Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 24, 2012

Romney Blasts Obama on Intel Leaks

Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech to the VFW today hit the right marks, but was unfortunately sparse on details and lacked an overarching vision. It was definitely more of a political speech than an ideological one; he mentioned President Obama by name 14 times, and many of his positions were framed in terms of his opposition to Obama.

But Romney’s speech did get an assist from Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He quoted her while criticizing the administration’s intelligence leak investigation:

Lives of American servicemen and women are at stake. But astonishingly, the administration failed to change its ways. More top-secret operations were leaked, even some involving covert action in Iran.

This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis. And yesterday, Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, quote, “I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.”

This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence. Obama appointees, who are accountable to President Obama’s attorney general, should not be responsible for investigating the leaks coming from the Obama White House.

Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed, and punished.  The time for stonewalling is over.

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Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech to the VFW today hit the right marks, but was unfortunately sparse on details and lacked an overarching vision. It was definitely more of a political speech than an ideological one; he mentioned President Obama by name 14 times, and many of his positions were framed in terms of his opposition to Obama.

But Romney’s speech did get an assist from Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He quoted her while criticizing the administration’s intelligence leak investigation:

Lives of American servicemen and women are at stake. But astonishingly, the administration failed to change its ways. More top-secret operations were leaked, even some involving covert action in Iran.

This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis. And yesterday, Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, quote, “I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.”

This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence. Obama appointees, who are accountable to President Obama’s attorney general, should not be responsible for investigating the leaks coming from the Obama White House.

Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed, and punished.  The time for stonewalling is over.

Obama has had decent poll numbers on his national security performance, though that’s mainly because he’s flouted the left’s policy prescriptions and increased the use of drones and other covert operations. The Obama campaign has been trashing Romney’s foreign policy “platitudes” — yes, really — in an effort to show how much more serious Obama supposedly is on these issues.

But Feinstein really undermined that with her acknowledgment yesterday that the intelligence leaks probably came from the White House. This is the last story the Obama campaign wants to be discussing on a day when it’s trying to play up its national security achievements before Romney’s Israel trip. Apparently somebody passed that message along to Feinstein, who backpedaled on her assertion this afternoon:

“I stated that I did not believe the president leaked classified information,” Feinstein said in the statement on Tuesday. “I shouldn’t have speculated beyond that, because the fact of the matter is I don’t know the source of the leaks.”

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney seized on Feinstein’s remarks in a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention Tuesday, accusing President Obama of not trying to find the source of the leaks until after the election.

Feinstein said that she regretted her comments were being used against Obama and said she was “disappointed” in Romney’s remarks.

It’s too bad Feinstein felt the need to backtrack, especially on something that’s so obvious. If some of the leaks were from the Presidential Daily Brief, this means there are a limited number of sources. The fact that the stories ended up benefiting the Obama White House politically gives you a good idea of the type of people who might have had a motive.

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Did Romney Offer an Alternative on Iran?

Mitt Romney’s foreign policy address at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention today rehearsed some of the themes he has been trying to promote throughout the campaign. Romney got a standing ovation when he mentioned President Obama’s habit of giving apologies for America “that were not due” and also scored points on the topic of White House leaks of classified information and the administration’s “shabby” treatment of Israel. But in his survey of the country’s standing abroad, his strongest point was his highlighting of the president’s failure to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Though President Obama continues to promise that Iran will not go nuclear on his watch, this is the one foreign policy front on which Romney’s attempt to pose the “are you better off than you were four years ago” question gives him a clear advantage. While the Republican candidate’s critique of the president’s announcement of a withdrawal date for all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is well-taken — and prompted an angry pushback from the president in his VFW speech yesterday — Obama is probably right to count on a war weary public to give him a pass on the advantage he has handed the Taliban. But the Iranian nuclear threat, which Obama has met with feckless “engagement,” futile diplomacy and belated and half-heartedly enforced sanctions, is an issue on which his position is difficult to defend. The question is, did Romney offer a coherent alternative policy? The answer is a qualified yes.

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Mitt Romney’s foreign policy address at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention today rehearsed some of the themes he has been trying to promote throughout the campaign. Romney got a standing ovation when he mentioned President Obama’s habit of giving apologies for America “that were not due” and also scored points on the topic of White House leaks of classified information and the administration’s “shabby” treatment of Israel. But in his survey of the country’s standing abroad, his strongest point was his highlighting of the president’s failure to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Though President Obama continues to promise that Iran will not go nuclear on his watch, this is the one foreign policy front on which Romney’s attempt to pose the “are you better off than you were four years ago” question gives him a clear advantage. While the Republican candidate’s critique of the president’s announcement of a withdrawal date for all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is well-taken — and prompted an angry pushback from the president in his VFW speech yesterday — Obama is probably right to count on a war weary public to give him a pass on the advantage he has handed the Taliban. But the Iranian nuclear threat, which Obama has met with feckless “engagement,” futile diplomacy and belated and half-heartedly enforced sanctions, is an issue on which his position is difficult to defend. The question is, did Romney offer a coherent alternative policy? The answer is a qualified yes.

Romney was eloquent in outlining the danger from Iran and in noting that Obama’s policies have only brought the nation four years closer to nuclear peril. But he was short on details. He did say that in his administration sanctions on Iran “would be enforced without exceptions.” Though he did not explicitly say so, this is an allusion to the exemptions Obama gave to China and India to go on importing Iranian oil. The Treasury Department has also granted thousands of exemptions to companies wishing to continue doing business with Iran.

