Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 10, 2011

Ron Paul Fans’ Tea Party Astroturf

The Examiner reports on a “Tea Party” protest against New York Congressman (and Giuliani-ally) Michael Grimm, which was prompted by Grimm’s endorsement of Mitt Romney today:

Members of the Tea Party are storming the Staten Island office of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., on Monday to protest Grimm’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Read More

The Examiner reports on a “Tea Party” protest against New York Congressman (and Giuliani-ally) Michael Grimm, which was prompted by Grimm’s endorsement of Mitt Romney today:

Members of the Tea Party are storming the Staten Island office of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., on Monday to protest Grimm’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“Mitt Romney has a history of being on the wrong side of key Tea Party issues, including his support for the TARP Bank Bailouts and universal healthcare,” read a statement released Monday by NYC Liberty, the Tea Party group that is organizing the protest. …

“When there are several authentic Tea Party candidates in the presidential race, including Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Rick Perry, many Tea Partiers are asking, ‘Has Congressman Grimm sold us out for the GOP establishment? Has he already been co-opted by Washington?'” the statement continued.

Interestingly, the group characterizing itself as a “Tea Party” organization is actually NYC Liberty, a Ron Paul supporter group. It’s not exactly news when Ron Paul fans oppose Mitt Romney, and it certainly doesn’t hurt Romney’s image. But you know what does? Advancing the narrative that Tea Partiers won’t vote for Romney because he’s too liberal on fiscal issues. And that’s exactly what NYC Liberty seems to be doing with its “Tea Party” protest of Rep. Grimm.

One other thing. While some Tea Party groups have come out vehemently against Romney (FreedomWorks being the most prominent one), his poll numbers with self-identified Tea Partiers are actually pretty respectable. A CBS poll from last week showed Romney with 17 percent support among Tea Partiers, beating Perry, Gingrich, Bachmann, and – yes – even Ron Paul, who clocked in at just 2 percent.

Read Less

Post-Assad Syria’s Best Case Scenario? Post-Invasion Iraq

The verdict of history is sometimes delayed but it cannot be forestalled forever. Though it is still a cardinal tenet of American liberalism that the invasion of Iraq was an unmitigated disaster, the truth about the sincerity of its planners as well as the long-term benefits of the war there cannot be ignored forever. It is in that light that Jackson Diehl’s column in today’s Washington Post must be viewed.

Diehl deserves credit for opening up a conversation about Iraq that puts the achievements as well as the shortcomings of the American effort in perspective. But, as he rightly points out, the context for evaluating the results are not the unrealistic expectations many held for that nation after the toppling of Saddam but rather a comparison to what is going in the rest of the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. While many in the West are blithely predicting the fall of the Assad clan in Syria, the truth is the best possible scenario for that country’s future would be what is currently happening in Iraq. But the creation of a working, albeit flawed democracy in Iraq would have been impossible with a U.S. military intervention.

Read More

The verdict of history is sometimes delayed but it cannot be forestalled forever. Though it is still a cardinal tenet of American liberalism that the invasion of Iraq was an unmitigated disaster, the truth about the sincerity of its planners as well as the long-term benefits of the war there cannot be ignored forever. It is in that light that Jackson Diehl’s column in today’s Washington Post must be viewed.

Diehl deserves credit for opening up a conversation about Iraq that puts the achievements as well as the shortcomings of the American effort in perspective. But, as he rightly points out, the context for evaluating the results are not the unrealistic expectations many held for that nation after the toppling of Saddam but rather a comparison to what is going in the rest of the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. While many in the West are blithely predicting the fall of the Assad clan in Syria, the truth is the best possible scenario for that country’s future would be what is currently happening in Iraq. But the creation of a working, albeit flawed democracy in Iraq would have been impossible with a U.S. military intervention.

Without the American invasion, Saddam would have survived just as the Assad regime has persisted. Though critics of the war cite the grievous casualties the conflict there produced, Saddam murdered countless thousands of his own people while he ruled. His reaction to the Arab Spring would have made Bashar al-Assad look like a humanitarian.

As Diehl writes:

The pain and cost of that war are some of the reasons the United States and its allies have sworn off intervention in Syria and why the Obama administration made a half-hearted effort in Libya.

Iraq, however, looks a lot like what Syria, and much of the rest of the Arab Middle East, might hope to be. Its vicious dictator and his family are gone, as is the rule by a sectarian minority that required perpetual repression. The quasi-civil war that raged five years ago is dormant, and Iraq’s multiple sects manage their differences through democratic votes and sometimes excruciating but workable negotiations. Though spectacular attacks still win headlines, fewer people have died violently this year in Iraq than in Mexico — or Syria.

Just as significantly, Iraq remains an ally of the United States, an enemy of al-Qaeda and a force for relative good in the Middle East. … All of this happened because the United States invaded the country.

The Arab Spring, in short, is making the invasion of Iraq look more worthy — and necessary — than it did a year ago. Before another year has passed, Syrians may well find themselves wishing that it had happened to them.

There is little doubt once the partisan bickering that characterized the debate over Iraq recedes into memory, the wisdom of Diehl’s conclusion will be generally accepted. While the pain the war in Iraq caused was probably more than most Americans were willing to pay, those sacrifices were not in vain. As the disasters the Arab Spring has brought in its wake unfold, understanding of the truth of his conclusion will only grow.

 

Read Less

Even the AP Can’t Hide Reality

The Associated Press published a story with this headline: “Obama’s jobs bill sales pitch disconnects rhetoric, reality.” The story begins this way: “In President Barack Obama’s sales pitch for his jobs bill, there are two versions of reality: The one in his speeches and the one actually unfolding in Washington.” It goes on to report a “disconnect between what Obama says about his jobs bill and what stands as the political reality.” And the story quotes John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University, as saying Obama’s approach on the jobs bill is “more about campaigning than governing.”

