Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 19, 2012

Where Dishonest Obama Memes Collide

Senate Democrats are doing all they can to keep oxygen in this “war on women” narrative, and the next big agenda item is the vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It’s an uncontroversial law, one that would have passed the Senate with wide bipartisan support. But that was before Democrats added a host of vaguely-related controversial new measures to it, including provisions on immigration and tribal laws.

Republicans have speculated that this was a tactic to provoke a fight over an otherwise uncontroversial piece of legislation. But it doesn’t sound like they’re going to take the bait, at least not in the Senate:

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Senate Democrats are doing all they can to keep oxygen in this “war on women” narrative, and the next big agenda item is the vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It’s an uncontroversial law, one that would have passed the Senate with wide bipartisan support. But that was before Democrats added a host of vaguely-related controversial new measures to it, including provisions on immigration and tribal laws.

Republicans have speculated that this was a tactic to provoke a fight over an otherwise uncontroversial piece of legislation. But it doesn’t sound like they’re going to take the bait, at least not in the Senate:

Senate Republicans are irritated at Democrats’ push to exploit the Violence Against Women Act for political gain but signaled today they aren’t planning an effort to block or delay it.

As Senate Democratic women and Vice President Joseph Biden amped up their push to reauthorize the bill at separate events today, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters that Republicans don’t intend to filibuster it, with the assumption that Democratic leaders will at least allow a Republican alternative to be offered for a vote.

“All these things add up to things that are keeping a bill that could pass on a voice vote from being passed,” Grassley said. “Violence against women except for these additions is noncontroversial. I’m afraid what they’re doing here is they want a political issue — you know, ‘war on women’ — and they are going to end up with another one-year extension.”

Democrats continued to decry GOP “obstructionism” today, despite the indications that Senate Republicans won’t filibuster the bill (and probably couldn’t if they wanted to, as it has 61 co-sponsors):

“I’m worried that a few Republicans are returning to the playbook of obstruction,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Democrats’ campaign arm. “Women in America cannot afford political theater on this issue, not on this issue. Their lives depend on it.”

“It is very important that it not be made political fodder,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said. The California Democrat added that the bill is not a new concept and has been expanded several times in the past.

“We all thought it was a no-brainer to extend it to everybody,” she said, adding that it was a “big surprise” to her in the Judiciary Committee when the Republicans voted against it.

Be prepared for a lot more rhetoric once the bill passes the Senate and heads to the House, where the Republican majority will likely put up much more of a fight. We’ve had to sit through the “war on women” and “do-nothing-Congress” narratives, but it sounds like both ridiculously dishonest Obama memes will finally collide during the VAWA fight.

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NJDC’s False Claims About Eric Cantor

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a statement this afternoon commending House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for “admit[ting] to anti-Semitism within the House Republican caucus” during an interview with Mike Allen today. The problem? Cantor never did that. In fact, when Allen asked him whether he’s detected anti-Semitism from members of Congress, Cantor replied with an unequivocal “no.”

Either the NJDC didn’t actually listen to Cantor’s comments (which you can find here), or just thought the political attack was too good to pass up. The group issued the following:

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The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a statement this afternoon commending House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for “admit[ting] to anti-Semitism within the House Republican caucus” during an interview with Mike Allen today. The problem? Cantor never did that. In fact, when Allen asked him whether he’s detected anti-Semitism from members of Congress, Cantor replied with an unequivocal “no.”

Either the NJDC didn’t actually listen to Cantor’s comments (which you can find here), or just thought the political attack was too good to pass up. The group issued the following:

In an astonishing but brutally honest admission to Politico today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor—the only Jewish Republican in Congress—openly discussed the challenges of anti-Semitism and racism confronted within the House Republican caucus, adopting his questioner’s labeling of it as the “darker side” of the caucus. National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris commented:

It’s both admirable and disturbing in the extreme to hear Majority Leader Cantor’s candid remarks regarding the dual challenges of racism and anti-Semitism that he has detected in the House GOP caucus. From the widespread use of abusive Holocaust rhetoric among House GOP members and candidates to behind-the-scenes skirmishes like Cantor’s own well-documented decision to oppose the reelection of Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL) over his statement to Cantor that Cantor would not be ‘saved,’ there are clearly deep-seated problems within the GOP. The time has come for more GOP leaders to have Cantor’s courage to step forward, and for the GOP to start addressing the problem directly—with actions, not just words.

