It has long been apparent that Ron Paul’s isolationist foreign policy has far more to do with the agenda of the anti-American left than anything resembling the ideas conservatives support. But, surprisingly, that confluence of far left and far right may also apply to his domestic concerns. As the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack reports, yesterday Paul threw a bouquet to the Occupy Wall Street movement and even compared it favorably with the Tea Party.
According to Paul, both the Tea Party and the Occupiers are citizens upset with the status quo, seek to overturn the political establishment and have far more in common than they suspect. This is, of course, nonsense. The Tea Party is about individual responsibility (remember, it started over mortgage defaulters having their bills paid by other citizens who pay their way) while Occupy is about entitlement and envy. They only look like the same thing if you are, like Paul, someone who is so obsessed with things like the Federal Reserve and opposing the defense of American interests and values abroad, that you lose perspective about how we can defend the freedom he says he believes in so deeply.
Turkey has a terrorism problem, though not just the Kurdish one it often claims. The Turkish government, for example, embraces Hamas and Hezbollah and Prime Minister Erdogan himself has offered a character reference to an al-Qaeda financier to which Cuneyt Zapsu, a top advisor, had donated money.
Against this backdrop, it is tragic that the Obama administration has removed equipment needed by our troops in Afghanistan in order to woo the Turkish government and support its fight against terrorism. Never did the White House or State Department use their leverage to demand that Turkey accept a common definition of terrorism that would not give Palestinian and anti-Israel groups a free pass.
The liberal writer Gene Lyons echoes the conventional wisdom when he says, “What’s alarming about the GOP contest isn’t the indecisiveness or poor reasoning processes of Iowa voters. It’s the dismal quality of the choices they’re offered. Is this the best that one of America’s two major political parties can do?”
I’ve argued before that what will matter in this race isn’t the quality of the field (which I concede is comprised of unusually weak candidates) but the quality of the nominee who emerges. This field will be long forgotten not only years from now, but by the GOP convention in the summer.
This past year was another very good one for the Fox News Channel, which continued its dominance of cable news (in January FNC will have been the #1 cable news channel for 10 years in a row).
The Associated Press, in reporting on the most recent Nielsen ratings, points out that FNC’s average viewership exceeded CNN and MSNBC combined, both in prime time and for the entire day. Fox typically had 1.87 million viewers in prime time this year. The top 13 programs in cable news all aired on Fox. And Fox was the only cable news network to place in the top 10 list of cable channels in both prime time and entire day.
Yesterday, I noted that one of the downsides of the Obama administration’s heavy reliance on drone strikes is that it eliminates the option of capturing and interrogating terrorist suspects. Admittedly, that may not be possible in many instances anyway, but the intelligence payoff from interrogation (and also seizure of documents) is much higher than from simple elimination.
Today, the Wall Street Journal notes another potential downside: the possibility of getting played by an allied intelligence service. In this case, the Journal writes, the U.S. government now suspects that the Joint Special Operations Command was being set up by the president of Yemen to eliminate one of his rivals in 2010 when a U.S. missile killed six people, including the deputy governor of one of the country’s provinces. This kind of mishap is a distinct danger when U.S. agencies use lethal force in countries where our intelligence-gathering capacity (especially in terms of human intelligence) is distinctly limited. This sort of thing was all too common in the early days in Afghanistan and Iraq, both places where U.S. troops were inadvertently drawn into local political rivalries.
As we approach the eve of the Iowa caucus, the broad outlines of the GOP race remains what it has been from the beginning: Mitt Romney is doing well among less conservative/non-Tea Party voters while the more conservative voters have not coalesced around any alternative to Romney. And contrary to the impression of some, Romney is not deeply disliked by most conservative voters. He may not be their first choice, but he’s done more than enough to make him acceptable to most Republicans. Governor Romney may not inspire passionate support on the right, but neither does he inspire passionate opposition.
Beyond that, National Journal’s Ron Brownstein points out that since 1980, no Republican (in a contested race) has won both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. In fact, the pattern has been the same: one candidate wins in Iowa, another wins in New Hampshire, and one of those two wins in South Carolina– and, eventually, the nomination.
In recent months, a new theme has replaced the media’s past obsession with Israel’s alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians. While abuse of Israel on this count is by no means over, with no humanitarian crisis in Hamas-ruled Gaza to trumpet and the Palestinians’ obvious disinterest in peace, the Israel-bashers have turned to a different theme: the imminent end of Israeli democracy.
