Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 20, 2012

Who Made the Case for Iran Attack? Obama

In his column at the Daily Beast today on the prospect of hostilities with Iran, Peter Beinart assumes his usual role: defender of Barack Obama against Israel and its supporters. In this case, it’s the chutzpah of Israel’s government to demand that the administration issue some clear red lines about how long it will wait before taking action against the Iranian nuclear threat that bothers him. Israel’s warning that it may have to act on its own is seen on the left as an attempt to force him to launch an unnecessary war. But Beinart’s complaint that we haven’t had a full-scale debate on stopping Iran is more than a bit disingenuous. Far from no one making a case for the use of force on Iran — which he compares unfavorably to the Bush administration’s efforts to justify the invasion of Iraq — the president has been doing that ever since he started running for president.

If there hasn’t been much contention about pressuring Iran it’s because it’s been one of those issues on which there’s been a clear consensus. Stopping an Islamist regime that hates the West and America and which routinely calls for Israel’s elimination while promoting anti-Semitism and subsidizing terrorism is not a controversial goal. Obama and the Democrats and Romney and the Republicans both agree on this. The only question is which of them is serious about it. Beinart’s call for debate before any promises are made to Israel is part of an effort to back the president’s desire to keep kicking the can down the road until after the November election. Rather than really wanting a debate about a feckless administration policy that has wasted four years on dead-end diplomacy and engagement with Iran and only belatedly enacted sanctions that it are being loosely enforced, what Obama cheerleaders like Beinart really want is to find a way to put on brake on the use of force. But his assertion that no one has made a case for stopping Iran being an “American interest” is simply untrue.

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In his column at the Daily Beast today on the prospect of hostilities with Iran, Peter Beinart assumes his usual role: defender of Barack Obama against Israel and its supporters. In this case, it’s the chutzpah of Israel’s government to demand that the administration issue some clear red lines about how long it will wait before taking action against the Iranian nuclear threat that bothers him. Israel’s warning that it may have to act on its own is seen on the left as an attempt to force him to launch an unnecessary war. But Beinart’s complaint that we haven’t had a full-scale debate on stopping Iran is more than a bit disingenuous. Far from no one making a case for the use of force on Iran — which he compares unfavorably to the Bush administration’s efforts to justify the invasion of Iraq — the president has been doing that ever since he started running for president.

If there hasn’t been much contention about pressuring Iran it’s because it’s been one of those issues on which there’s been a clear consensus. Stopping an Islamist regime that hates the West and America and which routinely calls for Israel’s elimination while promoting anti-Semitism and subsidizing terrorism is not a controversial goal. Obama and the Democrats and Romney and the Republicans both agree on this. The only question is which of them is serious about it. Beinart’s call for debate before any promises are made to Israel is part of an effort to back the president’s desire to keep kicking the can down the road until after the November election. Rather than really wanting a debate about a feckless administration policy that has wasted four years on dead-end diplomacy and engagement with Iran and only belatedly enacted sanctions that it are being loosely enforced, what Obama cheerleaders like Beinart really want is to find a way to put on brake on the use of force. But his assertion that no one has made a case for stopping Iran being an “American interest” is simply untrue.

Indeed, the comparison to Iraq, where intelligence about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be incorrect, is apt but not in the way that opponents of force think. Unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Iranians haven’t been coy about their nuclear goals even if they claim they don’t want a bomb. There isn’t much of a dispute about whether they are refining uranium or that they are building underground bunkers for this material. Opponents of action don’t dispute that the Iranians have worked on military applications of their nuclear material. Nor is this belief limited to Americans. There happens to be an international consensus that there is solid proof that an Iranian bomb is a threat to world peace as well as the global economy. Why would diplomats like the European Union’s Catherine Ashton be involved in negotiations to halt the Iranian project if it were solely about Israel’s interests?

Nor is there any doubt about how dangerous Iran already has become. Via its allies Hezbollah and Hamas and the vicious Assad regime in Syria, Iran is a destabilizing force in the region and the main bulwark of terrorism. It’s recent Al Quds day festivities also serve as a reminder of the entrenched anti-Semitism that runs deep in the regime’s ideology. Even Tehran’s apologists have trouble justifying indifference toward a country that denies the Holocaust while constantly threatening a new one.

It is true that after Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are war weary. But no one is suggesting an invasion. The U.S. and Israel have the capability to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities without injecting land forces. That would mean casualties as well as possible retaliation but comparison with either of Bush’s wars is completely misleading. Beinart is right that neither candidate is talking much about Iran on the campaign trail. But both agree that Iran must be stopped. Any debate about the advisability of making good on the country’s pledge to halt Iran would take place with only the far left and extremist libertarians speaking up in favor of letting the ayatollahs get their finger on the button. Were the president to make clear his red lines, few in either major party would disagree just as his pledge not to contain Iran went virtually unopposed.

The real debate is not about whether we should stop Iran but whether President Obama meant it when he pledged to do so. Ever since President Obama began running for the White House, he has used the sternest rhetoric about the nature of the Iranian threat and how unacceptable it would be for them to go nuclear. Until now, he has tried diplomacy and failed. What Israel wants is some idea of how long he will wait before acknowledging that failure. Unfortunately, the more his supporters call for delay, and the more administration spokespersons make statements about still believing that diplomacy can work, the less credible the president’s pledges on Iran sound. And that is what makes Israelis nervous and Iranians confident.

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David Landau vs. Aaron Miller on Haredim

Last week, veteran Israeli-Palestinian peace process negotiator and author Aaron David Miller penned a column for the New York Times in which he wrote the following about Israel: “The country’s demographics look bad — too many ultra-Orthodox Jews, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs and not enough secular Jews.” Normally, when someone looks at a country’s ethnic makeup and identifies the “problem” as the proliferation of everyone except his own kind, the very reasonable obvious objections will be made across the board.

Miller’s line did not engender this outrage, because it was aimed at Haredim, to which the normal rules of civility do not apply in the American media. But he came in for a walloping from what may seem an unlikely source: David Landau. Landau, the former editor of Haaretz, has made shockingly offensive comments about Israel, and is currently Israel correspondent for The Economist, a magazine whose Israel coverage includes just this type of casual bigotry toward the Haredim. (Three weeks ago, the magazine wrote that “the hallmark of haredism is intolerance.”) But Landau was so upset by Miller’s apparent ignorance that he rose to a quite effusive defense of the Haredim in an interview with his former newspaper:

“I’m sitting here and thinking to myself, ‘Could a non-Jewish person have written that?’” asks Landau. “Would Aaron David Miller have written in The New York Times that the demographics in Turkey look bad — too many veiled women and not enough secular Turks?’ Could he get away with writing that? I feel like saying to him, ‘Tell me, have you bothered checking the demographics of the Jewish community of Cleveland, Ohio, where you come from? Today, 49 percent of the Jewish children in New York are Haredi, so Aaron David Miller has to look in his own backyard before he makes this sort of statement. This is the kind of know-it-all elitism that has been so characteristic of the Diaspora Jewish leadership and the Israeli elite for so long. It’s pathetic, and if in this Economist piece, I’ve succeeded in making six people of consequence rethink Jewish demographics, then the whole thing was worth it.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to blur the distinctions between Haredim and Orthodox Zionists, maintains Landau, has contributed enormously to his political success. “The fact that it’s been so easy for Bibi to lump together all the Haredi parties with the settlers and make them the bulwark of his coalition — it’s remarkable when you think about it. Has anyone thought about the fact that there are really no Haredim in the West Bank? That in 2005 the Haredim joined Sharon’s government with the full knowledge that this would enable him to move ahead with the disengagement from Gaza? Why hasn’t that left an impact on people?”

