The saying goes, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” For the Obama campaign and White House, that hand is the White House press corps. The president can give speeches until he’s blue in the face (which he often does, when he’s not at fundraisers, that is), but it’s the press–which is generally sympathetic to the president’s agenda–that report these talking points to the American people.
Today, National Review’s Jim Geraghty remarked in his essential Morning Jolt newsletter:
So if Obama tries to make the next two months about Seamus and tax returns and Bain layoffs killing steelworkers’ wives and so on . . . he’ll be advancing a bridge too far for his non-MSNBC media allies. What you or I might call the moderate-left MSM — CNN, the Washington Post editorial page, USA Today, The Economist, and most of the business and financial press — will have to acknowledge that one side is putting forth a serious solution, and the other side is trying to turn the presidential campaign into a reality-show food-fight.
Oh, and you figure snubbing the White House press corps to do sit-down interviews with Entertainment Tonight probably won’t help matters, either.
The White House press corps noticed the snub and aren’t too pleased with taking a backseat to news outlets that are devoted to breathlessly reporting on Jennifer Aniston’s engagement and Brad Pitt’s upcoming wedding.
After holding off on making any statement about the shooting attack on his group’s Washington headquarters by a critic of their positions on social issues, the Family Research Center’s Tony Perkins spoke out today and placed at least some of the blame for the incident on the Southern Poverty Law Center, a generally respected liberal watchdog group. This will come as a shock to many whose knowledge of the SPLC comes from the good press it gets for its work over the years monitoring extremist hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. But in recent years, they have expanded their definition of a hate group to include not just the likes of David Duke and neo-Nazis but non-violent conservative advocacy groups. While the SPLC says it condemns violence, their actions have placed a bull’s eye on groups it dislikes and rendered them vulnerable to intimidation.
According to the SPLC’s way of thinking groups like the Family Research Center that oppose abortion and gay marriage are pretty much the moral equivalent of the Klan. Shockingly, the SPLC also lists on their website’s roster of haters people like Washington think tanker Frank Gaffney because of his position on the threat from Islamist terror groups like the Muslim Brotherhood which they interpret as a form of Islamophobia. Indeed, Gaffney is listed on the SPLC’s website on a roster of profile of hatemongers such as Louis Farrakhan and a leader of a white nationalist militia. While one may disagree with the Family Research Council’s religious conservatism or Gaffney’s ideas about the threat from shariah law, the idea that they deserve to be placed in such a context is outrageous. In doing so, they are also responsible for creating an atmosphere in which those who take such positions are to be intimidated into silence. Yesterday’s events ought to cause the Law Center to rethink its irresponsible labeling of political opponents.
The Syrian civil war is not only continuing to claim a ghastly toll within Syria, with a continuing regime assault on Aleppo–it is also now sucking Lebanon into the muck too. Shiite clans within Lebanon are kidnapping Syrian rebel fighters who are said to be holding their clansmen prisoners. In retaliation Lebanese Sunnis are threatening to kidnap Lebanese Shiites. Thus Syria’s instability is upsetting the delicate balance of power within Lebanon, raising concerns that, two decades after the end of its bloody civil war, which claimed 100,000 lives, there could be a recurrence of fighting within Lebanon.
This is yet another indictment of the understandable but misguided hands-off policy the U.S. and its allies are following in Syria, where we appear to be content to stand by and let the fighting take its course–much as previous administrations did in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The terrible consequences of our inaction can be measured not only in regional destabilization but also in a growing vacuum of power within Syria which extremists are trying to fill. Former journalist Bartle Bull, who recently visited Syria, offers this revealing exchange with a rebel commander:
Mohamed said he would happily accept help from Washington. “We need everything.” He is not interested in help from Al Qaeda. Still, America’s refusal to get serious about military aid provides the extremists with their only opening. “I can take Al Qaeda’s money,” another irate commander told me. “Is that what you want me to do?”
