In his recent column, George Will said of Newt Gingrich: “There is his anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything.” Will went on to write that Gingrich “believes everything is related to everything else and only he understands how. Conservatism, in contrast, is both cause and effect of modesty about understanding society’s complexities, controlling its trajectory and improving upon its spontaneous order. Conservatism inoculates against the hubristic volatility that Gingrich exemplifies.”
Whether or not one believes Will’s description applies to Gingrich, there is something quite important in Will’s characterization of conservatism.
As expected, President Obama attempted to reclaim the mantle of Theodore Roosevelt in his speech on economic policy in Osawatomie, Kansas. The crux of his address was a comparison of our current situation to that of 1910 when Theodore Roosevelt journeyed to the same town. According to the president, the current downturn is analogous to that of a century ago when the national transformation from a largely agricultural to an industrial economy took place. He sees his own demand for higher taxes on upper income Americans and his party’s ferocious defense of the status quo on entitlement spending as no different from TR’s call for the government to act to ensure fairness for workers who lacked rights and protection at a time when there was virtually no regulation of industry or Wall Street.
But the differences between 1910 and 2011 are even greater than the vast chasm that separates Obama from the Rough Rider. The only thing the situations have in common is that in both years there were protesters in the streets. But whereas a century ago, workers and the poor had a legitimate beef, today’s Occupy Wall Street protests are a function of envy and a sense of entitlement, not genuine grievance.
William Galston, a former domestic policy adviser to President Clinton, wrote a recent piece in The New Republic which highlights three jobs-related data points:
* If Americans of working age were participating in the labor force at the same rate as they were at the onset of the recession, the labor force would be nearly 5 million people larger, and unemployment would be significantly worse in both absolute and percentage terms.
* Total employment remains more than 5.5 million below the level of 2007 and about 1.6 million below where it was when President Obama took office.
* To regain full employment (which Galston pegs at 5 percent, the same as the level when the recession began) with the pre-recessionary labor force participation rate, we would need 150.7 million jobs or more than 10 million more than we have today.
There was a telling quote in yesterday’s Politico article about the way many conservatives are backing off on criticism of Newt Gingrich. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) said the former House Speaker’s comeback reminded him of Napoleon’s return from Elba. “Now it’s like Napoleon showing up for the 100 days. We all may follow him into battle again — and you just hope it’s not Waterloo.” Judging by virtually every poll of Republican voters taken in the last couple of weeks, the GOP had better hope not. But Cole may have a point. In March 1815, the French remembered only what was good about the Corsican when he returned from exile. But they chose not to think about his subsequent defeats that had nearly destroyed their country. The same may be said about the manner in which many Republicans have suddenly remembered the glory Gingrich earned in the early 1990s during his tenure as one of the most successful House minority leaders in congressional history while forgetting the fact that he was among the most disastrous Speakers.
Politico is probably wrong to read too much in the absence of a burgeoning “stop Gingrich” movement at the moment. Rest assured if he wins Iowa and appears to be heading to the nomination by mid-January, many in the GOP — especially office-holders who will have to run underneath him on the ballot next fall — will be seeking to do just that. Considering no votes have yet been cast, the idea of a “stop Gingrich” movement is clearly premature. He may well parlay his current momentum into a stranglehold on the nomination next month if the polls hold. But a lot of the people quoted in the Politico story know Gingrich well enough to realize that gives him plenty of time to implode.
Laws requiring photo ID at voting stations might seem pretty sensible, but to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People they apparently amount to “systematic suppression” of minority voters. The group is now petitioning the United Nations (via the UN Human Rights commissioner) for a ruling on the issue.
The largest civil rights group in America, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is petitioning the UN over what it sees as a concerted effort to disenfranchise black and Latino voters ahead of next year’s presidential election.…
Studies have showed that the proportion of voters who do not have access to valid photo ID cards is much higher among older African-Americans because they were not given birth certificates in the days of segregation. Students and young voters also often lack identification and are thus in danger of being stripped of their right to vote.
Jon Huntsman struck a much more serious tone today at the Heritage Foundation–a tone that seemed designed finally to match his demeanor to his supporters’ description of him as a “statesman.”
The part of the speech and question-and-answer session in which this was most apparent was in Huntsman’s discussion of climate change. This topic was part of the early derailment of Huntsman’s candidacy, when he struck a condescending, taunting tone toward his rivals, even though–as today’s speech made clear–his position on climate change is identical in substance to that of Mitt Romney and nearly identical to that of Newt Gingrich.
Though the Howard Gutman incident is still something the New York Times hasn’t bothered to report, the effort by the left to push back against complaints about the egregious nature of the remarks made by the U.S. ambassador to Belgium last week have continued. In the latest one, Justin Elliot in Salon singles out my comments about Gutman’s attempt to distinguish between “classical” anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred by Muslims that is rooted in resentment of Israeli actions.
