This fall, Democrats are defending far more Senate seats than the Republicans, making the retention of their slender hold on the upper house highly questionable. Any opportunity to knock off a GOP incumbent is a matter of life for the Democrats’ hopes of keeping at least half of Congress in their possession. That has made the battle for Nevada’s Senate seat one of the most watched races in the country, especially because challenger Rep. Shelley Berkley has been widely seen as a formidable threat to the future of Republican incumbent Dean Heller.
So the news that the House Ethics Committee has voted unanimously to launch an investigation of the charge she used her political clout to help her husband’s business is especially damaging not just to her ambitions but to the Democrats’ hopes of remaining in charge of the Senate next year. Given the snail’s pace at which the committee generally works, which makes it unlikely she could be cleared before November, this could be a fatal blow to her candidacy and make it that much harder for her fellow Nevadan Harry Reid to hold on to the post of majority leader. But while the political effects of this case may gladden conservatives, this is not a case of venality as much as it is one that raises questions about whether it is possible for a member of Congress to have a spouse involved in any business that interacts with the government.
The past three months have been President Obama’s window of opportunity, a time when he’s had both a spending advantage and bully pulpit advantage over Mitt Romney. But the fundraising gap is quickly closing, Obama’s burning through his cash reserves, and before long Romney will dominate news cycle with his VP decision and the convention speeches. If both candidates continue raising money at their current paces, Obama may be the one lagging financially after August.
With all that said, why — despite Obama’s extensive advantages — have his attacks on Romney failed to move the dial? NJ’s Josh Kraushaar reports on the lack of progress:
For all the attention paid to the effectiveness of President Obama’s Bain-themed attacks, it’s remarkable how Obama has been stuck right around 47 percent for a very long time. As the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza documented, the president’s team has handily outspent Romney and his allied super PACs, pouring in $91 million into eight swing states in an early spending barrage intended to make Romney seem an unacceptable challenger. But for all that effort, the numbers haven’t moved much at all: The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll out today shows the race deadlocked at 47 percent. Yesterday’s USA Today/Gallup swing state poll showed Obama statistically tied with Romney, the exact same result the survey showed one month ago.
Meanwhile, in the coming months, Romney should have a spending advantage, having significantly outraised Obama over the last two months. Along with the RNC, the campaign has $160 million cash-on-hand, a total that will likely be greater than the Obama team’s money. (The Obama campaign tellingly didn’t release their cash-on-hand figures.) That will allow Romney to match or surpass Obama on the airwaves, having survived a period when he was outgunned. The Romney campaign has already hinted it plans to counterattack by raising questions about Obama’s credibility. And American Crossroads announced it has reserved $40 million of television ad time in the final two months – when more voters are paying close attention.
Back in June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton caught some flack for acquiescing to Israel’s exclusion from a global counter-terrorism forum. The event was held in Istanbul and the snub to the Israelis was widely believed to be the result of a demand from the event’s Turkish hosts that the Jewish state be kept out of the party even though it has unique expertise in the area. But apparently, the slight to the Israelis was not limited to the event’s initial venue.
As Adam Kredo reports at the Washington Free Beacon, Israel wasn’t invited to the session of the counter-terrorism forum held yesterday in Spain. That was especially telling as Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, delivered a speech at the Spanish conclave titled “Victims of Terrorism.” But not only was an Israeli delegation not present when she spoke, but during her address, Otero never even mentioned the experience of Israeli terror victims. Though Otero’s anti-terrorist sentiments were unexceptionable, the exclusion of Israel, one of the primary targets of international terrorists and among the leading experts in how to deal with the problem, was clearly intentional. As Kredo noted, the State Department spokesperson refused to answer when asked about the omission of Israel from the speech and the conference. Though the Obama administration has been touting the president as Israel’s best friend ever during the election year Jewish charm offensive that followed three years of constant fights with the Jewish state, American diplomats have not gotten with the White House’s political program.
While Americans have successfully fought back against the attempts of Israel-haters to get mainline Christian churches here to support boycotts of the Jewish state, their English cousins are not as successful. As Miriam Shaviv reports in the Times of Israel, the Church of England not only refused to back off its endorsement of a biased program that sought to indoctrinate Christians visiting the Middle East to support the Palestinians against Israel, many of its members took offense at the efforts of English Jews to get them to change their minds.
