It’s always difficult to untangle when J Street officials actually believe in the anti-Israel policies and anti-Semitic rhetoric that they push and defend, and when they’re just following the commands of donors. The group’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami raised eyebrows by voluntarily injecting himself on the side of anti-Jewish language during the “Israel-Firster” debate, and then later it turned out that J Street had a potential financial incentive to take that stance. On the other hand the group and its partisans seem genuinely enthused about rolling out the red carpet for Peter Beinart and his exhortation to economically suffocate Israelis who don’t live where he tells them. As for J Street’s call on Obama to pressure Israel in the aftermath of the Flotilla even though the Israelis were in the right on self-defense, that simply had an incoherence borne of conflicted priorities.
So it’s impossible to know which dynamic — donor pressure or personal passion — was at work when J Street officials defended Occupy Wall Street from criticism of its disgraceful and extensively documented anti-Semitism. In favor of the donor theory, there’s the fact that J Street funder George Soros backed Occupy. On the side of the labor of love theory, there turn out to be deep sociological, institutional, and personal ties between pro-Occupy radicals and J Street officials – so much so that those radicals are now officially “partnering” with J Street on this weekend’s conference. Read More
Yesterday Bret Baier of Fox News did an interview with President Obama’s senior advisor, David Axelrod. I thought it was a devastating one for Mr. Axelrod.
Now Axelrod may well be a bright fellow for all I know. But he comes across as rather dull and insipid in this exchange. If that judgment seems overly harsh, see for yourself what Axelrod says on the Keystone Pipeline (he blames Republicans for “rushing the decisions”), the failure of Senate Democrats to pass a budget for the last three years (he blamed it on something called the “theater of politics”), and on not returning the $1 million donation by Bill Maher despite his vicious assault on conservative women (he doesn’t really offer an explanation).
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that the United States was granting exemptions to Japan and several European countries from sanctions that are intended to prevent the sale of Iranian oil. However, Clinton represented the waivers as part of the administration’s effort to tighten the vise on Iran. This makes some sense, at least as far as Europe is concerned. The European Union has already forbidden its member nations from signing new oil contracts with Iran and has pledged itself to ending existing obligations by July 1. As for Japan, Clinton said the exemption was a reward for their efforts toward reducing their dependence on Iranian oil.
If these exemptions really part of an integrated strategy aimed at tightening the noose around Iran’s economy then it is fair to say that President Obama is keeping his word to implement the sanctions Congress passed last year over his objections. However, it is worth noting that the administration has history of non-enforcement of sanctions on Iran as well as the possibility that such waivers will be used as a way to prolong negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. There is also the likelihood that the exemptions have more to do with a desire to stabilize oil prices than a campaign to force the ayatollahs to renounce their nuclear plans.
In the Spring issue of National Affairs, I’ve co-authored (with Robert Beschel) an essay, “How to Think About Inequality.”
The essay argues that while income inequality has never before been central to American politics, this year the divide between rich and poor promises to be a focal point. From there, the essay looks at the state of income inequality in America; its roots; and the role public policy has played in the gap between the top and bottom income earners in America. The essay concludes with reflections on income inequality and justice and sketches out the broad contours of what an “opportunity society” might look like.
I concur with my colleagues. The GOP presidential race isn’t officially over, but the outcome is (absent an act of God) decided. As many of us thought at the outset of this contest, Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee.
It took longer, and the struggle has been harder, than Romney and his supporters would have liked. But he’s going to win the nomination of a party whose base has been wary of him from the start and while packing some heavy bricks (in the form of RomneyCare) in his rucksack. That is an impressive achievement in its own right.
While Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu was giving himself an A- grade on gas prices, the White House was rolling out a new rule that would ostensibly require federal agencies to weigh the cumulative effects of energy regulations. It’s a laudable idea in theory, but then again, so was President Obama’s executive order to cut down on regulatory red tape last year. And apparently that was such a runaway success that the White House needed to announce another rule a year later intended to do basically the same thing:
Agencies now will consult stakeholders and the public on how a new rule might interact with existing rules — and whether, for example, a string of upcoming rules on one industry would create an undue burden. Officials will also consider the cumulative effects of rules in their cost-and-benefit analysis, a process that currently weighs the costs against the benefits of each individual rule.
How could the same man gun down three French soliders in the city of Toulouse — two of them Muslim, the other North African — and then attack children at a Jewish school? Something just didn’t add up. There was “no clear motive” for the attacks, the New York Times said in an early draft of its story on the shooting at Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah on Monday. In later versions, after an outcry of disbelief, this was self-protectively revised to read: “Speculation over the motives for the killings ranged from anger at Muslims fighting in Afghanistan — the unit of three of the soldiers has been deployed there — and anti-Semitism, to a hatred of immigrants.”
Wrong. The alleged gunman, who reportedly has claimed all three French shootings, is a 24-year-old Muslim named Mohammad Merah.
