It was a moment that will live on as long as American democracy or at least as long as there is video and a way to watch it. Rick Perry’s extended brain freeze when he couldn’t remember which government agencies he wanted to disband was as awkward a moment as has ever been witnessed during a national political debate and far worse than any of his previous debate mishaps that caused his poll numbers to crater. Not only will there be no Perry comeback, but in spite of his large campaign war chest it is hard to see how a candidacy that is no more of a punch line than anything else survives after this.
But while everyone will be talking more about Perry’s blooper film highlight more than any other moment in tonight’s debate, the evening produced some other clear winners and losers. Herman Cain showed that in spite of crippling accusations of sexual harassment from four different women, he’s undaunted and able to put on another spirited performance. Newt Gingrich once again showed why he thrives in any debate format. Yet the even bigger story is that despite taking a pounding from the moderators, Mitt Romney is the one who left the stage as the most likely to win the nomination.
The debate ends. The biggest story line is clearly the Perry meltdown. Close second are the strong performance by Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. But the bottom line is that Romney is still the most likely to be nominated.
Cain’s doing well turning Dodd-Frank into a laugh line. He may be fatally damaged by harassment charges but he’s having another strong night.
Michele Bachmann is the first to raise the military threat from China. Strong point and well argued. But she’s still struggling to get any traction in this debate. Good debate performances haven’t helped her.
Romney says you can love free trade while still calling for demanding an end to Chinese trade cheating. Gingrich seems to agree. Hutnsman says Romney’s pandering. So is Huntsman. The difference is that Romney is pandering to Americans.
It’s been three weeks since last we gathered in front of our television sets and computers to watch a Republican presidential debate. Since Oct. 18, Mitt Romney’s support has held steady. Herman Cain has surged. Newt Gingrich has popped in the polls. Rick Perry hasn’t made any progress. And the rest of the field, well the best we can say of them is that they’re still there.
Of course, Cain has had some other problems too. It will be interesting to see if Cain’s unflappable demeanor has suffered since the sexual harassment charges that have thrown his campaign off message came out.
But the interesting thing to see at tonight’s debate in Michigan will be to determine which of the candidates is the one the others try to knock off. Will it be a newly vulnerable Cain? The surging Gingrich? Or will it be Romney again, a sure sign that he is still seen as the frontrunner despite his problems convincing conservatives that he isn’t a RINO.
The debate is about to start. Let’s see what happens.
Immigration is good. When handled properly, it can rejuvenate societies; seize advantage from other nations’ brain drain to infuse expertise into key industries; and correct demographics to ensure healthy growth. When uncoordinated, however immigration can undercut societies.
Several years ago, I went to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, and met with members of their city council. I asked what I thought would be a “gimme” question: “What does it mean to be Dutch?” They could not answer. They did not require immigrants to master the Dutch language, or encourage assimilation. Cultural equivalency pervaded the Dutch politicians: To insist on any identity would imply one to be superior to another. This creates an irony in which immigrants flood to a new society to seek a better life but, by their unwillingness to accept the values which made the society in their destination great, they end up replicating the faults of the homeland from which they fled.
New emails released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee take a sledgehammer to the White House’s claim it never discussed loans with Obama-bundler and Solyndra-backer George Kaiser. In fact, Republicans may have underestimated how enthusiastic some White House officials were about helping Kaiser with Solyndra. Make sure to move any sharp objects out of stabbing distance from your eyes before reading this:
Emails among George Kaiser, head of the George Kaiser Family Foundation; Ken Levit, the executive director of the Foundation; and Steve Mitchell, who manages Argonaut Private Equity and was a member of Solyndra’s board, show that Vice President Joe Biden’s office was very gung-ho.
“They about had an orgasm in Biden’s office when we mentioned Solyndra,” reads a Feb. 27, 2010, email from Levit to Mitchell. A follow-up email from Mitchell to Levit later that day responds with: “That’s awesome! Get us a (Department of Energy) loan.” …
In an email from Mitchell to Kaiser on March 5, 2010, Mitchell writes that “it appears things are headed in the right direction and [Energy Secretary Steven] Chu is apparently staying involved in Solyndra’s application and continues to talk up the company as a success story.”