The NJDC’s claim is based on a Think Progress story from earlier today headlined “Cantor Suggests Anti-Semitism is a Problem Within the House GOP Caucus,” which blatantly misrepresented (even by TP’s usual standards of accuracy) the congressman’s comments this morning. At NRO, Patrick Brennan knocks down the story:

TP reported, “Calling it the ‘darker side,’ Cantor responded to Politico’s Mike Allen’s question of whether there is anti-Semitism in Congress by trying to avoid commenting.” While TP is understandably eager to portray the House GOP caucus as “the darker side,” they’re not just spinning his words, they’re lying: Cantor answered the question directly, and didn’t attempt to avoid comment. The fact that he eventually grew tired of Allen’s games and didn’t respond to the final needling can’t be taken as evidence that he actually believes the precise opposite of his initial, straightforward response — which is exactly what TP tries to do.

Cantor’s office said the unambiguous “no” the congressman gave in response to Allen’s question speaks for itself.

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A “Plan B” on Syria Urgently Needed

It’s good to hear the Obama administration may be searching for a Plan B on Syria. One is certainly needed—and urgently. Plan A was the UN-brokered cease fire which, as no less an authority than UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon notes, is not being implemented by the Assad regime. Indeed, there are numerous reports of regime assaults continuing on opposition bastions while the rebels have little equipment with which to defend themselves.

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman just got back from Turkey where they meet with Syrian rebel leaders. “The most stunning, unsettling conclusion I drew from the leaders of the Free Syrian Army was that they have essentially got no help from anyone. They are literally running out of ammunition while Assad’s forces are being resupplied by Iran and Russia,” Lieberman told a reporter afterwards.

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It’s good to hear the Obama administration may be searching for a Plan B on Syria. One is certainly needed—and urgently. Plan A was the UN-brokered cease fire which, as no less an authority than UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon notes, is not being implemented by the Assad regime. Indeed, there are numerous reports of regime assaults continuing on opposition bastions while the rebels have little equipment with which to defend themselves.

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman just got back from Turkey where they meet with Syrian rebel leaders. “The most stunning, unsettling conclusion I drew from the leaders of the Free Syrian Army was that they have essentially got no help from anyone. They are literally running out of ammunition while Assad’s forces are being resupplied by Iran and Russia,” Lieberman told a reporter afterwards.

That being the case, what a Plan B might be answers itself: simply provide more aid to the Syrian rebels and also help Turkey to set up safe zones inside Syria where refugees can come to escape annihilation. Those options, which could be combined (but don’t have to be) with air strikes on Syrian regime targets, are hardly new, but the case for them is becoming more compelling as it becomes clear there is no real alternative–unless we are simply willing to sit back and watch a close Iranian ally maintain his bloody rule in such a vital state.

 

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How Vanilla Are the GOP Veep Hopefuls?

Now that the Republican presidential nomination is no longer in doubt, attention is starting to focus on the next big question to be answered in 2012: who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate? The main candidates for the job are well known: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels and Bob McDonnell. But the only thing we know for sure is that unlike in 2000 when George W. Bush ultimately tapped the person running the job search —Dick Cheney — for the position himself, Romney won’t be asking his longtime advisor Beth Myers to put her own name at the top of the list she will be vetting.

With months to go before we find out the answer, anybody’s guess is good as any other as to the identity of the GOP veep. But Michael Barone points out that those expecting any great contrast between Romney and his choice or an attempt at balance are probably barking up the wrong tree. Romney would probably be best off picking someone like himself: a competent moderate conservative who would give the Republicans a “double vanilla” ticket. He’s probably right about that, but the only argument I have with this view is that one of the quintet of most likely candidates is anything but vanilla. If Romney were to choose Paul Ryan, he would be adding one of the most dynamic and ideas-oriented politicians in the country.

