Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution has written a short, thoughtful book, The World America Made, which he discussed in a recent interview with Charlie Rose.
Kagan argues that America remains–contrary to common perception–in very strong shape vis-à-vis the rest of the world, and he explains why. But he warns that we can “talk ourselves into decline” by indulging the misplaced perception that we are in decline. And if that were to happen, it would have very bad consequences for the world order America helped to create and has maintained, at an admittedly high cost.
The White House has escalated the controversy about Rush Limbaugh’s supposedly grave insult of a Georgetown University law student who testified on Capitol Hill in favor of mandatory insurance coverage for birth control. President Obama called Sandra Fluke today to tell her her parents should be proud of her. The call and the effort to inflate Limbaugh’s satirical remarks about Fluke’s complaints about the high cost of birth control during her congressional testimony are clearly part of a Democratic effort to change the discussion from defending religious liberty against ObamaCare to one about the subjugation of women. Unfortunately, for those who care about defending the Catholic Church’s freedom to defend their faith, Limbaugh’s typically over-the-top humorous jibe at Fluke’s expense is being exploited to obfuscate the real issue at stake here.
Republicans are running for cover as the Democrats and left-wing women’s groups attempt to make Fluke a feminist martyr. Speaker of the House John Boehner called Limbaugh’s comments “inappropriate.” He’s right about that, but the problem is that while Democrats seem to regard Rush as some kind of Republican pope, much of what is said on the show needs to be understood to be no different than the rhetorical excesses of Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” Limbaugh’s use of the words “prostitute” and “slut” in connection to Fluke were not intended to be a literal accusation but a hyperbolic takedown of the notion that women at Georgetown are oppressed because they must spend as much as $1,000 of their own money for contraception the Jesuit-run school refuses to pay for.
I just wanted to add an additional thought to what Alana wrote regarding Senator Rick Santorum. It isn’t simply that he spoke about his private beliefs on contraception; it’s that he publicly and proudly declared he would, as president, hold forth on the subject (see here for more).
It was Santorum, not the liberal media, who said, “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” It was Santorum, not MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who said, “I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These have profound impact on the health of our society.”
So for Santorum, a man for whom I have respect, to say it’s a “bogus issue,” that to bring it up is “just absurd” and is an example of “gotcha politics,” just isn’t right.
Fury over the accidental burning of Korans in Afghanistan seemed to spill into Libya last month when an angry mob descended upon Benghazi Military Cemetery and smashed dozens of Christian and Jewish graves… Libya’s National Transitional Council has condemned the actions of the mob and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Many years ago, I confidently published an essay in which I made a prediction. It was hopelessly, embarrassingly wrong. Since then I have embraced the view that social scientists should never predict; leave that job to pundits. If you doubt me, make a list of the economists who predicted the 2008 recession, political scientists who predicted the Arab Spring, or criminologists who said that this recession would be accompanied by falling crime rates. A few names may make the list, but very few.
The odds that Republicans will be able to take back the White House seem slimmer by the day. But is it getting to the point where the GOP would be better off giving up on the presidential race to fully focus on taking back the Senate, and maintaining its grip on the House? That’s what George Will argues in his Sunday column this week, according to an advanced copy obtained by POLITICO:
“Romney and Rick Santorum… are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected… If either is nominated, conservatives should vote for him,” Will writes in his upcoming Sunday column, obtained in advance by POLITICO Playbook by Mike Allen.
However, Will argues, that control of both house of Congress is more attainable and more important.
“[T]here would come a point when… conservatives turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than… electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.. [C]onservatives this year should have as their primary goal making sure Republicans wield all the gavels in Congress in 2013,” writes Will.
Jonathan neatly summed up the reasons behind the oh come on, dude sensation one gets from reading this morning’s Jeffrey Goldberg interview with President Obama. The discussion seems to take place in a universe where this White House hasn’t made an annual spring-time tradition of launching diplomatic offensives against Israel, bragging and chortling in the media about slapping Netanyahu around in 2009, declaring in 2010 that abandoning previous understandings on Jerusalem was “paying off”, trying to sandbag and isolate Netanyahu in 2011, and so on. It concludes with the president, at Goldberg’s prompting, insisting he “has Israel’s back,” which is a phrase you’ve read before on this blog in the context of Obama abandoning previous American assurances toward Israel.
But of the many surreal aspects of the conversation, the most grating is the president’s borderline-petulant insistence that Israel should take his security assurances on Iran seriously:
And one of the things that I like to remind them of is that every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept. I mean, part of your — not to put words in your mouth — but part of the underlying question is: Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they’ve had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that?
BuzzFeed posted this audio clip today under the headline “Santorum Loses His Cool During Interview With Cincinnati Radio Station.” I’m not sure what exactly they’re referring to, because honestly Santorum stays pretty even-keeled throughout the interview. He also does what he should be doing every time he’s asked about his views on birth control: call it out as a ridiculous, media-manufactured issue, and pivot back to attacking President Obama’s record.
