Earlier this week, I spoke to a group of young professionals, most of whom are conservative. And one of the conversations I had was with a person who was asking me about the link between culture and politics, arguing—as others I know have—that culture is “upstream,” and therefore in many respects more important, than politics.
This question reminded me of a passage from the late Alexander Bickel’s book The Morality of Consent, which deals in part with the competing traditions of Locke-Rousseau and Edmund Burke in Western thought and in American constitutionalism and political process:
The unexamined life, said Socrates, is not worth living. Nor is it bearable. To acknowledge no values at all is to deny a difference between ourselves and other particles that tumble in space. The irreducible value, though not the exclusive one, is the idea of law. Law is more than just another opinion; not because it embodies all right values, or because the values it does embody tend from time to time to reflect those of a majority or plurality, but because it is the value of values. Law is the principal institution through which a society can assert its values.
The president’s “you didn’t build that” statement has not only framed the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney exactly as Romney needed, it has transformed Romney’s campaign. He gave a very good speech last week at the NAACP convention, but even the strength of that performance was as nothing next to what he’s done over the past two days. I’ve now watched Romney’s speeches yesterday and today centering on the remark and its meaning, and what I’m seeing is a Mitt Romney come alive—or at least, a Romney new to me. He has always been articulate and with a command of facts and figures, but the distanced awkwardness that accompanied them has suddenly vanished. In their place is a loose, fluid, confident, and passionate spokesman defending the free enterprise system against Obama’s government-centered approach. Romney has done something you hear people talk about theoretically but which doesn’t often happen—he has found his voice as a presidential candidate. And it’s all due to Barack Obama. I hope a fruit basket is on the way to the White House. It would only be polite.
Four years ago, could we have guessed that President Obama would soon be considered less exciting than candidate Mitt Romney? The enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown to more than 20 points since March, according to today’s CBS News/NYT poll (h/t HotAir):
Meantime, three and a half months before election day, Republican enthusiasm about voting this year has shot up since Mitt Romney clinched the nomination in April, from 36 percent of Republicans saying they were more enthusiastic in March to 49 percent now.
President Obama was helped to election in 2008 by a wave of voter enthusiasm among Democrats, however this year, Democratic enthusiasm is down a bit since March. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year than they were in past elections, compared to 30 percent four months ago. And 48 percent of Democrats say their enthusiasm this year is the same as past elections, compared to 39 percent who answered the same question in March.
Independent voters’ enthusiasm is also up with 29 percent saying they’re more enthusiastic now from 22 percent four months ago.
Overall, voters aren’t as enthusiastic about this year’s election as they were in 2008. Just 33 percent of all registered voters said they were more enthusiastic this year than they were for past elections, compared to 41 percent in March 2008.
James Glassman, the executive director of the George W. Bush Institute and a Forbes contributor, has written a piece on the facts about budget deficits and how various presidents truly rank.
The inspiration for Glassman’s piece was a comment by former Governor Howard Dean, who was asked what specific policies in the Bush administration he thinks are still being used to explain an unemployment rate of more than eight percent. To which Dean responded, “The biggest ones are the deficits that were run up…. The deficits were enormous.”
All of which caused Glassman to do something that Dean did not: consult the facts in various economic reports. Here is the key paragraph:
As for spending itself, during the George W. Bush years (2001-08), federal outlays averaged 19.6 percent of GDP, a little less than during the Clinton years (1993-2000), at 19.8 percent and far below Reagan, whose outlays never dropped below 21 percent of GDP in any year and averaged 22.4 percent. Even factoring in the TARP year (2009), Bush’s average outlays as a proportion of the economy was 20.3 percent – far below Reagan and only a half-point below Clinton. As for Obama, even excluding 2009, his spending has averaged 24.1 percent of GDP – the highest level for any three years since World War II.
I would only add that under Bush the deficit fell to 1 percent of GDP ($162 billion) by 2007, the penultimate year of the Bush presidency.
At BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins reports that Mitt Romney is finally ready to drop the “nice guy” claimer about Obama, and punch back hard against recent attacks:
“[Romney] has said Obama’s a nice fellow, he’s just in over his head,” the adviser said. “But I think the governor himself believes this latest round of attacks that have impugned his integrity and accused him of being a felon go so far beyond that pale that he’s really disappointed. He believes it’s time to vet the president. He really hasn’t been vetted; McCain didn’t do it.”
