John called it “The Biggest Mistake of Campaign 2012 . . .” and I fully agree. Not only will Obama’s comment be used by every Chamber of Commerce in the country to alert their memberships to just what sort of president they are dealing with, but it has already produced a fair amount of what every politician dreads: ridicule.
There will be a lot more to come.
All the articles published in the last days and weeks speculating about Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick or the timing of his announcement have one thing in common: they are all mostly bunk. The rumors about Condoleezza Rice, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman are just that. Rumors. Only Romney and his inner circle know whom he’ll tap, and until the announcement is made, the Republican presidential contender can always change his mind. That renders all the predictions an exercise in filling space and trying to appease a public hungry for news more than anything else.
But there is one element to much of the veep speculation that I think does bear refutation. It is the notion, probably encouraged by the Romney campaign, that they view their goal as primarily to do no harm rather than to help the GOP ticket. That sounds like sound advice, especially when you recall the way the Sarah Palin pick turned out (contrary to the mythology cherished by her fan club, Palin hurt John McCain more with independents and centrists than she helped with the GOP base). But though the Romney camp thinks it is in a far stronger position than McCain was when he decided he needed a game-changing pick and went for Palin, they would be foolish to assume they don’t need help. A brilliant vice presidential pick, assuming one exists, may not make or break Romney’s chances, but if he and his staff think they can cruise through the next three and a half months to an inevitable victory without trying to do something big, they have underestimated their opponent.
Perhaps it was always inevitable but ready or not, it appears that Anthony Weiner is trying to worm his way back into public life. Using his always-formidable powers of self-promotion, the disgraced former congressman has started an understated media campaign aimed at testing the waters to see if the world is ready for Weiner, part deux. A story in the New York Post last weekend about his potential run for either mayor or public advocate of New York City has spawned subsequent pieces in the New York Times and other venues, including a feature in Politico in which pollsters are queried about whether it’s too soon for him to risk the judgment of the voters.
The jury is still out as to whether enough time has passed since the scandal about his tweeting pictures of his private parts to women around the country blew up. But with a formidable campaign war chest of $4.5 million still in his possession and a less than scintillating field of possible rivals, the odds of his running next year for mayor — the post he has always coveted — are rising. But before we get all get sucked into the Weiner redemption play that is sure to precede a run for office, it’s important to remember that he was run out of office for lying, not for “sexting.”
There’s no question the automatic budget cuts set to take place next January will have major national security implications, but what about the economic fallout? Sequestration doesn’t just mean a reduction in military readiness, it also means reductions in defense and non-defense jobs. According to a new study by the Aerospace Industries Association, the unemployment rate would reach 9 percent or higher under these cuts (h/t Rob Bluey):
“The results are bleak but clear-cut,” said [Dr. Stephen S.] Fuller. “The unemployment rate will climb above 9 percent, pushing the economy toward recession and reducing projected growth in 2013 by two-thirds. An already weak economy will be undercut as the paychecks of thousands of workers across the economy will be affected from teachers, nurses, construction workers to key federal employees such as border patrol and FBI agents, food inspectors and others.”
The analysis concludes that the automatic spending cuts mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011 affecting defense and non-defense discretionary spending in just the first year of implementation will reduce the nation’s GDP by $215 billion; decrease personal earnings of the workforce by $109.4 billion and cost the U.S. economy 2.14 million jobs.
This is about more than national security. A sudden reduction in defense-sector jobs could devastate whole communities, flooding the already-oversaturated job market with masses of newly unemployed. These aren’t unnecessary or obsolete jobs, they’re ones that are still critical for national defense.
Bret Stephens has a devastating column in today’s Wall Street Journal questioning the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton has been a good secretary of state. He goes down a litany of trouble spots and shows that the strategic position of the United States has declined as a direct result of Clinton’s decisions, policy, and direction.
So what will Clinton’s legacy be? Early on in her term, when it appeared that President Obama was delegating primary responsibility for foreign policy crisis management to Vice President Biden and Senator John Kerry, press reports suggested Clinton was prioritizing women’s issues.