It would be a tragedy if this and other rebel commanders were in fact driven into Al Qaeda’s camp by neglect in the West. It does not have to be this way. As Bull writes: “Providing the rebels with as few as 500 Stinger missiles and 1,000 tank-busting R.P.G.-7’s could potentially cut the conflict’s length in half. And grounding Mr. Assad’s air force, keeping his tanks off the roads, and neutralizing his command-and-control would be likely to bring him down within a couple of months.”
I would hesitate to provide sophisticated surface-to-air missiles to the rebels, given the danger that they could wind up in the wrong hands. But we should provide better anti-tank weapons and, in lieu of Stingers, the U.S. and its allies should simply declare a no-fly zone to ground Assad’s air force. As Bull notes, this, along with some targeted air strikes of the kind that NATO mounted in Libya, could hasten Assad’s ouster and speed attempts to reimpose a semblance of authority in Syria. Allowing the conflict to take its course, by contrast, virtually guarantees that it will foment dangerous extremism inside Syria and out.
Over at his New York Times blog, Nate Silver probes the question of whether the polls that have come out in the last few days indicate any bounce for the Republican ticket in the days since Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan will be his vice presidential nominee. Though, as Alana noted earlier, a series of swing state polls brought some good news for the Republicans, he’s right to say there’s nothing in the data to indicate any real surge in their direction. Pollsters and analysts have in recent election cycles become obsessed with the idea that vice presidential picks and conventions must produce some sort of bounce in the polls to be justified. But, as Silver concedes, Republicans were not claiming that picking Ryan would have an immediate impact on the polls.
While Ryan is a well known, and at least as far as the liberal media is concerned, a controversial figure, he doesn’t have the sort of celebrity that would create a quick change in public opinion about the race. What he does have — and what Republicans who cheered the choice are counting on — is the ability to have a long-term impact on the election. The GOP is counting on Ryan’s intellect, charm and powers of persuasion to impress voters as the race wears on this fall, not to mention, the possibility of a mismatch against Vice President Biden in their debate. Indeed, Romney’s choice of a serious and thoughtful man to run with him is looking even smarter if only because the more Biden roams the country committing gaffes and throwing out wild and irresponsible slurs against the Republicans, the better Ryan looks.
Ecuador’s decision to grant political asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is a spectacular example of the gesture politics beloved by the far left. It is gesture politics because Assange, an Australian citizen who has spent the last two months camping in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, will have to smuggle himself past a phalanx of armed police officers if he is to make it to Quito in one piece.
While Assange and his supporters are portraying his current status as the consequence of politically motivated persecution, the truth is considerably more sordid. Assange fled to the Ecuadorean embassy after the British government decided to extradite him to Sweden, where he is wanted on sexual assault charges. To go by a recent op-ed penned for the Guardian by the dreadful Glenn Greenwald, you’d think that Sweden was a slightly milder version of North Korea, where prisoners are held in “oppressive pre-trial conditions,” and where someone like Assange could quickly find himself in American custody in order to face trial for espionage, given the release by Wikileaks of several thousand confidential American diplomatic and military cables.
Some analysts were skeptical that Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan would make much of a difference in Wisconsin, particularly since the state hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984. But Romney has actually opened up a small lead in Wisconsin, according to the latest Rasmussen poll:
The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Romney with 48% support to President Obama’s 47%. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and two percent (2%) are undecided.
In late July, it was Obama 49%, Romney 46%. This is the Republican’s largest level of support yet in the Badger State. Prior to this survey, the president has earned 45% to 52% of the vote, while Romney has picked up 41% to 46% of the vote.
A one-point lead isn’t much in a poll with a 4.5 percent margin of error, but Rasmussen’s findings on voter sentiment in the state are a good sign for Republicans:
Ryan, who has been a congressman from Wisconsin since 1999, is viewed favorably by 57% of the state’s voters. This finding includes 39% who view Ryan Very Favorably. Thirty-six percent (36%) share an unfavorable view of Ryan, with 23% who view him Very Unfavorably. Five percent (5%) are not familiar with the congressman.