In speaking of not allowing Iran any right to refine uranium, Romney also drew a clear distinction between his view and the negotiating position of the P5+1 group that the president has entrusted to negotiate with Iran. The P5+1 alliance led by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has made it clear to the Iranians that if they will only agree to some sort of deal, their right to go on refining uranium will probably be protected. If Romney is telling us that his administration takes the position that he will not acquiesce to any kind of Iranian nuclear program, he is articulating a clear difference with Obama. That makes good sense because, as past nuclear talks with both North Korea and Iran proved, leaving Tehran any nuclear facilities ensures they will cheat on any deal and ultimately get their weapon.

Romney also probably knows that at this late date in the game, even the most rigidly enforced sanctions are not likely to make enough of a difference. As Romney told the VFW, the ayatollahs are not going to be talked out of their nuclear ambitions. His veiled reference to the use of force in which he said he “will use every means” to protect U.S. security illustrates a greater understanding that this issue is not going to be resolved with more engagement.

Though his Iran policy is still a loose outline rather than a coherent plan, Romney was still able to show where he differs from the president. On this point as well as on others (such as the president’s attitude toward Israel that will be highlighted by Romney’s upcoming trip to the Jewish state), the GOP challenger made a good start to showing why foreign policy can be a strength rather than a weakness for his campaign.

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The Human Drama of Saving Lives

The Daily Caller links to a video of a speech in which Elton John praises former President George W. Bush and “conservative American politicians” for pledging billions of dollars to “save the lives of Africans with HIV.”

“We’ve seen George W. Bush and conservative American politicians pledge tens of billions to save the lives of Africans with HIV. Think of all the love. Think of where we’d be without it, nowhere, that’s where. We’d be nowhere at all,” John said at the International AIDS conference in Washington on Monday. “Thanks to all this compassion, thanks to all this love, more than 8 million people are in treatment. Thanks to people who have chosen to care and to act, we can see an end to this epidemic on the horizon.”

Elton John is onto something, as this story in the Washington Post makes clear. It reports that leaders in AIDS vaccine research say they may finally be on the cusp of a period of major discovery leading to a vaccine. “The past few years have been a turning point,” said Gary Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I’m more optimistic than I’ve probably ever been in my career.”

As for President Bush, in 2003 he announced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest program in history to fight a single disease. The plan included $15 billion over five years to promote prevention, treatment, and compassionate care, mainly in Africa. Many at the time were skeptical that large-scale AIDS treatment was even possible in the developing world. But a study at the University of British Columbia found that PEPFAR saved 1.2 million lives in just its first three years.

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The Daily Caller links to a video of a speech in which Elton John praises former President George W. Bush and “conservative American politicians” for pledging billions of dollars to “save the lives of Africans with HIV.”

“We’ve seen George W. Bush and conservative American politicians pledge tens of billions to save the lives of Africans with HIV. Think of all the love. Think of where we’d be without it, nowhere, that’s where. We’d be nowhere at all,” John said at the International AIDS conference in Washington on Monday. “Thanks to all this compassion, thanks to all this love, more than 8 million people are in treatment. Thanks to people who have chosen to care and to act, we can see an end to this epidemic on the horizon.”

Elton John is onto something, as this story in the Washington Post makes clear. It reports that leaders in AIDS vaccine research say they may finally be on the cusp of a period of major discovery leading to a vaccine. “The past few years have been a turning point,” said Gary Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I’m more optimistic than I’ve probably ever been in my career.”

As for President Bush, in 2003 he announced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest program in history to fight a single disease. The plan included $15 billion over five years to promote prevention, treatment, and compassionate care, mainly in Africa. Many at the time were skeptical that large-scale AIDS treatment was even possible in the developing world. But a study at the University of British Columbia found that PEPFAR saved 1.2 million lives in just its first three years.

It has never been clear to me why this achievement is celebrated more by those on the left (like Elton John and Bono) than on the right. Perhaps it’s because of the nature of the disease and its early association in this country with the gay community. Perhaps it’s because such enormous good was achieved through the instrument of the federal government, which conservatives are instinctively wary of. Or perhaps it’s because the disease has historically afflicted people who have, in different ways and to varying degrees, been marginalized and are not part of the conservative coalition: gays, African villagers, IV drug users, and minorities in America.

To be clear: conservatives haven’t denigrated the global AIDS initiative; it’s simply that it has never really registered with them. It hasn’t touched their moral imagination.

We are all drawn to different things and animated by different causes. But I would have thought that an effort that has so clearly served the cause of human dignity – that has saved so many lives and prevented so much suffering – would be one that people of every political persuasion, including conservatives (particularly social conservatives and those active in the pro-life movement), would be held up far more often than it is. The global AIDS initiative has been an extraordinary human achievement that fits our national character.

I understand that discussing AIDS policy may not make for riveting political theater. But there is also a great human drama in emancipating millions of people from the bondage of fear and the grip of death; and there is great drama, too, in the story of a moral leader who was able to bend history in the direction of justice.

Leave it to Elton John to point that out.

