Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen will be using his day off to fly back to Florida today to hold a news conference tomorrow to make a public apology for his published remarks in which he spoke of his “love” for longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. While the famously loquacious and largely unrestrained Guillen is entitled to his opinion, the fact that the institution that employs him understands that a public mea culpa is necessary illustrates that at least in southern Florida, expressing affection for a Communist murderer is not deemed acceptable behavior.
Guillen, a native of Venezuela who stirred up a much smaller controversy when he previously spoke of his admiration for that country’s authoritarian leader Hugo Chavez, has a reputation for shooting off his mouth about just about anything rather than being a political activist. Though Cuban-Americans are rightly up in arms about what he said and any hint of a boycott of the Marlins game would be disastrous for a franchise desperate to attract fans to their new ballpark, it is likely that Guillen will survive this mess. But what is interesting about this kerfuffle is the fact that it may be one of the last gasps of an effort to hold the Havana regime in opprobrium despite the efforts of many liberals (and the Obama administration) to lower the volume of protests about human rights in Cuba.
As we first noted last week, Iran’s program of diplomatic gamesmanship aimed at confusing and unnerving the Obama administration has begun. Last week, the Iranians started to dicker about the site of the scheduled talks with the West about their nuclear program that had already been decided. Now, as this report shows, the Iranians are proceeding to muddy the waters further by sending out conflicting messages–with one of their high-ranking officials signaling their willingness to compromise on their uranium enrichment and another that they would not. It’s the same old song they’ve been singing for years whose only purpose is drag out any negotiations so as to give their scientists more time to get closer to their nuclear goal.
But to focus on these shenanigans is somewhat beside the point. The problem is not what the Iranians are saying but Washington’s ability to interpret its true meaning. And it is on that score that Washington seems to be the most at sea. The Obama administration has been leaking reports about its intelligence prowess so as to undermine any notion that its evaluation of Iran’s capabilities is not underestimating Tehran’s nuclear progress or wrong about its not having made a decision to build a bomb. But as with previous intelligence disasters, including the one in Iraq that the CIA seeks to atone for, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to the president or his team that they are desperately short of human insight on what the ayatollahs are thinking.
The latest video out by James O’Keefe is a powerful argument for voter ID laws, with a cameo from Eric Holder (actually his would-be voting impersonator). As a requisite disclaimer, O’Keefe has been accused of selectively editing videos in the past, but this one appears to include the full conversation.
The question is whether anyone should really care. Yes, if you wanted to, you could risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine to vote for someone else, but we’re not sure why you would, since a single vote, or even a few votes, will never make a difference. (Okay, almost never.) Could a group of hundreds or thousands of fraudsters be mobilized to go around to different polling stations on election day and vote for one particular candidate or issue, possibly altering the outcome of an election? It would be difficult to organize surreptitiously, but sure, it’s probably doable. But it has never happened.
That’s like the government saying it’s pointless for bars to check IDs, because underage drinkers will face a hefty fine if they’re caught. The punishment becomes less of a deterrent if there’s a very high probability of getting away with the crime.
It has become a familiar refrain: conservatives reach for “wedge” (read: social) issues in presidential campaigns in order to distract and divide voters. That narrative has always been suspect. But I wonder when it will dawn on political reporters and commentators that it is Barack Obama who is compulsively reaching for “wedge” issues in the hopes of dividing Americans against one another.
In just the last few weeks, for example, the president has weighed in on the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke controversy, the membership policies of Augusta National Golf Club, the Trayvon Martin shooting, as well as altering the status quo when it comes to requiring Catholic hospitals, charities and universities to provide insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and abortifacients, in violation of their conscience and creed.
