The final results from Tuesday’s voting are not in yet, but it’s already clear it’s been a great night for Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator has won the “beauty contest” in Missouri as well as the Minnesota caucus. Even if that turns out to be balanced by a win for Mitt Romney in the Colorado caucus, the day will still be judged a big win for Santorum. This will give him a big leg up over Newt Gingrich in the competition to be the leading “non Romney” in the GOP race. But if this means the beginning of the end for Gingrich, it may also concentrate the frontrunner’s attention on his surging conservative rival. If so, that may lead to a new round of ads and statements from the Romney campaign blasting Santorum.
But the assumption that a Romney “carpet bombing” of Santorum would achieve the same result as the attacks on Gingrich that have helped derail the former speaker’s presidential hopes is mistaken. Going negative on Gingrich merely reinforced the public’s doubts of the speaker’s character and record. To try and do the same thing against a candidate who has come across as the nicest guy left in the race might boomerang on Romney.
Once again, Newt Gingrich vowed tonight on CNN to take the Republican presidential race to the convention in Tampa. To back up his vow, he compared this contest to the GOP race in 1976 when the Ronald Reagan insurgency against incumbent President Gerald Ford took the fight to that convention and came close to winning. But Gingrich’s comparison is ridiculous for a number of reasons.
First of all, that battle was a two-man race between Reagan and Ford. The current GOP race involves four candidates. But, of course, the conceit of Gingrich’s comparison is that of the candidates. He’s casting Mitt Romney in the role of Ford and himself as the new Gipper. Romney may deserve the Ford comparison, as he is a relative moderate and the choice of most of the party establishment to the extent that one actually exists. But the big difference is Gingrich is no Ronald Reagan.
Last week the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced that it was ending funding to Planned Parenthood after the remainder of its current grants had been paid out. After an explosion of outrage from the left, Komen days later announced it would continue to fund Planned Parenthood in an effort to appease the powerful pro-abortion lobby. Many credited the initial decision to their new Senior Vice President for Policy Karen Handel, a pro-life Republican who had just been defeated in her bid for Governor of Georgia. With Handel’s resignation today, it has become clear that the cancer organization will continue to provide funding to the largest abortion provider in the United States.
With this controversy Planned Parenthood has sent a clear signal: Reevaluate our funding at your peril. It doesn’t matter why you put a stop to your support, we have millions of pro-abortion supporters in the public and media ready to unleash a campaign of vitriol against your organization if you cross us.
Dislike of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a constant theme of the Obama administration. While President Obama has cuddled up to an Islamist troublemaker and human rights violator like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he has made no secret of his abhorrence of Netanyahu. Obama has tried to humiliate Netanyahu and has abused him in public (via an open microphone while chatting with French President Sarkozy). Indeed, American policy toward Israel in 2009 seemed aimed at forcing the newly elected Netanyahu from office. Those maneuvers failed and the U.S. foreign policy establishment as well as its European counterparts settled down to wait for Netanyahu to be beaten at the next election.
It’ll be a long wait for Netanyahu’s critics as his government, which Obama thought was so unstable that it might be supplanted with a more pliant one led by Kadima’s Tzipi Livni, seems likely to last until the prime minister is ready to ask the Israeli electorate for another term. But whether he chooses to go for an early election sometime this year or wait out the full four years that would leave him in office until 2013, right now it appears as if he is certain to win the next election. That’s the verdict of Shmuel Rosner, who writes in the International Herald Tribune (read here on the New York Times website) that not only is Netanyahu favored to win the next Israeli election, party realignment there means he is pretty much the only person who has any chance to lead the government.
Yesterday’s executive order signed by President Obama enforcing a total ban on transactions with any entity doing business with Iran’s Central Bank is the lever by which an international oil embargo of the Islamic state can be put in place. In order to prepare for this eventuality, American diplomats have in recent weeks been urging Saudi Arabia to step up oil production in order to meet the shortfall that will exist once Iran’s exports are shut down. But as this report from Reuters shows, its not entirely clear whether the uptick in Saudi oil supply will be used by China to supplant Iran’s petroleum or if it is just looking for leverage in order to get a better deal in future contracts with Tehran.
According to Reuters, China has been taking seriously the possibility of a cutoff in Iranian oil and has been looking to pick up any supplies it can get elsewhere. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that oil traders in China believe that Unipec, an entity that represents the country’s top refiner in such deals, is buying up Saudi oil specifically in order to bolster its position in future deals with Iran. That means the American belief that it can orchestrate the financial isolation of the Iranians may be a trifle optimistic.
The Swiss government has started an inquiry into a statement by Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s minister for European Union affairs, in which Bağış stated that the Armenians suffered no genocide. According to a report in the Turkish press, Bağış said, “There is no Armenian genocide. Let them arrest me.” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ commented on the incident, “Can’t a minister of a country express his views speaking in another country? It’s ridiculous.”
