Posts For: April 5, 2012
Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute has a suggestion worth heeding regarding the impending North Korean missile launch (supposedly to loft a satellite into orbit): He advises that the U.S., working with our allies South Korea and Japan, should shoot down the missile. With the Aegis ship-borne ballistic-missile defense system in place, the U.S. surely has the means to do so. And with North Korea’s launch being in violation of UN resolutions as well as Pyongyang’s own commitments made as recently as February 20, the U.S. has ample right to do so.
Auslin is convincing in arguing that this will not start a war with the North but will signal a renewed seriousness in American-led counter-proliferation efforts. This is especially important to do because North Korea has a young, untested leader: now is the time to mold his behavior and show that he will not be allowed to get away with murder, both literally and metaphorically, as his father did so often in his dealings with the West. This would be a salutary lesson not only for the North Korean regime but also for other rogue states around the world, most notably Iran.
Imagine if the U.S. had taken tougher action in the 1990s to prevent North Korea from going nuclear–or since then to punish it for its violations of international law. Instead,we have engaged in one round of fruitless diplomatic wrangling after another, constantly offering the North Koreans generous incentives to abandon their nuclear efforts only to have the North Koreans violate all of their commitments. This experience of American passivity no doubt encourages the mullahs into pursuing their own nuclear ambitions more recklessly than ever. With Iran poised on the brink of going nuclear, now would be a good time to prove that we will not sit supinely back and accept the world’s most dangerous weapons spreading into the hands of the world’s most dangerous regimes. Shooting down a North Korean missile launch would be a dramatic yet not reckless way to make the point.
One aspect of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe that is particularly perplexing for onlookers is the way hatred of Israel and Jews has been taken up by leading intellectuals. Perhaps the most egregious example of this trend is that of Gunter Grass. Grass, a Nobel laureate for literature and perhaps one of the leading figures of German letters of the postwar era, is a veteran leftist known for his hatred for the United States as well as his background as a member of the Hitler Youth and the Waffen SS under the Nazi regime. But yesterday, the author of The Tin Drum was back in the news for writing a poem defending Iran and attacking Israel.
Grass not only denied that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon but also denounced German support for Israel and called on the German government to halt the sale of submarines that are key to the Jewish state’s deterrence against aggression. Though Iran’s leaders have repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel as well as denying the Holocaust, Grass promotes a new blood libel when he claims it is Israel that is plotting to wipe out Iran and is the primary threat to world peace.
It is telling that even as hard-core an Israeli leftist as author Tom Segev was willing to denounce Grass’ latest effort in Haaretz. Though he put the poem down as being “more pathetic than anti-Semitic,” Segev made it clear the German’s attempt to paint Israel as the villain and Iran as the victim was absurd:
Grass’ comparison of Israel and Iran is unfair, because unlike Iran, Israel has never threatened to wipe another country off the map. And contrary to Grass’ sanctimonious verses, under no circumstances would a military action against Iran lead to the extermination of the Iranian people, because as far as we know, it would exclusively target the country’s nuclear facilities.
Few could dispute that the world will be a better place without an Iranian nuclear weapon. And not only in Israel – also the northern German town of Lubeck, the capital of marzipan, where Grass writes, paints and sculpts, will be a better place if Iran doesn’t get the bomb. Grass basks in hypocritical moralism and agonizes over not having condemned Israel’s nuclear capacity earlier. … One gets the impression Grass’ act of “breaking the silence” is more a self-contained personal experience than anything else. Neither can one escape the notion that he seeks to recreate the shock waves of his confession six years ago about his service in the Waffen SS during World War II.
Segev was right to note that Israelis are having a debate about whether an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is necessary or wise. But he is wrong to acquit Grass of anti-Semitism. His work is indicative of a desire to demonize the one Jewish state in the world while whitewashing the record of an Islamist regime awash in Jew-hatred and dedicated to annihilating Israel. Like many other European intellectuals, Grass adopts a pose in which he claims to be innocent of anti-Semitism. His vitriol aimed at Israel and his assistance to the campaign to strip it of its right to self-defense betrays his motives and ideology.
