Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 2012

Gaffes Alone Won’t Stop Romney

Let’s specify that Mitt Romney probably would have been better off keeping any doubts about London’s preparations for the Olympic Games to himself. The British press jumped on the supposed insult to the United Kingdom implied in Romney’s description of the preparations being “disconcerting” and his question about whether the event would be embraced by the people of London. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose desire to emulate Barack Obama has at times bordered on the embarrassing, was just as quick in firing back at Romney by claiming that it was harder to organize an Olympics in London than “in the middle of nowhere,” which no doubt will not endear him to the people of Utah (where the GOP candidate headed up the 2002 Winter Games).

While the American media following Romney is declaring his trip a disaster even before it has gone on for one day, there’s no reason for Republicans to panic. Though the remark must be acknowledged as a gaffe, those claiming Romney has sunk the special relationship between the two countries seem to forget that supporters of a president who gave Cameron’s predecessor a set of movie DVDs that can’t be played on British systems are in no position to squawk too much about minor diplomatic errors. Yet, even if we acknowledge that Romney has once again shot himself in the foot, his gaffes are tribute to his awkward personal manner, not ignorance or incapacity. So while they are embarrassing and may get him off message, they are not the sort of thing that can do him serious political damage.

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Let’s specify that Mitt Romney probably would have been better off keeping any doubts about London’s preparations for the Olympic Games to himself. The British press jumped on the supposed insult to the United Kingdom implied in Romney’s description of the preparations being “disconcerting” and his question about whether the event would be embraced by the people of London. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose desire to emulate Barack Obama has at times bordered on the embarrassing, was just as quick in firing back at Romney by claiming that it was harder to organize an Olympics in London than “in the middle of nowhere,” which no doubt will not endear him to the people of Utah (where the GOP candidate headed up the 2002 Winter Games).

While the American media following Romney is declaring his trip a disaster even before it has gone on for one day, there’s no reason for Republicans to panic. Though the remark must be acknowledged as a gaffe, those claiming Romney has sunk the special relationship between the two countries seem to forget that supporters of a president who gave Cameron’s predecessor a set of movie DVDs that can’t be played on British systems are in no position to squawk too much about minor diplomatic errors. Yet, even if we acknowledge that Romney has once again shot himself in the foot, his gaffes are tribute to his awkward personal manner, not ignorance or incapacity. So while they are embarrassing and may get him off message, they are not the sort of thing that can do him serious political damage.

There are serious questions to be asked about the London Olympics, including the wisdom of the massive expenditure of funds at a time when Britain is suffering through austerity budgets as well as the fact that almost all Olympic hosts are generally left worse off than before they started. But because Romney is an unrepentant Olympic booster, he is probably the last person to pose such questions.

This kerfuffle does once again illustrate his capacity for running his mouth when he should keep it shut. Throughout the primary campaign we saw that the GOP candidate had the capacity to sometimes say far too much. Though a serious thinker about policy, he lacks the natural politician’s instinct to say what should be said at times as well as the same ability to avoid unguarded utterances. Obama’s cool and scripted responses have proven that avoiding gaffes is no guarantee of wisdom. But Romney’s team must come to terms with the fact that their man is always going to be vulnerable to moments like these. No amount of insulation from the press is going to stop him from saying things like this again.

But unless Romney liberates Poland as Gerald Ford did in a 1976 debate with Jimmy Carter (an example of a real policy gaffe), this sort of thing won’t do him much political damage. After all, Romney is in London for a photo opportunity and to raise money or to win British votes.

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Jay Carney Caught Flat-Footed

There was a bizarre scene during today’s White House briefing, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney flat-out refused to say whether the capital of Israel was Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, despite repeated questioning from multiple reporters. The Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke reports:

Carney was caught flat-footed when asked which city is Israel’s capital. “I haven’t had that question in awhile,” he said after some hesitation. “Our position has not changed. You know our position.” The reporter said she didn’t know, but Carney moved on to another question.

That answer touched off a somewhat unruly scene, as WND’s Lester Kinsolving interjected that “she doesn’t know, that’s why she asked.” Carney moved on.

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There was a bizarre scene during today’s White House briefing, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney flat-out refused to say whether the capital of Israel was Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, despite repeated questioning from multiple reporters. The Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke reports:

Carney was caught flat-footed when asked which city is Israel’s capital. “I haven’t had that question in awhile,” he said after some hesitation. “Our position has not changed. You know our position.” The reporter said she didn’t know, but Carney moved on to another question.

That answer touched off a somewhat unruly scene, as WND’s Lester Kinsolving interjected that “she doesn’t know, that’s why she asked.” Carney moved on.

The Weekly Standard’s Dan Halper has video of the exchange:

At one point, a visibly uncomfortable Carney says the White House’s “position has not changed.” In March, there was a similar exchange between State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland and reporters. The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in contrast to Obama’s own statements to the AIPAC conference during his 2008 campaign.

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Don’t Be Fooled by North Korean Stunts

North Korea’s new dictator, Kim Jong-un, is getting a lot of publicity for the stylistic changes that separate him from his recently departed father, Kim Jong-il. He has actually made speeches in public. He has shown up at a concert where Mickey Mouse and other (unlicensed) Disney characters performed. And now he has revealed that he has a wife, the good-looking young “comrade,” Ri Sol-ju. There have even been reports of a top general getting fired, a move whose import is hotly debated among North Korea watchers–is the regime rent by dangerous schisms or is this a sign that young Kim is consolidating control?

No one knows. Which is precisely the point. Dear Leader the 3rd is getting breathless attention for pulling back the curtain a millimeter on his life. Only in the context of the world’s most closely controlled Stalinist state is this news. The fact that no one has any idea of what is actually going on behind the scenes suggests that we should not be distracted by a few publicity stunts. Life in North Korea has not changed a whit since the 3rd Dear Leader took over from the 2nd. A quarter of a million North Koreans remain confined to hellish gulags and the rest of the population–24 million people–is still living in the most abject poverty and isolation. Meanwhile, the leadership continues to lavish what little money they have on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and their own extravagant perks.

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North Korea’s new dictator, Kim Jong-un, is getting a lot of publicity for the stylistic changes that separate him from his recently departed father, Kim Jong-il. He has actually made speeches in public. He has shown up at a concert where Mickey Mouse and other (unlicensed) Disney characters performed. And now he has revealed that he has a wife, the good-looking young “comrade,” Ri Sol-ju. There have even been reports of a top general getting fired, a move whose import is hotly debated among North Korea watchers–is the regime rent by dangerous schisms or is this a sign that young Kim is consolidating control?

No one knows. Which is precisely the point. Dear Leader the 3rd is getting breathless attention for pulling back the curtain a millimeter on his life. Only in the context of the world’s most closely controlled Stalinist state is this news. The fact that no one has any idea of what is actually going on behind the scenes suggests that we should not be distracted by a few publicity stunts. Life in North Korea has not changed a whit since the 3rd Dear Leader took over from the 2nd. A quarter of a million North Koreans remain confined to hellish gulags and the rest of the population–24 million people–is still living in the most abject poverty and isolation. Meanwhile, the leadership continues to lavish what little money they have on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and their own extravagant perks.

There is a long tradition of imputing reformist tendencies on any new ruler of any totalitarian state, especially when that ruler has spent some time abroad. (Kim went to school in Switzerland and is said to love NBA basketball.) Remember when the jazz-loving Yuri Andropov was supposed to reform the Soviet Union? Or, more recently, when the former Londoner Bashar al-Assad, with his chic young wife, was supposed to reform Syria? Such reformers do come along occasionally–think of Deng Xiaoping or Mikhail Gorbachev–but they are extremely rare and almost never part of a hereditary dynasty of dictators, as is the case with both Assad and Kim.

Let us not make the mistake of wishful thinking in regard to North Korea. It is and remains an evil regime that oppresses its own people and threatens regional stability. The chances of Kim making meaningful reforms from within are slim to none. Only through peaceful unification with South Korea will the grim reality of the north change for good.

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How Insulting Is North Korean Flag Mixup?

Right before North Korea was set to compete in an Olympic women’s soccer match yesterday, an introductory video showed the South Korean flag instead of the North Korean one — prompting the team to walk off the field in protest. The Olympic organizers have since apologized to North Korea, but according to the Christian Science Monitor, this will “go down in Olympic history as a major insult”:

In the long history of the Olympic Games, stretching across more than a century, two World Wars, and a Games put on by the Third Reich, one might think that exchanging the South Korean flag for the North Korean flag might not be the worst mistake ever made by a host nation.

But it might well be.

“This is way more insulting,” says [David] Wallechinsky [author of a book on the Olympics]. “To actually raise the flag of a nation considered your enemy – that’s a real bad one.”

