Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 16, 2012

President’s Press Abuse Could Backfire

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.

Read More

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.

Today one of the most evenhanded and hard-hitting voices in the press corps, ABC’s Jake Tapper, wrote a blog post that took notice of the White House’s choice of press outlets:

President Obama hasn’t formally taken questions from the White House press corps in more than two months, while on the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday he made time for reporters from People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight.

His last news conference was at the G20 in June, when he answered six questions from three reporters on the European debt crisis, the conflict in Syria, and the notion of politics stopping at the water’s edge.

The White House press corps has not formally been given the opportunity to ask questions of the president on U.S. soil since his appearance in the Briefing Room on June 8 (when he said “the private sector is doing fine.“)

His last formal White House news conference was on March 6.

While the White House may be afraid to submit the president to questioning from the political press, it is still subjecting Press Secretary Jay Carney to an increasingly frustrated media. Today’s White House press briefing wasn’t pretty, and Tapper wasn’t alone in his harsh line of questions to Carney, who did nothing but deflect and distract from constant queries on the president’s refusal to rebuke his vice president’s incendiary remarks on the GOP’s plan to put the largely African-American audience “back in chains.” During the briefing Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry pointedly asked Carney, “Ryan has put his details out there. You’re hitting them. When does the president put his details out there? Before the election or after the election? … Giving an extra eight years to Medicare kicks it down eight more years. Everyone acknowledges you have to do more.” Carney’s response? “I think you, uh, need to focus more attention on the Ryan budget rules.”

Continued disrespect from the White House for the reporters that cover it are bound to affect the coverage it receives. While the media may be in the same ideological camp as the President and his administration, they have limits on their willingness to provide positive coverage of a White House that refuses to even play along and pretend to cooperate.

Read Less

After DC Attack, Law Center Deserves Flak

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.

Read More

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 Law Center gained a certain degree of fame and respectability as a more secular counterpart to the Anti-Defamation League, which also monitors hate groups from a Jewish perspective. But the SLC seems to have made a strategic decision in recent years that it might be easier to raise money if it increased its scope from activities monitoring genuine hate groups to advocates of causes that they dislike like such as the Family Research Center who are deeply unpopular among liberal donors.

Recently, the Law Center has also taken up the largely bogus charge that America is suffering from a wave of Islamophobia. In doing so, it put Gaffney in their cross hairs and has now taken to treating the former Reagan administration Defense Department official as being no different than Duke or Farrakhan. Just as outrageous is that, as Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes in the Jewish Press today, they have teamed up with the likes of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) to support the branding of not just Gaffney but scholar Daniel Pipes and his Middle East Forum and investigative journalist Steven Emerson as part of a network of hate against Muslims. Again, one needn’t agree with Gaffney, Pipes or Emerson on every position they take, but the idea that they can be treated like KKK members is a frightening example of the way the left operates these days.

It is no small irony that a group dedicated to human rights such as the SPLC would make common cause with CAP, some of whose employees were caught using anti-Semitic terms of abuse on their blog posts smearing Israel and its supporters. But it is even more amazing that it would work with the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an organization that masquerades as a civil rights group but whose president Salam al-Marayati has rationalized anti-Israel terrorism and lauded Hamas and Hezbollah.

It’s clear that the SPLC has long since stopped being the heroic defender of civil rights and become just another left-wing advocacy group that engages in its own version of intolerant and extreme rhetoric. The Law Center may not be responsible for acts of domestic terrorism against its opponents but by using its past reputation as a respected monitor of extremism to brand mere political foes as hate groups, they have lost all credibility. Far from upholding democracy, the SPLC is undermining it. It deserves all the criticism it will get in the aftermath of the Washington shooting.

Read Less

Extremists Filling Power Vacuum in Syria

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.

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.

Read Less

Ryan’s Bounce May Come in October

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.

Read More

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.

