There is much to be said against Newt Gingrich, and I’ll admit I’ve said some of it. His ambition is, as George Will said in this interview with Laura Ingraham today (available via the Daily Caller), fueled by delusions of grandeur in which he is the second coming of Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle while at the same time being largely devoid of much wisdom. His positions are those of a “big government conservative” who latches on to every intellectual fad that comes down the road. And his post-congressional career as a D.C. influence peddler (don’t call him a “lobbyist”) led him to support a number of causes, including the ethanol boondoggle and the Freddie Mac housing subsidies, that no respectable conservative political thinker should have been caught dead backing.
But when it comes to criticizing him for the amount of money in his bank account now as opposed to when he first arrived in Washington as a member of Congress from Georgia in January 1979, I say it’s time for Newt-bashers to calm down and back off. A piece in today’s Roll Call reports the fact that Gingrich left Congress a much wealthier man than he left it. While it is true many politicians have enriched themselves via various forms of corruption during their time on Capitol Hill, I don’t think it’s fair to put Gingrich in the same category as those like Lyndon Johnson or Duke Cunningham (who, unlike LBJ, was nabbed for his nefarious conduct). There is nothing wrong with making money by writing books or giving speeches, which was the only way Gingrich supplemented his income during this period.
Temporary holiday jobs are part of why unemployment figures dropped in November. Out of the 120,000 new non-farm jobs, 50,000 were retail, which indicates many of these positions are likely short-term. Since the holiday season started early this year, economists predict there will also be less retail hires in December.
The report shows a promising overall drop in unemployment: 9 percent last month to 8.6 percent this month. But as the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee note, there is one big troubling trend here. An estimated 315,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force in November, which means they haven’t found jobs, they’ve just stopped looking:
On the surface, the new jobs report, which shows the unemployment rate dropping to 8.6 percent from 9.0 percent the previous month, is good news. Below the surface, however, the news is actually quite disturbing.
According to the Department of Labor, 120,000 jobs were created last month, which is an unusually low figure for what is supposed to be a recovery. But what really stands out about the DOL report is that 315,000 people dropped out of the labor market in November. To put it another way: The number of people dropping out of the labor force in November was more than two-and-a-half times as large as those joining the labor force. In fact, the labor participation rate fell to 64 percent from 64.2 percent in October – nearly matching the lowest figure we’ve seen (63.9 percent in July) since the early 1980s. The long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more) increased as well, even as the average hourly earnings went down. (Wages are up by only 1.8 percent over the past 12 months while overall inflation increased by 3.6 percent.)
Earlier this week, I wrote to voice my dismay at some of the content of an ad campaign launched by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption that aimed to encourage Israeli expats to go home. The Jewish state is right to do what it can to try to persuade Jews to immigrate to the country or to return to it if they have left Israel. But one of the TV ads that aired on cable seemed to take the point of view that relationships between Israeli natives and American Jews are ill advised. That is exactly the wrong message for a nation founded on the premise of Jewish unity and which also relies on political and financial support from the Diaspora.
Some readers disagreed with my stand either because they viewed this expression of contempt for American Jewry as justified or because they think the gap between Americans and Israelis is so great it cannot possibly be bridged. But apparently the Israeli government realizes it made a mistake. Jeffrey Goldberg, who also took issue with the ministry’s thinking (albeit in terms that reflected his own animus for the Netanyahu government that I do not share) writes in the Atlantic that Israel’s ambassador to the United States, onetime COMMENTARY contributor Michael Oren, brought the matter to the attention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who promptly and rightly ordered the campaign halted immediately.
In his interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper, Newt Gingrich declared, “I’m going to be the nominee. It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee.”
Actually, it’s not that hard.
President Obama’s claim that “this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration” is not simply wrong; it is fantastically wrong. It isn’t simply that many presidents – including Truman, Reagan, and George W. Bush – were rightly considered to be far greater friends of Israel than the current occupant of the White House. It is that few presidents, and perhaps no president, has been as instinctively and operationally hostile to Israel as Obama (for more, see Jonathan’s comprehensive post here:).
There are only two possibilities, then. Obama’s claim is either utterly delusional, which is possible; or it is a claim so absurd that it qualifies as cynically misleading. Perhaps because I don’t want to believe the commander-in-chief is living in a world that begins “Once upon a time,” I’ll assume Obama’s claim falls in the second category.
Are values voters preparing to forgive Newt Gingrich’s infidelities? Evangelical leaders seem to be moving in that direction, reports Dave Weigel. Notoriously anti-Mormon pastor Robert Jeffress succinctly summed up the status of the race, in the eyes of evangelical conservatives:
“I think there’s now an evangelical tri-lemma,” says Jeffress, who still backs Perry but doesn’t have illusions about his current electoral oomph. “Do you vote for a Mormon who’s had one wife, a Catholic who’s had three wives, or an evangelical who may have had an entire harem?”
On the surface, the decision by the Republican Jewish Coalition not to invite Rep. Ron Paul to their forum for presidential candidates seems ill-advised. Some will ask, what would be the harm in giving the eccentric libertarian a hearing?
But just as no one would consider a demand the GOP group provide a platform for a Democrat, there is no reason for it to allow Paul to pretend he is anything but an extremist who is far outside of the mainstream, especially when it comes to issues concerning the U.S.-Israel alliance. Though the isolationist sometimes claims to be a friend to Israel, few are deceived by this disingenuous stance. There’s no reason why the RJC needs to buy into the pretense.
The most revealing aspect of Mitt Romney’s tense interview with Fox’s Bret Baier was the look that crept onto the former governor’s face: that of a boxer cruising to victory who can’t believe his opponent has just risen from the mat again. Romney seems to be living through his own version of the famous Monty Python scene, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” No one, and certainly not Romney, expected Newt Gingrich.
