Mitt Romney’s victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia will add more than 80 delegates to his total and extend his commanding lead over Rick Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination. That sets up Pennsylvania as the primary that has the chance to put the Republicans out of their misery and finally end the GOP race. Since the other states that will vote on April 24 — New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware — will almost certainly go for Romney, Santorum’s homecoming may be his last stand.
While Pennsylvania is being given the opportunity to finally put a fork in the long, agonizing Republican presidential race, listening to Santorum’s speech in his home state tonight one got the feeling the candidate was thinking as much about 2016 as he was the 2012 contest. By repeatedly invoking Ronald Reagan’s presidential runs in 1976 and 1980, Santorum seemed to be preparing more to tell the GOP, “I told you so,” if Romney loses in November, than about his own chances this year.
Earlier today, Seth commented on the results from a poll conducted by the liberal-leaning Public Religion Research Institute that contained some mixed results for the Obama administration. As Seth noted, the survey showed that even among a liberal population, the president didn’t find broad support for his policies on Israel. But, predictably, the New York Times is spinning the poll in a very different way. The headline in the paper’s political blog The Caucus is simply: “In Poll, Jewish Voters Overwhelmingly Support Obama.” The Times reports that it finds:
Support for Mr. Obama is still higher among Jews than among the general electorate, with 62 percent of Jewish voters saying they would like to see him elected, and 30 percent saying they preferred the Republican candidate.
The Times interprets this result as meaning:
The results cast doubt on the claim that Mr. Obama has alienated a significant swath of Jewish voters because of his rocky relationship with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
But does it really? Considering the president won a whopping 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, even if he does wind up getting 62 percent that would mean a loss of a fifth of the Jewish support he got four years ago.
In a preview of what’s to come during the general election fight, President Obama took a mocking and unusually personal swipe at Mitt Romney during a speech on the GOP budget today:
OBAMA: One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar of version of this plan from last year would be introduced on day one of his presidency. He said that he’s very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it marvelous — which is a word you don’t often hear when describing a budget. [Laughter]. That’s a word you don’t often hear generally. [Laughter].
As Alana noted earlier, Mitt Romney will be taking time out of his primary schedule to fundraise with and for the Republican National Committee (RNC). According to the RNC, this fundraising opportunity was offered to every candidate, however, Romney was the only one to accept the offer. The Wall Street Journalreported, “In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.” This doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as the Republican group offered to do the same with Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
Why might Santorum (and for that matter Gingrich) have refused the opportunity to take up the RNC’s offer? Each candidate, when fundraising alone, is unable to raise more than $2,500 per donor for their primary and general election campaigns. Fundraising with the RNC means that individual donors can give up to $75,000 to not only the campaigns of specific candidates but also toward the RNC and the state-level parties in swing states. The caveat for the candidate fundraisers is this: the money raised in excess of the $2,500 goes only toward the eventual nominee. If Santorum or Gingrich took time out of their schedules to fundraise with and for the RNC and did not become the nominee, the money they raised goes to the nominee, not back to their campaigns to pay off outstanding debts or serve as a starting off point for a future run.
The campaign of administration leaks aimed at undermining Israel’s position on Iran has been widely noted. But according to Robert Satloff, the respected head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the White House isn’t satisfied with blaming Israel for the chance that Americans might be killed in the event force is used against Iran. Satloff says the Israelis see President Obama as blaming them for rising oil prices as well.
Satloff, who met “virtually everybody in the Iran debate,” said the Israeli leadership also saw the administration as blaming Israel for the sharp rise in U.S. gasoline prices. He said Washington attributed the higher prices to “Israel’s posturing” on Iran. “They [the Israelis] think the Iranians should be held responsible for the higher gasoline prices,” Satloff said.
The possibility that Washington would seek to scapegoat Israel for higher oil prices is an ominous development. While there have been, as yet, no public statements to that effect, or, as is generally the case with this administration, front page features in the New York Times claiming this is what anonymous senior officials are thinking, Israeli may believe this is something they expect to happen. Perhaps by making their fears on this score public, they hope to head off what they believe is an obvious next step from an administration that is friendly to Israel in public but oozing with hostility off the record. Read More
This is big news, and not just because it refutes a lot of the skepticism that Canada would ever actually go through with its threats to sell its oil to China. It also shows there will be major consequences from what the Obama administration clearly believed was a harmless little political game it could play with the Keystone XL permitting. Even if the president backs down from his Keystone XL objections now – as Republicans have continued to urge him to do – Canadian PM Stephen Harper says it won’t make a difference.
