Many newspapers in America gave front-page coverage to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for the coming year (costing him his $7.5 million salary), former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. In addition, the franchise was fined $500,000 and lost several high future draft picks.
The penalties were leveled in the aftermath of an investigation of the Saints’ illegal bounty program designed, in part, to injure opposing players from 2009 to 2011. It was the strongest punishment in league history.
Some will call it payback but to those who know and or have followed Pat Toomey’s political career closely, it’s just yet another instance of his logical mind following a question to its proper conclusion. Pennsylvania’s junior senator told a gathering of conservative activists today that questions about the conservatism of Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney are unfounded. “I think Mitt Romney is a conservative, and I think if elected, he’ll govern as a conservative,” Toomey said at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference. Coming on the heels of another virtual endorsement from one of the Senate’s other leading conservatives, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, the Toomey statement is strong ammunition for the Romney campaign, especially in the lead up to the Pennsylvania Primary on April 24.
It is a given that some observers will merely put down this statement as a belated reprisal for Rick Santorum’s infamous decision to back Arlen Specter against Toomey in a 2004 Senate primary race. But Toomey and Santorum put that dispute behind them long ago. The Toomey statement is actually far worse for Santorum than merely getting even for his role in keeping him out of the Senate eight years ago. Toomey, the former head of the Club for Growth, is as principled a conservative on fiscal issues as one can find in the Senate or anywhere else and his acceptance of Romney’s bona fides is a telling statement about what he thinks about both the frontrunner as well as the challenger.
President Obama’s energy tour was supposed to placate public anger over rising gas prices, and show voters that the White House is taking their concerns seriously. Instead, the tour only ended up highlighting Obama’s dismal energy record, and gave Republicans ample opportunity to make their case to the media.
The reason is that Americans have heard these promises from Obama before, and know better than to expect results.
Do the descendants of Jews who fled the Arab and Muslim world in 1948 want to “go home?” That’s the odd question asked today by Foreign Policy magazine in introducing a photo essay featuring images of the remnants of Jewish life in places like Libya, Iraq and Iran. But while the photos are interesting, the idea that “the uncertain revolutions of the past year may present the best chance for long-exiled Jewish communities across the Middle East to return home” is probably the most bizarre as well as misleading statements published on the topic in some time. Not only are Jews not longing to return to the Arab world, the so-called Arab Spring has unleashed forces of Islamism that makes such an unlikely occurrence even less inviting for anyone foolish enough to believe that Jews are welcome there.
For decades one of the most appalling gaps in knowledge of the modern history of the Middle East is the way even supposedly educated people ignore the fact that what happened in 1948 was an exchange of populations. While hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled the area that would become the State of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Jews were fled, usually for fear of the lives, from Arab countries where Jews had lived for more than a millennium. The difference between the two sets of refugees is that while the Jews were resettled in Israel and the West, the Arabs were left refused homes elsewhere in the Middle East and kept in camps where they were told to wait until the Jewish state was destroyed.
Throughout the race, pundits have wondered whether a Mitt Romney nomination would keep the conservative base at home next November. Now they may have their answer. Conservatives don’t gloss over Romney’s flaws, and many cheer on his GOP opponents when they skewer his moderate positions. Rick Santorum has recently gone all out on the Romney-is-a-RINO theme, running ads comparing Romney to President Obama. But there is a line. And Santorum barreled right through it when he blurted out that America might as well stick with Obama instead of taking a risk on Romney yesterday.
Conservatives were outraged, and Santorum quickly attempted to backpedal.
As this year’s J Street conference begins, I’ve obtained a speech from last year’s—from a conference panel called “Working with Christian Communities Towards a Room Two-State Solution.” The speaker in question is Serge Duss, Director of the New Century Evangelicals Project, and the theory at issue is that modern Jews are not descended from Biblical Jews:
The misconception that most Evangelicals have, particularly conservative Evangelicals – I consider myself a progressive Evangelical – is what we learned in Sunday school. And what we learned in Sunday school about the Old Testament and particularly King David, we have carried forward three, four, five thousands years, where there is a belief that the modern state of Israel and modern Israelis are the extension of the Children of Israel of the Old Testament. You, only you – I can’t, but only you can disabuse Evangelicals of that mythology. How many rabbis I’ve heard say in settings, ‘We are not the Hebrews, the Children of Israel of the Old Testament’? And unless conservative Evangelicals particularly hear that message from Jews in America today and Israelis in Israel, minds will not be changed.