Of all the terror groups that pose an internal threat to the U.S., the threat from the Iran-backed Hezbollah may be the most pressing. Today House Homeland Security Committee chief Peter King is holding a hearing on the organization’s U.S.-based network. According to his findings, Hezbollah is thought to have thousands of sympathetic donors and hundreds of operatives across the country – many of them with military training:
Pinning down a reliable estimate of the number of Hezbollah operatives who now reside inside the U.S. is difficult because of their operational security expertise. But some officials estimate that, based on cases uncovered since 9/11, there are likely several thousand sympathetic donors, while operatives probably number in the hundreds. …
Many defendants were known or suspected of having military training or direct combat experience against Israeli forces. Some were quietly convicted of fraud and deported as criminal aliens without their Hezbollah background being publicly disclosed by prosecutors, the Majority’s Investigative Staff has learned
King’s hearing will no doubt be used as fodder by Iran’s sympathizers in America, who want to discourage Israel from striking the Iranian nuclear program. The New York Times has been playing up how an Israeli attack on Iran’s facilities may spark a violent backlash against the U.S. And there’s no denying that an Israeli strike could ensnare the U.S. in some form or another.
After months of speculation, former Florida governor Jeb Bush finally jumped on Mitt Romney’s bandwagon. The son and brother of the 41st and 43rd presidents issued a statement saying “now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall.” The endorsement, coming on the day after Romney’s impressive win in Illinois all but made his nomination inevitable, isn’t likely to be of all that much help to the frontrunner in upcoming primaries. But it is a signal that the one family that could be said to embody the Republican establishment if there even is such a thing has formally certified Romney’s nomination.
The endorsement also is welcome since it comes on a day when the Romney campaign is dealing with a gaffe by one of his advisors that has the potential to alienate conservatives just at the moment when they may be coming to terms with the fact that they must make their peace with the inevitable nominee. This morning on CNN, Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said that Romney could tack back to the center after the primaries because:
Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.
I agree completely with Alana and Jonathan that the end game is at hand regarding the Republican nomination. Barring a major development, Romney is now unstoppable. He has a commanding lead in delegates and his two main opponents, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are facing increasingly difficult situations and rapidly diminishing possibilities. Santorum has yet to win in a state not dominated by hard-line conservatives and evangelicals, states that are safely in the Republican column come November anyway. Gingrich finished in Illinois behind fringe candidate Ron Paul.
But while Rick Santorum is now very unlikely to win the nomination, it’s been a remarkable journey for him. Just consider, he was a two-term senator, having won in Republican years (1994 and 2000) and then was clobbered in the Democratic year of 2006, losing as an incumbent by 18 percentage points. That’s a pretty thin résumé to run on. He was seriously underfunded throughout most of the campaign, unable even to get on the ballot in some districts and in Virginia.
Ken Livingstone, the intolerable former mayor of London – and presently the Labour Party mayoral candidate – has done it again. ‘‘It,’’ meaning an anti-Semitic outburst, and ‘‘again’’ referring to his long history of inflammatory and offensive statements and behavior. To wit: referring to a Jewish journalist as a concentration camp guard; embracing extremist Islamist cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who promotes the destruction of the Jewish people; telling the Indian-Jewish Reuben brothers to ‘‘go back to Iran;’’ obsessively venting hate for Israel and Zionism, as manifest, for instance, in his autobiography; and so on.
His current contribution to this contemptible catalogue stems from a meeting on March 1, where he stood by his embrace of Qaradawi, as well as his employ at Press TV, a notorious Anglophone network funded by the Iranian government and anchored by, among others, George Galloway. That’s just context though; the problem was, according to Jewish observers, as follows: Read More
In 2008, writing at the UK Independent, Paul Vallely contemplated whether to support sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. The article was Vallely basically thinking out loud, and he launched his train of thought with the following question: Have sanctions ever worked? Not often, he decided. He listed South Africa among the few success stories, and Burma among the failures.
But it may be time to revisit the judgment on Burma. The country’s ruling party, now led by Thein Sein, has begun releasing political prisoners and has indicated that more freedom is on the way, in what some are terming Burma’s glasnost. And today, the Wall Street Journal reports that Burma has requested American and British monitors for April’s parliamentary elections, with the hope that Western sanctions will be eased if Burma can demonstrate continued movement toward democracy. Additionally, while sanctions are usually criticized as disproportionately damaging to the population rather than the government, there is much evidence that this simply isn’t the case in Burma.
I echo Jonathan’s sentiments this morning when he wrote, “for the first time in this long and tortuous race, the end is clearly in sight.” After almost a full year of following an exhausting and dramatic primary race, it’s about time to switch over to the general election.
Of course nobody is encouraging that narrative more than the Romney campaign, which sent out a fundraising email immediately after its victory last night headlined “Time to Close”:
Tonight, we have taken one more step toward restoring the promise of America. And tomorrow we wake up and start again.