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Now that the Republican presidential nomination is no longer in doubt, attention is starting to focus on the next big question to be answered in 2012: who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate? The main candidates for the job are well known: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels and Bob McDonnell. But the only thing we know for sure is that unlike in 2000 when George W. Bush ultimately tapped the person running the job search —Dick Cheney — for the position himself, Romney won’t be asking his longtime advisor Beth Myers to put her own name at the top of the list she will be vetting.

With months to go before we find out the answer, anybody’s guess is good as any other as to the identity of the GOP veep. But Michael Barone points out that those expecting any great contrast between Romney and his choice or an attempt at balance are probably barking up the wrong tree. Romney would probably be best off picking someone like himself: a competent moderate conservative who would give the Republicans a “double vanilla” ticket. He’s probably right about that, but the only argument I have with this view is that one of the quintet of most likely candidates is anything but vanilla. If Romney were to choose Paul Ryan, he would be adding one of the most dynamic and ideas-oriented politicians in the country.

Analyzing this list, I agree with Barone that Marco Rubio should be taken at his word. If Rubio says that running with Romney “isn’t going to happen,” I assume that is going to be the case. Moreover, as Barone points out, the idea that Romney must have a Hispanic on the ticket to win is overblown. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but it won’t make the difference between winning and losing.

Looking at the other four, both Daniels and McDonnell bring a lot of competence and intelligence to the ticket but not much in the way of charisma. Despite being as dull as dishwater, Daniels remains the idol of many conservative ideologues, but the same reasons that caused him to stay out of the presidential race are likely to keep him off of Romney’s ticket. McDonnell would help the Republicans take back Virginia, a key swing state, which will be a not insignificant factor in his favor.

In recent weeks, there’s been something of a boomlet for Portman. The senator from Ohio has the perfect background to appeal to a technocrat like Romney. As a former budget director and trade representative, he has the knowledge of key areas of economics that will be Romney’s priority if he gets to the White House. And though it’s not clear that he could ensure a Republican victory in Ohio, anything that would put that state back in the GOP column would weigh heavily on his behalf.

Paul Ryan also should appeal to Romney’s inner policy wonk. Ryan is his party’s leader on budget and tax issues and a powerful voice for reform of entitlements. Barone thinks his role, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, is so essential to the passage of any future legislation in a Romney administration that it constitutes the most powerful argument against him being picked to run for vice president.

But Ryan’s leadership on issues of substance also makes him something of a lightening rod for Republicans. Whether or not he winds up on the ticket, he will be an issue in the general election. Democrats will seek to demonize his reformist agenda and brand Romney as being as willing to destroy Medicaid as they claim Ryan is. To some that constitutes a powerful reason not to choose him, but if Romney is looking for a game changing choice for vice president, Ryan is the man.

For those who recall the last time a GOP candidate picked a “game changing” vice presidential nominee, rest assured that Ryan is no Sarah Palin. He’s among the smartest people in Washington and used to the give and take of debate in the big leagues of American politics.

Though all of the other potential veeps bring a lot to the table, Ryan is the top ideas person in his party and a perfect foil to Romney in the sense that he can’t be accused of flip-flopping on his principles. Far from hiding him in a congressional corner, Republicans would be well advised to put him center stage where he can wage the battle for conservative principles in the limelight. Ryan may be controversial, but he’s anything but vanilla, and that may be exactly what Romney needs.

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Is the Gender-War Rhetoric Hurting GOP?

At the National Review, Heather Mac Donald calls on the Republican Party to cease and desist with the gender-discrimination claims, because they’re starting to sound like liberals:

The chance that the Obama White House, staffed by eager products of the feminist university, is a hostile workplace for women is exactly zero — as low as the chance that the Bush I, II, or Reagan White Houses were hostile to women. Any Republican who actually believes [former White House aide Anita] Dunn’s charge has merely allowed his partisan desire for political victory to silence what should be his core knowledge about the contemporary world. …

Equally dismaying is the RNC’s embrace of the charge that the Obama White House pays female aides less than male ones. Such disparate pay claims are of course bread and butter to the discrimination bar and are virtually always based on junk social science. But the likelihood that this particular employer — the immaculately “progressive” Obama White House — is discriminating against female employees of equal merit as males is just as crazy as the charge that Walmart, say, discriminates against qualified female employees in its own pay scale. Conservative critics of extortionist feminist legal claims cannot have it both ways — rightly decrying them when directed at free-market employers but embracing them when they are directed against political opponents.