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Last week, veteran Israeli-Palestinian peace process negotiator and author Aaron David Miller penned a column for the New York Times in which he wrote the following about Israel: “The country’s demographics look bad — too many ultra-Orthodox Jews, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs and not enough secular Jews.” Normally, when someone looks at a country’s ethnic makeup and identifies the “problem” as the proliferation of everyone except his own kind, the very reasonable obvious objections will be made across the board.

Miller’s line did not engender this outrage, because it was aimed at Haredim, to which the normal rules of civility do not apply in the American media. But he came in for a walloping from what may seem an unlikely source: David Landau. Landau, the former editor of Haaretz, has made shockingly offensive comments about Israel, and is currently Israel correspondent for The Economist, a magazine whose Israel coverage includes just this type of casual bigotry toward the Haredim. (Three weeks ago, the magazine wrote that “the hallmark of haredism is intolerance.”) But Landau was so upset by Miller’s apparent ignorance that he rose to a quite effusive defense of the Haredim in an interview with his former newspaper:

“I’m sitting here and thinking to myself, ‘Could a non-Jewish person have written that?’” asks Landau. “Would Aaron David Miller have written in The New York Times that the demographics in Turkey look bad — too many veiled women and not enough secular Turks?’ Could he get away with writing that? I feel like saying to him, ‘Tell me, have you bothered checking the demographics of the Jewish community of Cleveland, Ohio, where you come from? Today, 49 percent of the Jewish children in New York are Haredi, so Aaron David Miller has to look in his own backyard before he makes this sort of statement. This is the kind of know-it-all elitism that has been so characteristic of the Diaspora Jewish leadership and the Israeli elite for so long. It’s pathetic, and if in this Economist piece, I’ve succeeded in making six people of consequence rethink Jewish demographics, then the whole thing was worth it.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to blur the distinctions between Haredim and Orthodox Zionists, maintains Landau, has contributed enormously to his political success. “The fact that it’s been so easy for Bibi to lump together all the Haredi parties with the settlers and make them the bulwark of his coalition — it’s remarkable when you think about it. Has anyone thought about the fact that there are really no Haredim in the West Bank? That in 2005 the Haredim joined Sharon’s government with the full knowledge that this would enable him to move ahead with the disengagement from Gaza? Why hasn’t that left an impact on people?”

Landau makes an important point: identifying Haredim with religious fanaticism shows a disturbing lack of basic knowledge about both Judaism and the state of Israel. Are there incidents of intolerance from the Haredim? Indeed there are, though not on the scale of the hateful blacklisting, threats of violence, and near riot that took place in Tel Aviv when some Chabadniks tried to move into a secular neighborhood.

In truth, neither the yeshiva students nor the secular Jews are accurately represented by the few among them who misbehave. And American Jews probably hope that Israelis don’t think Miller is representative of the level of knowledge and engagement of the Diaspora.

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NRSC Pulls Support From Akin

Todd Akin’s campaign continues to undergo one of the fastest implosions on record. Not only is Mitt Romney pushing him toward the door, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it will yank financial support for his Senate bid, CNN reports:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee will no longer support Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri in his U.S. Senate bid, a source from the group told CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash on Monday.

It was communicated to the congressman that the NRSC will be pulling out if he decides to stay in the race, the source said one day after the Senate candidate sparked a firestorm by claiming that “legitimate rape” rarely resulted in pregnancy.

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Todd Akin’s campaign continues to undergo one of the fastest implosions on record. Not only is Mitt Romney pushing him toward the door, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it will yank financial support for his Senate bid, CNN reports:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee will no longer support Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri in his U.S. Senate bid, a source from the group told CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash on Monday.

It was communicated to the congressman that the NRSC will be pulling out if he decides to stay in the race, the source said one day after the Senate candidate sparked a firestorm by claiming that “legitimate rape” rarely resulted in pregnancy.

Akin sounded defiant on the Mike Huckabee show earlier today, saying that he had no plans to step aside. At this point, it doesn’t look like that’s possible anymore. Republican senators are calling on him to drop out, and without NRSC funding, Akin has no chance of fighting off the attacks Democrats will rightfully hit him with. GOP advisors say he’s already making preparations to exit the race, according to Richard Grenell.

What would be the point of staying in the race at this point, unless he’s actively seeking to damage the Republican Party? Akin has basically no chance of winning, few defenders in the conservative media, and zero support from his national committee. In that climate, bowing out and preventing further embarrassment for himself should seem pretty appealing.

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Jacqueline Susann and the “Sex-Boiler”

Today is the 94th birthday of the late Jacqueline Susann, whose Valley of the Dolls (1966) was one of the most notorious examples of a uniquely American literary genre — the “sex-boiler.” In the publishing trade, these novels used to be called “bodice rippers.” As the trade name implies, some of them are historical romances (women haven’t worn bodices, after all, since the 18th century). And indeed, Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber (1944), set in what Fanny Butcher called “that lustiest of all English history’s periods, the time of Charles II,” may have been the first of its kind. But later examples of the genre discarded the trappings of history for contemporary stomping grounds. Think here of Peyton Place (1956), Grace Metalious’s saga of lust, lechery, adultery, and alcoholism — but mainly lust and lechery — in a small New England town. Nor are sex-boilers “women’s pornography”; nor are all of them written by women. Harold Robbins wrote some of the biggest-selling sex-boilers of all time, especially The Carpetbaggers (1961).

A sex-boiler is a novel, more often than not a roman à clef, which is written to capitalize upon the reading public’s taste for sex. This is a surprisingly recent fashion, at least in literary history, and what with internet pornography and looser production codes in movies and on TV, it may already be passing out of fashion again. As I have written elsewhere, the very use of the word sex to refer to the sex act is recent. It is not much more than a century old:

Before the twentieth century, “sex” referred to what is now called romance, more or less. Once it was uncoupled from flirtation, courtship, seduction, marriage, pregnancy, and children — once it was narrowed to genital strife — [sex] ceased to be an idea and became a scandal. Novelists wrote sex scenes, and the remainder of human sexual experience wasn’t even left to the imagination, because few novelists even imagined it was there. The twentieth-century novel became an either/or. Either it included plenty of sex scenes, or it ignored human sexuality altogether.

The sex-boiler is the popular novel in which human intrigue and striving are almost entirely for the sake of the sex act. That’s what all the intrigue and striving culminates in. Human experience boils over with sex, and the novelist makes a nice fat killing.

Consider the history of bestsellers in America. In 1943, The Robe, Lloyd C. Douglas’s historical novel about the Crucifixion, topped Publishers Weekly’s list of bestselling fiction. The next year — the year Forever Amber was published — Lillian Smith’s “social-problem” novel about miscegenation and interracial romance, Strange Fruit, grabbed the top spot. As Bruce Clayton writes, Smith’s novel “was denounced in many places for its ‘obscenity,’ although sex is barely mentioned.” It is just possible that the hint of sex, and not the earnest inquiry into a social problem, was the novel’s greatest selling point. At all events, Forever Amber finished fourth in sales that year. By 1945, it had climbed to the top of the list, although The Robe clung to second place. This is a significant moment in literary history. Looking back, you can watch sex and religion struggling for supremacy in American readership.

Religious novels continued to sell hugely into the Fifties: Russell Janney’s The Miracle of the Bells, Douglas’s The Big Fisherman, Henry Morton Robinson’s The Cardinal, and Thomas B. Costain’s The Silver Chalice all achieved the status of No. 1, with The Robe returning to the top in 1953, more than a decade after its original publication. The religious novels were pressed by historical romances, especially by Daphne du Maurier, and a growing number of social-problem novels like Frederic Wakeman’s The Hucksters, which examines advertising, and Laura Z. Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement, which examines anti-Semitism. But it was probably the success of James Jones’s From Here to Eternity (1951), with its four-letter soldiers’ words and its frank treatment of a deeply erotic adultery, that loosened the taboos more than any single American book.