As much as conservatives love Ryan for his ideas and talent for taking on the opposition in a reasonable manner, no veep candidate is going to make that much of a difference in November. But Ryan’s presence on the ticket has altered the race somewhat in that the future of entitlements and government spending is now in the spotlight rather than being pushed to the side by concern over the economy. That is something that scares some Republicans and delights Democrats.

But the notion that Obama can be re-elected by running as the candidate of the status quo, who will, as Vice President Biden stated, oppose any changes in Social Security or Medicare may underestimate the intelligence of the American people. As I wrote after the pick was announced, Ryan’s presence on the ballot will provide a test of whether voters will prefer demagoguery to ideas. We won’t know the answer to that question until October at the earliest.

Read Less

Julian Assange and Ecuador’s Gesture Politics

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.

Read More

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.

It’s worth remembering that before hiding out in the Ecuadorean embassy, Assange acquired celebrity status in Britain, trading on his self-image as a courageous whistle-blower being hunted down by the vengeful Americans. (To amplify that point, pro-Assange demonstrators have taken to brandishing placards, lifted from a cover of Time magazine, that show Assange’s mouth gagged by an American flag.) For over a year, Assange very publicly lived in the enormous (and luxurious) country manor belonging to Vaughn Smith, a wealthy left-wing journalist and socialite, and the founder of The Frontline Club, a journalistic watering hole in central London. In January of this year, RT, a satellite news network controlled and financed by the Russian government, gave Assange his own show with the curious title The World Tomorrow, in which he interviewed the sorts of people known in marketing-speak as “high profile individuals.”

Those individuals included Hezbollah’s chieftain Hassan Nasrallah, whom Assange excitedly described as “one of the most extraordinary figures in the Middle East.” Another guest was ­– coincidence? – the left-wing President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who joked with his host, “Are you having a lot of fun with the interview, Julian? I am glad to hear that. Me too.”

Being a journalist in Correa’s Ecuador is, however, considerably less enjoyable. Since Correa’s election in 2007, which brought Ecuador into the “Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas,” a body controlled by Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez, media freedom in the country has been the subject of a sustained attack. A recent report by Freedom House noted that the closure, on June 6, of the independent station Radio Net was the fifth example of the shuttering of a media outlet within a fortnight. And a January item in the Washington Post about media censorship in Ecuador contained the following observation by a media freedom advocate:

“Ecuador is moving faster than anywhere else to restrict free expression,” said Cesar Ricaurte, director of the Andean Foundation for Media Study and Observation in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. “There is the discourse that leads to aggression, there are the lawsuits, there are laws to muzzle. And you also have a powerful propaganda system.”

The fact that Assange, depicted by much of the Western left as a poster child for the battle against government secrecy and censorship, can cozy up to a leader like Correa is only baffling if you believe that Wikileaks was promoting universal standards on the freedom of expression. The reality is that Wikileaks was, and remains, a project to present the U.S. as the ultimate rogue state, crushing press freedom in the name of imperial power. By contrast, those populist, “anti-imperialist” regimes who do actually censor the press are engaging in “resistance.” What we have here is not so much  a doctrine of moral equivalence between the United States and assorted autocracies, but a doctrine of moral superiority on the part of the latter.

Like the tyrants with whom he holds court, Assange is also a conspiracy theorist. And like all conspiracy theorists, he knows who really pulls the strings. A January 2011 telephone conversation between Assange and Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, a British satirical magazine, went like this:

Assange claimed that Private Eye was ‘part of a conspiracy led by the Guardian which included journalist David Leigh, editor Alan Rusbridger and John Kampfner from Index on Censorship – all of whom “are Jewish”.’

‘I pointed out that Rusbridger is not actually Jewish, but Assange insisted that he was “sort of Jewish” because he was related to David Leigh (they are brothers-in-law),’ wrote Hislop.

‘When I doubted whether his Jewish conspiracy would stand up against the facts, Assange suddenly conceded the point. “Forget the Jewish thing”.’

It is doubtful that Assange has forgotten the “Jewish thing,” particularly as one of his closest associates is Israel Shamir, a sinister formerly Jewish anti-Semite who used Wikileaks data in defense of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus. Should the stand-off at the London embassy end badly – and it may well do, given that Ecuador is clearly breaking British law – rest assured that we’ll be hearing dark mutterings involving the J word from Assange and his acolytes.