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Remembering Cockburn’s Heresies

In the last two decades, as a generation of leftists left this veil of tears, the obituary page of the New York Times has become the last redoubt of Stalin’s American fellow travelers. Sendoffs for Marxist writers and activists have consistently played down their red ties and portrayed them as  heroic and stalwart defenders of principle whose past support for mass murderers is a mere detail best forgotten and therefore usually unmentioned. However, the Times’ appreciation of polemicist Alexander Cockburn was a slightly different variation on that theme.

Instead of just playing down Cockburn’s vicious hatred for Israel which opened him up for justified accusations of anti-Semitism, the nation’s newspaper of record also decided to ignore the cause to which the writer had devoted much of his last years: his disagreement with advocates of global warming.

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In the last two decades, as a generation of leftists left this veil of tears, the obituary page of the New York Times has become the last redoubt of Stalin’s American fellow travelers. Sendoffs for Marxist writers and activists have consistently played down their red ties and portrayed them as  heroic and stalwart defenders of principle whose past support for mass murderers is a mere detail best forgotten and therefore usually unmentioned. However, the Times’ appreciation of polemicist Alexander Cockburn was a slightly different variation on that theme.

Instead of just playing down Cockburn’s vicious hatred for Israel which opened him up for justified accusations of anti-Semitism, the nation’s newspaper of record also decided to ignore the cause to which the writer had devoted much of his last years: his disagreement with advocates of global warming.

As John Fund writes over at National Review Online, Cockburn’s denunciation of global warming as a fraud (led by what he termed as that “hypocritical mountebank” Al Gore) constituted a genuine heresy from his longtime leftism. Fund believes that had Cockburn not fallen ill, he might have helped generate a genuine debate about the issue. That would have been interesting, and Cockburn deserves credit for not being one more leftist sheep following the ideological party line on this issue. But I think Fund is probably being a bit too generous when he says, “Conservatives should recognize that he was getting more and more things ‘right’ toward the end.”

Fund, who got to know him when he was his editor at the Wall Street Journal, rightly acknowledges that Cockburn was a “fierce and often irrational critic of everything to do with Israel.” But the irrationality was not just your garden-variety left-wing distaste for Zionism. His Counterpunch website was denounced by Alan Dershowitz and others for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Cockburn’s sly comments about the “nasty stories about Jews sloshing around the press” helped publicize 9/11 truther lies while allowing him to profess his neutrality about the subject.

In Cockburn’s case, the Times’ obit did mention, at least in passing, his attempts to minimize Stalin’s mass murders as well as the fact that he was fired from the Village Voice for being paid by an anti-Israel group. But it left the discussion of anti-Semitism on the cutting room floor along with any mention of his heresy on global warming. The newspaper generally likes its dead leftist heroes untainted by accusations of anti-Semitism. But it’s clear they can’t tolerate any discussion of their deviations from the current orthodoxy on climate change.

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Obama Video on “Context” Doesn’t Even Play Speech Clip

The Obama campaign is pushing back against attacks on the president’s “you didn’t build that” remark with a new web video claiming the Romney campaign took the line “out of context.” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter says the following:

“Mitt Romney recently launched a new TV ad that blatantly twists President Obama’s words on small business owners and entrepreneurs. Romney’s not telling the truth about what the president said and is taking the president’s words out of context. Romney claims the president told entrepreneurs they didn’t build their own businesses. Actually, he didn’t say that. And even the Washington Post called this attack ‘ridiculous.’ Anyone who’s seen the president’s actual remarks knows the truth. The president said that together, Americans built the free enterprise system that we all benefit from.”

Cutter then goes on to defend Obama’s record on small businesses, but doesn’t even play a clip of his comments in whatever “context” she claims is missing from Romney’s ad. Instead, viewers are asked to click a link over to the Obama website if they want to see it. Why? Probably because the campaign knows the context sounds just as bad as the line in question.

Mitt Romney touched on this point in one of his strongest interviews of the campaign so far:

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The Obama campaign is pushing back against attacks on the president’s “you didn’t build that” remark with a new web video claiming the Romney campaign took the line “out of context.” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter says the following:

“Mitt Romney recently launched a new TV ad that blatantly twists President Obama’s words on small business owners and entrepreneurs. Romney’s not telling the truth about what the president said and is taking the president’s words out of context. Romney claims the president told entrepreneurs they didn’t build their own businesses. Actually, he didn’t say that. And even the Washington Post called this attack ‘ridiculous.’ Anyone who’s seen the president’s actual remarks knows the truth. The president said that together, Americans built the free enterprise system that we all benefit from.”

Cutter then goes on to defend Obama’s record on small businesses, but doesn’t even play a clip of his comments in whatever “context” she claims is missing from Romney’s ad. Instead, viewers are asked to click a link over to the Obama website if they want to see it. Why? Probably because the campaign knows the context sounds just as bad as the line in question.

Mitt Romney touched on this point in one of his strongest interviews of the campaign so far:

Romney doesn’t even engage the question of whether Obama was referring to businesses or infrastructure. As he says, it’s besides the point. According to Romney, the context tells you all you need to know about Obama’s business philosophy:

We have always been a nation that has celebrated success of various kinds. The kid that gets the honor roll, the individual worker that gets a promotion, the person that gets a better job. And in fact, the person that builds a business. And by the way, if you have a business and you started it, you did build it. And you deserve credit for that. It was not built for you by government. And by the way, we pay for government. Government doesn’t come free. The people who begin enterprises, the people who work in enterprises, they’re the ones paying for government. The people who begin enterprises, the people who work in enterprises, they’re the ones paying for government. So his whole philosophy is an upside-down philosophy that does not comport with the American experience.

