Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 6, 2012

Obama’s Excuses Are Getting Weaker

President Obama’s response to the latest dismal federal jobs report was as predictable as it was weak. Speaking on his bus tour of Ohio, he repeated the theme we’ve heard so often since January 2009: It’s not his fault. Only this time he not only heaped blame on the administration of his predecessor but also claimed the problems dated to the Clinton administration, which heretofore Democrats have spoken of as a golden age of prosperity:

“We’ve got to deal with what’s been happening over the last decade, the last 15 years.”

It’s not clear what event it was that happened in 1997 — when his secretary of state was serving as First Lady and President Obama had just begun his first term in the Illinois State Senate — whose impact was so far-reaching that even today the administration is helpless to ameliorate its effects. But whatever it was that the president had in mind when he threw out this puzzling alibi, blaming Bill Clinton is about as pointless as pointing the finger at George W. Bush, Obama’s usual punching bag. But the way things are going for the president, one more bad jobs report and he may be blaming the elder President Bush as well his son and  Clinton for all of his troubles.

As even a liberal stalwart like Robert Reich pointed out today at the Huffington Post, the excuse that he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression is “wearing thin.” In fact, it has already worn out, a fact made all too clear by the president’s obfuscations about the jobs numbers that Reich was honest enough to report.

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President Obama’s response to the latest dismal federal jobs report was as predictable as it was weak. Speaking on his bus tour of Ohio, he repeated the theme we’ve heard so often since January 2009: It’s not his fault. Only this time he not only heaped blame on the administration of his predecessor but also claimed the problems dated to the Clinton administration, which heretofore Democrats have spoken of as a golden age of prosperity:

“We’ve got to deal with what’s been happening over the last decade, the last 15 years.”

It’s not clear what event it was that happened in 1997 — when his secretary of state was serving as First Lady and President Obama had just begun his first term in the Illinois State Senate — whose impact was so far-reaching that even today the administration is helpless to ameliorate its effects. But whatever it was that the president had in mind when he threw out this puzzling alibi, blaming Bill Clinton is about as pointless as pointing the finger at George W. Bush, Obama’s usual punching bag. But the way things are going for the president, one more bad jobs report and he may be blaming the elder President Bush as well his son and  Clinton for all of his troubles.

As even a liberal stalwart like Robert Reich pointed out today at the Huffington Post, the excuse that he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression is “wearing thin.” In fact, it has already worn out, a fact made all too clear by the president’s obfuscations about the jobs numbers that Reich was honest enough to report.

Though the president preferred to take a “glass half full” approach to the jobs numbers, as the New York Times delicately described his rhetoric, Reich was more frank about Obama’s excuses. Far from the creation of 84,000 new jobs being a hopeful sign, the truth is very different:

Remember, 125,000 new jobs are needed just to keep up with the increase in the population of Americans who need jobs. That means the jobs situation continues to worsen.

After a good week in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision that led to more focus on Mitt Romney’s weaknesses, the jobs report brought the president back to the reality of a sinking economy that, as even Reich pointed out, he owns. The voters don’t care what he inherited. After four years, the Bush alibi, not to mention the swipe at Clinton, isn’t fooling anyone.

Reich also stated the obvious when he noted that Obama hasn’t any real ideas about dealing with the crisis. Even worse for the president — and the country whose fiscal affairs he is steering into the ditch — at this point the European debt crisis and China’s economic slowdown are likely to only make things a lot worse before they get better. Democrats may hope voters aren’t paying attention to the election and economic statistics until Labor Day, but by then the president’s goose as well as the economy may already be cooked.

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The Collateral Damage of Obama’s Post-Modernist Presidency

In response to a recent post — in which I wrote that “Barack Obama is a thoroughly post-modern president. Words and facts have no objective standing; they are relative, socially constructed, a way to advance personal reality.” — I was criticized by a Time magazine reporter for continuing my “relentless attempts to depict Barack Obama as a despicable human being” and for employing tactics that are “not only intellectually dishonest, but cynical in the extreme.”

In fact, the point of my piece — which is that during oral arguments before the Supreme Court President Obama’s legal team referred to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a tax even as his administration now says it isn’t a tax and never was a tax — remains unrefuted. Indeed, this short clip validates exactly what I was arguing. It shows Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt insisting that “at no point” did any of the government’s lawyers, including Solicitor General Verrilli, refer to the ACA as a tax — followed by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli referring to the ACA as a tax.

How inconvenient.

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In response to a recent post — in which I wrote that “Barack Obama is a thoroughly post-modern president. Words and facts have no objective standing; they are relative, socially constructed, a way to advance personal reality.” — I was criticized by a Time magazine reporter for continuing my “relentless attempts to depict Barack Obama as a despicable human being” and for employing tactics that are “not only intellectually dishonest, but cynical in the extreme.”

In fact, the point of my piece — which is that during oral arguments before the Supreme Court President Obama’s legal team referred to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a tax even as his administration now says it isn’t a tax and never was a tax — remains unrefuted. Indeed, this short clip validates exactly what I was arguing. It shows Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt insisting that “at no point” did any of the government’s lawyers, including Solicitor General Verrilli, refer to the ACA as a tax — followed by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli referring to the ACA as a tax.

How inconvenient.

Increasingly, the only thing Obama’s allies in the press have left is ad hominem huffing and puffing. They throw out charges that are as severed from reality as the claims made by Obama. It serves as a cautionary tale. Those who choose to defend the corruption of words by this president and his team will, sooner or later, be drawn into the enterprise themselves.

