In the wake of the Supreme Court’s hearings on the constitutionality of ObamaCare this week, speculation is now rife about the impact of a defeat for the president’s signature legislative achievement. Arguments are being marshaled that claim an overturning of the legislation will help the Republicans, while others insist it will rally the Democrats. That all of this is a bit premature is a given. No matter how the question and answer session with the justices went, we still don’t know for sure how they will vote. But even if we are to assume, as panicky liberals and triumphant conservatives are saying today, that the bill is headed to the dustbin of history, the ultimate impact of such a decision can only be guessed at.
The issue can help and hurt both the Republicans and the Democrats. Each party has something to gain and something to lose from the outcome. Nevertheless, the two main points to be derived from a defeat is that it will diminish President Obama and get Mitt Romney off the hook for his own Massachusetts health care bill. Seen in that light, if the judges vote the way so many people seem to think they will, the decision may well be a harbinger of defeat in November for the president.
As Pete wrote earlier, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan passed the House as expected this afternoon. And while that’s probably going to be the furthest it goes this year, Republicans are looking to make it their guiding message heading into the general election season.
House Speaker John Boehner kicked off this effort shortly after the budget plan passed:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday afternoon that the budget proposal put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is a “real vision” of how Republicans would govern if they had more control of Washington.
“So I applaud my colleagues,” he said of those who worked on the Ryan budget, “for the tough decisions they’ve made, to try to do the right thing for the country, to lay out a real vision of what we were to do if we get more control here in this town. It’s still a Democrat-run town.” …
“You look at all the proposals we’ve seen in this debate, it’s all more of the same,” Boehner said. “Two things that are prevalent: let’s raise taxes on the American people once again, and secondly, let’s kick the can down the road as if no one knows that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are going broke.” …
“While we did a budget last year, we’re doing another budget this year, we’re making tough decisions to help preserve Social Security and preserve Medicare, the United States Senate… it’s been 1,065 days since they passed a budget,” he said. “Almost three years since they’ve had the courage to show the American people what their solutions are.”
We know President Obama prides himself on the close relationship he has developed with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. If you listen to administration sources, despite Turkey’s attempt to sabotage Middle East peace, Erdoğan is part of the powerful international coalition the president has assembled to pressure Iran to give up its quest for nuclear capability. But it’s not clear how they can spin Erdoğan’s trip to Tehran this week. Meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, Erdoğan not only defended Iran’s right to nuclear research, he made common cause with the Islamist regime on their response “to the arrogance of the Western countries.”
Earlier today, Emanuele Ottolenghi speculated as to whether Erdoğan was taking a message to Tehran on behalf of his friend in the White House. But if that is true, neither the message nor its reply seems to be anything that should reassure the world that the Iranians are about to back down. If anything, the visit and the successful trade negotiations between Iran and Turkey appear to make it clear that Obama’s diplomatic coalition is a house of cards. Even worse, the Iranians know it.
Earlier today, the House of Representatives passed the GOP budget authored by Representative Paul Ryan by a vote of 228-191 (a day after President Obama’s budget was voted down in the House 414-0, which comes a year after Obama’s budget was voted down in the Senate 97-0). It’s therefore worth a tip of the hat not simply to Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, but also to Speaker John Boehner.
It was Boehner who a year ago gave the green light to Ryan to push ahead with his bold budget, even though then (and now) it calls for fundamentally reforming Medicare. Last year in particular the fear among many Republicans and conservatives was that advocating a restructuring of Medicare was political suicide. It hasn’t turned out that way, but that wasn’t known at the time. And Boehner’s support was crucial to Ryan; without it, the Wisconsin representative could never have pushed ahead.
Last month, London’s Labour Party mayoral-candidate Ken Livingstone, speaking before (irony alert) an audience of Labour-supporting Jews, proclaimed that Jews won’t vote for him because they’re rich. The Anglo-Jewish community leadership was finally able to relay its disgust in an anticipated meeting with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband last night.
Previously, Miliband had defended Ken, maintaining that there was not a prejudiced bone in the former mayor’s body – which may be true, given the tongue, brain, and heart aren’t technically ‘‘bones.’’ In any case, Miliband, recognizing his party’s reclamation of the London mayoralty to be a critical boon to his leadership, pushed the usually recalcitrant ‘‘Red Ken’’ to apologize. The candidate agreed, though it seems not so readily: Haaretz reports the precise wording of the apology was the ‘‘subject of lengthy negotiations.’’ Read More
Another (not totally unexpected) defeat for one of President Obama’s legislative proposals today. This time, the Senate rejected a measure to repeal oil company tax breaks, which the president urged them to pass in a stern speech this morning. The vote wasn’t completely split along party lines, with two Republicans supporting the measure and four Democrats opposing it.