This controversy showed the level of animosity for Israel that is entrenched in the culture of the state-supported Anglican hierarchy. But it also may betray the barely disguised anti-Semitism that runs through European and English discourse about Israel and Jews. This story may sum up in a nutshell the starkly different predicaments of American and English Jews. As one bishop pointed out, the problem wasn’t just that the Anglican bishops, clerics and laity are predisposed to think ill of Israel. It was also that they were offended by the lobbying efforts of Jews to get them to look at the issue differently. Apparently, the spectacle of Jews standing up for themselves rather than keeping quiet or, as is the case with a vocal but not insubstantial minority of British Jews, joining the chorus of Israel-bashers, was too much for them to stand.
As Shaviv writes, the Bishop of Manchester pointed out that the defeat was at least partially the fault of the Jews:
“A few people said that all the lobbying from the Jewish side led us to vote the other way,” said the Rt. Revd. Nigel McCulloch, who is chair of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), the UK’s oldest Jewish-Christian interfaith group. “There was over-lobbying by some members of the Jewish community. The CCJ actually warned against this, as we know how the Synod works and it’s not a good way to get things done.”
Though McCulloch denies that anti-Semitism was in play, he admitted the debate about the issue and his attempts to forge a compromise included references to the influence of a “powerful lobby,” which is an allusion to Jewish efforts to persuade the Church not to take sides against Israel.
One of the great ironies of the 2012 presidential campaign is the extent to which President Obama’s team is openly trying to paint Mitt Romney as a strange, vaguely un-American “other,” as Roger Simon writes today. We heard the reverse complaint virtually nonstop during the last four years, first during the 2008 election and then during Obama’s first three years in office. Nearly any critique of Obama doing things differently–another irony, as his campaign was built on hope and change–was construed as an offensive implication that Obama is alien to Americans. Here’s Simon:
Swiss banks accounts? Who has Swiss bank accounts? Others, that’s who.
Biden described Romney using classic terms of “otherness.” Romney, Biden said, was “out of touch” and “out of step” with basic American values….
Nobody is saying (as of yet) that Romney did anything illegal by keeping millions of dollars in Swiss and other foreign banks. It just seems … odd.
Some conservatives have complained that the House vote to repeal ObamaCare tomorrow is just for show and has no chance of passing the Senate or — even if it miraculously did — surviving a presidential veto. True, but so what? Many voters are just starting to tune in to the general election, and it’s worth getting the latest positions of House lawmakers on the record. For Democrats running in conservative districts, this could be the last shot to oppose the unpopular health care law before the election. For Republicans, it’s a chance to show they’re on the side of the majority of Americans who oppose ObamaCare.
And for the White House, it’s a potential political embarrassment, depending on how many Democrats switch over to the anti-ObamaCare side. The Hill reports:
Only three Democrats voted for repeal after the GOP took control of the House last year, but Republicans are confident they can add to this number on Wednesday in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the law is constitutional.
Already, one politically vulnerable Democrat, Rep. Larry Kissell (N.C.), has said he will vote to repeal the health care law after opposing the same measure a year ago.
The GOP’s hope is that a strong House vote — and fresh Democratic opposition — will thwart the White House’s effort to boost political support for the law in light of the Court ruling, said one House Republican leadership aide. Conservatives complaining about symbolic votes are being unrealistic.
The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson gets on his favorite hobbyhorse today when he claims again in his column that voter ID laws are nothing more than a manifestation of racism. But in doing so, he demonstrates either his ignorance or his partisanship. Robinson and other liberals have long alleged that Republican support for laws intended to curb voter fraud are simply a way of suppressing the black vote for Democrats. To back this up, he seized on a statement made by Mike Turzai, the Republican Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, in which he said this about the state voter ID law passed by the GOP last year: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.” Robinson represents this comment as giving away the game in which suppression of the black vote will steal Pennsylvania for the GOP as many inner city blacks don’t have driver’s licenses or a photo ID to present at the polls.
Robinson doesn’t mention that any voter can get a free photo ID from the state if they ask for one. But his recitation of statistics about those who don’t already have proof of identity leaves out a far more significant number that influenced the Pennsylvania legislature to pass the bill: 100 percent. That’s the percentage of registered voters who voted at a number of Philadelphia voter precincts in the last several elections. Indeed, as Republicans in the state capital pointed out during the debate about the voter ID law, in many parts of Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold, voter turnout in contested elections routinely exceeds 100 percent of registered voters. But because the Democrats control the local elections board that supervises voting in the city, there is no accountability for this obvious fraud. If it is enforced, the voter ID law may make this rather flagrant method of cheating a bit more difficult this year.
