Join us Saturday night as senior online editor Jonathan S. Tobin live blogs the latest Republican presidential debate from New Hampshire. So tune in to ABC at 9 pm and then log on to Commentarymagazine.com for live insights as the remaining GOP contenders have at it yet again.
Posts For: January 6, 2012
Major League baseball gave up scheduled doubleheaders decades ago, but the Republican presidential contest is serving up what amounts to one this weekend on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. The remaining contenders will face off at 9 p.m., on Saturday night at Anselm College in Manchester. The same sextet will repeat the exercise less than 12 hours later on NBC’s “Meet the Press” at 9 a.m., on Sunday. But while some observers will be looking for signs of fatigue on the weary candidates, the main focus will be on two men: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
The pair were separated by only eight votes in the final results in Iowa this past Tuesday, and both are hoping for strong performances this weekend in order to maintain their momentum. Romney is a prohibitive favorite in New Hampshire and will, as he largely has done in the past, try to remain above the fray and concentrate his fire on President Obama. While Santorum is in no position to challenge Romney for the top spot in the Granite State, if he can somehow parlay the buzz about Iowa into a second place finish that would put him in a strong position for the crucial contest in South Carolina on January 15. That means he, and the rest of the field — and especially Newt Gingrich, who blames Romney for the collapse of his campaign — will probably be attacking Romney in the two debates. But Romney won’t be the only one in the crosshairs. Both Rick Perry and Ron Paul will likely concentrate their fire on Santorum as they try to keep him from turning the GOP battle into a two-man race.
Against the backdrop of the Pentagon budget cuts, recouping several hundred million dollars by selling the new generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to allies might at first glance make sense. Certainly, there will be no shortage of trustworthy customers, not only in Western Europe but also in Israel and Japan. Yesterday, Turkey announced that it plans to purchase the plane as well. While Turkey is part of the consortium which constructed the plane, the contract to have Turkey contribute to the fuselage was more a diplomatic bone to throw than a necessity. Turkey, however, has had no role in the stealth aspect of the plane nor the cutting edge software and electronics which make the F-35 possible.
Since that original deal was struck, the Turkish intelligence service has been taken over by a pro-Iranian functionary; the Turkish military which the Pentagon saw as a strategic asset has become a shadow of its former self; the Turkish Air Force has conducted war games with China; and the Turkish government has threatened military action against both Cyprus and Israel. To sell Turkey technology upon which the U.S. national defense will depend for a generation to come makes about as much strategic sense as selling Pakistan the home addresses of CIA operatives, or selling blueprints for nuclear warheads.
There are many salient points to make about President Obama’s terribly unwise plan to cut $500 billion in defense spending during the next decade. But I want to focus on what I think it reveals about the worldview of America’s 44th president.
The one unequivocal area in which the federal government should be involved in is national defense. And our military is the one area which Gallup reports Americans trust more than any other American institution. According to a recent survey, 78 percent of those polled say they have a great deal of confidence in the U.S. military (versus 12 percent for Congress). And that trust is well-earned; the military has performed its tasks with extraordinary skill. And yet it is the military, more than any area in the federal government, that is now being asked to absorb the brunt of budget cuts – even though we’re still a nation at war. It is a striking thing to witness.
The latest signs that Iran is getting closer to achieving its nuclear ambitions will test President Obama’s obvious reluctance to enforce crippling sanctions against the Islamist regime. Reuters reports the Iranians are taking steps to commence nuclear enrichment at a plant inside a mountain.
The activities at the site, a hardened bunker at Fordow, is near the Shiite holy city of Qom, make it harder for the West to pretend Iran is not getting closer to nuclear capability. It also ought to increase pressure on the Obama administration to start using the tools Congress has given it to put pressure on Iran.
With just days to go until the New Hampshire primary, Mitt Romney has widened his lead on the rest of the field, and Rick Santorum has seen a sizeable post-caucus bump, according to today’s Rasmussen poll. This makes it all but certain Romney will have a substantial victory next week:
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters in New Hampshire finds Romney earning 42 percent support. Texas Congressman Ron Paul is a distant second with 18 percent of the vote, followed by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, hot off his photo finish with Romney in the Iowa caucuses, at 13 percent. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who has focused his campaign efforts on New Hampshire, captures 12 percent support.
Yesterday, Rick Santorum was jeered when he told a crowd of college students in Concord, New Hampshire, that legalizing gay marriage was no different from legalizing polygamy. The exchange brought into focus the former Pennsylvanian senator’s strength of convictions and solid powers of reasoning. But it also illustrated why his social conservative views that were so helpful to his solid performance in the Iowa caucuses may be a liability in a general election.
In the course of a question-and-answer session with students at New England College, Santorum asked a student who criticized his opposition to gay marriage if it was okay for two consenting adults of the same sex to marry, why not three or five? The students didn’t seem willing to concede the logic of his reasoning, but even if he’s right, given the sea change in mainstream America about gay rights, Santorum was making a stronger argument for legalizing polygamy than banning gay marriage.
Late last month, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) tweeted an endorsement of an article by Gareth Porter regarding political myths about Iran. Porter’s methodology is questionable, but for NIAC the conclusion is more important than the evidence. Embracing Porter’s work is curious, however, for a group that purports to be mainstream. After all, Porter is best known for his apologetics for the Khmer Rouge’s mass murder and genocide.
Hint to NIAC: If you want people on Capitol Hill to listen and become more sympathetic to the Islamic Republic’s policy positions, there are probably better ways to go about it.
I agree with Pete and Alana–and many others around the blogosphere–that Obama’s mini-Putsch two days ago was both lawless and typical of this administration. Obama only cares about his re-election at this point, and if that requires the Constitution to be trashed in the process, well, so be it.