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At the National Review, Heather Mac Donald calls on the Republican Party to cease and desist with the gender-discrimination claims, because they’re starting to sound like liberals:

The chance that the Obama White House, staffed by eager products of the feminist university, is a hostile workplace for women is exactly zero — as low as the chance that the Bush I, II, or Reagan White Houses were hostile to women. Any Republican who actually believes [former White House aide Anita] Dunn’s charge has merely allowed his partisan desire for political victory to silence what should be his core knowledge about the contemporary world. …

Equally dismaying is the RNC’s embrace of the charge that the Obama White House pays female aides less than male ones. Such disparate pay claims are of course bread and butter to the discrimination bar and are virtually always based on junk social science. But the likelihood that this particular employer — the immaculately “progressive” Obama White House — is discriminating against female employees of equal merit as males is just as crazy as the charge that Walmart, say, discriminates against qualified female employees in its own pay scale. Conservative critics of extortionist feminist legal claims cannot have it both ways — rightly decrying them when directed at free-market employers but embracing them when they are directed against political opponents.

Mac Donald is right. It’s obviously tempting for Republicans to try to score political chips by playing the gender card, but the Romney campaign has to be careful not to undermine years of conservative arguments – and essentially kosherize fake gender discrimination claims – by doing so.

That said, conservatives should still raise issues like the White House pay wage gap and female unemployment claims as a way to contradict fake liberal outrage rather than try to top it. It’s a matter of hypocrisy. If the Obama campaign is going to argue Republicans are anti-women based on their criticism of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, then conservatives are right to point out that Obama’s own White House doesn’t live up to his own equal-pay standards.

Does this mean the Obama White House is anti-women? Of course not. But force the president try to explain the incongruity between his rhetoric and reality. He won’t be able to, unless he’s actually honest and admits that the gender wage gap (as far as it actually still exists) isn’t based on gender discrimination by employers, but on the fact that women and men (on average) tend to seek out different career choices and paths.

That was the point conservatives were trying to make by turning Obama’s gender pay gap into an issue. But when the RNC and the Romney campaign seize on these stories to try to play to the generic “women’s vote,” it destroys the message.

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Gazans Blame Hamas for Economic Condition, Lack of Terrorism Against Israel

Critics of Israel’s policies toward Hamas-run Gaza center their complaints on two premises: that Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is responsible for Palestinians’ lack of goods and services, and that the Palestinians in Gaza cannot be held responsible for the actions of their terrorist government.

Both premises are wrong, but usually it is left to Israel’s defenders to point this out. Today, the Washington Post carries a story that adds a new wrinkle: the paper’s reporter went to Gaza, and the Palestinians there clearly and unambiguously disputed both premises as well. The Post writes:

The militant Islamist movement surged to a surprise victory in Palestinian elections in 2006 with promises of clean governance and a reputation for terrorist tactics against Israel, which had withdrawn from Gaza the year before. But after five years of Hamas administration, many in this besieged strip say it has lived up to neither. Hamas is fast losing popularity, and recent surveys indicate that it would not win if elections were held in Gaza today.

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Critics of Israel’s policies toward Hamas-run Gaza center their complaints on two premises: that Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is responsible for Palestinians’ lack of goods and services, and that the Palestinians in Gaza cannot be held responsible for the actions of their terrorist government.

Both premises are wrong, but usually it is left to Israel’s defenders to point this out. Today, the Washington Post carries a story that adds a new wrinkle: the paper’s reporter went to Gaza, and the Palestinians there clearly and unambiguously disputed both premises as well. The Post writes:

The militant Islamist movement surged to a surprise victory in Palestinian elections in 2006 with promises of clean governance and a reputation for terrorist tactics against Israel, which had withdrawn from Gaza the year before. But after five years of Hamas administration, many in this besieged strip say it has lived up to neither. Hamas is fast losing popularity, and recent surveys indicate that it would not win if elections were held in Gaza today.