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A Sad Day for Britain and America

To follow up on my previous post on British defense cuts, it is worth noting that the Cameron government is planning to cut the British army from 101,000 soldiers to 82,000–the lowest level in a century. At the Kings of War blog, Rob Dover of Kings’ College, London, notes that this will radically change Britain’s strategic capabilities. He writes:

The cuts to the army mean we could only be involved in Afghanistan OR Iraq. That’s not mid-sized military power stuff. That’s a serious diminution of the ability to project power and influence in both absolute terms (kinetic) [and also] in soft-power terms. Why would the U.S. (aside from intelligence liaison) be interested in the British view?

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To follow up on my previous post on British defense cuts, it is worth noting that the Cameron government is planning to cut the British army from 101,000 soldiers to 82,000–the lowest level in a century. At the Kings of War blog, Rob Dover of Kings’ College, London, notes that this will radically change Britain’s strategic capabilities. He writes:

The cuts to the army mean we could only be involved in Afghanistan OR Iraq. That’s not mid-sized military power stuff. That’s a serious diminution of the ability to project power and influence in both absolute terms (kinetic) [and also] in soft-power terms. Why would the U.S. (aside from intelligence liaison) be interested in the British view?

While it may mean we will be less interested in the British view in the future it will also mean we will be able to count on less support from the British too. This is a sad day for Britain, America–and the entire West. The British army, guardians of freedom for centuries, is now being reduced to next-to-nothing–and by a Conservative government to boot.

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Poll: ObamaCare Hurts Economy

It’s still a bit early to say how much of an impact the Supreme Court decision will have on the public opinion on ObamaCare in general. So far, it hasn’t seemed to have had much effect, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if it ended up swaying some people — softening some opponents, energizing others.

But Americans are adamant about the negative impact ObamaCare will have on the economy, the top issue for voters. Gallup has the latest today:

Americans are more likely to say the 2010 healthcare law upheld by the Supreme Court last week will hurt the national economy (46 percent) rather than help it (37 percent), while 18 percent say they don’t know or that it will have no effect. …

Average Americans are certainly in no better position than economists to know exactly how the legislation will affect the economy, but their assumptions and perceptions have political repercussions nevertheless. And at this point, Americans’ views on the economic impact of the ACA are more negative than positive.

Views of the economic impact of the ACA are, as is true with everything else about the legislation, bound up with politics. Republicans, who generally oppose the ACA, overwhelmingly think it will hurt the economy, while Democrats, who generally favor it, think it will help. Independents tilt toward the “hurt” rather than the “help” position.

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It’s still a bit early to say how much of an impact the Supreme Court decision will have on the public opinion on ObamaCare in general. So far, it hasn’t seemed to have had much effect, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if it ended up swaying some people — softening some opponents, energizing others.

But Americans are adamant about the negative impact ObamaCare will have on the economy, the top issue for voters. Gallup has the latest today:

Americans are more likely to say the 2010 healthcare law upheld by the Supreme Court last week will hurt the national economy (46 percent) rather than help it (37 percent), while 18 percent say they don’t know or that it will have no effect. …

Average Americans are certainly in no better position than economists to know exactly how the legislation will affect the economy, but their assumptions and perceptions have political repercussions nevertheless. And at this point, Americans’ views on the economic impact of the ACA are more negative than positive.

Views of the economic impact of the ACA are, as is true with everything else about the legislation, bound up with politics. Republicans, who generally oppose the ACA, overwhelmingly think it will hurt the economy, while Democrats, who generally favor it, think it will help. Independents tilt toward the “hurt” rather than the “help” position.

The fact that the mandate is now a “tax” isn’t going to help in this area, which makes you wonder again how the Romney campaign managed to step on that message so badly. Independents are clearly receptive to the economic impact argument, which makes Obama’s comments yesterday about “moving on” from the health care debate seem even more tone deaf. This isn’t partisan criticism. These are legitimate concerns from independent voters, and the president comes off as out of touch by dismissing them outright.

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Is Toulouse the Future of Europe?

In March, an Islamist gunman in Toulouse, France, murdered three Jewish children as well as one of their fathers in a shooting spree outside of a school. The crime was widely condemned (especially when at first it was thought to be the work of a neo-Nazi rather than a Muslim), but the link between this outbreak of deadly violence and the rising tide of anti-Semitic incitement throughout Europe was clear. Yet, rather than the murders signaling a turning point in the battle against Jew-hatred in France and Western Europe, it may have been just an indication that anti-Semitic incidents are becoming commonplace, a conclusion that has been reinforced by a shocking increase in attacks on French Jews since March.

Nevertheless, the latest indication of the dark climate in France is all the more painful because it involves the same school that was targeted by the Toulouse shooter. As the European Jewish Press reports, on Wednesday night, a 17-year-old student from the same Ozar HaTorah school that was the site of the March murders was attacked in a Lyon train station. The student, who was wearing “identifiable religious symbols” was set upon and beaten and subjected to insults. The teenager reported the attack and the assailants were caught, but the message from the incident is clear: it is open season in France on Jews who publicly identify themselves in this manner. If even after the shock over what happened in Toulouse violence against Jews is going up, it is no longer possible to put it down to the actions of isolated individuals. The incessant drumbeat of anti-Semitism— often rooted in anti-Zionist prejudice against Israel and all who publicly identify with the Jewish state and Jewish identity — throughout Europe is inciting violence that can no longer be ignored.

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In March, an Islamist gunman in Toulouse, France, murdered three Jewish children as well as one of their fathers in a shooting spree outside of a school. The crime was widely condemned (especially when at first it was thought to be the work of a neo-Nazi rather than a Muslim), but the link between this outbreak of deadly violence and the rising tide of anti-Semitic incitement throughout Europe was clear. Yet, rather than the murders signaling a turning point in the battle against Jew-hatred in France and Western Europe, it may have been just an indication that anti-Semitic incidents are becoming commonplace, a conclusion that has been reinforced by a shocking increase in attacks on French Jews since March.