Fighting back over the “context” issue may not be the smartest move for the Obama campaign. As Romney says, Obama’s philosophy puts him very much at odds with most Americans, and it’s baffling why the president would want to draw more attention to that.

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Obama Didn’t Owe Taliban a Victory Plan

Yesterday, at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Obama did his best to defend his foreign policy record as well as to denigrate Mitt Romney’s positions despite never mentioning his name. Though much of the speech was the usual tribute to veterans delivered by public officials at such events, Obama was at pains to refute the one specific criticism that Romney has made about the administration’s conduct in Afghanistan. Obama claimed that his announcement of a withdrawal date for American troops there was necessary because, “When you’re commander in chief, you owe the troops a plan. You owe the country a plan.”

But as with much of Obama’s laundry list of alleged accomplishments, this assertion leaves out the messy details about what happens when you announce in advance when you’re going to bug out of a war: the enemy finds out along with the American people. The Taliban may have been pushed back during the surge the president ordered, but he let them know all they had to do was survive until U.S. troops pulled out in order to prevail. As is the case in Iraq where, against the advice of many of his own advisers, the president withdrew all American forces, he is confusing U.S. withdrawal with the end of the war. The timeline he defended doesn’t conclude the conflict; it gave the Islamist foes who are seeking to reverse the hard-fought victories gained by U.S. troops confidence that they would win out due to the president’s lack of staying power.

While the president covered himself with praise for his “leadership” abroad, an honest look at the situations he touted as illustrating his genius paints a different picture.

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Yesterday, at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Obama did his best to defend his foreign policy record as well as to denigrate Mitt Romney’s positions despite never mentioning his name. Though much of the speech was the usual tribute to veterans delivered by public officials at such events, Obama was at pains to refute the one specific criticism that Romney has made about the administration’s conduct in Afghanistan. Obama claimed that his announcement of a withdrawal date for American troops there was necessary because, “When you’re commander in chief, you owe the troops a plan. You owe the country a plan.”

But as with much of Obama’s laundry list of alleged accomplishments, this assertion leaves out the messy details about what happens when you announce in advance when you’re going to bug out of a war: the enemy finds out along with the American people. The Taliban may have been pushed back during the surge the president ordered, but he let them know all they had to do was survive until U.S. troops pulled out in order to prevail. As is the case in Iraq where, against the advice of many of his own advisers, the president withdrew all American forces, he is confusing U.S. withdrawal with the end of the war. The timeline he defended doesn’t conclude the conflict; it gave the Islamist foes who are seeking to reverse the hard-fought victories gained by U.S. troops confidence that they would win out due to the president’s lack of staying power.

While the president covered himself with praise for his “leadership” abroad, an honest look at the situations he touted as illustrating his genius paints a different picture.

Rather than his “leadership” on the nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran showing the administration’s strength, it demonstrates the feckless reliance on failed diplomacy. North Korea successfully bamboozled the Clinton and Bush administrations into deals that allowed them to go nuclear. Iran is following the same pattern. The sanctions that Obama reluctantly and belatedly imposed on Tehran are riddled with exemptions and non-enforcement. As even some of his more candid admirers admit, the president’s only strategy is to kick the can down the road until after he is re-elected, when he might have the “flexibility” to avoid keeping his promise to prevent Iran from gaining nukes.

The hallmark of Obama’s foreign policy has been undermining allies such as Israel, Britain and Poland (not by coincidence, the three nations Romney will visit this week).

As for standing for freedom abroad, it has been a generation since there has been a president who was less interested in promoting human rights than Obama. His favorite tactic of “leading from behind” — a phrase he avoided in his VFW speech — has allowed Syria to disintegrate into chaos and presents a danger to the entire Middle East. The toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the one instance where his tactic can be said to have worked, has led to trouble in neighboring Mali.

Nevertheless, no part of his speech was as disingenuous as his claim that he has strengthened the military. His budget cuts are gutting the capabilities of our armed forces. For him to blame these policies on the budget standoff with congressional Republicans is the height of chutzpah. The game of chicken he’s been playing with the GOP has led to the sequestration disaster that will hurt defense. But even without that dangerous tactic that he pursued for partisan purposes, the intent of his administration to downgrade defense was already clear. Indeed, he said as much in his speech when he spoke of a mythical post-Iraq and Afghanistan peace dividend he claims will pay down the deficit.

For Obama, even the most serious questions of war and peace always boil down to partisan politics. While Romney has much to prove when it comes to foreign policy (he will be speaking at the same convention this afternoon), Obama’s demonstrated lack of leadership provides his opponent plenty of room for justified criticism.

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Polls Agree: Obama Attacks Not Working

Yesterday’s USA Today/Gallup poll found President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital career have had little impact on the race. Today’s Reuters/Ipsos poll supposedly contradicts that finding, but don’t put much stock in that just yet:

Sustained attacks by President Barack Obama’s campaign on Republican rival Mitt Romney’s business history and refusal to release more tax records appear to be working, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.

