Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 13, 2012

Dems Don’t Want a Big-Picture Election

For a party that’s supposedly so thrilled at the opportunity to run against Paul Ryan’s budget plan, the Democrats are spending an awful lot of time focusing on unrelated social issues. Here’s the DNC’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz hammering Ryan’s pro-life views in an email blast today (via Weekly Standard):

As a member of the House Budget Committee, I’ve seen firsthand just how extreme Paul Ryan is, so I’m not going to mince words: Paul Ryan in the White House would be a nightmare.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of attacks on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions — and Congressman Ryan has been at the forefront of all of them.

He wants to end Medicare as we know it. He co-sponsored a radical “personhood” bill that could have banned the birth control pill, in vitro fertilization, and all abortions — even in cases of rape or incest. What’s more? He wants to allow states to criminally prosecute women who choose to have abortions and the doctors who perform them.

We cannot afford to let this man be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

There’s only so much mud the Democrats can sling at Paul Ryan’s deficit plan before the public starts to catch on that the Democratic Party has no plan for tackling the problem whatsoever. So they’re still going to have to continue to make this election about small issues — hence the completely irrelevant attack on Ryan’s views on abortion. Planned Parenthood is also ramping up its Paul Ryan fear mongering, lest the American people elect a pro-lifer “a heartbeat away from the presidency” (ignore the fact that Romney, who would be the actual president under this scenario, is also pro-life).

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For a party that’s supposedly so thrilled at the opportunity to run against Paul Ryan’s budget plan, the Democrats are spending an awful lot of time focusing on unrelated social issues. Here’s the DNC’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz hammering Ryan’s pro-life views in an email blast today (via Weekly Standard):

As a member of the House Budget Committee, I’ve seen firsthand just how extreme Paul Ryan is, so I’m not going to mince words: Paul Ryan in the White House would be a nightmare.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of attacks on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions — and Congressman Ryan has been at the forefront of all of them.

He wants to end Medicare as we know it. He co-sponsored a radical “personhood” bill that could have banned the birth control pill, in vitro fertilization, and all abortions — even in cases of rape or incest. What’s more? He wants to allow states to criminally prosecute women who choose to have abortions and the doctors who perform them.

We cannot afford to let this man be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

There’s only so much mud the Democrats can sling at Paul Ryan’s deficit plan before the public starts to catch on that the Democratic Party has no plan for tackling the problem whatsoever. So they’re still going to have to continue to make this election about small issues — hence the completely irrelevant attack on Ryan’s views on abortion. Planned Parenthood is also ramping up its Paul Ryan fear mongering, lest the American people elect a pro-lifer “a heartbeat away from the presidency” (ignore the fact that Romney, who would be the actual president under this scenario, is also pro-life).

The attacks are entirely predictable, and they have nothing to do with the candidate. As much as Democrats are crowing about how Ryan is so beatable because of the Ryan plan, they’re pulling out many of the same exact attacks that would have been launched against Pawlenty or Portman or Rubio.

Ryan is best when he’s talking about the budget and deficit; Democrats clearly want to push him onto less familiar social-issues territory in order to, a.) Knock him off his game and hope he makes a mistake, and b.) Ensure that he doesn’t have a chance to sell the plan to the public.

Whether they succeed depends on whether the Romney campaign — and the rest of the GOP — can stay focused on the big picture.

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Northeast GOP’s Hopeless Choices

Republicans have been optimistic about their chances of making gains in the U.S. Senate this fall or perhaps even gaining control in the upper chamber. But a couple of races in the Northeast demonstrate just how grave the party’s problems have become. If Republicans had even a semblance of statewide party organization or talent, they might have had a chance to knock off Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, an undistinguished freshman whose transformation from moderate to liberal has attracted little notice since her surprise appointment to replace Hillary Clinton. But there is no New York Republican Party, so the little-known Gillibrand will skate to re-election this fall. But as infuriating as the utter collapse of a once vibrant New York GOP may be, in some ways the party’s dilemma in Connecticut is even worse.

It’s true that the Constitution State is as deep blue as New York and the rest of New England. But Republicans might have had a fighting chance to snatch the open seat that Joe Lieberman is leaving this fall. The likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Chris Murphy, is favored but is eminently beatable. But instead of nominating a Republican who might have a chance to steal a blue state seat, state Republicans are likely to choose a candidate in tomorrow’s primary who isn’t much more likely to be sworn in next January than Wendy Long, the New York GOP’s sacrificial lamb, who will be slaughtered by Gillibrand. Linda McMahon is probably going to be the GOP winner in Connecticut tomorrow. That will be no reason for anyone, Republican or Democrat, to celebrate.

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Republicans have been optimistic about their chances of making gains in the U.S. Senate this fall or perhaps even gaining control in the upper chamber. But a couple of races in the Northeast demonstrate just how grave the party’s problems have become. If Republicans had even a semblance of statewide party organization or talent, they might have had a chance to knock off Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, an undistinguished freshman whose transformation from moderate to liberal has attracted little notice since her surprise appointment to replace Hillary Clinton. But there is no New York Republican Party, so the little-known Gillibrand will skate to re-election this fall. But as infuriating as the utter collapse of a once vibrant New York GOP may be, in some ways the party’s dilemma in Connecticut is even worse.