None of this is news to the readers of CONTENTIONS, of course. The fact Obama is constantly making claims at odds with reality is well-known among the visitors of this web site. So is the president’s excessive partisanship. The AP report therefore isn’t revealing anything new. But what makes the story notable is we’ve now reached the point where even news outlets like the Associated Press can’t help but point out that the president, in order to make his case, needs to manufacture a narrative out of thin air, one that delinks himself from objective circumstances and reality itself.

Read More

The Associated Press published a story with this headline: “Obama’s jobs bill sales pitch disconnects rhetoric, reality.” The story begins this way: “In President Barack Obama’s sales pitch for his jobs bill, there are two versions of reality: The one in his speeches and the one actually unfolding in Washington.” It goes on to report a “disconnect between what Obama says about his jobs bill and what stands as the political reality.” And the story quotes John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University, as saying Obama’s approach on the jobs bill is “more about campaigning than governing.”

None of this is news to the readers of CONTENTIONS, of course. The fact Obama is constantly making claims at odds with reality is well-known among the visitors of this web site. So is the president’s excessive partisanship. The AP report therefore isn’t revealing anything new. But what makes the story notable is we’ve now reached the point where even news outlets like the Associated Press can’t help but point out that the president, in order to make his case, needs to manufacture a narrative out of thin air, one that delinks himself from objective circumstances and reality itself.

In the most gentle way possible, the AP concludes Obama is “waging a campaign, one in which nuance and context and competing responses don’t always fit in if they don’t help make the case.”

Many of us have known that for quite some time. For the rest, I suppose it’s better late than never.

Read Less

Springtime for Massacres in Egypt

The bloody suppression of an anti-government protest by Coptic Christians yesterday that left two dozen dead is more proof the fall of the Mubarak regime was not the harbinger of a more pluralistic or democratic Egypt.

Though anti-Christian violence is far from unusual in Egypt, the fact police appear to have joined Muslim mobs in attacking the Copts may be yet another sign of the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists on the government’s decision-making process. Like the sack of Israel’s embassy last month by a mob that was allowed to run riot while the police looked on, this incident illustrates the further breakdown of what was already a dysfunctional society under the previous government. It also highlights the need for the United States to make it clear to the generals they are skating on thin ice when it comes to the continued flow of massive American aid they have come to depend on.

Read More

The bloody suppression of an anti-government protest by Coptic Christians yesterday that left two dozen dead is more proof the fall of the Mubarak regime was not the harbinger of a more pluralistic or democratic Egypt.

Though anti-Christian violence is far from unusual in Egypt, the fact police appear to have joined Muslim mobs in attacking the Copts may be yet another sign of the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists on the government’s decision-making process. Like the sack of Israel’s embassy last month by a mob that was allowed to run riot while the police looked on, this incident illustrates the further breakdown of what was already a dysfunctional society under the previous government. It also highlights the need for the United States to make it clear to the generals they are skating on thin ice when it comes to the continued flow of massive American aid they have come to depend on.

To its credit, the Obama administration issued a statement today expressing concern about the violence in Egypt and calling upon Cairo to respect the rights of religious minorities. The military government has already learned they have nothing to gain if they listen to Obama and little to lose if they don’t. Having come into office apologizing to the Muslim world and ignoring the need to promote human rights and democracy there — since this was seen as something associated with the Bush administration — American influence is minimal.

Lamenting the fall of a corrupt dictator like Mubarak is a waste of time. What the West needs to happen in Egypt is not a return to an unsustainable status quo that was bound to be overthrown. Nor is it possible at this point to try and install a liberal regime in a country where support for genuine democracy and pluralism, not to mention peace with Israel, is minimal.

But for all of the well-founded worry about the direction of the country this latest bloodshed has reinforced, it is still possible for the West to point out to the current regime it has a lot to lose if it allows the forces of intolerance to run amuck. It may be the best we can hope for in Egypt is the continuation of a military dictatorship that understands it is in its interests to keep Islamists in check. If so, then it is incumbent upon Secretary of State Clinton and the rest of the Obama foreign policy team to forget their obsession with Israel and the Palestinians and focus on keeping Egypt from sliding into chaos.

Read Less

Has Mitt Put Romneycare Behind Him?

Like Jonathan, I think tomorrow night’s GOP debate presents Rick Perry with an opportunity to get back some of the ground he lost after the last debate. And while I would caution GOP candidates not to base their campaign strategies on week-to-week primary polling, in this case Perry should take a look at the latest Washington Post/Bloomberg poll.

On the question of who would best handle the economy, Mitt Romney leads with 22 percent, and Herman Cain follows on his heels at 20 percent. Perry is at 12 percent. Overall, Romney leads the pack at 24 percent, leading Cain by 8 points and Perry by 11. This suggests Perry may have missed his moment to hit Romney over health care and should concentrate more on refining his pitch on jobs and the economy. And while Romney now finds Cain gaining on him, the poll is exactly what the Romney camp wanted to see.

Read More

Like Jonathan, I think tomorrow night’s GOP debate presents Rick Perry with an opportunity to get back some of the ground he lost after the last debate. And while I would caution GOP candidates not to base their campaign strategies on week-to-week primary polling, in this case Perry should take a look at the latest Washington Post/Bloomberg poll.

On the question of who would best handle the economy, Mitt Romney leads with 22 percent, and Herman Cain follows on his heels at 20 percent. Perry is at 12 percent. Overall, Romney leads the pack at 24 percent, leading Cain by 8 points and Perry by 11. This suggests Perry may have missed his moment to hit Romney over health care and should concentrate more on refining his pitch on jobs and the economy. And while Romney now finds Cain gaining on him, the poll is exactly what the Romney camp wanted to see.

If this holds, it will signal a remarkable turn of events in Romney’s favor. As Jonathan said, the health care issue was supposed to make the idea of Romney’s nomination a nonstarter. Now, polls suggest his rivals should find another avenue of attack. And Romney certainly seems to be enjoying his debates over the economy with Cain; this is his comfort zone, and it enables Cain to look as though he has replaced–not joined–Perry in the top tier of candidates.

