A Miami synagogue is the center of controversy this week for canceling an appearance by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. The president of Temple Israel there said the invitation for her to speak after Friday night services was cancelled due to “security concerns.” But, as the Miami Herald reports, it’s no secret the real reason is that a prominent member of the synagogue had resigned because he was told there would be no equal time on the program for a Republican.
Wasserman Schultz and the Democrats are representing this as an attempt to prevent her voice from being heard and an instance of Republicans injecting politics into the situation. But the truth is just the opposite. As the congresswoman says, constituents should be able to hear their representative, but the Reform synagogue is not in her district. Even if it was, inviting an intensely partisan figure such as the DNC chair to speak at a religious service during an election year is inappropriate. Sabbath services should not be turned into rallies for the Democratic Party or President Obama or occasions for trashing the GOP, because we all know all too well that is what happens every time DWS opens her mouth. The same principle would apply were it House Majority Leader Eric Cantor being imposed on the congregation.
At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf takes issue with the Breitbart.com vetting of Obama’s younger years, and argues that it’s just one example of the conservative media’s self-defeating behavior:
Perhaps “The Vetting” drives traffic to Breitbart.com. When it comes to giving insight into Obama’s actions, or the course his second term would be likely to take, or advancing conservative insights, it’s utterly pointless — it misleads more often than it clarifies, and whereas actually digging into Obama’s behavior during his first term, or his donors, or the gulf between his promises and actions might produce newsworthy scoops, Breitbart.com is spending its time digging up old play posters with Obama’s name on them and proving he once dressed patriotically. …
On Twitter yesterday, conservative journalist John Tabin took issue with my argument that these pathologies, common to many (though not all) conservative media outlets, are one obstacle to a conservatism that focuses on and achieves the passage of reform legislation on taxes, spending, and entitlements. So I’ll close by posing a question to him. Breitbart.com is read largely by movement conservatives. Does it help or hurt the conservative cause when they focus on the issues raised in “The Vetting” series?
This past week, the president and the vice president have made some rather curious arguments on their behalf.
“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama said. “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.
Vice President Biden, meanwhile, offered up this argument. “Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn’t mean the private-equity guys are bad guys. They’re not,” Biden said at New Hampshire’s Keene State College. “But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there’re an awful lot of smart plumbers. All kidding aside, it’s not the same job requirement.”
Real Clear Politics this morning linked to a column by Jack Kelly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette entitled “Obama Is Not That Bright.” In it he wrote,
Could it be that Mr. Obama’s “superior intellect” is a myth created by journalists to mask what may be the thinnest resume of anyone ever elected president? An example of puffery is the description of Mr. Obama as a former “professor of constitutional law.” Mr. Obama was a part time instructor at the University of Chicago Law School, without the title or status of professor. And, according to blogger Doug Ross, he wasn’t very popular with the real professors.
“I spent some time with the highest tenured faculty member at Chicago Law a few months back,” Mr. Ross wrote in March 2010. “According to my professor friend, [Obama] had the lowest intellectual capacity in the building. … The other professors hated him because he was lazy, unqualified.”
In 1999, with Boris Yeltsin’s health failing and his need to produce a smooth succession the following year, Yeltsin made Vladimir Putin Russia’s prime minister and gave Putin an unprecedented free hand in making policy. From the beginning, Putin’s attitude toward his own stewardship of the Russian Federation was a grand bargain: Putin was to be unchallenged in the political sphere, and in return the Russian people would have security, stability, and non-political liberty.
To demonstrate this, Putin led a furious military effort to suppress Chechen separatism, earning briefly the nickname the “iron chancellor.” Putin biographer Richard Sakwa quotes Yeltsin’s explanation for Putin’s rising popularity: “Putin got rid of Russia’s fear. And Russia repaid him with profound gratitude.” Yet since December, Moscow has seen massive protests, and Russians were even galvanized by a hunger strike in the provinces. And this week, two studies indicate Russians’ gratitude toward Putin is broadly on the wane, and their desire for democratic institutions is rising. The reason is not because Russians are reneging on their half of the grand bargain. It’s because the grand bargain was always impossible.