Peyton Place followed five years later, although it was edged out of the top spot on the bestsellers’ list by James Gould Cozzens’s By Love Possessed, a novel about adultery that was the polar opposite of a sex-boiler. Cozzens’s book made you never want to have sex again. The title was the hottest thing about it. Thousands upon thousands of readers were tricked into reading it by the title alone. The unexpurgated Grove Press edition of Lady Chatterly’s Lover ended the Federal government’s long history of postal censorship in 1959. The “serious” novelists were slow to take advantage — Couples and Portnoy’s Complaint broke down the last prohibitions on sex in “serious” fiction in the late Sixties — but by then, Harold Robbins and Irving Wallace and Terry Southern had thoroughly sexualized American fiction. Mary McCarthy’s The Group (1962) was an attempt to adopt the popular sex-boiler to serious literary purpose. Its very title suggests an important feature of the genre. The sex-boiler is a group chronicle of desperate sex-seekers.

Valley of the Dolls was the first sex-boiler to attain first place on the bestsellers’ list, nosing out Harold Robbins’s The Adventurers (another of the kind). Both of them returned to near the top in 1969, but Portnoy’s Complaint outsold them that year. So did The Godfather, which has a strong whiff of the sex-boiler about it. Mario Puzo introduced a great many boys late in the Baby Boom to the steamier facts of life. Judith Kranz, Danielle Steel, and Jackie Collins perfected the invention in the Eighties, but except for Steel, they had passed from the literary scene by the end of the century. By the time E. L. James appeared with Fifty Shades of Grey, the sex-boiler had to get kinky to attract new readers.

Today is the 94th birthday of the late Jacqueline Susann, whose Valley of the Dolls (1966) was one of the most notorious examples of a uniquely American literary genre — the “sex-boiler.” In the publishing trade, these novels used to be called “bodice rippers.” As the trade name implies, some of them are historical romances (women haven’t worn bodices, after all, since the 18th century). And indeed, Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber (1944), set in what Fanny Butcher called “that lustiest of all English history’s periods, the time of Charles II,” may have been the first of its kind. But later examples of the genre discarded the trappings of history for contemporary stomping grounds. Think here of Peyton Place (1956), Grace Metalious’s saga of lust, lechery, adultery, and alcoholism — but mainly lust and lechery — in a small New England town. Nor are sex-boilers “women’s pornography”; nor are all of them written by women. Harold Robbins wrote some of the biggest-selling sex-boilers of all time, especially The Carpetbaggers (1961).

A sex-boiler is a novel, more often than not a roman à clef, which is written to capitalize upon the reading public’s taste for sex. This is a surprisingly recent fashion, at least in literary history, and what with internet pornography and looser production codes in movies and on TV, it may already be passing out of fashion again. As I have written elsewhere, the very use of the word sex to refer to the sex act is recent. It is not much more than a century old:

Before the twentieth century, “sex” referred to what is now called romance, more or less. Once it was uncoupled from flirtation, courtship, seduction, marriage, pregnancy, and children — once it was narrowed to genital strife — [sex] ceased to be an idea and became a scandal. Novelists wrote sex scenes, and the remainder of human sexual experience wasn’t even left to the imagination, because few novelists even imagined it was there. The twentieth-century novel became an either/or. Either it included plenty of sex scenes, or it ignored human sexuality altogether.

The sex-boiler is the popular novel in which human intrigue and striving are almost entirely for the sake of the sex act. That’s what all the intrigue and striving culminates in. Human experience boils over with sex, and the novelist makes a nice fat killing.

Consider the history of bestsellers in America. In 1943, The Robe, Lloyd C. Douglas’s historical novel about the Crucifixion, topped Publishers Weekly’s list of bestselling fiction. The next year — the year Forever Amber was published — Lillian Smith’s “social-problem” novel about miscegenation and interracial romance, Strange Fruit, grabbed the top spot. As Bruce Clayton writes, Smith’s novel “was denounced in many places for its ‘obscenity,’ although sex is barely mentioned.” It is just possible that the hint of sex, and not the earnest inquiry into a social problem, was the novel’s greatest selling point. At all events, Forever Amber finished fourth in sales that year. By 1945, it had climbed to the top of the list, although The Robe clung to second place. This is a significant moment in literary history. Looking back, you can watch sex and religion struggling for supremacy in American readership.

Religious novels continued to sell hugely into the Fifties: Russell Janney’s The Miracle of the Bells, Douglas’s The Big Fisherman, Henry Morton Robinson’s The Cardinal, and Thomas B. Costain’s The Silver Chalice all achieved the status of No. 1, with The Robe returning to the top in 1953, more than a decade after its original publication. The religious novels were pressed by historical romances, especially by Daphne du Maurier, and a growing number of social-problem novels like Frederic Wakeman’s The Hucksters, which examines advertising, and Laura Z. Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement, which examines anti-Semitism. But it was probably the success of James Jones’s From Here to Eternity (1951), with its four-letter soldiers’ words and its frank treatment of a deeply erotic adultery, that loosened the taboos more than any single American book.

Peyton Place followed five years later, although it was edged out of the top spot on the bestsellers’ list by James Gould Cozzens’s By Love Possessed, a novel about adultery that was the polar opposite of a sex-boiler. Cozzens’s book made you never want to have sex again. The title was the hottest thing about it. Thousands upon thousands of readers were tricked into reading it by the title alone. The unexpurgated Grove Press edition of Lady Chatterly’s Lover ended the Federal government’s long history of postal censorship in 1959. The “serious” novelists were slow to take advantage — Couples and Portnoy’s Complaint broke down the last prohibitions on sex in “serious” fiction in the late Sixties — but by then, Harold Robbins and Irving Wallace and Terry Southern had thoroughly sexualized American fiction. Mary McCarthy’s The Group (1962) was an attempt to adopt the popular sex-boiler to serious literary purpose. Its very title suggests an important feature of the genre. The sex-boiler is a group chronicle of desperate sex-seekers.

Valley of the Dolls was the first sex-boiler to attain first place on the bestsellers’ list, nosing out Harold Robbins’s The Adventurers (another of the kind). Both of them returned to near the top in 1969, but Portnoy’s Complaint outsold them that year. So did The Godfather, which has a strong whiff of the sex-boiler about it. Mario Puzo introduced a great many boys late in the Baby Boom to the steamier facts of life. Judith Kranz, Danielle Steel, and Jackie Collins perfected the invention in the Eighties, but except for Steel, they had passed from the literary scene by the end of the century. By the time E. L. James appeared with Fifty Shades of Grey, the sex-boiler had to get kinky to attract new readers.

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In Defense of Debbie Wasserman Schultz

It’s not often that I feel the urge to defend Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But this criticism of her in Politico struck me as a little ridiculous:

Many of Obama’s advisers have quietly begun questioning whether they should have picked Wasserman Schultz, an outspoken Florida congresswoman, as his DNC chairwoman. She has clashed with Chicago over her choice of staff and air-time on national TV shows — and they think she comes across as too partisan over the airwaves.

Obama’s brain trust secretly commissioned pollster David Binder to conduct an internal focus study of the popularity of top Obama campaign surrogates. Number one was former press secretary Robert Gibbs, followed by Cutter. Traveling press secretary Jen Psaki, who was added to a second study, was third. Axelrod, Plouffe and current White House press secretary Jay Carney were bunched in the middle. Wasserman Schultz ranked at the bottom.