Again, this is only how it looks. I’m not convinced Perry has been shelved to such an extent, and I think he has a chance to recover. But Romney and Cain have released economic plans that have begun to drive the discussion–especially Cain’s “9-9-9” plan. As such, it’s doubtful an effective health care attack on Romney will be worth all that much to a GOP electorate already well-versed on Romney’s weaknesses but beginning to appreciate his strengths.

Read Less

The Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Democrats

A lot of commentators believe the Occupy Wall Street Movement will be good for the Democratic Party, arguing it’s essentially the mirror image of the Tea Party. I think that comparison fails for all sorts of reasons, including this one: the Occupy Wall Street Movement is a sign of discontent with the political class during a period when the leader of the political class is a liberal Democratic president.

Obama can try all he wants to pretend he’s not been the president since January 2009. He can hope and pray his record will be stuffed down a collective memory hole. He can try to run as an outsider even though he’s been the ultimate insider for the last two-and-three-quarter years. But like so many other things Obama has attempted, this effort won’t work, either. The effects of the Occupy Wall Street Movement will be to add to the sense Americans are deeply discontent, to the point that people are now willing to take to the streets to signal their anxiety, anger, and unhappiness.

Read More

A lot of commentators believe the Occupy Wall Street Movement will be good for the Democratic Party, arguing it’s essentially the mirror image of the Tea Party. I think that comparison fails for all sorts of reasons, including this one: the Occupy Wall Street Movement is a sign of discontent with the political class during a period when the leader of the political class is a liberal Democratic president.

Obama can try all he wants to pretend he’s not been the president since January 2009. He can hope and pray his record will be stuffed down a collective memory hole. He can try to run as an outsider even though he’s been the ultimate insider for the last two-and-three-quarter years. But like so many other things Obama has attempted, this effort won’t work, either. The effects of the Occupy Wall Street Movement will be to add to the sense Americans are deeply discontent, to the point that people are now willing to take to the streets to signal their anxiety, anger, and unhappiness.

Barack Obama is the captain of a ship that even his core supporters agree is badly off course.

Beyond all that is the fact the Occupy Wall Street Movement, unlike the Tea Party Movement, is culturally liberal and therefore has the potential of creating some unease among the polity. It seems to share some of the same traits as the counter-culture movements from the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s comprised, at least in some measure, of radical leftists, disaffected young people, aging hippies, and washed up entertainers. Yoko Ono, for example, expressed her support via Twitter during the weekend. She tweeted she loved what the demonstrators were doing, and added, “As John [Lennon] said, ‘One hero cannot do it. Each one of us have to be heroes.’ And you are. Thank you.” Can the dawning of the age of Aquarius — “when peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars” — be far behind?

From my observations, some elements within the mainstream media are trying to portray the Occupy Wall Street protesters in the most favorable light possible (which is exactly the opposite of what they did with the Tea Party Movement).

But I rather doubt that will work; there are simply too many alternative media outlets to keep the mask of respectability firmly in place. The Occupy Wall Street Movement seems to be a magnet for all sorts of fringe causes. It’s not clear to me how having Barack Obama and the Democratic Party associated with a culturally transgressive movement will help it. They tried that once before, and paid dearly for it.

 

Read Less

Poll: Obama Doesn’t Deserve Reelection

By 51 percent to 41 percent, Americans say Obama doesn’t deserve to be reelected in 2012, according to the IBD/TIPP poll out today. The numbers are slightly worse for Obama than they were September, when respondents opposed his reelection 50 percent to 44 percent.

In other words, voters don’t seem to be buying the class warfare strategy:

Read More

By 51 percent to 41 percent, Americans say Obama doesn’t deserve to be reelected in 2012, according to the IBD/TIPP poll out today. The numbers are slightly worse for Obama than they were September, when respondents opposed his reelection 50 percent to 44 percent.

In other words, voters don’t seem to be buying the class warfare strategy:

Half of Americans give Obama poor or unacceptable marks in creating jobs and economic growth vs. 24 percent who say he’s doing well.

Among independents, it’s 51 percent-18 percent. 33 percent of swing voters give him an “F” vs. just 2 percent who give an “A.

That underscores Obama’s intensity problem. In addition to his deteriorating support among independents, just 77 percent of Democrats say Obama deserves re-election while 88 percent of Republicans say he doesn’t.

That intensity problem is what Obama’s trying to fix right now with his base. His aggressive tone on the jobs bill isn’t winning over independent voters, but it’s shoring up his support with the liberals he needs to get on board with his campaign operation. Don’t expect that to last forever though. Once the Republicans nominate a candidate and the threat of a third-party challenger subsides, Obama won’t have to keep pandering to his left-wing base. Progressives will be energized to support his reelection out of pure opposition to the GOP candidate. And Obama will have plenty of leeway to shift to the center.

Read Less

NPR Needs More Than Good PR

National Public Radio unveiled its new CEO last week, and as Politico noted, the choice reflected their belief what they need is not better policies but a savvier spokesman and public relations strategy. The publicly funded network thinks if only the American public and Congress is told about how essential their programming is to the nation, the taxpayer dollars will continue to flow.

They’re wrong. NPR’s problem has never been bad PR, though they have certainly gotten more than their share of negative publicity because of their demonstrable political bias. NPR is certain to lose its funding in the not too distant future simply because a majority of Americans rightly understand government subsidized broadcasting has no place in the United States, especially in the age of the Internet, satellite radio and the proliferation of choices listeners have nowadays.

Read More

National Public Radio unveiled its new CEO last week, and as Politico noted, the choice reflected their belief what they need is not better policies but a savvier spokesman and public relations strategy. The publicly funded network thinks if only the American public and Congress is told about how essential their programming is to the nation, the taxpayer dollars will continue to flow.