Nevertheless, the latest indication of the dark climate in France is all the more painful because it involves the same school that was targeted by the Toulouse shooter. As the European Jewish Press reports, on Wednesday night, a 17-year-old student from the same Ozar HaTorah school that was the site of the March murders was attacked in a Lyon train station. The student, who was wearing “identifiable religious symbols” was set upon and beaten and subjected to insults. The teenager reported the attack and the assailants were caught, but the message from the incident is clear: it is open season in France on Jews who publicly identify themselves in this manner. If even after the shock over what happened in Toulouse violence against Jews is going up, it is no longer possible to put it down to the actions of isolated individuals. The incessant drumbeat of anti-Semitism— often rooted in anti-Zionist prejudice against Israel and all who publicly identify with the Jewish state and Jewish identity — throughout Europe is inciting violence that can no longer be ignored.

The problem here is not just al-Qaeda sympathizers such as the Toulouse shooter or the importation of Jew-hatred from the Middle East that have taken root among French Muslims. It is the way that such views have melded with attacks from intellectuals on Zionism, Israel and its supporters in such a way as to dignify the sordid hatred flung at Jews on the streets of Europe. There is a long and dishonorable history of anti-Semitism in France, but what we are witnessing now is an updated version of traditional bias that is casting a shadow over the future of the Jewish community there.

It was bad enough when such sentiments were linked with the traditional right in France and then Muslim immigrants, but nowadays Jew-hatred is part of the parlance of so-called human rights groups that vent bias against the Jewish state. Thus, while the French government condemns such incidents, anti-Semitism continues to grow, and Jews must now wonder whether it is safe to go about wearing anything that might give away their identity. That is no way for anyone to live in a democracy, but that is the situation in France. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to envision much of a future for Jews in Europe.

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Can Romney Exploit Obama’s Diplomatic Failures?

Politico reports the Romney campaign is about to pivot to foreign policy. There are many good reasons to do so, but those reasons do not include reacting to a series of leaks from foreign policy advisers trying to nudge Romney to pay more attention to the issue (what are they, Supreme Court justices?). Romney has to feel comfortable with his own outlook and ready to deliver a clear foreign policy message and be prepared for the various critiques that will come his way.

And while Obama has constructed a tough image on the world stage by blowing up anyone in the near vicinity of suspected terrorists and shipping prisoners to a Somali hell on earth instead of three-squares-a-day Guantanamo, Obama does have one glaring foreign policy weakness for Romney to exploit: the president’s comprehensive failure on diplomacy.

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Politico reports the Romney campaign is about to pivot to foreign policy. There are many good reasons to do so, but those reasons do not include reacting to a series of leaks from foreign policy advisers trying to nudge Romney to pay more attention to the issue (what are they, Supreme Court justices?). Romney has to feel comfortable with his own outlook and ready to deliver a clear foreign policy message and be prepared for the various critiques that will come his way.

And while Obama has constructed a tough image on the world stage by blowing up anyone in the near vicinity of suspected terrorists and shipping prisoners to a Somali hell on earth instead of three-squares-a-day Guantanamo, Obama does have one glaring foreign policy weakness for Romney to exploit: the president’s comprehensive failure on diplomacy.

Romney can simply take a glance around the world and find a wealth of material to work with:

Asia. The president came into office with a ready-made free trade agreement with South Korea. George W. Bush got the deal done, but back then the Democratic Congress refused to pass pretty much anything with Bush’s name or fingerprints on it. (This was way back when the establishment media were less concerned about “civility” and congressional obstruction.) A huge benefit for Obama (especially for work he hadn’t done), the deal was a no-brainer. But the unions complained, as they do when someone threatens to practice capitalism, and Obama waited until the unions gave him permission to sign the bill, reopening negotiations along the way and forcing the South Koreans to wait.

Obama snubbed India–perhaps the most significant of George W. Bush’s diplomatic successes, endangering our relationship with an important ally. Obama’s initial attempt at diplomacy with the Burmese junta was a humiliating failure, and he began his term by telling China that human rights would now be placed firmly on the back burner, much to Beijing’s delight.

Europe. Obama’s every interaction with the British–from his shabby treatment of Gordon Brown, to his cringe worthy meetings with Queen Elizabeth, to his dismissal of the Churchill bust—has been brutal to watch, but none of those compares to the Obama administration’s refusal to support British sovereignty of the Falkland Islands (which Obama called “the Maldives,” attempting to use the Argentine name for the islands, which he got wrong anyway).

And it’s not just that he capitulated to Russia by scrapping the missile shield plans for Poland and the Czech Republic, but he did so on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland. Then, nursing a grudge with Polish democracy hero Lech Walesa, he denied Poland’s request that Walesa come to the White House to accept Jan Karski’s posthumous Medal of Freedom on Karski’s behalf while talking about “Polish death camps.” Which brings us to…

Russia. Obama may argue that U.S.-Russia relations are better than they were during the last years of the Bush administration. Romney should let him. Bush and Putin fell out over Russia’s invasion of Georgia and the post-war, meticulously documented campaign of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Russian side on sovereign Georgian territory. Obama improved relations with Russia by dropping America’s demand that Russia comply with the ceasefire agreement and by strong-arming Georgia to drop its hold on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (the latter of which the administration admitted in May). The administration says Syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war in which Bashar al-Assad’s forces are massacring the opposition, and it continues to ask that Russia do something about it. Russia has not–but of course neither have we. Which brings us to…

The Middle East. Aside from the bloodshed in Syria, diplomacy with Iran hasn’t gone too well either. Obama proved to be an opponent of tougher sanctions, first by repeatedly trying to stall and prevent them from taking effect, and then watering them down when they get to his desk. Iran’s fist, needless to say, remains clenched.