As Clinton’s term winds down, women will form the central pillar of her legacy. Alas, Clinton will be remembered not for women’s empowerment, but rather for their betrayal. In short remarks to a gathering of Egyptian women, Clinton said she told Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s new president and a longtime Muslim Brotherhood activist, that democracy has to be inclusive. In her press conference following her meeting, however, her talking points about inclusion seemed to be little more than throw away lines. The fact of the matter is that while feminists might be fighting for new rights, Egyptians feminists appear to now be fighting for rights that are being stripped away.
I thought quite a while before deciding to write this item, because it deals with an online publication that is kind of a distant cousin to COMMENTARY. But after spending years calling out anti-Semitism committed primarily by paleoconservative publications and anti-Zionism on the part of liberal Jewish publications of a kind all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism, I decided it would be improper for me to be silent on something published by Tablet. It is, without question, the most disgusting piece of anti-Semitism I think I’ve ever read outside of the arrant lunacy of schizophrenic letter writers, and the fact that it was written by a Jew trumpeting her connection to the Holocaust only makes it all the more repugnant.
You can find it here. I’m not going to quote from it, because to do so would be to provide a forum for words and sentences so noxious they hardly justify description. Suffice it to say that in an article taking off from the cable-TV series “Breaking Bad,” the contemptible author of this article denounces her Holocaust-survivor grandparents for fulfilling the Nazi perception of Jews, libels Elie Wiesel, and likens the survival of Jews in the camps to the behavior of a fictional gangster meth dealer.
John and others have skewered President Obama for his knockoff of Elizabeth Warren’s “pay it forward” speech (which Obama managed to make even more insulting by explicitly bashing small business owners). Romney pushed back on the speech yesterday, but the best rebuttal from a politician so far has come from Rep. Paul Ryan. The congressman spoke to Jim Pethokoukis yesterday, and here are some of the key excerpts:
Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures. …
How does building roads and bridge justify Obamacare? If you like the GI Bill therefore we must go along with socialized medicine. It’s a strange leap that he takes. … To me it’s the laziest form of a debate to affix views to your opponent that they do not have so you can demonize them and defeat them and win the debate by default.
I think he believes America was on the right path until Reagan came along, and Reagan got us going in the wrong direction. And he wants to be as transformational as Reagan by undoing the entire Reagan revolution. … I think he sees himself as bringing about this wave of progressivism, and the only thing stopping him are these meddling conservatives who believe in these founding principles so he has to caricature them in the ugliest light possible to win the argument.
As I wrote last week, the release of a report establishing the legality of Israel’s presence in the West Bank issued by a panel of Israeli experts chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy has been widely condemned. The attacks on Levy’s report have come from both those who support the Palestinians as well as Israelis and friends of Israel who oppose the settlement movement. Among the most prominent examples of the latter came in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu organized by the Israel Policy Forum, a liberal group that came into existence to support the Oslo peace process and which has been eclipsed in recent years by the failure of the polices they promoted. The IPF letter takes the position that, if adopted by the government, the Levy report dooms the two-state solution to the conflict and “will strengthen those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”
While the concerns expressed in this letter are real, those who signed are mistaken not only about the impact of Levy’s report but also about how to build international support for Israel and the hope of peace. What the signers don’t understand is that it is the opposite tack — Israel’s abandonment of a position that would uphold its rights — that has done the most to convince the world the Jewish state is in the wrong and strengthened the resolve of the Palestinians to never accede to a compromise on territory and two states. While one document cannot undo the damage done by Oslo and 19 years of failed peace processing, the Levy report can at least begin to remind the world the Israeli-Arab conflict is not one of balancing Palestinian rights and Israeli security but the rights of two nations.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with top Israeli officials yesterday, and made a powerful case against a renewed push for the peace process. She didn’t mean to, of course; she was actually exhorting the Israeli leadership to do whatever they must to get Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table. But she employed two arguments in support of her recommendation that in reality work against it. Haaretz reports:
According to an Israeli official who was briefed on the content of the meetings, Clinton told the different Israeli officials that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are the best partners the Israelis ever had, adding that “it is unclear who will come after them.”
