European opponents of circumcision have been able to frame the debate over banning a ritual integral to Jewish identity as one where medical and humanitarian concerns should override the right of religious believers. Their recent successes in getting a court in Cologne, Germany to rule that circumcision is illegal, the potential prosecution of a rabbi in Bavaria for performing a brit milah, and the fact that several European hospitals have now banned the procedure are all based on the idea that “enlightened” Europeans must halt a practice they have branded as unhealthy, if not primitive. But a stinging rejoinder to that claim has just been issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
As the New York Times reported today, the Academy announced in an article in Pediatrics, “new research, including studies in Africa suggesting that the procedure may protect heterosexual men against H.I.V., indicated that the health benefits outweighed the risks.” This gives the lie to those opponents who have tried to depict circumcision as a danger to male infants who must be protected from the desire of their parents to practice their faith. The ruling is a switch from a 1999 ruling that had taken a neutral stance on the issue. This helps clarify the debate being promoted by opponents of circumcision. Once the medical argument is taken away from them they are left with only two possible motivations: The dubious assertion that no parent ought to have the right to make the decision to carry out such a procedure on an infant, and anti-Semitism.
This week, Mitt Romney will deliver the most momentous speech of his career so far, but America may not be paying much attention, according to the latest Rasmussen poll. Just 27 percent of respondents said they expect to watch “all” or “most” of the convention, and another 24 percent don’t plan on watching any of it (via HotAir):
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 11% of Likely Voters plan to watch all of the GOP convention and another 16% who will watch most. A plurality (44%) expects to watch some of it, and 24% more won’t watch any of the GOP convention held in Tampa, Florida. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Similarly, only 13% who intend to watch all of the September 4-6 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Another 14% who will watch most of it. Thirty-nine percent (39%) will watch just some of the Democratic convention, and 30% plan to ignore it.
As Alana noted, Ron Paul’s speech at his Tampa rally yesterday was an appropriate swan song to a political career during which the Texas congressman has promoted a view of foreign policy that would probably earn more applause from left-wing Democrats than Republicans. Paul won’t speak at the Republican convention this week, but the 177 delegates he won will be there and the media is counting on them to provide a more interesting story line than the scheduled speakers will provide. But given the rules and the “nosebleed” seats being assigned to those state delegations where Paul supporters are numerous, it’s not clear that the adherents to what Paul calls his “liberty movement” will be able to cause much trouble.
The extremist libertarian has to walk a fine line as he defies the Romney camp this week. He doesn’t want to do anything that will sour Republicans on the future ambitions of his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who will (unlike his father) be speaking from the podium. But Paul is as little interested in the traditional courtesies as President Obama and won’t release his delegates to vote for the party’s choice. Nor do the delegates themselves seem inclined to play along with the RNC’s infomercial script. They are hoping to find a way to circumvent the rules and either place Paul’s name in nomination or at least cast their votes for him, rather than let the convention’s choice be unanimous. But those looking to inflate these tiffs into high drama are bound to be disappointed. All Paul’s delegate can really do is act disgruntled about rules changes that will hurt future libertarian challenges and vent their frustration for a liberal press that will happily lap it up.
Western analysts and political scientists will be learning lessons from the Arab Spring for a long time. But among the most important and immediate was the revelation that the cynical core assumptions of realist foreign policy were disastrous for the region and the West. The mirage of stability lured president after president, all the while helping to stifle democracy, education, and women’s rights. The inevitable and violent end of that “stability”–which of course was anything but–has finally reset the Western outlook on dealing with the newly emerging regional power brokers.
Or has it? Freedom House’s David Kramer and Charles Dunne aren’t so sure the West isn’t about to relapse. Egypt’s foreign policy, under its new Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, is adapting to new realities—and so should Washington’s, they write in the American Interest:
First, bedrock principles should guide U.S. policy, and we need to be clear in public and in private what those principles are, stressing the importance of institutions versus personalities. The United States must stand firmly on the side of basic human rights, especially those of the most vulnerable, including women and religious minorities, and uphold freedom of the press, expression and association. It is particularly important that the United States press the Egyptian government to liberalize the environment for civil society and end its prosecution of international non-government organizations for their efforts to help Egyptians as they work toward democracy; investigations into domestic NGOs should also be ended. There must be rewards for advancing the political transition and real consequences for pushing it back.
The United States must also engage broader segments of Egyptian society and politics. The temptation is to pay too much attention to traditional political elites as well as President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood as they seek to consolidate power, but that is a mistake. The U.S. needs to reach out consistently to young activists and liberal and secular parties; however feckless they might seem now, their ideas on democracy and governance were the ideological underpinnings of the revolution against Mubarak and have been broadly, if tacitly, accepted by wide swaths of the Egyptian body politic, including the Muslim Brotherhood. They will continue to play a significant role in Egyptian politics.
