The idea that President Obama is seriously considering dumping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket this year is a seductive one. To assume that this is a real possibility, as William Kristol argues in theWeekly Standard, you must believe the president is not only sick and tired of Biden’s bloviating, but that he believes his re-election effort is in real peril. While I don’t doubt the former proposition for a moment, I have yet to see proof President Obama’s messianic self-image has been so punctured by reality that he is willing to do the unthinkable and not only discard a sitting vice president but elevate Hillary Clinton as his figurative and actual successor.
Unlike Kristol and my esteemed colleague Pete Wehner, who also thinks Biden is on his way out, I think the potential costs to the president outweigh the benefits. Even more to the point, the essential prerequisite of this scenario — a panic-stricken White House that sees the president as doomed to defeat unless the Democrats throw the sort of Hail Mary pass that caused John McCain to make a fateful veep pick — doesn’t exist. The president is behaving as if he is convinced that a campaign to destroy Mitt Romney’s character will succeed. Conceding that all is lost without Clinton to save him goes against everything we know about Obama’s belief in himself and his abilities. He may also understand that Biden wouldn’t go quietly, and the perception of weakness the veep’s political execution would engender would merely discourage his supporters rather than energize them.
An essential element of the mainstream media’s myth about its own impartiality is the notion that before Fox News came along we were living in a golden age of broadcast news reporting. The days when national news was the dominion of three networks and a few major newspapers is portrayed as Eden before the fall, an era when partisanship of the kind that is now both familiar and expected was unknown. A key element to this fairy tale is the idea that the journalistic icons of the time, like CBS’s Walter Cronkite, were Olympian figures who would never stoop to play favorites or inject ideology into the news.
But this view is totally false. As media news analyst Howard Kurtz writes in the Daily Beast, a new biography of Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley spills the beans on the godlike anchorman’s unethical practices, including blatant partisanship that would make the conservative talkers on Fox and the liberals on MSNBC blush. While Kurtz still admires Cronkite in spite of his flaws, the problem here is not just that god had feet of clay after all. It’s that the truth about Cronkite throws the entire narrative of the liberal mainstream media under the bus. It wasn’t Fox that poisoned the well of journalism, as former New York Times editor Bill Keller recently alleged. Fox and other such outlets were brought into existence in an effort to balance a journalistic establishment that was already tilting heavily to the left. The real sin here is not bias or even partisanship but the pretense of fairness that Cronkite exemplified.
It was only last month when the State Department was acknowledging that Israel is “one of NATO’s partners [and] has participated over the years in many, many, many NATO activities, consultations, exercises, et cetera.” The context was a surreal exchange between the AP’s Matt Lee and State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland regarding how Turkey was vetoing Israel from participating in this week’s Chicago NATO summit. Lee expressed confusion at the bland acquiescence with which the Obama administration was meeting Turkey’s machinations:
QUESTION: Toria, I’m trying to help you out here, because you’re going to get absolutely slammed.
MS. NULAND: I understand. Matt, there is no –
QUESTION: You are. If you can’t come out and say that the United States wants Israel to participate, its main ally in the Middle East and you won’t come out and say that the administration wants them to participate in whatever event is going on in Chicago, that’s – that is going to be seized on.
QUESTION: Fair enough. But the Turks wouldn’t be objecting to Israel’s participation if someone hadn’t proposed that Israel participate. And if you have proposed that they participate –
MS. NULAND: Again –
QUESTION: — and you’re not willing to stick up for it, I don’t understand why.
Earlier today, I blogged about the revelation in the New York Times that, in the words of one of the president’s advisers, in Afghanistan, “The military was ‘all in,’ as they say, and Obama wasn’t.” Meaning that the military wanted to pursue a wide-ranging counterinsurgency strategy and Obama didn’t.
This has been accompanied by numerous leaks about how the administration was redefining success downward, the mantra being the condescending formulation,”Afghan good enough.” The president’s own national security adviser told reporters on the record: “The goal is to have an Afghanistan again that has a degree of stability such that forces like al-Qaeda and associated groups cannot have safe haven unimpeded, which could threaten the region and threaten U.S. and other interests in the world.” (Does that mean that “impeded” safe havens would be ok?)