This seems hard to believe. Conservatives can find plenty to complain about when it comes to Wasserman Schultz, but on the partisan hackery scale, is she really any worse than Gibbs, Carney, Cutter, et al.?

Apparently that’s what some members of the Obama campaign want us to believe. Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama advisors made a concerted effort to get DWS to “tone it down”:

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It’s not often that I feel the urge to defend Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But this criticism of her in Politico struck me as a little ridiculous:

Many of Obama’s advisers have quietly begun questioning whether they should have picked Wasserman Schultz, an outspoken Florida congresswoman, as his DNC chairwoman. She has clashed with Chicago over her choice of staff and air-time on national TV shows — and they think she comes across as too partisan over the airwaves.

Obama’s brain trust secretly commissioned pollster David Binder to conduct an internal focus study of the popularity of top Obama campaign surrogates. Number one was former press secretary Robert Gibbs, followed by Cutter. Traveling press secretary Jen Psaki, who was added to a second study, was third. Axelrod, Plouffe and current White House press secretary Jay Carney were bunched in the middle. Wasserman Schultz ranked at the bottom.

This seems hard to believe. Conservatives can find plenty to complain about when it comes to Wasserman Schultz, but on the partisan hackery scale, is she really any worse than Gibbs, Carney, Cutter, et al.?

Apparently that’s what some members of the Obama campaign want us to believe. Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama advisors made a concerted effort to get DWS to “tone it down”:

Obama advisers have occasionally told [Wasserman Schultz] to “tone it down” and “back off a smidgen,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says. She agreed with them to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training, advisers say. “I’m glad to get constructive criticism,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says.

The media pros prepped her for an important Jan. 13 appearance on the “Bill Maher Show”—from her tone to her clothes (they know better than to suggest she blow out her curly hair, advisers say). Ms. Wasserman Schultz had lots of “don’t” instructions: Don’t make news, don’t try to be funny, don’t laugh at the comedian’s jokes, don’t use your hands (although she balled her fists at one point and did “karate chops” when making her points). Her biggest “do:” Attack Mitt Romney, which she managed to do despite the topic of discussion: Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

So according to the Journal, the Obama campaign’s problems with Wasserman Schultz had nothing to do with the partisanship. The campaign liked her partisanship. Here’s what they didn’t like, according to the article: the loud clothes, the curly hair, the hand gestures, her laugh. Are you getting the hint here?

Gibbs and Axelrod are celebrated for being obnoxious loudmouths. Cutter and Psaki can spin and unfairly attack Republicans on TV all they want. But Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the pushy Jewish woman with the Long Island accent, is apparently the one who needs to “tone it down.” Here’s a question: Would she be getting the same grief from Chicago if she wasn’t a woman? How about if she had straighter hair and was born in Atlanta instead of Forest Hills?

Maybe these anonymous Obama advisors trashing her to Politico and the WSJ are right that she’s not a great fit for the position. But I can’t see how she’s any more partisan or more aggressive or more obnoxious than the others. As far as I can tell, all of them are equally adherent to the party dogma, and Wasserman Schultz should not change a thing about her hair.

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The Price of Dempsey’s Different Clocks

When General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters yesterday that Israel and the United States are on “different clocks” regarding Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, he was doing more than stating what has already become obvious. Dempsey’s purpose in saying so publicly was more evidence that Washington is determined to ward off pressure from Israel to abandon its complacent attitude toward the Iranian threat. But it is also just one more instance in which the Obama administration has sought to create more daylight between U.S. and Israeli positions on security matters. While the president and his advisors think they are trying to teach the Netanyahu government a lesson, the main effect of this public disagreement is to encourage the Iranians to think that they don’t have to worry that much about either Israel or the United States.

Washington is frustrated because the Israelis won’t shut up about the consequences of a Western policy that has allowed the Iranians to keep refining uranium and getting closer to their nuclear goal. Dead-end diplomacy and loosely enforced sanctions have merely played into Tehran’s hands and the Israelis have been vocal about the fact that they are not going to simply stand by and wait patiently until Iran accumulates so much nuclear material stored in hardened underground bunkers that it will be too late to do anything about it. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is said to believe that moment will pass within a few months rather than the years the Americans say it will take. But rather than work with the Israelis and give them some concrete assurance that the president meant it when he said he would not allow Iran to go nuclear, the main reaction from the White House has been pique at Netanyahu’s chutzpah and public signals indicating the Israelis are on their own. This strengthens the security of neither the U.S. nor Israel. All it does is illustrate Mitt Romney’s point about the foolishness of the administration’s Middle East policy.

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When General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters yesterday that Israel and the United States are on “different clocks” regarding Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, he was doing more than stating what has already become obvious. Dempsey’s purpose in saying so publicly was more evidence that Washington is determined to ward off pressure from Israel to abandon its complacent attitude toward the Iranian threat. But it is also just one more instance in which the Obama administration has sought to create more daylight between U.S. and Israeli positions on security matters. While the president and his advisors think they are trying to teach the Netanyahu government a lesson, the main effect of this public disagreement is to encourage the Iranians to think that they don’t have to worry that much about either Israel or the United States.

Washington is frustrated because the Israelis won’t shut up about the consequences of a Western policy that has allowed the Iranians to keep refining uranium and getting closer to their nuclear goal. Dead-end diplomacy and loosely enforced sanctions have merely played into Tehran’s hands and the Israelis have been vocal about the fact that they are not going to simply stand by and wait patiently until Iran accumulates so much nuclear material stored in hardened underground bunkers that it will be too late to do anything about it. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is said to believe that moment will pass within a few months rather than the years the Americans say it will take. But rather than work with the Israelis and give them some concrete assurance that the president meant it when he said he would not allow Iran to go nuclear, the main reaction from the White House has been pique at Netanyahu’s chutzpah and public signals indicating the Israelis are on their own. This strengthens the security of neither the U.S. nor Israel. All it does is illustrate Mitt Romney’s point about the foolishness of the administration’s Middle East policy.

As the Times of Israel reports, General Dempsey spoke about the issue while on a flight to Afghanistan and acknowledged that Israelis view the issue differently from the Americans:

“They are living with an existential concern that we are not living with,” he said, according to AFP.

Dempsey added that he and Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz spoke on a bi-weekly basis to coordinate intelligence, despite gaps in understanding how close Iran is to the point of no return.

“We compare intelligence, we discuss regional implications. And we’ve admitted to each other that our clocks are turning at different rates,” he said.

This is a critical problem for which the Israelis are being blamed in the world press since they are viewed as troublemakers or provocateurs because they refuse to allow the Obama administration to go on pretending that diplomacy and sanctions have a chance to change the minds of the ayatollahs. But the problem with this view of the situation is that no one in Washington is prepared to seriously argue that the current Western policy has a chance of success. Washington is continuing to act as if the failed P5+1 talks can be revived or that sanctions will miraculously bring Tehran to its knees. But the only purpose of this pretense is to stall the discussion about Iran until after the November election when presumably the president will have the “flexibility” to propose an even more generous deal to the Islamist regime.

But even if we were to assume the president is sincere about his desire to stop Iran, his decision to allow administration officials to publicly express their disagreement with Israel is undermining any chance that diplomacy could ever succeed. So long as the Iranians are convinced the Americans are focused more on squelching Israeli self-defense than on halting their nuclear program, they are the ones who will show patience. They don’t think Obama is serious when he pledges that he will neither accept nor seek to merely contain a nuclear Iran. Nor do they think he will ever use force against them.