As Alana pointed out, Charles Krauthammer thinks it might be clever politics, however cynical, because the president is arguing he has to get things done and it’s all the Senate’s fault for being obstructionist. I’m not so sure. The American people take the Constitution seriously and have a limited tolerance for
politicians who try to evade it for political purposes. FDR, just off a triumphant re-election (46 of 48 states), tried in 1937 to “pack” the Supreme Court that had been obstructing his programs by adding an extra justice for every justice over 70 years of age. That would have been perfectly constitutional, as Congress has the power to set the number of justices. (There were originally six, and there were 10 after 1863. The number has been fixed at nine since 1869.) But the people would have none of it, and Congress, responding to public opinion, refused to act. It was a devastating political defeat for FDR.
The NAACP has already slammed Newt Gingrich’s comments as going “right to the heart of real racism – that African Americans are lazy and don’t want to work and depend entirely on handouts.” But Gingrich maintains that his words are being distorted by the media. See for yourself; here’s what the candidate said while stumping in New Hampshire yesterday:
“And so I’m prepared if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps,” Gingrich said earlier today in Plymouth, N.H.
A constant refrain from conservatives in the past few months has been that Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy is merely a re-run of past failed runs by GOP moderates like Bob Dole and John McCain. According to their reasoning, a candidate like Romney can’t fire up the Republican base and get them to turn out (the conceit behind Karl Rove’s successful campaigns for George W. Bush) in large enough numbers to win in November. Even more than that, conservatives assert that more Americans will be attracted to a conviction conservative (i.e. Ronald Reagan) than to a wishy-washy Republican who tried to be all things to all people. Romney’s centrist appeal to independents is, they claim, a snare that has trapped the GOP into putting up certain losers.
While Romney and his supporters have treated this line of attack as more the result of self-interest by his rivals than genuine analysis, these are serious arguments, and the former Massachusetts governor’s chance to win the nomination will turn on his ability to answer such challenges. Even more importantly, with the rise of Rick Santorum, it must be conceded that Republicans now have someone who is, as Charles Krauthammer noted this week on Fox News, plausibly presidential and who might actually test the conservative thesis.
The monthly jobs report was released this morning at 8:30, and it showed a net of 200,000 new jobs and an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent.
That’s unequivocal good news for President Obama. The number of jobs was higher than economists were predicting (155,000) and the unemployment rate lower (8.7 percent was the consensus forecast). The rate is the lowest since February 2009, and 1.6 million jobs were added in 2011, although the country is still 6.1 million below where it was in December 2007, when the recession officially began. Even construction, a hard-hit sector, gained jobs last month.
Last night, Turkish security forces arrested İlker Başbuğ, the former head of the Turkish General Staff. Headlines charge that Başbuğ was involved in a coup plot and emphasize that a civilian court handed down the warrant. This is like exculpating the Iranian judiciary for its targeting of liberals and secularists. After all, in Turkey, Prime Minister Erdoğan and his Islamist ruling party long ago subverted the independence of the judiciary. Nor should liberals and proponents of democracy cheer Başbuğ’s arrest. Scratching beneath the headlines, the true charge is that Başbuğ criticized the ruling party’s turn away from secularism in writing.
Now, it may seem out of place in an American context for a senior military officer to criticize the ruling party, even if only in a memorandum. When Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s aides were quoted indiscreetly discussing politics, for example, President Obama sacked McChrystal and rightly so. But, Turkey has operated under a different system, one in which the Turkish military was the ultimate guarantor of the constitution. Turkey’s Islamists never honored the constitution, nor brought into the notion of democracy. As Erdoğan famously quipped, “Democracy is like a street car: You ride it as far as you need, and then you get off.”
After his near-win in Iowa, and his jump to the head of the “not Romney” line, Rick Santorum received the expected scrutiny of his record on conservative issues. While most of the candidates have a few spots on their records, a video making the rounds today demonstrates why Santorum’s conservative apostasies may be more difficult for the base to forgive: He seems to think there isn’t much room for Tea Party and libertarian priorities within the Republican Party.
In South Carolina, the polls are showing the same trend we’ve been seeing on repeat throughout the GOP race: the hot new rising star (in this case, Rick Santorum) is skyrocketing in the polls, while the old one (in this case, Newt Gingrich) is fading fast.
Exactly one month ago, Gingrich had peaked in South Carolina, leading the field at 42 percent in the NBC News/Marist poll. Today, he’s dropped down to third place, with just 18 percent in today’s Rasmussen poll. Meanwhile, Santorum – who was clocking in at 1 or 2 percent support last month – is now the frontrunner:
Birthright Israel held its January “mega-event” Wednesday in Jerusalem. Attended by approximately 3,000 young Jews from 15 countries, it is one of a series of large-scale events Birthright occasionally puts on in order to bring together the various groups touring Israel at the same time.
Through it, it’s possible to glimpse the realities of an emerging diaspora Jewish identity that receives little attention and holds within it both positives and negatives for the Jewish future.
The New York Times today has another example of my favorite kind of editorial–the self-refuting kind. The Times editors applaud President Obama’s new defense strategy for a “A Leaner Pentagon” and even fret that a renewed focus on the Pacific could justify “unrestrained” spending (this at a time of plummeting defense spending). Then the editors add what is known in the trade as a “to be sure” paragraph:
Still, the United States must be ready to face multiple contingencies. Our own chilling list includes a collapsing Pakistan, another state hijacked by al-Qaeda, Iran blocking oil shipping as it pursues its nuclear ambitions or a weak or unbalanced North Korean leader making a suicidal run across the South Korean border.