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Right before North Korea was set to compete in an Olympic women’s soccer match yesterday, an introductory video showed the South Korean flag instead of the North Korean one — prompting the team to walk off the field in protest. The Olympic organizers have since apologized to North Korea, but according to the Christian Science Monitor, this will “go down in Olympic history as a major insult”:

In the long history of the Olympic Games, stretching across more than a century, two World Wars, and a Games put on by the Third Reich, one might think that exchanging the South Korean flag for the North Korean flag might not be the worst mistake ever made by a host nation.

But it might well be.

“This is way more insulting,” says [David] Wallechinsky [author of a book on the Olympics]. “To actually raise the flag of a nation considered your enemy – that’s a real bad one.”

However offensive the flag mixup was, it was still less insulting than the fact that North Korea is competing in the Olympics just like any other country while more than 100,000 of its people are thought to be withering away in concentration camps. Those who argue against politicizing the Olympics have some fair points — the games are about the athletes and not the countries. If you ban North Korea, you’d also have to ban Saudi Arabia and Iran, and then there would be a clamor of human rights activists agitating for one country or another to be barred as well.

On a practical level, it’s difficult to get banned from the Olympics, though it did happen to the Taliban’s Afghanistan and apartheid South Africa after their discriminatory laws were carried over to their Olympic teams. Because North Korea’s oppression isn’t confined by gender or ethnic or racial lines, it may continue to get a pass.

But Olympics officials certainly shouldn’t lose any sleep over the flag blunder. The athletes from North Korea deserve as much respect as any other competitors and should be treated fairly. As for their government and their flag — well. Accidentally insulting the DPRK isn’t the same as accidentally snubbing France or Canada, and there’s no reason for commentators to act as if it is.

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What Not to Learn in London

Mitt Romney is in London today showing his ability to act on the international stage as well as seeking to emphasize that he is prepared to embrace America’s traditional allies in Britain, Poland and Israel in contrast to President Obama’s desire to distance the U.S. from these nations. In London he will also get reacquainted with British Prime Minister David Cameron with whom he found himself in an unplanned and unnecessary spat about Olympic preparations. But rather than take lessons from him on how to get elected and to govern as a conservative, Cameron provides a sterling example of the bad choices that Romney should avoid during the campaign as well as once in office should he triumph in November.

It should be stipulated that the political cultures and circumstances of the two countries are vastly different. For all of their problems, Republicans are not in the position that Britain’s Conservative Party found itself prior to Cameron becoming PM in May 2010. The Tories needed a makeover after 13 years out of government while Tony Blair’s new Labor ruled. They got it with the handsome Cameron who sought to refashion the party’s image away from Margaret Thatcher’s “nasty party” to a new Conservative leadership that embraced environmentalism, gay rights and any other issue that would make them more popular. But while Cameron remains in residence at Number 10 Downing Street, the experiment of watering down conservative ideology has not been successful. The instinctively moderate Romney needs to take notice of Cameron’s failures. If he doesn’t, it will not only reduce his chances of victory over President Obama but impact his chances of making a difference even if he wins.

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Mitt Romney is in London today showing his ability to act on the international stage as well as seeking to emphasize that he is prepared to embrace America’s traditional allies in Britain, Poland and Israel in contrast to President Obama’s desire to distance the U.S. from these nations. In London he will also get reacquainted with British Prime Minister David Cameron with whom he found himself in an unplanned and unnecessary spat about Olympic preparations. But rather than take lessons from him on how to get elected and to govern as a conservative, Cameron provides a sterling example of the bad choices that Romney should avoid during the campaign as well as once in office should he triumph in November.

It should be stipulated that the political cultures and circumstances of the two countries are vastly different. For all of their problems, Republicans are not in the position that Britain’s Conservative Party found itself prior to Cameron becoming PM in May 2010. The Tories needed a makeover after 13 years out of government while Tony Blair’s new Labor ruled. They got it with the handsome Cameron who sought to refashion the party’s image away from Margaret Thatcher’s “nasty party” to a new Conservative leadership that embraced environmentalism, gay rights and any other issue that would make them more popular. But while Cameron remains in residence at Number 10 Downing Street, the experiment of watering down conservative ideology has not been successful. The instinctively moderate Romney needs to take notice of Cameron’s failures. If he doesn’t, it will not only reduce his chances of victory over President Obama but impact his chances of making a difference even if he wins.

Some would argue that Cameron had to take the Tories down a path in which traditional conservative positions were jettisoned. Britain had moved on from Thatcher’s era, and the move of Labor to the center under Blair stood to become permanent if the Tories did not accommodate themselves to the change in the climate. Cameron’s embrace of politically correct positions on social issues and the environment combined with fiscal conservatism seemed the perfect formula for victory. But in spite of Labor’s collapse under Blair’s successor Gordon Brown and the readiness of the voters for change, Cameron’s weak tea approach to policy did not bring the victory he expected. Instead of winning the election outright, he was forced to make a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in order to achieve his goal of becoming prime minister. But in order to do that, he had to further weaken his party’s base.

Two years later, Cameron is saddled with a disgruntled liberal coalition partner and a party base that not only despises him but which is, as Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail writes, literally disintegrating. Though Tories cannot count on the same large, religious and deeply politically conservative base that is the heart of the GOP, the party activists in the shires, without whom future victories are impossible, are abandoning Cameron in droves. He is getting all the blame for Britain’s austerity budget. but having failed to provide a clear ideological alternative to Labor (British writer Melanie Phillips aptly dubbed him “David Obameron” in response to his open affection for the American president), he is unable to frame the issue in a manner that will gain him credit for keeping the nation afloat.

While the dilemmas facing Republicans and Tories are starkly different, what Romney can learn from Cameron is that a politician who tries to be all things to all people can not only snatch near defeat from the jaws of victory as the PM did two years ago but is not likely to be able to govern effectively or retain the loyalty of his party. Standing up for conservative principles can be difficult in the face of the opprobrium that it will bring from the liberal mainstream media, but such brickbats are the price one must pay for principle. Cameron was unwilling to pay that price, and though he may have achieved his ambition to become prime minister, it has cost him the ability to govern effectively and may well lead to his eventual defeat.

Romney should enjoy his British visit, but if he wants a good British model he should look to Cameron’s Tory predecessors such as Thatcher and Winston Churchill (whose bust he has promised to return to the Oval Office after its removal by Obama). If he wants to win he should follow their examples rather than that of the feckless Obama-light Cameron.

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The Olympics and the Peace Process

The controversy about the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Munich massacre has taught us a lot about what is wrong with both the Olympic movement and the way the international community thinks about Israel. It bears repeating that were the athletes of any other country to be murdered the way the 11 Israelis were slain at Munich in 1972, remembrance would have become a permanent feature of opening ceremonies of the games. But doing so for these victims is deemed a political intrusion into the joy of the sports extravaganza. But lest anyone forget why this is so, the Palestinian Authority gave us a sharp reminder not only of the motivation of the Black September terrorists who committed this crime but of why the peace process is dead in the water.

As Palestine Media Watch reports, Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, wrote the following in a letter sent to IOC Chair Jacques Rogge commending his refusal of a moment of silence that was published by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida yesterday:

Sports are meant for peace, not for racism … Sports are a bridge to love, interconnection, and spreading of peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism between them.

The article in the PA newspaper referred to the massacre as “the Munich Operation, which took place during the Munich Olympics in 1972.” The point is, the PA thinks of this atrocity as a heroic deed and part of the historical legacy of the Palestinian national movement, not an act of terrorism. Jibril praises Rogge because honoring the victims of Munich is, in the view of the Palestinians, an indictment of them. Worry about offending the Palestinians by drawing attention to their past is the real reason for the IOC’s refusal. But the implications of this issue go much farther than the Olympics. The devotion of the Palestinians to the memory of the Munich terrorists is a symptom of the way their political culture clings not just to violence but also to opposition to the legitimacy of Israel.

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The controversy about the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Munich massacre has taught us a lot about what is wrong with both the Olympic movement and the way the international community thinks about Israel. It bears repeating that were the athletes of any other country to be murdered the way the 11 Israelis were slain at Munich in 1972, remembrance would have become a permanent feature of opening ceremonies of the games. But doing so for these victims is deemed a political intrusion into the joy of the sports extravaganza. But lest anyone forget why this is so, the Palestinian Authority gave us a sharp reminder not only of the motivation of the Black September terrorists who committed this crime but of why the peace process is dead in the water.

As Palestine Media Watch reports, Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, wrote the following in a letter sent to IOC Chair Jacques Rogge commending his refusal of a moment of silence that was published by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida yesterday:

Sports are meant for peace, not for racism … Sports are a bridge to love, interconnection, and spreading of peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism between them.