As in its past gaffes on the Israel-Palestinian diplomatic process, the daylight that Obama has opened between Washington and Jerusalem is merely serving to sink any hope that the goals he claims to support can be accomplished. The more American officials talk about Israel and the U.S. having “different clocks,” the more certain it is that the Iranian leadership thinks they can run out the clock on Western diplomacy and achieve their nuclear ambition unscathed.

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DNC Ties Romney to Akins

That didn’t take long. The DNC is already hanging Todd Akin’s idiotic “legitimate rape” comment around Romney’s neck in a fundraising blast today:

Now, Akin’s choice of words isn’t the real issue here. The real issue is a Republican party — led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong.

I’m outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the dark ages — if you agree, join me in taking a stand for women.

Really, it’s deeply concerning that Republicans continue to support legislation that is, quite literally, dangerous for women.

Mitt Romney famously says he would “get rid of” federal funding for Planned Parenthood if he had the chance. His running mate, Paul Ryan, was one of more than 200 Republican cosponsors of a piece of legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape.

Republicans have a major problem on their hands, and not just because this could destroy the possibility of a Republican majority in the Senate, as John and Jonathan explained earlier. If Akin steps down from the race but keeps his congressional seat, Democrats will continue to use him as an example of the House GOP’s alleged extremism on abortion. They’ll make him the face of the “war on women” they claim is taking place in congress — which they’re trying to tie to Paul Ryan.

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That didn’t take long. The DNC is already hanging Todd Akin’s idiotic “legitimate rape” comment around Romney’s neck in a fundraising blast today:

Now, Akin’s choice of words isn’t the real issue here. The real issue is a Republican party — led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong.

I’m outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the dark ages — if you agree, join me in taking a stand for women.

Really, it’s deeply concerning that Republicans continue to support legislation that is, quite literally, dangerous for women.

Mitt Romney famously says he would “get rid of” federal funding for Planned Parenthood if he had the chance. His running mate, Paul Ryan, was one of more than 200 Republican cosponsors of a piece of legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape.

Republicans have a major problem on their hands, and not just because this could destroy the possibility of a Republican majority in the Senate, as John and Jonathan explained earlier. If Akin steps down from the race but keeps his congressional seat, Democrats will continue to use him as an example of the House GOP’s alleged extremism on abortion. They’ll make him the face of the “war on women” they claim is taking place in congress — which they’re trying to tie to Paul Ryan.

This clearly has the Romney campaign spooked, since Mitt Romney issued a second repudiation of Akin’s comment today:

In a phone interview this morning, Mitt Romney told National Review Online that Representative Todd Akin’s recent comment on rape is “inexcusable.”

“Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong,” Romney said. “Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

Romney’s doing the best he can under the circumstances. But the Democratic Party is anxious to run on anything other than Obama’s record, and it’s going to milk everything it can out of this scandal.

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Party of Distractions Gets Talking Point

For some reason, liberals want to make this an election about social issues. In their minds, it showcases a broad array of imagined Republican bigotry. What they don’t realize, as residents of the coasts, is that the American people aren’t with them. Most Americans know that being pro-life isn’t tantamount to waging a war on women — the majority of Americans are pro-life themselves. Every single time the issue of gay marriage has been put to public referendum, even in the deep blue state of California, it’s been voted down.

Liberals are happy to blame the failures of these ballot initiatives on almost anyone: Mormons, the owners and customers of Chick-fil-A, etc. What they won’t admit is the fact that Prop 8 was upheld in California because traditional, Church-going black voters, who already came out to the polls in droves to vote for Barack Obama, voted for it. The added benefit of making this an election about social issues for liberals is that the president has nothing else to run on. No record, no plans to save Medicare, Social Security, or the economy in general. It was determined at Obama HQ a long time ago that this would be an election of distractions, not ideas, not hope, and certainly not change.

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For some reason, liberals want to make this an election about social issues. In their minds, it showcases a broad array of imagined Republican bigotry. What they don’t realize, as residents of the coasts, is that the American people aren’t with them. Most Americans know that being pro-life isn’t tantamount to waging a war on women — the majority of Americans are pro-life themselves. Every single time the issue of gay marriage has been put to public referendum, even in the deep blue state of California, it’s been voted down.

Liberals are happy to blame the failures of these ballot initiatives on almost anyone: Mormons, the owners and customers of Chick-fil-A, etc. What they won’t admit is the fact that Prop 8 was upheld in California because traditional, Church-going black voters, who already came out to the polls in droves to vote for Barack Obama, voted for it. The added benefit of making this an election about social issues for liberals is that the president has nothing else to run on. No record, no plans to save Medicare, Social Security, or the economy in general. It was determined at Obama HQ a long time ago that this would be an election of distractions, not ideas, not hope, and certainly not change.

Yesterday’s comments by Rep. Todd Akin played right into Obama’s (and Claire McCaskill’s) hands. They gave the Obama camp talking points that they can focus on for days, if not weeks. They also ensured that Democrats would hold onto a Senate seat that was in very serious jeopardy just two days ago.

In no uncertain terms, it’s clear that Akin’s comments were insulting on several levels. They insinuate that women who become pregnant as a result of rape weren’t “legitimately” raped (i.e.: they’re lying about the rape). They also show just how ignorant of basic biology Akin is. According to his logic, if women’s bodies had the ability to “shut down” and prevent pregnancy, there would have never been an unplanned pregnancy in the history of humanity. He’s now claimed to have “misspoken” and as John wrote earlier, it’s time for him to step down so that Missouri Republicans have a prayer for winning the seat.

The liberal media orchestra will, no doubt, play whatever sheet music the left hands them, keeping the story alive for several news cycles. Vice President Biden’s comments about Republicans wanting to put a largely African American crowd “back in chains” will disappear, written off as a gaffe. A good deal more attention will be paid to the statements from Akin, a member of Congress running for a Senate seat in Missouri. His statements, unlike Biden’s, will not be deemed a gaffe, but will instead be described as a feeling shared by all Republicans in their ongoing War on Women. The media’s hypocrisy is on full display, as they are on one hand outraged over idiotic statements about rape, while they were silent about actual rapes and coverups that took place in Occupy Wall Street camps across the country during the movement’s heyday.

Many are worried that the comments will sink the stock of the whole Republican Party. If Republicans repudiate not just Akin’s comments and the misogyny behind them, Americans will realize that one House member does not speak for the entire GOP. As Alana reported this morning, the Romney camp has already and unequivocally rejected Akin’s comments flat out. If the liberal mainstream media continues to obsess about Akin’s remarks, ignoring the imminent bankruptcy of Europe, American persistent unemployment and mounting debt and a looming conflict with Iran, the American people will take notice of the distraction. They will realize that the media furor surrounding his remarks is crowding out an honest discussion on the real issues facing our country at a turning point in our history. While this may give Democrats a bump (outside of Missouri) in the short term, it will once again show them to be the party of distractions, not of ideas.

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DC Gimmickry Is All Romney’s Fault

Seth Mandel wrote this morning regarding the Obama campaign letter to Romney offering not to ask for more if he releases five years’ worth of  tax returns, “What the Obama campaign letter meant, of course, is that they will criticize Romney for whatever they find in those five years of tax returns relentlessly, while their allies ‘outside’ the campaign, like Harry Reid, continue to attack the Romney campaign—uncoordinated, they swear!—for not releasing more.”

Robert Gibbs, Obama campaign senior advisor and former White House press secretary, on Fox News Sunday yesterday morning, confirmed that almost in so many words. He said,

And I think if Mitt Romney proposes to be president of the United States and lead us through tax reform, shouldn’t the American people understand the offshoring and the outsourcing, and the tax havens that he takes advantage of in his tax return and understand how those values would govern the tax reform decisions he might make as president?