While I’m not in favor of laws restricting the speech, no matter how wrong the speaker, Bağış and Bozdağ’s stand is rich considering that Bağış – with the apparent blessing of Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador in Washington – tried to sue me into silence after I wrote a series of articles criticizing Turkish government policies. Turkish officials believe in free speech for themselves, but seek to censor when speech is used to challenge their ideas.
As Jonathan discussed earlier, today is a big day for the campaign of Rick Santorum. He is in position to possibly win two out of tonight’s three contests. He will also take with him some momentum from the support he has won from conservative media, most notably the recent endorsements from Michelle Malkin and Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey.
Those endorsements are important in part because they help Santorum build a certain narrative: that he can best unite the party. At this point in the process, being the “not-Romney” is less of a draw than it was before Mitt Romney began winning big in the Northeast, South, and West. Luckily for Santorum, Romney has turned his fire on the former Pennsylvania senator, which makes the argument that Santorum is the “not-Romney” without Santorum having to do so himself. Santorum simply doesn’t have the time or money left to build campaign momentum on the claim he belongs in second place. He does have two advantages, however.
Only days after the U.S. Park Police cleared the Occupy DC camp, the Heritage Foundation’s Lachlan Markay reports a new plan from the group: violent occupation of the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference). According to Markay:
The protesters suggested pulling fire alarms in the hotel where the conference will take place, screaming “fire” during conference activities, “glitter-bombing” participants, cutting electrical power, and barricading entrances to the hotel, according to the source, who requested anonymity.
“Speakers will be physically assaulted, not just verbally confronted,” the source told Scribe in an email. Two occupiers, who the source also identified as members of the New Black Panther Party, “said they would be disappointed if they didn’t get arrested and planned to ‘make it count.’”
Here is a follow-up to my earlier item on Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, the army reservist who spent some time last year traveling around Afghanistan helping to assess army equipment and has returned to write an article claiming senior commanders are lying when they say we are making progress.
This is hardly the first op-ed Davis has written. The others are collected on his own website, which suggests he is an aspiring blogger.
The Obama campaign has yet another fundraising scandal to deal with today. This time it’s under fire for selling hideously ugly designer merchandise (seriously, that Beyonce t-shirt looks like something you’d make at day camp) at low, low prices on its website. According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama may be in violation of campaign finance laws for selling these clothes and handbags created for him gratis by celebrities and designers:
Jan Baran, an election lawyer with Wiley Rein LLP, said designers can’t ask employees to work on political projects unless they willingly volunteered their time. “Someone who is paid to do campaign work is not a volunteer,” he said. If the designer or staff are paid by anyone other than the campaign, it would be considered a campaign contribution from a company to a candidate.
The Obama campaign said the gear complies with campaign-finance rules.
“All of the designers volunteered their personal time to create these great designs,” the campaign said, and were “not underwritten with any corporate funds.”
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s argument wasn’t a defense of gay marriage, per se, but it did find the gay marriage ban passed by California voters was unconstitutional. Law Professor William Jacobson explains the Court’s decision was based on the prior right to same-sex marriage in the state, and its opinion that there wasn’t a compelling state interest in outlawing it:
The Court essentially used a bootstrap argument — that since there was a prior right to same-sex marriage (based on a California Supreme Court decision which gave rise to Prop. 8 ) — the taking away of that right without justification violated the 14th Amendment. Judge N.R. Smith filed a 39-page dissent from this finding.
The Court also held that (i) the supporters of Prop. 8 did have standing to defend the law, deferring to the Certified Opinion of the California Supreme Court, and (ii) trial court Judge Walker did not have to recuse himself based on his own longterm same-sex relationship. These two findings were unanimous.
Back on Oct. 21, when President Obama announced he would withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, he reassured the world the U.S. would still stay deeply engaged in Iraq. ”This will be a strong and enduring partnership,” he promised. “With our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead, we’ll help Iraqis strengthen institutions that are just, representative and accountable. We’ll build new ties of trade and of commerce, culture and education, that unleash the potential of the Iraqi people. We’ll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq’s sovereignty.”
That was then, this is now. Today, the New York Times reports: ”Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.”
At the end of his Wall Street Journal column last week on the Syrian protests and Russia’s investment in keeping the Assad regime in power, Fouad Ajami writes: “More likely, the contest will be decided on the ground. Both the regime and the oppositionists who have paid so dearly in this cruel struggle are betting that time is on their side.”
The Assad regime will find much more comfort along those lines in today’s visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov than will the opposition. Here is how Lavrov’s meeting with Bashar al-Assad is being characterized in the media:
“We have had a very productive visit with the leadership of Syria,” Mr. Lavrov said, according to Russia’s Ria Novosti news service. “We have confirmed our preparedness to facilitate a rapid end to the crisis based on the positions set out in the Arab League initiative. In particular, the president of Syria gave assurance that he is fully committed to an end to violence, no matter its source.”
