On most issues, Jeffrey Goldberg has been a dependable cheerleader for the Obama administration. But the president’s feckless stand on the ongoing slaughter in Syria has caused Goldberg to write one of the best takedowns of the president’s inaction I’ve read. The piece, published yesterday in Bloomberg, is a comic gem as it describes how “Obama Hits Syria With Brutal Blasts of Adverbs.”
Some critics say the U.S. has shamed itself by not intervening aggressively on behalf of Syria’s rebels and dissidents.
They’re wrong. The Obama administration hasn’t helped to arm the rebels, nor has it created safe havens for persecuted dissidents. But it has done something far more important: It has provided the Syrian opposition with very strong language to describe Assad’s various atrocities.
The administration’s unprecedented verbal and written sorties against the Assad regime have included some of the most powerful adjectives, adjectival intensifiers and adverbs ever aimed at an American foe. This campaign has helped Syrians understand, among other things, that the English language contains many synonyms for “repulsive.”
This is great stuff, and Goldberg goes on from there to note the absurdity of administration officials repeatedly speaking of their patience being “exhausted” and wonders how worried Bashar al-Assad will be when Washington’s patience is “completely exhausted.” But one wonders why the author of this wonderful riff on Obama’s meaningless tough talk on Syria thinks the president’s equally meaningless verbal assault on Iran is credible?
Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.
Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?
Republican Representative Allen West, a Tea Party favorite from Florida, weighed in on President Obama’s 10-year security agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In the agreement, Obama pledged continued support to Afghanistan once NATO combat troops leave in 2014. “I look at what happened between President Obama and President Karzai as a 1930s, Chamberlain, Hitler moment,” Representative West told radio host Frank Gaffney. “There is not going to be peace in our time.”
I’m not quite sure what this analogy is supposed to prove. Is Karzai supposed to be Hitler? Whatever complaints one has with Karzai – and I have plenty of my own – he’s clearly no Hitler, and he doesn’t appear to have designs for world conquest.
As a general matter, the Chamberlain-Hitler-appeasement analogy is much overused and is often a sign of lazy thinking, as is the case here.
There was a story in Saturday’s Washington Post that could have significant bearing on the 2012 presidential race. According to the Post, “The number of black and Hispanic registered voters has fallen sharply since 2008, posing a serious challenge to the Obama campaign in an election that could turn on the participation of minority voters.”
The story goes on to say that according to the Census Bureau, for the first time in nearly four decades, the number of registered Hispanics has dropped significantly. “But in some politically important swing states, the decline among Hispanics, who are considered critical in the 2012 presidential contest, is much higher,” reporter Krissah Thompson said. “Just over 28 percent in New Mexico, for example, and about 10 percent in Florida… Among Latinos, the decline has altered a trend of steady growth. Given that 12 million Latinos were registered to vote in 2008, some analysts had projected the number would grow to 13 million in 2010 and 14 million this election cycle. Instead, it fell in 2010 to 11 million.”
“Everyone is saying the Latino vote is rocketing to the moon,” said Antonio Gonzalez of the Velasquez Institute. “It has been growing, but it stopped.”
For blacks, registration numbers are down 7 percent nationwide.
This seems to contradict those rumors that the Occupy movement might reinvent itself as a more public-friendly campaign this spring:
Dozens of members of Occupy Cleveland showed up at a Cleveland courthouse to support the five people charged in connection with an alleged plot to blow up a northeast Ohio bridge.
The five suspects — 21-year-old Connor Stevens, 24-year-old Joshua Stafford (aka “Skully”), 26-year-old Douglas Wright (aka “Cyco”), 20-year-old Brandon Baxter (aka “Skabby”) and 37-year-old Anthony Hayne (aka “Tony” & “Billy”) – pleaded not guilty during their arraignment Monday morning.
The suspects had the charges — conspiracy and attempted use of explosive material to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce — read to them in open court.
