Barack Obama’s increasingly desperate struggle to win re-election is causing some of his worst traits to be put on display, including petulance and self-pity. The latest example occurred during a fundraiser in Baltimore, when the president said, “Because folks are still hurting right now, the other side feels that it’s enough for them to just sit back and say, ‘Things aren’t as good as they should be, and it’s Obama’s fault.’”
This is rich. No president in human history has quite equaled Obama when it comes to blaming others for his problems. And during the 2008 campaign, everything wrong with America could be laid squarely at the feet of President Bush. But now Obama, having presided over what at this stage must qualify as among the most inept presidencies in American history, is complaining because he’s being held accountable.
What is fairly astonishing in all this is the utter lack of self-awareness by the president. A jolting collision is occurring between his own self-conception (Obama views himself as a world-historical figure and Great Man) and the multiple and multiplying failures of his presidency. Obama appears incapable of processing the truth or coming to grips with reality. And so he’s spinning tales day after day, including his fantastic (and thoroughly discredited) claim that “Since I’ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years.”
Last year’s Western decision to intervene in Libya prompted some debate, but the scale of the conflict and its fairly swift conclusion limited the debate to some extent. But the growing tally of atrocities and the thousands of casualties in Syria have necessarily amplified the arguments being conducted as both the United States and its European allies continue to stand aside from the fighting there. As the weeks go by and new outrages are reported, it is increasingly clear to even the optimists in the Obama administration that the Assad regime will not go unless they contribute materially–giving him the push. Consequently, the debate among informed observers about the wisdom of intervention is growing in intensity.
Among the loudest of voices opposing intervention is scholar Daniel Pipes, who writes in National Review to urge the West to stay out of the Syrian morass. While acknowledging the arguments that allowing civil strife there to continue might be dangerous, he argues that such a war might actually be in America’s interest so long as the U.S. doesn’t get dragged in. Walter Russell Mead is more equivocal about intervention than Pipes. But Mead writes in his blog at The American Interest that the humanitarian argument to be made on behalf of intervention is weaker than we think. Both make strong arguments, especially Mead, who acknowledges that there are no good answers here. He’s right about that, but the alternative of a long war there or an Assad victory is not an acceptable outcome.
No one who has read Allen Drury’s great novel, Advise and Consent, or seen the movie, can be surprised by how sordid Washington confirmation battles can get. Nevertheless, I am dismayed to see the treatment being accorded Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Baghdad, whom I met during his days as a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
McGurk is a controversial choice for U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He is young (39-years-old), he is not a Foreign Service officer, and he is not an Arabist. Rather, he is a former NSC official under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama whose experience in Iraq extends from 2004 to last year. He spent much of 2004 working for the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. embassy, and he returned frequently thereafter as an NSC official under Bush and subsequently as an outside adviser working alongside the U.S. ambassador. McGurk was an early supporter of the surge and had a central role in the negotiation of both the status of force agreement in 2008 (successful) and the one last year (unsuccessful). Critics claim he is too close to Prime Minister Maliki; the opposing Iraqiyah coalition has even come out against McGurk’s nomination, which could limit his effectiveness were he to be confirmed.
Why did the Department of Justice appoint two prosecutors to lead its leak investigations? That’s the question Sen. Jon Kyl asked Eric Holder during his testimony at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary hearing. Holder gave a hopelessly vague and evasive answer, but Kyl’s question is worth asking again, given what we know about the two U.S. Attorneys.
One of these prosecutors, Ronald Machen, is an Obama appointee who donated $4,350 to the Obama campaign, as the blog Fire Andrea Mitchell pointed out. The other is a holdover Bush appointee, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
So one Bush appointee and one Obama donor should balance each other out, right? Actually, no — not necessarily. The DOJ has opened two separate leak investigations with different scopes, and the prosecutors could be asked to lead them separately.
Payback for President Obama’s decision to refuse to get personally involved in the Wisconsin recall fight may not be long in coming. U.S. News reports that the AFL-CIO will “redeploy funds away from political candidates” in the coming campaign in favor of spending on strengthening the union movement’s infrastructure. The magazine’s Washington Whispers blog quotes a spokesman as saying that this will mean a drastic cut in donations to candidates including the man at the head of the Democratic ticket, but that “this will not be a slight to President Obama.”