Read Less

Romney Now Leading in Wisconsin

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.

Read More

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.

Those numbers are actually far more positive for Ryan than the previous favorable/unfavorable ratings in Wisconsin that we’ve seen from polls like PPP (which could be partially due to the fact that Rasmussen polls likely voters, not registered voters).

Obama still leads Romney in the RealClearPolitics Wisconsin polling average, but this is the first poll since Paul Ryan joined the ticket, and it shows encouraging momentum for the Romney campaign.

Read Less

Is Bibi Bluffing on Iran Strike?

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.

Read More

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.

With even the Americans now finally willing to agree in the form of a new National Intelligence Estimate that Iran is building a bomb, the feeling in Jerusalem is that they cannot sit back, wait and hope for the best as their allies seem to be telling them. The latest round of threats from Tehran as they prepare to celebrate al Quds (Jerusalem) Day started with a comment from an Iranian general “that there is no other way but to stand firm and resist until Israel is destroyed.” That was followed by a prediction in a speech by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader, that Israel would disappear.

But Israel’s problem isn’t so much their certainty that if Iran is allowed to keep on refining uranium that they will have a bomb before long. It is their utter lack of faith in the Obama administration’s willingness to do something about the problem.

Netanyahu’s domestic critics are not off base when they chide his government for painting the Iranian threat as being primarily a problem for Israel rather than the region or the West. It is also obviously true that if Israel acted on its own, the impact of such a strike would not be nearly as devastating or conclusive as one led by the United States armed forces. But who can blame Netanyahu and Barak for having come to the conclusion that President Obama will continue pretending that his policy of ineffective diplomacy and loosely enforced sanctions can deal with the situation until it really is too late.

It could be that fear of an Israeli strike in the middle of a presidential election will prompt Obama to improve upon his current feckless stand. But in the absence of any sign of such a switch and with the prospect that a re-elected Obama will find the “flexibility” to abandon his promise to stop Iran, Netanyahu may have no choice but to contemplate a unilateral strike. Rather than worrying about Israel bluffing, the administration needs to recognize that if they wish to avert a war this fall, the president must start acting like he means what he says about stopping Iran.

Read Less

The Casual Smearing of a Conservative

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. janine.gibson@guardian.co.uk

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.)

Read More

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. janine.gibson@guardian.co.uk

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.)

Rosenberg also tweeted this: “Treviño is every Jew’s nightmare.Protest to Guardian. Creepy white racist.” In fact, one of the reasons people like Rosenberg and some of his more viciously anti-Zionist allies in this crusade against Treviño—like Ali Abunimah, whose site has gleefully compared Jews to Nazis—is that Treviño is not only an admirer, though not a practitioner, of the Jewish faith, but he’s also a staunch, unapologetic defender of Israel. And here we get to the crux of the “fire Treviño” bandwagon.

Treviño was among the vast majority of Americans to stand up for Israel’s right of self-defense against the “flotilla” movement seeking to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Since the first such flotilla included a terrorist-funded boat full of armed extremists who tried to kill Israeli soldiers, Treviño was on fairly solid ground here—and most Americans felt the same way.

You can agree or disagree with Israel’s blockade—which even the United Nations declared was legal—but Treviño held a majority opinion (at least in the United States) and has nothing to apologize for. The totalitarian-minded mob that wants Treviño blacklisted for expressing conservative views on politics and broadly mainstream views on Israel has been gaining steam on Twitter and other social media platforms.

It is a movement that seeks to do harm to the Guardian and its reputation by bullying one of the most widely read newspapers in the world into submission. The Guardian, one hopes, will stand on principle even if they do not agree with all of Treviño’s views. That is the purpose of a free press in a free society. Based on the overall reaction to Treviño’s addition to the Guardian, the paper has already earned many new readers simply by signaling it would be a more inclusive newspaper with a wider range of opinion. As for Rosenberg and Co., they have finally unmasked themselves not as McCarthy’s foils, but as his heirs.