Obama has quite obviously made a hash of things with Israel, though that was no surprise to those who followed the 2008 election. He hasn’t visited Israel, though he is sending his secretary of state–who famously berated Benjamin Netanyahu for 45 minutes when a housing committee announced that more Jewish homes would be built in a Jewish neighborhood of the Jewish state’s capital. Netanyahu, of course, had nothing to do with the announcement (it was aimed at embarrassing Netanyahu, not the U.S.) but hey, who has time for details when you’re conducting “smart diplomacy”?

I could go on, by talking about the administration’s buckling to environmentalists’ pressure over the Keystone pipeline deal with Canada, or Obama’s delaying tactics with regard to the free trade agreement with Colombia (another accomplishment gift-wrapped by Bush). But the point is that Obama has amassed quite a list of diplomatic failures—a list Romney is likely to carry with him on his foreign policy tour.

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The Post-2014 Outlook for Afghanistan

Dexter Filkins has an excellent article in the New Yorker on the post-2014 outlook for Afghanistan. The whole thing is worth reading, but to put the bottom line up front: Afghanistan is going to be in big trouble if the U.S. pulls out too many troops.

As Filkins notes, “Without a substantial presence of American combat troops after 2014—the Afghan Army could once again fracture along ethnic lines.” He writes:

Afghan and American officials believe that some precipitating event could prompt the country’s ethnic minorities to fall back into their enclaves in northern Afghanistan, taking large chunks of the Army and police forces with them. Another concern is that Jamiat officers within the Afghan Army could indeed try to mount a coup against Karzai or a successor. The most likely trigger for a coup, these officials say, would be a peace deal with the Taliban that would bring them into the government or even into the Army itself. Tajiks and other ethnic minorities would find this intolerable. Another scenario would most likely unfold after 2014: a series of dramatic military advances by the Taliban after the American pullout.

The result of such setbacks could be a revival of the bloody civil war that brought the Taliban to power in 1996. How to avoid that terrible outcome? Keep a substantial U.S. advisory and counterterrorism force past 2014. In this new Policy Innovation Memorandum for the Council on Foreign Relations, I argued, citing work done at the Center for a New American Security, that we need a force of 25,000 to 35,000 personnel, and the Filkins article amply backs up that judgment. He writes:

A force of fifteen thousand Americans would probably not be large enough to spread trainers and air controllers throughout the Afghan Army (and not throughout the police, who are at tiny checkpoints scattered around the country). “If they go below thirty thousand, it will be difficult for them to do any serious mentoring, and without the mentors they won’t call in airpower,” Giustozzi, the Italian researcher, said.

The question is whether anyone in Washington is paying attention. The politicos seem so determined to rush out of Afghanistan that few decision makers seem to be paying attention to what kind of country they will leave behind.

Dexter Filkins has an excellent article in the New Yorker on the post-2014 outlook for Afghanistan. The whole thing is worth reading, but to put the bottom line up front: Afghanistan is going to be in big trouble if the U.S. pulls out too many troops.

As Filkins notes, “Without a substantial presence of American combat troops after 2014—the Afghan Army could once again fracture along ethnic lines.” He writes:

Afghan and American officials believe that some precipitating event could prompt the country’s ethnic minorities to fall back into their enclaves in northern Afghanistan, taking large chunks of the Army and police forces with them. Another concern is that Jamiat officers within the Afghan Army could indeed try to mount a coup against Karzai or a successor. The most likely trigger for a coup, these officials say, would be a peace deal with the Taliban that would bring them into the government or even into the Army itself. Tajiks and other ethnic minorities would find this intolerable. Another scenario would most likely unfold after 2014: a series of dramatic military advances by the Taliban after the American pullout.

The result of such setbacks could be a revival of the bloody civil war that brought the Taliban to power in 1996. How to avoid that terrible outcome? Keep a substantial U.S. advisory and counterterrorism force past 2014. In this new Policy Innovation Memorandum for the Council on Foreign Relations, I argued, citing work done at the Center for a New American Security, that we need a force of 25,000 to 35,000 personnel, and the Filkins article amply backs up that judgment. He writes:

A force of fifteen thousand Americans would probably not be large enough to spread trainers and air controllers throughout the Afghan Army (and not throughout the police, who are at tiny checkpoints scattered around the country). “If they go below thirty thousand, it will be difficult for them to do any serious mentoring, and without the mentors they won’t call in airpower,” Giustozzi, the Italian researcher, said.

The question is whether anyone in Washington is paying attention. The politicos seem so determined to rush out of Afghanistan that few decision makers seem to be paying attention to what kind of country they will leave behind.

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Narrow BDS Defeat Nothing to Celebrate

By the narrowest of margins, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA defeated a resolution calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel’s security forces. The 333-331 vote was the closest the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement has come to getting a major American Christian denomination to endorse such a measure. The close vote is a victory of sorts for the Jewish groups, such as the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) that lobbied hard to defeat the motion. But the narrow margin is a virtual guarantee that divestment advocates will be back next year with expectations of victory at the Presbyterian conclave as well as at other gatherings of mainline Protestant groups.

Though there is little support for Israel divestment among the rank and file members of Presbyterian congregations, there is no denying the growing appeal among church activists for BDS proposals. The defeat of BDS this week may show that a narrow majority of Presbyterian delegates still understands that a vote for such a resolution involves the church in what amounts to an economic war against the Jewish state and a potential break in relations with American Jews. But the close call may indicate that support for anti-Zionism among liberal Protestant groups such as the Presbyterians is on the rise and it may only be a matter of time before they prevail.

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By the narrowest of margins, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA defeated a resolution calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel’s security forces. The 333-331 vote was the closest the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement has come to getting a major American Christian denomination to endorse such a measure. The close vote is a victory of sorts for the Jewish groups, such as the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) that lobbied hard to defeat the motion. But the narrow margin is a virtual guarantee that divestment advocates will be back next year with expectations of victory at the Presbyterian conclave as well as at other gatherings of mainline Protestant groups.