In a sentence that probably reveals more than the New York Times intended, reporter Annie Lowry writes, “With the victory of the Socialist candidate, François Hollande, in the French presidential election, the White House has lost one of its closest allies on the Continent, but perhaps gained one with economic policy beliefs more closely aligned with its own.”
If a writer for COMMENTARY, National Review, or The Weekly Standard made this claim, Obama’s supporters would be enraged. This would be evidence of taking the “low road,” a calumny, a slur rarely seen in the history of presidential politics. We can all envision the head of Chris Matthews about to explode. But of course it’s not entirely clear why that should be the case. Because as the Times story makes clear, President Obama’s views are fairly closely aligned with the newly elected Socialist president of France.
Barack Obama knows it. So does the New York Times. And so should the American electorate.
Public Policy Polling finds wide support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in North Carolina, the last poll before voting opened today.
A final poll of likely North Carolina voters conducted over the weekend continues to give a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions an easy margin of victory in Tuesday’s election while the Democratic contest for governor is tightening.
The referendum holds a 16-point advantage, 55 percent in favor and 39 percent against, according to the Public Policy Polling survey, a left-leaning Raleigh-based firm. The numbers shifted little in the final week as big-names on either side of the debate – Rev. Billy Graham for and former President Bill Clinton against – made final pleas to persuade voters.
In recent decades it became a common trope to bemoan Israel’s inability to inspire politically. As opposed to the state’s early decades of scrappy existence against long odds, the images of Israeli tanks staring down Arab rock-throwers supposedly denuded Israel’s capacity to arouse anything much other than discomfort.
Yesterday’s late night political drama at the Knesset is a shining counterpoint. It demonstrates the continued ability of Israel’s politicians not to be victims of their circumstances but to actively shape them, something we in the United States (and the entire Western world for that matter) should take heed of.
While most people have been focused on the general election news, Ron Paul has quietly continued to rack up delegates in the Republican primaries. This weekend he pulled off two delegate majority victories at the Maine and Nevada conventions, causing some to wonder what exactly he’s aiming for:
Ron Paul scored big victories at the Maine and Nevada Republican Party conventions on Sunday. In both states his forces won the majority of delegates to this summer’s national GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.
As we noted Sunday, this means Mr. Paul’s strategy of organizing the grass roots and working arcane delegate selection rules is paying off. And that could mean big trouble for Mitt Romney and his plans to smoothly pivot to a campaign aimed solely at incumbent President Obama.
Yes, Mr. Romney is still the presumptive nominee. It’s highly unlikely Paul will be able to deny the former Massachusetts governor the prize he’s sought for so long. But Paul’s forces aren’t lining up and saluting a Romney victory. When they show up in Tampa in August they may be strong enough, and prepared enough, to throw the convention floor into embarrassing disarray.
Former ambassador to Beijing and former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has some useful points to make in the Wall Street Journal about how America must deal with China. But his prescriptions are curiously incomplete.
He argues, convincingly, that “the U.S. must deal with China from a position of strength”; “we should be pursuing free trade agreements with Japan, Taiwan and India, and allowing American businesses to enter Burma”; “we should renew our ties to key allies, focusing on joint endeavors that hedge against some of the more difficult contingencies we could face in the region from an aggressive China and People’s Liberation Army”; and we must make clear that, while “values matter,” “in today’s China those values we share are found mostly among people like Mr. Chen, and not in the Communist Party or the government.”
Ed Morrissey has an interesting column in This Week, arguing that Joe Biden’s gay marriage comments may have been a shrewd political calculation as opposed to a slipup during routine bloviation. I think he’s giving Biden too much credit, but there’s definitely a case to be made that this helps the Obama campaign in several ways:
Consider the coincidence of Education Secretary Arne Duncan offering a corroborating point of view the day after Biden’s statement. Brought to MSNBC’s ”Morning Joe” to discuss Teacher Appreciation Week, Duncan was greeted by TIME’s Mark Halperin with this “icebreaker” question: “Do you believe that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?” Despite the tortured syntax of the query and an objection to the question by a ”Morning Joe” panelist, Duncan gave an ironic “I do” in reply, pushing the issue even farther into the public consciousness, and giving Biden some much-needed political cover.
