Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal is a very good writer and a very smart man. But his claim that President Obama’s slimmed down version of his most recent State of the Union address – a speech Obama has taken on the road – is “soaring out in the country” is fairly wide of the mark.
We just learned, for example, that only 36 percent of likely voters grade the Obama administration’s handling of the economy at good or excellent, while a huge number — 62 percent — grade the president at fair to poor, with poor collecting the largest number: 45 percent. Now I recognize that people could like Obama’s speeches and disapprove of his policies. But in the end, they will (unlike 2008) cast their vote based on his deeds rather than his words. And Henninger’s claim that Obama is the “maestro” of the “inner melodies of life in America these days” isn’t something I detect when looking at polling data or, frankly, much else.
As Florida voters went to the polls on Tuesday, those journalists trolling for evidence of a shift in the Jewish vote seized on a slight decline in Jewish turnout in the Republican primary as proof the GOP hadn’t made much progress. Those who did so were mistaken, because the sample size was so small and the willingness of Jews to change registration to vote in a primary isn’t indicative of how they’ll actually vote in November. But a new Pew Research Poll released this afternoon about party affiliation provides clear proof that a long-awaited shift among Jews away from the Democrats may have begun.
Republicans have gained nine percentage points in the last three years among Jewish voters polled about whether they identify with or lean toward either party. In 2008, Democrats led among Jews by a hefty 72 to 20 percent. In 2011, the margin was 65 to 29 percent. While that still gives the Democrats a commanding lead among Jews, the gain for the GOP could be enough to significantly affect a few states where the voting may be close this fall. Just as importantly, while some of this could be attributed to general dissatisfaction with the administration’s record on the economy, it will be difficult for Democrats to argue it is not also at least partly the fault of President Obama’s quarrels with Israel during the last three years.
The trade union movement has been feeling its oats lately. It has the strong support of President Obama, who is counting on union manpower to help his re-election effort. Unions also flexed their muscles in Wisconsin as they threatened Governor Scott Walker with recall for having the temerity to change the laws that enabled state workers to collectively bargain the state into bankruptcy. But they suffered a major defeat yesterday when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a right-to-work statute recently passed by the legislature there. The bill curtails the ability of unions to compel non-members to join or pay fees as a price of employment.
The measure is yet another indication that the American people understand that while unions serve a purpose, their political agenda is more about power and leverage than the rights of workers. The concept of the “union shop” in which the government allows workers to be bullied and taxed into submission is repugnant. It also is the underlying factor behind the trend by which powerful municipal and state unions have used their leverage to win contracts taxpayers cannot afford. Though Indiana, like the battles over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, is just one front in a wide-ranging battle to overturn the tyranny of union thuggery, it is a signal triumph that should encourage other states to do the same (currently only 23 states have right-to-work laws).
President Obama counts Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as among his favorite leaders, and successive American ambassadors to Turkey—Eric Edelman being the exception—bought the notion that Erdoğan truly sought to liberalize, modernize, and democratize Turkey. Erdoğan has just put to rest the idea this was his goal. Speaking to an assembly from his ruling party, Erdoğan addressed criticism leveled by the main secular opposition party:
“Do you expect the conservative democrat AK Party to raise atheist generations? This may be your business and objective but not ours. We will raise a generation that is conservative and democratic and embraces the values and historical principles of its nation.”
Jeffrey Anderson, writing in The Weekly Standard, makes an excellent point:
In President Obama’s first budget, entitled (with no apparent sense of irony) “A New Era of Responsibility,” he projected that the federal budget deficit in 2012 would be a rather hefty $581 billion. Fast-forwarding three years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now projects that it will instead be $1.079 trillion, meaning that, if the CBO is right, Obama was wrong by $498,000,000,000. To put that into perspective, that roughly half-trillion dollar margin of error is more than Obama allocated in this year’s budget for Medicare. Medicare could magically have become free for 2012, and the deficit would still have exceeded Obama’s earlier estimate.