Though there is little support for Israel divestment among the rank and file members of Presbyterian congregations, there is no denying the growing appeal among church activists for BDS proposals. The defeat of BDS this week may show that a narrow majority of Presbyterian delegates still understands that a vote for such a resolution involves the church in what amounts to an economic war against the Jewish state and a potential break in relations with American Jews. But the close call may indicate that support for anti-Zionism among liberal Protestant groups such as the Presbyterians is on the rise and it may only be a matter of time before they prevail.

The three companies targeted for divestment in the vote were Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard. Though church activists considered the resolution to be distinct from a broad BDS vote, even this proposal betrayed the malevolent nature of the anti-Israel movement. Motorola and Hewlett-Packard produce devices that help the Israel Defense Forces monitor security checkpoints for terrorist explosives and other dangers. Caterpillar vehicles help construct Israel’s defense barrier that keeps out suicide bombers as well as demolish illegal construction and structures that shield terrorist activities.

Thus, even this narrow divestment resolution amounts to a Presbyterian endorsement of the actions of Palestinian terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank that Israeli security forces seek to prevent. Far from being a neutral sentiment aimed at conveying sympathy for oppressed Palestinians, such a divestment vote would have been a declaration that a major American church group thinks Israel doesn’t have the right to defend itself against terrorism.

That American Christians who profess to care about human rights would stand aloof from the dozens of other conflicts around the world where humanitarian catastrophes exist while concentrating their energy on trying to punish Israel is a shocking statement of their bias. Those who judge the Jewish state differently from other nations are engaging in a form of prejudice that is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism. Seen in that light, the BDS effort is no longer a well-meaning if misguided attempt to promote solidarity with the Palestinians but a vicious statement that reminds us of the link between anti-Zionism and Jew-hatred. The presence of far left Jews at the Presbyterian conclave such as the so-called Jewish Voices for Peace that actually lobbied for divestment illustrates just how misguided efforts to include such persons in the Jewish community can be.

While a Presbyterian vote in favor of divestment would have been a far greater disaster, this close call is nothing to celebrate. The vote is an ominous portent of the shift among liberal Protestants against Israel and in favor of an anti-Semitic war on the Jewish state. The fight against divestment is just beginning.

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Dewey for President!

Another month, another lousy jobs report. The June report out this morning is no worse than the May report that was considered a disaster for the Obama re-election effort, but it’s no better either. Unemployment stayed the same at 8.2 percent, but the broader measure that includes part-time workers who would prefer full-time work ticked up a notch from 14.8 percent to 14.9. While the economy created an average of 226,000 jobs a month in the first quarter, it created only 75,000 a month in the second.

Just how dismal has been the recovery that began way back in June 2009, in the Obama administration’s earliest days, is graphically (quite literally) demonstrated in an interactive chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. George W. Bush owns the recession (fairly or unfairly), but the Obama administration owns this dismal recovery lock, stock, and barrel.

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Another month, another lousy jobs report. The June report out this morning is no worse than the May report that was considered a disaster for the Obama re-election effort, but it’s no better either. Unemployment stayed the same at 8.2 percent, but the broader measure that includes part-time workers who would prefer full-time work ticked up a notch from 14.8 percent to 14.9. While the economy created an average of 226,000 jobs a month in the first quarter, it created only 75,000 a month in the second.

Just how dismal has been the recovery that began way back in June 2009, in the Obama administration’s earliest days, is graphically (quite literally) demonstrated in an interactive chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. George W. Bush owns the recession (fairly or unfairly), but the Obama administration owns this dismal recovery lock, stock, and barrel.

Four more months of reports like these (the November report will be issued only four days before the election) and it gets hard to see how Obama can win. No president since FDR has won re-election with numbers this bad. And FDR was a master politician. Obama is not.

But then, neither, it seems, is Mitt Romney. As Jeffrey Lord, political director in the Reagan White House, writes in The American Spectator, he is beginning to look disturbingly like Tom Dewey. Dewey ran against a deeply unpopular president who was widely regarded as just not up to the job (“to err is Truman”). Everyone knew Dewey just couldn’t lose. And yet, for reasons Lord enumerates, he managed to do exactly that in the most famous upset in American political history.

Obama is increasingly unpopular and widely regarded as not up to the job. But the Democratic Party is not fractured as it was in 1948, with Henry Wallace running to Truman’s left and Strom Thurmond to his right in the then-solid South. Truman did not have the media totally in the tank for him as most of it is for Obama. So Obama will be a lot tougher to beat than Truman. So why model a campaign on Dewey’s? That’s like modeling a ship on the Titanic because everyone knew it was unsinkable. Memo to the Romney campaign: It sank.

 

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Romney’s $100 Million Month

This might explain what President Obama was so worried about during his frantic Air Force One plea for donations last weekend:

The Romney campaign, along with its Romney Victory fund and the Republican National Committee, raised more than $100 million in June, obliterating the campaign’s goal and setting the one-month record for any Republican campaign, according to a GOP official.

Barack Obama raised $150 million as he was surging in September 2008, the record month for any campaign.

This is huge for Romney. It’s a fundraising record for Republicans, and a big leap from the $77 million he raised in May. Obama’s team already appeared to be overextending itself, breaking records for number of fundraisers attended all the way back in May and continuing the frantic pace through June. Still, the president’s fundraising total lagged behind Romney’s last month. The Obama campaign hasn’t released its latest numbers yet, but it’s hard to imagine it could top Romney after pulling in just $60 million in May (which was actually the biggest haul for Obama so far this election). The president has hit a ceiling. How can he possibly pencil in more fundraisers or send out more pleading emails than he already does?

