Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 1, 2012

The GOP Scorecard So Far

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz, in writing that Mitt Romney’s rivals lack broad support to clinch the GOP nomination, has tallied up the race so far.

Governor Romney has won six of the 11 contests to date. He finished second in four others and third once, in Minnesota’s caucuses. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, has won four contests, finished second in two others, and run third four times and fourth once. (Santorum’s sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on the same day “provided a huge psychological boost,” Balz points out, “but no delegates.”) Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, finished second in the two contests that followed his South Carolina victory (Florida and Nevada) but finished third or fourth in all the contests since. Ron Paul has a pair of seconds in two contests in the Northeast, but the rest of his finishes are thirds or fourths.

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The Washington Post’s Dan Balz, in writing that Mitt Romney’s rivals lack broad support to clinch the GOP nomination, has tallied up the race so far.

Governor Romney has won six of the 11 contests to date. He finished second in four others and third once, in Minnesota’s caucuses. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, has won four contests, finished second in two others, and run third four times and fourth once. (Santorum’s sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on the same day “provided a huge psychological boost,” Balz points out, “but no delegates.”) Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, finished second in the two contests that followed his South Carolina victory (Florida and Nevada) but finished third or fourth in all the contests since. Ron Paul has a pair of seconds in two contests in the Northeast, but the rest of his finishes are thirds or fourths.

All of which leads me to agree with Balz’s conclusion: “Until one of Romney’s rivals begins to show with real consistency an ability to expand his appeal, the former Massachusetts governor, however weakened he may appear at times, will remain the heavy favorite to emerge with the nomination.”

 

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Islamophobia at the BBC

Earlier this week, the director-general of Britain’s license fee-funded BBC, Mark Thompson, gave an astonishing interview, revealing that the BBC consciously and deliberately treats Muslim themes more sensitively than those pertaining to Christianity. A practicing Catholic, he treats Christianity with less sensitivity because it is ‘‘pretty broad-shouldered.’’ Islam, however, is a different story.

Non-Christian faiths are more aligned with ethnicity, he explained, and race is more sensitive, therefore careful treatment is warranted. Moreover, broadcasters must consider the possibility of ”violent threats” when crafting satire:

‘‘Without question, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms,’ is different from, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write.’ This definitely raises the stakes.’’ Read More

Earlier this week, the director-general of Britain’s license fee-funded BBC, Mark Thompson, gave an astonishing interview, revealing that the BBC consciously and deliberately treats Muslim themes more sensitively than those pertaining to Christianity. A practicing Catholic, he treats Christianity with less sensitivity because it is ‘‘pretty broad-shouldered.’’ Islam, however, is a different story.

Non-Christian faiths are more aligned with ethnicity, he explained, and race is more sensitive, therefore careful treatment is warranted. Moreover, broadcasters must consider the possibility of ”violent threats” when crafting satire:

‘‘Without question, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms,’ is different from, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write.’ This definitely raises the stakes.’’

This much has long been obvious to observers of Western media, but that does little to diminish the odium of the admission, because it proudly elevates hypocrisy and double standard (again, both longstanding features of BBC coverage) to policy. For instance, when the BBC aired “Jerry Springer: The Opera” in 2005, it did so in the face of Christian opposition. In the interview, Thompson was asked whether it would have been aired had it dealt with Islamic themes. He said no.

It is noteworthy that the inexplicable obsession with race in Britain – historically less racked with racial, than with religious, conflict – has now impinged on religious sensitivity. This is, in a sense, unsurprising, for those very conflicts engendered a spirit of religious toleration – toleration which made Christianity so ‘‘broad-shouldered.’’ Toleration, of course, is best pursued reciprocally, but, unlike the Hindu, Sikh, and many decent Muslim immigrants to the UK, the Islamists have yet to learn that. Acquiescing to their demands made at bayonet point is, it seems, to forego the very lessons the British learned centuries ago.

Furthermore, the sensitivity afforded to non-Christian faiths because they are more aligned with ethnicity is obviously unfair, not just to Christianity, but to Judaism also, which, though legally considered in racial terms (anti-Semitism falls under race-relations legislation), is culturally not seen as an ethnicity – a category reserved for more recent immigrants. Today, though, Judaism is aligned rather with a nationality, and the BBC’s remarkably biased and even inaccurate reportage of Israel is no less ‘‘insensitive’’ – indeed it is considerably dangerous to the safety of Jews in Britain and elsewhere. Thompson sees insensitivity toward Islam as ‘‘racism by other means’’ towards Muslims. If so, then its treatment of Israel is ‘‘racism by other means’’ toward Jews. The BBC’s ongoing refusal to release its internal Balen Report, which evaluates its coverage of the Middle East, can only continue to inspire the conclusion that the BBC knows this too.