The article in the PA newspaper referred to the massacre as “the Munich Operation, which took place during the Munich Olympics in 1972.” The point is, the PA thinks of this atrocity as a heroic deed and part of the historical legacy of the Palestinian national movement, not an act of terrorism. Jibril praises Rogge because honoring the victims of Munich is, in the view of the Palestinians, an indictment of them. Worry about offending the Palestinians by drawing attention to their past is the real reason for the IOC’s refusal. But the implications of this issue go much farther than the Olympics. The devotion of the Palestinians to the memory of the Munich terrorists is a symptom of the way their political culture clings not just to violence but also to opposition to the legitimacy of Israel.

The reference to “racism” in Rajoub’s letter isn’t just a recycling of liberal pap meant to resonate with the politically correct world of the IOC. It was a carefully chosen word that harkened to the Palestinian belief that the existence of Israel was an act of “racism.” They believe the Munich attack was not only heroic but justified because Israel, its athletes and its people have no place in the Middle East. As Palestine Media Watch documents, the PA media and its officials have often praised the Munich terrorists who, after all, carried out their crime at the behest of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat (the “Black September” organization that was said to have organized the attack was merely a cover for Arafat’s Fatah).

The reaction to the demand for a moment of silence has taught us a lot. It gave friends of Israel, even those whose affection for the Jewish state is somewhat lukewarm like President Obama, an opportunity to do the right thing and join the call to remember the victims of Munich. Others, such as NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who has said he will impose his own moment of silence when the Israeli team enters the stadium for the opening gala, have proved their seriousness and devotion to principle.

But for Palestinians, the issue was another chance to show us that their political culture has yet to reach the point of maturity where they can jettison their terrorist past. Having come into existence in the 20th century as an expression of a desire to reject the Jews more than to promote a specifically Palestinian Arab identity, their national movement is still mired in the swamp of terror. Their attitude toward Munich shows they have yet to grow up. It’s not likely they will until the world forces them to do so rather than, as Rogge has done, indulge their destructive embrace of terror.

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Emanuel Has No Problem With Farrakhan

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may, as Bethany wrote yesterday, have a problem with Chick-fil-A but apparently he has far more tolerance for anti-Semitic lunatics than for gay marriage opponents. Chick-fil-A might be getting blocked from the city, but Emanuel warmly applauded Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam for patrolling the city streets yesterday, with no mention of Farrakhan’s long-held anti-Semitism:

Ignoring Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic remarks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday welcomed the army of men dispatched to the streets by Farrakhan to stop the violence in Chicago neighborhoods. …

“The police have a role to play. Tearing down abandoned buildings has a role to play. Shutting liquor stores that are a cancer in the community have a role to play. Community leaders have a role to play. Pastors have a role to play. Principals have a role to play. And most importantly, parents have roles to play. They have decided, the Nation of Islam, to help protect the community. And that’s an important ingredient, like all the other aspects of protecting a neighborhood.”

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may, as Bethany wrote yesterday, have a problem with Chick-fil-A but apparently he has far more tolerance for anti-Semitic lunatics than for gay marriage opponents. Chick-fil-A might be getting blocked from the city, but Emanuel warmly applauded Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam for patrolling the city streets yesterday, with no mention of Farrakhan’s long-held anti-Semitism:

Ignoring Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic remarks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday welcomed the army of men dispatched to the streets by Farrakhan to stop the violence in Chicago neighborhoods. …

“The police have a role to play. Tearing down abandoned buildings has a role to play. Shutting liquor stores that are a cancer in the community have a role to play. Community leaders have a role to play. Pastors have a role to play. Principals have a role to play. And most importantly, parents have roles to play. They have decided, the Nation of Islam, to help protect the community. And that’s an important ingredient, like all the other aspects of protecting a neighborhood.”

Farrakhan has been deploying groups of his followers to crime-ridden city neighborhoods on Mondays, to act as a “human wall of protection” in case gunfire suddenly breaks out and stray bullets start flying. That seems like a flawless plan, so you can see why Emanuel would find Farrakhan incredibly important to the crime-fighting efforts.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from a speech Farrakhan gave earlier this month, transcribed by the ADL:

Farrakhan: How many of you are lawyers? Only have one in the house? No wonder we go to jail so much, brother! But at the top of the law profession, who are the top in law?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Sorry I didn’t hear you.

Audience: Jews!

Farrakhan: Any doctors in the house? Ain’t got no doctors? Oh there’s one way in the back. At the top of the medical profession, the top in that are members of the Jewish community. Anybody in media? Who’s the top in that field?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Anybody a rapper in the house? There’s rappers. You can rap, ain’t nothing wrong with that, but at the top of that are those that control the industry. Any of you have Hollywood ambitions, Broadway ambitions? Who’s the top of that?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: Same people! They’re masters in business. Well I’m not a businessman I’m a banker. Well who’s the master of the bankers?

Audience: Jews.

Farrakhan: TALK TO ME!

Audience: Jews!

Farrakhan: You don’t discredit them because they’re masters, you discredit them by the way they use their mastery.

Audience: [applause]

Farrakhan: Now, I close

Good thing Emanuel is taking a stand against those bigoted Chick-fil-A franchises, am I right?

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Settler Leader’s Wrongheaded Proposal

Yesha Chairman Dani Dayan’s New York Times op-ed is sure to rankle Mideast watchers on both sides of the issue. Dayan writes that not only is the two-state solution dead, but it should be declared so and the settlement movement should be free to expand throughout the West Bank. Although Dayan makes a couple of important points about the weakness of the current push for a two-state solution, he ignores both an accepted reality and the Palestinian people, and two of his ideas contained in the op-ed would be, if accepted, detrimental to the American foreign policy doctrine that results in such steadfast American support for Israel.

First and foremost, a majority of Israelis (usually around the 60 percent mark, sometimes higher) consistently support the two-state solution, even at a time when that proposal is clearly at a post-Oslo low point. So Dayan need not appeal to readers of the New York Times; he is far from convincing his own countrymen to join him. It is much easier to understand why the Times chose to publish the op-ed: the American left would like to frame the debate as consisting of two points of view–Dayan’s and J Street’s. Both are outside the mainstream consensus on this issue, and it is only up against Dayan’s arguments that the hard-left can appear reasonable. With regard to Dayan, there are three questions he should be asked after writing this op-ed.

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Yesha Chairman Dani Dayan’s New York Times op-ed is sure to rankle Mideast watchers on both sides of the issue. Dayan writes that not only is the two-state solution dead, but it should be declared so and the settlement movement should be free to expand throughout the West Bank. Although Dayan makes a couple of important points about the weakness of the current push for a two-state solution, he ignores both an accepted reality and the Palestinian people, and two of his ideas contained in the op-ed would be, if accepted, detrimental to the American foreign policy doctrine that results in such steadfast American support for Israel.

First and foremost, a majority of Israelis (usually around the 60 percent mark, sometimes higher) consistently support the two-state solution, even at a time when that proposal is clearly at a post-Oslo low point. So Dayan need not appeal to readers of the New York Times; he is far from convincing his own countrymen to join him. It is much easier to understand why the Times chose to publish the op-ed: the American left would like to frame the debate as consisting of two points of view–Dayan’s and J Street’s. Both are outside the mainstream consensus on this issue, and it is only up against Dayan’s arguments that the hard-left can appear reasonable. With regard to Dayan, there are three questions he should be asked after writing this op-ed.

First, the obvious: What about the Palestinians? Dayan doesn’t say Israel should give the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria voting rights. If he would, is he not concerned about the demographics at play? If he would not, is he suggesting that the Palestinians should be a permanently stateless people and that Israel would be permanently without clear national borders? He writes that Israeli security should be paramount, but the Judea and Samaria he envisions would be a long-term security nightmare for Israel.

Second, has he thought through the implications to U.S. foreign policy of his proposal? Specifically, he seems to want the U.S.–a principal external force on the peace process–to ignore its own dedication to the right of self-determination for the Palestinians. But that would mean weakening American devotion to the general principle of self-determination, which is a major driving force behind continued American support for Israel. Does Dayan, as a political figure in a country whose right to exist is constantly being questioned by a resurging global anti-Semitism, not just in the Arab states but all over Europe, really want to weaken American support for the idea of a right to self-determination?

Additionally, Dayan writes that the return of the Palestinian refugees from around the Arab world to the Palestinian state would be a major security threat. But he also acknowledges that those Palestinian refugees are treated as second-class citizens in those countries and kept in squalor elsewhere (chiefly by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency). Should they stay that way? And isn’t a primary goal of Israeli national policy to convince the Palestinians to return to a Palestinian state, not Israel? Humanitarian concerns often clash with security concerns, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the humanitarian concerns altogether–it means we go back to the drawing board and get creative, not give up.