More than a third of voters who are registered to a party or as an independent said in the online survey that what they had heard about Romney’s taxes and his time at Bain Capital private equity firm had given them a less favorable impression of the Republican candidate.

And particularly worrying for Romney is that a large slice of independent voters — whom he needs to win the November 6 election — are also buying into the Obama campaign’s portrayal of him as a ruthless businessman who may be hiding something in his taxes.

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Yesterday’s USA Today/Gallup poll found President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital career have had little impact on the race. Today’s Reuters/Ipsos poll supposedly contradicts that finding, but don’t put much stock in that just yet:

Sustained attacks by President Barack Obama’s campaign on Republican rival Mitt Romney’s business history and refusal to release more tax records appear to be working, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.

More than a third of voters who are registered to a party or as an independent said in the online survey that what they had heard about Romney’s taxes and his time at Bain Capital private equity firm had given them a less favorable impression of the Republican candidate.

And particularly worrying for Romney is that a large slice of independent voters — whom he needs to win the November 6 election — are also buying into the Obama campaign’s portrayal of him as a ruthless businessman who may be hiding something in his taxes.

According to the poll, 36 percent of registered voters said the attacks have given them a less favorable impression of Romney, but Democrats likely make up an overwhelming portion of that statistic.

As for independents, 26 percent viewed Romney less favorably and 13 percent more favorably after hearing attacks on his Bain record. In other words, 74 percent of independents either view Romney more favorably after the attacks, or simply don’t care. That’s the problem for Obama. If independent voters just yawn at his Bain attacks and move on, that’s almost as bad as if the attacks backfire altogether. He’s still sinking tons of money into messaging that isn’t helping him.

Also note that the Reuters/Ipsos poll has a “credibility interval” of plus or minus 8.7 percentage points for independents. That’s a massive margin of error, which makes it difficult to take away anything serious from its findings on independents.

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Bloomberg: Police Should Strike Until I Get What I Want

When it became clear that the Occupy Wall Street encampment in lower Manhattan was a health and safety danger riddled with sexual assaults, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took action… eventually. After a couple of months. New Yorkers already knew that Bloomberg was no Rudy Giuliani, who combined smart conservative policymaking with a dedication to the city’s safety, security, and dignity. But they learned something else as Bloomberg watched businesses close and the violence spread: Bloomberg was willing to sacrifice public safety to make grand political gestures.

And they learned that lesson again yesterday. Bloomberg, who is as pro-gun control as anyone with his own army, went on Piers Morgan’s show and revealed that the Occupy protests seemed to have left a special place in his heart for subjecting the city to periodic bursts of anarchy:

“I don’t understand why police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say we’re going to go on strike, we’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe,’’ he told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

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When it became clear that the Occupy Wall Street encampment in lower Manhattan was a health and safety danger riddled with sexual assaults, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took action… eventually. After a couple of months. New Yorkers already knew that Bloomberg was no Rudy Giuliani, who combined smart conservative policymaking with a dedication to the city’s safety, security, and dignity. But they learned something else as Bloomberg watched businesses close and the violence spread: Bloomberg was willing to sacrifice public safety to make grand political gestures.

And they learned that lesson again yesterday. Bloomberg, who is as pro-gun control as anyone with his own army, went on Piers Morgan’s show and revealed that the Occupy protests seemed to have left a special place in his heart for subjecting the city to periodic bursts of anarchy:

“I don’t understand why police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say we’re going to go on strike, we’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe,’’ he told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

Bloomberg made this astonishingly dangerous remark in response to the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, demanding new tougher gun control legislation. Let’s put aside for the moment the fact that the suspect in this case was building sophisticated bombs in his apartment, and probably would not have been deterred by gun laws. Bloomberg has always had some difficulty with cause and effect–he suggested the Times Square bomber, a self-proclaimed jihadist, was really just angry about President Obama’s health care bill.

And let’s put aside, also, the fact that just as he doesn’t abide by various prohibitions he tries to force on the commoners, Bloomberg’s own safety would never be in doubt. Just yours. And try to put aside the irony of Bloomberg threatening to figuratively put a gun to the public’s head to pass gun control legislation they oppose.

Actually, don’t put any of that aside. Just remember, the next time someone accuses conservatives of holding the country hostage over policy disagreements, Bloomberg has shown us what that would actually look like.

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Feinstein: Leaks Came From White House

Anyone with eyes and ears can figure out that some of the recent national security leaks most likely came from the White House, and yesterday Sen. Dianne Feinstein finally acknowledged the obvious:

“I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks. I don’t know specifically where, but they have to understand that and do something about it…

“To know what the president actually knows about this is difficult, because with respect to intelligence he is in a bubble. He has his [president’s daily brief] early every morning. And so he gets a briefing of intelligence. I don’t believe for a moment he goes out and talks about it. I don’t believe the briefers go out and talk about it. But who knows who else?”

Hmm. Was Feinstein suggesting in the second paragraph that the president might know the source of the leaks? That seems like a serious possibility. If the leaks came from the daily national security briefing as she indicates, clearly there is a finite number of people who could be the culprits. Feinstein rules out the briefers (Director of National Intelligence James Clapper), but suggests it could have been anybody else in the meeting.