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Seth Mandel wrote this morning regarding the Obama campaign letter to Romney offering not to ask for more if he releases five years’ worth of  tax returns, “What the Obama campaign letter meant, of course, is that they will criticize Romney for whatever they find in those five years of tax returns relentlessly, while their allies ‘outside’ the campaign, like Harry Reid, continue to attack the Romney campaign—uncoordinated, they swear!—for not releasing more.”

Robert Gibbs, Obama campaign senior advisor and former White House press secretary, on Fox News Sunday yesterday morning, confirmed that almost in so many words. He said,

And I think if Mitt Romney proposes to be president of the United States and lead us through tax reform, shouldn’t the American people understand the offshoring and the outsourcing, and the tax havens that he takes advantage of in his tax return and understand how those values would govern the tax reform decisions he might make as president?

I have no doubt that Mitt Romney takes advantage of every one of the deductions, credits, havens, and what-have-yous in the tax code that minimize his tax obligation. So does everyone else, including, surely, Robert Gibbs and Barack Obama. After all, that’s what why Congress put those provisions in the tax code: to be taken advantage of. So what possible use could the Obama campaign have for the specific information except to use it for demagogic purposes and to stir up envy of economic success fairly earned?

Mitt Romney, after all,  has never held a federal job. So how, exactly is he responsible for the special interest tax fiddles with which the tax code is riddled? Isn’t that the fault of Congress, which amends the tax code hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times a year with obscure provisions most of which benefit only the well-connected few?

And why should the corruption of Congress have corrupted Mitt Romney, and “govern his tax reform decisions?” Gibbs here is essentially accusing Romney of a priori misfeasance.

 

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Did Turf War End Daley’s WH Job Early?

There was much speculation in January about the reason behind the sudden departure of President Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley. As a Catholic, Daley might have been especially uncomfortable playing such a high-profile role in an administration in open conflict with the church after Obama refused to back off a new requirement forcing Catholic institutions to cover birth control in their health care plans. Or it might have been, as I wrote at the time, that Daley was brought in for his ties to the business community, which had just become the administration’s new favorite target, and Daley was put in an uncomfortable and unfair position.

But now, according to Glenn Thrush’s new ebook on the Obama re-election effort, evidence is emerging that Daley left because Obama gave him specific instructions on how to do his job, and Daley followed those instructions… too well? From the book:

The president’s only complaint about [Peter] Rouse’s tenure as temporary chief of staff in late 2010 (admittedly, a big one) was that too many papers and people were making it through Rouse’s filter to the Oval Office, several current and former White House aides told me.

Rouse had let the president become far more accessible than he wanted, and he was probably spending too much time on unnecessary paperwork and the like. So Daley did the opposite, but ended up at the other extreme:

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There was much speculation in January about the reason behind the sudden departure of President Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley. As a Catholic, Daley might have been especially uncomfortable playing such a high-profile role in an administration in open conflict with the church after Obama refused to back off a new requirement forcing Catholic institutions to cover birth control in their health care plans. Or it might have been, as I wrote at the time, that Daley was brought in for his ties to the business community, which had just become the administration’s new favorite target, and Daley was put in an uncomfortable and unfair position.

But now, according to Glenn Thrush’s new ebook on the Obama re-election effort, evidence is emerging that Daley left because Obama gave him specific instructions on how to do his job, and Daley followed those instructions… too well? From the book:

The president’s only complaint about [Peter] Rouse’s tenure as temporary chief of staff in late 2010 (admittedly, a big one) was that too many papers and people were making it through Rouse’s filter to the Oval Office, several current and former White House aides told me.

Rouse had let the president become far more accessible than he wanted, and he was probably spending too much time on unnecessary paperwork and the like. So Daley did the opposite, but ended up at the other extreme:

He scrapped Emanuel’s open door to the chief of staff and canceled an early-morning meeting that gave mid-level staffers an opportunity to air their opinions…. He also angered [Harry] Reid and other Hill leaders by delegating subordinates to field their calls.

Thrush says that these might have been pardonable sins but for Daley’s “biggest misstep”: alienating Valerie Jarrett and Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s scheduler. He also cut the well-liked Jen Psaki out of the loop and in response, Psaki left the White House (though she serves as a press secretary with the president’s re-election campaign). Getting on Jarrett’s bad side seems to have been the last mistake Daley was permitted to make, and Obama’s inner circle, feeling frozen out by Daley, returned the favor.

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Pacific Allies Look to U.S. on China Disputes

Anti-Japanese demonstrations have broken out in China, again, because of the dispute over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both China and Japan. This is only one of many territorial disputes that China has with its neighbors over various tiny islands. China is deliberately fanning the flames of nationalism in order, one suspects, to distract attention from a slowing economy and an illegitimate leadership whose foibles are on display in the sordid Bo Xilai affair (the senior Communist Party official whose wife has just received a suspended death sentence for the murder of a British associate).

China’s neighbors are outraged and scared and looking to the U.S. for protection. The U.S. response, alas, has been spineless. This is a point that I and other commentators have made repeatedly but now it is seconded from an unexpected quarter–see this op-ed by Democratic Senator Jim Webb in today’s Wall Street Journal. He quite carefully never mentions President Obama and his administration, preferring to speak of the U.S. government and the State Department, but his article is a devastating indictment of the president’s supineness in the face of growing Chinese aggression.

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Anti-Japanese demonstrations have broken out in China, again, because of the dispute over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both China and Japan. This is only one of many territorial disputes that China has with its neighbors over various tiny islands. China is deliberately fanning the flames of nationalism in order, one suspects, to distract attention from a slowing economy and an illegitimate leadership whose foibles are on display in the sordid Bo Xilai affair (the senior Communist Party official whose wife has just received a suspended death sentence for the murder of a British associate).

China’s neighbors are outraged and scared and looking to the U.S. for protection. The U.S. response, alas, has been spineless. This is a point that I and other commentators have made repeatedly but now it is seconded from an unexpected quarter–see this op-ed by Democratic Senator Jim Webb in today’s Wall Street Journal. He quite carefully never mentions President Obama and his administration, preferring to speak of the U.S. government and the State Department, but his article is a devastating indictment of the president’s supineness in the face of growing Chinese aggression.

Webb, a Vietnam veteran and distinguished writer before entering politics, writes:

American vacillations have for years emboldened China. U.S. policy with respect to sovereignty issues in Asian-Pacific waters has been that we take no sides, that such matters must be settled peacefully among the parties involved. Smaller, weaker countries have repeatedly called for greater international involvement.

Webb even goes on to compare this crisis to the Western non-reaction to Japanese aggression against China in the 1930s. The analogy at first blush would appear overwrought–but maybe not. It is quite possible that one of the island disputes could tip over into actual shooting. Indeed this is now the most likely scenario involving a war with China–more likely at this point than a Chinese attack on Taiwan. The U.S. had better discover its spine and stand up for its friends in the region, otherwise the risk of war will grow because China will think it has a green light for its continuing expansionism.

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Gaffes, Non-Stories and ObamaCare

At the top of today’s political news are two stories that are potentially damaging to Republicans. But the thing you might miss from the glaring headlines and breathless commentary (especially that coming from the left) is that one of the stories is a real problem and the other isn’t. The one that is the real problem is, as John and Alana have already written, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s bone-headed comment that rape victims can’t get pregnant. Akin, who recently won a tough Republican primary for the right to face embattled Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, was the foe the incumbent wanted and he has delivered for her turning a seat that was a sure GOP pick-up into a toss-up and perhaps allow ObamaCare to survive even in the event of a Romney victory in November.