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This might explain what President Obama was so worried about during his frantic Air Force One plea for donations last weekend:

The Romney campaign, along with its Romney Victory fund and the Republican National Committee, raised more than $100 million in June, obliterating the campaign’s goal and setting the one-month record for any Republican campaign, according to a GOP official.

Barack Obama raised $150 million as he was surging in September 2008, the record month for any campaign.

This is huge for Romney. It’s a fundraising record for Republicans, and a big leap from the $77 million he raised in May. Obama’s team already appeared to be overextending itself, breaking records for number of fundraisers attended all the way back in May and continuing the frantic pace through June. Still, the president’s fundraising total lagged behind Romney’s last month. The Obama campaign hasn’t released its latest numbers yet, but it’s hard to imagine it could top Romney after pulling in just $60 million in May (which was actually the biggest haul for Obama so far this election). The president has hit a ceiling. How can he possibly pencil in more fundraisers or send out more pleading emails than he already does?

This news also seems to debunk the notion that Romney’s side lacks enthusiasm; Obama’s the one who appears to be trailing in that department. The Supreme Court health care decision was  a big boost for Romney (he racked up nearly $5 million in the 24 hours after the ruling). Meanwhile, Obama’s tax-the-rich rhetoric could be turning off pro-free market Democrats who supported his campaign in 2008.

But never mind all that. Romney’s $100 million month is just an attempt at “distraction,” according to the Obama campaign:

Ben LaBolt, Obama campaign national press secretary, issued this statement after Politico reported the $100-million month: “Mitt Romney is trying to distract from a week when he took contradictory positions on the freeloader penalty in the Affordable Care Act and we learned more about his offshore finances in Switzerland, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands.

“Americans are less concerned about how much money he raised to get himself elected and more interested in what he would do after repealing health reform, which he has refused to share, and why he won’t disclose the necessary tax returns that prove whether or not he paid any U.S. taxes on his shell corporation in Bermuda.”

Uh, sure, that’s plausible. Romney needed to divert attention from his tax returns, and the easiest way to do it was to…raise a record-breaking $100 million dollars for his campaign? (Obama, of course, would never stoop to such stunts).

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U.S. Troops Needed in East Asia

For most Americans, World War II is distant history–a setting for adventure films such as “Captain America,” History Channel documentaries, and not much more. It is startling, then, to be reminded of the virulence of historical memory in Asia.

Only two years ago, there were substantial anti-Japanese protests in China. The ostensible cause was a  clash between Chinese fishing vessels and a Japanese patrol boat in the East China Sea, but it was really a revelation of the deep emotions that remain from the Japanese occupation of a large part of China during the 1930s-40s which included the infamous Rape of Nanking. Now in South Korea, a top national security official has had to resign because of his temerity in negotiating an accord with Japan to share intelligence over a mutual threat–North Korea.

You would think this pact between two pro-Western democracies would be a no-brainer, but as the New York Times account notes, “After the Lee government announced the deal last Thursday, accusations flew that the government was ‘pro-Japanese,’ a far worse charge in South Korea than being ‘pro-North Korean.’” Hatred of Japan is of course explained by the brutality of Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea during the first half of the 20th century, which included the sexual enslavement of Korean “comfort women.” Emotions remain raw in no small part because Japan, unlike Germany, still has trouble fully acknowledging the wrong it has done. I recall a few years ago visiting the Yasukani Shrine in Tokyo, whose museum continues to glorify the actions of Japan’s war criminals.

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For most Americans, World War II is distant history–a setting for adventure films such as “Captain America,” History Channel documentaries, and not much more. It is startling, then, to be reminded of the virulence of historical memory in Asia.

Only two years ago, there were substantial anti-Japanese protests in China. The ostensible cause was a  clash between Chinese fishing vessels and a Japanese patrol boat in the East China Sea, but it was really a revelation of the deep emotions that remain from the Japanese occupation of a large part of China during the 1930s-40s which included the infamous Rape of Nanking. Now in South Korea, a top national security official has had to resign because of his temerity in negotiating an accord with Japan to share intelligence over a mutual threat–North Korea.

You would think this pact between two pro-Western democracies would be a no-brainer, but as the New York Times account notes, “After the Lee government announced the deal last Thursday, accusations flew that the government was ‘pro-Japanese,’ a far worse charge in South Korea than being ‘pro-North Korean.’” Hatred of Japan is of course explained by the brutality of Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea during the first half of the 20th century, which included the sexual enslavement of Korean “comfort women.” Emotions remain raw in no small part because Japan, unlike Germany, still has trouble fully acknowledging the wrong it has done. I recall a few years ago visiting the Yasukani Shrine in Tokyo, whose museum continues to glorify the actions of Japan’s war criminals.

For the United States, this is a vexing challenge because it makes it more difficult to marshal the kind of united front among our allies we would like to see. As a practical matter, it may be easier to try to create a more multilateral security alliance in East Asia rather than trying to force countries such as Japan and South Korea into bilateral pacts that will be contentious among their populace.

The larger message, though, is about just how necessary America remains to preserving security in this region which will be the biggest source of wealth in the world in the 21st century. Too many Americans do not see the importance of stationing U.S. troops in South Korea, Japan, or other countries. They are, after all, wealthy and powerful. Why do they need American help? In large part because the U.S. remains the most trusted power in the region, and one that other countries depend on to keep the peace and to repress not-so-buried national rivalries. If we are unable to perform that role in the future because of Draconian cuts in our defense budget, the consequences for regional security and prosperity–and hence our own security and prosperity–will be dire.

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Where in the World is Barack Obama?

Yesterday, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Clinton was leaving on a trip to “France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel,” with “a stop in Israel on July 16-17.” In yesterday’s State Department press conference, a reporter posed a “logistical” question to Director Patrick Ventrell:

QUESTION: For every single country she’s going to, it lists the cities that she’s visiting, except for Israel. So this is a semi-trick question: Is she going to be visiting the capital of Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: The Secretary will be in Israel and she will meet with Israeli officials.