This is, as the magazine points out, a major policy change for the organization that once provided much of the money and the muscle for the Democrats’ national campaigns. But whether it is being done out of spite or, as is entirely possible, merely a recognition that the shrinking union movement needs to concentrate its dwindling resources on keeping itself alive, it must be considered a blow to a Democratic campaign that has already found itself facing a Republican presidential campaign that may be able to match the president’s ability to raise money. Either way, it is just one more sign that the Democrats will not be enjoying the same fundraising advantage in 2012 that they had in 2008. It also means that the AFL-CIO is conceding that its days as a national political force to be reckoned with are finished.
That was fast. Exit polling from last week’s Wisconsin recall election had already showed the state shifting from Obama’s column into toss-up territory, and now Rasmussen’s latest poll actually has Romney with a slight lead:
Mitt Romney now leads President Obama for the first time in Wisconsin where the president’s support has fallen to its lowest level to date.
The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Romney with 47 percent of the vote to Obama’s 44 percent. Five percent prefer some other candidate, and four percent are undecided.
That lead is still within the poll’s 4.5 percent margin of error, but it is the latest sign that Wisconsin — a must-win state for Obama — is in play for November.
Casino owner Sheldon Adelson became the symbol of what liberals think is the abuse of the campaign finance system this past winter when he and his wife donated $21 million to the failing presidential campaign of their friend Newt Gingrich. Some on the left even floated the preposterous idea that the pro-Israel billionaire had influenced Gingrich to support the Jewish state even though the former Speaker of the House had a record on the issue that long preceded his connection with Adelson. The intense focus on the Adelsons faded after they pulled the plug on Gingrich, but liberal bashers of the couple will get a new reason to scream after reading this report in the Wall Street Journal. According to the Journal, the Adelsons have given $10 million to a pro-Romney PAC that appears to be the largest single donation to the Republican’s campaign.
Left-wingers and those opposed to Israel will highlight these donations as proof of either the undue influence of the wealthy on our political system or another instance of the fabled pro-Israel lobby manipulating American foreign policy. But while the Adelsons’ contributions are certainly impressive, they are no more sinister than those of left-wing magnates like George Soros or the way the pro-Arab oil lobby throws its cash around. More to the point, despite the effort to paint the couple as somehow being the Republican puppet masters, their participation in the campaign proves just the opposite. Their money may give the ideas and the candidates they like a hearing, but they can’t buy an election.
Pundits have speculated that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism may hurt him with some Christian conservatives, but it appears that anti-Mormon prejudice is actually on the rise among liberals more than any other group. BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins flagged a new academic study out of the University of Sydney that found liberal anti-Mormonism has skyrocketed since 2007:
According to the paper, concern about Mormonism has remained relatively stable among evangelicals, with 36 percent expressing aversion to an LDS candidate in 2007 and 33 percent doing so in 2012. But among non-religious voters, that number shot up 20 points in the past five years, from 21 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in February. There were also substantial increases in Mormon-averse voters among liberals — 28 percent in 2007 and 43 percent in 2012 — as well as moderates, who went from 22 percent in 2007 to 32 percent this year.
What do you call a forum during which two people holding different opinions argue their respective cases in an attempt to win over the audience? Conservatives rightly call this a “debate.” But according to Dana Milbank, liberals have another term: “show trial.” That’s what Milbank called a debate this week between Norm Ornstein and Steve Hayward hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. The topic was whether Ornstein was correct about the modern Republican Party’s supposed historic intransigence.
It’s telling that the free flow of ideas makes liberals so uncomfortable. That is one aspect of the larger point Milbank was making, which is that in his opinion Jeb Bush’s recent comments on the difficulty his father and Ronald Reagan would have in today’s GOP were spot-on. But what did Jeb Bush say that Milbank found so damning? Here it is, from his column:
“Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican Party . . . as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground,” Bush said Monday in a meeting at Bloomberg headquarters in New York, according to the online publication Buzzfeed.
“Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time — they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support,” Bush added. Reagan today “would be criticized for doing the things that he did.”
