After his election victory and early into his presidency, it was fashionable in some liberal intellectual circles to compare Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln when it came to his rhetoric. Now Obama has been reduced to this: At a fundraiser Tuesday night in St. Louis, the president told an audience, “They call it Obamacare? I do care! You should care, too.”
“ObamaCare, I care, and you should care, too,” has faint echoes of “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream.”
It isn’t exactly the Gettysburg Address, is it?
Vice President Joe Biden was having a wonderful time last week disingenuously reassuring rabbis in Florida the Obama administration was Israel’s best friend when his big mouth got him in trouble again. The clerics were apparently buying everything the vice president was selling when it came to the Democrat’s comments in defense of the policies of a president who has been determined to distance himself from Israel since his first day in office. But when Biden was asked a question about freedom for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, the veep’s loose lips and well-known predilection for boasting wound up overshadowing his explanations about the Jewish state.
According to the New York Times, Biden not only expressed hostility to the idea of mercy for the Israeli spy but also actually claimed it was his opposition that convinced the president to abandon the notion of clemency. But as the Jerusalem Post reported today, rather than quieting down any rabbinical complaints about Obama, Biden’s statement has helped mobilize an unusual alliance of people from the major Jewish denominations who will deliver a protest at a meeting to be held tonight at the vice presidential residence.
When a presidency is experiencing a political collapse, as is happening now, the last thing it needs is to face serious legal and ethical problems. But that is precisely where the Obama administration finds itself with both the Solyndra story and the so-called Fast and Furious program. It’s clear that at a minimum, the Obama administration has given a misleading account of both matters. When these stories finally unfold, two cabinet secretaries (Chu and Holder) may be forced to resign. Attorney General Holder, in fact, may have provided misleading statements to Congress about his knowledge of Fast and Furious. (The operation allowed firearms to be illegally purchased with the goal of tracking them to Mexican drug cartels, but the effort went out of control after agents lost track of many of the weapons, resulting in the deaths of scores of Mexicans as well as an American border patrol agent.)
Right now, there’s no evidence the president was briefed on Operation Fast and Furious. But Obama’s direct involvement on behalf of Solyndra, in which the solar start-up company with political connections to the president received more than a half-a-billion dollars from the federal government before going bankrupt, is quite problematic.
Breaking news out of Turkey is the Turkish parliament—dominated by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP)—has given the go-ahead to a cross border incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan to kill alleged Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members whom the Turkish government accuses of terrorism. Never mind that Turkey has repeatedly condemned Israel for similar cross border maneuvers against Hamas in Gaza. Just yesterday, Erdoğan shouted down an Israeli diplomat who had raised the Hamas issue during the prime minister’s visit to South Africa by challenging the Israeli to name how many people Hamas’ missiles have killed. Erdoğan then accused Israel of state-terrorism, one more step in his drive to de-legitimize the Jewish state.
Now, there is no question Hamas launches terrorism from Gaza. It is easy to trace the trajectory of their rockets. There is also no question Hamas harbors genocidal intent: one only needs to read their charter. There is no parallel, however, to Turkey’s current looming fight. Erdoğan has not shown that any of the recent terrorist attacks in Turkey had anything to do with Iraq or Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey’s hypocrisy is broader. Despite his ultimatum to Israel for the Mavi Marmara incident and subsequent demonization, Erdoğan has yet to offer an apology or compensation for Turkey’s murder of seven civilians last August. If Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was more skillful, he might seize upon Erdoğan’s own words to demand such compensation, and hopefully not skim too much off the top.
So now that Chris Christie has finally put an end to the Republican Party’s yearlong quest for a presidential messiah, where do all those wonks and activists who longed for a viable conservative alternative to Mitt Romney go now? While some Tea Partiers and social conservatives have, at least for the moment, jumped on the Herman Cain bandwagon or are deceiving themselves into believing that Rick Perry can recover, that isn’t exactly what those who spent the summer dreaming about Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan or Christie had in mind.
All of which means in spite of what many conservatives rightly believe is his lack of strong convictions, flip flopping and faulty record on government mandated health care, those who pined for Christie will now inevitably turn to Romney.