Canada’s Sun News reports:
In a public one-on-one interview here with Jane Harman, head of the Wilson Centre think-tank, Harper said Obama’s rejection of the controversial pipeline — even temporarily — stressed Canada’s need to find other buyers for oilsands crude.
And that wouldn’t change even if the president’s mind did.
“Look, the very fact that a ‘no’ could even be said underscores to our country that we must diversify our energy export markets,” Harper told Harman in front of a live audience of businesspeople, scholars, diplomats, and journalists.
“We cannot be, as a country, in a situation where our one and, in many cases, only energy partner could say no to our energy products. We just cannot be in that position.” Read More
Obama called the GOP budget “a Trojan horse. Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.”
“It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it– a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.”
In case the nation had not yet heard quite enough about Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, she is back in the news. To her credit, it was due to an appearance at a charitable event. And, no, this time it wasn’t to do with her earning no ordinary secretarial salary. Rather, it was a particular comment she made in a scripted performance that merits brief attention.
She came onstage to list in jest the five things she would buy with the extra money she would accrue by falling into Buffett’s tax bracket, a bemusing statement noted by the host, who proceeded to clarify:
Host: Wait, wait, wait. I thought Warren [Buffett] wanted to get more people into the upper [tax] bracket?
Bosanek: I’ll take the lower bracket, thank you. Read More
It’s easy to find examples of anti-Israel partisans, having run out of actual Israeli imperfections over which to obsess, literally inventing Israeli behavior to condemn. Last January, U.K. diplomats attacked Israel over an East Jerusalem construction announcement that they made up. The most generous interpretation is that they made a genuine albeit revelatory mistake: already suspecting the worst about Israel, they had their suspicions confirmed.
This week’s example of anti-Israel partisanship in search of a pretext doesn’t have that excuse. University of Maine journalism professor Justin D. Martin posted an article in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) asserting that it “is a powerful statement” to note that Israel is second only to Eritrea in “per capita” jailed reporters. He defined “per capita” as the number of imprisoned journalists per the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), divided by a country’s size in millions (for Israel, 4 divided by 7). The attack collapses so quickly, and is such a transparent hatchet job, that it raises legitimate questions of intellectual and academic integrity.
This was bound to happen eventually, but Rick Santorum might have hoped this news wouldn’t come before on the day of what is likely to be his last stand in the Wisconsin primary:
In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.
The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That’s far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.
The Public Religion Research Institute, recently in the news for its survey on Catholic attitudes toward the Obama administration’s decision to include religious institutions in its contraception mandate, today released the findings of its polling on American Jewish values: “Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012,” a report based on its recent survey of 1,004 self-identified American Jews. Here is one of the key findings highlighted by the report:
When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, nearly half (46 percent) of American Jews cite a commitment to social equality, twice as many as cite support for Israel (20 percent) or religious observance (17 percent). Fewer than 1-in-10 say that a sense of cultural heritage and tradition (6 percent) or a general set of values (3 percent) are most important to their Jewish identity.
Via Quinnipiac, Rick Santorum is now leading Mitt Romney by just six points among likely Pennsylvania Republican voters. The last Quinnipiac survey in mid-March showed Santorum with a 14-point lead, though keep in mind that poll was also taken among registered, not likely, Republican voters.
Favorite Son Rick Santorum leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 41 – 35 percent among likely voters in Pennsylvania’s Republican presidential primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has 10 percent, with 7 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Santorum tops Romney 43 – 33 percent among men, while women split 39 – 38 percent. Santorum also leads 53 – 24 percent among white evangelical Christians, 50 – 32 percent among Tea Party members and 48 – 30 percent among self-described conservatives. Romney is ahead 45 – 29 percent among self-described moderates.
Veteran Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari has written in the Times of Israel claiming last week’s bombshell from Foreign Policy magazine about Azerbaijan’s willingness to allow Israel to use its air bases to strike Iran was pure fiction. Yaari excoriates the editors of Foreign Policy, the Israeli press (including, presumably, the Times of Israel, which prominently reported it) and anyone else (including, presumably, me) for taking it seriously. But though Yaari presents some good arguments why it might not be true, unlike magazine author Mark Perry, he offers no sources or reporting to back up his assertion.
But even if we assume Yaari is right and Perry’s piece is wrong, there are some interesting questions to be posed about the piece. Unless you are willing to believe, as perhaps Yaari and others disputing its authenticity do, that Perry is lying about the fact that senior officials in the Obama administration leaked the story to him, it’s still important to ask why they did so. What possible motive could they have had?