The spectacle of a former Nazi penning a rationalization of a regime that promotes a similar style of hate for Jews may well be pathetic. But that such a person is treated as the conscience of his nation speaks volumes about the debased nature of intellectual discourse in contemporary Europe. Thanks to figures like Grass and other leading lights of the arts such as Britain’s Emma Thompson, anti-Semitism is having its best days in Europe since the author was saluting Hitler in the SS.
The Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee have a new chart out today that really clarifies what President Obama’s budget will mean for future national spending priorities. Under Obama’s budget, interest payments on debt will exceed national defense spending by 2019:
The reason for this is that under Obama’s budget, rapidly growing debt would lead to higher interest payments, and substantial cuts to the defense budget would cause defense spending to increase at a slower rate.
Incidentally, the House Budget Committee office tells me the same thing doesn’t happen under chairman Paul Ryan’s budget. Here is their chart for comparison:
Under Ryan’s plan, the defense spending and interest payments are actually the inverse of the levels in Obama’s plan by 2022. As you can see, the interest payments still rise with Ryan’s budget, but at a slower pace, while defense spending increases at a healthy rate during the next decade.
This is a prime example of why getting the debt under control is crucial for the future of national security. But under the president’s budget, neither debt reduction nor defense spending are a priority. Liberals have argued that cutting defense is the best way to get the national debt problem under control, but as these two charts show, that’s not the outcome from Obama’s defense cuts. Even with defense reductions, the interest payments still rise faster than under Ryan’s plan.
When Americans first heard the story of the death of Trayvon Martin, many in the public and in the media decided on a narrative for why George Zimmerman killed the unarmed black teenager in Florida on the night of February 26. It was decided that Zimmerman, a “white-Hispanic” (should we now start classifying President Obama as the first white-African American president?) pursued and shot an innocent unarmed black teen in cold blood, because of his own racial bias. Over time, details available to the public have come to light as the narrative on the night changed. Many of the new details have emerged because eyewitnesses have come forward and police reports have come to light. There are a significant number of details, however, that have been shaped and then changed by the media and the biased lens they used to frame the case.
One of the key ways in which the media portrayed the story as one driven by racial violence was by playing the audio of the 9-1-1 call Zimmerman placed the night Martin died. While covering the case, NBC played excerpts of the call which made Zimmerman sound like nothing less than an armed member of the KKK. From the call NBC played the audio:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
After playing that phrase on-air multiple times, NBC issued an apology (of sorts). They have now admitted the audio they played to millions of Americans was edited, and the full context of the conversation between Zimmerman and the 9-1-1 operator was this:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
A blog post on the Washington Post website articulated what was wrong with the statement issued by NBC:
Does the statement adequately address those concerns? On the good front, it acknowledges the mistake and apologizes to viewers for the bad editing. It’s a forthright correction and spares us any excuses about the faulty portrayal. On the bad front, the statement is skimpy on the details on just how the mistake unfolded. Nor does it articulate an apology directly to George Zimmerman, the “viewer” who is most aggrieved by the screw-up. In light of all that’s happened, Zimmerman may be a tough person for a news network to apologize to, but that’s just the point: Apologies are hard.
The fact that this news broke on a Washington Post blog, and on a low traffic one at that, speaks volumes about how the Post views the NBC error as well.
Many proponents of the racial motivation theory pointed to another aspect of the 9-1-1 tape to prove that Zimmerman’s pursuit and shooting of Martin was due to Zimmerman’s bias. CNN was particularly enthusiastic about playing a segment of the 9-1-1 tape’s audio over and over and over, while trying to discern what was being said over background noise and labored breathing. In the segment, a CNN reporter asserted that he was fairly sure he heard Zimmerman mutter a racial slur while chasing after Martin. Now CNN has enhanced the audio even further, and the reporter who claimed Zimmerman used a slur is now suggesting that instead of Zimmerman complaining about “coons,” he was actually probably using the word “cold.” The likelihood of CNN playing the segment on this correction as many times as it played the alleged remarks is pretty slim.