And finally: Dayan claims removing the settlers would be impossible. Why? Today there are no settlers in Gaza. He’s also moving the goal posts; many of the settlements would remain in Israel as part of any final-status agreement. Israel’s critics often dishonestly ignore this when speaking in broad terms about The Settlers. Dayan is making the same mistake, and playing right into their hands.

The fact is, Dayan is right that the current Palestinian leadership prefers the status quo, and are not making the effort needed to secure a deal. He’s also right that a Hamas takeover of all of the future state of Palestine would immediately nullify the peace deal, and anyone who thinks Hamas isn’t still dedicated to Israel’s destruction is not paying attention. But it would be more constructive if Dayan made these critiques of Mideast policy as part of an effort to reform the current structure of the two-state solution in ways that might make it more workable, not less.

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Business Owners Disapprove of Obama

Via today’s Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating among business owners dropped significantly during the second quarter:

Business owners were the sole group that became significantly less approving, with their second-quarter approval of 35% reflecting a decline from 41% in the first quarter.

While there are too few respondents in some occupational groups to report their approval ratings by month, the internal data suggest the decline in business owners’ approval of Obama came for the most part between March and April, with approval holding at a lower rate since then. The data precede Obama’s much-discussed July 13 comments that small-business owners have had help from others to achieve success. Thus it is not yet clear whether those comments have led to further deterioration in Obama’s standing among small-business owners.

It’s interesting that the decline began in March and April, as the Obama campaign didn’t really start the full-on attacks on private equity until May. But if you recall, March and April were the Democratic Party’s “war on women” months, which certainly could have turned off business owners who aren’t thrilled with the federal government infringing on the religious beliefs of private employers.

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Via today’s Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating among business owners dropped significantly during the second quarter:

Business owners were the sole group that became significantly less approving, with their second-quarter approval of 35% reflecting a decline from 41% in the first quarter.

While there are too few respondents in some occupational groups to report their approval ratings by month, the internal data suggest the decline in business owners’ approval of Obama came for the most part between March and April, with approval holding at a lower rate since then. The data precede Obama’s much-discussed July 13 comments that small-business owners have had help from others to achieve success. Thus it is not yet clear whether those comments have led to further deterioration in Obama’s standing among small-business owners.

It’s interesting that the decline began in March and April, as the Obama campaign didn’t really start the full-on attacks on private equity until May. But if you recall, March and April were the Democratic Party’s “war on women” months, which certainly could have turned off business owners who aren’t thrilled with the federal government infringing on the religious beliefs of private employers.

Note that this poll was taken before Obama’s “you didn’t build that” flap. At HotAir, Ed Morrissey wonders whether this means Obama doesn’t have much to lose:

Business owners obviously weren’t terribly enamored of Obama even before the “you didn’t build that” comment. That prompts a question as to whether the anger it stokes among entrepreneurs will really do that much damage to Obama. He might lose a big chunk of the 35% of business owners that approved of him in the second quarter, but the class-warfare tactic could help to improve his standing in other categories.

I think Obama was already prepared to take a hit with business owners, after his support for raising taxes on high-income earners, and of course the regulatory burdens of ObamaCare. That was the whole point of his “you didn’t build that” populism — to pit the public against the “business owners” who supposedly aren’t paying their fair share. The problem was, he slipped up and his comments came off as aggressive class warfare instead of a call for “fairness.” Most Americans don’t own businesses, and yet most Americans have an appreciation for business owners and entrepreneurs. Many would probably like to own their own business someday.

So while Obama can probably get away with saying business owners should pay more in taxes, he can’t get away with crediting government for their achievements. It’s not business owners who Obama lost with that speech, it’s the wide swath of the public that admires them and hopes to fulfill their own entrepreneurial dreams one day.

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GOP Unjustly Called “Party of Sodom”

Appealing to the Bible, Gershom Gorenberg earlier this week declared that the Republican Party is the “party of Sodom.” In claiming that “the GOP is rather obviously committed to the quality of Sodom,” he was not referring to a sexual sin (that is more a Christian than a Jewish interpretation of the biblical story), but rather to “economic injustice, selfishness, and refusal to redistribute wealth.” The Talmud pithily encapsulates this quality, he notes, with the phrase, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours.”

These “selfish economics,” Gorenberg goes on, are espoused by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and shared by Benjamin Netanyahu. In Sodom, apparently, there would have been no problem passing the Paul Ryan budget. (Incidentally, how would the Democrats’ budget have fared? Oh right. Oops.) Read More

Appealing to the Bible, Gershom Gorenberg earlier this week declared that the Republican Party is the “party of Sodom.” In claiming that “the GOP is rather obviously committed to the quality of Sodom,” he was not referring to a sexual sin (that is more a Christian than a Jewish interpretation of the biblical story), but rather to “economic injustice, selfishness, and refusal to redistribute wealth.” The Talmud pithily encapsulates this quality, he notes, with the phrase, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours.”

These “selfish economics,” Gorenberg goes on, are espoused by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and shared by Benjamin Netanyahu. In Sodom, apparently, there would have been no problem passing the Paul Ryan budget. (Incidentally, how would the Democrats’ budget have fared? Oh right. Oops.)

Unfortunately for Gorenberg, all he really achieves in his post is yet another demonstration of how liberals profoundly misunderstand conservative thought. Yet, the conservative position is so straightforward that their failure to apprehend it is quite remarkable: government should be small so that society and the individual can be large. This, conservatives believe, encourages true compassion and selflessness: one cares for one’s neighbor oneself or as a community, rather than leave the government to do it, and those receiving aid do their utmost to strive for economic self-sufficiency where possible. It is a society where “redistribution of wealth” is replaced by charity and integrity. Hardly “what’s mine is mine.”

And this isn’t theoretical. The data already shows it: conservatives give staggeringly more than liberals to charitable causes, and Mitt Romney in particular has given more (in absolute and proportional terms) than any other presidential candidate for whom we have a record. Party of Sodom, eh? Now who’s being unjust?

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Reid, WH Work to Weaken Iran Sanctions

The Obama administration has been bragging about the strength of the international coalition it has assembled against Iran and the “crippling sanctions” it has imposed on the Islamist regime. But the dirty little secret about the sanctions is they are riddled with loopholes. Not only has the Treasury Department issued thousands of exemptions to companies that wish to do business with Iran, but President Obama has also specifically granted permission to China and India to go on importing oil from it. Though the sanctions have caused pain to the ordinary Iranian, the government is still raking in more cash from oil sales than it did a decade ago before the sanctions took effect.

This gives some important context to the debate going on in Congress right now about the imposition of a new sanctions bill that takes aim at insurance companies that underwrite Iranian investments. The legislation is vital if a major loophole is to be closed that will make it even more difficult for Iran to conduct commerce. But lobbying from insurance companies that don’t wish to have their businesses impeded are working against the bill. Even more seriously, as the Washington Free Beacon reports, they’ve got Majority Leader Harry Reid on their side.

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The Obama administration has been bragging about the strength of the international coalition it has assembled against Iran and the “crippling sanctions” it has imposed on the Islamist regime. But the dirty little secret about the sanctions is they are riddled with loopholes. Not only has the Treasury Department issued thousands of exemptions to companies that wish to do business with Iran, but President Obama has also specifically granted permission to China and India to go on importing oil from it. Though the sanctions have caused pain to the ordinary Iranian, the government is still raking in more cash from oil sales than it did a decade ago before the sanctions took effect.

This gives some important context to the debate going on in Congress right now about the imposition of a new sanctions bill that takes aim at insurance companies that underwrite Iranian investments. The legislation is vital if a major loophole is to be closed that will make it even more difficult for Iran to conduct commerce. But lobbying from insurance companies that don’t wish to have their businesses impeded are working against the bill. Even more seriously, as the Washington Free Beacon reports, they’ve got Majority Leader Harry Reid on their side.

Though the sanctions legislation is working its way through the House of Representatives, Reid and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) are doing their best to weaken the bill to please insurance companies that are major donors to their campaigns. Combined with the continued reluctance of the Obama administration — which fought the sanctions that they now boast of to supporters of Israel — the odds of the legislation getting through both houses without being completely watered down are not good.

While previous sanctions bills that limited the ability of Iran’s national bank to do business abroad were able to overcome the administration’s efforts to stop it, the additional burden of having to deal with the influence of the insurance industry may be too much to beat. Reid and Johnson have actually already stopped a previous sanctions bill from including insurance companies. As the WFB’s Adam Kredo notes, insurance lobbyists may even be able to count on some House Republicans to strip the bill of its teeth despite the support of the GOP leadership for the legislation.

Insurance companies are able to work on the sympathy of members of Congress not only because of their campaign donations but because they can claim they and their employees and investors will be hurt by the sanctions. That may be true, but if the embargo on Iran is not airtight, the attempt to convince Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions is hopeless. It may already be too late for sanctions to work, but isolating the terrorist-sponsoring Islamist state is a vital U.S. national interest. For the White House and leading members of the Senate to sabotage this measure while still claiming they are serious about Iran is not just hypocritical. It’s a sign the Democrats are talking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue.

