According to The Hill, unhappy members of the Congressional Black Caucus “probably would be marching on the White House” if Obama were not president, said CBC Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “If [former President] Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem [unemployment among blacks], we probably would be marching on the White House,” Cleaver told The Miami Herald in comments published Sunday. “There is a less volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president.”
This is a fairly devastating rebuke to the president. It’s essentially saying if he were judged by the content of his programs rather than by the color of his skin, he would be facing a revolt within his ranks. And the truth is, he should. The economy, which the president has mismanaged so badly, is hurting just about everyone in America; but probably no group is being hurt as much as minorities. (The black youth unemployment rate is nearing a staggeringly high 50 percent.)
I agree with Evelyn Gordon and Michael Rubin that the Palestinian effort to have the UN recognize a Palestinian state violates (a) prior agreements (which expressly preclude such unilateral action) and (b) the philosophical basis of the peace process (land for peace, not the assignment of land prior to a peace agreement). It also represents the final installment of the Palestinian abandonment of the “Performance-Based Roadmap.”
Phase I of the Roadmap required that the Palestinian Authority engage in sustained and effective operations against “all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.” Not only has that Phase not been completed, but a terrorist group controls half the putative state. Phase II was to focus on a Palestinian state with provisional borders as a way station to a permanent status settlement. The PA rejected Phase II out of hand and demanded Phase III final status negotiations without compliance with Phases I and II. Then it rejected the 2008 Israeli offer of a contiguous state on 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza (after land swaps) with a capital in Jerusalem.
Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, citing President Obama leading captive audiences in chants of “Pass this bill,” has written, “The Obama presidency has entered the pathetic phase.” I concur, and I’d offer another (small) example that buttresses Barnes’ assessment. At a Rose Garden speech last week, the president said this:
I have to repeat something I said in my speech on Thursday. There are some in Washington who’d rather settle our differences through politics and the elections than try to resolve them now. In fact, Joe [Biden] and I, as we were walking out here, we were looking at one of the Washington newspapers and it was quoting a Republican aide saying, “I don’t know why we’d want to cooperate with Obama right now. It’s not good for our politics.” That was very explicit.
John Heilemann’s New York magazine piece on why President Obama is actually a great friend of Israel who has been misunderstood works very hard to clear Obama’s name among American Jews. But Heilemann unwittingly gets to one root of the animus between the president and Benjamin Netanyahu: Obama’s acceptance before his presidency of the left’s dispiriting and intellectually lazy tactic of trying to turn “Likud” into a dirty word.
“There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel,” Obama said during his campaign for the presidency, and which Heilemann reproduces early on in the piece. Aside from the obvious implication of dual loyalty, this use of the term is also meaningless–which is much more troubling, because it reveals a staggering lack of knowledge for a president to have, much less brag about as openly as Obama did.
Michael Rubin makes a good point about the attractiveness of the Moroccan model–meaning gradual liberal reform in the direction of democracy. That is certainly preferable to the kind of upheavals that have rocked the Arab world this year. Even successful revolutions (as in Egypt) can go off in uncertain directions. In the case of Egypt, civil liberties remain restricted, anti-Israel sentiment is running rampant, and the Muslim Brotherhood appears poised to gain a disproportionate share of power because it is better organized than liberal groups. Some of this was no doubt unavoidable in any post-Mubarak regime (any Egyptian government that reflects popular sentiment will be anti-Israel to some degree) but the chaotic conditions which have prevailed since Mubarak’s abrupt removal from power have exacerbated the situation.
It was precisely to ward off such an explosion that some of us had been arguing for years the U.S. needed to do more to pressure Hosni Mubarak to open up the political system—for instance, by conditioning U.S aid on reform. Instead, one administration after another gave this strongman a blank check even though it was perfectly clear he could not last forever.
Our “First Jewish President’s” Israel policy isn’t just a concern to Jewish voters. Obama’s Israel problems extend beyond religious lines, according to a poll released by The Hill today:
More than half of likely voters say the Obama administration’s policy on Israel is either somewhat or very important to the way they vote, according to this week’s The Hill Poll.
Bill Keller stepped down recently as executive editor of the New York Times and made his debut today as an op-ed columnist.
Well, you certainly can’t fault him for failing to come up with a refreshing new look at the country’s problems. According to Keller, Barack Obama’s political woes are George Bush’s fault.
While I agree with Evelyn Gordon’s analysis, it’s also important to recognize the Palestinian actions and those who would affirm them violate not only previous agreements on legal grounds, but also the philosophical basis of the peace process.
Since the Camp David Accords, the basis of negotiations has been one of land for peace. What the Palestinians are asking the United Nations now is to assign land ahead of time, and worry about peace later. The vote not only violates previous diplomatic agreements, but it replaces a formula for peace with a recipe for war.
President Obama was in full-on campaign mode during his deficit speech today in the Rose Garden, slamming Congress for “dragging its feet” and calling on Republicans to “defend” the “unfairness” of their tax proposals.
“They should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness,” he said. “Explain why somebody who’s making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes when a teacher…is paying more than that.”