The story that isn’t much of a real scandal is the one leading Politico’s morning playbook about the fact that members of a Republican Congressional delegation that visited Israel last summer went for a swim in the Sea of Galilee. One congressman, Kevin Yoder of Kansas, did so without a swimsuit while others in the group dove in fully clothed. Alcohol may have been consumed. We are supposed to be scandalized about this, but I’m not buying it.

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At the top of today’s political news are two stories that are potentially damaging to Republicans. But the thing you might miss from the glaring headlines and breathless commentary (especially that coming from the left) is that one of the stories is a real problem and the other isn’t. The one that is the real problem is, as John and Alana have already written, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s bone-headed comment that rape victims can’t get pregnant. Akin, who recently won a tough Republican primary for the right to face embattled Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, was the foe the incumbent wanted and he has delivered for her turning a seat that was a sure GOP pick-up into a toss-up and perhaps allow ObamaCare to survive even in the event of a Romney victory in November.

The story that isn’t much of a real scandal is the one leading Politico’s morning playbook about the fact that members of a Republican Congressional delegation that visited Israel last summer went for a swim in the Sea of Galilee. One congressman, Kevin Yoder of Kansas, did so without a swimsuit while others in the group dove in fully clothed. Alcohol may have been consumed. We are supposed to be scandalized about this, but I’m not buying it.

There are those who will be outraged about the fact that those members of Congress who go on foreign junkets attend parties and sometimes have a drink or two or three at said festivities. Don’t take this as an endorsement of Congressional misbehavior or abuse of travel privileges but so long as this was an after-hours affair and no laws were broken, what exactly are we complaining about? If the members of the delegation had a party after their official schedule was completed, this is nothing to get too upset about.

According to Politico, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor read the legislators the riot act. That’s his job since Congress’s reputation is bad enough without stories about members of the GOP caucus being branded as acting like frat boys while abroad. But the real juice to the story is the setting that makes it appear as if it wasn’t just high spirits, lubricated by alcohol but a sacrilege.

However, those ready to make Yoder and the rest of the partiers walk the plank need to remember something. The Galilee may be the setting for Bible stories but it is a lake, not a church chalice. There are places on its shores where people pray but most of it is a vacation spot for Israelis and tourists. People boat there, fish its waters and swim in it everyday and I daresay the Kansan isn’t the first in the last 2,000 years to do so without a Speedo. This is not a big deal. That is especially true when compared to Akin’s latest blunder.

Akin is threatening to be this year’s Christine O’Donnell or Sharon Angle. Both were Tea Partiers who upset establishment Republicans in Senate primaries in 2010. But unlike other Tea Party stalwarts such as Marco Rubio or Ron Johnson, who waltzed to victory in November, both were disasters who turned certain GOP pickups into Democratic victory. In particular Republicans have reason to rue Angle’s primary win since it prolonged the political life of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Akin’s statement is the sort of thing that many voters, even those who are Republicans, will say disqualifies him for high office. It’s not just that it’s highly offensive, it’s that it’s incredibly stupid. It’s hard to believe he actually thought it was true but to say it aloud shows a complete lack of judgment. Nobody wants an idiot representing them in the Senate even if they like their politics. Moreover, this isn’t the first time Akin has said something dumb or inflammatory, nor, as Democrats are telling themselves this morning, will it be the last. That is why McCaskill ran ads during the GOP primary seeking to help him.

While Akin’s backers may be arguing that since this happened in August before most people pay attention to elections, this also gives Missouri Republicans time to pressure him to drop out of the race and replace him with someone who isn’t an embarrassment. National party leaders ought to step in here too and insist on his quick exit. The alternative is to simply sit back and watch while McCaskill pulls victory from the jaws of defeat with Akin’s assistance.

Any Republicans inclined to sympathy for Akin need to remember that there is more riding on the outcome in November than his ego. If Republicans don’t capture the Senate this fall, ObamaCare will survive even if the GOP holds the House and Mitt Romney is elected president. Giving up a certain pickup will dramatically increase Reid’s chances of remaining Majority Leader next January. For the sake of ObamaCare and common sense, Akin has to go.

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Romney Camp Rejects Akin’s Abortion Comment

PJ Media’s Rick Moran had it right when he said this is one of the “most ignorant and damaging” comments he’s ever heard from a politician. Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s statement that women can’t get pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape” is beyond offensive, and it’s hard to see how Akin possibly survives this. The Romney campaign, to its credit, denounced it immediately:

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.

Earlier Sunday, Akin said he “misspoke” when he claimed “legitimate rape” rarely resulted in pregnancy.

Answering a question about whether or not he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape, Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed bodily responses he said prevented pregnancy. …

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin continued. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted “legitimate rape.”

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PJ Media’s Rick Moran had it right when he said this is one of the “most ignorant and damaging” comments he’s ever heard from a politician. Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s statement that women can’t get pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape” is beyond offensive, and it’s hard to see how Akin possibly survives this. The Romney campaign, to its credit, denounced it immediately:

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.

Earlier Sunday, Akin said he “misspoke” when he claimed “legitimate rape” rarely resulted in pregnancy.

Answering a question about whether or not he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape, Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed bodily responses he said prevented pregnancy. …

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin continued. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted “legitimate rape.”

There’s an ongoing dialogue within the pro-life community over whether or not abortion is acceptable in certain instances, but Akin’s argument is so medically ignorant and absurd that it doesn’t even warrant debate. Not only did Akin poison his own political campaign, he also gave Democrats ammunition to portray the entire Republican Party as anti-women. The Romney campaign denounced Akin immediately, but don’t be surprised if his remarks show up in a Planned Parenthood or super PAC general election ad anyway.

The entire dustup did, however, produce some substantive news. It forced the Romney campaign to clarify that it doesn’t support an abortion ban in cases of rape, contrary to what the Obama campaign has alleged.

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Ted Cruz Takes on DC Gimmickry

In the post-Tim Russert age, Sunday morning political talk shows are rarely revelatory or particularly educational. But that wasn’t the case yesterday for Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican and Senate nominee, who got an education in the ways of Washington. Cruz appeared on Russert’s old program, “Meet the Press,” along with the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne and a few other commentators.

Cruz is a Tea Party favorite, which means sending an “outsider” to Washington was important to his appeal. And he was presented with a pristine example of the Beltway nonsense he would be up against when he and Dionne got into a brief argument over the two parties’ different takes on the budget. Dionne insisted President Obama is a serious man with a serious plan, and thus put forth a serious budget, in keeping with his overall seriousness. Because the president’s plans are manifestly unserious, Cruz said so, and asked Dionne how many votes the president’s budget received in the Senate. Here is the exchange that followed:

MR. DIONNE:  Well, that’s– that is a side issue because…

MR. CRUZ:  It got zero votes.  Not a Democrat…

MR. DIONNE:  No, no, Obama…

MR. CRUZ:  …in the Senate voted for it.

MR. DIONNE:  Yes, because…

MR. CRUZ:  Not one.

MR. DIONNE:  …the vote was put up there as a political matter.

You’ll have to go to the program’s web page to watch the video, and I highly recommend it, because the look on Cruz’s face when Dionne said this was absolutely priceless. Cruz understands Washington business-as-usual well enough to run against it, but he seemed genuinely shocked, not that liberal pundits would believe what Dionne was saying, but that they would say it out loud.

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In the post-Tim Russert age, Sunday morning political talk shows are rarely revelatory or particularly educational. But that wasn’t the case yesterday for Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican and Senate nominee, who got an education in the ways of Washington. Cruz appeared on Russert’s old program, “Meet the Press,” along with the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne and a few other commentators.