At the end of the day, the ethnicity rationale is nonsense. This is literal Islamphobia: fear of Islamists, and the ‘‘AK-47s’’ they wield and use. There is a welcome debate to be had about the limits of acceptable religious satire, but the BBC cannot have it both ways. And the lesson the BBC appears to be teaching – a lesson we always knew and apparently is also policy – is that complaints get more credence if they are backed up by force.

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Premature Talk About Romney Narrative

There’s a lot of talk these days among pundits that Mitt Romney has “lost his general election narrative.” We’re told he is “suddenly headed for the kind of political and ideological cul-de-sac that losing presidential candidates often end up occupying.” And that despite winning Michigan, “his path to the White House has narrowed considerably.”

So just for fun, I went back and checked where Ronald Reagan stood in March 1980. And here’s what I found (courtesy of Craig Shirley’s excellent book Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America). As Shirley reports,

Reagan may have been doing well with Republican primary voters, but he still wasn’t breaking through to the general population, according to a new poll in the Chicago Sun-Times. The survey showed that in a matchup against Carter, Reagan would get blown out in Illinois, 60-34. [George H.W.] Bush was doing much better against Carter in Illinois, down only 42-36; Anderson was actually doing better than Carter in Illinois.

On Election Day 1980, Reagan beat Carter 50 percent v. 42 percent in Illinois, with John Anderson winning 7 percent of the vote. Reagan, by the way, beat Carter 489 v. 49 in the Electoral College vote.

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There’s a lot of talk these days among pundits that Mitt Romney has “lost his general election narrative.” We’re told he is “suddenly headed for the kind of political and ideological cul-de-sac that losing presidential candidates often end up occupying.” And that despite winning Michigan, “his path to the White House has narrowed considerably.”

So just for fun, I went back and checked where Ronald Reagan stood in March 1980. And here’s what I found (courtesy of Craig Shirley’s excellent book Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America). As Shirley reports,

Reagan may have been doing well with Republican primary voters, but he still wasn’t breaking through to the general population, according to a new poll in the Chicago Sun-Times. The survey showed that in a matchup against Carter, Reagan would get blown out in Illinois, 60-34. [George H.W.] Bush was doing much better against Carter in Illinois, down only 42-36; Anderson was actually doing better than Carter in Illinois.

On Election Day 1980, Reagan beat Carter 50 percent v. 42 percent in Illinois, with John Anderson winning 7 percent of the vote. Reagan, by the way, beat Carter 489 v. 49 in the Electoral College vote.

I’m not saying Mitt Romney is Ronald Reagan. I’m not even saying Mitt Romney is the sure-fire 2012 GOP nominee. But what I am saying is all this talk about Romney having lost his general election narrative, finding himself trapped in ideological cul-de-sacs, and his path to the presidency having been narrowed considerably is wildly premature. Today is March 1; the election is November 6. Whoever the GOP nominee is will have lost and re-found his general election narrative roughly ten dozen times between now and then. It’s far too early for Republicans to panic and Democrats to rejoice. The election will probably be close, and it won’t pivot on anything Mitt Romney has said, or not said, so far in this campaign.

 

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National GOP Poll: Romney Has Big Lead

Proving once again how fluid the GOP race is, Mitt Romney is now leading Rick Santorum by 16 percent nationally, according to Rasmussen. Just two weeks ago, Santorum was beating Romney in the same poll.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, coming off his primary wins in Arizona and Michigan, has jumped to a 16-point lead over Rick Santorum in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters shows Romney with 40 percent support to 24 percent for the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. This is Romney’s biggest lead to date and the highest level of support any GOP candidate has earned in regular surveying of the race. Two weeks ago, it was Santorum 39 percent, Romney 27 percent.

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Proving once again how fluid the GOP race is, Mitt Romney is now leading Rick Santorum by 16 percent nationally, according to Rasmussen. Just two weeks ago, Santorum was beating Romney in the same poll.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, coming off his primary wins in Arizona and Michigan, has jumped to a 16-point lead over Rick Santorum in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters shows Romney with 40 percent support to 24 percent for the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. This is Romney’s biggest lead to date and the highest level of support any GOP candidate has earned in regular surveying of the race. Two weeks ago, it was Santorum 39 percent, Romney 27 percent.

Clearly, Romney got a bigger boost from winning Michigan and Arizona than expected. Not only does this completely invalidate Santorum’s claims that Michigan was a “disaster” for Romney, it’s also bad news for Santorum going into Super Tuesday. That’s really his last chance to stay in the game, and with momentum moving toward Romney nationally, it’s obviously less likely that Santorum will succeed.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich is far behind at 16 percent, which is just a few points better than Ron Paul at 12 percent. While Paul is in this for the long haul, it’s clear Gingrich won’t be able to stick around for long after Super Tuesday.