They’re wrong. NPR’s problem has never been bad PR, though they have certainly gotten more than their share of negative publicity because of their demonstrable political bias. NPR is certain to lose its funding in the not too distant future simply because a majority of Americans rightly understand government subsidized broadcasting has no place in the United States, especially in the age of the Internet, satellite radio and the proliferation of choices listeners have nowadays.

NPR thinks new CEO Gary Knell will be able to sell the country and the Congress on the virtues of keeping the federal gravy train chugging along for the network because of his experience as the head of Sesame Street Workshop. The children’s program is the most popular brand associated with public broadcasting and its characters are regularly trotted out at hearings and other events in order to pressure Congress into maintaining funding. But this is exactly the wrong example to be citing, as “Sesame Street” is popular enough to survive on its own without public money.

In the half century of so since public broadcasting first appeared, the landscape in both television and radio has been radically altered. A generation or two ago one could have made the argument there needed to be an alternative to the dominance of the airwaves by a few broadcasters who produced little of educational value. But in an era where most viewers have access to hundreds of TV stations that cater to every possible individual taste and interest and far more radio stations on the air, the Internet and via satellite with the same broad array of choices, there just isn’t a rationale to spend scarce federal funds on NPR.

Even more to the point, the scandals that brought about the resignation of Knell’s predecessor Vivian Schiller, pointed to a clear political bias that made it clear NPR was every bit as liberal as, say, Fox News is said to be conservative. Were NPR genuinely balanced, it would be easier to defend, but because its tilt is so obvious, the idea of a liberal enclave being a federal entitlement is an absurdity that cannot survive. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with it being a liberal radio network provided taxpayers aren’t expected to fund it and it survives on its own merits the way any other broadcast must. Good programs will inevitably find an audience without forcing all Americans to pay for them.

Instead of cranking up the propaganda machine to maintain backing for subsidies that are almost certainly doomed, NPR’s new leader should be preparing his company for a brave new world in which they will have to compete for sponsors and charitable donations (assuming President Obama’s war on philanthropy doesn’t make that even harder).

The era for this liberal fiefdom to continue as a federal entitlement is fast coming to a close. Better PR won’t change that fact.

Read Less

A Stunning (and Depressing) Report on Declining Household Income

Politico.com reports a rather stunning finding from a report issued by by two former Census Bureau officials. According to Gordon Green and John Coder, income for American families declined more in the years following the economic recession than it did during the official recession itself.

During the recession, which economists say lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, the median annual household income fell by 3.2 percent, from $55,309 to $53,518. But in the post-recession period from June 2009 to June 2011, the figure fell by 6.7 percent, from $53,518 in June 2009 to $49,909 in June 2011.

Read More

Politico.com reports a rather stunning finding from a report issued by by two former Census Bureau officials. According to Gordon Green and John Coder, income for American families declined more in the years following the economic recession than it did during the official recession itself.

During the recession, which economists say lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, the median annual household income fell by 3.2 percent, from $55,309 to $53,518. But in the post-recession period from June 2009 to June 2011, the figure fell by 6.7 percent, from $53,518 in June 2009 to $49,909 in June 2011.

From December 2007 to June 2011, the average income fell by 9.8 percent.

“A decline of this magnitude represents a significant reduction in the American standard of living,” Green and Coder wrote. The fall in household income during the recession as well as during the recovery period were “highly correlated with high levels of unemployment, increases in the duration of unemployment, and the large number of persons who have experienced ‘employment hardship,’” the report said.

If you go to the graph showing the Median Household Income Index (HII) and Unemployment Rate by Month: January 2000 to June 2011, your heart will sink. And so, it appears, will Obama’s re-election chances.

 

Read Less

A Sad Mix of Judaism and Radical Politics at “Occupy Wall Street”

Last week, a self-described “new media activist” posted a Facebook event page for a Kol Nidre service at the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. The turnout the event generated, as well as the discussion it has so far provoked, are deeply troubling trends that all who care about the Jewish future would do well to take seriously.

During the years, those whose politics tend toward the right have had to accustom themselves to the unthinking sanctimony of leftists who rage against any semblance of an alliance of religion and right-wing politics (recent examples include Rick Perry’s summer prayer rally, Glenn Beck’s Washington, D.C., event, and the endless parsing of President Bush’s speech for secret evangelical codes), grandly invoking religious principles when it suits their politics. This has been the case for causes as far afield as immigration reform and environmentalism.

Read More

Last week, a self-described “new media activist” posted a Facebook event page for a Kol Nidre service at the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. The turnout the event generated, as well as the discussion it has so far provoked, are deeply troubling trends that all who care about the Jewish future would do well to take seriously.

During the years, those whose politics tend toward the right have had to accustom themselves to the unthinking sanctimony of leftists who rage against any semblance of an alliance of religion and right-wing politics (recent examples include Rick Perry’s summer prayer rally, Glenn Beck’s Washington, D.C., event, and the endless parsing of President Bush’s speech for secret evangelical codes), grandly invoking religious principles when it suits their politics. This has been the case for causes as far afield as immigration reform and environmentalism.

Rarely, however, has a movement so radical in its aims been tied so explicitly to a religious tradition as was the case with this past Friday’s service.

In case anyone might be mistaken into thinking his was simply an outreach-style undertaking for the unwashed Jewish dozens in Zuccotti Park in need of atonement, the event’s  Facebook page, supporting blog posts, and other statements by organizers make plain the venue was seen as a destination to bring Jews to, not a place where Jews simply are, as, say, when someone puts up a Shabbat tent at a Phish concert. The goal was to convince Jews not to “spend the holiday safe and warm in our cozy synagogues” but to “join the demonstrators in Zuccotti Park, and hold our Yom Kippur services there amongst the oppressed, hungry, poor and naked.”

It must be said there is of course justification to be found for specifically economic protests of a leftist variety in the prophets, perhaps most especially Isaiah. But it stretches truth far beyond the breaking point to claim such texts based on conditions in ancient Israel offer much guidance for the policy questions of our day, or impel a religious believer to a particular side of the political aisle. (Indeed, when it comes to social issues we are forever lectured against using biblical text in support of a political position, no matter how clear the text’s language.)