Read Less

The Party of Status Quo

The Washington Post editorial board argues that Joe Biden’s comments on Social Security the other day were far more disturbing than his “chains” gaffe:

On the same trip to southern Virginia, Mr. Biden wandered into the Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart. According to the White House pool report, when a diner there said, “I’m glad you all are not talking about doing anything with Social Security,” Mr. Biden responded: “Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

Why is this so depressing? Because, as Mr. Biden knows, Social Security is going broke. If “no changes” are made, then by 2033 the program will not be able to pay benefits as promised.

The Post pressed the White House on whether Biden’s comments reflected official policy, and were given the brush-off:

In response to our inquiry, White House officials said that Mr. Biden’s “flat guarantee” was not meant to convey a change in administration position, which they said is best understood from Mr. Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, which called for “a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

That speech was hardly a profile in courage: Mr. Obama opposed “slashing” benefits for future retirees. But that presumably (if tacitly) left room for trimming benefits. The president went further in failed negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner last summer, putting on the table changes in the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated.

Read More

The Washington Post editorial board argues that Joe Biden’s comments on Social Security the other day were far more disturbing than his “chains” gaffe:

On the same trip to southern Virginia, Mr. Biden wandered into the Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart. According to the White House pool report, when a diner there said, “I’m glad you all are not talking about doing anything with Social Security,” Mr. Biden responded: “Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

Why is this so depressing? Because, as Mr. Biden knows, Social Security is going broke. If “no changes” are made, then by 2033 the program will not be able to pay benefits as promised.

The Post pressed the White House on whether Biden’s comments reflected official policy, and were given the brush-off:

In response to our inquiry, White House officials said that Mr. Biden’s “flat guarantee” was not meant to convey a change in administration position, which they said is best understood from Mr. Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, which called for “a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

That speech was hardly a profile in courage: Mr. Obama opposed “slashing” benefits for future retirees. But that presumably (if tacitly) left room for trimming benefits. The president went further in failed negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner last summer, putting on the table changes in the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated.

Why won’t the White House get into specifics? For the same reason Senate Democrats have declined to take up a budget plan, and President Obama has declined to offer a proposal to keep Medicare solvent and reduce the deficit. Because of the political risk involved. It’s much easier to attack the Republican plans than to offer new solutions. The Obama campaign prefers to propagate the myth that Republicans are callously trying to target the poor and the elderly with their plans, rather than acknowledge that reform is hard — and that any solution will require tradeoffs.

The Obama campaign also wants to have it both ways; attacking Romney and Ryan for their “radical” proposals, while simultaneously mocking the idea that Ryan’s reforms are bold or courageous.

Of course the Ryan plan took courage. If it didn’t, Obama would have proposed his own detailed response a long time ago. Instead, during the White House press briefing today, Jay Carney refused to specify when, if ever, the president would give more details on his plan to keep Medicare afloat.

When the media wonders why Romney’s VP choice hasn’t resulted in an elevated debate, the answer is clear. The country can’t begin the serious conversation that Obama claims he wants until he puts more details on the table.

Read Less

Obama Poses as Uniter While Biden Smears

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.

Read More

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.

Obama and his wife Michelle claimed Republicans were distorting the meaning of Biden’s words and were attempting to avoid a serious discussion of regulating Wall Street. But there can be no mistake about what it means for a northern white politician like Biden to affect a southern drawl and tell a mostly black audience the GOP is going to put them in chains. While most of the coverage of Biden today has depicted him as an out-of-control mistake machine that is a burden to the president, the truth is, the veep is filling an important role in the Democratic campaign. Biden’s reputation as a gaffe-prone gasbag hasn’t caused him to tone done his routine or have his handlers keep him on a leash. On the contrary, the more political observers roll their eyes at him, the more he seems to be free to be himself and unleash a torrent of abuse at the Republicans while the president is allowed to play the victim of unjustified criticism.