Under the most innocent reading Duss was merely calling for J Street’s Jewish attendees to use their Jewish identity to undermine support for Israel. That would be a telling advocacy, and here it’s worth noting that J Street organizers appreciated Duss so much that they brought him back this year. Instead of trying to expand the pro-Israel tent to include more people, J Street seems committed to isolating Israel and Israelis by undermining existing their support from American Jews and Christians.
On Thursday GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Republicans should give President Obama another term if Santorum isn’t the GOP nominee. “You win by giving people a choice,” according to Santorum. “You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there.” Santorum added: “If they’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future.”
Whatever concerns conservatives have about Governor Romney, the idea that Obama would be (from a Republican perspective) a superior president is insane, for reasons that don’t need to be recited here. Bear in mind that Santorum enthusiastically endorsed Romney in 2008 — and Romney is no less conservative now than he was then. On the other hand, I suppose a conservative who argues that Obama would be better than Romney might also argue that Arlen Specter would be superior to Pat Toomey.
The United Nations obsession with demonizing Israel was once again on display this week in Geneva where the world body’s Human Rights Council voted to investigate the impact of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Palestinians. This so-called fact-finding mission is yet another UN kangaroo court that is set up to demonize the Jewish state and to allow the Palestinians to vent their intolerance for Jews in the guise of displaying their victim status. Since the Council has already made it clear that it considers that Jews have no right to live anywhere in the territories and that Israeli policies that make Jewish communities there possible are illegal (an assertion that is palpably false even if it has become a mantra of international diplomacy), the mission is really an indictment rather than an investigation.
The Obama administration deserves credit for the fact that the United States was the only one of the 47 members of the Council to vote against the resolution, which was one of five anti-Israel measures passed in Geneva this week. But this latest proof of the institution’s moral bankruptcy requires a stronger response than the rhetorical shrug of the shoulders that it generated that from Washington. The Council, which prior to this latest session had already devoted 39 out of the 91 actions it has taken since it was reconstituted in 2006 to denunciations of democratic Israel, is a parody of a human rights organization. At a time when the group is either paying mere lip service or flat out ignoring real human rights tragedies, the decision to devote the UN’s resources to another platform for hatred against Israel makes it imperative that the United States withdraw immediately from the Council.
I finally got around to reading Ezra Klein’s interesting take on what I consider to be a fascinating subject: the power of presidents to persuade the public. Klein’s piece, in the March 19 New Yorker, takes a dim view of the practical uses of presidential rhetoric, using mostly presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama as case studies. Reagan, Klein notes, was considered to be a great communicator (or, as he is remembered, the Great Communicator), yet his approval ratings were average and many of his primary policy prescriptions never caught on with the public.
Overall, he writes, the same is true of Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Bush was unable to convince the country to accept social security reform, and Obama has been unable to sell additional fiscal stimulus and most notably his health care reform law, which remains broadly unpopular. The overestimation of the power of the bully pulpit, he finds, is more likely to harm a president’s domestic policy agenda than advance it. But I think the key word there is “domestic.” Switch the subject to foreign policy, and the power is somewhat restored.
The media narrative for the past month has been that the GOP is waging a “war on women.” But one story that’s fallen through the cracks is the legislation proposed by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions last spring to crack down on fugitive sex offenders. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill in January, and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is now reportedly blocking it from full Senate consideration. Big Government reports:
The Act was designed to grant the U.S. Marshals administrative subpoena power so that they could better investigate sex offenders who had not registered as required by law. The FBI already had similar authority for health care and child crime cases; the Secret Service already had similar authority for cases involving threats to officials. …
In January, the bill was reintroduced and passed through the Judiciary Committee. And now, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has put a hold on it, blocking it from full Senate consideration.
There’s no good excuse for such a hold. Administrative subpoena power is necessary because it is faster moving than traditional subpoena power; it is frequently used in emergency situations. And there is no greater emergency than tracking down sex offenders, who have the highest recidivism rate of any criminal subgroup.
You have to wonder what Leahy’s reasons are for holding up the bill, which is non-controversial, and would presumably have bipartisan support. Sex offenders have a high recidivism rate, and there should be universal interest in aiding efforts to track down convicted predators who are trying to dodge registration laws.
Rick Santorum was making a meal out of Mitt Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom’s Etch A Sketch gaffe yesterday when the former senator got a little carried away. Honing in on the idea that Romney was a political chameleon who didn’t provide a clear alternative to President Obama, Santorum didn’t just stick to his usual line that nominating a moderate would guarantee a loss for the Republicans in November. Instead, he went one step farther:
“If they’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future.”