Tonight’s Republican presidential debate is the first since Herman Cain’s campaign was rocked by multiple accusations of sexual harassment against the Godfather Pizza CEO. That will cause many of those tuning into the latest installment of America’s popular political reality show to focus on whether Cain’s good humor and likability have survived the pounding he has taken from both the media and the women who say he victimized them. But the main event tonight doesn’t concern Cain’s troubles. The real issue is whether Mitt Romney can make any headway with conservatives.
With his recent address on the economy, Romney began an effort to persuade conservatives that despite his refusal to embrace radical proposals on Social Security and Medicare and his Massachusetts health care bill that resembled Obamacare, he was really one of them. It’s a tough sell since up until now he has chosen to play it safe about entitlement reform. But by moving closer to the Paul Ryan model on that issue and focusing on his desire to defund liberal causes like public broadcasting and Planned Parenthood while also emphasizing his belief in cutting spending and opposition to tax increases, Romney has an opportunity to make inroads in what remains a divided and flawed field of conservative alternatives.
It didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the killing of FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] leader Alfonso Cano is another milestone in Colombia’s increasingly successful battle against what was once of the most powerful guerrilla groups in the world. It is hard to believe now, but as recently as ten years ago, FARC controlled an area larger than Switzerland and was on the verge of taking over the entire country. Colombia was widely written off as a failed narco-state. Now FARC has been marginalized. Colombia’s major cities are safe–as I saw for myself recently on my second trip there–and, while FARC can still ambush security personnel in the remote jungles, the existential threat to one of Latin America’s oldest and most durable democracies has been lifted.
What happened? As I argued in this Weekly Standard article in 2009, Colombia was saved by two developments: First the passage of Plan Colombia in 2000, a giant American aid package; second, and more importantly, the election in 2002 of Alvaro Uribe as president. Uribe turned out to be one of the most successful world leaders of the 21st century–or of the previous century. He saved his country from the FARC by implementing a full-spectrum counterinsurgency plan similar to those implemented by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. His success against FARC also allowed him to get control of, and disband, the right-wing militias which had sprung up in response to the guerrilla threat–a development similar to the way American success against al-Qaeda in Iraq made it possible to beat back the Sadrist militia. Now his success is being continued and extended by his former defense minister and successor, President Juan Manuel Santos.
I’ve written before about a lack of professionalism and aimlessness that afflicts American government broadcasting into Iran. Alas, at Voice of America, it seems that the situation has gone from bad to worse. Its director Ramin Asgard, a veteran of the Foreign Service, appears to have embraced the State Department’s mentality that Voice of America should be a tool with which to build bridges toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, rather than use information to try to undermine the regime or shed light on its dark corners, something that was the basis of the Voice of America mission during the Cold War.
I had criticized Asgard before for a posting on the Voice of America (VOA) website in which a staff member he supervised wrote in a news report that American neoconservatives hate Iranians, something which is ridiculous, false, and unprofessional. Asgard neither apologized nor corrected the report; he has increasingly embraced the National Iranian American Council, a group whose founder wrote in a chat room that everything he does, he does for Iran.
Join us tonight as senior online editor Jonathan Tobin live blogs the Republican presidential debate on economic policy in Michigan. Tune in to CNBC at 8pm and then log on to commentarymagazine.com for live insights as the GOP contenders have at each other again for the first time in three weeks.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has been marred by numerous public relations flaps during the past few months: the rioting in Oakland, the rapes at Zuccotti, the dead bodies discovered at various protest sites. But one of the most devastating is the recent video of a 78-year-old woman getting knocked down a flight of cement stairs by a “human chain” of Occupy DC protesters.
The woman in the video, which has been viewed over 100,000 times since it was posted on YouTube three days ago, is Dolores Brodersen. To the Occupy DC protesters chanting anti-capitalist slogans in her face, she may have seemed like the archetypal enemy: an older white woman, well-dressed, leaving a Koch brothers-sponsored dinner. The reality would probably surprise them.