This November, we face a defining decision. Our economic freedom will be on the ballot, and I intend to offer the American people a clear choice.
Tonight’s win means we are that much closer to securing the nomination, uniting our party, and taking on President Obama. We are almost there. Help us close strong in the remaining contests by donating $10 today.
At this point, it seems to be a matter of when, not if, Romney secures the nomination. Of course, the major media outlets still are still covering this as if it’s still a horse race.
Having concluded a deal with Hamid Karzai that will involve transferring more than 3,000 detainees to Afghan custody, American negotiators are now trying to clinch a deal that would allow the continuation of “night raids”—the melodramatic label given to most Special Operations missions which occur at night when fewer civilians are likely to be in harm’s way and the targets are less likely to be on their guard and at more of a disadvantage because of America’s night-vision systems. The Wall Street Journal claims that the U.S. side is offering to allow Afghan judges to approve any future operations; I don’t know if this is true but it would make sense because similar authority was given to Iraqi judges.
The broader point is that it’s very difficult to get the Afghan government to approve what American leaders regard as their most effective terrorist-fighting tool—the ability of Special Operations Forces such as the SEALs, Rangers, and Delta Force to swoop down on “high-value targets” at night. And if it’s difficult today, when the U.S. has 90,000 troops in Afghanistan buttressing the authority of its government, imagine how difficult it will be after 2014 or even sooner when the U.S. presence will decline dramatically.
In this Wall Street Journal oped Ed Morse of Citigroup points out a little appreciated fact: that oil and natural gas production is soaring in the United States—and also in our neighbors Canada and Mexico. Thanks to technological developments such as the exploitation of oil shale, the U.S. has become the fastest growing oil producer in the world and is likely to remain that way for a decade or more. Already we produce almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia; soon we will surpass it. Already we have become a net petroleum-exporting country for the first time since 1949; in the future we have the potential to export far more, or to lessen even more our already declining dependence on oil imports.
That will make us increasingly energy independent and lessen the strategic importance of OPEC. It is also the latest of many reasons why predictions of American decline are so overwrought.
How out of touch is this administration with the struggles of the average American? This out of touch:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA): In controlling the cost of gasoline at the pump, do you give yourself an A-?
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu: Well, the tools that we have at our disposal are limited, but I would say I would give myself a little higher than that. Since I became Secretary of Energy I’ve been doing everything I can to get long-term solutions.
The statement, made today to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will be general election gold for the GOP, played while images of rising gas prices across the country flicker across the screen.
On Feb. 29, the Obama administration agreed to give North Korea 240,000 tons of food aid in return for a return for a North Korean moratorium on long-range missile tests, nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities. Then last week North Korea announced that it was planning a satellite launch which of course involves using a long-range rocket in contravention of the “leap day” deal. This week North Korea says it will welcome International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors back after a hiatus of three years, thus seemingly upholding another aspect of the deal.
What’s going on? Why is Pyongyang making deals, then taking actions that immediately repudiate them, while promising to adhere to other parts of the accord? No one really knows whether this is sheer duplicity on the part of the North Korean leadership or a rivalry among different branches of the government, some of which might want to strike a deal and others that don’t. Given that North Korea has a young and untested leader, Kim Jong-un, anything is possible. But whatever the case there is absolutely no reason to trust the North Koreans who, under the dictatorship of Kim Jung Il, father of the current supreme leader, showed a genius for manipulating the West into reaching deals and then violating all of their commitments.
After the walloping they took last night in Illinois, Rick Santorum’s supporters are hopeful that the next stop on the Republican primary calendar will cheer them up. Santorum is favored to win Saturday’s Louisiana Primary but that won’t change the fact that on Tuesday, he lost one of his last chances to win a state whose GOP is not dominated by evangelicals. The 47-35 percent beating he took in Illinois — which allowed Romney to win all but a handful of the state’s convention delegates — does more than merely reinforce the sense of Romney’s inevitability that is now acknowledged by all but the most diehard of his opponents’ supporters. The pattern of voting is such that there is now no longer any credible scenario that can be put forward in which Romney is denied a majority of the convention’s delegates by June.
Though the race will go on for at least another month, for the first time in this long and tortuous race, the end is clearly in sight. The April 24 Pennsylvania primary now looks to be an opportunity for Romney to close out his opponent by beating him in his home state. But even if Santorum can hold onto Pennsylvania, the May 8 trio of North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia may be his last stand especially since Romney is likely to win most of the states that vote in April. The delegate math makes it impossible for Santorum to pretend that he can actually win the nomination on his own. Not even the complete collapse of Newt Gingrich’s candidacy — the former speaker finished dead last in the field of four behind Ron Paul — has been enough to prevent the frontrunner from assuming a commanding lead that will not be overtaken.