Nor do the coincidences end there. This comes just after the much-publicized departure of foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell from the Romney campaign. …
Even more likely, though, Biden’s gambit was an attempt to keep the media preoccupied with issues other than jobs and the economy. It’s also no coincidence that this eruption came just 48 hours after another disappointing jobs report.
News that the CIA had foiled yet another attempt by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to bomb U.S. airliners using some sort of new “underwear bomb” further confirms the big shift that has occurred in terrorist circles during the past decade: al-Qaeda “central,” based in Pakistan, has gotten less and less important even as its fellow travelers and affiliates have gotten more sophisticated and dangerous.
AQAP is at the forefront of these off-shoots in trying to attack the American homeland, but it is hardly alone–the Pakistan Taliban, a group sympathetic to al-Qaeda but not formally allied with it, was also discovered trying to attack Times Square with a car bomb. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda in Iraq piled up carnage on a level undreamt of by other terrorist groups–so much killing that even Osama bin Laden thought it was counterproductive because most of the victims were fellow Muslims. AQI now appears to be expanding its sphere of operations into Syria.
“Instruction number one for obtaining full power has been completed.” With that sentence, uttered by Vladimir Putin just after his election to succeed Boris Yeltsin more than a decade ago, the paradigm of Kremlin control had shifted immeasurably. Putin made the remark–according to Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, who spoke to witnesses–at a private ceremony at the old KGB headquarters on the occasion of a Stalin-created holiday in honor of the secret police.
That sentence was a promise fulfilled. The heirs to the KGB, with Putin at the helm, have consolidated control of Russian political life. And that sentence is what came to mind when I read this pro-Putin screed from Stephen F. Cohen. The headline, which accurately sums up the post, is “Stop the pointless demonization of Putin.” This is the same Putin whose office today said any Russian protesters who hurt a police officer should have their “livers smeared all over the asphalt.” But Cohen has more to say, including the claim that “there is no evidence that any of these allegations against him are true, or at least entirely true.” But it turns out Cohen has a funny definition of the terms he uses.
Author Naomi Schaefer Riley was an ornament to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brainstorm blog where she provided a keen dissenting voice pointing out the follies of modern academia. Riley, the author of the brilliant The Faculty Lounges … And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Pay For, is a critic of the liberal orthodoxies of the American campus. She has earned the enmity of the sector’s establishment by pointing out the con games played by universities that have profited from the creation of sham disciplines and the way college faculties have insulated themselves by focusing largely on the publication of arcane academic papers filled with jargon that makes no sense to anyone outside of their narrow fields.
Having such a voice of reason at a publication like the Chronicle–which caters to the residents of those faculty lounges about which Riley has written–was an important and perhaps daring decision on the part of its editors. But apparently there is a limit to their willingness to allow anyone to speak the truth about the academic world. After Riley wrote a post pointing out the absurdity at the heart of a recent Chronicle feature that highlighted the “young guns” at Black Studies departments around the nation, the publication says “thousands” of its readers protested. Rather than stand by their writer, the Chronicle caved to criticism in the most abject manner possible. In a craven note to its readers, editor Liz McMillen claimed Riley’s post “did not meet the Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles” and fired her. In shamefully throwing Riley under the bus, the Chronicle has not only done her an injustice. It has undermined, perhaps fatally, its credibility as a journal of thought as well as making it clear it will no longer countenance any dissent from academia’s wisdom on race and gender studies.
“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy says in “The Wizard of Oz.” Barack Obama might have had the same sensation this weekend when, in his first official campaign event at the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State, Obama spoke to a crowd of 14,000 in a center that fits 20,000. “There were,” according to the Toledo Blade, “a lot of empty seats.” This happened despite the fact that Obama volunteers worked feverishly to gin up a crowd.
“Axelrod, I have a feeling we’re not in 2008 anymore,” Obama might have thought.