It got lost in the shuffle on Tuesday night as most of us were focused on Mitt Romney’s big Florida win and Newt Gingrich’s graceless and weird non-concession speech, but conservative personality Joseph Farah said something on Sean Hannity’s “Fox News” program that is a reminder of just how crazy contemporary politics can get. Farah was on a panel with Bob Beckel and Gretchen Hamel when the question of possible Republican vice presidential candidates came up:
“[Sen. Marco] Rubio’s not eligible,” Farah said.
“What do you mean?” host Sean Hannity asked.
“You’re going to lose 10% of the Republican vote because he is not a natural born citizen. We’ve been through this with Obama now for four years,” Farah explained.
“I don’t believe that. I don’t think that’s going to work,” Hannity said.
Hannity is, of course, right. This bizarre attack on Rubio won’t work because Rubio was born in Miami and therefore is a natural born citizen of the United States and ten percent of Republican voters aren’t nuts. But this exchange illustrates just how deep-seated the virus of conspiracy mongering is in our political culture. After eight years of crackpot lies about George W. Bush and 9/11 that was followed by three plus years of Obama birth certificate lunacy, we have now arrived at a point where “birtherism” is a bipartisan form of insanity.
Earlier this week, the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it would no longer be providing funding for organizations under investigation by governmental agencies. Thanks to this new policy, grants to Planned Parenthood (which totaled $680,000 last year) would cease. Planned Parenthood immediately released a statement calling the decision “deeply disturbing and disappointing” and within the same press release used the news as a fundraising opportunity (it worked – they’ve raised more than $400,000).
The left immediately went into spin mode, claiming the funds were used for breast screenings and without Komen’s grants, women’s health would be jeopardized. The funds, they claim, went only towards what they were granted to cover: breast screening and education. Remember the part about Planned Parenthood being under congressional investigation? In part, it’s due to charges over misappropriation of funds. Life News goes into detail on the charges:
A congressional committee has taken the first steps in investigating the Planned Parenthood abortion business over abuses ranging from financial disparities to its compliance with federal regulations on taxpayer funding to concerns that it is covering up cases of sex trafficking.
Bahrain is strategically important and an incredibly diverse country, not only ethnically (with Arabs and those of Persian origin, not to mention South Asians and Filipinos if one includes the expatriate workers), but also religiously: The majority are Shi’ite Muslims, the ruling and more elite class are Sunni Muslims, and there are also a number of Christians and Jewish families, the latter mostly of Iraqi origin centuries ago. The Bahraini ambassador to the United States is Jewish.
Because most of the opposition is Shi’ite, there is concern in American policy circles and among many journalists that a hidden Iranian hand controls the Bahraini opposition. This translates into concern that meaningful reform would usher in a period of Iranian domination.
At first, you might think Eric Holder’s testimony this morning was hypocritical. After all, he defiantly echoed the Bush administration’s defense of the separation of powers that drove liberals absolutely crazy. (Watch this Jon Stewart interview with John Bolton from 2007 in which Stewart gets so frustrated by the executive privilege argument he tells Bolton to “man up.” I’m sure he’ll be telling Holder to “man up” any day now.)
But in truth, Holder’s defense of executive privilege was perfectly consistent with the Obama administration’s position on this all along. For example, here’s a McClatchy dispatch about a move Obama made immediately upon assuming office:
At a national security conference in Herzliya today, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that the Iranian regime has “already built missile capacity,” and cited reports it is developing a missile with a reach of 10,000 kilometers – a range that was “aimed at America, not us,” he added.
“The clock keeps ticking,” said Ya’alon. “We should be talking sooner rather than later…So if anyone here is scared or fears the prospects for the Middle East and the world, they should be determined in the next few months to take steps against the nuclear action in Iran.”