Stories about proposed laws seeking to regulate non-governmental organizations, press disputes, clashes with the ultra-Orthodox and the treatment of women have often been combined to put forward the idea that the Jewish state is in the grips of a neo-fascist right-wing that is fast on its way to ending democracy and installing a theocracy that would no longer be seen as sharing values with the United States. But though Israel is beset, as is any democracy, with serious social problems and partisan clashes over a host of issues, the idea that democracy there is in any danger is a figment of the imagination of the country’s left-wing critics. Rather than being in decline, it is, if anything, more vibrant than ever.
The Washington Post is right to note that Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for possible new sanctions on its oil exports are in all probability empty posturing. Iran, after all, needs to send its own oil exports (for example to China) through the Strait. Closing it would hurt Tehran above all, while the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states could reroute some of their exports via pipelines.
There is also the fact that Iranian military action is unlikely to succeed–it would meet a devastating response from the U.S. Fifth Fleet and potentially from the armed forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In fact, the last time Iran tried this trick–that would be in the 1980s–it lost a “tanker war” against the United States. Tehran has certainly developed some fresh capabilities since, especially in terms of mines, cruise missiles, and speed boats–including probably suicide boats. All of that would make Iran a serious nuisance and might allow the Iranians to close the Strait temporarily. But there is little doubt that the Iranians
ultimately would come out on the losing end of any ensuing conflict. Moreover, by initiating military action, they would provide the U.S. just the excuse we need to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations.
A month ago, Jeffrey Goldberg provoked a fair amount of scorn for proclaiming his belief that Barack Obama would “save Israel” from a nuclear Iran. But though Goldberg’s faith in the president’s willingness to use force to stop the Iranian nuclear program goes against everything we’ve learned about Obama in the last three years, Washington appears to be trying to sell the same bill of goods to the Israelis. As Eli Lake reported yesterday in the Daily Beast, “the Obama administration is trying to assure Israel privately that it would strike Iran militarily if Tehran’s nuclear program crosses certain ‘red lines,’ while attempting to dissuade the Israelis from acting unilaterally.”
Given the problems a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran would entail, these assurances might be enough to dissuade the Netanyahu government from acting on its own. But given the contradictory signals the administration has been sending about the use of force on Iran and the differences between the two countries over intelligence on the threat that Lake reports, there is little reason for Jerusalem to be comforted by Obama’s promises. Israel’s leaders would be well advised to see this latest shift on Iran as intended more to convince American voters of the president’s good intentions than to make Tehran step back from the brink.
Some of the die-hard Ron Paul supporters have come up with a few imaginative ideas about the origins of the ongoing “anti-Paul smear campaign” (their term for the totally legitimate investigation into Paul’s racist newsletters). Take, for example, this comically delusional “oppo” file on Jamie Kirchick, the journalist who broke the newsletter story in 2008, that’s apparently being emailed to reporters. I won’t give it all away, but the thesis is that Kirchick and Newt Gingrich orchestrated the scandal at the behest of the military industrial complex (there are charts).
But Paul himself may have come up with an even more convoluted theory about why some presidential candidates get bad press. On Feb. 18, 2001, Paul reportedly appeared on the now-defunct Radio Free America, a talk show created by prolific Holocaust denier Willis Carto. Here’s part of the transcript of the show, which was published in Carto’s anti-Semitic newsletter in March of 2001:
Two months ago, just as Herman Cain’s campaign was about to start to unravel, I wrote that perhaps it was Rick Santorum’s turn for a surge. I was, of course, wrong. It was Newt Gingrich’s turn back at the end of October and the beginning of November to take off and to be, at least for a few weeks, something of a frontrunner. But with only days to go before voters in Iowa cast the first actual votes of the caucus/primary season, it looks like Santorum’s moment has arrived. A CNN/Time/ORC poll released on Wednesday shows Santorum surging ahead of his competitors for the social conservative vote into third place among likely caucus goers with 16 percent.
Santorum’s timing is impeccable. With Gingrich collapsing (the poll shows him fading to fourth place with only 14 percent, which is down from 33 percent less than a month ago) and Michele Bachmann’s campaign in chaos as her Iowa chairman defected to Ron Paul yesterday, the former Pennsylvania senator looks to be in excellent shape to win what he called the “conservative primary” over Bachmann and Rick Perry.