Several Republican lawmakers, and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann are calling on President Obama to apologize for an open-microphone incident in which he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy appear to one-up themselves in their personal antipathy toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Whether Obama apologizes or not is his call, but it is unseemly and not the job of various senators and representatives to demand it. If Israel wants an apology, either Netanyahu can ask for one, or Israel’s ambassador in Washington can make the demand.
Give the president his due: At least he laid bare his antipathy. No longer do voters need to await a Los Angeles Times‘ decision to release the videotape which allegedly shows Obama bashing the Jewish state. Let Democrats try to spin Obama’s remarks for the positive: Increasingly, it’s clear their spirit isn’t in it. The Democratic Party has cast true liberals outside its umbrellas. Those who believe Israel has the right to exist behind secure borders simply are no longer welcome in the mainstream Democratic Party. Take one look at the blog of John Podesta’s Center for American Progress and the sheer antipathy Democrats hold for Israel becomes clear. Meanwhile, if Americans do not approve of Obama’s embrace of adversaries and bashing of allies, then they can simply take their views to the ballot box and toss Obama out.
President Obama warned he’d take unilateral action on the economy if Congress didn’t pass his jobs bill, and he made good on that promise by signing an executive order against wasteful spending this morning:
“This morning, President Obama will sign an Executive Order that will cut waste and promote more efficient spending across the federal government. … [T]he President is directing agencies to reduce spending on travel; limit the number of information technology devices (e.g. cell phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops) that can be issued to individual employees; stop unnecessarily printing documents that can be posted online; shrink the executive fleet of the federal government; and stop using taxpayer dollars to buy swag — the plaques, clothing, and other unnecessary promotional items that agencies purchase.”
Barack Obama’s dislike of Benjamin Netanyahu was not a state secret prior to the publication of his candid exchange about the Israeli prime minister with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. So the fact the two have a low opinion of Netanyahu and consider dealing with him to be a burden isn’t exactly news. But while much of the commentary about this kerfuffle has centered on the question of who should be most embarrassed by the revelation — Netanyahu or his two highly placed critics — there is a more important point here.
Netanyahu has a well-earned reputation as a prickly and somewhat unpleasant fellow to deal with–in Israeli political circles as well as the world of international diplomacy. But when Sarkozy and Obama grouse about him, the resentment they are giving voice to hasn’t all that much to do with whether or not Netanyahu is a charm school dropout. What really annoys them is his inherent skepticism about the peace process.
With the intense search for a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney producing popularity “bubbles” for Rick Perry and Herman Cain, “Who’s next?” has been the recurring question. In an ironic twist, the consensus answer seems to be: Newt Gingrich.
I say “ironic” because the opposition to Romney has been led by conservative grassroots writers and activists, as well as groups like FreedomWorks. Gingrich isn’t much more popular among that contingent than Romney. In May, when Gingrich sharply criticized Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan, FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey reminded National Review that Gingrich had been a serial offender:
The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?
We live at the end of an era—at a time when the old order can no longer be sustained and a new set of arrangements has yet to emerge. It is a time fraught with discomfort, distress, and anxiety. Millions of Americans are looking for work; millions more have given up the search; and further millions are underemployed. All of them are having trouble making ends meet, and those fortunate enough to have steady work fear that a market collapse, rampant inflation, or a government desperate for revenues will deprive them of their savings.
This is also, however, a time of unparalleled opportunity. It helps that Americans are no longer in denial. They now know that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that the entitlements regime begun under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, vastly expanded under Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society, and expanded again, at least in prospect, under Barack Obama’s New Foundation is unsustainable. It is now possible for a presidential candidate to describe Social Security as a gigantic Ponzi scheme without ruining his prospects, because everyone understands that the money in the so-called trust fund was spent by Congress long ago, and hardly anyone under 50 seriously expects to get Social Security upon retirement in his mid-60s. Everyone is aware, moreover, that Medicare is insolvent, that we cannot pay for Medicaid, and that the cost of health care is soaring; and most Americans recognize that Obama’s attempt to expand the sphere of public provision will, if not repealed, make matters considerably worse. Read More
Of all the comments Herman Cain has made since the sexual harassment story broke, this one from his press conference last night is the most disconcerting:
“As you know, when you run for the highest office of the land, there are going to be some accusations that are going to come out of the woodwork, they’re going to come from anywhere,” said Cain. “I have said this before: there will probably be others. Not because I’m aware of any, but because the machine to keep a businessman out of the White House is going to be relentless. And if they continue to come, I will continue to respond. I can’t answer why the ones that have already made these [accusations]…I can’t tell you what their motivation is, other than to try to stop Herman Cain.”