Is this the last time the wheel turns this race? Romney’s been declared inevitable so many times, only to stumble, that it seems rash to make predictions. But this poll may actually mark the beginning of Romney’s final ascent to the nomination.

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Gallup’s Good News for the GOP

There are two interesting polls from Gallup today worth highlighting.

The first shows that by 53 percent to 45 percent, Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say they are “more enthusiastic than usual about voting” this year. The 53 percent of Republicans who feel more enthusiastic about voting today — as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are engaged in a pitched nomination battle — is greater than the 44 percent found in February 2008, when John McCain and Mike Huckabee were still facing off in the primaries.

Gallup points out that the enthusiasm question is important because, in the last several presidential and midterm elections, the party whose rank-and-file members showed the most enthusiasm about voting toward the end of the campaign either gained congressional seats or won the presidency. It’s important to note, too, that enthusiasm is down among key parts of Barack Obama’s 2008 coalition, including non-whites (down 26 percent compared to this time four years ago) and 18-29 year olds (down 28 percent compared to this time four years ago).

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There are two interesting polls from Gallup today worth highlighting.

The first shows that by 53 percent to 45 percent, Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say they are “more enthusiastic than usual about voting” this year. The 53 percent of Republicans who feel more enthusiastic about voting today — as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are engaged in a pitched nomination battle — is greater than the 44 percent found in February 2008, when John McCain and Mike Huckabee were still facing off in the primaries.

Gallup points out that the enthusiasm question is important because, in the last several presidential and midterm elections, the party whose rank-and-file members showed the most enthusiasm about voting toward the end of the campaign either gained congressional seats or won the presidency. It’s important to note, too, that enthusiasm is down among key parts of Barack Obama’s 2008 coalition, including non-whites (down 26 percent compared to this time four years ago) and 18-29 year olds (down 28 percent compared to this time four years ago).

The second poll shows that registered voters are currently split in their intentions to vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate in their congressional district, with 47 percent saying they would vote for each “if the elections for Congress were being held today.” Two previous polls, from December and August of last year, showed Democratic advantages of four and seven percentage points. Here’s why this is bad news for Democrats: At about this point in the 2010 election cycle, Democrats led by a three-point margin on the generic ballot. As Gallup points out, Republicans went on to gain a net total of 63 seats in the House in 2010, the largest such gain for the party since 1938.

This doesn’t mean the GOP nominee will win the presidency or the Republicans will re-take control of the Senate. It simply means that contrary to much of the Conventional Wisdom these days, the Republican Party is in fairly strong shape – and President Obama, while certainly in a better position than he was last fall, still faces a steep mountain to climb if he hopes to win a second term.

 

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Court Rights Wrong; Puts Jewish Team Back in Texas Tourney

On Tuesday, I discussed the principled decision of the Robert M. Beren Academy, a Jewish Day School in Houston, to forego a chance to win the Texas state parochial and private school basketball championship because their semi-final game was scheduled to be played on Friday night, thereby violating the Sabbath. The team’s willingness to put their religion above sports honored their Orthodox Jewish faith and served as a sterling example to the nation of what religious values really mean.

It is highly unfortunate that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which sponsors the state tournament, couldn’t have seen their way to moving up the game’s start to allow it to be completed before sundown on Friday. But a state court has now stepped in to rectify this injustice. After a number of parents of the boys on the Beren Stars team sued the association over its willingness to discriminate against a Jewish school, a judge on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order requiring the group to reschedule the game. In compliance with the judicial fiat, the game will now be played at 2 p.m. on Friday–with Beren on the court.

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On Tuesday, I discussed the principled decision of the Robert M. Beren Academy, a Jewish Day School in Houston, to forego a chance to win the Texas state parochial and private school basketball championship because their semi-final game was scheduled to be played on Friday night, thereby violating the Sabbath. The team’s willingness to put their religion above sports honored their Orthodox Jewish faith and served as a sterling example to the nation of what religious values really mean.

It is highly unfortunate that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which sponsors the state tournament, couldn’t have seen their way to moving up the game’s start to allow it to be completed before sundown on Friday. But a state court has now stepped in to rectify this injustice. After a number of parents of the boys on the Beren Stars team sued the association over its willingness to discriminate against a Jewish school, a judge on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order requiring the group to reschedule the game. In compliance with the judicial fiat, the game will now be played at 2 p.m. on Friday–with Beren on the court.