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Chicago and Boston Chose Liberalism Over First Amendment

Last week, I discussed liberal intolerance of those in opposition of their particular viewpoints, and almost on cue, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino came onto the scene today to embody the ideals of modern-day liberalism: tolerance of only those with whom they already agree. Both mayors expressed support for same-sex marriage and not only expressed their personal opposition to Chick-fil-A’s social conservatism, but also those of their cities.

In a public letter to Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy, and carbon copied to the owner of a property that it appears Chick-fil-A would occupy, Mayor Menino expressed his opposition to the chicken restaurant’s plans to locate in Boston. The strongly worded letter reads in part, “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

To be clear, Chick-fil-A discriminates against no one, not employees and not customers; its policies expressly forbid it. Chick-fil-A and its president have expressed their support of the traditional family and Christian values, which are not by definition anti-gay. Their charitable organization, WinShape, has donated money not only to organizations that support traditional marriage, but also to foster homes, college scholarships and international relief efforts. Chick-fil-A’s other charitable contributions are irrelevant to those who view anyone who is not with them on the quest to redefine marriage as a bigot who must be taken down at any cost.

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Last week, I discussed liberal intolerance of those in opposition of their particular viewpoints, and almost on cue, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino came onto the scene today to embody the ideals of modern-day liberalism: tolerance of only those with whom they already agree. Both mayors expressed support for same-sex marriage and not only expressed their personal opposition to Chick-fil-A’s social conservatism, but also those of their cities.

In a public letter to Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy, and carbon copied to the owner of a property that it appears Chick-fil-A would occupy, Mayor Menino expressed his opposition to the chicken restaurant’s plans to locate in Boston. The strongly worded letter reads in part, “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

To be clear, Chick-fil-A discriminates against no one, not employees and not customers; its policies expressly forbid it. Chick-fil-A and its president have expressed their support of the traditional family and Christian values, which are not by definition anti-gay. Their charitable organization, WinShape, has donated money not only to organizations that support traditional marriage, but also to foster homes, college scholarships and international relief efforts. Chick-fil-A’s other charitable contributions are irrelevant to those who view anyone who is not with them on the quest to redefine marriage as a bigot who must be taken down at any cost.

Not to be outdone, Chicago’s Mayor (and Barack Obama’s former chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel announced support of a Chicago alderman’s refusal to approve a building permit for Chick-fil-A in one of Chicago’s wards. The Volokh Conspiracy explains just how unconstitutional this move is:

But denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.

And this is so even if there is no statutory right to a particular kind of building permit (and I don’t know what the rule is under Illinois law). Even if the government may deny permits to people based on various reasons, it may not deny permits to people based on their exercise of his First Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if the applicant expresses speech that doesn’t share the government officials’ values, or even the values of the majority of local citizens. It doesn’t matter if the applicant’s speech is seen as “disrespect[ful]” of certain groups. The First Amendment generally protects people’s rights to express such views without worrying that the government will deny them business permits as a result. That’s basic First Amendment law — but Alderman Moreno, Mayor Menino, and, apparently, Mayor Emanuel (if his statement is quoted in context), seem to either not know or not care about the law.

Of course, if Chick-fil-A actually discriminated in their serving or hiring decisions in Chicago in a way forbidden by Chicago or Illinois law, they could be punished for this violation, and possibly even denied future permits based on such illegal behavior. But the stories give no evidence of any such actions, and suggest that the city officials’ statements are based on the Chick-fil-A president’s speech, not any illegal conduct on the company’s part. Finally, note that the government may generally insist that, when it hires people to communicate a government message, those people use that government money only for the government-selected speech (see Rust v. Sullivan (1991)); but that power of the government to control its own speech is far removed from the government’s attempt in this case to retaliate against businesses for their owners’ speech.

Imagine, for a moment, if Governors Rick Perry or Chris Christie banned the sale of Ben & Jerry’s from their states because of that company’s support of same-sex marriage. What if, as his first act as president, Mitt Romney banned the Muppets from government-funded PBS after the Jim Henson company expressed their opposition to Chick-fil-A? You can just hear the wails of the editorial pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, the anchors of every major news station (including Fox) crying “FASCISM!” They would be absolutely correct in their charge. Using the government’s power to restrict commerce based on a personal vendetta is a chilling next step in a culture war that has turned business owners, job creators and people of faith into public enemies.

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Veteran Diplomat: Obama No Israel Lover

While Obama campaign surrogates are spending the summer beating the bushes trying to convince Jewish voters not to believe anything they saw the president do to Israel during his first three years in office, a veteran Washington peace processor and critic of Benjamin Netanyahu has the chutzpah to tell the truth about the state of the U.S.-Israel relationship, in an article in Foreign Policy today. Aaron David Miller spent 24 years working for several administrations, pushing hard to force Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. But he understands the difference between presidents who care about Israel and ones who don’t. In an article in which he forecasts “Turbulence Ahead” for the U.S.-Israel relationship if President Obama is re-elected, Miller says one of the key problems is the attitude of the man in the White House:

I’ve watched a few presidents come and go on this issue, and Obama really is different. Unlike Clinton and George W. Bush, Obama isn’t in love with the idea of Israel. As a result, he has a harder time making allowances for Israeli behavior he doesn’t like. Obama relates to the Jewish state not on a values continuum but through a national security and interest filter.

It’s true that the president doesn’t emote on many policy issues, with the possible exception of health care. But on Israel, he just doesn’t buy the “tiny state living on the knife’s edge with the dark past” argument — or at least it doesn’t come through in emotionally resonant terms. …

In this respect, when it comes to Israel, Obama is more like Jimmy Carter minus the biblical interest or attachment, or like Bush 41 minus a strategy. My sense is that, if he could get away with it, the president would like to see a U.S.-Israeli relationship that is not just less exclusive, but somewhat less special as well.

Miller doesn’t pull punches about Netanyahu’s shortcomings nor does he blow the current difficulties out of proportion. He rightly acknowledges this isn’t the first time there has been tension between the two nations. But Miller’s discussion of Obama’s view of the Jewish state goes right to the heart of the problem. Obama’s apologists can deny these facts all they want, but the ordinary pro-Israel voter isn’t fooled, which accounts not only for the polls that show the president bleeding support but also for the Jewish charm offensive the administration has been conducting in recent months.

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While Obama campaign surrogates are spending the summer beating the bushes trying to convince Jewish voters not to believe anything they saw the president do to Israel during his first three years in office, a veteran Washington peace processor and critic of Benjamin Netanyahu has the chutzpah to tell the truth about the state of the U.S.-Israel relationship, in an article in Foreign Policy today. Aaron David Miller spent 24 years working for several administrations, pushing hard to force Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. But he understands the difference between presidents who care about Israel and ones who don’t. In an article in which he forecasts “Turbulence Ahead” for the U.S.-Israel relationship if President Obama is re-elected, Miller says one of the key problems is the attitude of the man in the White House:

I’ve watched a few presidents come and go on this issue, and Obama really is different. Unlike Clinton and George W. Bush, Obama isn’t in love with the idea of Israel. As a result, he has a harder time making allowances for Israeli behavior he doesn’t like. Obama relates to the Jewish state not on a values continuum but through a national security and interest filter.

It’s true that the president doesn’t emote on many policy issues, with the possible exception of health care. But on Israel, he just doesn’t buy the “tiny state living on the knife’s edge with the dark past” argument — or at least it doesn’t come through in emotionally resonant terms. …

In this respect, when it comes to Israel, Obama is more like Jimmy Carter minus the biblical interest or attachment, or like Bush 41 minus a strategy. My sense is that, if he could get away with it, the president would like to see a U.S.-Israeli relationship that is not just less exclusive, but somewhat less special as well.

Miller doesn’t pull punches about Netanyahu’s shortcomings nor does he blow the current difficulties out of proportion. He rightly acknowledges this isn’t the first time there has been tension between the two nations. But Miller’s discussion of Obama’s view of the Jewish state goes right to the heart of the problem. Obama’s apologists can deny these facts all they want, but the ordinary pro-Israel voter isn’t fooled, which accounts not only for the polls that show the president bleeding support but also for the Jewish charm offensive the administration has been conducting in recent months.

As Miller points out, the impending crisis about Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons makes the need for close cooperation between the U.S. and Israel vital. But Obama’s coldness toward the Jewish state not only creates dangerous daylight between the two nations but also undermines the notion that Israelis should defer to and rely on the United States in a crisis. If the president is unhappy about the prospect of Israel striking out on its own on Iran, he has no one to blame but himself.