A crucial part of the case which could establish Zimmerman’s claim that shooting Martin was in self-defense revolves around the moments before the gun went off. Was Martin being chased by Zimmerman, as his family claims, or was he pummeling Zimmerman on the ground, as Zimmerman claims? ABC released a video of Zimmerman’s arrest on the night of Martin’s death, hyping up the claim the video didn’t show any signs of injury on Zimmerman’s part, thereby invalidating his claim that Martin slammed his head against the sidewalk multiple times. Later, ABC broke the story that they themselves had edited the tape, eliminating pictures that proved Zimmerman walked into the police station with fresh head wounds. The Daily Caller remarked,
Now ABC News has reversed itself, and somehow it’s an “exclusive.” Not a correction. Not a retraction. An “exclusive.” Their big scoop is that their previous big scoop was wrong.
As with the CNN and NBC “corrections,” this reversal has received a fraction of the airtime that the original inflammatory accusations against Zimmerman received. As the case unfolds and new details emerge in the mainstream media, my immediate reaction has become: “Interesting. I wonder if it’s true.”
Liberal conventional wisdom claims the rise of the Tea Party has put an end to any hope of civility in American politics and that the political right is a stronghold of intolerance that makes reasoned debate impossible. That’s the line President Obama and the Democrats have maintained while trying to portray the Republican Party as being in the grip of extremists. However, events in the battleground state of Wisconsin have once again given the lie to these liberal myths.
Just as unions and their liberal and Democratic allies sought to use physical intimidation to prevent the state legislature from considering or voting on measures they didn’t like, similar behavior is part of their effort to recall Governor Scott Walker. Politico reports that Governor Walker revealed that his family has been subjected to various forms of intimidation tactics during the past year with his children and elderly parents being harassed at a supermarket. His children were also targeted on Facebook.
The Wisconsin recall is being seen as an indicator of how the fall presidential election may go. Given that polls there show the race to be dead even, perhaps that is right. But the conduct of Walker’s opponents ever since he took office last year has demonstrated that the notion of liberal civility is a fallacy. Union thugs sought to physically harass legislators and the governor last year while the Democratic minority in the state house took to hiding out in another state in order to prevent the democratically-elected majority from holding a vote on issues where they disagreed with Walker.
Like the Occupy Wall Street protesters who pose as the guardians of democracy but instead actively seek to suppress the free speech of their opponents, the Walker-haters are not content with a mere discussion of the issues. So it is hardly surprising to learn that Walker’s family is being treated with the same lack of civility.
Neither side in our political battles has a monopoly on virtue or good behavior. But the assumption by the left that only the right engages in bullying can only be preserved by willful blindness. The good name of the trade union movement has been tarnished by conduct in Wisconsin that blurs the line between bad manners and criminal harassment. We suspect the voters of that state will be more influenced by the spectacle of anti-democratic conduct by the left than they are by liberal demagoguery against Walker’s prudent attempt to reform the state’s finances.
It’s not enough that President Obama is making false claim after false claim about Representative Paul Ryan’s budget; he is also doing so using the same stale, warmed-over lines of attack. The president isn’t even doing us the honor of being creative in deceit.
I’d simply add this: if Obama is going to plagiarize someone, at least he could choose presidents whose words are memorable and witty rather than pedestrian, strident and banal.
There are multiple reasons to defeat Obama; the fact that he’s too lazy to come up with original disinformation can be added to the list.
The mock outrage and silly opportunism of the Democrat-manufactured “war on women” narrative reached comedic heights today, after some innocuous comments from Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus triggered a ridiculously disproportionate firestorm:
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus triggered a debate on caterpillars Thursday when dismissing the GOP’s so-called “women problem” as a “fiction.”