I sympathize with conservatives such as Bethany Mandel who are outraged by reports that the U.S. military in Afghanistan has been releasing some insurgent commanders from its detention facility–as revealed in a Washington Post article. I too am opposed to unnecessary and counterproductive releases of detainees–based on nothing more than wishful thinking–who could return to the battlefield to kill more Americans or Afghans. But that doesn’t mean all prisoner releases are ill-advised.
In Iraq, one of the key elements that made the “surge” so successful in 2007-2008 was both locking up and releasing lots of detainees: locking them up when they were seen as contributing to instability and releasing them when such releases were seen as furthering stability. Specifically, as Sunnis vowed to turn against al-Qaeda, the release of their kinsmen from American detention was a powerful “carrot” that, along with lucrative contracts for security and other services, could reward and encourage their change of thinking. By some lights this might be seen as negotiating with terrorists–and so it was. Or, more specifically, negotiating with former terrorists. Not all such deals panned out–in some cases dangerous men were released, and they did not live up to their word to stop fighting. But this was a risk that Gen. David Petraeus judged worth taking because he understood that U.S. forces did not have the will or ability to lock up all troublemakers indefinitely. Sooner or later the Americans would leave Iraq. Better to release some insurgent leaders on our terms when it could help to win the battle, rather than wait a few years and see them all released anyway.
Though Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents were quick to dub his latest political move a cynical ploy, the Israeli prime minister’s surprise formation of a unity government with Kadima, just days after announcing that early elections would be called in September, was neither cynical nor a ploy. Without Kadima, he truly had no choice but to call new elections. With Kadima, new elections are a costly waste of time.
Netanyahu faced two critical issues his government couldn’t resolve in its existing composition. One was the need to pass new legislation on drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students by August 1, when the Supreme Court’s invalidation of a law exempting them from service takes effect. There is no solution to this problem that would be acceptable to both of Netanyahu’s main coalition partners: Yisrael Beiteinu wouldn’t accept anything that continues the exemptions, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party wouldn’t accept anything that doesn’t. Yet if either of them quit, Netanyahu would lose his parliamentary majority.
You might have thought that a decision of this magnitude would have rated a press conference rather than an e-mail message, but Mitt Romney isn’t likely to be asking any questions about Rick Santorum’s endorsement of his candidacy. Santorum obviously needed a cooling off period following his withdrawal from the race last month as well as a lengthy meeting with Romney last weekend before finally breaking down and endorsing the man who will be the Republican presidential nominee.
The e-mail message to his supporters signaling his backing for the winner of the GOP presidential marathon doesn’t change anything now, but it is important for Romney as he works to unite his party. Santorum won the affection of evangelicals and other social conservatives during his surprisingly successful run and could, if he decides to spend the next six months working hard to beat President Obama, help generate some enthusiasm among the party’s grass roots activists who have been somewhat cool to the nominee.
For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the last-minute deal concluded yesterday to put off elections and bring the Kadima Party into his coalition is another instance of his crafty strategy producing a heads, I win, tails, you lose moment in Israeli politics. Though the scenario in which he went to the polls in September to get a new and larger mandate from the people would have put him in a very strong position, adding Kadima and its new leader Shaul Mofaz to the Cabinet serves him just as well. The 94-seat majority (out of 120 seats in the Knesset) that he will now have for the next year and a half with elections postponed until the originally scheduled date in October 2013 will be strong enough to withstand any possible challenge from both allies like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu Party and foes on the left.
Though most foreign observers will jump to the conclusion that the Tehran-born Mofaz will provide Netanyahu with the internal backing needed to attack Iranian nuclear targets sometime in the next year, most Israelis are thinking more about the possibility of the largest secular parties now being able to unite to deal with question of military service for the ultra-Orthodox. This ought to make clear to even the dimmest of American observers of the Middle East — especially those so-called “liberal Zionists” who harbor unrealistic ambitions to remake the Jewish state in the image of American Jewry —not only the strength of Netanyahu’s ascendancy but how little the left counts in Israeli politics anymore.