QUESTION: Where?

MR. VENTRELL: At this point, I don’t know where those meetings are going to be, but obviously as we get closer, the team will have more information.

QUESTION: You don’t know if they’ll be in Jerusalem or if they will be in Tel Aviv?

MR. VENTRELL: We can presume that she will visit multiple sites in Israel on this trip.

They just can’t bring themselves to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, can they?

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Yesterday, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Clinton was leaving on a trip to “France, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt and Israel,” with “a stop in Israel on July 16-17.” In yesterday’s State Department press conference, a reporter posed a “logistical” question to Director Patrick Ventrell:

QUESTION: For every single country she’s going to, it lists the cities that she’s visiting, except for Israel. So this is a semi-trick question: Is she going to be visiting the capital of Israel?

MR. VENTRELL: The Secretary will be in Israel and she will meet with Israeli officials.

QUESTION: Where?

MR. VENTRELL: At this point, I don’t know where those meetings are going to be, but obviously as we get closer, the team will have more information.

QUESTION: You don’t know if they’ll be in Jerusalem or if they will be in Tel Aviv?

MR. VENTRELL: We can presume that she will visit multiple sites in Israel on this trip.

They just can’t bring themselves to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, can they?

They can’t answer the question of where the capital is, or where Clinton will visit (although the answer to both questions is obvious), lest someone press them on whether Jerusalem is in Israel. Perhaps while she is there on July 16 or 17, Secretary Clinton will be asked if she still takes the position that even symbolically treating Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would jeopardize the non-existent peace process.

Mazeld’s comment to Jonathan Tobin’s post on the trip suggests it would be more significant if Clinton were accompanied by Defense Secretary Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which would send a message to Iran that if Israel decides it must act to protect itself in the coming months, it will be backed by the United States.

Which raises an important question as the Iranian centrifuges continue to whirl: Where in the world is Barack Obama?

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Who’s the Real Extremist?

If President Obama has sounded nostalgic for his 2008 opponent John McCain lately, it’s because he’s trying to make the case that the once-moderate Republican Party has fallen into the hands of extremists like Mitt Romney (cue skeptical side-eye). But according to a Rasmussen poll, likely voters are not buying it. Forty-seven percent say Obama’s views are “extreme” while just 31 percent say the same about Romney:

A bare majority of voters still considers Mitt Romney in the political mainstream, while the number who think President Obama’s views are extreme has edged up for the second month in a row. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51percent of Likely U.S. Voters describe the political views of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate as mainstream. Thirty-one percent consider his views extreme. Eighteen percent are not sure.

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If President Obama has sounded nostalgic for his 2008 opponent John McCain lately, it’s because he’s trying to make the case that the once-moderate Republican Party has fallen into the hands of extremists like Mitt Romney (cue skeptical side-eye). But according to a Rasmussen poll, likely voters are not buying it. Forty-seven percent say Obama’s views are “extreme” while just 31 percent say the same about Romney:

A bare majority of voters still considers Mitt Romney in the political mainstream, while the number who think President Obama’s views are extreme has edged up for the second month in a row. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51percent of Likely U.S. Voters describe the political views of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate as mainstream. Thirty-one percent consider his views extreme. Eighteen percent are not sure.

A large part of Obama’s campaign message relies on painting Romney as far-right and out-of-touch. But the public is not buying it. The problem is that Romney does not fit the caricature of a raving right-winger. He has a measured speaking style and amiable demeanor; he was governor of one of the most liberal states in the country; and he worked with state Democrats on left-of-center policies, including the Massachusetts precursor to Obama’s health care plan. He has conservative tendencies, but the idea that he’s the second coming of Barry Goldwater is not believable.

Then there’s the contrast: Obama, for all his talk about bipartisan unity, has no record of crossing the aisle. This is a president who wouldn’t even reach out to Olympia Snowe. His signature achievement, ObamaCare, is a massive government overreach that’s unpopular with the majority of Americans. His policy prescriptions — on environmental regulations, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, taxes, health care, defense cuts, oil production, etc. — range from left-of-center to extreme left. Moderate Democrats are distancing themselves from him. In short, he has very little credibility to label someone like Romney “extreme” — which explains why the public isn’t going along with it.

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Flying Blind in Iraq and Afghanistan

Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy makes an important point about Iraq in Foreign Policy: amid a worsening political and security situation, the U.S. has little awareness of what is actually going on. He points out:

At the height of the “surge,” the United States collected fine-grain data from the 166,000 U.S. troops and 700 CIA personnel in Iraq, as well as a network of 31 Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Now, U.S. embassy staff enjoy very limited freedom of movement — hemmed in by a suspicious government in Baghdad and a still-dangerous security situation. According to the Journal, the CIA station in Iraq may be reduced to 40 percent of its peak levels because the Iraqi government is extremely sensitive about its intelligence work with the Iraqi security forces.

This makes it hard for U.S. officials to even generate authoritative estimates of the numbers killed in terrorist attacks–much less to figure out what to do about this violence.

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Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy makes an important point about Iraq in Foreign Policy: amid a worsening political and security situation, the U.S. has little awareness of what is actually going on. He points out:

At the height of the “surge,” the United States collected fine-grain data from the 166,000 U.S. troops and 700 CIA personnel in Iraq, as well as a network of 31 Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Now, U.S. embassy staff enjoy very limited freedom of movement — hemmed in by a suspicious government in Baghdad and a still-dangerous security situation. According to the Journal, the CIA station in Iraq may be reduced to 40 percent of its peak levels because the Iraqi government is extremely sensitive about its intelligence work with the Iraqi security forces.

This makes it hard for U.S. officials to even generate authoritative estimates of the numbers killed in terrorist attacks–much less to figure out what to do about this violence.