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Anyone with eyes and ears can figure out that some of the recent national security leaks most likely came from the White House, and yesterday Sen. Dianne Feinstein finally acknowledged the obvious:

“I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks. I don’t know specifically where, but they have to understand that and do something about it…

“To know what the president actually knows about this is difficult, because with respect to intelligence he is in a bubble. He has his [president’s daily brief] early every morning. And so he gets a briefing of intelligence. I don’t believe for a moment he goes out and talks about it. I don’t believe the briefers go out and talk about it. But who knows who else?”

Hmm. Was Feinstein suggesting in the second paragraph that the president might know the source of the leaks? That seems like a serious possibility. If the leaks came from the daily national security briefing as she indicates, clearly there is a finite number of people who could be the culprits. Feinstein rules out the briefers (Director of National Intelligence James Clapper), but suggests it could have been anybody else in the meeting.

Remember, David Axelrod vehemently denied that the leaks came from the White House in June:

“In both cases, they quote members of the president’s national security team who were in the room,” [ABC News' George] Stephanopoulos said. “So somebody who was in the room with the president was giving out some of this information or at least discussing classified information.”

“I think the authors of all of this work have said that the White House was not the source of this information,” Axelrod replied. “I can’t say that there weren’t leaks. There were obvious leaks, but they weren’t from the White House.” …

“The last thing that he would countenance or anybody around him would countenance are leaks that would jeopardize the security of Americans on these secret missions, and the success of those missions.”

“So you’re confident this investigation’s not going to show White House involvement?” Stephanopoulos said.

“Yes,” Axelrod said.

Feinstein hasn’t yet called for a special prosecutor, but based on her comments, it seems like that has to be the next move. Does anyone really expect the Department of Justice to fairly investigate a leak within the president’s inner circle? Unless the White House gets serious on this on its own (which would require appointing a special prosecutor anyway), there will have to be outside pressure before it’ll take action.

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No-Fly Zone Needed With Syria

The situation in Syria seems to get worse by the day. Now the Assad regime is threatening to use chemical weapons against any foreign force intervening in Syria and is actually using fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships to bomb Syria’s second-largest city Aleppo. Bashar al-Assad is clearly growing desperate–his ground forces are not enough to suppress the uprising which has now spread to Damascus and Aleppo, and so he is having to resort to his air force to help.

This creates a fresh vulnerability. Early on in the conflict calls for a no-fly zone were rejected because this would have done little to impair Assad’s operations. Now, with the regime increasingly calling out the air force, a no-fly zone could make a difference tactically. It would also make a huge difference symbolically by showing that the world will not put up with the regime’s murderous misconduct and is prepared to act to stop it. That might well encourage more defections from the ranks of the Syrian armed forces.

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The situation in Syria seems to get worse by the day. Now the Assad regime is threatening to use chemical weapons against any foreign force intervening in Syria and is actually using fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships to bomb Syria’s second-largest city Aleppo. Bashar al-Assad is clearly growing desperate–his ground forces are not enough to suppress the uprising which has now spread to Damascus and Aleppo, and so he is having to resort to his air force to help.

This creates a fresh vulnerability. Early on in the conflict calls for a no-fly zone were rejected because this would have done little to impair Assad’s operations. Now, with the regime increasingly calling out the air force, a no-fly zone could make a difference tactically. It would also make a huge difference symbolically by showing that the world will not put up with the regime’s murderous misconduct and is prepared to act to stop it. That might well encourage more defections from the ranks of the Syrian armed forces.

And it could be done at scant risk to U.S. or other outside forces. Assad is bluffing when threatening to use chemical weapons–how will they stop an air campaign to destroy his air defenses and ground his aircraft? This would be a relatively low-cost way for the U.S. to call Assad’s bluff and help shorten his hold on power.

But to act, President Obama will have to break free of his obsession with obtaining UN Security Council approval, something that Russia and China will continue to block. Assad’s chemical weapons threats should make it easier to assemble a coalition of the willing, and one that should be able to obtain NATO and possibly even Arab League support for stronger action.

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Jon Stewart Destroys ABC’s Brian Ross

Anyone who watches Jon Stewart knows that he’s a person of liberal political views – but he also shows impressive flashes of independence. Last night was such an instance. In the course of his show, Stewart skillfully rips apart ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, for falsely suggesting that the Aurora, Colorado, killer was a member of the Tea Party.

Ross, based on the flimsiest evidence, took an innocent man and, in the words of Stewart, “casually, baselessly, and publicly accused [him] of – I don’t know – maybe being a mass murderer.”

Stewart then explains why this occurred. The mindset of Ross, according to Stewart, is that linking the Tea Party to the atrocity fits into “a pre-existing narrative. I should get that on the TV.” As Stewart puts it, “Tea Party, low taxes, madman. You do the math.”

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Anyone who watches Jon Stewart knows that he’s a person of liberal political views – but he also shows impressive flashes of independence. Last night was such an instance. In the course of his show, Stewart skillfully rips apart ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, for falsely suggesting that the Aurora, Colorado, killer was a member of the Tea Party.

Ross, based on the flimsiest evidence, took an innocent man and, in the words of Stewart, “casually, baselessly, and publicly accused [him] of – I don’t know – maybe being a mass murderer.”

Stewart then explains why this occurred. The mindset of Ross, according to Stewart, is that linking the Tea Party to the atrocity fits into “a pre-existing narrative. I should get that on the TV.” As Stewart puts it, “Tea Party, low taxes, madman. You do the math.”