Elliot does not even bother to defend Gutman’s attempt to draw a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli home building and measures of self-defense. But he does try to claim, as did a writer at Think Progress yesterday, that Gutman was misquoted about anti-Semitism. This is a risible assertion and is easily dismissed. More interesting is his attempt to claim there is nothing controversial about linking the Middle East conflict with anti-Semitism. He agrees with Adam Serwer who wrote in Mother Jones, “Gutman’s suggestion that anti-Semitism would subside if a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be reached isn’t the same as saying Israelis or Jews are ‘responsible’ for anti-Semitism.” But to say this as if it were self-evident misses the point. Far from being morally neutral, the whole focus on Israeli actions that he claims fuel anti-Semitic incidents, does just that.
It’s been a difficult week for Israel. A trifecta of attacks on the foundation of the ties between the United States and the Jewish state in the past few days have exposed the ambivalent feelings of top Obama administration officials. If you add together recent statements by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, it’s hard to blame Caroline Glick for claiming that “under Obama, the U.S. is no longer Israel’s ally.”
But it’s worthwhile pointing out that despite these ominous signals and the failure of the administration’s promises to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Obama is still operating under constraints that will make it difficult for him to further weaken the bonds that unite Israel and the United States. The offensive words uttered by Panetta, Clinton and Gutman, as well as previous actions by Obama, point more to their frustration with a situation in which they know they cannot teach Israel’s government the rough lesson they believe it deserves than anything else.
Not only would it be tricky for President Obama to win reelection without Pennsylvania from purely a numbers perspective, but the state will also serve as a bellwether for independent voters nationally. The Pennsylvania electorate is made up of the same type of voters Obama needs to reach across the country: middle class, white moderates and independents.
Strategists say a loss in Pennsylvania would all but doom the president’s reelection hopes. It would mean he hadn’t rallied his base, or won back independent voters who abandoned him in 2010, or closed an enthusiasm gap that now favors Republicans. A poor showing here — a state the Democratic nominee has carried in the last five presidential contests — would suggest Obama’s surprising 2008 victories in states such as Virginia and North Carolina would be tough to duplicate.
There are two overarching criticisms of U.S.Ambassador Howard Gutman’s disgraceful speech last week, a speech the content of which the White House has yet to walk back. They are:
(1) That Gutman rationalized anti-Semitic hatred as a response to specific Israeli policies. On that point see here and here and here.
(2) That Gutman minimized European anti-Semitism. When it came to “traditional” European Jew-hatred he opined that not only had he not personally experienced much of it, but that as far as he could tell it was in decline. When it came to tensions between Muslims and Jews, he went out of his way to avoid unpleasantly placing rhetorical blame on one side or the other. He described the problem as one of “violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews,” as if the direction of violence was inscrutable. He drew equivalences between actual attacks on Jewish schoolgirls and hypothetical attacks on Muslim schoolgirls, as if Jewish/Muslim tensions equally exposed each to the specter of religiously-motivated attack. And so on.
I can count on one hand the number of statements with which I agree with GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul. This is one of them:
The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity. Trump’s participation as moderator will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues such as the national economy, crushing federal government debt, the role of the federal government, foreign policy, and the like. To be sure, Trump’s participation will contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere.
Gallup confirms that this has become a two-man race in its latest “acceptability” poll:
Newt Gingrich (62 percent) and Mitt Romney (54 percent) are the only two candidates Republicans say would be acceptable presidential nominees from their party, emphasizing the degree to which the GOP race has narrowed down to these two men at this juncture. A majority of Republicans say each of the other six candidates measured would not be acceptable nominees.
The National Jewish Democratic Committee “no commented” me when I asked for its take on the Howard Gutman controversy yesterday afternoon, but the group has finally taken a stance on the issue. The NJDC’s spokesperson points me to this statement director David Harris gave to WJW’s Adam Kredo last night:
In an interview this evening, David Harris, the NJDC’s top official, told me that “Ambassador Gutman’s comments were wrong and unfortunate, and the White House was right to issue their immediate, tough statement on Saturday.”
Kredo notes tha, “Harris, however, declined to say whether or not he believed Gutman should resign or be fired from his post.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council wasn’t going to be able to sustain their initial “no comment” on Ambassador Gutman’s “European Muslims only hate Jews because of Israel” discourse. The Obama ambassador’s remarks were too egregious and too explicit, and the group has already clarified to the Washington Jewish Week that the comments were “wrong and unfortunate.”
Of course, the Jewish organization is still agnostic on whether we should recall a U.S. ambassador who’s been reassuring Europeans their anti-Semitism is Israel’s fault, but that’s understandable. The NJDC can’t afford to be on the bad side of a Democratic donor who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.