It didn’t take much to get some conservative talking heads and policy types to start talking again about a new Republican savior. After frontrunner Rick Perry took some hits in last week’s debate and showed he had a few flaws, almost like clockwork the rumbling began again about recruiting a GOP messiah who would rescue the party from the current field of candidates. But with Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan having conclusively removed their names from consideration, all the Washington wonks have left is the least likely of the long-discussed trio of possible candidates: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Both Bill Kristol and Paul Gigot promoted the idea of a Christie candidacy yesterday on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Those are good people to have behind you, but as with the last gasp boomlet for Ryan that we heard so much about in August and early September, the Christie scenario is based more on wishful thinking than an objective analysis of Christie’s intentions or his strengths as a candidate.
President George W. Bush sought to make Poland and the Czech Republic central to the NATO anti-ballistic missile shield, but President Obama chose to go with Turkey instead. Today, Turkey is showing the diplomatic cost of that decision. While the United States envisioned that missile shield and radar system to provide security not only for NATO, but for our other regional allies, Turkey has now vetoed sharing any early warning to Israel regarding potential Iranian missile launches. According to a report in the Turkish press:
Davutoğlu insisted that information gathered by a U.S.-led radar system, to be stationed in Turkey’s Malatya province as part of a NATO missile-shield project, would be available for use only by alliance members, denying suggestions that intelligence would be shared with Israel. “We will provide support only for systems that belong to NATO and are used solely by members of NATO,” he said. The minister dismissed as “manipulation” a newspaper report that quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that data collected by the radar would be used to help defend Israel, stressing that Washington had assured Ankara that no such official existed. According to a Wall Street Journal report Friday, U.S. officials said they planned to fuse data from radars in Turkey, Israel and other sites to create a comprehensive picture of the missile threat to the region. Turkey, for its part, could also benefit from real-time data from radar the United States already operates in Israel, the report said.
The Osama bin Laden raid notwithstanding, the Obama administration continues to project an air of weakness and irresolution on national security that will come back to haunt us. The latest example is its refusal to sell F-16s to our democratic ally Taiwan.
Taiwan is facing a growing imbalance of cross-Straits power as China continues to increase its defense budget by double-digit figures every year. This buildup is tilting the odds against the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific and making it increasingly likely Taiwan would be on its own in any crisis. That makes it all the more imperative Taiwan have the ability to defend itself.
The run-up to the Palestinians’ UN bid has produced many surreal moments, but it would be hard to top this one: The U.S. and Europe are pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to penalize the Palestinian Authority following the UN vote. In other words, the “international community” is urging the PA be allowed to violate its previous signed agreements with total impunity. And then, in the same breath, it’s urging Israel to sign a final-status agreement entailing much greater concessions in exchange for “international guarantees” it’s just proven it won’t enforce.
A brief reminder: The UN gambit blatantly violates the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, which states that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” Clearly, recognizing these territories as a state would change their status drastically. The U.S. and EU both signed this agreement as witnesses, as did Russia, Egypt, Jordan and Norway.
President Obama will finally present his deficit-reduction recommendations to the super committee this morning, and one of the proposals will reportedly be a “Buffett tax,” which will raise taxes on millionaires whose earnings come from capital gains:
The White House will propose a new tax rate for people earning more than $1 million a year to ensure they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings in taxes as middle-income Americans, a senior administration official told CNN on Sunday.
This past weekend, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry sponsored a conference on the Arab Spring and constitutional reforms. While I was part of a small and bipartisan delegation of Americans who could accept their last-minute invitation to the two-day affair, there were a number of current and former ministers and other officials from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Libya and the European Union.
Morocco is a pretty tolerant place, and while its government was as surprised by the Arab Spring as its fellow Arab countries, its government did quickly conclude the time for significant constitutional reform was sooner rather than later. Admittedly, the fact the King appointed the constitutional reform panel in a top-down approach says a lot about Morocco’s point of departure, though his efforts appear sincere. The speakers addressed a number of issues, ranging from broad discussions of principle about what makes an Arab constitution work, as well specific discussions of various proposals.
In researching his new book, Ron Suskind interviewed President Obama earlier this year, during which Obama told Suskind:
The area in my presidency where I think my management and understanding of the presidency evolved most, and where I think we made the most mistakes, was less on the policy front and more on the communications front. I think one of the criticisms that is absolutely legitimate about my first two years was that I was very comfortable with a technocratic approach to government … a series of problems to be solved.… Carter, Clinton and I all have sort of the disease of being policy wonks. … I think that if you get too consumed with that you lose sight of the larger issue. … The reorganization that’s taken place here is one that is much more geared to those [leadership] functions.
For an update on how all that “hope and change” is going, let’s check in with LightSquared financial backer Phil Falcone, who’s currently under scrutiny for his company’s too-close-for-comfort relationship with the White House:
Falcone characterized email communication between LightSquared employees and White House staff — which mentioned political fundraisers while trying to coordinate a meeting — as business as usual. The emails were first reported by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News.