A foreign policy that stands for nothing but easing tensions is yielding some very tense results. As Max notes, Russia is reportedly sending attack helicopters to Syria for Bashar al-Assad to better mow down Syrians. Hillary Clinton responded by describing the development. The shipment “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” she said, and registered “concern.”
There are indeed multiple reasons to be concerned—even if you’ve decided that population slaughter is no longer any of America’s business. Vladimir Putin has used the Obama administration’s reset policy as an opportunity to elevate himself and humiliate America before the world. He is positively giddy about his good fortune. When the U.S. approached him to help ease Assad out of power he responded by arming Assad instead. He had three perfectly good reasons for doing this. First, Assad is his client (as this shipment demonstrates). Second, he and Assad are autocrats up against local manifestations of a global anti-autocratic revolt. Squelching such revolt in one place makes it easier to dampen it in the next. Three, going bold in Syria where the United States fears to tread gives him a much-needed boost at home. This is especially true among members of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church who fear an anti-Christian explosion in a post-Assad Syria. Needless to say, Syria is Iran’s closest ally. With additional boosts from Russia and no counter move from the U.S., there’s no reason to think Assad can’t put down the rebellion and survive as the mullahs’ link to the Mediterranean.
There’s little doubt the main obstacle to President Obama’s re-election is the country’s sinking economy. But in his scheduled major address on the subject in Ohio tomorrow, he is, as Reuters reports, “not likely to unveil new ideas to boost the economy and create new jobs, according to Democrats familiar with the preparations for the address.” That means the president will be returning to a familiar theme: blame it all on George W. Bush and plea for more time to fix things. While that may have seemed a reasonable position to take early in his administration, to say that this is an uninspiring campaign theme after three and a half years in office is an understatement.
Re-election campaigns can hinge on one of two themes: a referendum on the president’s record or one on the challenger’s unsuitability for high office. While the White House would like to make this election all about Mitt Romney and the Republicans, so far their efforts to demonize his business career or the GOP via the bogus “war on women” theme hasn’t worked. And with the latest economic statistics showing little sign of a genuine recovery, that leaves the Democrats with very little to say, especially because the president’s signature legislative achievements in health care and the stimulus are deeply unpopular. That’s the conceit behind his expected appeal for a “reset” on the economy. With no record to run on and an opponent who is demonstrating greater strength than expected, all the president can do is ask the public to give him an “incomplete” on his transcript and grant him another four years to complete the course. But a third straight summer of economic bad news requires a better answer than a request for a presidential mulligan.
At first glance, the ABC News/Washington Post poll appears to show equally bad news for both Romney’s and Obama’s economic plans:
More than half of independents, 54 percent, say they see the president’s economic plan negatively, while just 38 percent say they consider Obama’s proposals in a positive light. For Romney, 47 percent rate his plans unfavorably, versus 35 percent who rank his proposals positively.
While more independents are undecided about Romney’s plans, giving the Republican challenger more room to attract support, the former Massachusetts governor is also likely benefiting from the fact that more conservatives identify themselves as independents than do liberals. Among self-described moderates, the president’s economic plan is actually favored, 48-46 percent, while Romney’s plan shows a 37-47 percent deficit.
In 2008, Barack Obama not only won the expected key battleground states but swiped some that were assumed to be Republican strongholds such as Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia as he racked up a huge Electoral College win. While not even Democratic insiders think the president can win Indiana this year, they have held onto hope about North Carolina and are feeling very confident about Virginia. Their confidence about the president’s prospects in these two key southern states whose combined 28 electoral votes could make the difference in November stems in large measure because they believe changing demographics have permanently altered the GOP’s traditional edge in both.
But while polls show that the Democrats are continuing to nurse a small yet significant lead in Virginia, North Carolina seems to be slipping away. A PPP poll there published this week makes it unanimous, as all of the surveys of the state now show Mitt Romney in the lead. The four outfits that have polled the state differ on the margin that ranges from one percent to eight, but for the first time Romney leads in each of them. North Carolina may not be the same state that repeatedly sent Jesse Helms to the Senate a generation ago, but it appears that it is not ready to vote for Barack Obama again.