It’s not clear to us if the suit by the boys’ parents would have prevailed in court. The association is a voluntary organization, and it is possible that they could have argued that, unlike a state institution, they were not complied by law to make reasonable accommodations for Jewish schools. But the legal merits of the case notwithstanding, the judge’s action (which renders the lawsuit moot) has enabled the Texas group to avoid a horrendous mistake. To have effectively excluded a Jewish team from its championship game would have run contrary to the religious values the association’s schools claim to promote.

More in keeping with the spirit of fair play was the reaction of Our Lady of the Hills High School, which would have played in the semifinal game had the original schedule prevailed. Fox News reports the school issued a statement saying they support the scheduling change:

As Beren Academy expressed support for us playing in their stead, we share our support of them in their earned semi-final game,” the statement read. “Good Luck Stars!”

But no matter who wins the championship, it’s clear the real winner in this tournament is a Beren team that stood up for their faith and showed the country there are more important victories to be won than those on the basketball court.

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Will Clinton Repudiate Consultant’s Speech at Anti-Israel Conference?

I wrote earlier this week about the reaction of a representative of Americans for Peace Now about the Arab League’s conference on Jerusalem. The Israel-bashing and denial of Jewish rights and history was so awful it even shocked the representative of a group that is desperately trying to ignore the truth about the unwillingness of the Arab and Muslim world to make peace with Israel. But while less naïve observers expect that  from the Arab League, the news that a person connected to the U.S. State Department delivered a vicious denunciation of Israel at the same conference ought to disturb all Americans.

Kenneth R. Insley Jr., was listed on the Doha conference program as a representative of the State Department though his connection with the administration is somewhat tenuous. But a reading of his remarks at the Arab League conference should call into question any future business between his firm and an administration that has been going all out lately to assert the dubious proposition that the president is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Given that his speech was put forward as representing the views of the State Department, Secretary of State Clinton should repudiate Insley’s assertion that Israel is an apartheid state and his assertion that Jews are racist.

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I wrote earlier this week about the reaction of a representative of Americans for Peace Now about the Arab League’s conference on Jerusalem. The Israel-bashing and denial of Jewish rights and history was so awful it even shocked the representative of a group that is desperately trying to ignore the truth about the unwillingness of the Arab and Muslim world to make peace with Israel. But while less naïve observers expect that  from the Arab League, the news that a person connected to the U.S. State Department delivered a vicious denunciation of Israel at the same conference ought to disturb all Americans.

Kenneth R. Insley Jr., was listed on the Doha conference program as a representative of the State Department though his connection with the administration is somewhat tenuous. But a reading of his remarks at the Arab League conference should call into question any future business between his firm and an administration that has been going all out lately to assert the dubious proposition that the president is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Given that his speech was put forward as representing the views of the State Department, Secretary of State Clinton should repudiate Insley’s assertion that Israel is an apartheid state and his assertion that Jews are racist.

Insley bills himself as a consultant to the U.S. government. His day job is director of public diplomacy at Capital Communications Group, an international consulting firm that has apparently gotten a government contract for coordinating visits for international delegations with various think tanks, congressional leaders, White House and other administration officials. But his main business seems to be promoting anti-Israel hatred. While ignoring Israel’s peace offers and Palestinian rejectionism and terror, Insley did not shy away from pandering to his audience’s appetite for slurs against Israel. After defending Jimmy Carter’s claim that Israel is an apartheid state, he denounced the efforts of some Jewish religious figures to urge people to marry within their faith:

Play this game with me: if you were to substitute the word “white” for “Jewish” and replace the word “Arab men” with “NIGGER,” then to most American ears, it sounds exactly like the pronouncements of racist segregationists in the 1950s and 60s in southern states like Georgia, which where Jimmy Carter is from. I think President Carter knows a thing or two about racial discrimination. And so should the Jewish people. … Perhaps it is understandable to be perceived as racist when you are considered by some to be “God’s chosen people.”

It may well be that Insley’s participation in this hate fest had nothing to do with the State Department. If so, the administration should say so and make sure Insley and his firm are no longer receiving taxpayer dollars for his highly objectionable activities.

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Left Tries to Spin Israel Poll-Part Two

This is my second post on this topic, wherein is a discussion on why survey wording matters. The last post dealt with the “Obama is quantitatively ahead of his GOP rivals spin,” which wasn’t technically true and would be irrelevant if it was. This one deals with an issue that’s a little more tangled and open to interpretation – but not much. The question is whether Israelis favor an attack on Iran without the prospect of gaining U.S. support, which they don’t.

This finding is being spun to show they don’t favor an attack over current U.S. public objections. The data shows, bluntly, the opposite.

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This is my second post on this topic, wherein is a discussion on why survey wording matters. The last post dealt with the “Obama is quantitatively ahead of his GOP rivals spin,” which wasn’t technically true and would be irrelevant if it was. This one deals with an issue that’s a little more tangled and open to interpretation – but not much. The question is whether Israelis favor an attack on Iran without the prospect of gaining U.S. support, which they don’t.