“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and mainstream media outlets talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars,” Priebus told Bloomberg TV in an episode of “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing Thursday night. …
The comment “shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter in a statement. “Women are already abandoning the Republican Party in droves because of their antiquated positions on women’s health and out-of-touch policies on the middle class. Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”
This is too obtuse to be unintentional. There is no way the Obama campaign or Democratic National Committee really thinks Reince Priebus was comparing women to caterpillars, right? Then again, The Atlantic seems to have bought in:
In this week’s Etch A Sketch moment, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said the GOP’s perceived “war on women” was as fictional as a war on caterpillars. Now, while it’s pretty fun to imagine politicians in suits doing battle with what we can only assume would be enormous, mutant caterpillars, it also reveals the problem with drawing such comparisons: trivializing people’s concerns isn’t the best way to get them to drop an issue.
So now if Republicans don’t admit that the “war on women” they are falsely being accused of waging is real, that’s taken as further evidence that they hate women and trivialize their concerns. That’s some logic.
The entire controversy is right out of that picnic scene from Whit Stillman’s great “Barcelona,” when Taylor Nichols tries to explain U.S. Cold War foreign policy to a group of anti-American pseudo-intellectuals by using an analogy about ants. “That’s clearly the most disgusting description of U.S. policy I have ever heard,” shoots back one artist. “The third-world is just a lot of ants to you.”
I can imagine that trying to explain the fallacy of the “war on women” narrative to Debbie Wasserman Schultz is about as futile as trying to explain the reasonableness of American foreign policy to anti-American Europeans. No matter what anybody says, she’ll just turn back to Priebus and exclaim, “So women are just a bunch of caterpillars to you?”
As Alana noted earlier, there’s a lot of talk about Rick Santorum pulling off the campaign trail for several days, that he’s reassessing his campaign, and that there might even be a Santorum-Gingrich “unity effort” to try to stop Mitt Romney from winning the GOP nomination.
Count me among those who believe that what Santorum decides doesn’t matter all that much.
I say that because the race is decided, even if it’s not officially over. Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. Reporters have stopped covering Newt Gingrich, and they will become increasingly uninterested in what Santorum says. And Governor Romney is wisely focusing all his attention on President Obama rather than his GOP opponents. So even if Santorum stays in the race, the dynamic has fundamentally shifted. The only way Santorum can get much attention is by increasingly shrill attacks on the person who has, in a long and fair contest, soundly defeated him. And that will hurt Santorum even more than Romney. Even now, Santorum’s complaints about the GOP “establishment” and its “aristocracy” seem out of touch. (People like Jim DeMint, Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan hardly qualify as RINOs.)
Count me among those who believe that what Santorum decides doesn’t matter all that much.
Rick Santorum did better than anyone, including probably Santorum himself, thought possible. He ended up second (albeit in a historically weak field of challengers to Romney). And he has undone much of the damage, and the memory, of his 18-point defeat in 2006. But at this stage, the outcome of the November election will not hinge on what the former Pennsylvania senator does. It would be better for the Republican Party, its eventual nominee, and Santorum’s future if he exited the stage (a primary loss in his home state would bring back the ghosts of 2006 in a hurry).
But Santorum, like Gingrich before him, is increasingly irrelevant. Governor Romney has the spotlight, the (de facto) nomination, and the party behind him. We’ve reached the point where his GOP opponents are more or less a sideshow.
Yesterday, I wrote about the Obama administration’s decision to back the Muslim Brotherhood’s bid for a monopoly on power in Egypt. The rationale behind this startling decision was the possibility that an even more extreme Islamist appeared likely to win the upcoming presidential election. But now it appears that the candidacy of Sheik Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the Salafi leader who appeared to be taking the country by storm, is in jeopardy.
If so, and the possibility that the most radical Islamist in the race will not be running Egypt has receded, the question for Washington is how President Obama’s foreign policy team — which met this week with a delegation of radical Islamists from the Brotherhood in the White House — proposes to walk back their latest unforced error on Egypt? Given the dangers that would accrue from the Brotherhood adding the presidency to their control of Egypt’s new parliament, it looks as if the administration has given sanction to a development that will alter the political landscape of the Middle East in a manner that will severely diminish American influence and increase the possibility of more Islamist violence against Israel.