It’s true that the Constitution State is as deep blue as New York and the rest of New England. But Republicans might have had a fighting chance to snatch the open seat that Joe Lieberman is leaving this fall. The likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Chris Murphy, is favored but is eminently beatable. But instead of nominating a Republican who might have a chance to steal a blue state seat, state Republicans are likely to choose a candidate in tomorrow’s primary who isn’t much more likely to be sworn in next January than Wendy Long, the New York GOP’s sacrificial lamb, who will be slaughtered by Gillibrand. Linda McMahon is probably going to be the GOP winner in Connecticut tomorrow. That will be no reason for anyone, Republican or Democrat, to celebrate.

McMahon entered politics two years ago when she used the massive fortune she and her husband earned as the impresarios of the World Wrestling Federation to win the Republican nomination while claiming to be a Tea Party supporter for the open seat being left behind by Democrat Chris Dodd. McMahon spent tens of millions but was still buried by Democrat Richard Blumenthal in November. One could say that if a Republican with a huge financial edge couldn’t beat a Democrat who was caught lying about his military service in a year in which the GOP won a midterm landslide then perhaps Connecticut is just a lost cause for the party.

But Blumenthal’s victory was as much the result of general disdain by the voters for a newly minted politician whose sole qualification was her role in building a business most of them rightly considered shady if not entirely disreputable. McMahon’s well-funded campaign was as much a sham as the fake wrestling her company promoted, but Connecticut Republicans desperate for a candidate with money embraced her in 2010 and again this year.

But though there is little reason to believe McMahon can do better the second time around, state party leaders have embraced her rather than Chris Shays, a longtime member of the House of Representatives from Fairfield County. Though he is eminently better qualified to sit in the Senate, many GOP stalwarts disdain him as the quintessential RINO whose liberal stands on social issues, gun control and campaign finance are anathema to conservatives. Faced with a choice between such a RINO (albeit one who was a loyal member of the Republican caucus in the House for decades and something of a fiscal conservative) whom polls show to be a far formidable contender in November and a disreputable and certain loser in McMahon, most Republicans appear to prefer the latter.

Yet oddly enough, Shays appears to be far more supportive of GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan than McMahon. As the Hartford Courant reported, when asked about Ryan’s stands on entitlement reform, the supposed Tea Partier tried to have it both ways. She claimed to like Ryan’s general ideas but disavowed his budget and said she would oppose any plan that touched Medicare. By contrast, the RINO Shays made no attempt to distance himself from Ryan.

It says a lot about how far the Connecticut GOP has sunk — it controlled the governorship from 1994 to 2010 — that the only choices it can come up with are McMahon or Shays. Tomorrow’s primary is proof that even in a year where a relative moderate like Mitt Romney from neighboring Massachusetts is at the top of the ballot, Republicans still have no chance in a state like Connecticut. If they want to remain a national party, this is a problem that shouldn’t be ignored.

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Cairo Coup Another Obama “Success”

Last week’s terror attack on Egyptian army troops by jihadists whose ultimate aim was to kill Israelis provoked an unexpectedly harsh reaction from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The chaos in the Sinai is the direct result of the revolution that brought down the Mubarak regime. The Hamas government looked to benefit from the triumph of their Muslim Brotherhood allies, but the embarrassing slaughter of Egyptians by anti-Israel terrorists has led the new government in Cairo to shut down the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. The prospect of increased security cooperation between Egypt and the United States is slightly encouraging, though Israel’s exclusion from talks concerning its border is both spiteful and foolish.

But while the crackdown in the Sinai and along the border with Gaza may be a hopeful sign the new Egyptian government is unwilling to be dragged into conflict with Israel by the Palestinians, the real news in the aftermath of the shooting is very bad indeed. Morsi’s sacking of Egypt’s intelligence chief (who ignored warnings from Israel about a possible terror attack) is one thing, but the decision of the Egyptian leader to fire two of the country’s leading generals is more than just a personnel shuffle. If Morsi has assumed power of the country’s military, the notion that the army would or could act as a brake on the Muslim Brotherhood has been shown to be a myth. His firing of Egypt’s defense minister and the army chief of staff makes it clear the Brotherhood is now completely in control of the country. This calls into question not just the future of regional stability but the Obama administration’s equivocal attitude toward the Brotherhood’s push to power.

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Last week’s terror attack on Egyptian army troops by jihadists whose ultimate aim was to kill Israelis provoked an unexpectedly harsh reaction from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The chaos in the Sinai is the direct result of the revolution that brought down the Mubarak regime. The Hamas government looked to benefit from the triumph of their Muslim Brotherhood allies, but the embarrassing slaughter of Egyptians by anti-Israel terrorists has led the new government in Cairo to shut down the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. The prospect of increased security cooperation between Egypt and the United States is slightly encouraging, though Israel’s exclusion from talks concerning its border is both spiteful and foolish.