Note to Cory Booker: don’t watch this latest Obama ad while eating lunch. The Obama campaign has released another distorted attack on Bain Capital, this time targeting the company’s acquisition of a textile firm called American Pad and Paper (Ampad):
Massachusetts Democrats are stuck with Elizabeth Warren. That’s what the Boston Herald is reporting after talking to state Democrats, and they’re probably right. There is nobody with Warren’s name recognition and catching up with fundraising, at this point, would be a long shot:
“The Democratic Party is really stuck,” countered University of New Hampshire political science professor Andrew Smith. “They essentially cleared the path for her as a candidate, and they can’t get rid of her now. She could conceivably drop out, but I doubt that will be the case, and I doubt the party will try to push her aside.” …
Smith and some Democrats say the party can’t switch front-runners now — it’s probably too late for a big name that could attract big money to jump in and gather the 10,000 signatures needed by a June 5 deadline.
“They’re in a tough spot, but there’s not a lot they can do about it,” Smith said.
Warren had $10.9 million as of late March to Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s $15 million.
The beginning of this month was a week of firsts for Burma’s famed pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She won a seat in parliamentary by-elections and, unlike after her party’s overwhelming victory in 1990 that was immediately nullified by the ruling junta, was granted her seat on May 1. She was then awarded her first passport in 24 years, which she will use to fulfill other firsts: she will address both chambers of the British parliament, and she will travel to Norway and deliver her Nobel acceptance speech. (She won the Peace Prize in 1991 but was put under house arrest.)
The European Union had already agreed to suspend its economic sanctions against Burma, and on Friday U.S. officials said they would suspend the prohibition against American investment in Burma. This is both a momentous decision and a risky one. As Reuters reports this morning:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi have discussed the need to protect against the country backsliding on reforms.
The U.S. on Friday said it would suspend a ban on American investment in the country also known as Burma. It was the Obama administration’s most significant step yet to reward Myanmar for its shift from five decades of authoritarian rule, although rights groups criticized the move as premature.
The State Department said Clinton called Suu Kyi on Sunday night, and that they agreed Myanmar’s progress remains fragile. Clinton said the U.S. was keeping its sanctions’ authorities in place as an insurance policy.
In honor of Jerusalem Day, which was celebrated yesterday, anyone who hasn’t yet done so should read Michael Totten’s 2011 City Journal article on why dividing the city that was reunited 45 years ago is not merely foolish, but impossible. There are many good arguments against dividing Jerusalem, and they have been made many times before. What makes Totten’s article unique is that he physically walked the route along which the border would lie under the solution “everyone knows” any Israeli-Palestinian deal must include – a division in which the city’s Arab neighborhoods become part of Palestine while Jewish neighborhoods remain Israeli. For the purpose, he used the Geneva Initiative’s map. Here are some of the absurdities he found:
On a street near the Armenian Quarter, a house that the Geneva Initiative has slated for Israel is wedged between two houses that would go to a Palestinian state. Houses in the Old City are ancient. They lean on one another. It is physically impossible to weave a border between them … Things are even stranger where the Muslim Quarter abuts the Jewish Quarter. Arabs own shops at street level, while Jews own apartments upstairs. According to the Geneva Initiative, the ground floor on that street would be Palestinian and the second floor Israeli.
Even in neighborhoods where Palestinian and Jewish houses aren’t intertwined the way they are in the Old City, the map was utterly impractical:
Take the neighborhood of Abu Tor, on a hill just south of the Old City. The eastern side is Arab, and the western side is Jewish. The Green Line runs through its center. It would be easy enough, theoretically, to make the Green Line the border between Israel and a Palestinian state.
But that border would go right down the middle of a street where Jews live on one side and Arabs live on the other. If a wall or a fence were erected on that border, residents wouldn’t be able to drive down their own street. And if there were no wall or a fence, anyone could cross the border without passing through customs or security: tourists, spies, job-seekers, and suicide bombers. A Palestinian could throw a hand grenade into Israel from inside his living room, and vice versa.
As Totten noted, such a map would be possible only if Israel and Palestine had a completely open border, European Union-style, in which citizens of both nations could freely enter the other with no border checks whatsoever. That is indeed the fantasy envisioned by proponents of dividing the city. But in the real world, it’s completely impossible.