The problems of Sheik Ismail provide a bit of comic relief to an otherwise grim situation in Cairo. The radical leader is an ardent foe of the United States, but it appears that his mother, who went to California to be with Ismail’s sister who had previously immigrated there, obtained American citizenship before she died. If so, that would contravene a law passed last year that mandated that the parents of any Egyptian president must not have any other passport. Should the charge be true and Ismail is forced to leave the contest, that would be a huge victory for the Brotherhood and their candidate, wealthy businessman Khairat Al Shater.
But this is nothing for the United States to cheer about. Though the White House may be buying into the Brotherhood’s assurances of moderation and devotion to peace and stability, a closer look at Al Shater reveals that the Islamist group hasn’t really changed its stripes. As Bret Stephens wrote earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, the Brotherhood candidate is anything but moderate on the question of Middle East peace and doesn’t sound like someone the White House should be rolling out the red carpet for:
On the subject of Israel, Mr. Shater noted that the killing of Hamas’s Ahmed Yassin was “a heinous crime corresponding to the perfidious nature of the Zionist enemy.” As for negotiating with Israel, he called it “mindless”: “The only way” to deal with the Jewish state, he insisted, “is jihad.” He faulted “the enemies of Islam” for trying to “distort and remove [jihad] from the hearts and minds and souls of Muslims.” He blasted the U.S. for preventing “the Islamic nation in its entirety” from eliminating “the usurper Zionist enemy.”
Moreover, although as Stephens notes, some of the things the candidate says are pleasing to Western ears, there’s no denying his goal is to impose Islam on every aspect of Egyptian society. If, in the most optimistic scenario, the Brotherhood wants to emulate Turkey rather than Iran, that means the transformation of a secular Western ally into an Islamist nation that will always be hostile to U.S. interests and peace.
Yet, by diving into the election and giving the Brotherhood its seal of approval, the White House may have once again undermined any hope that the military or secular moderates could hold off the Islamist surge.
The list of administration errors on Egypt is long. It refused to promote democracy or human rights while Hosni Mubarak still ruled, but then compounded that error by quickly dumping Mubarak. It repeated that pattern by seeking to attack the military government that succeeded Mubarak and then appeased them by continuing the aid in the face of provocations. Now, it has put its chips on the Brotherhood even though there is still a chance it can be stopped. After all this, the only question is what Obama blunder will be next?
Desperate times call for desperate measures:
Rick Santorum is reassessing his campaign strategy this weekend, but he’s still committed to stopping Mitt Romney.
“BREAKING NEWS: Santo meeting in Virginia now w conservative leaders,” Time’s Mark Halperin tweeted. “Talk re the path forward, Santo-Newt unity effort to stop Romney.” Translation: Santorum meeting in Virginia now with conservative leaders. They are talking about the path forward, a Santorum-Newt unity effort to stop Romney.
Halperin added that a “Santor[um] source, responding to speculation: ‘He is NOT dropping out before Pennsylvania.’ [Meeting is about the] best way to proceed, not whether to.”
Desperate times call for desperate measures:
There have been rumors about a Santorum-Gingrich unity ticket before, but they always seemed highly unlikely for two reasons. The first was that Santorum would be taking a very big risk by promising Newt the VP slot, especially back when he had a chance to win the nomination cleanly and pick a more practical running mate, i.e., Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. The second obstacle was Gingrich’s main bankroller, Sheldon Adelson, who has made it pretty clear he’s not a Santorum fan.
The difference now is that Santorum and Gingrich are both in much more dire straits than they were a month or two ago. Santorum has no chance of winning the nomination outright, and even in the highly unlikely scenario that he did, most of the names on the vice presidential short list have endorsed and campaigned for Romney.