Of course, Obama’s hypocrisy on this score is nothing new. Throughout his presidency he has spoken of himself as a reasonable man of the center all the while depicting those who disagree with him as extremists who put ideology and party above the needs of their country. His brazen use of class warfare attacks on the Republicans is a classic example of a politician who seeks to profit from sowing division and hate.

Democrats are counting on the way his supporters insulate themselves from views and news reports that will point out the inconsistencies and lies that are the foundation of the myth of Obama the uniter. But as the election heats up and Democratic incitement reaches fever pitch, even his acting skills are going to be tested if he expects any but his most fervent cheerleaders to accept his pose as a man who is above the fray.

Read Less

Artur Davis to Speak at GOP Convention

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.”

Read More

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.”

The RNC has sounded this theme throughout the race — most recently with the “It’s Okay to Make a Change” ad directed at disillusioned Obama voters — but the message is far more powerful coming from the person who seconded Obama’s nomination at the 2008 Democratic convention.

Americans for Prosperity is also targeting disenchanted voters with its latest ad campaign that actually includes interviews with former Obama supporters:

The soft, disappointed tone of these ads actually seems more compelling now that the Obama campaign has gone viciously negative in its attacks. It’s as if the Obama campaign is proving these ads — and all those disillusioned voters — correct by destroying the last shred of hope that Obama’s 2008 persona was the real deal.

In fact, it’s probably more effective to use these ads than the ones that blatantly attack Obama. Now that the Romney campaign has a clear message, it doesn’t need to go entirely negative — but the Obama campaign does. The more mud Obama throws, the more he’ll end up turning off independent voters and discrediting himself.

Read Less

Guess Who Won’t Leave Afghanistan When We Do

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.

Read More

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.

After the United States helped push the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s, American indifference to the fate of the that country turned immediately into neglect. A decade later, we went into Afghanistan because the ruling Taliban were hosting and protecting the terrorists behind 9/11. In 2014, we’ll leave Afghanistan—Taliban, al Qaeda plots, and all—because “it’s time for nation building at home” is a catchy slogan.

Must we really learn this lesson again? Mark Twain said famously that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. He was wrong; it repeats itself.

Read Less

Romney Gets Poll Bounce in Swing States

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.

Read More

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 bounce can either be chalked up to Ryan (a sign that the choice is already paying dividends), or to momentum that was with Romney before the VP announcement (which would contradict speculation that Romney only chose Ryan out of desperation).

There are also some interesting numbers on Medicare inside the poll. In Florida, Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden are in a virtual tie on the question of who will best protect Medicare. More Floridians also describe the Romney-Ryan budget plan as “reduc[ing] the deficit/help[ing] the economy and Medicare” as opposed to “tax breaks for the rich/end[ing] Medicare.”

Interestingly enough, Romney-Ryan are also viewed as the candidates most likely to bring “real change” to Washington. Apparently voters don’t hold out hope that a second Obama term will be much different from the first.

Read Less

New Defense of Obama Tactics: Blame Bush

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.

Read More

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.

Now, Milbank gets much about the Kerry election wrong–and as Jonathan wrote, he isn’t the only one to try to use the Swift Boat veterans against the GOP this time–but he’s right in his conclusion: negative campaigning tends to be effective, and the Obama campaign is far more concerned with winning than adhering to honest electioneering. It may be true that Cutter learned from the Kerry debacle to turn this campaign into a carnival of obscene personal attacks and extraordinarily irresponsible unfounded accusations—but that’s not the case with the president.

As Victor Davis Hanson wrote at NRO, Obama knows the “Chicago way” works because he’s never run any other kind of campaign:

Obama demolished his U.S. Senate Democratic primary rival through leaked divorce records. He demolished his initial Republican rival through leaked divorce records. When he got through with Hillary Clinton, the liberal former first lady and U.S. senator had transmogrified into a prevaricating hack and veritable racist, as Bill Clinton lamented the race card being played. John McCain released his health records and his general dismal ranking at Annapolis, leading to a false narrative that he was naturally inattentive and reckless, and scarcely hale, while Obama released neither his medical nor his college records; as Sarah Palin — heretofore a reformist governor of Alaska who in bipartisan fashion had fought special interests — was reduced to a caricature of an uninformed poor (and trashy) mom. All of the above transpired while Barack Obama ran as a “reformer” and proponent of “civility,” who vowed to run a “transparent” campaign of full disclosure, and to leave the old “petty” and “gotcha” politics behind.