In an interview with Emmitt Miller of Black Entertainment Television (BET), President Obama was asked what he would have done differently. The first thing Obama said is if he had had “better information” he would have better prepared the American people for how difficult the recession would be. And then Obama said this:
The other thing that you know as I reflect on it is in the first year or so we spent a lot of time just doing the right thing and not worrying about selling what we were doing. And I think that the more you’re in this office the more you have to say to yourself that telling a story to the American people is just as important as the actual policies that you’re implementing. And they’ve got to have a sense of where it is that we’re going to go, particularly during hard times. [emphasis added]
Obama has thrown a few bones to the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, but so far he’s avoided explicit displays of support for the protests. But he might not be able to play the middle much longer, now that the labor unions, some of his biggest political supporters, are joining up with the activists:
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Nurses Association says hundreds of the city’s nurses will rally with the Occupy Boston protesters on Wednesday. The association says the protest will be part of the opening day activities for a national nursing convention in Boston.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has not behaved like the peace partner which Secretary of State Clinton would hope. He refused to sit at the table with the Israelis through most of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement freeze, and then violated the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements by seeking unilateral statehood at the United Nations. The statehood gambit was a Hail Mary pass to change the subject from the Arab Spring. After all, with Abbas serving in the 81nd month of his 48-month term, the Palestinian chairman and supposed American partner looks uncomfortably like the unaccountable and undemocratic dictators who so many Arabs have sought to throw off.
Accountability certainly seems to be a foreign concept for Abbas. Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik over at Palestinian Media Watch show how, after months of belittling the hundreds of millions of dollars provided to them by the U.S. State Department and, by extension, American taxpayers, now say they should receive such money regardless whether the Palestinians keep their commitments. As Fatah spokesman Faiz Abu Aytah explained, “There is a moral and human obligation which rests with some of the donor countries, including the American administration, since they are morally responsible for the human tragedy which has befallen the Palestinian people since the Nakba in 1948.”
Using “accounting gimmicks” that hide the true cost of legislation has become a routine practice for both parties in Washington, and Obama’s plan to offset the cost of his American Jobs Act includes a number of them. Not only are these budget tricks dishonest, they also allow politicians to avoid dealing with the deficit crisis.
So in response, Sens. Jeff Sessions and Olympia Snowe are introducing legislation specifically targeting budget gimmicks. The bill, called the “Honest Budget Act,” would prevent lawmakers from passing “phony recissions” (using money left over from one project to pay for another, and describing it as a “budget cut”) and “Changes in Mandatory Programs” (cutting the budget of a mandatory program to pay for another program, but then reinstating the money for the mandatory program a year later).
Well, this is certainly unexpected:
Herman Cain has moved into a tie with Mitt Romney atop the field of Republican presidential candidates, according to a new CBS News poll, while Rick Perry has fallen 11 percentage points in just two weeks.
Sequels and remakes are rarely as good as the original. Such is the case with Russia’s decision to block a UN Security Council resolution on Syria yesterday. The fairly mild resolution hinted at sanctions if Bashar Assad’s regime continues to slaughter Syrian protesters.
Konstantin Kosachyov, Russia’s top foreign affairs parliamentarian, explained to Businessweek: “Russia has the feeling that a number of Western nations are ready to use outside pressure, including military force, to change the political system in certain countries.” So Russia is asserting itself to protect a bloodthirsty Baathist ally. Where have we seen this before?
That’s the subject line of an Obama campaign email blast sent out yesterday afternoon, attacking House Republicans for not yet voting on his American Jobs Act:
“Though it’s been nearly a month since he laid out this plan, House Republicans haven’t acted to pass it,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina writes in the email. “It’s not clear which part of the bill they now object to: building roads, hiring teachers, getting veterans back to work.”
I recently argued Vladimir Putin has missed a historic opportunity to make Russia into a “normal” country–i.e., Western and democratic country. Instead, he continues with the charade of a sham democracy while abrogating all power to himself and his cronies. He has been able to get away with it so far because high oil prices have kept Russia’s economy afloat. But the costs of his misrule continue to mount–as seen, for example, in this New York Times article reporting on Russia’s brain drain. The article quotes one pollster, Lev Gudkov, saying that 50,000 people leave Russia annually–a figure that could grow by 10,000 to 15,000 before long. Many of those leaving are bright, young and educated–exactly the sort of people Russia needs but can’t keep. There is a telling comment from a soon-to-be emigrant:
“I want to live in a country where I don’t need to break the rules to live in comfort,” said Stepan Chizhov, 29, who markets board games like Monopoly and is preparing to leave for Canada with his wife next summer.
On Tuesday, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) again held an event on Capitol Hill to advocate against sanctions on Iran; never mind Iran’s nuclear developments, state sponsorship of terrorism, or incitement. Their panel included fierce partisans and even a member of a consulting firm close to the Rafsanjani camp, each talking about why sanctions are bad, and how the United States needs to try even harder to convince Iran to unclench its fist.
While NIAC claims to be the largest Iranian American advocacy organization in the United States, its own internal audits suggest the organization recognizes this may not be true. And while NIAC says it advocates for Iranian American empowerment, most of its activities appear geared more toward breaking down any biting sanctions directed at the Islamic Republic.