Santorum: It’s a bogus issue. It’s just absurd. It’s a legal product, it should remain a legal product. It’s up to people to decide what to do. This is what the national media does. They don’t want us to be able to talk about Barack Obama’s pathetic record on the economy and jobs, so they bring up issues…This is my opinion on my personal faith, and they’re all of a sudden saying ‘Well, he must want to do this with everyone else.’ Well that’s just crazy. This is what the media does. They try to change the subject. I’m not going to let them. We’re going to talk about creating jobs, we’re going to talk about reducing energy prices, and we’re going to focus on what’s important to Americans, as opposed to what the media wants to do, which is to play gotcha politics.
Mitt Romney seems to have gotten a small post-Michigan bounce in the next key primary state of Ohio, but he’s still trailing Rick Santorum by a few points in the state, according to a Quinnipiac poll out today. By all indications, the momentum of the race seems to be shifting to Romney nationally, so that gap in Ohio could close even more between now and Super Tuesday:
The Republican presidential face-off in Ohio is too close to call as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has 35 percent of likely Republican primary voters to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 31 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
This compares to a 36 – 29 percent Santorum lead in a February 27 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll, the day before the hotly-contested Michigan primary.
James Q. Wilson—who was this nation’s foremost political scientist, literally the author of the definitive textbook on the workings of American government, a writer of uncommon grace and clarity, and a man who believed more than anyone I’ve ever known in the power of the human capacity to reason to change things for the better—died this morning at the age of 80.
To my mind, his greatest and most enduring book in his oeuvre is The Moral Sense, in which this very practically-minded man carefully lays out the case for the existence of the title condition as an innate condition of humankind. But his signal contribution to American life over the past 30 years lies in his work as a criminologist, and his delineation (with George Kelling) of the theory of “broken windows,” about how social disorder and crime are in large measure the result of little transgressions in behavior and against the common weal, that, ignored and unchallenged, grow into ever larger ones. The expostulation of the broken windows theory literally inaugurated the revolution in consciousness in American policing and criminal justice that led to the astounding crime drop of the 1990s—a drop that continues to this day.
Why on earth are Obama administration officials loudly proclaiming they have no intention of taking any military action in Syria? “At this point, we do not believe that the further militarization of the situation is the best course,” senior State Department officials said Thursday. “It is not clear to us whether arming [rebel forces] would actually save lives or help topple Bashar Assad,” Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, told a Senate panel.
There is little doubt arming the rebels or taking other actions would carry some risks. But there is also a considerable risk of doing nothing and letting the civil war rage. If the administration is really worried about al-Qaeda and other extremists making inroads in Syria, then they should be doing something to end the fighting. Recall how Hezbollah arose out of Lebanon’s civil war and al-Qaeda in Iraq arose out of that country’s post-2003 turmoil. That is what we should be striving to avoid in Syria.
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was rewarded for years of diligent cheerleading for Barack Obama with an exclusive interview that was published this morning. Goldberg asks some interesting questions as well as some that can be characterized as mere sucking up. But though there’s not much here that we haven’t already heard, the transcript of the exchange provides a summary of the Obama attempt to persuade Israel, American supporters of Israel, Iran and the rest of the world that he means business about stopping Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.
Obama is at pains to try to assert he doesn’t “bluff” when it comes to threatening the use of force, but after three years of a feckless engagement policy followed by a largely ineffective effort to impose sanctions on Iran, it’s hard to find anyone who really believes he would actually launch a strike to prevent the ayatollahs from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. Much of what the president says in this interview is exactly what he should be stating. But his credibility is undermined by his disingenuous attempt to deny that until his re-election campaign began the keynote of his Middle East policy was to distance the United States from Israel. Equally false is his attempt to make it seem as if he doesn’t despise Israel’s prime minister.
At Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “clarify” her statement the day before to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had asked her if the administration seeks to prevent Iran becoming a “nuclear threshold state.” She had responded that the policy is to prevent Iran from “attaining nuclear weapons.”
Berman asked Clinton to clarify if administration policy was in fact “merely to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons,” or rather to “prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability.” At virtually the same moment, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was being asked the same question at his press conference. A reporter asked him to “clarify, is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from a nuclear weapon, or to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons capability?” Clinton and Carney — speaking virtually simultaneously at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — gave opposite answers.
At the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney flags an offensively dishonest attack on opponents of the contraception insurance mandate from the Obama campaign’s website. The campaign published a fake birth control “permission slip” that would supposedly be filled out by an employee and employer. It reads:
Employer Authorization for Contraception
I have discussed the employee’s contraceptive options with her, and I verify that her use of these methods (IS/IS NOT) in agreement with my personal beliefs. The employee (DOES/DOES NOT) have my permission to access birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or any other types of contraception.
This decision is only valid until the next evaluation of the employee’s contraception plans.