This finding is being spun to show they don’t favor an attack over current U.S. public objections. The data shows, bluntly, the opposite.

The poll asked respondents: “There has been increased talk of a military strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities, even though the United States, the UK and Germany have advised against it. What do you think Israel should do?” Putting aside the negatively valenced wording (that “even though” could get dicey in a low-information environment, but maybe it’s a translation quirk), the results were:

“Strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, even without the support of the US” – 19 percent
“Strike only if Israel gains at least American support” – 42 percent
“Do not strike” – 34 percent

The spin is that under the current configuration – with the U.S. “advising against” a strike – only 19 percent of Israelis support the action. But that’s not what the question asked. It asked about U.S. “support,” against the backdrop of current U.S. “advi[ce].” It’s entirely possible that most Israelis believe the U.S. would still “support” a strike despite Obama’s current position, in which case the number in favor would be closer to 61 percent. And it turns out, per a subsequent question in the very same survey, that’s exactly what they do think!

Respondents were asked: “Given America’s recommendation that Israel not strike Iran, what do you believe the U.S. government’s reaction would be if Israel strikes anyway?”

“It would join the war on Israel’s behalf” – 27 percent
“It would support Israel diplomatically, but not provide military assistance” – 39 percent
“It would stay neutral” – 14 percent
“It would punish Israel by reducing its current support to Israel” – 15 percent

So most respondents would be reluctant to support an attack unless the U.S. ended up supporting Israel, but most respondents think the U.S. will end up supporting Israel. Unless there’s something very strange going on inside the crosstabs, where the people who think the U.S. would support an attack are also the ones who categorically oppose the attack, then there’s a clear majority for a strike.

The best way to aggressively spin the question, then, is to extensively describe the first question but not tell readers how the second question was worded. Want to guess how Media Matters posted the poll?

Israeli officials, including its foreign minister, have hinted that such an attack would be their decision and their decision alone. But a poll released today by the University of Maryland showed that Israelis don’t support that policy… Only 19 percent of Israelis polled expressed support for an attack without U.S. backing… while 42 percent endorsed a strike only if there is at least U.S. support… More than a quarter of those surveyed think the U.S. would join an Israeli war, and nearly one in four said the U.S. would give Israel diplomatic but not military support.

This is nicely done. It establishes plausible deniability by acknowledging that the second question exists, but it doesn’t give the full wording, which would contradict the rest of the post. Nonetheless, Israelis think the U.S. will support its democratic ally against a declared enemy of both countries, and on that basis they support a strike against Iran. That might be naive, but it’s what the survey shows.

Caveat: it could be the wording is different in the Hebrew. This criticism relies on Israelis functionally imagining that the actual American position is – stated or unstated, but in reality – “we recommend/advise you not to do this, but we’ll support you if you do.” That’s the interpretation most consistent with the question wording in English. If the first question in Hebrew somehow equated “advice” with “support,” or if there’s something going on with “gains” that implies prior support, then that would weaken this particular criticism. But equating advice and support creates other problems – e.g. given that 20 percent of Israelis are undecided on Iran, it’s bush league polling to frontload a question with global opposition, implying there’s probably a good reason for that opposition.

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Left Tries to Spin Israel Poll-Part One

A new poll [PPT] shows: (a) that Israelis oppose a strike on Iran unless it has American backing, which is being spun as showing that Israelis oppose a strike given Obama’s current stance; and (b) that Israelis prefer President Obama to anyone in the GOP field, which is being spun as showing that Israeli distrust of Obama has been wildly exaggerated. The anti-Israel left is even crowing that the poll undercuts Netanyahu on the eve of his meeting with the president.

The only problem is the survey shows exactly the opposite. On both issues.

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A new poll [PPT] shows: (a) that Israelis oppose a strike on Iran unless it has American backing, which is being spun as showing that Israelis oppose a strike given Obama’s current stance; and (b) that Israelis prefer President Obama to anyone in the GOP field, which is being spun as showing that Israeli distrust of Obama has been wildly exaggerated. The anti-Israel left is even crowing that the poll undercuts Netanyahu on the eve of his meeting with the president.

The only problem is the survey shows exactly the opposite. On both issues.

Explaining why is fairly straightforward – in one case it’s a matter of literally going two questions down in the poll – but it still requires getting into the survey itself. So just as a summary: (a) an overwhelming majority of Israelis think a strike would get U.S. support despite Obama’s current position, and an overwhelming majority of Israelis support a strike under those conditions; and (b) two-thirds of Israelis refuse to support Obama regardless of whether the candidate is Mitt Romney or an anti-Semitic-ish candidate running on a platform of detonating the U.S./Israeli alliance. They just can’t bring themselves to do it.