Indeed, facing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney’s finances and business record, the Republican’s campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston’s pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a “liar” — very little will be off-limits, from the president’s youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians.
Conservatives are anxious to see more fight from Romney, but will digging up Obama’s past be effective after he’s already served almost a full term in office? At New York magazine, Jonathan Chait writes:
The apparent plan is to mutter darkly about Chicago and drug use and sundry other biographical details that conservatives believe they wrongly shied away from four years ago.
As Coppins notes, this would amount to a full reversal of the old Romney strategy. The old plan, you may recall, was premised on targeting the sliver of swing voters in the middle who like Obama, want him to succeed, but believe he has failed to turn the economy around. Thus Romney devised a message targeted right at the gap between Obama’s good favorable ratings and less impressive job approval ratings. It was a good plan.
Does it make sense to abandon that plan to circulate dark mutterings about Obama’s past?
No, it does not. The point of disparaging Obama’s character is to paint him as a cultural alien unfit for the presidency. More of this theme may or may not have helped in 2008. But you can’t do that effectively against somebody who is already president of the United States.
The collapse of the short-lived supermajority who presided over Israel’s ruling coalition since May has given critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the best couple of days they’ve had in years. But anyone who expects this setback to change the political equation in which Netanyahu is not only an overwhelming favorite to win re-election but to stay in power for years to come doesn’t understand what has happened.
The end of the coalition is a disappointment for those friends of Israel who hoped the supermajority could help create some much-needed fundamental changes. But though the failure is not something that will burnish Netanyahu’s reputation, it will do far more damage to his junior partner Kadima and its leader Shaul Mofaz than it will to the prime minister or his Likud. At the end of the day, Netanyahu can be said to have his reputation dented a bit, but he remains on top of Israeli politics with no credible rival for the post of prime minister in sight.
On Monday, President Obama slammed Mitt Romney’s economic plan before an Ohio audience: “By eliminating taxes on corporations’ foreign income,” said Obama, “Governor Romney’s plan would actually encourage companies to shift more of their operations to foreign tax havens, creating 800,000 jobs in those other countries.”
Forget the campaign implications and forget the fact-check analysis. Simply take Obama’s accusation at face value. He is acknowledging—no, trumpeting—that cutting corporate taxes creates jobs. Eight hundred thousand of them.
Barack Obama easily won Pennsylvania four years ago but, as polls have shown, though the president retains a clear lead, the Keystone State may be reverting to the pattern of 2000 and 2004 when Democrats won it but only by small margins. Whether or not the state’s 20 electoral votes are really in play is yet to be determined, but Republicans are talking as if they mean to fight hard for Pennsylvania this fall.
While much of the attention in the state has been devoted to the impact of the voter ID law that State House of Representative Majority Leader Mike Turzai claimed would allow Mitt Romney to win there, some changes in voter registration figures may also make Pennsylvania more competitive. As Charles Mahtesian points out at Politico, the Democrats’ overwhelming party registration advantage has declined in the past four years. Though there are still a million more registered Democrats than Republicans, their edge went down by 168,000 (4,143,939 Democrats to 3,075,935 Republicans). That’s not much, but in a close race and with the voter ID law acting as a deterrent against attempts by the Philadelphia Democratic machine to manufacture huge and somewhat questionable majorities, Romney can be said to have a fighting chance of taking a state the president must have if he is to be re-elected.
Today marks the 18th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires, an attack that killed 85 and seriously injured hundreds. The attack was planned and executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its mastermind, Ahmad Vahidi, is now Iran’s defense minister. Argentine authorities ultimately convicted several Iranians and Hezbollah activists in absentia for their roles; Interpol currently has a red notice out for Vahidi. Ahmad Rezai, the son of then-Islamic Revolution Guard Corps Chief Mohsen Rezai, later fingered his father’s role in the affair, and acknowledges that he was an eyewitness to the operation’s planning; Ahmad died under mysterious circumstances in Dubai late last year.
It looks like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is learning a lesson about when to choose battles. For example, when you’re going to lob potentially criminal allegations at the seventh richest person in the United States, make sure you have your facts straight first.
The DCCC recently put out a statement insinuating that billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson “personally approved” of prostitution at his Macau casino, and asked, “What will Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, and House Republicans do with their Chinese prostitution money?”