More often though, the organizers’ attempts to combine Judaism and today’s fashionable politics are simply incoherent, as in the bizarre twisting of the Kol Nidre oath from a personal plea into a complaint against predatory lenders. Far from blushing, they forthrightly deem being a “participant in capitalism”
a sufficient sin worthy of penitence.

The one new development this service’s organizers may have hit on is the utilization of the Jewish religious tradition in service to their radical politics. Let their successes be few, and the passage of their movement from the American Jewish scene swift.

Read Less

Roadblocks to a Perry Comeback

Tomorrow’s debate in New Hampshire represents Rick Perry’s best chance to start a comeback from a month that saw him fall from a double-digit lead in the polls to an also-ran. We’ll see whether some extra sleep and better preparation will result in a less disastrous performance than his previous tries.

But a number of more substantive issues are also causing Perry problems that are roadblocks to his attempt to recover the frontrunner status he lost to Mitt Romney in the last few weeks. Until Perry is able to deliver a solid punch to Romney on health care, adequately defend his stance on immigration or map out a coherent Tea Party-friendly stand on ethanol in Iowa, his hopes will continue to sink like a stone.

Read More

Tomorrow’s debate in New Hampshire represents Rick Perry’s best chance to start a comeback from a month that saw him fall from a double-digit lead in the polls to an also-ran. We’ll see whether some extra sleep and better preparation will result in a less disastrous performance than his previous tries.

But a number of more substantive issues are also causing Perry problems that are roadblocks to his attempt to recover the frontrunner status he lost to Mitt Romney in the last few weeks. Until Perry is able to deliver a solid punch to Romney on health care, adequately defend his stance on immigration or map out a coherent Tea Party-friendly stand on ethanol in Iowa, his hopes will continue to sink like a stone.

Romney’s Massachusetts health care bill should have been the kiss of death to his candidacy, but for months, none of his opponents have concentrated on this weak point. Perry flubbed a chance to nail him on it in the last debate just as Tim Pawlenty did back in June. Yet, while Pawlenty’s candidacy didn’t survive his collapse on the stage in New Hampshire, Perry still has a chance to hit back and did so with a tough web ad on the issue released this past weekend. It stands to reason if enough Republicans are reminded Romney’s bill was the model for Obamacare, it will cripple his candidacy. The question for Perry is whether he is able to hammer Romney in person as well as about his video.

Unfortunately for Perry, Romney has found an issue on which he can outflank the Texan on the right. Immigration has proven to be just as much of a liability for him as health care is for Romney. As Politico reported, Perry was closely questioned on his support for in-state education discounts for the children of illegal immigrants everywhere he appeared in Iowa during the weekend. While there is a strong case to be made for his position, it appeared he was incapable of making it. Most of those present seemed to be confused by his defense. Because this is an issue that is important to many of the Tea Party supporters and social conservatives who are the core of his support as well as being crucial in Iowa, his failure on this point could be fatal.

Just as crucial to his survival in the race is Perry’s stand on ethanol. Federal subsidies for the corn-based fuel supplement are a sacred cow in Iowa, even though it makes no sense for the country. Though the ethanol lobby understands it is losing the battle, the issue still provides a crucial test for candidates seeking to articulate a position against government waste. Perry has rightly opposed the ethanol subsidy in the past, but lately, he has been waffling. He might have gotten away with an attempt to evade the issue as a frontrunner. But as a candidate who is clearly trailing, for Perry, his views on ethanol actually provide a chance to prove his Tea Party bona fides and draw a strong contrast with an ethanol supporter like Romney. But if he chickens out of a confrontation with King Corn in Iowa in a futile attempt to avoid trouble, it may be one more sign his comeback may be over before it is started.

Read Less

The Arab Spring Makes Iraq Look Good

The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl makes a crucial point about Iraq and the Arab Spring. If the American effort to demand“democracy at gunpoint” seemed impracticable perhaps that’s because we hadn’t yet seen what democracy by flashmob looks like. Compared to the stalled freedom movements in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, Iraq’s flawed democracy seems rather miraculous.

Its vicious dictator and his family are gone, as is the rule by a sectarian minority that required perpetual repression. The quasi-civil war that raged five years ago is dormant, and Iraq’s multiple sects manage their differences through democratic votes and sometimes excruciating but workable negotiations. Though spectacular attacks still win headlines, fewer people have died violently this year in Iraq than in Mexico — or Syria.

Read More

The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl makes a crucial point about Iraq and the Arab Spring. If the American effort to demand“democracy at gunpoint” seemed impracticable perhaps that’s because we hadn’t yet seen what democracy by flashmob looks like. Compared to the stalled freedom movements in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, Iraq’s flawed democracy seems rather miraculous.

Its vicious dictator and his family are gone, as is the rule by a sectarian minority that required perpetual repression. The quasi-civil war that raged five years ago is dormant, and Iraq’s multiple sects manage their differences through democratic votes and sometimes excruciating but workable negotiations. Though spectacular attacks still win headlines, fewer people have died violently this year in Iraq than in Mexico — or Syria.

Just as significantly, Iraq remains an ally of the United States, an enemy of al-Qaeda and a force for relative good in the Middle East. It is buying $12 billion in U.S. weapons and has requested that an American training force remain in the country next year. It recently helped get two U.S. citizens out of prison in Iran.

Meanwhile, Bashar Assad mows down Syrians, Ali Saleh has regained his footing in Yemen, and Egypt is aflame (and our hands-off approach to Libya is beginning to yield predictable chaos).  Liberals like to praise the Obama administration for letting Arabs “own” their revolutions.  But what good is the native ownership of an unceasing bloodbath with no prospect for actual democracy?