Stewart then asks, in the form of a joke, quite a serious question: What story does a guy have to blow to get in trouble at ABC? What exactly does a chief investigative correspondent have to get wrong in order to be grounded by the news division?

When it comes to ABC News, apparently, tendentious, reckless and false allegations aren’t terribly problematic – at least when the object of the smear is the Tea Party.

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Obama 2nd Term Israel Visit Vow a Mistake

On the eve of Mitt Romney’s foreign tour that will take him to Britain, Poland and Israel, the Obama campaign made a classic mistake. Rightly sensing that Romney’s visit to the Jewish state would highlight not just the fact that the president had never gone there during his four years in office but the fights he had picked with Israel, the Democrats responded by pledging that some time during the next four years Obama would find a few days to go there himself. But rather than one-upping the GOP nominee, the promise merely worsened his difficulties with Jewish and pro-Israel voters. Having conspicuously avoided Israel throughout his first term even while feeling the need to go to Egypt and other places in the region, Obama’s vow is a lame rejoinder to Romney. He would have been far better off merely trying to ignore the Republican. Instead, by saying that if he’s re-elected he’ll deign to go there he’s admitted there’s a problem.

Obama’s supporters are right to respond that visits are symbolic and that the substance of the U.S.-Israel relationship transcends photo opportunities. But their problem is the Romney visit is a reminder this administration set out from its first moments in office to distance itself from Israel as part of its rejection of everything it associated with George W. Bush. Because Bush was close to Israel, they wanted more daylight between the two countries and quickly achieved their goal. Had President Obama not spent his first three years picking fights with Israel over the status of Jerusalem, settlements and the 1967 borders and relentlessly pressuring it to make concessions to a Palestinian Authority that had no interest in peace, it wouldn’t matter if Mitt Romney spent the whole summer touring the country.

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On the eve of Mitt Romney’s foreign tour that will take him to Britain, Poland and Israel, the Obama campaign made a classic mistake. Rightly sensing that Romney’s visit to the Jewish state would highlight not just the fact that the president had never gone there during his four years in office but the fights he had picked with Israel, the Democrats responded by pledging that some time during the next four years Obama would find a few days to go there himself. But rather than one-upping the GOP nominee, the promise merely worsened his difficulties with Jewish and pro-Israel voters. Having conspicuously avoided Israel throughout his first term even while feeling the need to go to Egypt and other places in the region, Obama’s vow is a lame rejoinder to Romney. He would have been far better off merely trying to ignore the Republican. Instead, by saying that if he’s re-elected he’ll deign to go there he’s admitted there’s a problem.

Obama’s supporters are right to respond that visits are symbolic and that the substance of the U.S.-Israel relationship transcends photo opportunities. But their problem is the Romney visit is a reminder this administration set out from its first moments in office to distance itself from Israel as part of its rejection of everything it associated with George W. Bush. Because Bush was close to Israel, they wanted more daylight between the two countries and quickly achieved their goal. Had President Obama not spent his first three years picking fights with Israel over the status of Jerusalem, settlements and the 1967 borders and relentlessly pressuring it to make concessions to a Palestinian Authority that had no interest in peace, it wouldn’t matter if Mitt Romney spent the whole summer touring the country.

It’s true, as the Democrats point out, that the president has not torpedoed the entire alliance. The security relationship between the two countries set in place by his predecessors has been maintained. But to claim he deserves the support of pro-Israel voters because he refrained from destroying the alliance infrastructure is hardly a compelling argument.

Only partisans and those committed to a policy of opposing Israel’s democratically-elected government can pretend that the years prior to the commencement of Obama’s election-year Jewish charm offensive were not primarily characterized by the administration’s determination to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians. Though his defenders claim there was nothing new about what he did, Obama’s stands on settlements and Jerusalem did more to undermine Israel’s position than any of his predecessors. But the Palestinians not only did not take advantage of Obama’s gifts but predictably, were encouraged by the rift between Israel and the U.S. to avoid negotiations altogether. The result was that Obama took an already bad situation and found a way to make it worse.

The interesting thing about Obama’s worries about pro-Israel voters is that it wouldn’t have taken much from him to convince them he was Israel’s friend. A visit would have helped, but a stopover in Israel would have contradicted the signals he was trying to send to the Arab and Muslim world that he was more open to them than Bush. An avoidance of needless squabbles about settlements, Jerusalem and borders would have cost him nothing, especially as turning these points into major fights didn’t convince the Palestinians to even return to negotiations or win him the friends he wanted in the Muslim world. If the transition to the charm offensive after three years of battles with Israel seemed effortless, it was because there was never any strategic rationale for Obama’s obsession with downgrading the alliance with Israel.

If the president does go to Israel during his second term, he will be welcomed there as any American president would be. But there is no reason to think a belated attempt to rectify the problems he created will be fixed by such a promise. If Romney benefits from his visit, it is because of Obama’s policies, not just because the president has stayed away.