Santorum may not have actually intended to say that re-electing Barack Obama is preferable to replacing him with Mitt Romney. But that’s the way it came out. And, for all of Romney’s well-known flaws, this sort of an overstatement illustrates one of Santorum’s: his penchant for going off message and saying things that will come back to haunt him. The candidate has always prided himself on being unscripted but along with the spontaneity comes a tendency to go on too long when answering a question. That often leads Santorum into uncharted territory. He doesn’t need a teleprompter. What he really needs is an internal editor.
This morning, the president of the United States overshadowed his own introduction of the new World Bank president by making remarks about the shocking case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17 year-old shot to death in a Florida town by a wannabe cop who claimed self-defense and was not charged with a crime. The Justice Department is looking at the case, a grand jury has been convened to consider the case, and the nation is in an uproar about the case—all signs that, with the exception of some extremists who crawl out of their repugnant redoubts, everybody is able to see the horror in a story like this and has a gut reaction that something profoundly wrong must have taken place here. The president said some moving words—”when I think about this boy, I think of my own kids…If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon—and some not-so-moving things. Particularly this: “I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen. And that means we examine the laws, the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.”
Hey, wait a minute. What soul-searching exactly is it “all of us have to do” here? A black kid was shot by a Hispanic adult apparently besotted with law enforcement whose volunteer work for neighborhood watch had him calling the cops in his Orlando suburb nearly 50 times in a year to report on his suspicions. That adult lives in a state where a “Stand Your Ground” law does not require people to retreat in the face of a threat outside their homes. A police chief where he lives decided that owing to the Stand Your Ground law, he had no grounds on which to arrest George Zimmerman for the shooting death—who claims he was attacked by Martin—and let him go. This is a very, very, very specific case—involving a podunk PD, an evidently problematic individual who had been slightly empowered by a private watch system, and a teenage kid in a hoodie on his way to buy candy for his brother. It took place in a state where 19 million people live. The circumstances may not be duplicable. Ever. Even so, the leading officials in the state—its governor, Rick Scott, and its superstar young senator, Marco Rubio—have already said the Stand Your Ground law may need revision in the wake of the case. The response has been overwhelming, and all in one direction.
When an unhinged U.S. soldier gunned down 16 Afghan civilians – including women and children – in a pre-dawn massacre a couple of weeks ago, Americans immediately recoiled in horror and dismay. But to Afghans, this atrocity was far less outrageous than the accidental Koran burning at a U.S. military base a few weeks earlier. And while the Koran burning sparked violent protests in Afghanistan, the local response to the senseless murders was much more restrained.
The Associated Press reports on how religious leaders have justified the discrepancy:
When mullah Abdul Rahim Shah Ghaa thinks back to the day in February when a couple of Afghan employees at a U.S.-run detention center outside of Kabul yanked five partially burned Korans out of a trash incinerator, he shudders with anger and revulsion. “It is like a knife to my heart,” says the head of the provincial religious council. The March 11 slaying of 16 Afghan civilians by a lone U.S Army staff sergeant named Robert Bales in Kandahar province, however, has left less of a scar. “Of course we condemn that act,” he says. “But it was only 16 people. Even if it were 1,000 people, it wouldn’t compare to harming one word of the Koran. If someone insults our holy book, it means that they insult our faith, our religion and everything that we have.”
J Street is holding their annual policy conference this weekend, and the group duly requested speakers from the White House and the Israeli embassy in Washington DC. The results are unspinnable. The Israelis let J Street cool its heels until this week before dispatching deputy chief of mission Barukh Binah. Binah recently concluded a stint in Jerusalem as a Foreign Ministry deputy director-general, in which capacity he publicly castigated J Street for dishonestly manufacturing an anti-Israel publicity stunt, then building an entire media campaign around the stunt, then fabricating an Israeli apology related to the stunt. Sending him to be the embassy’s speaker was not the world’s most subtle move. The White House’s announcement of its surrogate, the vice president’s national security adviser Tony Blinken, left Ben-Ami bitterly complaining that the choice was a snub. He’s right. Blinken, for all that he is an experienced hand, is several rungs below U.S. National Security Adviser Jim Jones, who appeared at the first J Street conference and left J Street boosters musing about the group’s potential power.
J Street has gone from fantasies of being the anti-AIPAC to complaining publicly about its diminished influence. The spiral was a function of many things, but mostly of the group aggressively pushing counterproductive, failed, and toxic policies in Israel, in Congress, and in the media.