Adelson has also said Gingrich is at the “end of his line” in the race. If the clock is running out on Adelson’s support for Gingrich, the former speaker has much less to lose by teaming up with Santorum.
Of course, if such a deal were actually to happen, Gingrich and Santorum would become the scourge of the Republican establishment (at least more so than they are already). And at this point, their chances of winning with a unity ticket aren’t much better than without a unity ticket. For someone like Santorum with future presidential aspirations, it doesn’t seem like the wisest move in the long run.
The evidence of a major expansion of Iran’s nuclear program is a matter of record as far as the CIA is concerned, but the spy agency is still claiming Tehran hasn’t decided to build a bomb. Yesterday, COMMENTARY contributor Bill Gertz wrote in the Washington Free Beacon about the CIA’s official report to Congress on arms proliferation which was delivered in February but which hasn’t come to the attention of the public until now. The report states the bare facts about Iran’s program that are by now a matter of public knowledge since the International Atomic Energy Agency has been putting out regular bulletins about their damning findings.
The acknowledged facts are these: the Iranians have expanded their nuclear infrastructure and continued nuclear enrichment. They have constructed advanced nuclear centrifuges and bringing them online. Even more ominously, a new underground nuclear facility at Fordow has begun production of “near-20 percent enriched uranium,” the material that can be used to produce bombs. But as Gertz noted, the CIA’s report did not note the questions raised by the IAEA about weaponization research that is believed to be going on in Iran.
That omission is a crucial point in evaluating the CIA’s stance on Iran’s nuclear program. The agency has grudgingly noted the way Iran has proceeded with its nuclear build-up. But it is still sticking to its largely discredited 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that claims the Iranians are not building a bomb. In order to maintain that stance, it must ignore or downplay any evidence that points to weaponization.
As even the New York Times noted last month, American intelligence is still recovering from the black eye it received from its mistakes about Iraq’s weapons stockpile. But the agency’s decision to try to avoid making the same mistake on Iran has led them to buy into an equally fallacious mindset. Moreover, criticisms that the Iraq intelligence was influenced by the politics of the Bush administration is more than matched by the pressure coming from the Obama White House to downplay worries over Iran’s nukes that lend weight to calls for more action and less talk about the threat.
While American intelligence may have been guilty of overselling the threat from Iraq, it now appears to be doing everything possible to avoid taking the blame for a confrontation with Iran. But what the spooks seem to be forgetting is that as bad as the spanking over its Iraq errors was, it will be nothing compared to the anger that will come down on them should their optimistic assessments about Iran be proven false. Moreover, as bare bones as the CIA’s latest report may be, it contains enough to be someday thrown in their faces as proof that they knew the nature of the Iranian threat but refused for political or institutional reasons to draw the right conclusions.
The White House is still feeling heat from President Obama’s comments suggesting it would be “unprecedented” for the Supreme Court to overturn a law passed by Congress. And much of it has to do with the fact that the media is actually doing its job and calling the president out on his falsehoods:
During robust questioning when [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney was told at one point that he had mischaracterized what the president had said, the press secretary was forced to repeatedly defend the remarks of his boss as an observation of fact.
“Since the 1930s the Supreme Court has without exception deferred to Congress when it comes to Congress’s authority to pass legislation to regulate matters of national economic importance such as health care, 80 years,” Carney said.
“He did not mean and did not suggest that … it would be unprecedented for the court to rule that a law was unconstitutional. That’s what the Supreme Court is there to do,” Carney said.
Take a look at the video to see Carney try to spin the president’s comments as the “reverse of intimidation.” Politifact also checked into Obama’s assertions, and rated them false in a scathing review:
There’s simply no support for the assertion that the law was passed by a “strong majority.” It was passed along party lines in a sharply partisan climate, and the 60 votes in the Senate were the minimum needed to keep Republicans from bottling it up in a filibuster.