But while the crackdown in the Sinai and along the border with Gaza may be a hopeful sign the new Egyptian government is unwilling to be dragged into conflict with Israel by the Palestinians, the real news in the aftermath of the shooting is very bad indeed. Morsi’s sacking of Egypt’s intelligence chief (who ignored warnings from Israel about a possible terror attack) is one thing, but the decision of the Egyptian leader to fire two of the country’s leading generals is more than just a personnel shuffle. If Morsi has assumed power of the country’s military, the notion that the army would or could act as a brake on the Muslim Brotherhood has been shown to be a myth. His firing of Egypt’s defense minister and the army chief of staff makes it clear the Brotherhood is now completely in control of the country. This calls into question not just the future of regional stability but the Obama administration’s equivocal attitude toward the Brotherhood’s push to power.

In the aftermath of the Egyptian election in which Morsi triumphed over the military’s preferred candidate, optimists believed the army’s acquiescence to the Brotherhood’s victory was bought by the group’s willingness to share power. The assumption was that the military would remain in charge even if Morsi would have the trappings of power. But the firing of the two defense chiefs has shown foreign observers underestimated both Morsi and the Brotherhood’s will to come out on top. It’s also apparent that such thinking overestimated the ability of the army to retain the influence it had when Mubarak, himself a former general, ran things.

The implications of what Time aptly termed a Muslim Brotherhood “coup” are far-reaching.

Morsi may not be interested in a direct confrontation with Israel or in allowing Hamas’ desire to keep the border in flames. For all of the fraternal bonds between the Brotherhood and Hamas, even Egyptian Islamists may believe, as most of their countrymen do, the Palestinians are ready to fight Israel to the last Egyptian.

But if there are no longer any effective checks on the Brotherhood, the idea that the United States or Israel can rely upon the army to keep Egypt from being transformed into an Islamist country is without any rational basis. This ought to do more than scare the country’s secular community or even the Christian Copts who constitute up to ten percent of Egypt’s population. It will mean the start of a process whereby the Brotherhood obtains control over every segment of Egyptian society and government. Optimists hope this will mean nothing worse than a copy of Turkey’s drift from secular freedom to Islamist authoritarianism under President Obama’s friend Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But no one should be surprised if a more radical group like the Brotherhood is not satisfied with that and eventually pushes for more radical changes in both Egyptian society and its relations with Israel.

The Obama administration thought it was managing the situation in Egypt via support of the military while conducting outreach to the Brotherhood. But what they find themselves with now is a situation in which the U.S. is giving $1.5 billion per year to a country controlled by an extremist group whose ideology places it in a state of continual conflict with the West. President Obama and his cheerleaders in the media may think he has deftly handled an Arab Spring which has seen the region’s most populous country transformed from a Western ally to an Islamist loose cannon. If this is foreign policy success, I’d hate to see what failure looks like.

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Will Sacramento Choose an Israel “Sister?”

In 2009, the Sacramento City Council designated Bethlehem in Israel as one of Sacramento’s “Sister Cities.” Tomorrow, the council is set to vote on whether to make Ashkelon, Israel, a Sister City as well, and anti-Israel groups are frantically working to kill the initiative:

Supporters and protesters are expected to pack Sacramento City Council chambers when it decides whether to become a sister city with Ashkelon, Israel.

The council has a vote planned Tuesday on whether to add Ashkelon, a frequent target for bombs from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The California capital already has joined up with nine cities, including what it calls “Bethlehem, Palestine,” and has been discussing adding an Israeli town for several years.

Those opposed to becoming a sister city with Ashkelon have waged an active campaign, claiming that Arabs there are second-class citizens and that other Arabs were evicted from the area following Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

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In 2009, the Sacramento City Council designated Bethlehem in Israel as one of Sacramento’s “Sister Cities.” Tomorrow, the council is set to vote on whether to make Ashkelon, Israel, a Sister City as well, and anti-Israel groups are frantically working to kill the initiative:

Supporters and protesters are expected to pack Sacramento City Council chambers when it decides whether to become a sister city with Ashkelon, Israel.

The council has a vote planned Tuesday on whether to add Ashkelon, a frequent target for bombs from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The California capital already has joined up with nine cities, including what it calls “Bethlehem, Palestine,” and has been discussing adding an Israeli town for several years.

Those opposed to becoming a sister city with Ashkelon have waged an active campaign, claiming that Arabs there are second-class citizens and that other Arabs were evicted from the area following Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

Israelis in Ashkelon live under constant threat from Hamas rocket attacks, and suffered regular casualties and injuries before the deployment of Iron Dome. The city falls within the pre-1967 borders, so the objection to Ashkelon as a Sacramento Sister City has nothing to do with territorial disputes — it’s about opposing Israel’s existence, and shoring up the fringe U.S. arm of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

“This is a fundamental attack on Israel’s existence,” said David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, who is leading an effort to support the Sister City initiative. “Luckily, those opposing the Sister City relationship obviously represent a radical fringe of American opinion.”

Brog added that the pro-Israel community “cannot afford to be silent.”

CUFI sent out an action alert urging supporters to contact Sacramento city council officials on behalf of the Sister City initiative. According to the group, there have been 22,500 responses to the action alert since it was launched last Thursday. CUFI members will also be in attendance at the city council vote tomorrow.