Hamas “has lived up to neither”–that is, Palestinians are frustrated by the corruption and the lack of “terrorist tactics” against their Jewish neighbors. The Palestinians spelled out to the Post exactly what they meant by corruption: they blame the state of affairs not on Israel’s naval blockade, but squarely on Hamas, where it belongs.

“Many aspects of the siege are imposed by Hamas,” an anonymous smuggling tunnel manager told the Post. (Yes, smuggling tunnels, being run as mainstream business shops, have “managers.”)

“Hamas is controlling us,” an unemployed former shopkeeper told the Post. “They are responsible for us.”

After Egypt stopped providing subsidized fuel through those smuggling tunnels for Gaza’s power plant, the Strip experienced blackouts and gas lines. Once Egypt–not Israel, but Egypt–cut their fuel supply to Gaza, Hamas could have turned around and purchased some from Israel. They chose not to. Explains the Post: “Analysts — and ordinary Gazans — say the crisis has been prolonged by Hamas’s refusal to import pricier fuel through an Israeli-controlled crossing.” The Gazan Palestinians are upset, but are not foolish enough to blame Israel for what is clearly Hamas’s doing.

Let’s return to the second premise: who to blame for violence against Israel. Again, the Palestinians in Gaza told the Post that, far from being peaceniks, they can’t understand why there isn’t more terrorism against Israel. That’s what they voted for! And that’s exactly what they are telling reporters:

“They say they are the resistance against the enemy,” said Umm Mohammed, 26, bouncing a baby on her knee. “Where is the resistance?”

Where are all the dead Jews we were promised? wonders a young Palestinian mother aloud while holding her child. More:

Hamas, eager to preserve its rule, has also become wary of provoking a new Israeli offensive in Gaza, costing it credibility in some quarters. Although Gaza’s cement-block buildings are papered with posters of gun-toting fighters, and Hamas allows Islamic Jihad and other militant factions to fire rockets into Israel, Hamas itself has mostly adhered to an unofficial cease-fire since the 2008-2009 Israeli offensive…

Islamic Jihad’s performance — it lobbed hundreds of rockets toward civilian targets in Israel and lost 14 fighters — increased the group’s appeal, Ahmed boasted, noting that Hamas now has “different calculations and bigger responsibility… It has a lot to lose.”

The Post wonders whether this means Hamas is becoming genuinely more moderate. Its evidence for this–which it reports with a straight face–is the following: “But Nunu said Western powers have ignored symbolic moves by Hamas, such as Haniyeh’s decision to make his first official trip abroad, in January, to Turkey — a country whose electoral democracy and moderate Islamism are serving as a ‘model’ to a growing number of Hamas leaders, Yousef said.”

Well then. Islamists are branching out by visiting with other Islamists. Maybe they are shunning the more murderous and genocidal of the region’s Islamists, at least? “One month after that trip, though, Haniyeh visited Iran, another longtime Hamas benefactor.”

It’s amazing what you can learn when you ask actual Palestinians, rather than their self-appointed spokesmen in the West, what they think.

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Holocaust Denial Cartoons Undermine Confidence in Iran Talks

The fact that Iran’s leaders continue to threaten Israel with destruction and perhaps set in motion a second Holocaust while all the while denying the reality of the first one is a conundrum that observers of Tehran have never quite figured out. But even while their negotiators have been successfully stalling Western diplomatic efforts to force them to drop their nuclear ambitions, the Islamist state is still promoting Holocaust denial. Israel’s Channel 2 News reports (via the Times of Israel) that Iran’s state run television is honoring Yom HaShoah by broadcasting cartoons that depict the Holocaust as a fraud. The cartoons (which are available for viewing on memri.org) shows figures dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews fabricating stories about the Holocaust in order to make money and to dispossess the Palestinians.

The cartoons are important not just because they are offensive, but because they reflect the mindset of the Iranian government. Anyone who thinks the ayatollahs can be trusted with a nuclear weapon or with even a peaceful nuclear energy program — which may be the “compromise” that Tehran will agree to in order to allow the West to back away from a confrontation over the issue — needs to understand that the hatred for Jews and Israel is integral to the ideology of the regime and its ultimate goals.