While Obama’s supporters keep trying to pretend there is no problem, Miller is merely saying what everyone already knows when he observes: “Obama’s views are much closer to the Palestinians than to Israel.”

As for the future, Miller points out that past confrontations between U.S. and Israeli leaders has led to them both being defeated for re-election, as was the case with the elder George Bush and Yitzhak Shamir in 1992. But Netanyahu is not in much danger of losing the next Israeli election. That means if Obama survives Romney’s challenge, the odds are the next four years will be difficult. As Miller writes, “Buckle your seat belts. It may be a wild ride.” That’s a prediction pro-Israel voters should take seriously this fall.

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Dem Pollster: Jews Could Sink Obama in FL

Could the Jewish vote go Republican this year? The answer, as always, is no, of course not. But President Obama has lost enough ground with Jewish voters to create some problems for himself in Florida, as Democratic pollster Doug Schoen explained on Newsmax TV:

One of Obama’s biggest hurdles: capturing Florida’s Jewish voters. The president, polls show, has about 60-65 percent of the Jewish vote, but, says Schoen, if Obama does not win “a full 75 percent…it could, in fact, be decisive.”

The state is “effectively deadlocked,” said Schoen, the author of Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond.

“Jews are necessarily torn, because they see the president as somebody who, aspirationally, has committed himself to Israel,” he said. “At the same time, there have been concerns about the settlement policy and also about the nature of his commitment to do whatever it takes in Iran.”

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Could the Jewish vote go Republican this year? The answer, as always, is no, of course not. But President Obama has lost enough ground with Jewish voters to create some problems for himself in Florida, as Democratic pollster Doug Schoen explained on Newsmax TV:

One of Obama’s biggest hurdles: capturing Florida’s Jewish voters. The president, polls show, has about 60-65 percent of the Jewish vote, but, says Schoen, if Obama does not win “a full 75 percent…it could, in fact, be decisive.”

The state is “effectively deadlocked,” said Schoen, the author of Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond.

“Jews are necessarily torn, because they see the president as somebody who, aspirationally, has committed himself to Israel,” he said. “At the same time, there have been concerns about the settlement policy and also about the nature of his commitment to do whatever it takes in Iran.”

The familiar debate about the Jewish vote is reigniting now that Romney is visiting Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition is kicking off its swing state campaign. As Jonathan wrote earlier today, the New York Times reports the RJC is reaching out to Jewish voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, in an effort to chip away at Obama’s support base. The majority of Jewish voters still back Obama, but his poll numbers have dipped significantly since 2008:

The group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, plans to begin a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in the coming weeks called “My Buyer’s Remorse,” targeting voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, aides said. The campaign uses testimonials from people who say they regret supporting Mr. Obama because of his economic policies and his posture toward Israel, in hopes of cutting into the wide advantage Democrats have held over Republicans among Jewish voters.

Obama will have a difficult time countering the RJC campaign, as he seems to be lacking in the pro-Israel surrogates department at the moment. Even Obama’s own supporters don’t seem to be denying he’s bad for Israel anymore. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told the Times that  “The people who vote only on Israel didn’t vote for Obama last time and know who they are voting for already.” So there you have it, directly from J Street. If you judge the president on his Israel policy, you probably won’t support him.

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Obama Buyer’s Remorse Not About Adelson

Ever since the confrontation between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in May of 2011 about the president’s attempt to dictate that the 1967 lines would be the starting point for future Middle East peace negotiations, speculation about the impact of this on the president’s re-election has been intense. Since then, numerous polls have shown it is highly unlikely that Obama would get anywhere close to the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he received in 2008. Republicans are eager to take advantage of this factor in November, much as they did last year when a special election in New York’s 8th congressional district went to the GOP over this issue. But leave it to the New York Times to focus an article on this almost completely on billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the centerpiece of an article on the front page of today’s Times about an ad campaign undertaken by the Republican Jewish Coalition highlighting the “buyer’s remorse” felt by many Jews who voted for the president four years ago but will not support him again because of his stands on Israel and the state of the economy. That the RJC would be running such ads in battleground states is hardly surprising, especially because the question of the Jewish vote being a possibly decisive factor in the outcome this year has been a matter of discussion for months. Not only did I write about this in the March issue of COMMENTARY, but just yesterday, Reuters also devoted a feature to the way Jewish voters could make the difference in Florida. But for the Times, it’s all about Adelson, who, despite being mentioned in the headline (“Mogul’s Latest Foray Courts Jews for the G.O.P.”) and the caption to a photo showing the ads, is just one of several RJC supporters who helped underwrite their production and distribution. Though liberal Jews quoted in the article are in denial about the president’s problems, and the paper would like to make it appear this is merely the function of a plutocrat’s whim, the reason why the ads are resonating is that a significant percentage of Jewish voters have been disillusioned by the president’s attitude toward Israel.

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Ever since the confrontation between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in May of 2011 about the president’s attempt to dictate that the 1967 lines would be the starting point for future Middle East peace negotiations, speculation about the impact of this on the president’s re-election has been intense. Since then, numerous polls have shown it is highly unlikely that Obama would get anywhere close to the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he received in 2008. Republicans are eager to take advantage of this factor in November, much as they did last year when a special election in New York’s 8th congressional district went to the GOP over this issue. But leave it to the New York Times to focus an article on this almost completely on billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the centerpiece of an article on the front page of today’s Times about an ad campaign undertaken by the Republican Jewish Coalition highlighting the “buyer’s remorse” felt by many Jews who voted for the president four years ago but will not support him again because of his stands on Israel and the state of the economy. That the RJC would be running such ads in battleground states is hardly surprising, especially because the question of the Jewish vote being a possibly decisive factor in the outcome this year has been a matter of discussion for months. Not only did I write about this in the March issue of COMMENTARY, but just yesterday, Reuters also devoted a feature to the way Jewish voters could make the difference in Florida. But for the Times, it’s all about Adelson, who, despite being mentioned in the headline (“Mogul’s Latest Foray Courts Jews for the G.O.P.”) and the caption to a photo showing the ads, is just one of several RJC supporters who helped underwrite their production and distribution. Though liberal Jews quoted in the article are in denial about the president’s problems, and the paper would like to make it appear this is merely the function of a plutocrat’s whim, the reason why the ads are resonating is that a significant percentage of Jewish voters have been disillusioned by the president’s attitude toward Israel.

Framing the issue as one that is merely the result of Adelson’s money does little to illuminate a genuine problem for the Democrats. Though liberals are right to claim the president will carry a majority of Jewish votes this year, even the most optimistic polls show his share of the Jewish vote will decline by 10 percent though the decline may turn out to be much greater than that. Mitt Romney, whose trip to Israel this week will help highlight the differences between him and the president, is likely to get the highest percentage of Jewish votes than any Republican since Ronald Reagan. Though in absolute numbers this may not amount to much, in states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the margin between the two candidates will probably be razor thin, this will be meaningful.

The denial of these facts by Obama supporters like J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, who was given the last word in the piece to claim “there is no such thing as a Jewish problem for the president,” is absurd. But you don’t have to believe the Republican Jewish Coalition to understand that the Obama campaign knows it is in trouble with the Jews. All you had to do was to observe the all-out Jewish charm offensive that the administration has been conducting since Obama’s ambush of Netanyahu last year.

For three years, Obama focused on hammering Israel, picking fights with its government and seeking to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians. But once the New York congressional race and national polls made it plain that Obama was bleeding Jewish votes in a manner reminiscent of Jimmy Carter, the president and his surrogates have been working overtime to persuade Jews to accept the dubious assertion that he is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Those efforts will help contain his losses and, as even the Republicans concede, most Jews are such partisan Democrats and so liberal that there is virtually nothing Obama could do to Israel to cause him to get less than 50 percent of the Jewish vote. But a result that saw his share decline to the mid-60 percent level or lower would be a disaster for the Democrats, and they know it.

The president’s Jewish problem would exist even if there were no Sheldon Adelson. But those who wish to demonize the casino mogul would like to change the subject from Obama’s fights with Israel to Adelson’s money. While Adelson is an easy target, attacks on Republican efforts to tap into Jewish buyer’s remorse won’t make the Democrats’ problems disappear.

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Romney Denies “Anglo-Saxon” Story

This “Anglo-Saxon heritage” story sounded unbelievable from the get-go. An unnamed Romney foreign policy adviser allegedly told the London Telegraph that Romney would usher in better relations with the UK because he understands the “Anglo-Saxon heritage” better than President Obama — a oddly-phrased comment that clearly has racial undertones.

It’s usually a good idea to be skeptical of sensational-sounding Telegraph stories about U.S. politics in the first place, but this article literally relies on a single unnamed source — and yet Washington reporters ran with it anyway. Now the Romney campaign says the story is false, according to WaPo:

An unnamed “adviser” to Mitt Romney who told the London Telegraph that the candidate appreciates “Anglo-Saxon heritage” better than President Obama is not speaking for the Republican campaign, a spokeswoman for the former Massachusetts governor said Wednesday.