Mr. Lavrov also said that Mr. Assad was prepared to hold talks with representatives of Syria’s opposition. “It is clear that efforts for ending the violence should be accompanied by dialogue between political forces,” he said. “Today we received confirmation from the president of Syria that he is prepared to cooperate in this effort.”
There was something interesting about the reaction to the consummation of the Fatah-Hamas unity pact yesterday. The agreement, which confirmed the entry of the Islamist terrorist group into the governing structure of the Palestinian Authority and the exit of the PA’s reform-minded Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, provoked the expected harsh words from Israel’s government. In Washington, the reaction from the Obama administration was equally predictable as the State Department spokesperson withheld judgment. Some members of Congress served notice that the PA’s embrace of Hamas meant the end of U.S. aid.
But the main conclusion to be drawn from the reaction to what can only be termed a momentous turn of events is something entirely different. The lack of alarm or even much worry about the impact of Hamas on the peace process makes it clear not only is there no more peace process to worry about, but that the Palestinians have made themselves irrelevant.
Today marks the debut of the Washington Free Beacon, an innovative Website for news of a particular stripe—an anti-Leftist stripe. The editor is Matthew Continetti, long of the Weekly Standardand the author of a splendid book on the depradations of Jack Abramoff and a highly provocative one on the persecution of Sarah Palin. If you go to the site, you will find an abundance of early riches there. But by far the most interesting is Continetti’s own explanation for the Beacon’s existence, a tour de force essay called “Combat Journalism” that offers a history of the ideological wars within journalism and Washington and the non-profit world over the past 30 years. “What would happen,” Continetti asks, “if a website covered the left in the same way that the left covers the right? What picture of the world would one have in mind if the morning paper read like the New York Times—but with the subjects of the stories and the assumptions built into the text changed to reflect a conservative, not liberal, worldview? What would happen if the media wolf pack suddenly had to worry about an aerial hunting operation? You are about to find out.” The site seems to be having some birthing pains at the moment, but if you can’t reach it, bookmark it at www.freebeacon.com and visit it frequently. It’s certain to be a major player in this year’s battles.
A new Gallup poll out today finds that the majority of Iranians are bracing for the latest round of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe, while nearly half are already struggling economically. News of the financial hardships has the New York Times worrying the U.S. is breeding resentment in Iran:
Yet this economic burden is falling largely on the middle class, raising the prospect of more resentment against the West and complicating the effort to deter Iran’s nuclear program — a central priority for the Obama administration in this election year.
Of all the Arab countries which have overthrown dictators, Tunisia probably provides the most cause for optimism, despite the election of an Islamist government. While the Arab Spring turns chilly in so many countries, the Tunisian government has appeared determined both to develop Tunisia and to accept the accountability for which the Tunisian people arose.
How disappointing it is, then, that Ennahda—Tunisia’s supposedly moderate Islamist party—has decided to divert attention from the real issues Tunisia faces with an anti-gay jihad. Samir Dilou, the former spokesman for Ennahda who now is the Tunisian minister for human rights, has reportedly argued that Tunisian gays should not have freedom of speech.
An Army lieutenant colonel named Daniel L. Davis is attracting a lot of attention for this essay he has just published in Armed Forces Journal suggesting that, contrary to what he views as the official line, our forces are losing the war in Afghanistan. Davis traveled extensively around Afghanistan last year on behalf of the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force–designed to get troops the equipment they need–and came back dismayed by what he found. He claims he saw “the absence of success on virtually every level”:
I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.
I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn’t want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.
From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.
After blasting Super PACs as the source of everything evil in politics for the past two years, the Obama campaign has suddenly done an about face and openly started working with one. But, as Jim Messina stressed on the campaign blog last night, it’s not because Obama wants to. No, it’s because he needs to, in order to win the election. And as we all know, winning is more important anything, especially principles and personal integrity:
With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.
Therefore, the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC. We will do so only in the knowledge and with the expectation that all of its donations will be fully disclosed as required by law to the Federal Election Commission.
Cameras don’t lie, but they also do not give the full perspective. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has often received disproportionate attention in the world media because Israel allows freer access to the press than any Arab state.
Perhaps the hardest place to report from is Saudi Arabia, which, according to Reporters Without Frontiers, ranks 158 out of 178 in press freedom. With Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi in the grave, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s grasp on Syria rapidly slipping, Saudi Arabia is perhaps the Middle East’s most authoritarian state. In a region of artificial states, Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most artificial. A general rule-of-thumb is that whenever anyone names a country after himself, that’s an artificial country. Ibn Saud’s creation of Saudi Arabia, in that way, is not unlike “Petoria” in the television show “Family Guy.”