Specifically on the U.S. election

Where the spin on Iran will get kind of insulting — see the forthcoming Part II — the story being spun on the U.S. election is just inexplicable. It’s not what the numbers are, and it’s certainly not what the numbers imply. The claim is Obama wins a plurality of Israeli support or Israeli Jewish support vs. each of the four GOP candidates, which is taken to mean he or his policies have the backing of the Israeli public. The quantitative claim is mostly true. The implication is not only unjustified but belied by the data.

Respondents were asked, “whom would you like to see elected as the next American president” and presented with questions pitting Obama vs. Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul. They could choose “Barack Obama,” the GOP candidate, “None of them,” or “I have no preferences.” The results for all Israelis were:

vs. “Mitt Romney”: 29 (Obama) / 29 (Romney) / 6 (None) / 7 (NP)
vs. “Rick Santorum”: 33 (Obama) / 18 (Santorum) / 7 (None) / 7 (NP)
vs. “Newt Gingrich”: 32 (Obama) / 25 (Gingrich) / 6 (None) / 6 (NP)
vs. “Ron Paul”: 32 (Obama) / 21 (Paul) / 6 (None) / 8 (NP)

The first thing you’ll notice is that Obama and Romney are tied among Israelis. In fairness, the split is 32/29 among Israeli Jews, though that’s still well within the +/-4 percent margin of error. Even Gingrich is within the MOE if you squint and assume a worst-case scenario.

The second thing you’ll notice is that roughly 30 percent of the Israeli electorate is missing from these responses. Those might be “no responses” – people who dropped off the call or refused to answer or whatever – but they might also be “undecideds.” The undecided number – per Ben Smith – wouldn’t contradict what you’d expect for the leader of a foreign country. Still, it speaks horribly for the survey’s robustness. If you take into account how that MOE was for the full sample, and so the actual MOE for these question is larger, this part of the survey begins to flirt with meaninglessness.

But even taking the numbers on their face, that just means the vast majority of Israelis have no opinion specifically on the GOP field vs. Obama (probably because they don’t know anything about the GOP field). Even the ones picking the GOP candidates might be reacting to Obama rather than to those candidates’ positions. That’s the best explanation for why the numbers are both strange and stable across the board – strong Israel supporter Santorum polls just below anti-Israel partisan Paul, while Obama’s support doesn’t change whether he’s up against Romney or Paul.

Instead, the numbers show the vast majority of Israelis can’t bring themselves to support Obama no matter what (so much for Netanyahu being undercut at home!) That’s the reaction you’d expect given the president’s early and repeated and even dishonest attempts to undermine Israel’s diplomatic posture, to say nothing of his dangerously weak position on Iran. But many pundits wish it weren’t so and are willing to pretend as much.

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Dems Kill Bill to Stop ObamaCare Birth Control Mandate

The final tally was 51 to 48, on a motion to table an amendment that would allow employers to opt out of an ObamaCare rule mandating them to cover birth control under their health insurance plans. As expected, the vote broke down mainly on party lines:

Leading pro-life organizations called on the Senate to vote for the amendment to the mandate the Obama administration issued, but Democrats banded together against [R]epublicans to defeat it on a 51 to 48 margin by adopting a motion to table, or kill, it. …

The text of the Blunt Amendment consists of the language taken from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467, H.R. 1179).  It would amend the Obama health care law (“ObamaCare”) to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance.

Needless to say, this isn’t a fight Catholic organizations are going to give up on so easily. If anything, this will probably help Republicans during the presidential election by increasing the opposition to ObamaCare. Obviously many Catholic organizations that initially supported the health care reform now have an incentive to support its repeal.

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The final tally was 51 to 48, on a motion to table an amendment that would allow employers to opt out of an ObamaCare rule mandating them to cover birth control under their health insurance plans. As expected, the vote broke down mainly on party lines:

Leading pro-life organizations called on the Senate to vote for the amendment to the mandate the Obama administration issued, but Democrats banded together against [R]epublicans to defeat it on a 51 to 48 margin by adopting a motion to table, or kill, it. …

The text of the Blunt Amendment consists of the language taken from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467, H.R. 1179).  It would amend the Obama health care law (“ObamaCare”) to prevent the imposition of regulatory mandates that violate the religious or moral convictions of those who purchase or provide health insurance.

Needless to say, this isn’t a fight Catholic organizations are going to give up on so easily. If anything, this will probably help Republicans during the presidential election by increasing the opposition to ObamaCare. Obviously many Catholic organizations that initially supported the health care reform now have an incentive to support its repeal.