This is all the more reason why the U.S. should not repeat this mistake in Afghanistan. If we pull out completely or almost completely after 2014, it will be impossible to keep mounting effective Special Operations raids on terrorist targets because we will lose the “situational awareness” to figure out which targets to hit and where and when. We will lose, too, the kind of political intelligence we need to try to steer Afghanistan’s turbulent politics in the right direction. That kind of knowledge can only come from a substantial on-the-ground footprint of intelligence collectors, who must in turn be embedded in a substantial security and logistics infrastructure. Pull out too many troops and the remainder will be flying blind–as we are now doing in Iraq.

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Jobs Report Rains on Obama’s Bus Tour

The unemployment numbers in May were bad, but June showed no improvement, according to the jobs report released this morning. Just 80,000 jobs were added last month (economists expected 95,000 on the lower end of estimates), keeping the unemployment rate unchanged, via BLS.gov:

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to edge up in June (+80,000), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Professional and business services added jobs, and employment in other major industries changed little over the month.

The number of unemployed persons (12.7 million) was essentially unchanged in June, and the unemployment rate held at 8.2 percent. (See table A-1.)

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The unemployment numbers in May were bad, but June showed no improvement, according to the jobs report released this morning. Just 80,000 jobs were added last month (economists expected 95,000 on the lower end of estimates), keeping the unemployment rate unchanged, via BLS.gov:

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to edge up in June (+80,000), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Professional and business services added jobs, and employment in other major industries changed little over the month.

The number of unemployed persons (12.7 million) was essentially unchanged in June, and the unemployment rate held at 8.2 percent. (See table A-1.)

Economists had revised their initial estimates yesterday after some encouraging indications from ADP. The Wall Street Journal reported that the late estimate for June was around 100,000 new jobs — but obviously the reality fell far short.

The dismal numbers come as President Obama wraps up his jobs tour in the Rust Belt:

U.S. President Barack Obama is facing the release of a potentially weak jobs report from June as he wraps up a two-day campaign bus tour in Ohio and Pennsylvania Friday. …

Ohio and Pennsylvania are two crucial states in the November general election, both of which Mr. Obama carried in the 2008 election. The president is using the campaign swing to portray himself more like a champion of average, working-class Americans than his presumptive Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, a wealthy businessman before entering politics.

After last month’s jobs report, Obama lost ground in states like Michigan and Ohio, which means the numbers released today could counteract any benefit gained from his jobs tour this week.

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It’s Getting Late Early for Obama’s Economy

For some liberal political strategists, the focus on the monthly federal jobs report that will come out later this morning is much ado about not all that very much. The unemployment and job creation numbers are, they say, just statistics that don’t necessarily tell us all that much about the economy and perhaps even less about the sentiment of voters. To which the sensible observer can only respond: Like hell, they don’t.

The question about why we’re all so obsessed with economic statistics this summer was the conceit of a New York Times feature that served to preview the latest jobs report due out on the first Friday of every month. According to many of those quoted by the paper, the problem with the jobs numbers obsession is they aren’t a true measure of the worthiness of President Obama’s economic program. Their fear is that the latest report as well as those that preceded it and those that will follow in the coming months may merely reflect a caprice of fortune in which a few ill-timed economic statistics can ruin the chances of an otherwise praiseworthy president to gain re-election. The experts consulted seem divided between those who think the predictive power of these stats is overrated and those who think they do mean a lot but aren’t necessarily fair to the president.

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For some liberal political strategists, the focus on the monthly federal jobs report that will come out later this morning is much ado about not all that very much. The unemployment and job creation numbers are, they say, just statistics that don’t necessarily tell us all that much about the economy and perhaps even less about the sentiment of voters. To which the sensible observer can only respond: Like hell, they don’t.

The question about why we’re all so obsessed with economic statistics this summer was the conceit of a New York Times feature that served to preview the latest jobs report due out on the first Friday of every month. According to many of those quoted by the paper, the problem with the jobs numbers obsession is they aren’t a true measure of the worthiness of President Obama’s economic program. Their fear is that the latest report as well as those that preceded it and those that will follow in the coming months may merely reflect a caprice of fortune in which a few ill-timed economic statistics can ruin the chances of an otherwise praiseworthy president to gain re-election. The experts consulted seem divided between those who think the predictive power of these stats is overrated and those who think they do mean a lot but aren’t necessarily fair to the president.

But this analysis misses the obvious. The numbers matter because they are the tangible measure of the success or failure of any administration in proving the country is in better shape than it was when they took over the big fancy offices in Washington after the last presidential election. If voters take these numbers seriously, it’s because along with personal experiences, they help form the voters’ overall impression of the state of the economy. The key here is not so much the details of each report as it is the trajectory of the nation’s finances. Moreover, given the fact that we are just four months away from the November election, it’s that point in time when, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, politicians begin to understand that “it gets late early out there.” Once the electorate accepts the verdict that the economy is either on the decline or on the rise, a possible change in the fall (with the exception perhaps of a collapse on Wall Street such as occurred in September 2008) is unlikely.

If, as some economists think and worried Democrats fear, the jobs reports will continue to spread gloom, attempts to spin the statistics as either arbitrary or misleading won’t work. Nor will President Obama’s claim the economy has been recovering for three years on his watch. If three straight summers of recovery leave the country in worse shape than the president found it in January 2009, then the only arguments to be made for his re-election will revolve around the historic nature of his presidency and attempts to smear Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Though it will, as Bill Kristol rightly noted yesterday, take more than a bad economy to elect Romney, a president who can’t run on his record in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis isn’t likely to be re-elected.

President Obama will have to hope the July numbers will be kind to him and pray the first Friday of August and September will not do him more damage. But whether they help or hurt him, it’s no good for Democrats to pretend the sinking employment figures aren’t a fair measure of the administration’s competence.

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