President Obama tried to water down congressional sanctions last year and then declined to implement them last week, part of a long-term policy that leaves pressuring Iran to “leaders in Congress and Europe.” And because the administration has a political interest in convincing voters that it’s taking a hardline stance on Iran, it has a rhetorical and argumentative interest in silencing the critics who (a) point out how the opposite is true and (b) urge the president to do more.
Because intimidation comes naturally to this White House – witness last week’s demagoguery of the Koch Brothers and on birth control – their pushbacks have been marked by vague warnings delivered in tones of great significance. In his AIPAC speech this morning, Obama literally blamed high gas prices on Iran critics. Because why not?
I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues, the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster.
President Obama clarified today that he’s looking to prevent, not contain, a nuclear-armed Iran, during his speech to AIPAC. While this was a welcome acknowledgement, it’s not particularly meaningful. Containment policy toward Iran has become so unpalatable that even American apologists for the Iranian regime rarely openly advocate it in mainstream discourse.
Instead, these regime allies promote a different kind of containment policy: containment of a nuclear-capable Iran. In other words, the bomb is the redline – but everything that Iran does leading up to the bomb, including high-level enrichment, is acceptable.
Blogger John Galt picks up this story from the Austrian newspaper Wiener Zietung:
North Korea detonated two secret tests of atomic warheads with highly enriched uranium in 2010, according to a German press report. The newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported with reference to western security circles, as some secret services assumed that the government in P’yongyang at least one of these tests had carried out for the Iranians. This would mean that Teheran, with North Korean aid, has constructed and already tested an atomic warhead. According to the newspaper Welt am Sonntag, this assumption is based on data of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
The Obama administration has begun planning how they’re going to prevent Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons from falling into terrorist hands. If they succeed, it’ll be the first time, and meanwhile, the president’s continuing flirtation with the Muslim Brotherhood is chilling the chances for any U.S./Russian cooperation on Syria:
A key problem, however, is that we have put our chips on Muslim Brotherhood groups and the brokerage of the Erdogan government in Turkey. That is a very bad policy move, one guaranteed to generate enemies (Russia, China, Iran) for our non-policy policy while giving nations like Saudi Arabia less reason to endorse our activities… If the U.S. policy were to fence in and discourage the Muslim Brotherhood, while bolstering liberalizing elements instead — elements that exist in every nation of the Middle East – we would make it more desirable for a nation like Russia to collaborate with us on the Syria problem.
The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State – reiterated last month by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – is the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Huge majorities of Palestinians refuse to accept “Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people,” instead keeping alive the dream of demographically overrunning Israel and restoring the land to some kind of pre-1948 utopia with bucolic post-Ottoman architecture and no running water. The erstwhile Palestinian negotiating position – “recognize Israel, but not as a Jewish State, in exchange for maximum territorial concessions” – very deliberately preserves the ideological basis for future war against the Jewish State. That’s why recognition of Israel’s Jewish character has been a central Israeli demand since at least the Olmert government.
President Obama’s charm offensive with Jewish voters was again in evidence today during his speech to the AIPAC conference. The president’s bragging of his “deeds” left little doubt that his desire to be seen as Israel’s best friend ever in the White House is due to fears of a decline in support from Jewish voters this year. Obama’s doubling down on his tough rhetoric on Iran — he specifically disavowed any thought of “containing” Tehran — and the complete absence in the speech of any of any interest in pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians– (a hallmark of his administration’s policies during his first three years in office) was a signal defeat for Jewish leftists like the J Street lobby that once hoped to wean the Democrats from AIPAC.
But even more significant was the fact that despite his repeated vows to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, there was little indication that Obama is prepared to make the leap from talking about the danger to actually doing something. His call for continued efforts towards negotiations on the issue undermined all the hard line rhetoric intended to appease wavering Jewish Democrats. Though his campaign will spin this speech as more proof that Obama has “Israel’s back,” Iran’s leaders may read it very differently and assume they are free to go on building their weapon with little fear the U.S. really is contemplating the use of force.
The left-wing J Street lobby has failed to gain much traction on Capitol Hill in its four years of existence. So it was hardly surprising that it would attempt to gain some publicity on the eve of the annual conference of AIPAC, the organization it once hoped to supplant. The group released a memo by its pollster Jim Gerstein that, it claims, debunks the notion that President Obama is in any danger of losing his stranglehold on the Jewish vote this fall.
Gerstein’s numbers and analysis are, however, merely a rehashing of much of what we already knew about the Jewish vote. It also largely mischaracterizes the debate about the issue. No one is disputing that Obama or any Democrat with a pulse will get a majority of Jewish votes in 2012. But neither is there much doubt that there is much chance that he will not get the same 78 percent of Jewish support that he got in 2008. The question is, after three years of distancing himself from Israel and engaging in disputes with the Jewish state, how big will be the drop off this year? The jury is obviously still out on that, but Gerstein’s assumption that it will not be much seems unfounded. Equally unreliable, as well as telling, is his argument that few Jews vote on the basis of U.S. policy toward Israel. Given the all-out charm offensive that the Obama administration has been directing toward Jewish voters in the last few months — which will reach another crescendo today as President Obama addresses the AIPAC Conference — it would seem the White House has a different view of the question than its J Street idolaters.
I don’t care how many Cadillacs Mitt Romney owns, how many earmarks he requested, or how many individual mandates he approved. This is an extraordinary man.
We first heard about it in the 2008 campaign: how Romney saved the teenaged daughter of a Bain Capital colleague in 1996. Here’s what Mitt did when he learned the girl had gone missing after sneaking from her home in Connecticut to a party in New York City: he shut down the whole office and flew the staff from Boston to New York; he had fliers printed up and got employees at Duane Reade (in which Bain invested) to stuff one into every customer’s bag; he set up a phone hotline; he personally, along with his Bain people and their New York accountants and lawyers, pounded the city’s pavements looking for the girl and asking teenagers if they’d seen her. After a few days of all this – and the publicity it generated – they traced the hotline call of someone asking for a reward and found the girl, who had overdosed on Ecstasy, in the basement of a New Jersey home.
Due to its being squeezed in between the crucial Michigan and Arizona primaries and Super Tuesday, not much attention was paid to the Washington state caucus by either the Republican presidential candidates or the media. But while the voting, which took the form of a straw poll at caucuses where delegates to a state convention were chosen, presented the now familiar pattern of chaos that we have to expect from GOP caucuses, the result went pretty much as expected as Mitt Romney cruised to an easy win. Romney took 38 percent of the vote. Second place went to Ron Paul, who narrowly edged out Rick Santorum by a 25-24 percent margin. The fading Newt Gingrich finished last with 10 percent. Along with recent wins in Maine, Wyoming, Arizona and Michigan, this gives Romney a modest five-state winning streak heading in to Super Tuesday with most of the focus on Ohio where he hopes to once again head off a strong challenge from Santorum.
Though Romney’s critics can look at these results and point to the same lack of enthusiasm and inability to win the affection of conservatives that have plagued him elsewhere, his win in Washington highlights the fact that he remains the strongest candidate in the field with the organization and resources to fight and win contests all over the map. Accumulating victories of this sort doesn’t change the narrative about Romney’s personal shortcomings, but it does reinforce the notion of the inevitability of his being nominated by the Republicans.