But the “unprecedented” idea is more nuanced. It’s without question that the Supreme Court overturning a law passed by Congress — by any margin — is a common and routine occurrence, and by no means without precedent. Volokh gave us a close analogy with the case of Boerne v. Flores, a religious freedom law that glided through Congress but was held unconstitutional by a majority of the court, including two of its liberal justices. …
But we’re taking Obama literally, and that historical perspective was not reflected in his original statement, which is what we’re ruling on. He simply said the law passed with a strong majority and overturning it would be unprecedented. Wrong and wrong. We rate the statement False.
Many have questioned why Obama, a supposed constitutional law scholar, would make comments so obviously inaccurate. I doubt it’s out of ignorance. As a former student of Obama’s pointed out, he didn’t seem concerned about the courts overturning “duly constituted and passed laws” when he was teaching at Chicago.
The reason Obama made these comments might be simpler. He thought he could get away with them. In the past, the media simply hasn’t called him out on the inaccuracies and distortions in his speeches. That changed this week, and may be a sign this presidential election may at least have fairer news coverage than the last.
Early on in the uprising against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the emerging consensus on Russia’s efforts to stall Western intervention–even with so much as a sternly worded Security Council resolution–was that Vladimir Putin’s interests could be addressed. He wanted, according to observers, guarantees Russia’s navy would not be expelled from its access to the Syrian port of Tartus and to have a say in Assad’s replacement.
These suggestions were probably true at the time, and may even remain as elements of the Kremlin’s Syria strategy. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seems to have upped the ante, and offered Russia’s clearest declaration yet that it is protecting not just its own interests–which could be granted by the West through negotiations–but Assad himself. The New York Times reports:
Mr. Lavrov, who has strongly defended Russia’s support for Syria’s government but has been increasingly critical of Mr. Assad’s behavior, said during a visit to Azerbaijan on Wednesday that he must comply with the cease-fire plan. But he also admonished the so-called “Friends of Syria” group of anti-Assad countries, which met in Turkey with exile Syrian opposition groups this past weekend, not to provide weapons to rebel combatants, as some of those countries have suggested.
“Even if the Syrian opposition were armed to the teeth, it would not be able to beat the government’s forces,” Mr. Lavrov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
What Russia wants, first and foremost, is an end to the uprising. If Assad were on the edge, Russia would probably consider pushing him over in exchange for a continued presence at Tartus and confirmation that its economic interests in Syria would remain in place post-Assad. But in classic “strong horse” fashion, Russia is volubly siding with Assad because it increasingly looks as though he has regained the upper hand–or at least that the odds are in his favor.
Admonishing the West and the Arab world that Assad cannot be defeated militarily, even with outside help, is also Russia’s way of suggesting they will not stop arming Assad’s forces, something the State Department has been criticizing for quite some time now.
Russia continues to be the linchpin of the Assad regime’s fight for survival. If Western diplomacy has been premised on the idea that Russia is willing to let Assad fall, it’s time to adjust the calculus.
Is this the week the Obama administration’s remarkable incompetence begins to be the narrative? If so, he’s toast.
The president’s astonishing, not to mention indefensible, lecture to the Supreme Court this week, in which he turned 200 years of American constitutional history on its head, has been the talk of the blogosphere. But it’s not just the fact that he pretends to have not heard of Marbury v. Madison, it’s the anger behind his remarks that he is having trouble concealing. Even his old professor at Harvard felt he had to weigh in.
It is not hard to see why he might be angry. His single major domestic accomplishment, Obamacare, is in mortal peril in the Supreme Court. InTrade has the chances of its being overturned at 63.8 percent this morning. And it remains deeply unpopular with the public at large. His other domestic efforts have been largely a bust. The stimulus did not produce the promised economic boost and recovery from the recession remains stubbornly slow and unemployment stubbornly high. Green energy is failing and failing and failing. The price of gas has nearly doubled since he became president, despite the recession, while domestic production of oil and natural gas has been rising despite his policies, not because of them.
And, of course, the country continues hell-bent towards the fiscal cliff at the rate of $1 trillion plus per year. Obama, and the Senate Democrats, have not even tried to do anything about something the people in poll after poll have called their number one concern.