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The Tax Criticism Pays on Publicity

“Resounding praise for the ordinary fictional article of commerce is so much the order of the day that when a novel appears which truly demands praise, the task of reviewing it presents special difficulty. Words worn threadbare in the service of mediocrity look appallingly perfunctory when returned to their intended uses.” — Dorothea Brande opening a review of Caroline Gordon’s None Shall Look Back in the American Review (February 1937)

“Resounding praise for the ordinary fictional article of commerce is so much the order of the day that when a novel appears which truly demands praise, the task of reviewing it presents special difficulty. Words worn threadbare in the service of mediocrity look appallingly perfunctory when returned to their intended uses.” — Dorothea Brande opening a review of Caroline Gordon’s None Shall Look Back in the American Review (February 1937)

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Obama’s Off Key Farm Subsidies Pitch

The Obama campaign is in full attack mode this week, and President Obama’s campaign speech in Iowa today shows the level of cynicism in the Democrats’ attempt to bash Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. While stumping in the Hawkeye state, the president criticized Ryan for blocking a farm aid bill that is before the Congress and which he described as vital to helping rural communities survive both drought and an economic downturn. But does Obama really think voters are dumb enough to believe this?

The president’s Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act isn’t a legislative equivalent of a farm aid concert. It is a mini-stimulus package aimed at playing favorites in the agriculture industry and represents exactly the sort of massive government spending that both sides in last year’s budget impasse agreed could not be sustained. But the farm bill isn’t just yet another example of the Democrats’ penchant for crony capitalism; it is also an attempt to preserve farm subsidies that virtually everyone in Washington knows are an unsustainable boondoggle that represent the worst in patronage politics. Far from the president’s championing of this issue being part of a coherent plan to demonize Ryan, his backing of farm subsidies merely illustrates why Ryan’s reformist ideas are needed now more than ever.

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The Obama campaign is in full attack mode this week, and President Obama’s campaign speech in Iowa today shows the level of cynicism in the Democrats’ attempt to bash Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. While stumping in the Hawkeye state, the president criticized Ryan for blocking a farm aid bill that is before the Congress and which he described as vital to helping rural communities survive both drought and an economic downturn. But does Obama really think voters are dumb enough to believe this?

The president’s Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act isn’t a legislative equivalent of a farm aid concert. It is a mini-stimulus package aimed at playing favorites in the agriculture industry and represents exactly the sort of massive government spending that both sides in last year’s budget impasse agreed could not be sustained. But the farm bill isn’t just yet another example of the Democrats’ penchant for crony capitalism; it is also an attempt to preserve farm subsidies that virtually everyone in Washington knows are an unsustainable boondoggle that represent the worst in patronage politics. Far from the president’s championing of this issue being part of a coherent plan to demonize Ryan, his backing of farm subsidies merely illustrates why Ryan’s reformist ideas are needed now more than ever.

To highlight his supposed concern for farmers, the administration today ordered a $170 million government meat purchase aimed at appeasing voters in agricultural states and ensuring the president a warm reception in Iowa. But the issue at stake here isn’t a hard-hearted Ryan presenting an obstacle to suffering farmers as the president says but rather the shockingly cynical manner in which the Democrat seeks to buy farm votes with government largesse.

If there is anything we should have learned after a century of government spending on such farm bills it is that the results have more to do with satisfying private interests than the economic health of the nation. The subsidies are, as the Heritage Foundation rightly notes, wasteful handouts that are as unnecessary as they are corrupt.

Though he travels the nation decrying the ills of Congress, his farm bill demonstrates all that is wrong with the business as usual culture of Washington that Paul Ryan has spent his career trying to change. For decades, politicians have played Santa Claus, giving out gifts to the taxpayers. But informed citizens understand the goodies they receive from leaders like President Obama are but a fraction of the enormous wealth taken from taxpayers. The president famously said four years ago that he favored a redistribution of wealth from the rich to others less well off. But the farm bill symbolizes what he really means: a policy of taking from the middle class and giving it not to the poor but to favored special interests.

The farm bill Obama is touting isn’t so much about helping dry farms as it is about promoting the same sort of wasteful “green” expenditures that produced the Solyndra debacle. These farm subsidies were always bad policy but in an era of crushing federal debt, they are a luxury the nation can no longer afford. If Obama thinks he can win re-election by supporting a corrupt status quo, he may have offered Romney and Ryan yet another opportunity to highlight the administration’s failure to think about anything but narrow and cynical political interests.

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All of Israel is Terrorist Target

An often-overlooked aspect of an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is the second stage in what officials expect to be a two-pronged response from the Islamic Republic: the unleashing of thousands of rockets and missiles from Hezbollah’s stronghold in south Lebanon. When Israeli officials speak openly about a looming conflict, it is often to prepare the public for any eventuality, especially unpleasant ones. So it is notable that former Mossad head Danny Yatom spoke frankly today about that second phase.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Yatom was trying to avoid predicting too much doom and gloom, but the reality is not a particularly sunny forecast:

While acknowledging that Iran has a few hundred missiles that can reach Israel, and that the price would be horrible if those missiles were equipped with either nuclear or chemical warheads, Yatom said the central concern are the tens of thousands of rockets in Hezbollah and Hamas storehouses in Lebanon and Gaza.

Those rockets, he said, can “cover all of Israel, and that is the main problem.”