Fifty-one percent (51%) of Wisconsin voters believe Romney made the right choice in tapping Ryan as his running mate, while 30% disagree. A plurality (46%) says they are more likely to vote for Romney now that Ryan is on the ticket, while 31% are less likely to do so. Twenty-two percent (22%) say the Ryan choice has no impact on their support for Romney.
In Israel this week, people are lining up for gas masks, a new Homeland Defense has been set to work to deal with the task of readying the country for the possibility of attacks from Iran, Lebanon and Gaza, and pundits are working overtime trying to figure out whether the nation’s political leadership is serious about launching a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities sometime this fall. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, is doing his best to convince Americans that the saber-rattling coming out Jerusalem is not a bluff aimed at forcing the West to toughen sanctions on Iran or start making their own credible threats about using force. In interviews with journalists and an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week, Oren has made a powerful case about the existential threat that a nuclear Iran presents to Israel, but Washington may be listening more closely to those figures inside the Jewish state who are claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are begging to be talked out of an attack.
As the New York Times reported yesterday, Uzi Dayan, a former general who was asked to serve as Homeland Defense Minister, says his conversations with both Netanyahu and Barak led him to believe that the window of diplomacy with Iran that the Obama administration keeps talking about is still open. There are good reasons to believe the Israeli government would like nothing better than to have the war talk do what an earlier wave of speculation about a strike accomplished when Washington belatedly adopted a tougher sanctions policy. Jerusalem understands that even a successful strike on Iran will exact a terrible price in casualties and damage from counter-attacks from the Islamist regime and its terrorist allies. But those who assert that Netanyahu is just bluffing forget that Israeli anxiety is rooted as much in its lack of confidence in Washington as it is in knowledge of Iran’s genocidal ambitions.
Anyone who follows the criticism of the “Israel Lobby” hears the constant refrain that the worst thing about these pro-Israel groups is that they supposedly seek to silence their critics, hurt them financially, and ruin their careers. Longtime Israel critic and former Media Matters staffer M.J. Rosenberg is one such complainant, who took the accusation far enough to compare the Jewish Federations of North America—a philanthropic group primarily concerned with getting food and medicine to Jews in need here and around the world—to the worst tendencies of Joe McCarthy.
But it turns out that Rosenberg is actually a full-throated supporter of using people’s political opinions to render them silenced and unemployed–as long as it’s not anyone Rosenberg is friends with. Rosenberg has initiated a movement to get the Guardian to fire new columnist Josh Treviño before Treviño’s first column appears. (The Guardian’s decision to hire Treviño in the first place was one of the smartest decisions the paper has made.) That is, Rosenberg disagrees with Treviño’s views (more on that in a moment), and would like to be responsible for doing to Treviño what he has always regarded as reprehensible and undemocratic (Rosenberg usually uses slightly less diplomatic language, of course). This morning, Rosenberg tweeted this:
PROTEST Guardian hiring of White Supremacist Josh Treviño. Email woman who hired him. firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, Treviño is Hispanic, a vocal supporter of Latino immigration to the U.S., a critic of anti-immigration politicians, and was recently vice president of communications at a free-market-oriented think tank, so it’s safe to say he has worked pretty hard make the conservative movement more—not less—open to and inclusive toward racial minorities. So the casual smear from Rosenberg is quite clearly the opposite of the truth. (Treviño’s only geographical bias, as anyone who follows him on Twitter is aware, is in favor of the great state of Texas.)
President Obama took time out from his latest campaign trip yesterday to give an interview to “Entertainment Tonight” and got exactly what he bargained for: an opportunity to spin the news with a softball questioner. The president, who avoids the serious journalists of the White House press corps like the plague was asked breathlessly by ET’s Nancy O’Dell what he thought of Mitt Romney’s charges that the Democrat is conducting a campaign of hate. His response was an incredulous assertion that he is the man trying to unite the country. That he said so with a straight face the day after his vice president claimed Republicans were going to put “y’all back in chains” — a clear reference to black slavery — and with Democrats accusing Romney of killing people, is a tribute both to his high regard for himself and his political skills.
