I’m glad to respond to Jonathan’s thoughtful and gracious post, which critiqued two pieces (here and here) I wrote on climate change. This is a useful dialogue to have – and it’s a credit to COMMENTARY that it has provided us a forum.
There’s much that I agree with in what Jonathan said, including the quasi-religious faith some people place in the environmental movement; the fact that some climate scientists have acted in a troubling and intellectually dishonest fashion; and the undeniable anti-capitalist agenda being advanced by some who travel under the global warming banner. I briefly touched on these elements in my posts; Jonathan did an excellent job amplifying them.
Many Republicans have spent the last several months grousing that they don’t like the choices available to them in their party’s presidential contest. But if the polls are correct, it may be that one core GOP constituency has a completely different problem: they have too many appealing choices.
The ability of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to stay in the race though all are trailing badly in both polls of likely Iowa caucus-goers and national surveys is that each has managed to hold onto a loyal cadre of social conservatives. They are very different in their backgrounds, personalities and governing styles. But they share a devotion to social issues such as opposition to abortion, and the success of their candidacies depend on their ability to capture the lion’s share of the evangelical voters who propelled Mike Huckabee to an upset win in Iowa four years ago. They also share a problem: with all three hanging on, it is becoming increasingly apparent they will cancel each other out and ensure the victory of a Republican who doesn’t share their social passions.
Politico reports that this claim is coming from one of the defense witnesses who spoke with Bradley Manning in a pretrial holding area at the Joint Regional Correction Facility. How reliable that is remains to be seen, and the defense filing is short on details. But needless to say, if this can be substantiated it would be a bombshell development:
[redacted] will testify that he was taken to the pretrial section at the JRCF and met PFC Manning. He will testify that he explained the purpose of his visit and asked PFC Manning who he was and why he was at the JRCF. PFC Manning allegedly responded with, ‘I sold information to Wikileaks.’
Shortly after this alleged statement, the guards realized that [redacted] should not have been in the pretrial area.
Lee Smith has an interesting piece in Tablet today in which he takes another swipe at Newt Gingrich’s contention that the Palestinians were an “invented people.” Smith’s conceit is not so much to discuss the question of just how or when Palestinians invented themselves. Rather, he is concerned with whether it is in the interests of the United States to support the idea that the only authentic identity is that of Arab nationalism as opposed to the particular national identities of the post-Ottoman Arab successor states in the region that were largely unknown prior to the 20th century.
Rather than brand Gingrich a Likudnik, as many on the left would have it, Smith seems to be accusing the former speaker of being a Nasserite. Which is to say he is promoting an idea made popular by the late Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser. That wasn’t Gingrich’s intention, but Smith is right that Nasser’s attempt to create a pan-Arab state was dangerous for U.S. interests as well as noxious to the cause of Middle East peace, and we shouldn’t encourage a rerun. But the problem with invented Palestinian nationalism, as opposed to what Smith sees as the similarly recent vintage of the nationalisms of many other Arab countries, is not just that it isn’t strong enough to motivate their leaders to accept a peace deal with Israel that would give them a state.
Now that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is publicly calling on House Speaker Boehner to just take the two-month payroll tax extension deal, House Republicans aren’t going to be able to hold out much longer:
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday urged House Republicans to pass a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, putting greater pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to act.
McConnell said House passage of a Senate-approved payroll tax relief package “locks in” legislative language requiring President Obama to speed up his timetable for approving the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
Occupy L.A. is long gone, but the cleanup bill is coming due for taxpayers. And not just taxpayers in Los Angeles. The stimulus measures that President Obama has been pushing would send money to cash-strapped cities like L.A., in order to avert police and teacher layoffs. And the cost of the protest eviction and cleanup will likely result in more city budget cuts, according to Mayor Villaraigosa:
Repairs to City Hall’s lawn where the Occupy group set up camp on Oct. 1 will require an estimated $400,000. The police action to clear out the encampment on Nov. 30 cost more than $700,000.
Additional expenses are attributed to hauling away debris from the camp, and cleaning up graffiti that defaced City Hall marble walls and trees.
Mayor Villaraigosa says more budget cuts will be necessary to offset the costs.
Watching House Republicans steer their party straight into a ditch over their failure to pass a version of the payroll tax cut has been like observing a car crash in slow motion. But along with the backbiting and second-guessing that have done little to enhance the reputation of the GOP House caucus or that of their leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor, the debacle also ought to illustrate to Republicans the political resiliency of President Obama and the fact that a GOP victory in the 2012 election is not a foregone conclusion.
That’s an important lesson. Many Republicans have approached the presidential nomination process as if any GOP candidate with a pulse could beat Obama. The ease with which the president has run rings around Boehner on the payroll tax cut not only should bring back disturbing memories of how Bill Clinton beat Newt Gingrich like a drum back in the 1990s but should also show what happens when ideological inflexibility on the part of the GOP allows the Democratic incumbent to play to the center as well as to the left. A few more debacles like this one and Obama won’t have to channel Harry Truman in order to portray his opponents as do-nothing losers.
On Fox News last night, Karl Rove outlined how the House GOP can backtrack on their payroll tax cut position, while still holding on to a bit of dignity:
“The only way to win it is to sit there and ruin their own Christmases and wait until the president heads off to Hawaii for his, and then lambast the Democrats for having abdicated their responsibility of passing a year-long tax cut,” Rove said.
“There’s only one way out of it,” he continued. “Is to stay in Washington, wait until President Obama gets on an airplane and heads for Hawaii, and then hold a session in the House, vote the two-month extension and use the opportunity to beat up on the now long absent Democrats and Harry Reid and the absent president and say look – this is going to not be good for the companies that have to write the paychecks.”
If there is one thing we have learned about Iraq during the last decade, it is that violence is a direct reflection of the political process or lack thereof. When politics was dysfunctional in 2003-2007, violence skyrocketed. Once the success of the surge kicked in, the political process began to function again and various factions could resolve their disputes with back-room deals rather than with bombs and rockets. Now that U.S. troops have pulled out, the political process is fraying once again. Consider the events of just the past few days.
Vice President Tariq Hashimi, a leading Sunni moderate, is in internal exile in the Kurdish region; he fears if he returns to Baghdad he will be seized by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s security forces and put on trial on what he says are trumped up charges of terrorism; he accuses the Maliki government of torturing his aides to produce phony confessions. At the same time, Maliki is moving to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al Mutlaq, another Sunni, from office for (ironically) accusing Maliki of running a nascent dictatorship. Sunni provinces are openly pushing for more autonomy from Baghdad. The Iraqiya coalition, which represents secular nationalists including many Sunnis, is boycotting parliament. Maliki is threatening to kick them out of the government altogether and effectively rule without Sunni participation.
Ron Paul’s racist newsletters have officially become a full-blown political controversy. Yesterday, he walked out of an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger after she pressed him on the issue:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video—depicting the brazenness of Iraqi oil smuggling—should be worth far more. This is not simply the result of tampering with metering at the oil facility, or government-sponsored smuggling such as the oil which the Kurdistan Regional Government sends to Iran. That Iraqis can turn a pipeline into a gusher—well-coordinated to fill a line of waiting oil tankers—is proof positive that the government is far from prepared to handle security and the functioning of state. (If you don’t want to watch the full video, watch a bit at the beginning and then skip around to the last quarter or so).