President Obama has backed himself into a corner on this issue. Now that the amendment was blocked in Congress, the pressure to take action will be shifted back to the White House. But the Obama campaign already came out unequivocally against the protections for religious employers, calling it an “anti-contraception agenda” in a fundraising email last night. If Obama backs down now, he risks backlash from the pro-choice groups he riled up over the issue. But that may pale in comparison to the anger he’ll get from religious organizations between now and November.

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Andrew Breitbart, 1969-2012

Andrew Breitbart was a revolutionary, and I mean that almost literally. He was one of the few people who seemed to understand in his marrow the transformation of the way we would get and understand news and politics—and how that transformation would undercut the ideological narrowness that was the dominating condition of the media in the second half of the 20th century. And he helped bring about that transformation.

He was also my dear friend—garrulous, cheerful, raging, enthusiastic, hysterical, joyful, frenetic, passionate, untamed, smart, personally modest, technologically ambitious, weirdly visionary, compulsively pugnacious, monomaniacal—hard to take at times, and impossible not to love at all times.

Andrew Breitbart was a revolutionary, and I mean that almost literally. He was one of the few people who seemed to understand in his marrow the transformation of the way we would get and understand news and politics—and how that transformation would undercut the ideological narrowness that was the dominating condition of the media in the second half of the 20th century. And he helped bring about that transformation.

He was also my dear friend—garrulous, cheerful, raging, enthusiastic, hysterical, joyful, frenetic, passionate, untamed, smart, personally modest, technologically ambitious, weirdly visionary, compulsively pugnacious, monomaniacal—hard to take at times, and impossible not to love at all times.

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Michigan Was Tight Race, But a Tie?

I get that Michigan was a tight race, but come on now:

“You can only look at Michigan and move it from a win for Mitt Romney to a tie race,” [Santorum adviser John] Brabender said on a conference call with reporters. “If we can do this well in Romney’s home state we clearly think this bodes well for Super Tuesday states.”

The latest estimates from CNN showed both candidates with 15 Wolverine State delegates, while Romney is ahead in the popular vote with 41 percent to Santorum’s 38 percent. That leaves none of the 30 total Michigan delegates still in play.

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I get that Michigan was a tight race, but come on now:

“You can only look at Michigan and move it from a win for Mitt Romney to a tie race,” [Santorum adviser John] Brabender said on a conference call with reporters. “If we can do this well in Romney’s home state we clearly think this bodes well for Super Tuesday states.”

The latest estimates from CNN showed both candidates with 15 Wolverine State delegates, while Romney is ahead in the popular vote with 41 percent to Santorum’s 38 percent. That leaves none of the 30 total Michigan delegates still in play.

Mitt Romney’s three-percent victory isn’t nothing, considering races have been called on far, far lower margins this primary season. Should Romney have done better? Yes. Did he fail to land a knock-out on Santorum? Sure. But to call the results a “tie” or say they’re a disaster for Romney is a classless bit of revisionism you normally wouldn’t expect from the Santorum campaign.

Beyond that, the exit polls also suggest that Operation Hilarity may have been the only thing that saved Santorum from a massive loss. As John wrote in his New York Post column yesterday:

The fact that Romney didn’t win by a landslide in Michigan was apparently the result, in whole or in part, of mischievous Democratic voters trying to weaken him. Exit polls suggest that those voters added as much as 3.5 percentage points to Santorum’s total.

Santorum can find plenty of issues about which to attack Romney. But he’s not going to convince anyone that a three-point loss is actually a tie.

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Obama: Apology for Koran Burning “Calmed Things Down”

President Obama has received a storm of criticism for apologizing for the accidental Koran burning in Afghanistan, and some of it has been unfair. Mistakes were made at the Bagram Air Base, Afghans were offended, and the president wasn’t necessarily wrong at the time to acknowledge the error.

But it’s quite another thing for Obama to insist his apology worked to quell anti-American violence — and in a sense downplay the horrific way Afghan extremists have used the Koran burning incident to justify attacks on our troops — which he did last night during an interview with ABC:

While Republican presidential candidates and others have criticized Obama’s action, the president told ABC that his letter to [President] Karzai has “calmed things down.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Obama said. “But my criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to best protect our folks and make sure that they can accomplish their mission.”

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President Obama has received a storm of criticism for apologizing for the accidental Koran burning in Afghanistan, and some of it has been unfair. Mistakes were made at the Bagram Air Base, Afghans were offended, and the president wasn’t necessarily wrong at the time to acknowledge the error.

But it’s quite another thing for Obama to insist his apology worked to quell anti-American violence — and in a sense downplay the horrific way Afghan extremists have used the Koran burning incident to justify attacks on our troops — which he did last night during an interview with ABC:

While Republican presidential candidates and others have criticized Obama’s action, the president told ABC that his letter to [President] Karzai has “calmed things down.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Obama said. “But my criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to best protect our folks and make sure that they can accomplish their mission.”