Democrats are doing a little crowing this morning after their defeat of a referendum that would have made it harder for public worker unions to bankrupt the state of Ohio. Other Dem victories in Kentucky and various other spots around the nation have got to encourage the party of Obama as we head into a presidential election year. This is good for Democratic morale, but despite the happy talk that will be coming from the White House and the Democratic National Committee, they know they’re still in trouble for 2012. With a failing economy and the administration’s record of mismanagement, they realize they’re in for a rough time. But the main question today is whether Republicans understand the same thing.
For months, most Republicans and conservative pundits have been talking and writing as if the next presidential election was a foregone conclusion. Obama’s record of failure is such that many in the GOP have acted as if didn’t matter who their candidate was next year or what the party did or said in Congress or elsewhere. If you think every road leads to victory, it can make you overconfident. Yesterday should be a reminder to conservatives the tide of political fortune can change every day, and while Obama is eminently beatable, his defeat is by no means a certainty.
Turkey’s behavior has been atrocious in recent years. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) has presided over a regime which, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Survey, is now the world’s most anti-American. Statistics released by Turkey’s Justice Ministry to Turkey’s own parliament show that, under AKP tutelage, the murder rate of women in Turkey has increased 1,400 percent. Erdoğan has placed more than five dozen journalists in prison; many have never had the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Turkey now ranks alongside Russia among the worst offenders of press freedom in the industrialized world. Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador in Washington, has marred his tenure by facilitating the threatening of critics of Erdoğan in the United States. In recent months, Turkish ministers have even threatened Israel and Cyprus with military force.
So what does President Obama propose to do? Send Super Cobra helicopters and perhaps even armed Predators to Turkey to fight Kurdish insurgents. Granted, Turkey has been fighting a Kurdish insurgency for almost 30 years, and the United States already provides real time intelligence to support Turkish forces.
Editor’s note: The latest IAEA report, confirming that Iran has been researching and developing technologies used specifically in the production of nuclear weapons, has sharpened public awareness of the Iranian nuclear threat. But the incriminating facts of Iran’s nuclear aspirations and capabilities were clear three years ago. In February 2008, COMMENTARY published Norman Podhoretz’s “Stopping Iran: Why the Case for Military Action Still Stands.” Podhoretz explained how proof of Iranian intentions and actions was hidden in plain sight by those eager to stave off an American response. In light of the new report, we’ve made this important article available on Contentions.
Up until a fairly short time ago, scarcely anyone dissented from the assessment offered with “high confidence” by the National Intelligence Estimate [NIE] of 2005 that Iran was “determined to develop nuclear weapons.” Correlatively, no one believed the protestations of the mullahs ruling Iran that their nuclear program was designed strictly for peaceful uses.
The reason for this near-universal consensus was that Iran, with its vast reserves of oil and natural gas, had no need for nuclear energy, and that in any case, the very nature of its program contradicted the protestations.
A new Gallup poll shows self-professed conservatives now outnumber self-professed liberals in the United States, 42 percent to 21 percent. Another 37 percent described themselves as moderates. Since early 2008, the number of people identifying themselves as conservative has increased while the number of people identifying themselves as moderate and liberal have decreased. This isn’t surprising. The United States is a center-right country – and living under a liberal president and a liberal Congress for most of the last three years has nudged us in a more conservative, less liberal direction.
All of which makes Obama’s re-election strategy puzzling. He’s talking and acting in a way that fortifies his liberal credentials, essentially rejecting the (successful) Clinton 1995-1996 model. Perhaps Obama has decided that unlike Clinton, a former Southern, “New Democrat” governor, the clothes of moderation simply don’t fit very well.