Obama will continue to frame this as the GOP protecting the interests of Big Oil, but the fact that it failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate takes the edge off that slightly:
Obama has sought to deflect blame for high gas prices, in part by casting Republicans as allies of big oil companies. He used a Rose Garden speech to urge lawmakers to back the plan.
“Today, members of Congress have a simple choice to make,” Obama said. “They can stand with big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people.”
This week in The Forward, the usually superb Philologos sadly decided to give a bit of his intellectual heft to a topic that is becoming a bit of a meme for leftist Jewish writers of late: the supposedly discriminatory nature of Israel’s national anthem,”Hatikvah.” But these attacks on “Hatikvah” are themselves assaults on the liberal democratic values these writers claim to be upholding.
Philologos isn’t as sloppy as others and knows instinctively it would be unjust to throw out or rearrange “Hatikvah” so thoroughly that it would mean “accommodating the feelings of Arabs by trampling on the feelings of Jews.” Showing his poetic chops, he claims to have discovered a solution by substituting a few choice words that allegedly don’t change the song’s fundamental meaning for Jews but would nevertheless placate the Arab minority allegedly harmed by the song’s Jewish character.
The House is set to vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget this afternoon, and it’s expected to pass along party lines. Republicans are attempting to build a contrast to the president’s budget, which failed unanimously, 414-0, in the House yesterday – one display of bipartisan unity that the White House probably wasn’t pleased to see.
The L.A. Times reports:
Doubling down on a controversial campaign issue, the GOP-led House is set to approve a 2013 budget that would cut taxes for the wealthy, revamp Medicare and slash federal spending in a vote that will define the Republican Party this election year and beyond.
Thursday’s vote comes as a heated debate is playing out in Congress and the campaign trail, where Mitt Romney has embraced the proposal in sharp contrast to President Obama’s approach to budgeting.
Columnists often fall into familiar patterns. For E.J. Dionne Jr., one of those patterns goes like this: if conservatives don’t act like liberals they’re not really conservatives. The latest example of this writing tic can be found in E.J.’s column today, in which he argues that the conservative Justices on the Supreme Court should – if they’re really and truly conservative – find an unconstitutional law to be constitutional.
There are some amusing elements to Dionne’s column, including his new-found concern about “a judicial dictatorship.” I’m delighted the scales have fallen from Dionne’s eyes, that he has embraced with passionate intensity the belief that “legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches” and not with the judiciary. But I’m tempted to point out that a columnist who heretofore has been enchanted with the idea of a “living Constitution” – rootless, ever-evolving, with no fixed meaning, that is busy inventing new rights and jettisoning old ones – has lost the philosophical ground on which to make this objection (particularly when his objections are in fact baseless). Dionne also says that “conservative justices were obsessed with weird hypotheticals” – yet he fails to realize those “weird hypotheticals” served their purpose perfectly. They illustrated that there is no limiting principle for liberals when it comes to the power and reach of the federal government. (For more, see here.)
Billionaire casino-mogul Sheldon Adelson is still defending Newt Gingrich as the best candidate in the field, but it sounds like he may be getting ready to move on now that Gingrich’s chances at the nomination have evaporated.
“I mean, it appears as if he’s at the end of his line,” Adelson said at a Jewish Federation event, according to video posted by the Jewish Journal. “Because mathematically he can’t get anywhere near the numbers, and it’s unlikely to be a brokered convention.”
But Adelson also didn’t sound impressed by either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. He compared Romney to President Obama when he was in the Senate, saying he simply isn’t decisive enough.
“I’ve talked to Romney many, many times,” said Adelson. “Everything I’ve said to Mitt, he’s said, ‘Let me look into.’ So he’s like Obama. When Obama was in the Illinois senate, 186 times he voted present. Because he didn’t want to damage his record.”
The billionaire had even harsher words for Santorum.
The potential for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities may be a lot greater than skeptics may have thought. That’s the upshot of a story published yesterday in Foreign Policy that alleges Azerbaijan has granted the Israelis access to airbases in that country. If true, Israel’s ability to launch a strike from bases on Iran’s northern border would make the Jewish state’s military challenge in seeking to knock out Iran’s nuclear plants a lot simpler. The assistance of the Azeris would enable the Israelis to make repeated attacks and would eliminate the need to refuel their planes in midair in order to make the long flight from Israel to Iran.