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The fact that Iran’s leaders continue to threaten Israel with destruction and perhaps set in motion a second Holocaust while all the while denying the reality of the first one is a conundrum that observers of Tehran have never quite figured out. But even while their negotiators have been successfully stalling Western diplomatic efforts to force them to drop their nuclear ambitions, the Islamist state is still promoting Holocaust denial. Israel’s Channel 2 News reports (via the Times of Israel) that Iran’s state run television is honoring Yom HaShoah by broadcasting cartoons that depict the Holocaust as a fraud. The cartoons (which are available for viewing on memri.org) shows figures dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews fabricating stories about the Holocaust in order to make money and to dispossess the Palestinians.

The cartoons are important not just because they are offensive, but because they reflect the mindset of the Iranian government. Anyone who thinks the ayatollahs can be trusted with a nuclear weapon or with even a peaceful nuclear energy program — which may be the “compromise” that Tehran will agree to in order to allow the West to back away from a confrontation over the issue — needs to understand that the hatred for Jews and Israel is integral to the ideology of the regime and its ultimate goals.

The purpose of the cartoons and other forms of anti-Semitic propaganda promoted by Iran is to demonize Jews and to justify their destruction. Iran is not Nazi Germany, but Iran’s efforts to portray Jews as subhuman creatures who sucked money from Europe and land from the Arabs are strikingly similarly to the propaganda that was used to prepare the way for the Holocaust.

Iran’s defenders, such as German Nobel laureate and SS veteran Gunter Grass, depict it as an innocent victim of potential Israeli aggression. But he and other European detractors of Israel who pose as advocates of “human rights” seem remarkably indifferent to the fact that Tehran has become, along with other Muslim capitals, one of the leading exporters of vile anti-Semitic propaganda to the West. The more one learns about the way Iran’s government promotes Jew-hatred the less convincing arguments that claim the ayatollahs are not interested in a war of annihilation against Israel and the Jews sound.

The idea that Iran is a reasonable country that can be enticed by rational arguments to back away from the nuclear abyss is one that doesn’t take into account the ferocity of the regime’s Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. While one would hope that President Obama’s window of diplomacy would be used to force the ayatollahs to give up their weapons program, confidence in Tehran’s willingness to give up its hope for nukes is only possible so long as one ignores the essential nature of the regime.

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Obama vs. Romney: Sympathy vs. Solutions

Today’s Quinnipiac poll finds President Obama leading Mitt Romney, 46 to 42. But it also highlights the very different strengths that each candidate has to offer. While registered voters give Obama higher ratings in more subjective areas – likeability and caring – Romney gets higher points on the economy, job creation and gas prices, three of the top policy concerns for voters:

Looking at personal characteristics, 81 percent of American voters think the president is likable, compared to 63 percent for Romney. Obama cares about their needs and problems, 57 percent say, compared to 44 percent for Romney. The Republican has strong leadership qualities, 61 percent say, compared to 60 percent for the president, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll of 2,577 American voters finds.

Romney is seen as better on the economy 47 – 43 percent, better on creating jobs 45 – 42 percent, better on gas prices 44 – 31 percent and better on immigration 43 – 39 percent. The president is viewed 52 – 32 percent as better on women’s issues and 46 – 40 percent on foreign policy. The two men are seen equally on taxes and health care.

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Today’s Quinnipiac poll finds President Obama leading Mitt Romney, 46 to 42. But it also highlights the very different strengths that each candidate has to offer. While registered voters give Obama higher ratings in more subjective areas – likeability and caring – Romney gets higher points on the economy, job creation and gas prices, three of the top policy concerns for voters:

Looking at personal characteristics, 81 percent of American voters think the president is likable, compared to 63 percent for Romney. Obama cares about their needs and problems, 57 percent say, compared to 44 percent for Romney. The Republican has strong leadership qualities, 61 percent say, compared to 60 percent for the president, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll of 2,577 American voters finds.

Romney is seen as better on the economy 47 – 43 percent, better on creating jobs 45 – 42 percent, better on gas prices 44 – 31 percent and better on immigration 43 – 39 percent. The president is viewed 52 – 32 percent as better on women’s issues and 46 – 40 percent on foreign policy. The two men are seen equally on taxes and health care.