If you’d like to see what happens when an arrogant, thin-skinned journalist is asked a legitimate question about a silly (but revealing) comment he once made, you can’t do much better than viewing this clip of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
C-SPAN’s Steve Scully—one of the most objective and decent journalists in America today—asked Matthews if he still felt toward Barack Obama today the same “thrill” that went up his leg in 2008.
The response by Matthews is filled with bitterness and self-righteousness. “If you had done your reporting over at C-SPAN, you would have checked that I said the exact same thing in 2004 after I heard his address up here in Boston,” according to Matthews. “I want to help you with your reporting,” Matthews says later. And it gets worse from there, with Matthews—who for some inexplicable reason characterizes his work as “reporting”—constantly trying to put down Scully, including calling him a “jackass.” Matthews is enraged because Scully asked Matthews a question Matthews faces from “every horse’s ass right winger I bump into.”
Most Western diplomats have spent the last day patting themselves on the back for showing a little spine during the latest P5+1 nuclear talks in Baghdad. Faced with yet another Iranian refusal to agree to the conciliatory proposal to ease the way toward an end to the crisis, the West did not give in and remove the tough sanctions that have been belatedly imposed on the Islamist regime. Nor did they promise not to implement the oil embargo on Iran that is supposed to go into effect in July. But by agreeing to another meeting next month in Moscow and the implicit promise to go on negotiating all summer and fall if need be, Iran knows that its centrifuges can keep spinning and they can get closer to their nuclear goal while they allow the clock to run out.
The West already knew this, but it appears t the danger is worse than anyone in the Obama administration or Europe thought. The Associated Press is reporting this morning that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have discovered the Iranians are refining uranium at a rate of up to 27 percent at their Fordo enrichment plant. This is far higher than previous estimates of their capacity that was only at 20 percent. Because the West has been attempting to cajole Tehran into giving up refinement at that 20 percent level, the news that they have already far exceeded that level ought to dispel the administration’s complacent attitude that assumed Iran’s program was already operating at maximum capacity. Because the 20 percent fuel is already at the level where it can easily turned into weapons grade material, the uranium spike is a troubling sign for those who assume that the West has plenty of time to keep talking about the problem before the Iranians achieve their goal.
In his review in the New York Review of Books of the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography of Lyndon Johnson, Garry Wills focused on the relationship between Johnson and Robert Kennedy. It was, in Wills’ words, “a study in hate … radiating reciprocal hostilities at every step in the story.” Their interactions were “venomous.”
“I doubt that Caro, when he began his huge project, thought he would end up composing a moral disquisition on the nature of hatred. But that is what, in effect, he has given us,” writes Wills.
Hate is a complicated topic. For one thing, hate itself is not in every instance wrong. The Hebrew Bible makes it clear that there are things that God Himself hates (see Proverbs 6:16-19 for more). But for those of us who are mortal, hate can be a destructive thing.
You don’t have to be a foreign policy expert to have noticed that issues of war and peace have played a very small part in this year’s election. The nation’s main worry as well as the chief point of contention between the two major parties is the economy, and it is no accident that the main item on the resume of the man Republicans are choosing to try to defeat President Obama is his business expertise. But according to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller, the lack of foreign policy talk is not just the result of Americans being distracted by their financial woes. As he writes in an article in Foreign Policy, there is a new bipartisan consensus on foreign policy that has minimized the differences between Republicans and Democrats. Indeed, as far as he is concerned, the policies Romney would pursue abroad are likely to be almost identical to those of Obama leaving him to joke that if the president is re-elected he could safely appoint the Republican as his secretary of state.
Miller, who has been saying and writing a lot of very smart things since he quit the State Department and stopped trying to conjure up mythical progress toward Middle East peace, concedes there are differences between Romney and Obama on Israel, Russia and to a lesser extent China. But he thinks these have more to do with nuance than substance or will be ameliorated if the Republican is actually elected. However, I think he is underestimating the implications of those nuances. Even more important, his belief in the president’s willingness to use force to stop Iran’s nuclear program and/or to back an Israeli strike seems more a leap of faith than something grounded in evidence. Considering that these issues are likely to be among the trickiest America faces in the next four years, the notion that there is no choice this year on foreign policy must be considered a gross exaggeration.