If Abbas and Fayyad–who resolutely refuse to even meet with Israeli leaders face to face–are the best Palestinian “peace partners” Israel has ever had, it is clear the peace process has gone practically nowhere since it began. But the second comment is more important.
The left-wing J Street lobby came into existence in order to support Obama administration pressure on Israel. But with the president shelving any talk about twisting Israel’s arm to make concessions to the Palestinians while he’s running for re-election, the group is instead doing its best to muster support for his weak position on Iran. As an article on the subject published in Foreign Policy by Dylan J. Williams (J Street’s government affairs director) shows, like the president, the group says it is against Iranian nukes, but their priority is opposing the idea of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Williams’ argument employs the sort of upside down logic that characterizes much of the group’s thinking about the Palestinians. He claims that although diplomacy has already been repeatedly tried and failed, the West should continue to talk with the Iranians despite all the evidence that points to the conclusion that Tehran has no intention of abandoning its nuclear goal. Most of all, he deprecates even the thought of using force, because he claims that strengthens the Islamist regime. In doing so, the group is setting the stage for what will likely be the focus of debate on the issue should the president be re-elected. With Obama’s belated policy of sanctions and diplomacy unlikely to resolve the situation, there will be little doubt that as time runs out until the Iranians get their nuke (the head of British intelligence said it would happen within two years), that defending Obama’s refusal to act to avert the threat may be the priority for his Jewish cheerleaders. But while this may bring them closer to the president after he abandoned their positions on the peace process, it will continue to place them outside of the pro-Israel mainstream.
After Senate Republicans blocked the DISCLOSE Act from a vote yesterday, Senate Democrats held a “midnight vigil” to support the donor disclosure legislation. The lead sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, felt so strongly about fundraising transparency that he stayed at the debate all night long.
Kidding! He actually slipped out for awhile to attend a nearby fundraiser for a health care reform group. BuzzFeed reports:
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the lead sponsor on the DISCLOSE Act – which would force outside political organizations to disclose donations of more than $10,000 – briefly left a “midnight vigil” on the Senate floor to attend a fundraiser for a health care reform group.
Whitehouse and Sen. Chuck Schumer had set up a series of votes and debates on their DISCLOSE Act — all of which were not expected to help the bill’s chances of passage in the near term — in an effort to hammer Republicans over their opposition to further transparency in campaign finance laws.
Whitehouse didn’t go far – the event was held at Johnny’s Half Shell, a tony bar located less than a quarter mile from the Senate chamber that is a popular venue for fundraisers by politicians, lobbyists, political groups, and non-profits like the Alliance, an educational group that does not take positions on legislation, including ObamaCare, and which backs “affordable, quality health care and long-term care for all Americans.”
Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute makes an important point in the Wall Street Journal: that, while Pakistan is increasingly in the grip of anti-Western military men and Islamists, there are large sectors of society that are more open to a liberal, pro-Western agenda. These range from the English-speaking elites to ethnic and religious minorities such as the Shi’ites, who are increasingly victimized by Sunni radicals.
I have previously suggested we should eliminate most aid to the Pakistani military, an institution that is actively sponsoring attacks on U.S. troops and our allies in Afghanistan. But that does not mean we should abandon Pakistan. Instead, we should channel our aid to civil society in Pakistan to try to build up a counterweight to the military.
There is a common misconception that Iran’s restrictions on the right to worship freely apply only to members of the Baha’i religion. But while the Islamic republic has reserved the most vicious forms of persecution for the adherents of this gentle faith — whose numbers, according to some estimates, have dwindled from around 500,000 at the time of the 1979 revolution to just 150,000 now — the situation of Iranian Christians is little better.