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An often-overlooked aspect of an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is the second stage in what officials expect to be a two-pronged response from the Islamic Republic: the unleashing of thousands of rockets and missiles from Hezbollah’s stronghold in south Lebanon. When Israeli officials speak openly about a looming conflict, it is often to prepare the public for any eventuality, especially unpleasant ones. So it is notable that former Mossad head Danny Yatom spoke frankly today about that second phase.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Yatom was trying to avoid predicting too much doom and gloom, but the reality is not a particularly sunny forecast:

While acknowledging that Iran has a few hundred missiles that can reach Israel, and that the price would be horrible if those missiles were equipped with either nuclear or chemical warheads, Yatom said the central concern are the tens of thousands of rockets in Hezbollah and Hamas storehouses in Lebanon and Gaza.

Those rockets, he said, can “cover all of Israel, and that is the main problem.”

There are, as Yatom suggests, very few places—if any at all—in Israel that are out of range of Israel’s enemies. Some new threats have emerged, such as the arsenal of rockets (which may or may not include Scuds from Syria) currently aimed at Israel from Hezbollahland, an area spitting distance from Israeli villages.

There are also perennial threats, such as the rockets coming from Gaza. And there are old threats re-emerging, as well. Once upon a time, the hot-and-cold standoff between Israel and Egypt along Israel’s southern border made the Negev a relatively dangerous place. Until the Sinai became a true buffer zone, in fact, terrorist infiltration was a common concern and cross-border shootings and skirmishes occurred outside of wartime, too–the so-called war of attrition, during which Egyptian air raids from the south and PLO incursions from the west were common, until Egypt began preparing in earnest for the Yom Kippur War.

In and around Israel, any period of perceived quiet is usually preceding a storm (or following one, but the nature of the cycle means it is probably both). And so it was with the Sinai. While Hamasniks in Gaza were lighting fuses and Hezbollah commandos in Lebanon were rattling sabers, terrorist networks quietly began filling the vacuum in the desert. And now Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi, has a modest crisis on his hands. And a crisis on Israel’s border means a crisis for Israel. When the first wave of post-Mubarak terrorism in Israel’s south occurred, Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer noted dryly that it “did not come as a surprise to Israel’s senior security officials. They had expected it would occur at some stage or another.”

Israeli leaders are often criticized in the media for having a “siege mentality,” but even a child can see that the threats are real–and in fact the child sees this best, because Israeli children are the preferred target of Hamas rockets as the children attempt to get to school alive each morning. Years ago, I talked to a longtime, fearless Middle East journalist and author who has put himself routinely in danger and has some great stories of survival for his memoirs. But he told me the one thing that would make him pick up his family and leave Israel is the prospect of rockets falling over his children’s heads. That is the reality Danny Yatom is describing for the entire country.

Of course, that threat exists independent of a theoretical attack on Iran. Hezbollah has never acquired a missile it didn’t plan to use, and the same goes for Hamas. This isn’t lost on Israelis; on my last visit there, almost everyone I spoke to in the north admitted they expect war from south Lebanon. The point of Yatom’s warning was not just to prepare the public but to offer his own warning as well. Israel, he said, will have to employ the lessons learned from the summer of 2006, and move to immediately stop the rockets:

To do this, he said, Israel would have to “act with great force against infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza, and it is possible that the price that Lebanon and Gaza will pay will be horrible. We are liable to destroy, or likely to destroy, parts of Lebanon, and parts of Gaza, so that our citizens will not suffer and be killed.”

There will be predictable howls from the left and the media, but Israel has both a right and a moral imperative to defend itself. Yatom is trying to convince Israelis just how seriously their leaders take that responsibility.

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Erskine Bowles is a Paul Ryan Fan

Thanks to Ed Morrissey for bringing attention to this priceless video of Erskine Bowles, the Democratic co-chair of the Obama Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, praising Paul Ryan and his budget plan during a lecture at the University of North Carolina last September:

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Thanks to Ed Morrissey for bringing attention to this priceless video of Erskine Bowles, the Democratic co-chair of the Obama Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, praising Paul Ryan and his budget plan during a lecture at the University of North Carolina last September:

Bowles is hardly advocating for the Ryan budget here, but he clearly admires both Ryan and his plan. And that isn’t even the most damning part of the clip for the Obama campaign. After praising Ryan’s budget as “sensible, straightforward, honest, serious,” Bowles adds, “I don’t think anybody took [Obama’s] budget very seriously.” That’s how you dig in the knife in academia:

Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you, this guy is amazing. I always thought I was okay at arithmetic, this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget, and it cut the budget deficit, just like we did, by $4 trillion.

The president came out with his own plan. And, the president as you remember, came out with a budget. And I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97-to-nothing.

Do you think the RNC is even going to bother editing this down for their campaign ads, or are they just going to run the clip as it is?

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Ryan’s Social Views No Burden to GOP

The assumption among liberals is that the more the public learns about Paul Ryan, the easier it will be to brand him (in the words of Obama campaign honcho David Axelrod) as a “certifiable right-wing ideologue.” The core of that strategy is the belief liberals can demonize Ryan’s budget and his effort to reform entitlements. But another aspect of it is the notion that the Republican vice presidential candidate’s social conservatism is also an easy target. As a New York Times article details, Ryan is pro-life, an opponent of gay marriage and opposes the federal mandate that all employers must be compelled to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs even if it contradicts their religious scruples. The assumption is that the mere listing of these positions that so offend liberal orthodoxy will ensure the defeat of the Republicans.