Last week, Iranian blogger Potkin Azarmehr questioned the authenticity of reports that Iran had executed Majid Jamali Fashi, the 24-year-old Iranian accused of carrying out the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Massoud-Ali Mohammadi.
This morning, Potkin circulated a snapshot of an Israeli passport, showcased on Iranian TV, which authorities claim is evidence that Fashi was an Israeli agent.
I will leave it to others to decide whether Fashi’s execution was a fake. The passport certainly looks like a fake. This has less to do with the fact that the name and ID number of the passport holder have been erased and more with obvious flaws:
Consider this an update to last February, when another high-ranking Iranian official pledged to “kill all Jews and annihilate Israel.” Last time, the genocidal threat came from Supreme Leader Khamenei’s strategy specialist Alireza Forghani, and was published on a Khamenei-linked website. This time, it’s Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, via what might politely be called the government-affiliated FARS outlet:
Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi… reiterated the Iranian nation and Supreme Leader’s emphasis on the necessity of support for the oppressed Palestinian nation and its causes, and noted, “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel.” The top military official reminded that the Iranian Supreme Leader considers defending Palestine as a full religious duty and believes that any kind of governance and rule by anyone other than the Palestinians as an instance of usurpation.
No doubt Iranian apologists will soon explain how the Iranian outlet FARS – which is where this passage comes from – is mistranslating Firouzabadi. Maybe the IRCG stooges who work there just don’t understand Farsi!
April was not a good fundraising month for the Obama campaign or the pro-Obama super PAC. BuzzFeed reports that many of the campaign’s big-dollar donors have already maxed out their contributions, and new donors aren’t lined up to replace them:
Donations to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign declined sharply in April, as many big-dollar contributors hit the legal maximum, a BuzzFeed analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows. …
Most of Obama’s drop is attributable to a decline in contributions of more than $500, which fell by more than $9 million. Many of Obama’s top donors have already hit the legal $2500 maximum to the campaign, which — along with an apparent failure to recruit a new cadre of wealthy supporters — may account for the decline.
At the NATO summit in Chicago, President Obama reiterated that the United States would wind down its combat role, but would continue its advisory role and commitment to Afghanistan. The New York Times and other outlets helpfully explained that Obama was simply following the light footprint model that Obama employed against Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere.
My colleague Ahmad Majidyar–who hands down is the most astute Afghan and Pakistan political analyst in the country today (follow his tweets)–is correct to note, however, that the advisory model for Afghanistan has been tried before, by the Soviet Union. After the Soviet withdrawal, Moscow channeled up to $3 billion/year to Kabul, and also transferred to their Afghan partners much of the military equipment which it withdrew from Poland, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Neither this nor the advisers was enough to keep Najibullah in power. Afghans have never lost a war; they just defect to the winning side. For Afghans, momentum trumps principle.
In an editorial in The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol argues that President Obama would be wise to replace Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This kind of speculation — the incumbent president replacing the vice president in order to re-energize his campaign — goes on every four years. It almost never happens.
This time it might.
For one thing, Biden is literally, God love him, a buffoon. His counsel and predictions are almost always wrong, from telling us we’d see an increase in 500,000 jobs a month during the 2010 “recovery summer” (a figure that was ludicrously off target) to advising the president not to take out Osama bin Laden. More often than not, Biden makes news by his verbal miscues (“jobs” is a three-letter word, Obama “has a big stick, I promise you,” et cetera). He’s a person who’s almost impossible to take seriously. Read More
Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker is a rising star in New Jersey whose record running the city has earned him applause on both sides of the political aisle. He’s also thought of as something of a superhero after personally rescuing two neighbors from their burning home last month. But as far as the Obama re-election campaign is concerned, he has no more right to think as he pleases than Winston Smith, the hero of George Orwell’s 1984. Just as Smith was forced to concede that two plus two equals five if Big Brother said it did, so Booker tamely walked back his criticism of the president’s re-election campaign ads lambasting Mitt Romney’s business record.
Speaking on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, Booker was a political superhero blasting the excesses of both Republicans and Democrats as he decried some conservatives dredging up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue and was equally strong on his own party’s attempt to demonize Romney’s career:
I have to just say, from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America, especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable with. …
The last point I’ll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.