For many liberals these days, defining religious liberty is more a matter of circumstance and fashion than principle. Thus, when a plan was put forward to build a Muslim community center and mosque in the shadow of New York’s Ground Zero, the mere expression of concern such a decision was insensitive to the victims and families of the 9/11 attacks was taken as a sign that opponents of the project sought to repeal the First Amendment. The right of prisoners to practice their faiths is often allowed to trump other concerns. The Supreme Court has made it imperative the government must have a compelling reason to impinge in any way on the right of believers to observe religious rights and customs. But this belief in the value of diversity only goes so far. Thus, when President Obama chooses to force Catholic institutions to pay for services for their employees that the principles of the Church forbid, the government’s abrogation of their religious freedom was seen by many of the same liberal commentators who applauded the ground zero mosque as being of no consequence.
That’s the conundrum the president’s anti-Catholic fiat exposed, and the reaction to it from much of our chattering classes is hardly encouraging for those who worry about the government’s willingness to trample on the rights of believers. One needn’t agree with the Vatican’s stand on contraception to understand that if the law regards the government health care agenda as being more sacred than the rights of Catholics not to be forced to subsidize practices they abhor, then the principle of religious liberty in our country truly is in danger.
The anti-Israel animus of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is no secret, nor is the widespread anti-Semitism of many Turkish officials, anti-Semitism that ranges from classic conspiracy theories to an endorsement of the view that any Jew who believes a strong, democratic Israel is a positive interest somehow harbors dual loyalties.
A few days ago, I wrote a short blog post about the discussion in Turkey about whether or not to become the new host to Hamas, now that the group is seeking to flee Syria, its long term sponsor. I noted that Syria remained on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List largely because it hosted so many terrorist groups.
In the sound bite heard ’round the world, Mitt Romney said in an interview yesterday with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
O’Brien jumped in. ”There are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, ’That sounds odd,’” she said.
“Well, finish the sentence, Soledad,” Romney replied. “I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them. We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor. And there’s no question, it’s not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor. But my campaign is focused on middle-income Americans. You can choose where to focus, you can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus. My focus is on middle income Americans. Retirees living on Social Security, people who can’t find work, folks that have kids that are getting ready to go to college. These are the people most badly hurt during the Obama years. We have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor. But the middle income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.”
Here, in one sentence, is the gist of Frank Jacob’s 1,500-word op-ed in the New York Times this week: Divided cities are bad, and we should strive to reunite them – except for Jerusalem, which we should instead strive to redivide, even though it will likely mean building a wall through its heart. “In a place where there’s no middle ground,where you’re either from one side or the other, it’s hard to see how a case can be made that both parts of the city belong together, and should grow together,” he pontificated. “Even [former West Berlin Mayor and German Chancellor] Willy Brandt would agree.”
I have no doubt Brandt would agree if he were still alive; most Europeans do. But here’s who wouldn’t agree: a sizable minority, and quite possibly a majority, of those East Jerusalem Palestinians whom Jacobs and his fellow pundits so blithely advocate tearing away from Israel.
I’ve spent the last several days in Bahrain, meeting with both government officials and members of the opposition. While I began my trip expecting protests on February 14, the anniversary of last year’s demonstrations and crackdowns on the Pearl Roundabout, I am leaving more pessimistic.
This was my first trip to Bahrain in 18 years, since I lived in the tiny Persian Gulf island nation for a summer. Since that time, the development in Bahrain has been astounding. What once was a dusty backwater with a very limited amount of oil has seen massive development. Alas, this has not trickled down to the population—with its sectarian divisions—evenly. I am not one who believes wealth must be distributed equally; what disturbs me more is the opportunity gap.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Israel, which is aimed at restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, got off on the wrong foot today. Or, to be more specific, it got off on the wrong shoes – dozens of which were pelted at Ban’s convoy by irate Palestinian protesters, along with sticks and stones, as he rode through Gaza. The UN chief is on his way to a national security conference in Herzliya, where he’s slated to give the keynote address tonight. The Jerusalem Post reports on the attack:
No one was injured during the hostile welcome and the vehicles, which entered the Hamas-ruled territory from southern Israel through the Erez crossing, pushed through the crowd and sped away. …
Many of those who protested as the UN convoy passed were family members of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. They hit the vehicles with signs bearing slogans accusing Ban of bias towards Israel and of refusing to meet the relatives of Palestinian prisoners.