Democratic operatives have been quite frank about the fact that Obama’s re-election isn’t going to be about “hope and change” but an attempt to destroy the character of his opponents. But if the next 82 days are going to center on each party’s efforts to bring out their base, then it should be expected that the president will try to keep up the pretense that he is holding on to his 2008 claim of being above petty partisanship. In order to do that, he’s going to let his running mate whip up resentment against Romney by using racial incitement.
Artur Davis, the one-time Democratic congressman and 2008 Obama campaign co-chair, has been moving rightward for quite some time. But his speaking slot at the Republican National Convention later this month shows just how much the GOP has embraced him as a Romney surrogate:
“The one thing that I can bring to the table is to be something of a voice for that group of people,” Davis said in announcing his speaking slot. …
At the convention, Davis said he would speak about areas in which he felt Obama had failed to deliver on his promises from 2008.
“President Obama — Senator Obama — ran on two broad themes,” Davis said. “One of those broad themes was reunifying this country. And another broad theme was turning this economy around…. I’ll certainly be talking about those two failures.”
Here’s something you might want to keep in mind while celebrating the U.S.’s pending withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. From Tom Joscelyn at the Weekly Standard:
There is evidence that al Qaeda is already using Afghanistan (once again) to plot attacks against the West.
Earlier this month, for example, Spanish authorities announced that they had broken up a three-man al Qaeda cell that was plotting terrorist attacks on one or more targets. The cell had been trained in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Investigators added that the men had ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which is headquartered in Pakistan, and had attended the LeT’s training camps inside Afghanistan as well.
Via the Purple Poll, Mitt Romney has seen gains in Ohio and Pennsylvania since choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate. While President Obama has made some inroads in Colorado and Florida, Romney still leads by a 1-point margin in the latter:
Romney has seen the largest gain in Ohio, a state we have seen bounce between the campaigns over the last few months. Today, the GOP ticket leads by 2 points (46% to 44%), compared to July when President Obama led the state 48% to 45%. Romney also gained ground in Virginia – today, he and Paul Ryan hold a 3-point advantage in the race (48% to 45%), while Romney trailed by 2 points in July.
However, President Obama has seen improvements in Colorado and Florida. In Colorado, the Obama-Biden ticket now leads 49% to 46%, an increase from a 1-point lead in July. In Florida, the Democratic ticket trails by just 1 point (48% to 47%), compared to a 3 point deficit in July.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, to his credit, can’t quite bring himself to equate the Obama campaign’s insinuations that Mitt Romney is culpable in the death of innocents with the Romney campaign’s attacks on President Obama’s controversial welfare executive order. But he does happen to have another justification of the Obama campaign’s rhetorical excesses, and it’s one that should come naturally to Obama: it’s all Bush’s fault.
“What’s different this time,” Milbank writes, “is that the Democrats are employing the same harsh tactics that have been used against them for so long, with so much success.” And what finally pushed the Democrats over the edge was the defeat of John Kerry. Milbank writes that Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, who was caught making false claims about the now-infamous murder ad and her role in orchestrating that line of attack, was especially affected by that election. He writes:
Eight years ago, Cutter was a staffer on the Kerry campaign when the candidate was undone by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacks on his war record. Cutter, like other Democrats, learned a hard truth back then: Umbrage doesn’t win elections. Ruthlessness does.
Democrats are trying to portray ex-intelligence officials who are publicly criticizing the Obama administration’s leaking of sensitive material in order to boost the president’s political standing as partisans. They think by merely saying the words “Swift Boat,” the group, which calls itself Special Operations Opsec Education Fund, will be ignored or reviled. But the comparison to those Navy veterans who blasted John Kerry’s record during the 2004 campaign is not apt. Whatever the motivation of the original Swift Boat veterans, their beef was a personal grudge against Kerry. The issue the Opsec group is highlighting is a serious problem that has already resulted in federal investigations of the White House’s behavior.