Speculation about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has continued this weekend. Rick Perry’s dismal performance in the Florida debate and straw poll are inspiring many Republicans who are dismayed at the idea of Mitt Romney as their standard-bearer next year to beat the drums for Christie. But, as I first wrote last week, the latest Christie boomlet will only further fracture the Republican presidential race, not clarify it.
Even if we assume for the sake of argument Christie will succumb to the blandishments of those imploring him to run, the notion he will be instantly viable is a fantasy. Christie’s entry in the race will provide competition to Romney for center-right voters but none at all for Perry among conservative Christians and Tea Partiers. Indeed, rather than helping to stop the sinking Perry, Christie might do just the opposite. By weakening Romney just when he seemed to be on the rise, he might enable the Texan to survive his current crisis.
To listen to some reporters and commentators, the only violence in the West Bank in recent years are attacks against Arabs by maniacal right-wing Jewish settlers. That was the conceit of a New York Times feature published on Friday — the same day Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas delivered his request for statehood at the United Nations. According to Ethan Bronner’s report, Israel’s main worry wasn’t about Palestinian terror but an escalation of settler violence. The story depicted the settlers as being out-of-control and having no respect for innocent Palestinians.
However, as Friday’s lethal attack on a Jewish vehicle in the West Bank proved, the belief violence on the West Bank is a one-way street is simply untrue. Settler violence is wrong, but the notion it is unprovoked or Jews are more likely to attack Arabs in the territory is an absurd distortion of the truth.
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have spent much of the last few years since the publication of their infamous screed The Israel Lobby posing as victims of vicious smears. They have claimed their careers were hurt by their willingness to denounce Israel and its supporters and cried bloody murder over the fact many commentators saw a clear connection between their absurd arguments that a vast conspiracy of allies of Zionism was manipulating American policy.
But it’s going to be just a little harder for one of this duo to assert his innocence when it comes to charges of Jew-hatred. Mearsheimer is rightly being called to account for his endorsement of a new book by a Holocaust denier. As Jeffrey Goldberg noted in The Atlantic, after years of pretending he is no anti-Semite, Mearsheimer isn’t even “bothering to make believe anymore.”
It’s doubtful he will get any credit for it, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is conducting a full-throttle charm offensive on behalf of President Obama. Netanyahu’s praise for the president’s UN speech on Wednesday was fulsome and included no caveats about Obama’s bragging about trying to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians on the 1967 lines or his predilection for moral equivalence between the two sides in the Middle East conflict. Subsequently, Netanyahu also rebuked a member of his party who appeared with Texas Governor Rick Perry last week at a press conference during which Obama’s negative attitude toward Israel was denounced. And this was not long after Jerusalem treated Obama’s helpful phone call to Egypt during the attack on the Israel embassy in Cairo earlier this month as heroic rather than routine.
For those who think the primary image of the U.S.-Israel relationship is that of Netanyahu lecturing Obama about the dangers of a return to the 1967 lines during a White House photo op, the idea the prime minister is sucking up to the president is somewhat amusing. But it is nevertheless true. And as much as there has been no diminishment of the White House’s resentment of Netanyahu, the willingness of the Israeli leader to vouch for Obama may prove quite useful for the Democrats next year.
If you missed Hussein Agha and Robert Malley’s long piece The Arab Counterrevolution in the New York Review of Books a couple of weeks ago, as I did, go back and take a look. It’s not the least bit dated and is, in fact, one of the better analyses published lately of what is called the Arab Spring.
Middle Eastern liberals, they argue, only affected the direction of Arab history this year for the briefest of periods. The Arab revolution began on December 17, 2010, when Mohamed Bouazizi kicked off the revolt against Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by setting himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid. The Arab revolution ended, they say, on February 12, the day after Hosni Mubarak was removed from his palace in Cairo. Men with guns and theology have been in charge of history’s direction since then.
Unlike the Iowa Straw Poll, which has been around for a long time and has some relevance to the caucuses in that state, there is little reason to take the Florida Straw Poll conducted yesterday all that seriously. Even some of those who voted for Herman Cain, who was the unexpected winner, understood he has no chance to be elected president. But the fact Rick Perry competed and lost was more significant than Cain’s win.
Unlike Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, who wisely passed on the Florida poll, Perry went all out to win it and failed. Coming on the heels of his awful performance in the Orlando debate that preceded the event on Thursday, the campaign of the Texas governor looks to be in a free fall. The question for Perry is increasingly becoming not so much how he recovers his mojo as the frontrunner, but will he survive the grueling run up to the caucuses and primaries?