The evolution, it appears, is now complete. Barack Obama – who once supported same-sex marriages (when he ran for state senator in Illinois in 1996), then opposed them (when he ran for Senate in 2004 against Alan Keyes), and then was unsure what he thought (as president) – told ABC’s Robin Roberts, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” The president added that this is a personal position and he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.
I have several thoughts on this development, beginning with the wisdom of the timing. The president announced his position one day after voters in North Carolina voted to support adding an amendment on marriage to its constitution, banning same-sex marriage. As a friend pointed out to me, the president was shrewd to wait until after yesterday’s vote, which allows him to look like he is willing to buck public opinion rather than looking like his endorsement carried no weight in the vote.
Proponents of gay marriage will celebrate today’s statement by President Obama in which he put himself on the side of changing the traditional definition of marriage as a courageous stand that marks a turning point in the nation’s attitudes on the issue. But as with the case of his positions on human rights crises in Libya and Syria, the president was “leading from behind” as he is just the latest major figure in his party to jump on the gay marriage bandwagon. There is no question that support for greater acceptance of gays and even a willingness to contemplate some form of civil unions or gay marriage is widespread and not limited to the political left. Changing attitudes on the part of large sectors of the public who have more of a libertarian than a traditional approach have rendered Obama’s position more a function of the center than the margins.
The decision also reflects a belief among Democratic strategists that even the most divisive social issues work in their favor, because any debate on abortion, contraception or gay rights allows them to paint the entire GOP as intolerant. Just as they were able to turn a discussion about the way ObamaCare attacked the religious freedom of the Catholic Church into one about a bogus war on women, they may now think a gay marriage initiative will work the same way in convincing the people who voted for Obama in 2008 they must turn out to fend off the GOP this year. In making this statement in the middle of his re-election bid after years of dithering on the issue, the president is sending a signal he believes this is the sort of thing he needs to do to fire up his otherwise unenthusiastic base. Rather than a “profile in courage” moment, Obama’s gay marriage stand seems more like an attempt to rekindle the flagging passion of the “hope” and “change” fan base.
Just when you thought the Elizabeth Warren controversy couldn’t get any more disastrous, Breitbart’s Michael Patrick Leahy reports on yet another bizarre plot twist:
For over a quarter of a century, Elizabeth Warren has described herself as a Native American. When recently asked to provide evidence of her ancestry, she pointed to an unsubstantiated claim on an 1894 Oklahoma Territory marriage license application by her great-great grand uncle William J. Crawford that his mother, O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford, Ms. Warren’s great-great-great grandmother, was a Cherokee. …
But the most stunning discovery about the life of O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford is that her husband, Ms. Warren’s great-great-great grandfather, was apparently a member of the Tennessee Militia who rounded up Cherokees from their family homes in the Southeastern United States and herded them into government-built stockades in what was then called Ross’s Landing (now Chattanooga), Tennessee—the point of origin for the horrific Trail of Tears, which began in January 1837.
With the dust settling from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s brilliant political maneuver in which he vastly expanded his coalition and his power, the question remains what will he do with it in the next year? While Israelis seem more interested in domestic political implications of the move, not surprisingly, most foreign observers are focused on the impact of the new coalition on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. Some of Netanyahu’s frustrated critics are holding on to the hope that somehow the addition of Kadima head Shaul Mofaz will moderate the prime minister’s stand on the issue. But this is not only a misreading of Mofaz but of Netanyahu’s position.
As the prime minister demonstrated today in his meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, far from Mofaz’s entry into the Cabinet acting as a restraint on him, the creation of a government that can count on nearly 80 percent of the Knesset means that when Netanyahu speaks now there can be no doubt that he represents a strong consensus within his country on the issue. By bringing Mofaz as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to speak to Ashton, Netanyahu demonstrated that there is across-the-board support for his demands that Iran’s nuclear program be stopped dead in its tracks.
The Obama campaign finally weighed in on the gay marriage debate this week, criticizing a North Carolina referendum banning gay marriage and civil unions that passed overwhelmingly yesterday:
“The president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” Obama North Carolina campaign spokesman Cameron French said, in a Tuesday statement on the vote over Amendment 1.
“He believes the North Carolina measure singles out and discriminates against committed gay and lesbian couples, which is why he did not support it,” said French. “President Obama has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples and is disappointed in the passage of this amendment. On a federal level, he has ended the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and extended key benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.”
Since the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been steadily consolidating power. Political opponents cry foul, and raise the specter of dictatorship. Iraq may have tons of problems but, for the time being, dictatorship is not among them. True, Maliki is consolidating power, but any competent leader in Iraq would. Creating a functional, accountable government requires it.
The Iraqi constitution was an achievement, but it set Iraq down the path to paralyzed, dysfunctional government. Here’s how it works: The Iraqi people elect a parliament, the parliament chooses a president, the president chooses the prime minister, the prime minister appoints his cabinet, and then the Iraqi parliament ratifies the whole package. In practice, this sounds like checks-and-balances. In reality, the parliamentary blocs refuse to ratify the government unless they each get an allotment of ministries. Pundits used to complain that nothing could be worse than Israel’s system of cobbling together governments, but the situation in Iraq is worse. Compounding the problem is that many of the party slates are fractious. Party leaders cannot strike deals without risking fracturing their slate; politicians can flee their party after the election causing party numbers always to be in flux. It’s in vogue to describe Ayad Allawi, for example, as a secularist, but he populates his list with an untenable mix of unrepentant Sunni Islamists who would be equally at home in al-Qaeda as they are in Allawi’s Iraqiya Party, and “ex” Baathists who would be equally at home in Saddam’s palace as they would be in Allawi’s Jordanian villa or British state house.