Clearly, this is one reason why the Obama campaign is trying to divert attention to issues that relate to compassion and personality, i.e., the digs at Romney’s wealth, allegations that he doesn’t care about women, and boosting the irrelevant non-scandal about Romney’s dog. During the past couple of weeks, Republicans have pretty successfully neutralized the war on women and the dog attacks by forcing the Obama campaign to meet its own ridiculous standards. But this poll is a warning for Romney not to let himself become too distracted by these trivial sideshows. Yes, he should fight back, but once the Obama campaign attacks are defused, Romney shouldn’t dwell on them or try to milk the victories. He should keep his focus on the real issues, the ones the president’s reelection team hope they can avoid talking about.

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Note to Candidates: Drop Nazi Analogies

One of the most distressing trends of Holocaust commemoration is the way the destruction of European Jewry has become a metaphor for anything anyone doesn’t like. Many in our governing class may be aware of the history but fail to understand that using it as a talking point in denouncing their opponents is not merely in bad taste but actually contributes to the trivialization of the topic. In recent years, a number of politicians from both major parties have made the same mistake. But, just in time for today’s Yom HaShoah commemorations, Politico reports that a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia has chimed in by comparing regulations in the state’s Monongalia County requiring buildings to state they are smoke-free to the Nazi policies of forcing Jews to wear Stars of David.

John Raese’s criticisms of the nanny state at work may be on target, but like other recent offenders (a list that includes Democrats like California Governor Jerry Brown, Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen and Florida Republican Rep. Allen West who all compared political opponents to Joseph Goebbels), he needs to understand that comparing such things to the Nazis is both inappropriate and ill-informed.

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One of the most distressing trends of Holocaust commemoration is the way the destruction of European Jewry has become a metaphor for anything anyone doesn’t like. Many in our governing class may be aware of the history but fail to understand that using it as a talking point in denouncing their opponents is not merely in bad taste but actually contributes to the trivialization of the topic. In recent years, a number of politicians from both major parties have made the same mistake. But, just in time for today’s Yom HaShoah commemorations, Politico reports that a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia has chimed in by comparing regulations in the state’s Monongalia County requiring buildings to state they are smoke-free to the Nazi policies of forcing Jews to wear Stars of David.

John Raese’s criticisms of the nanny state at work may be on target, but like other recent offenders (a list that includes Democrats like California Governor Jerry Brown, Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen and Florida Republican Rep. Allen West who all compared political opponents to Joseph Goebbels), he needs to understand that comparing such things to the Nazis is both inappropriate and ill-informed.

After decades of attempting to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust, it is dismaying to think that the effort has succeeded to the point where it has become a universal metaphor for unpleasant political rhetoric or unpopular government policies. But while all forms of tyranny are to be despised and all acts of genocide (actual or potential) must be resisted, the Holocaust is a unique chapter in history and should be respected as such.

As for Raese, listening to the video of his speech, one sees that his problem is he can’t seem to understand there is a difference between the impulse to liberal fascism – in which the left mobilizes the power of government to compel society to accept their ideas — and the actual Holocaust. He also wrongly says that Nazis forced “everybody” to wear Stars of David. No, they didn’t. It was just the Jews who did so, and that’s the point of bias he fails to understand. That he referred to Franklin Roosevelt in his speech as “Fidel Roosevelt” while criticizing the New Deal’s excesses just adds to the impropriety of his remarks.

But while Raese, a perennial GOP candidate who has little chance of defeating Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin, isn’t significant, the trend his comments exemplify is troubling. It’s high time American politicians stopped using the Holocaust as a catchall metaphor. It ought to be clear by now that an iron rule of political discourse is that he or she who mentions Hitler first generally loses.

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Romney, Don’t Change

Mitt Romney’s middling likeability ratings have provoked a deluge of analysis about whether this weakness is fatal and advice on how he can overcome the likeability gap between him and President Obama. But there’s no reason to think Romney’s likeability ratings at this point in the election are any predictor of his success next November, or even a sure sign of what his likeability ratings will be later in the election season.