Yet at the same time, a report in Ha’aretz insists that Tuesday’s announcement by the U.S. Defense Department that it would ask Congress for more money for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system ensures there will be no attack on Iran before the presidential election this year. While that assumption may be unfounded, along with similar speculation that followed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama earlier this month, it leaves open the possibility that Israel is heeding U.S. requests to hold off an attack. The question for Iran is, which of these stories do you believe?
Last year, I suggested there was no need for President Obama to make a federal case out of Menachem Zivotofsky’s request to have “Israel” designated on his passport as his place of birth, pursuant to a law giving Americans born in Jerusalem the right to that designation if they requested. My idea — which I thought might resonate with Obama — was to blame Bush!
Congress enacted the law in 2002; President Bush signed it, but said he would not enforce it; Obama had campaigned against Bush’s many signing statements, saying a president generally had only two choices – sign a bill or veto it; and Obama could have said he was simply faithfully executing a law his predecessor had signed. If he wanted, Obama could have done what President Clinton did regarding Taiwan: comply with the passport law while declaring American foreign policy remained unchanged. Case closed! But Obama proceeded to the Supreme Court, which ruled the issue can be adjudicated; and because the controversy continues, we may continue to be treated to colloquies like the one at the State Department yesterday.
According to Reuters and other news sources, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may have carried a message from President Obama to Iran’s leaders during his two-day visit to Iran. Erdogan discussed Iran with Obama at the Seoul nuclear summit, so it is plausible he was asked to deliver a message to Iran.
What that message could be is, of course, entirely a matter of speculation. But like what Obama said to Russian outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev about giving him space until after the election, one could imagine a similar message to Tehran: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”
In the New York Post today, I diagnose the shock at the powerful Constitutional arguments advanced against Obama’s health-care plan as another example of the self-defeating parochialism of American liberals, who are continually surprised that conservative ideas and conservative arguments are formidable and can only be bested if they are taken seriously: “the strength of the conservative arguments only came as a surprise to [Jeffrey] Toobin, [Linda] Greenhouse and others because they evidently spent two years putting their fingers in their ears and singing, ‘La la la, I’m not listening’ whenever the conservative argument was being advanced.” (There is nothing new under the son, as the “fingers in their ears” analogy was, it turns out, rather more wittily deployed by James Taranto in February 2011 in a column called “Law Law Law.”)
Indeed, yesterday, as I was writing my column, liberal New York Times columnist Gail Collins literally wrote these words: “How can this law not be constitutional?…Really, I have my hands over my ears. Not listening.”
This morning, the State Department will begin to walk back the spectacular meltdown that was yesterday’s press briefing, wherein State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland gave the Palestinians a de facto retroactive veto over Israel’s 1949 decision to make Jerusalem its capital.
The talking point will be that the Obama administration, by insisting that the status of West Jerusalem is subject to final-status negotiations, was only reiterating the explicit policies of past administrations. If that were true, then Obama critics would be making the same points they’ve made throughout this White House’s diplomatic campaign against Israel: that Obama, by making controversies out of issues everyone had been content to leave quietly buried, was unnecessarily damaging the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the prospects for long-term Middle East peace. Read More
The ranks of those who have any doubt about the outcome of the Republican presidential race got a bit thinner yesterday when Senator Marco Rubio endorsed Mitt Romney. The Tea Party favorite’s backing of Romney is yet another sign that even hard-core conservative Republicans have come to the conclusion the only way to win in November is to close ranks behind the frontrunner. With Rick Santorum looking at almost certain defeat in the next round of primaries to be held next week and Newt Gingrich having basically thrown in the towel, the prospect of Romney as the GOP nominee has now gone from being likely to almost certain.
Rubio’s endorsement, along with recent comments from other Senate conservative stalwarts like Jim DeMint and Pat Toomey vouching for Romney’s bona fides, should help ease the way for the rest of their party’s right-wing to start coming back in from the ledge onto which they had walked during the winter. As many on the right have spent much of the last year speaking of Romney in the most harsh terms, it’s not going to be easy for them to walk back the charge that he is indistinguishable from President Obama and a certain loser in November. But as is always the case in politics, once the bandwagon starts rolling, it gets easier to hop on. But even as he formally put himself behind Romney, Rubio also continued to discourage talk of the vice presidency.