“It’s not true,” Amanda Hennenberg said in a statement. “If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign.”

The quote has created an early dust-up between the two campaigns as Romney begins his low-key, week-long trip through Britain, Poland and Israel.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage,” an adviser told reporter Jon Swaine. “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” The reporter later tweeted to clarify that the quote came from a “member of [Romney’s] foreign policy advisory team.”

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This “Anglo-Saxon heritage” story sounded unbelievable from the get-go. An unnamed Romney foreign policy adviser allegedly told the London Telegraph that Romney would usher in better relations with the UK because he understands the “Anglo-Saxon heritage” better than President Obama — a oddly-phrased comment that clearly has racial undertones.

It’s usually a good idea to be skeptical of sensational-sounding Telegraph stories about U.S. politics in the first place, but this article literally relies on a single unnamed source — and yet Washington reporters ran with it anyway. Now the Romney campaign says the story is false, according to WaPo:

An unnamed “adviser” to Mitt Romney who told the London Telegraph that the candidate appreciates “Anglo-Saxon heritage” better than President Obama is not speaking for the Republican campaign, a spokeswoman for the former Massachusetts governor said Wednesday.

“It’s not true,” Amanda Hennenberg said in a statement. “If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign.”

The quote has created an early dust-up between the two campaigns as Romney begins his low-key, week-long trip through Britain, Poland and Israel.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage,” an adviser told reporter Jon Swaine. “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” The reporter later tweeted to clarify that the quote came from a “member of [Romney’s] foreign policy advisory team.”

Jen Rubin writes that the Obama campaign quickly began blasting the story out to reporters, which helped it go viral. It’s pretty clear the Obama campaign is scrambling to pump air into it. David Axelrod has been out front calling the “Anglo-Saxon” comment “unbelievably offensive.” Funny that a line Obama actually said himself is considered off-limits for criticism by his campaign, but an anonymous quote is fine to attack Romney.

WaPo also reports on the loose guidelines for anonymous quotes at the Telegraph:

Romney does have a team of 22 foreign policy and national security advisers, along with 15 working group chairs. British papers have looser guidelines on anonymous quotes than most of the American press. An “adviser” could have no actual role in the campaign; the Republican’s staff rarely talks to the foreign press.

The Telegraph in particular prints many rumors and blind quotes, often infuriating Democrats. “They use anonymous sources to a degree that makes you wonder if they actually have them,” consultant Bob Shrum told Dave Weigel in 2009.

Unless a reporter is able to verify who said this and what his role is in the campaign, Romney’s denial should put this story to rest.

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Is Assault on Romney’s Small Business Record a Wise Move?

BuzzFeed reports the Democratic National Committee is planning to go “nuclear” over the attacks on President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech, and launch a major assault on Mitt Romney’s small business record:

DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse outlined an all-out response to Mitt Romney’s attack on President Obama over his “You didn’t build this” line — which the president and independent fact checkers have said has been taken out of context.

“In conjunction with OFA, we’re going to turn the page tomorrow on Mitt Romney’s trumped up, out of context fact-checked-to-death BS about the president and small business and set the record straight on how Mitt Romney has a horrible record on small business,” Woodhouse said in a memo sent to BuzzFeed, saying there will be on-the-ground events across the country — including in Massachusetts — to rebut Romney’s attack.

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BuzzFeed reports the Democratic National Committee is planning to go “nuclear” over the attacks on President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech, and launch a major assault on Mitt Romney’s small business record:

DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse outlined an all-out response to Mitt Romney’s attack on President Obama over his “You didn’t build this” line — which the president and independent fact checkers have said has been taken out of context.

“In conjunction with OFA, we’re going to turn the page tomorrow on Mitt Romney’s trumped up, out of context fact-checked-to-death BS about the president and small business and set the record straight on how Mitt Romney has a horrible record on small business,” Woodhouse said in a memo sent to BuzzFeed, saying there will be on-the-ground events across the country — including in Massachusetts — to rebut Romney’s attack.

You can tell this is a moment of desperation for the DNC, because Obama has plenty of weaknesses in his own small business record. Let’s not even get into the fact that the tax cuts for small businesses that he always touts are actually far less than meets the eye. Hasn’t Obama been arguing for months that the tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 should be allowed to expire? The Heritage Foundation crunched the numbers and found that small business owners in that income bracket could end up paying an average of $24,888 in additional taxes under Obama’s proposals:

They are right to be concerned. According to calculations by The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis (CDA), the average American with $250,000 or more in income can expect an average $24,888 tax increase next year under Obama’s proposed policies.

The $24,888 figure is often enough for a salary, and despite what some proponents of the tax hike have argued, many of these successful small businesses do have employees. According to the Treasury Department, 1.2 million small businesses both had employees and earned more than $200,000 in 2007. So the president is putting about 1.2 million jobs—perhaps even more—at risk with this tax hike.

Then there’s Obama’s health care law, which is expected to increase health care costs and the regulatory burden for small businesses. The cost of complying with government regulations is a growing problem under the Obama administration, as the Fiscal Times has reported:

The Business Roundtable just released a list of 60 major new pending rules and regulations from the federal government – all of which may dampen economic activity. The NFIB is so worried about the uncertainty created by Obama’s legislative tsunami that it is supporting the Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act, a bill that would prohibit important new regulations from taking effect before the unemployment rate drops to 6 percent or for two years, whichever is shorter. Embracing such a “time-out” would be an excellent move for the embattled White House, and most definitely for the country.

The Obama campaign is obviously anxious to get back on offense, but picking this particular fight is only going to end up emphasizing Obama’s own weaknesses.

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Does the Mideast Get Too Much Attention?

David Rothkopf has an interesting essay on Foreign Policy’s website arguing that Western, and especially American, involvement in and attention to the Middle East is out of proportion to the region’s importance. He gets a few things right–such as the discovery of oil and natural gas elsewhere in the world and the fact that both rising state powers and extremist threats are increasingly coming from Asia (and Africa). The “pivot,” he correctly notes, wasn’t so much a strategic calculation as an acceptance of reality.

He could also have mentioned our role in the competition between China and Russia in Central Asia, or President Obama’s signature foreign-policy achievement, which was to identify Pakistan as the focal point of that region and plan accordingly. I think he underplays the threat of a nuclear Iran, but that may be (though he does not say this) because most of the world believes the U.S. or Israel will prevent that from happening anyway. But Rothkopf’s section on Israel gets a bit fuzzy, though in a roundabout way reinforces his underlying point. Here’s Rothkopf:

Barack Obama’s generation entered the workforce at the time Ariel Sharon was directing Israeli troops into the camps in Lebanon, a watershed that for many washed away much of the positive narrative about Israel the virtuous underdog. From then on, through the intifada and the construction of new settlements on contested land, Israel has systematically damaged its standing in the eyes of the world (which hasn’t been hard to do since so many around the world are predisposed for pretty awful reasons to dislike the idea of a Jewish state to begin with)….

But given the periodic flare-ups of unreasonable behavior at the top from the Israeli government, the embrace of Israel as an ally carries with it costs — and the new technologies of modern conflict offer many alternative ways to counterbalance these risks. That’s not to say America is better off without Israel as an ally. We are. Just not at any price.

The demographic and political tides in the region are turning against the Israelis in ways that rightfully have them nervous. Absent a deal with the Palestinians in the next several years, their situation is likely to grow more precarious — and, with the potential rise of Arab democracy, more difficult to defend for a country like the United States whose foreign policy is built (in theory at least) on ideas like the right to self-determination.

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David Rothkopf has an interesting essay on Foreign Policy’s website arguing that Western, and especially American, involvement in and attention to the Middle East is out of proportion to the region’s importance. He gets a few things right–such as the discovery of oil and natural gas elsewhere in the world and the fact that both rising state powers and extremist threats are increasingly coming from Asia (and Africa). The “pivot,” he correctly notes, wasn’t so much a strategic calculation as an acceptance of reality.

He could also have mentioned our role in the competition between China and Russia in Central Asia, or President Obama’s signature foreign-policy achievement, which was to identify Pakistan as the focal point of that region and plan accordingly. I think he underplays the threat of a nuclear Iran, but that may be (though he does not say this) because most of the world believes the U.S. or Israel will prevent that from happening anyway. But Rothkopf’s section on Israel gets a bit fuzzy, though in a roundabout way reinforces his underlying point. Here’s Rothkopf:

Barack Obama’s generation entered the workforce at the time Ariel Sharon was directing Israeli troops into the camps in Lebanon, a watershed that for many washed away much of the positive narrative about Israel the virtuous underdog. From then on, through the intifada and the construction of new settlements on contested land, Israel has systematically damaged its standing in the eyes of the world (which hasn’t been hard to do since so many around the world are predisposed for pretty awful reasons to dislike the idea of a Jewish state to begin with)….