Read Less

Gallup: Few College Grads Unemployed

The college students who make up a large part of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests have a straightforward solution to their jobs grievances: finish their degree. According to a Gallup poll out today, 89 percent of college graduates are either employed full-time or work part-time by choice:

While 64 percent of the U.S workforce is employed full time for an employer, as measured by Gallup from January to September 2011, this percentage ranges from a high of 73 percent among college graduates to a low of 29 percent among those aged 65 and older. An additional 7 percent work full time for themselves and 10 percent work part time and do not want full-time work, with those 65 and older by far the most likely to fit into these two categories.

Read More

The college students who make up a large part of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests have a straightforward solution to their jobs grievances: finish their degree. According to a Gallup poll out today, 89 percent of college graduates are either employed full-time or work part-time by choice:

While 64 percent of the U.S workforce is employed full time for an employer, as measured by Gallup from January to September 2011, this percentage ranges from a high of 73 percent among college graduates to a low of 29 percent among those aged 65 and older. An additional 7 percent work full time for themselves and 10 percent work part time and do not want full-time work, with those 65 and older by far the most likely to fit into these two categories.

Roughly 12 percent of college graduates are considered “underemployed,” and around half of that group is jobless. The numbers are even more optimistic for graduate students, with just 4 percent of Americans with postgraduate degrees unemployed.

That’s not to say young college graduates aren’t feeling the impact of the recession more than older college graduates who have job experience. But they’re still in a better position than those who have a high school degree or less (13 percent unemployment), or those who started college and never finished (10 percent unemployment).

The defeatism of the students involved in the “Occupy Wall Street” protests is out of proportion with reality. At a time when much of the country is struggling economically, college students should realize they’re the fortunate ones.

Read Less

Romney vs. Huntsman on Foreign Policy

It is hard to have a greater contrast of foreign policy philosophies than the one that pits Mitt Romney vs. Jon Huntsman.

On Friday, at the Citadel, Romney gave a full-throated defense of American power as a force for good in the world. He promised to restore President Obama’s cuts in the defense budget and to increase our shipbuilding; separately he also promised to increase the size of the army by 100,000 troops. On Afghanistan, Romney was a bit ambiguous, but he put the emphasis on mission accomplishment–not on drawdown: “The force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully is a decision I will make free from politics.” HIs most-quoted lined was: “I will not surrender America’s role  in the world. This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president. You have that president today.”

Read More

It is hard to have a greater contrast of foreign policy philosophies than the one that pits Mitt Romney vs. Jon Huntsman.

On Friday, at the Citadel, Romney gave a full-throated defense of American power as a force for good in the world. He promised to restore President Obama’s cuts in the defense budget and to increase our shipbuilding; separately he also promised to increase the size of the army by 100,000 troops. On Afghanistan, Romney was a bit ambiguous, but he put the emphasis on mission accomplishment–not on drawdown: “The force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully is a decision I will make free from politics.” HIs most-quoted lined was: “I will not surrender America’s role  in the world. This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president. You have that president today.”

Today, Huntsman is giving his own foreign policy address in New Hampshire. His website provides a preview of what he’ll say:  He will call for reductions in the size of the armed forces. “Simply advocating for more ships, more troops and more weapons isn’t a viable foreign policy,” he claims. He further argues, stealing a line from Barack Obama: “With regard to Afghanistan and other foreign entanglements, America should not be nation-building overseas when we have nation-building to do here at home.” This may not be isolationism, but it’s as close as a presidential candidate not named Ron Paul can get, whereas Romney is advocating a classic “peace through strength” foreign policy broadly in line with the foreign policy of Republican presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.

It is instructive to note, that with this clear contrast on offer, Romney is leading the Republican race with 21.8 percent in the Realclearpolitics average, while Huntsman is bringing up the rear at 1.8 percent–behind Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and lots of other candidates who will never occupy the Oval Office. Obviously, the difference in their relative political strength is not due entirely or even mainly to their foreign policy positions, but surely it is instructive that Huntsman is finding no political traction in spite of (or perhaps because of) his willingness to break with mainstream Republican foreign policy thinking.

Before this race started, it appeared that many Republicans were so fed up with the cost of interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan they would be open to a candidate promising a return to quasi-isolationism in the mold of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, the last three Republican presidents who did not believe America had to lead the world. It hasn’t worked out that way. The Ron Paul fringe aside, it appears that the view I call “conservative internationalism”–which has a pedigree stretching back to Theodore Roosevelt and beyond–is alive and well and dominant within the Republican Party. Those of us who believe in the need for American strength in the world–which I believe includes the vast majority of the electorate–can be grateful for that.

 

Read Less

Do Democrats Own the “Occupy” Protests?

After initially holding the “Occupy Wall Street” protests at arms length, top Democrats in Congress are now starting to embrace the activists, ABC News reports:

But a consensus is emerging among Democrats that the “Occupy” movement is worth tapping into, even helping along and joining with in some instances.

Read More

After initially holding the “Occupy Wall Street” protests at arms length, top Democrats in Congress are now starting to embrace the activists, ABC News reports:

But a consensus is emerging among Democrats that the “Occupy” movement is worth tapping into, even helping along and joining with in some instances.

“I support the message to the establishment,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Change has to happen. We cannot continue in a way that does not — that is not relevant to their lives. People are angry.”

Democrats like Pelosi don’t have much choice, because a good portion of their supporters are probably out marching in the protests. But by speaking out favorably about the demonstrations, are Democrats taking some accountability for what happens there?

That was how the media and the left treated the Tea Party and the Republican Party. But as far as I can recall, there were never mass arrests at Tea Party rallies, while hundreds of protesters have already been arrested at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, including about three dozen in Iowa last night:

About three dozen people trying to set up an “Occupy Des Moines” camp were arrested overnight.

The protesters are part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Several hundred people gathered at noon Sunday for an outdoor meeting in Des Moines. They voted to set up a round-the-clock “occupation” in a park on the state capitol grounds.

Democrats set a precedent by holding the Republican Party responsible for unsubstantiated charges of racism at Tea Party rallies. And it may come back to bite them with the “Occupy Wall Street” protests.