The statement made it seem like the allegations were confirmed by the Associated Press, when in fact the news organization was just reporting on a lawsuit filed by a fired Adelson employee. Adelson has disputed the charges, and now his attorneys are threatening the DCCC with a defamation suit, according to The Hill:
“We just received and are reviewing Mr. Adelson’s attorney’s letter,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an email. Ferguson did not respond to a follow-up inquiry.
In late June, the DCCC sent out a release alleging that prostitution money tied to Adelson helped fund the campaigns of Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), as well as other GOP incumbents. …
“Immediately retract and apologize for defamatory statements falsely accusing Mr. Adelson of encouraging and profiting from prostitution, maliciously branding Mr. Adelson as a pimp who has given ‘Chinese prostitution money’ to your political opponents,” the letter from Adelson’s attorney, first obtained by the Las Vegas Sun, reads in part. “These false allegations constitute libel per se entitling Mr. Adelson to compensatory and punitive damages.”
According to the Turkish press, several Turks attacked American sailors shopping in the resort town of Antalya after the USS Abraham Lincoln, on its way back from the Persian Gulf, docked there on a port call:
The attackers, who were reportedly members of the Turkish Youth Association (TGB), at first verbally attacked the American soldiers, who had left an American aircraft carrier moored off of Antalya to shop. Police intervened in the incident and detained the seven men when they tried to put bags over the American soldiers’ heads. A group of TGB members gathered in front of the police station to protest the detention of their friends. The detained men were later released.
The Iranians are already gloating about the attack. Thanks to a decade of Islamist rule and a constant barrage of anti-American incitement from Turkey’s top leaders, Turkey is now among the most anti-American countries on earth.
Turkey is currently considering bids to upgrade its air defense system. While a member of NATO since 1952, the Islamist leadership in Turkey has made clear it no longer sees itself bound by the responsibility to protect NATO secrets nor the Turkish leadership factor into its decisions NATO’s security requirements.
Should Turkey decide to go with the Russian S-300 or Chinese HQ-9 it will have two choices: either have its air defense system disconnected from systems involved in NATO, or perhaps betray NATO secrets. If Turkey will not commit to protect sensitive information impacting U.S. defense, it remains curious why the Obama administration seems intent to go ahead with a sale of the next generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Turkey. Alas, as always, the Congressional Turkey Caucus remains silent.
For five grim years, from approximately 2003 to 2008, Iraq faced the greatest onslaught of terrorism in the history of any state. Many of the worst attacks were perpetrated by suicide bombers, often driving vehicles packed with explosives. By mid-2008, suicide bombers had killed at least 10,000 Iraqis. A disproportionate share of those suicide bombers were foreign Sunnis who arrived in Iraq via Syria. The U.S. government remonstrated with the Assad regime to stop the flow of the fanatics, but Bashar al-Assad consistently played dumb. If the U.S. could not control its border with Mexico, the Syrians disingenuously argued, how could they control their border with Iraq? This ignored the rather major difference that Syria is a police state. The networks that recruited, organized, and passed on the suicide bombers could not have operated without the knowledge of the regime’s all-pervasive secret police. Assad and his cronies were not jihadist fanatics, but they were willing to make use of jihadist fanatics to inflict harm on American interests in Iraq–even if the overwhelming majority of victims were Iraqis, not Americans.
Fast forward to today. Now comes news that Syrian Defense Minister Daoud Rajha and Deputy Military Chief of Staff Asef Shawkat (who is also the president’s brother-in-law) have been slain by a suicide bomber in the heart of Damascus. The interior minister–the man in charge of the notorious secret police–was also wounded but is said to be alive. Quite possibly the bomber, who was rumored to be a bodyguard, was connected to the very organization that Syria once did so much to help–al-Qaeda in Iraq. It is hard not to see some element of cosmic justice here: what goes around comes around, ye reap what ye sow, if you play with fire, and all that. It is certainly a sign the Assad regime is getting ever more embattled, and the civil war many had warned would come if the U.S. provided arms to the rebel fighters has arrived anyway.
The damage Barack Obama did to himself in Roanoke, Va. when he said ”If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen” has become the occasion for his defenders and apologists to say he didn’t say it, or he didn’t really say it, or he’s being taken out of context, or he didn’t mean it, or something.
Fine. Here’s the whole thing:
Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
I would argue the context makes the quote worse, not better.