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Business Owners Responsible for Success

WaPo’s Glenn Kessler — whose recent takedown of Obama’s Bain attacks prompted a tidal wave of outrage from the left — gave the Romney campaign three Pinocchios for its ad on Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments. He starts out by saying the Romney campaign removed a big chunk of words from Obama’s speech (as 30-second political ads typically to do), to unfairly make it seem like the president was attacking entrepreneurship:

The biggest problem with Romney’s ad is that it leaves out just enough chunks of Obama’s words — such as a reference to “roads and bridges”— so that it sounds like Obama is attacking individual initiative. The ad deceivingly cuts away from Obama speaking in order to make it seem as if the sentences follow one another, when in fact eight sentences are snipped away.

Suddenly, the word “that” appears as if it is referring to a business, rather than (apparently) to roads and bridges. …

In other words, this is an argument that Democrats have been making for decades, one that Republicans have every right to reject. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, for instance, understood fully that Obama was talking about roads and still thought his logic was faulty.

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WaPo’s Glenn Kessler — whose recent takedown of Obama’s Bain attacks prompted a tidal wave of outrage from the left — gave the Romney campaign three Pinocchios for its ad on Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments. He starts out by saying the Romney campaign removed a big chunk of words from Obama’s speech (as 30-second political ads typically to do), to unfairly make it seem like the president was attacking entrepreneurship:

The biggest problem with Romney’s ad is that it leaves out just enough chunks of Obama’s words — such as a reference to “roads and bridges”— so that it sounds like Obama is attacking individual initiative. The ad deceivingly cuts away from Obama speaking in order to make it seem as if the sentences follow one another, when in fact eight sentences are snipped away.

Suddenly, the word “that” appears as if it is referring to a business, rather than (apparently) to roads and bridges. …

In other words, this is an argument that Democrats have been making for decades, one that Republicans have every right to reject. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, for instance, understood fully that Obama was talking about roads and still thought his logic was faulty.

What Kessler fails to establish is that Obama is referring to infrastructure as opposed to businesses. This is a debate that’s been going on for the past week, and instead of making the case one way or the other, Kessler starts from the assumption the Obama campaign’s explanation is correct. He also cites Charles Krauthammer as someone who has agreed that Obama was referring to roads and bridges, when in fact Krauthammer has specifically said the opposite.

The Obama campaign has a strong incentive to kill this controversy, or at least obscure the meaning of his quote. A Rasmussen poll found that 72 percent of likely voters believe small business owners are primarily responsible for their success:

Most Americans believe entrepreneurs who start businesses do more to create jobs and economic growth than big businesses or government. They also believe overwhelmingly that small business owners work harder than other Americans and are primarily responsible for the success or failure of their businesses.

Seventy-two percent (72%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe that people who start small businesses are primarily responsible for their success or failure. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 13 percent disagree.

Obama’s business philosophy puts him at odds with most voters, and the Romney campaign has been making that clear with its latest ad.

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Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s New Terror Offensive

Back around 2008, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had been decimated. Its founder (Abu Musab al Zarqawi) was dead, along with many of his lieutenants, and it had lost the support of the Sunni community. Consequently, American and Iraq forces, working with the Sons of Iraq militia, were able to rout the terrorist group out of its lairs and break its hold on a swath of territory the size of New England.

That was then, this is now.

On Monday, at the start of Ramadan, Iraq experienced the bloodiest day of the year, with more than 100 people killed and 300 wounded in a series of at least 40 separate attacks around the country. Some of the attacks were carried out with car bombs, others with direct assaults on security personnel. Claiming responsibility was none other than AQI, whose shadowy leader, Abu Bakir al Baghdadi, claimed this was part of a new offensive called Breaking Down Walls.

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Back around 2008, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had been decimated. Its founder (Abu Musab al Zarqawi) was dead, along with many of his lieutenants, and it had lost the support of the Sunni community. Consequently, American and Iraq forces, working with the Sons of Iraq militia, were able to rout the terrorist group out of its lairs and break its hold on a swath of territory the size of New England.

That was then, this is now.

On Monday, at the start of Ramadan, Iraq experienced the bloodiest day of the year, with more than 100 people killed and 300 wounded in a series of at least 40 separate attacks around the country. Some of the attacks were carried out with car bombs, others with direct assaults on security personnel. Claiming responsibility was none other than AQI, whose shadowy leader, Abu Bakir al Baghdadi, claimed this was part of a new offensive called Breaking Down Walls.

So much for the claims of American and Iraqi officials that violence is on the wane. In fact, as noted by the New York Times, “The attacks were likely to continue the trend of the first six months since the departure of American troops, when violence has steadily increased, according to United Nations statistics.” If the trend continues this will mark a remarkable defeat–and a self-inflicted one–for American policy in the Middle East.

If only the U.S. had been able to keep troops in Iraq past 2011, the odds are that Iraqi forces would have had greater success in continuing to crack down on AQI. The U.S. presence was particularly important for providing intelligence support to the Iraqis as well as pressuring Prime Minister Maliki to share power with Sunnis so as to avoid fueling a sectarian conflagration. With the U.S. out of the picture, Maliki is busy accumulating dictatorial power and the Iraqi security forces appear to be fighting half-blind, thus allowing AQI to rise from the grave like a zombie.

It did not have to be this way. Although there is no way to prove a counterfactual, I am convinced the U.S. could have won Iraqi political support to maintain a troop presence past 2011 if President Obama had gone all-out to push for it. But he didn’t, preferring to suspend negotiations at the first stumbling block (over immunity for U.S. troops). The result is a tragedy for Iraq–and a possibly grave defeat for the United States.

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