Cruz is a Tea Party favorite, which means sending an “outsider” to Washington was important to his appeal. And he was presented with a pristine example of the Beltway nonsense he would be up against when he and Dionne got into a brief argument over the two parties’ different takes on the budget. Dionne insisted President Obama is a serious man with a serious plan, and thus put forth a serious budget, in keeping with his overall seriousness. Because the president’s plans are manifestly unserious, Cruz said so, and asked Dionne how many votes the president’s budget received in the Senate. Here is the exchange that followed:

MR. DIONNE:  Well, that’s– that is a side issue because…

MR. CRUZ:  It got zero votes.  Not a Democrat…

MR. DIONNE:  No, no, Obama…

MR. CRUZ:  …in the Senate voted for it.

MR. DIONNE:  Yes, because…

MR. CRUZ:  Not one.

MR. DIONNE:  …the vote was put up there as a political matter.

You’ll have to go to the program’s web page to watch the video, and I highly recommend it, because the look on Cruz’s face when Dionne said this was absolutely priceless. Cruz understands Washington business-as-usual well enough to run against it, but he seemed genuinely shocked, not that liberal pundits would believe what Dionne was saying, but that they would say it out loud.

You would think that the number of votes received by the president’s budget would be important, and that the president’s party would think that, since they control the Senate and since the GOP-led House has been passing budgets, they should pass a budget as well. But you would be wrong. Cruz is living in the real world, where you need concrete budgets to operate. Dionne explained to him that, first, the number of votes a budget receives is “a side issue,” and second, the only reason to put the president’s budget up for a vote is to play some kind of trick on him. The Republicans offered to have a clean vote on the president’s own budget because, well, they’re a bunch of meanies. Welcome to Washington.

In the fantasy world of liberal pundits, you don’t need to pass a budget, or enact real-world solutions to problems. You just have to make a series of grand political gestures infused with partisan demagoguery and call it “governing.” As it happens, the weekend was bookended by this behavior. On Friday, the Obama campaign, apparently without shame or a shred of self-awareness, told the Romney campaign that if Mitt Romney releases five years of tax returns the Obama campaign will stop asking for more tax returns:

“If the governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more — neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign,” Mr. Messina wrote to Matt Rhoades, Mr. Romney’s campaign manager.

Again, it’s understandable that the Obama campaign does not want to have a serious conversation about the issues, but why be so open about it? Perhaps because the press will keep writing these stories for them, so why not? What the Obama campaign letter meant, of course, is that they will criticize Romney for whatever they find in those five years of tax returns relentlessly, while their allies “outside” the campaign, like Harry Reid, continue to attack the Romney campaign—uncoordinated, they swear!—for not releasing more.

As Alana wrote on Friday, this is an indication the Obama campaign is running out of ways to change the subject. If they cannot change the subject, they will have more conversations like the one between Dionne and Cruz. And that simply can’t be good for the Obama campaign.

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The Todd Akin Fiasco

On Sunday, a six-term Congressman from Missouri running as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate went on a newsmaker program and, in defense of his pro-life views, reported that doctors say the body of a woman who has suffered a “legitimate rape” will somehow contrive to prevent a pregnancy: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The moral, intellectual, and spiritual ignoramus who spoke those words is Todd Akin. He won the Missouri primary two weeks ago in a three-way race against two other conservatives, taking 36 percent of the vote—his two major rivals together won about 60 percent. He was supported in his bid by, among others, the Democrats who believed he would be the weakest candidate to face incumbent Claire McCaskill, widely viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent running for Senate this year. They ran ads attacking his rivals and helped him prevail.

Smart move. Akin is likely to join a list of Republican primary winners who have seized defeat from the jaws of victory—like Clayton Williams, who was running a sensational outsider candidacy for Texas governor in 1990 until he remarked that bad weather was like rape. “As long as it’s inevitable,” Williams said, “you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” Those are the words that got Ann Richards elected. Had he kept his mouth shut, he might have won the race. Had he won the race, George W. Bush would not have run to oust Richards in 1994. Had he not run in 1994, George W. Bush would not have become president in 2000.

George Allen of Virginia probably lost an unbelievably close election in 2006 because his candidacy was thrown off course by his weird offhand reference to a South Asian Democratic kid taking video of him at campaign stops as “Macaca.” Rivals suggested he was using a French word for monkey, which then opened up a can of worms about Allen’s mother—who, it turned out, was a North African Jew intent on hiding her own Jewishness. The race went haywire, and even so the Democratic candidate, James Webb, only won by 4/10s of a percent.

Apparently, if Akin withdraws by 5 pm tomorrow, the Missouri Republican party can put up a new candidate to face McCaskill. After that, he’s on the ballot for good. Call this the Bob Torricelli strategy—when the former senator from New Jersey found himself awash in an ethics scandal in 2002, he vamoosed from the race in favor of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg even though there was no legal way for this to be done. No matter. The New Jersey Supreme Court declared it legal, and Democrats retained the seat.

Akin won’t quit, though. He issued a statement yesterday saying he “misspoke,” which means he doesn’t actually think he did anything wrong. Perhaps he will be comforted by that insane knowledge when he is sitting home, unemployed and disgraced, in 2013, with control of the Senate in Democratic hands because of him.

 

On Sunday, a six-term Congressman from Missouri running as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate went on a newsmaker program and, in defense of his pro-life views, reported that doctors say the body of a woman who has suffered a “legitimate rape” will somehow contrive to prevent a pregnancy: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The moral, intellectual, and spiritual ignoramus who spoke those words is Todd Akin. He won the Missouri primary two weeks ago in a three-way race against two other conservatives, taking 36 percent of the vote—his two major rivals together won about 60 percent. He was supported in his bid by, among others, the Democrats who believed he would be the weakest candidate to face incumbent Claire McCaskill, widely viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent running for Senate this year. They ran ads attacking his rivals and helped him prevail.

Smart move. Akin is likely to join a list of Republican primary winners who have seized defeat from the jaws of victory—like Clayton Williams, who was running a sensational outsider candidacy for Texas governor in 1990 until he remarked that bad weather was like rape. “As long as it’s inevitable,” Williams said, “you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” Those are the words that got Ann Richards elected. Had he kept his mouth shut, he might have won the race. Had he won the race, George W. Bush would not have run to oust Richards in 1994. Had he not run in 1994, George W. Bush would not have become president in 2000.

George Allen of Virginia probably lost an unbelievably close election in 2006 because his candidacy was thrown off course by his weird offhand reference to a South Asian Democratic kid taking video of him at campaign stops as “Macaca.” Rivals suggested he was using a French word for monkey, which then opened up a can of worms about Allen’s mother—who, it turned out, was a North African Jew intent on hiding her own Jewishness. The race went haywire, and even so the Democratic candidate, James Webb, only won by 4/10s of a percent.

Apparently, if Akin withdraws by 5 pm tomorrow, the Missouri Republican party can put up a new candidate to face McCaskill. After that, he’s on the ballot for good. Call this the Bob Torricelli strategy—when the former senator from New Jersey found himself awash in an ethics scandal in 2002, he vamoosed from the race in favor of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg even though there was no legal way for this to be done. No matter. The New Jersey Supreme Court declared it legal, and Democrats retained the seat.

Akin won’t quit, though. He issued a statement yesterday saying he “misspoke,” which means he doesn’t actually think he did anything wrong. Perhaps he will be comforted by that insane knowledge when he is sitting home, unemployed and disgraced, in 2013, with control of the Senate in Democratic hands because of him.

 

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