The arrival of Hurricane Irene this morning in the Northeast was used as an excuse for the New York Times to trot out the theory the increasing number of highly destructive storms is yet another indicator the planet is melting. Under the headline “Seeing Irene as a Harbinger of a Change in Climate,” the Times article promised to explain how warming is responsible for more hurricanes that do more damage. Except, much like Irene herself, which was no treat for those in low-lying coastal areas but was otherwise nothing close to the apocalypse predicted only a couple of days ago, the piece did no such thing.

Despite the inflammatory and misleading headline, the Times article exposed the fact there is no scientific consensus behind the thesis that alleges warming has created more catastrophic hurricanes. Even more to the point, there is no sound statistical basis for assuming the recent record of instances of hurricanes is in any way extraordinary and no proof whatsoever that warming is responsible for the trend. Though some scientists have created computer projections about climate change that claim the number and power of hurricanes will increase, even the Times is forced to admit this is merely a theory and proof of nothing.

We have some notion of the history of climate change in the last two millennia. The earth, or at least portions of it, are known to have warmed or cooled several times during the course of recorded history. These are facts that do little to enhance the credibility of warming alarmists, because we know such climate change was not the result of human activity. But our body of knowledge is not as extensive about instances of hurricanes in the past or their strength. Building any climate theory — let alone a prediction catastrophic hurricanes will become so frequent as to be commonplace — only on relatively recent observations is palpably foolish.

As for the idea hurricanes are getting worse because they are causing more damage, again, that is an idea the Times debunks. If hurricanes are exacting a higher cost these days, it is only because every available inch of shoreline is being developed–creating infrastructure in places obviously vulnerable to the caprices of nature.

The idea Irene is a “harbinger” of climate change is just as reliable as the predictions uttered with sober certainty only 48 hours ago that the storm would cause unprecedented damage. But there is one trend we can rely upon to be true. Despite the complete absence of proof, for the foreseeable future, global warming alarmists will continue to spout theories about an increase in hurricanes and any other type of bad weather and assert they are the result of human activity that is cooking the planet. And much of the mainstream media will continue to report such wild theories as if they were verifiable facts.

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