But as Politico notes today, as much as Ryan helps energize the conservative base behind a Romney candidacy about which they were lukewarm, placing the articulate congressman from Wisconsin on the ticket also helps put the votes of Catholics who are independents or conservative Democrats into play. While those who look to the editorial page of the New York Times for guidance may be outraged about Ryan’s positions on social issues, the number of those voters — including those whose support might be up for grabs in November — who share his view of ObamaCare as well as on abortion, gay marriage and guns is far greater. Ryan’s impact on the working-class Catholic vote that helped make the difference for Barack Obama in some states four years ago is a factor that many analysts are underestimating.

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The assumption among liberals is that the more the public learns about Paul Ryan, the easier it will be to brand him (in the words of Obama campaign honcho David Axelrod) as a “certifiable right-wing ideologue.” The core of that strategy is the belief liberals can demonize Ryan’s budget and his effort to reform entitlements. But another aspect of it is the notion that the Republican vice presidential candidate’s social conservatism is also an easy target. As a New York Times article details, Ryan is pro-life, an opponent of gay marriage and opposes the federal mandate that all employers must be compelled to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs even if it contradicts their religious scruples. The assumption is that the mere listing of these positions that so offend liberal orthodoxy will ensure the defeat of the Republicans.

But as Politico notes today, as much as Ryan helps energize the conservative base behind a Romney candidacy about which they were lukewarm, placing the articulate congressman from Wisconsin on the ticket also helps put the votes of Catholics who are independents or conservative Democrats into play. While those who look to the editorial page of the New York Times for guidance may be outraged about Ryan’s positions on social issues, the number of those voters — including those whose support might be up for grabs in November — who share his view of ObamaCare as well as on abortion, gay marriage and guns is far greater. Ryan’s impact on the working-class Catholic vote that helped make the difference for Barack Obama in some states four years ago is a factor that many analysts are underestimating.

While it is possible that Mediscare tactics will stampede some voters who would otherwise vote against the president’s re-election, the idea that independents will be scared away from a conservative because of his views on abortion is something of a liberal myth. Those who have no sympathy for Ryan’s pro-life views or disagree with his opposition to more restrictions on gun ownership were never going to vote for Romney anyway.

But, as much as this may surprise the editorial board of the New York Times, there are voters out there who will see the elevation of a faithful Catholic to the GOP ticket as motivation to vote for Romney. The proof of this is in the composition of the Democratic ticket. While Biden is a supporter of abortion, his role in mobilizing working-class Catholics behind Obama was widely acknowledged in 2008. Democrats may believe their push behind a “social justice” agenda will help them hold onto Catholic voters, but the ObamaCare mandate against religious freedom is the flaw in that theory.

As much as many Catholics may disagree with their church’s teaching on contraception, the spectacle of the government compelling religious institutions as well as individuals to choose between their consciences and obeying the federal mandate is one that hurts Obama. Far from Ryan’s social conservatism being a problem for the GOP, the ability of the veep nominee to make a strong case for both economic freedom and the principles of his upbringing is an undervalued asset in the election.

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A Changed Romney

Watch this clip of Mitt Romney sparring with a heckler at the Paul Ryan homecoming rally in Wisconsin last night and tell me where this candidate has been the whole campaign. This is not the same stiff, cautious Romney we’ve been watching for the past year and a half:

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Watch this clip of Mitt Romney sparring with a heckler at the Paul Ryan homecoming rally in Wisconsin last night and tell me where this candidate has been the whole campaign. This is not the same stiff, cautious Romney we’ve been watching for the past year and a half:

If you haven’t had a chance to watch the full video of Romney and Ryan in Wisconsin last night, do yourself a favor and click over to C-SPAN when you get a chance. With Ryan at his side, Romney is alive, he’s confident and he actually connects with the audience. A.B. Stoddard is correct that he’s turned into a different candidate overnight:

In choosing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney not only surprised the political world late Friday night, but he has become a different candidate for president over night.

He is suddenly someone willing to take a risk, someone offering specifics instead of generalities, and someone willing to sell his own agenda to the voters instead of trying to bash his way into the Oval Office. And by embracing Ryan, and the controversial policy heft he brings to the ticket, Romney is now a serious candidate who has displayed true leadership — the willingness to do something politically dangerous because he believes it is the right thing to do.

Now, the question is, can Romney keep this up? Ryan has infused the campaign with new enthusiasm, but the trade-off is that the fight will get more difficult from here.

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Paul Ryan and Obama’s Identity Crisis

Many Democrats are outwardly cheering Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan. But I wonder what’s actually going through the minds of Obama’s inner circle. David Axelrod has probably run enough campaigns to realize that Paul Ryan is an exceptional political talent whose star is rising just as Obama’s is fading. And what’s the president thinking? Back in 2007, this was how Obama’s personal frustrations with his self-identity were described to the authors of the book Game Change:

“[Obama] wanted to be seen as substantive. He was substantive. And not being viewed that way was hurting his chances, he thought. I’ve spent my whole life caring about policy, he told his staff. I want to have new ideas. I want them to be specific. I want to make sure that no one can say they’re not specific enough. Obama had imagined at the outset of the campaign that he would set aside hours to consult with world-class experts, delving into the issues, devising innovative solutions. He kept asking for more time to do that, but his schedule was too jam-packed with fund-raisers and campaign events.”