As Nate Silver finds, low initial personal favorables haven’t doomed past presidents, and Romney’s numbers are on par with Bill Clinton’s at the same point of the race in 1992:

1) Mr. Romney’s mediocre favorability ratings at this early stage of the race are no death sentence. There have been clear reversals in favorability ratings in the recent past once the general election campaign got under way, such as in 1988 and 1992. At least one recent candidate (Mr. Clinton in 1992) won his election with similarly mediocre early favorability ratings. …

2) The favorability deficit between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is more likely to be meaningful the longer it persists. If, for instance, we still see this favorability deficit in July — and certainly if we see it in September or October — the odds are fairly good that Mr. Obama will perform more strongly than the economic fundamentals alone would dictate and could win an election that he is otherwise “supposed” to lose.

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Mitt Romney’s middling likeability ratings have provoked a deluge of analysis about whether this weakness is fatal and advice on how he can overcome the likeability gap between him and President Obama. But there’s no reason to think Romney’s likeability ratings at this point in the election are any predictor of his success next November, or even a sure sign of what his likeability ratings will be later in the election season.

As Nate Silver finds, low initial personal favorables haven’t doomed past presidents, and Romney’s numbers are on par with Bill Clinton’s at the same point of the race in 1992:

1) Mr. Romney’s mediocre favorability ratings at this early stage of the race are no death sentence. There have been clear reversals in favorability ratings in the recent past once the general election campaign got under way, such as in 1988 and 1992. At least one recent candidate (Mr. Clinton in 1992) won his election with similarly mediocre early favorability ratings. …

2) The favorability deficit between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is more likely to be meaningful the longer it persists. If, for instance, we still see this favorability deficit in July — and certainly if we see it in September or October — the odds are fairly good that Mr. Obama will perform more strongly than the economic fundamentals alone would dictate and could win an election that he is otherwise “supposed” to lose.

It sounds like Romney’s advisers are of the same opinion, according to the Boston Globe (via Playbook):

“Rather than emphasize his personality, advisers to Romney are running a campaign focusing on the candidate’s competence and managerial skills. … ‘In today’s modern world, a profile in People magazine is a hell of a lot more important than what’s in the Washington Post,‘ said Dave Carney, a Republican consultant. … ‘Voters really don’t know Governor Romney yet,’ said Andrea Saul, the campaign’s press secretary. ‘These are superficial first impressions at best.’ … ‘Different politicians have different strengths … ,’ said Henry Barbour, a Romney supporter and Republican National Committee member from Mississippi. … ‘The thing about Romney, he can get the job done … America has tried likeability and celebrity.’”

Definitely the best move. There’s no point in dwelling on something Romney can’t change. Trying to force Romney to fit some political consultant’s checklist of what makes a candidate likeable is hopeless, because he already is some political consultant’s checklist of what makes a candidate likeable. Telling him he doesn’t connect won’t do any good, because he already knows that and has probably had a lab of scientists working on it for the last three years.

Romney should forget likeability for the time being. If he wants to win public respect, he won’t do it by pandering.

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The Hypocrisy of the LA Times

In explaining their decision to publish photos of American troops posing with the bodies of alleged Taliban terrorists, despite the fact that the photos are two years old and guaranteed to inflame violence, the editors of the Los Angeles Times explained, “At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions.”

Perhaps the editors would then like to explain why they continue to sit on a videotape of Barack Obama reportedly toasting former PLO Beirut spokesman and University of Chicago buddy Rashid Khalidi? Isn’t that necessary for readers to make informed decisions? I’m not sure whether the editors could provide a more glaring example of their own hypocrisy.

In explaining their decision to publish photos of American troops posing with the bodies of alleged Taliban terrorists, despite the fact that the photos are two years old and guaranteed to inflame violence, the editors of the Los Angeles Times explained, “At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions.”

Perhaps the editors would then like to explain why they continue to sit on a videotape of Barack Obama reportedly toasting former PLO Beirut spokesman and University of Chicago buddy Rashid Khalidi? Isn’t that necessary for readers to make informed decisions? I’m not sure whether the editors could provide a more glaring example of their own hypocrisy.

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