No, the apology did not “calm things down,” as anyone can see from the news today that two more American soldiers were killed, reportedly by Afghan National Army members. That’s in addition to the six American soldiers and civilians killed last week. By claiming the apology diffused tensions, Obama is giving a pass to the extremists who’ve exploited the accidental Koran burning to incite anti-American and anti-NATO violence.

Obama needs to stop talking about his apology and start condemning the actions of extremists, for which there are no excuses.

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Should We Police Food Stamps?

Earlier this week, my colleague Jonathan Tobin wrote about the expansion of the nanny state, this time with the government policing what food stamps recipients can and cannot buy. There is no denying that government food police exist – I don’t need to look further than my hometown of New York City for the proof. Mayor Bloomberg has banned transfats, required restaurants to post their Health Department ratings in their windows, required fast food chains to post their nutritional information on their menus, and the list goes on. I have to disagree with Jonathan, however, on the idea that setting limits on what can be purchased with food stamps by a conservative in the Florida legislature fits into the expansion of nanny state behavior.

The proposed restrictions on food stamps, limiting recipients from buying candy, chips or soda would help eliminate waste and help the program do what it originally set out to do: provide food (not snacks) to the needy. I’m reminded of a post written late last year by a young woman, a college student, who spent two summers working at Walmart. The writer, Christine Rousselle, became a conservative internet sensation writing about how working the register at the low-end retailer reaffirmed her conservative values. She describes incidents she witnessed consistently during the course of her summer job:

People using TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) money to buy such necessities such as earrings, KitKat bars, beer, WWE figurines, and, my personal favorite, a slip n’ slide. TANF money does not have restrictions like food stamps on what can be bought with it.

Extravagant purchases made with food stamps; including, but not limited to: steaks, lobsters, and giant birthday cakes.

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Earlier this week, my colleague Jonathan Tobin wrote about the expansion of the nanny state, this time with the government policing what food stamps recipients can and cannot buy. There is no denying that government food police exist – I don’t need to look further than my hometown of New York City for the proof. Mayor Bloomberg has banned transfats, required restaurants to post their Health Department ratings in their windows, required fast food chains to post their nutritional information on their menus, and the list goes on. I have to disagree with Jonathan, however, on the idea that setting limits on what can be purchased with food stamps by a conservative in the Florida legislature fits into the expansion of nanny state behavior.

The proposed restrictions on food stamps, limiting recipients from buying candy, chips or soda would help eliminate waste and help the program do what it originally set out to do: provide food (not snacks) to the needy. I’m reminded of a post written late last year by a young woman, a college student, who spent two summers working at Walmart. The writer, Christine Rousselle, became a conservative internet sensation writing about how working the register at the low-end retailer reaffirmed her conservative values. She describes incidents she witnessed consistently during the course of her summer job:

People using TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) money to buy such necessities such as earrings, KitKat bars, beer, WWE figurines, and, my personal favorite, a slip n’ slide. TANF money does not have restrictions like food stamps on what can be bought with it.

Extravagant purchases made with food stamps; including, but not limited to: steaks, lobsters, and giant birthday cakes.

Living in New York, I see abuses like these every day. Last week, soon before the Jewish Sabbath began on Friday night, I ducked into a local market to quickly pick up some last minute items for our Sabbath meals. The market, in addition to stocking basic fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs, also sells a large quantity of specialty imported Russian goods for the large Russian expat community in my neighborhood. In line in front of me stood a man wearing brand new Nike sneakers and a leather jacket, picking out $40 of imported specialty Russian chocolates. Five excruciatingly long minutes later, he paid for all of his items using his food stamps card. Late nights, I see young people at the local corner stores with bloodshot eyes, stocking up on chips and candy, paying for their sugar binges with my tax dollars.

A nutrition program for the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) has strict guidelines on how subsidies from the program must be used, limiting purchases to basic adult food needs (in addition to infant items): bread, meat, fruits and vegetables, cereal, cheese and milk. Any purchases outside of these guidelines must be made with personal funds. Speaking with a woman who receives these funds, I’ve heard the guidelines are clearly explained, with WIC even going to the trouble of sending pictures of items that fit their qualifications.

Do I believe everyone should eat what’s on the WIC list of approved items? Sure. With the correlations between income level and obesity, it seems like a no-brainer to add more whole grains and fruits and vegetables into people’s diets. If the government were out to ban Happy Meals, I would be as outraged as any conservative. With my tax dollars, though, if people claim to be unable to afford basic nutrition, that’s all they should be receiving from the government: basic nutrition. If they want to eat their weight in potato chips and soda, they can do it on their own dime.

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