A Gallup poll out this morning found that Mitt Romney has an eight-point voter enthusiasm advantage over President Obama across 12 swing states, an edge that could make all the difference in a tight race:
The June swing-states poll showed 47 percent of registered voters across the 12 swing states backing President Barack Obama for president and 45 percent backing the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
However, voters in swing states who support Romney for president are more likely than those backing Obama to say they feel “extremely enthusiastic” about voting — 31 percent to 23 percent. The same pattern is seen by party, with 32 percent of Republicans in the swing states and 25 percent of Democrats reporting extreme enthusiasm. However, these candidate- and party-level differences disappear when one looks at total enthusiasm, defined as those either extremely or very enthusiastic.
Robert Samuelson, the distinguished economics columnist for the Washington Post, has a column on one of the most important reasons for the anemic recovery. He blames, with very good reason, the fateful intersection of Lord Keynes’s economic paradigm and human nature, in this case the self-interests of politicians:
Until the 1960s, Americans generally believed in low inflation and balanced budgets. President John Kennedy shared the consensus but was persuaded to change his mind. His economic advisers argued that, through deficit spending and modest increases in inflation, government could raise economic growth, lower unemployment and smooth business cycles….Kennedy’s economists, fashioning themselves as heirs to John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), shattered…[the old] consensus. They contended that deficits weren’t immoral….This destroyed the intellectual and moral props for balanced budgets.
Walter Heller, Kennedy’s chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, famously talked about “fine tuning” the American economy to keep it humming along smoothly, throwing off wealth and jobs like an engine throws off work-doing energy.
Keynes had argued that economies were machines, “a whole Copernican system, by which all the elements of the economic universe are kept in their places by mutual counterpoise and interaction.” Governments, thought Keynes, could keep an economy humming by deliberately running deficits in times of slack demand. Politicians, of course, were only too happy to have an intellectual justification for spending in deficit. This allowed them to spend money (“the mother’s milk of politics”) in order to satisfy various constituencies without having to raise the taxes needed to pay for the largesse.
Negative signs abound for the medical community today, as the House Oversight Committee prepares to hear testimony on the impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients. First, there’s the recent Doctor Patient Medical Association poll, which found 90 percent of doctors say the medical system is on the wrong track and 83 percent are thinking about quitting (h/t Daily Caller):
- 90% say the medical system is on the WRONG TRACK
- 83% say they are thinking about QUITTING
- 61% say the system challenges their ETHICS
- 85% say the patient-physician relationship is in a TAILSPIN
- 65% say GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT is most to blame for current problems
- 72% say individual insurance mandate will NOT result in improved access care
- 49% say they will STOP accepting Medicaid patients
- 74% say they will STOP ACCEPTING Medicare patients, or leave Medicare completely
- 52% say they would rather treat some Medicaid/Medicare patient for FREE
- 57% give the AMA a FAILING GRADE representing them
- 1 out of 3 doctors is HESITANT to voice an opinion
- 2 out of 3 say they are JUST SQUEAKING BY OR IN THE RED financially
- 95% say private practice is losing out to CORPORATE MEDICINE
- 80% say DOCTORS/MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS are most likely to help solve things
- 70% say REDUCING GOVERNMENT would be single best fix.
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In theory, the idea of national service–making all young people donate a year or two to serve the country–sounds great. It has been endorsed by liberal and conservative luminaries alike. So why hasn’t it happened? Put another way: Why hasn’t the draft been revived since it expired in 1973?
Part of the obvious reason is that Americans are intensely individualistic and resist forced labor even at the government’s behest unless there is some pressing national emergency. There was indeed such an emergency during World War II and the height of the Cold War–but there isn’t now. That is not to say that we don’t face threats, but we have found since the 1970s that we have no trouble filling the military’s ranks with high-quality volunteers.
That has not stopped various thinkers from coming out with national service schemes. The military writer Tom Ricks has a particularly inventive approach on the New York Times op-ed page today. He understands that there is no way the military could possibly incorporate four million 18-year-olds every year; there are only 1.4 million active-duty personnel in the entire U.S. armed forces. So he proposes that some of the 18-year-olds could choose 18 months of military service that would not involve the possibility of combat: “These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to.” As for the rest, they could “perform civilian national service for a slightly longer period and equally low pay — teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly.”