It’s official now. Barack Obama’s ratings are “historically polarized,” according to a new Gallup survey.
Jeffrey Jones of the Gallup organization writes, “The historically high gap between partisans’ job approval ratings of Barack Obama continued during Obama’s third year in office, with an average of 80 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans approving of the job he was doing… The 68-point gap between partisans’ approval ratings of Obama last year is nine points higher than that for any other president’s third year.” Obama, by the way, holds the record for the most polarized first and second years in office, too. Which means Obama has set a record for polarization every year he’s been in office.
Yesterday, the organizers of an upcoming boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) conference at Penn published an op-ed in the university’s Daily Pennsylvanian explaining their effort, which promotes the economic isolation of the Jewish state. In this, they will near-undoubtedly fail.
They may succeed, perhaps unintentionally, however, in another way: by attracting the attention of campus Israel advocates toward them and away from the more subtle and far-reaching problem Israel faces at American universities.
I had some critical things to say about President Obama’s State of the Union address. But the evening was not a total waste, thanks to the response by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
Looking at it simply from the craftsmanship of speechwriting, it’s quite impressive. Several things stand out about it, starting with its tone at the opening, which showed genuine good will toward the president. Grace notes like these are not in oversupply these days. There’s also an economy of words in Daniels’s address, which helps create a sense of movement. One paragraph builds on another.
As the months-long debate dragged on over the term “Israel-firsters,” I’ve wondered when someone on the left would actually stand up and directly condemn it as the anti-Semitic charge that it is. Spencer Ackerman, a national security reporter at Danger Room, is the first to do just that. His essay at Tablet today is sure to draw blowback from his fellow progressives, but it’s an honest and important piece that clearly took a lot of guts and integrity to write.
Read it in full, but here’s a key passage:
Throughout my career, I’ve been associated with the Jewish left—I was to the left of the New Republic staff when I worked there, moved on to Talking Points Memo, hosted my blog at Firedoglake for years, and so on. I’ve criticized the American Jewish right’s myopic, destructive, tribal conception of what it means to love Israel. But it doesn’t deserve to have its Americanness and patriotism questioned. By all means, get into it with people who interpret every disagreement Washington has with Tel Aviv as hostility to the Jewish state. But if you can’t do it without sounding like Pat Buchanan, who has nothing but antipathy and contempt for Jews, then you’ve lost the debate.
This is tiresome to point out. Many of the writers who are fond of the Israel-firster smear are—appropriately—very good at hearing and analyzing dog-whistles when they’re used to dehumanize Arabs and Muslims. I can’t read anyone’s mind or judge anyone’s intention, but by the sound of it these writers are sending out comparable dog-whistles about Jews.
The last time a high-profile Democrat worked toward a bipartisan compromise on an important issue, instead of joining his party in using that issue as an opportunistic campaign ploy, he was run out of the party and had to register as an independent. It was Joe Lieberman’s principled support for the troops in the face of a party-wide Democratic flip-flop on the issue that earned him the title of “the last honest man.”
Now Democrats are witnessing a rerun of the episode on Medicare. Democratic leaders are furious at Oregon Senator Ron Wyden for working with Paul Ryan on a bipartisan Medicare fix–angry enough to go on-the-record with Politico about it. Their argument is they had planned to run more ads where they dress up as Paul Ryan and push a wheelchair-bound retiree off a cliff. Thanks to Wyden, however, their violent costumed fantasies may have to be taken off the table–or at least off-camera:
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had perhaps his best debate last night in Jacksonville. He was, for the most part, forceful and in command. He damaged his main rival, Newt Gingrich, on answers ranging from immigration to Gingrich’s investment portfolio. And Romney was particularly strong at turning the tables on the attacks on his wealth, saying this:
And I know that there may be some who try to make a deal of that [Romney’s wealth and investments], as you have publicly. But look, I think it’s important for people to make sure that we don’t castigate individuals who have been successful and try and, by innuendo, suggest there’s something wrong with being successful and having investments and having a return on those investments. Speaker, you’ve indicated that somehow I don’t earn that money. I have earned the money that I have. I didn’t inherit it. I take risks. I make investments. Those investments lead to jobs being created in America. I’m proud of being successful. I’m proud of being in the free enterprise system that creates jobs for other people. I’m not going to run from that. I’m proud of the taxes I pay. My taxes, plus my charitable contributions, this year, 2011, will be about 40 percent. So, look, let’s put behind this idea of attacking me because of my investments or my money, and let’s get Republicans to say, you know what? What you’ve accomplished in your life shouldn’t be seen as a detriment, it should be seen as an asset to help America.
It’s comforting to see President Obama resist talk of American decline. In the State of the Union, for example, he said: “Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Obama is even going so far as to tout a New Republic essay by Robert Kagan (like me a Romney adviser), based on his forthcoming book “The World America Made.”
Both are an extended–and convincing–argument against the thesis that there is anything inevitable about American decline. Kagan points out that there is nothing new about predictions that our best days are behind us–the same case could have been made, and was made, more convincingly in the 1970s. In fact by most measures of comparative power the U.S. is more powerful than ever today, with only one major rival on the horizon–China–which will have a hard time converting its growing economic power into geopolitical influence to match ours.