Through its treatment of its Christian and Jewish minorities, Iran’s policies underscore that mythology behind the oft-heard claim that the followers of the “Abrahamic” faiths are accorded dignity and respect. Just last week, Iran’s millenarian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told an Islamic conference in Tehran that Islam is the only true religion, denying at the same time the divine provenance of both Judaism and Christianity. “My dear ones!” Ahmadinejad declared munificently, “Islam is a world religion and God has only one religion, that of Islam, he did not send Judaism or Christianity; Abraham was a harbinger of Islam, as were Moses and Jesus!”
The Associated Press is reporting that “Romney could name his running mate by the end of the week,” but it sounds like there’s less to this story than meets the eye:
Outside a Louisiana fundraiser on Monday, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney hadn’t finalized his decision but that an announcement could come within days.
Asked specifically whether Romney could announce his vice presidential pick this week, Fehrnstrom said: “Technically it could, but the governor hasn’t made a decision. It will only happen after he makes a decision.”
Romney traveled to Louisiana to attend a private fundraiser alongside Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is among those on Romney’s short list for vice president. Romney raised an estimated $2 million at the event, where 40 donors paid $50,000 to attend.
The one-sided moral outrage of the Ivy Leagues–and in particular of my alma mater, Yale, where I received an MA in history–is a sight to behold. For decades, Yale and the other Ivies refused to host ROTC on campus because of the military’s discrimination against gays. That stance was only reversed last year after the lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Yet now Yale is opening its first-ever foreign campus in Singapore in cooperation with the National University of Singapore. This, in a country with an authoritarian political system that not only criminalizes homosexuality but even political protests and political speech.
Singapore is not the People’s Republic of China but nor is it Taiwan; it is rated by Freedom House as being only “partly free.” Freedom House notes: “Academics engage in political debate, but their publications rarely deviate from the government line on matters related to Singapore. The Societies Act restricts freedom of association by requiring most organizations of more than 10 people to register with the government, and only registered parties and associations may engage in organized political activity. Political speeches are tightly regulated, and public assemblies must be approved by police.” In keeping with this policy the new Yale campus “won’t allow political protests, nor will it permit students to form partisan political societies.”
Last week, the Washington Post profiled Zainab al-Suwaij, the founder and director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC). Because she grew up under dictatorship and repression in Iraq and so understands the values which make America great, Zainab has always been outspoken in favor of moderation, individual liberty, women’s empowerment, and against the extremism preached so often by Saudi Arabia and Iran. While almost anyone who meets Zainab, be they in Iraq, Egypt, and the United States, becomes an admirer, the Post found one naysayer. “If AIC is surviving on U.S. money, then they have no legitimacy, especially if they came to the fore in the [George W.] Bush era,” Muqtedar Khan, a professor at the University of Delaware, said.
Khan’s statement is curious: Why should it be wrong for the AIC to compete for and, on occasion, to win U.S. grants? It’s not like an organization called the American Islamic Congress hides the American component. Nor does Khan indicate why Muslim groups should shy away from accepting American money but have no hesitation accepting Saudi cash, like the more radical Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Society for North America (ISNA) do.
…is not Mitt Romney’s handling of Bain Capital, or anything Mitt Romney has done. The biggest mistake was the one made by Barack Obama on Friday, when what you might call his now-familiar “Declaration of Interdependence” went completely off the rails. Obama’s “we’re all in this together” bit has been a feature of his speeches during the past year, as he cites the government-led activities that have made this country better—land-grant colleges and infrastructure and the social safety net. It sounds kind of uplifting, which is why he likes to say it, and it fits his general message of a country in which government plays a central role for the good of all.
But when he extended it to personal and private endeavor, the president revealed the danger of this message—to him. ”If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Obama said. “Somebody else made that happen.” Aside from the fact that this isn’t even remotely true—if you’re a taxpayer and government funds were used to “make something happen,” then by definition you paid for it—it was profoundly stupid politically. In 2007, the last year for which we have data, according to the Census Bureau, there were 21.7 million businesses in the United States with no employees—meaning they were sole proprietorships, or free-lance businesses employing only their owner. Of the six million remaining businesses in the U.S., more than 3 million had 1 to 4 employees, and 1 million had 5 to 9. So, all in all, small businesses run by one person employing fewer than ten numbered an astonishing 25 million.