The fiction that Democrats like to tell themselves about the 2004 Bush-Kerry election grows out of their refusal to admit what everybody knew: Kerry was an absurd candidate, produced by a bizarre primary season. In the end, they nominated for president a man who made a big show of tossing away his Vietnam War ribbons and smearing his fellow soldiers—to challenge a wartime president, no less. To compensate for this, that nomination took place, as Andrew Ferguson wrote in COMMENTARY, “in a hall festooned with so much military paraphernalia and overrun by so many saluting veterans that you might have thought you were watching a Latin American coup.”

It is also the case that Kerry didn’t think much of the American people he was asking to lead, and it showed. In one of Matt Taibbi’s columns about the 2004 election, he writes that he noticed Kerry was using a quote from George Bernard Shaw in his speeches,

but he always introduces it by saying, “He (Ted Kennedy) quoted the poet who said…” When I asked a Kerry spokesman why Kerry didn’t just say the poet’s name out loud, he told me that the average voter might be confused by the mention of too many academic references.

It turned out that the “average voter” was smarter than Kerry gave him credit for—smart enough to vote against Kerry. The sooner the Democrats make peace with Kerry’s failed candidacy, the better. There are many things Obama was able to blame on Bush, but the negativity of this election isn’t one of them.

Read Less

Anger Over Obama Leaks Isn’t Swift Boat II

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.

Read More

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.

The White House is particularly unhappy because the group’s efforts threaten to tarnish the one tangible achievement of this administration: the killing of Osama bin Laden. The operation that ended the life of the arch terrorist was a brilliant military maneuver but it has become a political totem for the president. The killing has allowed him to pretend that a record of foreign policy failure has somehow been transformed into one of unadulterated success. While the president deserves credit for giving the okay for the strike (after reportedly refusing to do it three previous times), the shameless manner with which the administration blabbed classified information so as to portray Obama and his staff as fearless war leaders understandably angered the intelligence community. More importantly, it was just one more instance in which the White House leaked secrets for political gain. While the investigations of these leaks by two U.S. Attorneys may eventually lead to serious consequences for some individuals, the president shouldn’t be surprised that there is going to be some political damage as well.

The Swift Boat attacks on Kerry were controversial because they were seen as an unfair attempt to besmirch a decorated veteran who did face enemy fire. Kerry’s fellow veterans resented his portrayal as a hero and were bitter about his unconscionable attacks on fellow serviceman after he returned home from Vietnam. But whatever you may think about that dispute, there really is no comparison to criticism of Obama’s promiscuous leaking of classified material.

This is an administration that hasn’t hesitated to blab details about the most important covert operations and research, such as cyber warfare and the drone attacks on terrorists, so as to paint the president as a great man. The White House has clearly broken the law but it is unclear whether they will be made to pay for these violations since Obama appointees rather than an independent special prosecutor are conducting the investigations.

It should also be admitted that some of the anger about the leaks about the bin Laden operation are due to natural resentment by those who carry out such operations at the way the president’s team has used them as props in his re-election campaign. The president rarely makes a speech without mentioning bin Laden’s killing, and while he has given proper credit to those who actually risked their lives on this mission, there’s little doubt that the White House has worked hard to paint him as the true “hero” of the story.

While the election will not be won or lost on this issue, the blowback on the leaks is a lesson for all political leaders. Presidents who seek to take the lion’s share of the credit for the actions of those who serve in the military and who leak information to puff their own reputations will always be resented for doing so. Rather than blasting the Opsec veterans, what is needed from the administration is a little more humility from the commander-in-chief.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.