In his first public message since his stroke, Sen. Mark Kirk discusses his rehabilitation process and how he’s anxious “to get back to work to vote to spend less, borrow less and tax less to fix our economy.”
While it’s true the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, their “friends” don’t do them any favors either. From the conspiracy theorists ranting about the “Israel Lobby” to “peace studies” intellectuals who inevitably turn out to be vicious anti-Semites to the proudly ignorant activists who debase the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against South African apartheid by using those terms in vain, pro-Palestinian advocates have been manifestly unable to mount a serious intellectual argument for their cause. And failed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad seems to know it.
Reuters interviewed the hapless technocrat, and he couched his failure in terms more sensible than his allies ever offer:
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday the Palestinians may have “lost the argument” on the international stage for an independent state but cautioned that continued Israeli occupation was unsustainable….
He also warned his administration’s future was clouded by severe financial strains and said the Palestinians had failed to galvanize a distracted world behind their cause.
“I think we are losing the argument, if we have not already lost the argument. But that doesn’t make our position wrong,” said the former World Bank economist, a political independent who has had strong support amongst Western powers.
While I am not sad to see Hosni Mubarak gone nor do I believe that the status quo ante was tenable, the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood has transformed itself into some sort of benevolent force is the type of nonsense that only Middle Eastern Studies academicscanpeddle. Academics and journalists who sat down with Muslim Brotherhood interlocutors and believed what the Brethren’s self-described moderates and technocrats told them were not path breaking; rather, they were useful idiots.
From a mass rally for the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Muhammad Mursi aired on Egyptian television on May 1, and transcribed by MEMRI:
In yet another sign the bloom is off the Democratic rose this year, the New York Times reports a split between party officials and leading donors may cause liberals to squander their opportunity to answer pro-Republican advertising campaigns this year. This may mean that while supporters of the GOP will pour their money into super PACs that will buy ads aimed at supporting their candidates and opposing President Obama and other Democrats, their counterparts on the left, including billionaire financier George Soros, will instead spend their money on voter turnout efforts that would duplicate those being undertaken by the party.
This decision stems in no small part from liberal objections to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that protected the right of groups as well as individuals to express their views on the issues and elections via campaign spending. Because liberals like Soros think freedom of speech when it comes to campaign expenditures should be limited, they prefer not to compete in the marketplace of ideas with conservative funders and instead concentrate their efforts on other aspects of the campaign. This is a critical mistake on their part and reflects a curious though perhaps prescient pessimism.
The primary elections in the Wisconsin recall vote were held yesterday, and there was no surprise on the Democratic side. Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, won as expected against Kathleen Falk, the preferred candidate of the labor unions. Barrett got 57.5 percent of the votes; Falk a pretty dismal 34.7 percent, with the rest scattered among three other minor candidates. Barrett is the more moderate of the two main candidates but still advocates returning to the status quo ante including restoring collective bargaining rights to the public service unions.
But there was a surprise on the Republican side, a big one. Scott Walker faced only a fringe candidate in the Republican primary, one who posed no threat to him. Indeed, Walker won with 97 percent of the vote.
Every now and then, the Iranian regime threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz or some al-Qaeda activist comes close to bombing a major oil facility, and pundits spring up and point out the cost of American reliance on foreign oil, only to be forgotten when the news cycle moves on. The fact that American politicians focus so little on energy security is nothing short of policy malpractice. The Chinese have made energy security their primary strategic ambition and have reaped the benefits. The issue for the United States is not simply jobs—although creating productive, private sector jobs should be the goal of any government—but rather national and economic security.
Enter “Securing America’s Future Energy” (SAFE). Co-chaired by General P.X. Kelley, the former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Frederick Smith, chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx, the organization has assembled a marquee list of top military brass and CEOs, who together make the case that energy security is not only an economic issue, but a national security matter as well. Together, the business and military experts discuss energy issues with greater fluency and depth than politicians of both parties. This is reflected in SAFE’s new report, “The New American Oil Boom,” released yesterday. Because of government regulation, the oil boom may not be as pronounced as it might be but, even so, the United States last year became a net exporter of refined petroleum products for the first time since 1949.
Some liberals are trying to interpret the crushing defeat of six-term Republican Richard Lugar in an Indiana Republican senatorial primary as the creation of an opportunity for the Democrats to steal a GOP seat this fall. But the narrative being promoted today about rabid Tea Party extremists sacrificing another noble Republican moderate shows just how out of touch liberal theorists are with the country. Lugar was the ultimate establishment insider and President Obama’s favorite Republican when he was in the Senate. While there is something to be said for experience, this inveterate compromiser and foreign policy “realist” was a holdover from a bygone era in which members of the senatorial club thought of themselves as operating above and beyond the constraints of normal political life. Which is to say Lugar had outlived his usefulness to the people of Indiana a long time ago.
Equally foolish is the idea that the man who beat him, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, is likely to face the fate of 2010 Republican outliers like Sharon Angle in Nevada or Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, whose extremism cost their parties easy general election victories. Mourdock is an experienced office-holder whose mainstream conservative views make him a perfect match for his state and likely to cruise to victory in the fall. The Mourdock triumph as well as the victory for supporters of traditional marriage in North Carolina is also a reminder that while this year will not be a repeat of the GOP’s midterm tsunami, it is also going to be nothing like 2008 when Obama won both states.