Read Less

Mixed Results for GOP Field in Religious Tolerance Test

The firestorm Pastor Robert Jeffress ignited on Friday by attacking Mormonism and asserting that evangelical Christians ought not to vote for Mitt Romney created an interesting test for the Republican presidential field. They had a choice as to whether to repudiate religious prejudice or to dodge the question in a manner that might garner them some advantage with evangelicals who agree with Jeffress. The results of this pass/fail pop quiz on tolerance were mixed: Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich passed. Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry failed.

While there will be those who say it is unfair to judge candidates on an issue irrelevant to the important questions of the economy and foreign policy, sometimes one can learn more about a person by their reaction to such distractions than by their prepared remarks on big issues. It should also be pointed out, this was an easy test to pass. All you had to do was say the right thing and acknowledge attempts to inject religion into political debates are out of line.

Read More

The firestorm Pastor Robert Jeffress ignited on Friday by attacking Mormonism and asserting that evangelical Christians ought not to vote for Mitt Romney created an interesting test for the Republican presidential field. They had a choice as to whether to repudiate religious prejudice or to dodge the question in a manner that might garner them some advantage with evangelicals who agree with Jeffress. The results of this pass/fail pop quiz on tolerance were mixed: Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich passed. Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry failed.

While there will be those who say it is unfair to judge candidates on an issue irrelevant to the important questions of the economy and foreign policy, sometimes one can learn more about a person by their reaction to such distractions than by their prepared remarks on big issues. It should also be pointed out, this was an easy test to pass. All you had to do was say the right thing and acknowledge attempts to inject religion into political debates are out of line.

That’s what Santorum and Gingrich did. When asked about the controversy, they simply responded with a defense of their rival’s faith and an attack on bias.

Santorum said on Fox News that Mormonism is not a cult, and said he considered Romney a Christian, adding that “every Mormon I know is a good and decent person [and] has great moral values.”

Gingrich told CNN, “None of us should sit in judgment of another person’s religion.”

Michele Bachmann went part of the way toward the right answer but failed to go all the way when she told CNN, “Well you know, this is so inconsequential as far as this campaign is concerned. We have religious tolerance in this country and we understand that people have different views on their faith, and I have a very sincerely held belief on faith, and I think we just leave it at that.” To say we have religious tolerance is fine, but lacking from her statement was any condemnation of an attempt to stir up religious prejudice.

Herman Cain, who is hoping to attract social conservatives and evangelicals away from Rick Perry, seemed to be working hard to parse the question. He told CNN, “ I’m not running for theologian-in-chief. I’m a lifelong Christian, and what that means is one of my guiding principles for the decisions I make is I start with, ‘do the right thing’…. I am not gonna do an analysis of Mormonism versus Christianity for the sake of answering that.” Later on Fox he said, “I believe that they believe that they are Christian,” a statement that could be construed either way.

The point is Cain is right when he says nobody ought to care about the theological opinions of any of these candidates. But it shouldn’t have been that hard to couch any response to such a question with a defense of religious liberty and a condemnation of efforts to stir up hatred. Cain pointedly failed to do that, which can only fuel suspicion he’s hoping those who won’t vote for Romney because of his faith will vote for him instead.

As for Rick Perry, the man whom Robert Jeffress introduced at the Value Voters Summit on Friday and the person the pastor thinks evangelicals should support rather than Romney, there was a special onus on him to speak out on the issue. As I wrote yesterday, this is an opportunity for Perry to show some character, but so far he hasn’t done so. On Friday, when a reporter asked him whether he agreed with Jeffress about the Mormon Church being a cult, he replied,“no.” But when another reporter asked whether he repudiated the remarks, he merely said, “I’ve already answered your question,” a response that must be judged inadequate on both moral and political grounds.

Read Less

Assad Really Does Need to Go

Ed Husain from the Council on Foreign Relations says in The Atlantic Bashar al-Assad may be “our least worst option in Syria.” His argument is a familiar one. The devil we know beats the devil we don’t, and a post-Assad Syria is not only likely to remain hostile to the United States and to Israel, it will turn Islamist.

“On balance,” he argues, “Assad has been good news for Israel’s security and borders.” I hear this in Israel once in a while and it always leaves me scratching my head.

Read More

Ed Husain from the Council on Foreign Relations says in The Atlantic Bashar al-Assad may be “our least worst option in Syria.” His argument is a familiar one. The devil we know beats the devil we don’t, and a post-Assad Syria is not only likely to remain hostile to the United States and to Israel, it will turn Islamist.

“On balance,” he argues, “Assad has been good news for Israel’s security and borders.” I hear this in Israel once in a while and it always leaves me scratching my head.

Sure, Assad has kept the Syrian-Israeli border at the Golan Heights quiet, at least until recently, when he started sending human waves across the demilitarized zone and onto the border fence, but he made the Lebanese-Israeli border the hottest and most dangerous frontier in the region. No Arab army—conventional, terrorist, or guerrilla—has ever fought Israel to a draw the way Hezbollah has. And Hezbollah wouldn’t even exist today, at least not as a militarized state-within-a-state, if the Assad regime had disarmed it along with the rest of Lebanon’s militias when it conquered the country at the end of the civil war. Assad doesn’t fight Israel directly because he doesn’t have to. He has terrorist proxies in Gaza and Lebanon who happily do his dirty work for him.

“A Syrian population,” he writes, “raised without Israel on their school geography maps and accustomed to shouting ‘amen’ in response to Friday mosque prayers calling for Israel’s destruction will not be warm towards Israel.” I have little doubt he’s right about that. But what he says next doesn’t necessarily follow. “No future regime in Syria,” he adds, “will be less hostile towards Israel, and therefore the reduction in animosity toward the United States is inconceivable.”

Of course it’s conceivable. Hostility toward Israel and the United States is de rigueur in the Arab world, but there’s hostility and then there’s hostility. Iraq today is hostile to Israel and not exactly a staunch American ally, but it’s not even remotely as hostile to either as it was when Saddam Hussein was in charge. Iraq’s hostility to Israel is entirely passive. It’s no more sinister or dangerous right now than Kuwait’s.