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Many Democrats are outwardly cheering Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan. But I wonder what’s actually going through the minds of Obama’s inner circle. David Axelrod has probably run enough campaigns to realize that Paul Ryan is an exceptional political talent whose star is rising just as Obama’s is fading. And what’s the president thinking? Back in 2007, this was how Obama’s personal frustrations with his self-identity were described to the authors of the book Game Change:

“[Obama] wanted to be seen as substantive. He was substantive. And not being viewed that way was hurting his chances, he thought. I’ve spent my whole life caring about policy, he told his staff. I want to have new ideas. I want them to be specific. I want to make sure that no one can say they’re not specific enough. Obama had imagined at the outset of the campaign that he would set aside hours to consult with world-class experts, delving into the issues, devising innovative solutions. He kept asking for more time to do that, but his schedule was too jam-packed with fund-raisers and campaign events.”

Even back then, Obama was attached to the image of himself as a Serious Person. At the time, he didn’t have a history as someone who devised “innovative solutions” — in the Senate he had mainly voted along party lines, shying away from controversial issues. Since taking presidential office, Obama hasn’t fared much better when it comes to substance. He’s hopped from issues to issue — energy, jobs, the deficit, immigration — giving speeches, signing symbolic orders, proposing vague plans that don’t tend to get implemented. Even Obama’s signature achievement, health care reform, was crafted primarily by Congress.

Yet he continues to latch onto an image of himself as a policy wonk. During a recent interview with CBS, he said his biggest mistake as president was focusing too much on the “policies” and not enough on “tell[ing] a story to the American people.”

This seems to be a major element of Obama’s own self-identity. So it will be interesting to see how he handles a challenge like Paul Ryan — someone who is actually viewed in Washington as both a political superstar and a substantive man of ideas. Obama seems to be fairly thin-skinned for a politician, and he has a difficult time hiding it when he resents someone (see: Benjamin Netanyahu). He never appeared to hold strong feelings about Mitt Romney, but could that change now that Ryan’s entered the race?

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Liberal Surprise: Ryan Can’t Be Palin-ized

The liberal assault on Paul Ryan has commenced. But the first round of attacks can’t provide much solace to Democrats, who assume they will be able to demonize the Republican vice presidential candidate with ease. The first 48 hours of Ryan’s candidacy has already seen a deluge of abuse from the mainstream media editorial pages and columnists. If all you read is the opinion pages of the New York Times, which trotted out its second editorial rant against Ryan in two days, then you probably think that political strategist turned pundit Robert Shrum’s boast in the Daily Beast that by the time the Obama campaign is through with him, Ryan will be as toxic as Sarah Palin. Liberals like Robert Reich, who took to the Huffington Post to howl that Ryan’s ideas are “social Darwinism” or former Times editor Bill Keller who damned the prospective next GOP administration as a compendium of every wicked conservative idea ever conceived, clearly believe all they need to do is to just call Ryan and to a lesser extent Romney, every name they can think of.

But the problem with this effort to Palin-ize Ryan is that the first returns show it probably won’t work.

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The liberal assault on Paul Ryan has commenced. But the first round of attacks can’t provide much solace to Democrats, who assume they will be able to demonize the Republican vice presidential candidate with ease. The first 48 hours of Ryan’s candidacy has already seen a deluge of abuse from the mainstream media editorial pages and columnists. If all you read is the opinion pages of the New York Times, which trotted out its second editorial rant against Ryan in two days, then you probably think that political strategist turned pundit Robert Shrum’s boast in the Daily Beast that by the time the Obama campaign is through with him, Ryan will be as toxic as Sarah Palin. Liberals like Robert Reich, who took to the Huffington Post to howl that Ryan’s ideas are “social Darwinism” or former Times editor Bill Keller who damned the prospective next GOP administration as a compendium of every wicked conservative idea ever conceived, clearly believe all they need to do is to just call Ryan and to a lesser extent Romney, every name they can think of.

But the problem with this effort to Palin-ize Ryan is that the first returns show it probably won’t work.

One piece of evidence is the full length front-page profile of Ryan published in today’s Times. The story it tells of a small town boy whose intellectual prowess is matched only by his work ethic is not one that easily lends itself to the “extremist” narrative that the paper’s editorial page has been screaming about since Saturday. But the authors do their best to skew the portrait with language that doesn’t belong on the news pages of a reputable newspaper.

Part of the problem is that the Times can’t seem to find anyone who knows the likable congressman to dish any non-existent dirt on him. For example, in describing Ryan as an ambitious and accomplished teenager with numerous activities to his credit, the Times stoops to describe him as a “politically astute suck up.” No, that’s not a quote from some teenage rival but an editorial comment inserted into the article by the authors without quotes or even an attempt to attribute this opinion to anyone who knew him.