Coming from a prominent young liberal, this was refreshing stuff. Obviously it was a little too refreshing for the White House, but as bad as the “Meet the Press” comments were for the president, what followed didn’t help either. By the end of the day, a contrite Booker posted a video on YouTube walking back his comments about Bain and tamely claiming instead that it was “reasonable” for the Obama campaign to attack Romney on this score. It was as if it were a video from a hostage being held for ransom.
The Libyan city of Benghazi, the “capital” of the east and the second largest city in the country, held a referendum this past weekend on whether or not to declare political autonomy. The results aren’t in yet, but it’s likely to pass.
Muammar Qaddafi knew if an uprising against him were to break out that it would start in Benghazi. His regime never had much support in the east. His family was from the west, which to the people of Benghazi practically made him a foreigner.
Libya doesn’t make much sense as a country. The western region, Tripolitania, has historically been oriented westward toward Carthage and Tunis. Cyrenaica, the area surrounding Benghazi, has always looked eastward toward Egypt.
As long as it doesn’t become infested with the likes of al-Qaeda, the distinct Saharan region of Fezzan south of Tripolitania may be too sparsely populated to be an ongoing geopolitical concern. The population of Cyrenaica, though, is huge—almost a third of the total—and Libya’s baked-in disunity is one of the reasons Qaddafi ran such a viciously repressive political system. He smothered Benghazi with far more totalitarianism than he ever inflicted on Tripoli.
Back in late 2009, when President Obama announced that he would send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan but only for 18 months, many conservatives were highly critical of his decision, arguing that the president did not have the temperament to wage a war successfully and that he was only going to throw away troops’ lives needlessly without trying to achieve victory. I was not one of them. I was willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, and I supported the president’s move as a way to arrest the decline in Afghanistan. Having sent more troops and first-rate commanders—first Stanley McChrystal, then David Petraeus, now John Allen—I thought that Obama was committed to a successful outcome and could not risk backing down without calling one of his major commitments into question.
I still think the surge was the right thing to do because it arrested the Taliban’s momentum in southern Afghanistan and at least gives breathing room for the development of Afghan National Security Forces. But in retrospect, it is obvious that the president’s critics were more right than wrong. For evidence look no further than this excerpt from New York Times reporter David Sanger’s new book, which, as Jonathan discussed yesterday, appeared on the front page of the Sunday Times. It quotes an unnamed Obama adviser as follows: “The military was ‘all in,’ as they say, and Obama wasn’t.”
The MilwaukeeJournal Sentinel–Wisconsin’s largest and most influential newspaper—yesterday endorsed Scott Walker in the recall election to be held June 5. The newspaper said, “Even if you disagree with Walker’s policies, does that justify cutting short his term as governor? And if so, where does such logic lead? To more recall elections? More turmoil? It’s time to end the bickering and get back to the business of the state. We’ve had our differences with the governor, but he deserves a chance to complete his term.”
Intrade puts the governor’s chances of winning the recall vote at 84.6 percent, a huge lead. It puts Barack Obama’s chances of winning in November at a mere 56.9 percent. (Intrade is not a poll, per se. Instead, people bet real money on the outcomes—in other words, the people are putting their money—not just their opinions–where their mouths are.) In a more traditional poll, Walker is up six.
Michael Rubin has referenced important statements, recent and past, made by senior Iranian officials on Iran’s nuclear program and its ambitions. To this important list, I would add the following. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator under President Mohammad Khatami, revealed in a recent Boston Globeopinion piece that Iran had reached “breakout capacity” in 2002: “It is too late,” said Mousavian “to demand that Iran suspend enrichment activities; it mastered enrichment technology and reached break-out capability in 2002 and continues to steadily improve its uranium enrichment capabilities.”
Beyond these statements, there is a mountain of hard evidence to back the view that Iran decided long ago to build nuclear weapons.
U.S. intelligence reports and most Western leaders insist that Iran’s leaders have not yet made a decision to pursue nuclear weapons.
Not so – according to documents that the opposition group, Mojaheddin-e Khalq (MeK), recently leaked to the Western Press and first revealed in the German daily, Die Welt.