Post-Qaddafi Libya is not even remotely likely to become an Israeli ally any time soon, but the new government, at least in its current form, is a lot friendlier toward the United States than Qaddafi’s was and has at least floated the idea of normalization with Israel.

Regime change is not always bad. It requires a certain poverty of the imagination to assume the current configuration in the Middle East is the best possible one, especially when we’re talking about totalitarian terrorist-sponsoring Syria.

Anyway, let’s assume the worst for Syria and posit that the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, despite the fact Syria’s Christians, Alawites, Druze, and Kurds—not to mention liberal, secular, and moderate Sunnis—wouldn’t put up with it. Even a Muslim Brotherhood government would be better for the U.S. and Israel than the Assad regime.

Sure, the Brothers would support Hamas in Gaza. But Assad already does that. They probably won’t, however, support Hezbollah or Iran’s Islamic Republic regime, as the current government does. Sunni Islamists in the Levant are sectarian creatures like everyone else. I interviewed some senior members of Lebanon’s miniscule Muslim Brotherhood and couldn’t tell if they hate Israel more or less than they hate Hezbollah, which is Shia while they are all Sunnis. The opposition to Assad’s rule has been burning Hezbollah flags in the streets for months now.

Damascus has exported terrorism to every single country on Syria’s borders. The worst case scenario wouldn’t be worse. It would just be more of the same. And there are plenty of reasons to hope and believe even a bad outcome after the fall of Bashar al-Assad would be less bad than the status quo.

Read Less

So Much for Gratitude

Just to add a little context to Obama’s fiery anti-Wall Street populism, the Daily Caller reminds us that his 2008 campaign took more cash from Wall Street than any other president during the past two decades:

In 2008, Wall Street’s largesse accounted for 20 percent of Obama’s total take, according to Reuters.

Read More

Just to add a little context to Obama’s fiery anti-Wall Street populism, the Daily Caller reminds us that his 2008 campaign took more cash from Wall Street than any other president during the past two decades:

In 2008, Wall Street’s largesse accounted for 20 percent of Obama’s total take, according to Reuters.

When asked by the Daily Caller to comment about President Obama’s credibility when it comes to criticizing Wall Street, the White House declined to reply.

The hypocrisy doesn’t end there. While Obama’s been blasting Bank of America during media appearances, he’s failed to mention that he is the bank’s favorite candidate of the past 20 years:

In fact, the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks lobbyist spending and influence in both parties, found that President Obama has received more money from Bank of America than any other candidate dating back to 1991.

The saddest aspect of this story is that the president gets away with saying things like this at press conferences like this, without the media calling him out on something as simple and straightforward as his contradictory campaign donations.

Read Less

When an Obsession With Pollard Turns Good Analysts Bad

Peter Bergen, CNN’s terrorism analyst, has made a career out of espousing conventional wisdom. That’s what made his recent interpretation regarding treason charges for a Pakistani doctor who allegedly helped the CIA collect evidence about bin Laden so troubling. As CNN reported:

Some analysts, however, draw parallels between Pakistan’s possible decision to prosecute [Shakeel] Afridi for treason and an earlier U.S. decision to prosecute former U.S. Navy intelligence official Jonathan Pollard on the same charge. Pollard was caught spying for Israel — a close U.S. ally — in 1985. He was ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment. “Pakistan has a pretty legitimate” case, said Peter Bergen, a national security expert and director of the New America Foundation, a non-partisan Washington think tank. “It doesn’t really matter how valid the goal is. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re spying for a foreign intelligence service.” Why, Bergen asked, “should Pakistan somehow not play by the same rules that a lot of countries play by?”

Read More

Peter Bergen, CNN’s terrorism analyst, has made a career out of espousing conventional wisdom. That’s what made his recent interpretation regarding treason charges for a Pakistani doctor who allegedly helped the CIA collect evidence about bin Laden so troubling. As CNN reported:

Some analysts, however, draw parallels between Pakistan’s possible decision to prosecute [Shakeel] Afridi for treason and an earlier U.S. decision to prosecute former U.S. Navy intelligence official Jonathan Pollard on the same charge. Pollard was caught spying for Israel — a close U.S. ally — in 1985. He was ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment. “Pakistan has a pretty legitimate” case, said Peter Bergen, a national security expert and director of the New America Foundation, a non-partisan Washington think tank. “It doesn’t really matter how valid the goal is. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re spying for a foreign intelligence service.” Why, Bergen asked, “should Pakistan somehow not play by the same rules that a lot of countries play by?”

Now, much has been said about Pollard, the American defense analyst convicted of spying for Israel. For his espionage, Pollard deserved prison, although not knowing the inside details of the case, I’m agnostic on the debate about the length of his sentence. When it comes to Bergen’s analysis of the Afridi case, however, the reference to Pollard is bizarre. While Bergen essentially calls the American case against Pollard and the Pakistani case against Afridi the same, there is no similarity between the two cases: Pollard was a defense analyst working for a government and holding a security clearance for which he took—and knowingly violated—an oath. He was not charged with treason, and there is no evidence he sought to harm the United States. Pollard is in prison because he was found guilty of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government.

Afridi, in contrast, is a doctor who, even if he was working within the bloated Pakistani bureaucracy, was not in a sensitive position, and there is no evidence he took any oath besides his medical one. Rather than rally for a Pakistani hero whose life is now in jeopardy, Bergen excuses Islamabad’s actions and the charge which might lead Afridi to the gallows. Here, Bergen misses the larger point: If Pakistan is charging Afridi with treason because he had access to Pakistani state secrets with regard to bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, then by even leveling such charges, the Pakistani government is admitting its complicity with bin Laden. But why focus on Islamabad’s links to al-Qaeda if it would mean missing an opportunity to once again condemn Pollard?

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.