As for his foreign policy successes, I’d list them except there haven’t been any. His failures are numerous. Our antagonists, such as Iran, Korea, Russia, and China have little or no respect for him, and thus no inclination to play ball. He has managed to alienate such important allies as Britain and Israel. Indeed, his very first foreign policy act was to insult Britain by summarily returning a bust of its great national hero, Winston Churchill–the man who saved the world in 1940–to the British Embassy. It’s only gotten worse. Last week, his open-mic gaffe with the Russian president was greatly embarrassing. This week’s summit with Mexico and Canada revealed deep problems within the North American alliance, problems that were hardly noted in the American mainstream press–a wholly owned subsidiary of the Obama re-election campaign–but were widely on view in the Mexican and Canadian media.
In sum, it’s a remarkable record, especially for a man who thinks of himself as a transformational figure in American history. The president looks in the mirror and sees FDR. Increasingly, the rest of the country look at him and see Jimmy Carter, perhaps even James Buchanan. They were both one-term presidents.
Rick Santorum has bet his political future on winning the Republican presidential primary in his home state of Pennsylvania this month but according to the latest polling, he’s about to lose that wager. Public Policy Polling’s new survey shows Mitt Romney taking the lead in Pennsylvania for the first time, with a 42-37-percentage point advantage. Santorum’s level of support in Pennsylvania has been declining in recent weeks as polls conducted by Franklin & Marshall College and Quinnipiac University in the last week both showed the large leads he had earlier this year shrinking dramatically. But in the wake of Romney’s wins in three states on Tuesday, voters polled yesterday by PPP appear to be coming to the conclusion that with the general election fight against President Obama about to commence, Santorum’s continuing insurgency is undermining the GOP’s hopes of victory in the fall.
The polling, which showed Romney making up ground with every demographic where he has had trouble throughout the race — evangelicals, Tea Partiers and very conservative voters — demonstrates the fact that growing numbers of even those Republicans who were unsympathetic to the frontrunner are starting to make their peace with his inevitability. And with President Obama already beginning to launch attacks on him, the impulse to close ranks behind their eventual standard-bearer is overcoming home state loyalty to Santorum.
Santorum’s problems in Pennsylvania are actually pretty similar to ones he’s encountered elsewhere. Only about a third of those polled think Santorum actually has a chance to win the nomination and less than a quarter believe he gives his party the best chance to beat Obama. The delegate math and the difficulty in believing that Santorum has any hope of winning in the fall provide the only explanations for the dramatic turnaround in the state in the last month as Santorum lost six points and Romney gained 17 as the outline of the race solidified.
With 19 days left until Pennsylvanians vote that leaves plenty of time for the lead to change again, so expect Santorum to double down on the harsh attacks on Romney as indistinguishable from the president. The former senator has been sending clear signals in recent days that he has little interest in being a team player for the GOP and winding down his insurgency. Indeed, his speech on Tuesday night in Pennsylvania — during which he never mentioned the fact that he had lost three primaries that day — seemed to indicate that his model was Ronald Reagan’s 1976 challenge to Gerald Ford and that his ultimate goal was to pick up the pieces of the party after Romney lost in November. The notion of redeeming a fallen GOP as Reagan did before he won the presidency in 1980 appeals to both Santorum’s vanity and his conviction that Romney is unworthy of his party’s nomination.
But that scenario will be impossible if Santorum can’t win in his home state. The idea that he can successfully carry his revolt into southern states in May after getting overthrown in Pennsylvania is fanciful. Just as Pennsylvanians are coming around to understanding that prolonging the race is a gift to Obama, conservatives elsewhere are also coming to that conclusion.
Though President Obama and the Democrats are hopeful that Santorum will keep pouring on the vitriol and make Romney’s life miserable all the way to the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of the summer, GOP voters realize that isn’t in their interests. That means that while the next three weeks will be very nasty indeed, there is now a better than even chance that Romney will score a knockout blow that will finally end the Republican contest.