If America must shoulder the burden of global security because others will not or cannot, America also shoulders the burden of a global idealism always present, if dormant, that is now–20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union–again rearing its head on a massive scale throughout the Arab world (and in Iran and to some extent, Russia). Today, Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt wonders aloud why President Obama has remained so dismissive toward the outward expression of freedom for its own sake. Hiatt guesses that it’s a kind of post-nationalism:
But his stance also reflects his own brand of idealism, which values international law and alliances more than the promotion of freedom. The democrats’ uprising in Iran threatened his hopes of negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran’s rulers. Aid to Syria’s democrats requires approval from the UN Security Council, which is unattainable without Russian and Chinese acquiescence.
While the Obama administration appears to be convincing itself that there’s nothing wrong with the Muslim Brotherhood acquiring a monopoly on power in Egypt, it looks as if that country’s military is panicking about the prospect. Though the Egyptian presidential race–in which the Brotherhood’s candidate and one from an even more extreme Islamist party are the favorites–may be in a state of flux, the decision of a former key member of the army leadership to enter the race may be a sign the generals are far from confident about what may be about to happen in Cairo.
The entry of Omar Suleiman, who served as head of military intelligence during the regime of Hosni Mubarak, into Egypt’s presidential sweepstakes adds one more element of uncertainty in a situation that may be about to unravel. Suleiman, who reportedly is still close with the army’s ruling council, is a much-hated figure among both secular liberals and the Islamists for his role in suppressing dissent under the Mubarak dictatorship. Even though observers give him little chance of winning, the decision of the army to have one of their own get into the race may show just how scared they are of the Brotherhood and its allies imposing its beliefs on the country. The fact that President Obama isn’t scared too may be even more frightening to those Egyptians wondering what their fate will be once the Brotherhood assumes control of the presidency as well as the parliament and the constituent assembly writing a new constitution.
Mitt Romney didn’t have to cancel his anti-Santorum ads (at least there wasn’t any obvious political pressure for him to do so), but it was the right thing to do. The Romney campaign was set to bombard Rick Santorum with negative ads in Pennsylvania, a state Santorum will have even more trouble winning now that he’s canceled his campaign events for the next few days to stay by his young daughter Bella’s hospital bedside.
With Rick Santorum’s young daughter, Bella, in the hospital, Mitt Romney is yanking a negative television ad from the Pennsylvania airwaves “until further notice,” campaign officials said on Monday.
The ad, part of the Romney campaign’s plan to blanket Pennsylvania media markets ahead of the state’s April 24 primary, was originally meant to remind voters of Santorum’s landslide 2006 Senate re-election loss …
“We have done this out of deference to Sen. Santorum’s decision to suspend his campaign for personal family reasons,” Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the former Massachusetts governor said in a statement. Saul said the campaign informed television stations to pull the ad Monday morning and that broadcasters would “comply with this request as soon as they are technically able.”
For generations, historians have lauded the friendship that existed between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as being a crucial element that made the wartime alliance between the United States and Great Britain a success. But apparently there are some people who aren’t as happy about the prospect of close relations between a would-be U.S. president and the head of the government of one of America’s closest allies. The New York Times devoted a portion of the cover of its Sunday edition and considerable space inside to a feature that detailed the ties between likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that go back to the 1970’s when both were young men working at the Boston Consulting Group. According to the Times, this has some people worried that too much “deference” on Romney’s part to Netanyahu would “influence decision making” and possibly “subcontract Middle East policy to Israel.”
This potential smear invokes two of the hoary canards of anti-Israel invective: the dual loyalty charge (usually lodged against American Jews) and the notion that a politician is pandering to the pro-Israel community for votes (in this case, evangelical Christians are the more likely candidates for influence than the more liberal Jews). But the idea that Romney is suspect because he has a longstanding friendship with the Israeli prime minister is absurd. Allies are supposed to be friends or at least ought to be able to understand each other and speak frankly about potential conflicts. Given that President Obama spent the first three years of his presidency picking fights with Netanyahu that did nothing to enhance America’s strategic position or the Middle East peace process, wouldn’t Romney’s ability to communicate without rancor with the Israeli be an advantage rather than a cause of suspicion?