The article describes Ryan’s college career by again using a pejorative without quotes in which it characterizes his economic philosophy as “trickle down economics.” One can disagree with Ryan’s belief in the importance of economic freedom and the importance of encouraging the creation of wealth rather than expecting it to emerge as a result of some miraculous government intervention, but to use that kind of language again shows liberal reporters are trying a little too hard to follow their paper’s editorial party line in descriptions of the candidate.

Reality again collided with ideology last night on “60 Minutes.” The CBS program got the first post-announcement interview with Romney and Ryan last night, and there’s little doubt that liberals tuning into the program were hoping the Ryan roll-out would conjure up memories of how Sarah Palin was felled in her first network interviews after John McCain tapped her to be his vice presidential nominee. But Bob Schieffer never laid a glove on either Romney or Ryan. Much of the interview was softball material, but even when Schieffer attempted to attack the duo on the Ryan budget plan or entitlement reform, they easily turned away the assault and honed in on the president’s failings and the need to have the country face up to the tough issue of entitlement reform. Just as important, unlike Katie Couric’s confidence that she could embarrass Palin in 2008, Schieffer knew better than to try to tangle with the formidable Ryan.

While we can expect the assault on Ryan to only intensify in the coming days, liberals are already starting to show some frustration as they come up against the fact that whatever you may think of his ideas, he is both likable and admirable, something even President Obama was willing to admit earlier in his administration when he hoped to co-opt the intellectual leader of House Republicans.

Moreover, unlike Palin, Ryan is clearly ready to not merely hold his own on the enemy turf of the mainstream media but, as President Obama learned to his sorrow, is able to go on the offensive and challenge liberal orthodoxies without appearing like the snarling cartoon character that Democrats hope to paint to the public.

As I wrote earlier, it is an open question as to whether the American public will be willing to choose Ryan’s ideas about reforming our out-of-control tax and spend cycle over Democrat demagoguery intended to defend the status quo. But whatever the outcome of the election, the liberal boasts about turning Ryan into another Palin will fail miserably.

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On Ryan Plan, Can the Lie Become the Truth? (Hey-Hey)

The chief attack on Paul Ryan electorally is simple: His now-famous Plan “ends Medicare as we know it,” thereby stripping the elderly of their health care. They should fear it and fear him and vote against him.

The next three months will be a test of something important: Whether this assertion, which is an out-and-out lie, can overcome the plain explication of the truth.

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The chief attack on Paul Ryan electorally is simple: His now-famous Plan “ends Medicare as we know it,” thereby stripping the elderly of their health care. They should fear it and fear him and vote against him.

The next three months will be a test of something important: Whether this assertion, which is an out-and-out lie, can overcome the plain explication of the truth.

The design of the Ryan plan is as follows. Everyone age 55 and older remains in the current Medicare system. Period. Nothing changes. Nothing. Assume for the sake of argument that a President Romney actually adopts the Ryan plan in its particulars, and fights for it in the way President Obama fought for Obamacare.

It took 15 months for Obamacare to be signed into law. So let’s say it takes until April 2014 for the Ryan Medicare plan to become law, and it says what it says now—that everyone in the Medicare system now stays in and everyone a decade away from the Medicare system will join it.

As a practical matter, this means that in 2012, anyone 53 or older, not even anyone 55 or older, will have total access to the current Medicare system.

The political argument against the Ryan plan is that it endangers Romney’s chances in Florida; indeed, the Obama campaign has already begun running scary ads about Ryan taking away Medicare.

But it’s not true. It’s true for me; I’m 51. It’s true for the people who were two grades above me in high school. But it’s not true for anyone older than me; not a single retiree in Florida or anywhere else, in other words.

That’s just the plain fact of it. There’s no argument. The complex new system won’t even come into existence, by Ryan’s own design, until ten years after his plan becomes law.

So how can it threaten current Medicare recipients? It can’t.

Like I say, this is an interesting test. There’s the undeniable truth, and there’s the bald-faced lie. Which will be believed?

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Paul Ryan’s Innovation

In the New York Post today, I explain that Paul Ryan has brought together two strands of conservatism that have been in an uneasy relation for decades: Fiscal conservatism and small-government conservatism.

The secret of Paul Ryan is that he is a blend of the two; philosophically a small-government conservative, managerially a fiscal conservative.

He wants to reduce the size of government for the reasons the Tea Party elucidated — that Big Government saps individual initiative and is a betrayal of the rights enumerated in the Constitution. But he has also mastered the language and the approach of the fiscal conservatives, and has used them to get very specific about the threat posed to the American future by the coming tsunami in entitlement spending.

You can read the whole thing here.

 

In the New York Post today, I explain that Paul Ryan has brought together two strands of conservatism that have been in an uneasy relation for decades: Fiscal conservatism and small-government conservatism.

The secret of Paul Ryan is that he is a blend of the two; philosophically a small-government conservative, managerially a fiscal conservative.

He wants to reduce the size of government for the reasons the Tea Party elucidated — that Big Government saps individual initiative and is a betrayal of the rights enumerated in the Constitution. But he has also mastered the language and the approach of the fiscal conservatives, and has used them to get very specific about the threat posed to the American future by the coming tsunami in entitlement spending.

You can read the whole thing here.

 

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