Nope, not at putting the finishing touches on an agreement. Instead, the members are reportedly trying to figure out how to gently break the news to the public that they will not reach a deal by this week’s deadline:
Members of the “supercommittee” charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion in budget cuts are focused on how to announce failure to reach a deal, Democratic and Republican aides confirmed to CNN Sunday.
While aides said no final decision had been made, they acknowledged that — barring an unforeseen development — an announcement of an end to negotiations is the most likely scenario.
President Obama and his cheerleaders in the media may be fed up with Israel and its democratically elected government, but the Palestinian Authority appears to be about to take one step closer to effectively ending all hope for peace in the foreseeable future. Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reports that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to a key concession that will solidify the Hamas-Fatah unity pact first signed in May. The result will guarantee a strong Hamas role in the new Palestinian government that will ensure it will be impossible for the PA to agree to any deal with Israel, no matter what concessions are forced out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or where Israel’s borders might be drawn.
One of the key holdups to a Hamas-Fatah unity government was Hamas’ insistence Abbas dump Salam Fayyad as prime minister. Fayyad is widely respected in the West for his fight against corruption, his efforts to build a viable Palestinian economy and his attempt to crack down on terrorism with the aid of U.S.-trained security personnel. According to Abu Toameh, in secret talks with Hamas in Cairo, Abbas has finally agreed that Fayyad will be forced out, setting in motion a new wave of government graft as well as making it easier for Hamas to organize itself on the West Bank. This will not only doom the Palestinians to a new era of misrule but also cut the legs out of from anyone arguing that the United States should continue to pour aid into the coffers of the PA.
It has become an accepted trope of contemporary journalism that American Muslims are under siege and beset by hatred and prejudice. But the evidence for this conventional wisdom is lacking. The story line of Muslim persecution in the United States has always been a matter of anecdotes and perception, not facts. That truth was confirmed this week when the FBI released their annual crime statistics report which showed once again that hate crimes against Muslims remain rare and are far outnumbered by attacks on Jews.
The report is not perfect, since not all parts of the country do a good job compiling the data, but it provides an important snapshot of the state of the nation regarding bias crimes. But the numbers speak for themselves. In 2010, only 13.2 percent of religion-based attacks were directed at Muslims. By comparison, 65.4 percent of such crimes were directed at Jews. This shows a slight increase over the last two years (the raw numbers show 887 anti-Jewish attacks with only 160 anti-Muslim attacks), but is not a statistical fluke. In 2009, the FBI reported that 70.1 percent of religious-based hate crimes were anti-Jewish while only 9.3 percent were anti-Islamic. In 2008, the FBI said 66.1 percent were anti-Jewish while 7.5 percent were anti-Muslim. This has been true of every year in the past decade, even in 2001 when anti-Muslim crime spiked in the wake of 9/11. For all of the breast-beating about Islamophobia in this country, anti-Semitism remains a far greater problem.
Mitt Romney skipped yesterday’s debate in Iowa sponsored by a social conservative group. Those in attendance took it as a sign that the former Massachusetts governor isn’t competing in the Hawkeye state. However, as the New York Times reports today, though Romney spent this weekend in New Hampshire, he is planning an all-out push in Iowa in the last month of campaigning, aiming at a knockout blow that will give him a stranglehold on the nomination in January.
The idea of a Romney win in Iowa seems farfetched if you take the latest Rasmussen Poll of likely caucus-goers seriously. In the survey conducted on November 15, Newt Gingrich vaulted to an improbable 32-19 percent lead over Romney. This survey certainly confirms the strength of the Gingrich surge, but the volatility of these numbers even when compared to past Rasmussen polls in the state undermines the notion this race can be easily predicted. Less than a month earlier, Rasmussen had Gingrich trailing Romney by 12 percentage points with the former Speaker of the House only being supported by 9 percent. Though some very smart analysts, like the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes, are claiming this latest twist in the race is not a fluke and Gingrich won’t fade as others have, it’s difficult to place much faith in numbers that fluctuate that much.
According to the Washington Post, if Democrats re-take control of the House, then at the top of Nancy Pelosi’s to-do list will be “doing for child care what we did for health-care reform” – pushing comprehensive change. That is alarming but not particularly noteworthy. What is worth paying attention to is Pelosi’s rationale.
In justifying her priorities, Pelosi said, “I could never get a babysitter -have five kids in six years and no one wants to come to your house. . . . And everywhere I go, women say the same thing” about how hard it is to find the kind of reliable care that would make their family lives calmer and work lives more productive. Read More
I have often found myself critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, especially when it comes to the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, so I think it is important to give credit where it’s due. And Obama deserves credit, during his current Asian trip, for skillfully mobilizing regional opposition to Chinese expansionism and deftly displaying American power in the Pacific. The highlights of the trip include the unveiling of a new U.S.-Australia accord that will allow the stationing of Marines in the north, and the decision to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Myanmar(nee Burma) to reengage with a dictatorial regime which is showing greater openness to the opposition and greater wariness about becoming overly reliant on Chinese support.
Much of this involves pushing on an open door–but some open doors need to be pushed. China’s neighbors are increasingly wary of its attempts to dominate the region, by claiming, for example, sovereignty over practically the entire South China Sea. Thus, we see Japan entering into little-noticed but highly significant security accords with the Philippines, India and Vietnam. This could be the beginning of a NATO-like structure in the Pacific to contain China. It will test Obama’s skill at diplomacy to see if he can continue and expand this trend in the face of Chinese attempts to push back.
In today’s New York Times Book Review, Jeffrey Goldberg reviews Gershom Gorenberg’s The Unmaking of Israel (which is also reviewed at American Thinker today by Jerold S. Auerbach). Goldberg notes several issues that Gorenberg, “like many on the left, pays scant attention” to:
…the Arab states that provoked the Six-Day War and then, after their defeat, remained defiant and mainly uninterested in a quick exchange of territory for recognition of Israel. Nor does Gorenberg waste much ink crediting various Israeli governments with trying, over the years, to reach an equitable arrangement with the Palestinians … Nor does he grapple in any serious way with a subject of some relevance — the civil war among Palestinians …. Moreover, the corrosive anti-Semitism that long ago infected parts of the Palestinian polity (not to mention other parts of the Muslim world) is dismissed rather blithely.
The rise of Newt Gingrich in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally is real. The question, of course, is whether it can be sustained. No one really knows at this stage. But what is clear is Gingrich presents the most serious challenge the Romney campaign has yet faced.
None of the other candidates who have risen in the polls to challenge Gingrich– Bachmann, Perry or Cain — possess his political skills, which are considerable. And none can match his past political achievements, which are impressive. One has the sense that unlike the others, Gingrich at least belongs in Romney’s weight class. Which means this could be a real contest.