Presidential chutzpah. Well, at least you can admire him for that perhaps. After all, someone who graduated from Harvard Law School, edited the Harvard Law Review, and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School must be familiar with Marbury v. Madison. As Wikipedia explains, it’s an important case:
Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803) is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in Western history a court invalidated a law by declaring it “unconstitutional.” The landmark decision helped define the boundary between the constitutionally separate executive and judicial branches of the American form of government.
You could argue that this leak – which has the Israelis gaming out an Iranian-led assault on Israel and capping Israeli casualties at below 300 – is a ruse designed to make the world think they’re not bluffing about a kinetic operation against Iranian nuclear facilities. Alternatively, it could be that the report is absolutely true, and that having already concluded that an attack would reap significant benefits, the Israelis are now confirming that its costs have been exaggerated. The math would then work itself out:
In the event of an Iranian attack on Israel, less than 300 people would be killed during three weeks of non-stop fighting on multiple fronts, according to estimates delivered to the security cabinet in a briefing, Channel 10 reported on Monday. According to the estimates, described as a worst-case scenario, thousands of missiles would be launched toward Israel from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza as part of the Iranian attack. The scenario took into account Israel’s defenses as of 2012, with the Iron Dome rocket-defense system not yet at its full deployment.
In the current issue of COMMENTARY, Jamie M. Fly has an excellent article reminding readers of the moral case for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. With the Koran burning in February and a lone, deranged soldier’s massacre of Afghan civilians last month, U.S. support for our continued intervention in Afghanistan has declined precipitously. Both American progressives—for whom Afghanistan was once the good war—and many conservatives increasingly say the United States is at the point of decline returns, and that our occupation has become the problem. News reports showing 500 people in Kabul protesting and chanting anti-American slogans can be disheartening given the blood and treasure which the United States has invested into Afghanistan. The situation looks dire especially if one forgets that Kabul is a city of five million people, and so spontaneous demonstrations of 500 are pitiful by even rent-a-mob standards. Seldom, however, do journalists and officials consider what the Afghans are thinking before they project their own doubts onto the Afghan population.
It is in this context that a March 28 article in Hasht-e Sobh (8 a.m.), Afghanistan’s newspaper of record, is so interesting. In an editorial entitled, “Will support for war wane?” (with a translation provided by the Open Source Center), the newspaper places blame for declining U.S. public support not on the United States but rather on Afghan President Hamid Karzai:
Peter Beinart, aspirant to the pedestal of liberal Zionism and prospective successor to Tony Judt, is witnessing the unravelling of his carefully choreographed arrangement. It was going so well: on the heels of his infamous article in the New York Review of Books came the commission to expand the thesis into a book, and, with the assistance of an army of interns and researchers, The Crisis of Zionism was released at the annual J Street conference and with an article in the New York Times, and, to accompany this momentous event, with the inauguration of a new blog, Zion Square, which would alter the discourse on Zionism in the American Jewish community. And he, with a righteous cause and the reward of royalties, would be at the forefront.
So far, so bold.
Unfortunately for Beinart, however, even the blueprint, much less the execution, was ill-conceived. To begin with, the book itself has received scathing reviews (see for instance, Sol Stern’s take in this month’s COMMENTARY, as well as here, here, here, and here). There is no need to rehearse their salient criticisms, except to note that between the article and the book, Beinart altered one of his key theses, namely, that it was not Israeli policies which were alienating American Jews, as he had earlier claimed, but rather intermarriage among the latter which was alienating them from the Jewish community, and consequently from Israel. Read More
The Iranian proxies in the Gaza Strip have not been shy about their eagerness to renew hostilities, preferably but not necessarily at their convenience. Hamas’s Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh recently reiterated that Hamas will never cease trying to destroy Israel, and to make sure everyone was on the same page the Palestinians fired rockets into Israel while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in town. All of which lead to a military flare-up last month, leaving some Palestinian groups badly damaged but not even scraping Hamas’s military infrastructure.
So naturally attacks on Israeli troops, especially around the southern Gaza border, are again on the rise. IDF patrols are being targeted with 50 kg explosives, more than 50 mortar attacks have been launched at Israeli soldiers, and anti-tank missiles are a constant threat. Israeli leaders are describing the attacks as an escalation, and have apparently had enough:
Israeli planes dropped pamphlets in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday morning, warning Palestinians not to enter a no-go zone on its southern border. The leaflets, signed by Israeli forces general command, include a map of the zone, a Ma’an correspondent said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the leaflets were dropped in several locations, and “reiterated to the citizens of the Gaza Strip to keep a 300-meter distance,” from the border area.