One of the biggest challenges for the Romney campaign will be humanizing him, and his down-to-earth wife is clearly the most powerful weapon it can deploy on this front. The campaign released a sentimental video today of Ann Romney discussing the ups and downs of raising their five sons together, as old home movie footage and pictures play in the background.
Late last week I heard from a theologian of liberal leanings, someone with whom I have been in (often friendly) correspondence for years. He wrote me to voice his objections to my recent “diatribes” against President Obama. That didn’t particularly surprise me. What did surprise me is how he framed his objections. He didn’t take issue with the facts I’ve presented or even my interpretation of the facts. Rather, his concerns were expressed this way:
When I read your constant barrages aimed at the first black president, I think to myself, “Doesn’t Pete, the devout Christian, understand what it took to get to this place? And where would Pete have been in the years of the freedom struggle that finally eventuated in some measure of equality for African-Americans and even a black president?” Isn’t there some way you can temper your attacks on Obama with this history in mind?
Under pressure from the pro-Israel community, embattled former Media Matters for America fellow M.J. Rosenberg has finally parted ways with the left-wing media watchdog group. As Contentions has reported, Rosenberg was one of a handful of staffers at Democratic-affiliated Washington think tanks who used terms like “Israel-firster” and other dual-loyalty charges to attack Israel supporters and members of the Jewish community.
Months of public pressure and outrage from across the pro-Israel spectrum forced Media Matters for America staffer M.J. Rosenberg to tender his resignation Friday from the left-wing media watchdog group.
Rosenberg is the notoriousproprietor of the term “Israel-firster,” a phrase with origins in the white supremacist movement that many consider anti-Semitic. During his tenure at MMFA, Rosenberg proudly used the term in his weekly columns and on his Twitter feed in an attempt to paint pro-Israel lawmakers and American Jews as being more loyal to the state of Israel than America.
In a final post titled, Last Media Matters Column, Rosenberg signed off by admitting that he had tarnished the liberal group’s image.
“The reason for this step is that it disturbed me greatly to see an organization to which I am devoted facing possible harm because of my critical writings about Israel,” he wrote. “I have no doubt that the crowd that opposes any and all criticism of Israeli government policies will continue to turn its guns on Media Matters if I am associated with it.”
Over the weekend, my friend Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, was forced into a parting of the ways with his magazine’s and website’s long-time contributor, John Derbyshire. The dismissal was due to an article Derbyshire wrote for a site called Taki Magazine, taking off from the killing of Trayvon Martin.
I’m not going to rehash here the offense committed by the Derbyshire piece. Suffice it to say that this article, like much of what appears on that website and others like it, purports to take a “scientific” view of race relations according to which, inevitably, black people are helpless against DNA that supposedly causes them at once to be dumber and more violent than white people. These sorts of arguments are usually offered in a specious more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone or with an excruciatingly knowing world-weariness that serves as a secret club handshake with all those who know and are willing to accept the uncomfortable truths revealed by “science.”
Rick Santorum celebrated Easter and spent time with his family this weekend. He’ll spend Monday with his hospitalized 3-year-old daughter Bella whose fight for life has been an inspiring and sympathetic parallel journey to his campaign since its inception. All of this, along with the fact that there has been no major ad buys in the upcoming primary state of Pennsylvania, is fueling speculation that Santorum is considering pulling out. Given that he has virtually no chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination and stands to suffer a terrible humiliation if, as is entirely possible, he loses his home state primary later this month, there are good reasons why Santorum should do just that. But the betting here right now is that he won’t.
Though a veteran and in many ways a highly practical politician, Santorum has a vision of his career and his party that has never exactly conformed to what other people thought he should do. While this might be the right moment to cash in his chips after a remarkable primary run that brought him more success than anyone outside his inner circle thought possible, the thinking here is that he has gone too far to pull out now when he still thinks he could win at home and then do some more damage in the May primaries. Even more to the point, he may have come to the conclusion that being a “team player” and standing aside for frontrunner Mitt Romney will not materially aid the party or his long-range plans.