But given the periodic flare-ups of unreasonable behavior at the top from the Israeli government, the embrace of Israel as an ally carries with it costs — and the new technologies of modern conflict offer many alternative ways to counterbalance these risks. That’s not to say America is better off without Israel as an ally. We are. Just not at any price.

The demographic and political tides in the region are turning against the Israelis in ways that rightfully have them nervous. Absent a deal with the Palestinians in the next several years, their situation is likely to grow more precarious — and, with the potential rise of Arab democracy, more difficult to defend for a country like the United States whose foreign policy is built (in theory at least) on ideas like the right to self-determination.

Much of this is necessarily vague. At what “price” should we ditch our relationship with Israel? Are we anywhere close to it? He doesn’t say. Ditto on the unexplained throwaway line about “flare-ups of unreasonable behavior” from the Israeli government. And what of the bizarrely random time stamp on when Barack Obama’s generation entered the work force? At that age, they are old enough to have known why Sharon went into Lebanon–though Rothkopf doesn’t mention it, as it was an undeniable act of self-defense.

Rothkopf says Israel fumbled away Western goodwill “through the intifada and the construction of new settlements,” a very strange thing to say considering that the intifada was a terror war conducted by the Palestinians against Israeli civilians. And a peace deal will not be reached in the next several years, but because it is the Palestinian leadership refusing to negotiate, it remains highly unlikely the U.S. will blame Israel, though the media most certainly will. And the “rise of Arab democracy” argues against supporting an authoritarian, corrupt, hateful regime on the West Bank of the Jordan, not in favor of empowering the Mubarakites.

So why does this still support Rothkopf’s thesis? Because Rothkopf is describing the kind of worldview that tends to dominate Foggy Bottom, and possibly even the current White House, as Rothkopf seems to suggest. The obsession with the Middle East really boils down to the Western obsession with the peace process, and that peace process can be destructive to everyone involved. It ruined Bill Clinton’s foreign policy by letting Yasser Arafat hijack Clinton’s attention (Clinton wanted peace with Syria and, by extension, Lebanon instead–a worthy goal).

George W. Bush’s Mideast policymaking was naturally consumed by Iraq and Afghanistan, but going forward that won’t be the case. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has decided it wanted peace in the Middle East and sent George Mitchell to lecture the Israelis and Palestinians about Northern Ireland. And that turned out to be only the warm-up act for nonsensical policy demands and aggressive and off-putting grandstanding.

The worst kept secret about the Middle East is that the peace process was healthiest before the United States took a public role, and American foreign policy was healthiest before presidents began wasting political capital (and time and energy) on an issue that wasn’t going anywhere. Bush understood this and was criticized for it. The answer is not to ignore the peace process completely (or the Middle East for that matter), but to not allow it to dominate the agenda. Rothkopf is right: Don’t ditch the Middle East, but don’t neglect more pressing matters for it, either.

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High-Level Attention Needed on Iraq

Yesterday, I noted the resurrection of al-Qaeda in Iraq in no small part because of the U.S. troop pullout after the Obama administration failed to get Iraqi agreement on a status of forces agreement. Today, the question I want to consider is: What, if anything, can the U.S. still do to prevent Iraq from going totally off the rails?

Sadly, with the loss of our troop presence and with it much of our intelligence-gathering capacity, our options are vastly diminished. If we don’t have a good handle on what’s going on in the country–and we don’t, having lost much of our situational awareness at the end of last year–it is hard to figure out how to shape developments. Heck, we can’t even be sure of the number of Iraqis killed in terrorist attacks; the U.S. military no longer compiles independent figures, and it’s hard to fully trust the numbers produced in Baghdad.

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Yesterday, I noted the resurrection of al-Qaeda in Iraq in no small part because of the U.S. troop pullout after the Obama administration failed to get Iraqi agreement on a status of forces agreement. Today, the question I want to consider is: What, if anything, can the U.S. still do to prevent Iraq from going totally off the rails?

Sadly, with the loss of our troop presence and with it much of our intelligence-gathering capacity, our options are vastly diminished. If we don’t have a good handle on what’s going on in the country–and we don’t, having lost much of our situational awareness at the end of last year–it is hard to figure out how to shape developments. Heck, we can’t even be sure of the number of Iraqis killed in terrorist attacks; the U.S. military no longer compiles independent figures, and it’s hard to fully trust the numbers produced in Baghdad.

But there are still things we can do to try to prevent Prime Minister Maliki from alienating Sunnis even more than he already has. The fact that the Iraqis are counting on major weapons sales from the U.S. (the Pentagon has just placed an initial order for 16 F-16s) gives us a certain amount of leverage, albeit limited leverage–the Iraqis are rich enough to buy weapons elsewhere if we refuse to sell them. But we can at least try to condition our weapons deliveries on continued Iraqi progress on governance and human rights.

To do that effectively, however, we need high-level attention focused on Iraq. That has been totally lacking in the Obama White House, which has handed off the Iraq portfolio to Vice President Biden–only he has a multitude of other responsibilities and doesn’t seem to be particularly focused on Iraq. The president, meanwhile, appears to be totally disengaged, treating Iraq as if it were his predecessor’s problem, not his. This helps to explain why we couldn’t get the status of forces agreement and why we are not able to exert much leverage at the moment to counteract strong Iranian and sectarian influence in Baghdad.

Shockingly, we don’t even have an ambassador in Baghdad at the moment. Jim Jeffrey has left and his designated successor–Brett McGurk–had to withdraw his nomination under fire. The White House has recently announced new ambassadors to Kabul and Islamabad but not to Baghdad. Even with an influential and knowledgeable ambassador in place (there are several top-drawer Arabists at the State Department who would be excellent choices for the job), we would have a tough time changing Iraq’s trajectory. Without an ambassador–and without high-level attention in Washington–it’s hopeless. So we will be left sitting on the sidelines as al-Qaeda in Iraq continues to gain strength and potentially undo the gains of the 2007-2008 surge.

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Finding an Alternative to Defense Cuts

With the sequester looming, Republicans are scrambling for an alternative that will save the defense budget and the defense industry. The Hill reports on one idea being floated by Sen. Mitch McConnell, which would increase government and sales fees — but the idea could violate Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge:

“If you want to turn off the sequester, and I think that’s a good idea, there is a way to do it; we spent a lot of time last year finding legitimate pay-fors in the Biden talks,” McConnell said. “There are all kinds of legitimate pay-fors that were studied on a bipartisan basis in the so-called Biden talks, leading up to the final passage of the Budget Control Act.”

McConnell’s comments reflect a growing urgency among Republicans on Capitol Hill about finding a compromise to stop $55 million in spending cuts slated for defense programs in 2013.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats have insisted that any replacement of the so-called defense sequester also reduce cuts to domestic programs and raise new revenues.

Focusing on sales and federal fees could be a way to raise revenues without violating the tax pledge GOP lawmakers have made to their constituents.

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With the sequester looming, Republicans are scrambling for an alternative that will save the defense budget and the defense industry. The Hill reports on one idea being floated by Sen. Mitch McConnell, which would increase government and sales fees — but the idea could violate Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge:

“If you want to turn off the sequester, and I think that’s a good idea, there is a way to do it; we spent a lot of time last year finding legitimate pay-fors in the Biden talks,” McConnell said. “There are all kinds of legitimate pay-fors that were studied on a bipartisan basis in the so-called Biden talks, leading up to the final passage of the Budget Control Act.”

McConnell’s comments reflect a growing urgency among Republicans on Capitol Hill about finding a compromise to stop $55 million in spending cuts slated for defense programs in 2013.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats have insisted that any replacement of the so-called defense sequester also reduce cuts to domestic programs and raise new revenues.

Focusing on sales and federal fees could be a way to raise revenues without violating the tax pledge GOP lawmakers have made to their constituents.

Democrats are demanding some sort of revenue-increasing measure to offset the defense cuts. Some possibilities that may not violate the anti-tax pledge could include fees related to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and an increase in TSA fees — but Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform, told The Hill that it would need to see the specific legislation before deciding whether it violates the pledge.

There are also some actions Congress can take in late September, when last year’s continuing resolution funding the government expires. As the Bipartisan Policy Center has pointed out, Congress could pass another continuing resolution to exempt war funding from the defense cuts — though that could also mean that other defense programs take a bigger hit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has suggested that Congress could increase war funding this fall to a level that offsets the sequestration cuts, which is an interesting idea but would result in no real-life reductions. If it comes to that, then Congress should obviously do everything in its power to save defense; but considering our fiscal situation, it would be preferable to find other non-defense cuts to offset it, if possible.

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