But ready or not, here comes Newt. And Romney was decidedly not ready. Yet it’s easy to understand why. A look back at Romney’s relationship with the conservative movement during the last three years offered no preview that he would be unceremoniously dropped, certainly not for Gingrich. To watch Romney’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2008–and again in 2009 and 2010–is to begin to understand the suddenly staggering former frontrunner.
The strange thing about Jon Huntsman is that he’s seen as the uber-moderate candidate in the race, when one can actually make a decent argument that he’s more conservative than both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, at least on some issues. Unfortunately, he just comes off as so cheerless and smug that it’s hard to look past the surface. And blatant swipes at the conservative base like this don’t help.
Huntsman’s daughters, on the other hand, actually seem to be doing something right on the campaign trail. They’ve been putting out video parodies that playfully mock the other candidates – and make their dad seem like less of an uptight, cartoon moderate in the process. The latest is this takeoff of Justin Timberlake’s song “SexyBack”:
Despite the warnings from two administration officials that said a ban on transactions with Iran’s Central Bank was not what President Obama wanted, the Senate unanimously approved a Defense Department bill last evening with an amendment that contained the measure. Since the House of Representatives has already passed such a measure, which is aimed at stopping the Iranian nuclear threat, President Obama will soon find the bill on his desk. But Obama need only to exercise his veto power in order to prevent the bank ban from going into effect.
Since the administration persuaded the Senate to water the amendment down by giving the president the power to waive enforcement of the law, the Iranians need not fear a swift shutdown of the oil income they get from transactions that are run through their Central Bank. With a six month waiting period before the measure goes into effect and with the president having the right to shelve the bill if he thinks it will hurt either the U.S. economy or that of its allies, it is unlikely the sanctions will ever go into effect.
Noah Pollak started an excellent discussion about the self-described human rights community’s loss of any moral compass. Without rehashing Evelyn and Peter’s excellent posts, perhaps one of the most powerful pieces I have seen on this phenomenon hails from my former colleague Mauro De Lorenzo, a Rhodes Scholar who now serves as the vice president of the John Templeton Foundation. Writing not about the Middle East but rather about Africa, this is what De Lorenzo had to say:
You cannot sue the United Nations. If the UN violates your rights, that’s just too bad. There is no judge with jurisdiction, no independent tribunal, no possibility of compensation or justice. A culture of impunity is built into the DNA of the UN, and some of the clearest examples can be found in the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), mandated by the UN General Assembly to protect refugees around the world. Wherever UNHCR is responsible for determining refugee status, it fails to meet its own guidelines for fairness. And wherever UNHCR warehouses refugees in camps — sometimes for decades — it colludes in human rights violations on a large scale, with support from the American taxpayer…
It’s an old saying in journalism that “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” But it seems if a journalist’s mother says that two plus two is five, he takes it on faith.
What is it with journalists that they can’t or won’t deal with numbers? Politicians can spout the most tendentious statistics that compare apples to oranges, choose convenient base lines, even use charts whose shapes are deliberately chosen to give a false impression, and reporters all too often just report them. CBO estimates based on obviously nonsensical assumptions (assumptions that the CBO is congressionally mandated to assume) are treated as gospel.
A jihadist website has announced the death of 21 Turks, reportedly fighting with the Haqqani network against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. According to Musa Üzer, secretary-general of the Free Thought and Education Rights Association in Istanbul, “They were in the war zone voluntarily to stand up against the imperialists’ occupation of the Muslim world. Their fighting is self-defense in the name of God and jihad.”
Turkey seeks to deflect attention away from its bad behavior by insisting that they remain invaluable to the fight in Afghanistan. But as I testified before Congress about a year and a half ago, nearly as many Turks fight against us in Afghanistan as fight with us. If the Turks are serious about countering terrorism, perhaps it’s time that their troops become the point of the spear against Taifetul Mansura and other Turkish Jihadist groups which have taken up arms in favor of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Perhaps Turkey will also want to take action against its own governing officials who donate money to such groups.
Jim Geraghty flags an unusual request from the official Herman Cain website. Apparently Cain is asking supporters to send him encouragement to stay in the race – and he’s going to need it after his latest admission that his wife was kept in the dark about the monthly financial assistance he was giving Ginger White:
Encouragement for Cain is the official page where supporters are invited to show their support, communicate their prayers and voice their vote for Herman Cain. Please take a moment to write Mr. Cain a note sharing why you feel it is important for him to stay in the race and become the next president of the United States of America! The Left is trying their best to discredit him because they fear him. We must unite and show Mr. Cain that he is not alone in this fight, but that WE THE PEOPLE stand firmly beside him and behind him.
While the unrest in Syria intensifies and Syria teeters on the brink of full-blown civil war, if it is not already past that precipice, it remains fair to ask what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s thinking is. After all, he’s a “Western-educated eye doctor” who never expected to be president. He was thrust into that position only after the death of his playboy older brother. Should Bashar leave, he would not necessarily be denied a comfortable retirement. Unlike the late Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, for example, Bashar never tried to kill the king of Saudi Arabia, thereby disqualifying himself from that retirement community of washed-up dictators.
There is a reason why Bashar is thumbing his nose at the international community: He believes he must only wait out the next three weeks to be home free. President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq is an early Christmas present. Syria has just one consistent ally in the region: Iran. Aerial resupply is vulnerable without control of the Iraqi airspace, and Turkish sanctions may have disrupted Iran’s supply of Syria through that former ally of Bashar al-Assad. All this changes by Christmas, however, when American forces complete their withdrawal from Iraq, in a move which Vice President Joe Biden assures us is not a victory.