Most Americans say President Obama will win reelection (58 percent) over Mitt Romney (36 percent), according to the latest Gallup poll. These numbers are basically indistinguishable from the same survey taken in May. While this measurement has been decent at predicting the winner since Clinton vs. Dole, there are some details that should worry Obama more than Romney:
Of course, Americans’ beliefs about who will win are influenced by their preferences. Those who say they would vote for Obama if the election were held today overwhelmingly believe he will win, by an 86% to 9% margin. One reason Obama has the edge in overall predictions about the election is that Romney voters are less positive that their candidate will prevail, with 28% saying Obama will win, compared with 65% who believe Romney will win.
The danger posed by Hurricane Isaac to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico may soon overtake the Republican National Convention as the top story of the week. The troubles of the GOP are rightly overshadowed by the potential for loss of life and property in the states bordering the Gulf. But while Republicans must sit back and watch and pray along with the rest of the country that the disaster is not as great as some fear, they will also be watching for liberal attempt to rehash the aftermath of the last big hurricane to pound New Orleans. While some in the party are grousing about the way the choice of a Florida city during the season of tropical storms has played havoc with the convention schedule, what they really ought to be worried about is the way the media will use the hurricane to rehearse the alleged sins of George W. Bush during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Though the post-invasion mess in Iraq is still thought of as the George W. Bush administration’s worst problem, the true turning point during his second term was what happened after the levees failed in New Orleans. Bush is staying away from Tampa, allowing Mitt Romney his week of glory without any reminders of his unpopular Republican predecessor. But courtesy of Isaac, the networks and cable TV channels are going to be able to put the 43rd president back in the public eye. More than the Democrats’ unseemly attempts at political guerrilla warfare in Tampa, any media hyping of the Isaac-Katrina analogy will be both a distraction from the GOP convention narrative and a way to bludgeon the Republicans by digging up the canards hurled at Bush back in 2005.
Jonathan argued yesterday that Republicans shouldn’t expect much of a post-convention bounce for Romney, since public interest in the conventions (which have become carefully-orchestrated stage shows) seems to have waned in recent years, and the hurricane and Democratic diversionary tactics could distract from the speeches. Two other factors that seem to point against a big bounce: Romney chose his running mate earlier than usual, which means he may not get the additional VP bump. And reports indicate that there are fewer undecided voters out there than in previous years.
But outside of the Beltway expectations game, does the size of the bounce really matter? According to Michael Barone, it depends:
Is there a correlation between the size of the bounce and the vote in November? Certainly there was for Clinton in 1992, and the no-bounce Democrats — McGovern and Kerry — both lost. But in five of the 12 races since 1964, the loser had the larger bounce.
Will Romney get a bounce? By this time next week, we’ll see, but more important is whether he can hold on to most of it until Nov. 6.
Pundits who are quick to write off the Republicans’ chances of gaining the four Senate seats they need to take back the upper chamber after the Todd Akin fiasco in Missouri need to remember that the GOP has more opportunities for gains than they thought earlier in the year. The assumption that Claire McCaskill’s Missouri seat will easily fall into the GOP’s hands was blown up last week by Akin’s idiocy about pregnancy and rape. But it turns out that the Ohio seat held by liberal stalwart Sherrod Brown, which many Republicans weren’t counting among their potential pickups, is now very much in play. Republican candidate Josh Mandel, whose youth and relative lack of experience has been widely mocked by the Democrats, could replace Akin as the GOP’s majority maker.
That’s the only reasonable interpretation of the Columbus Dispatch survey of the Buckeye state that shows the Brown-Mandel race as being as much of a dead heat there as the one between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The Senate race is a 44-44 tie, while the Ohio presidential matchup is deadlocked at 45-45. That’s significant because when the same numbers in the Senate contest were posted by Rasmussen earlier in August, they were dismissed as inaccurate or inconsistent with other results. But with the Dispatch poll and a University of Cincinnati poll released last week that showed Brown leading Mandel 48-47, it’s now clear a race that was long judged to be an easy hold for the Democrats is now a tossup. After a summer during which the Brown camp has pounded Mandel with negative ads, Democrats have to be scratching their heads about these numbers.
Ron Paul has given us plenty of entertainment throughout the years, and his farewell rally speech was no exception. BuzzFeed reports that Paul continued to spout his “chickens coming home to roost” theory about the Sept. 11 attacks at his alternative convention event yesterday:
That blowback theory is so convenient. If Israel created Hamas and the U.S. invited the 9/11 attacks, then world peace is within grasp, if only we could get over our own “hubris.”
Let me pose a hypothetical. A young, charismatic Hispanic advocating for more humane immigration policies and against draconian enforcement defeats an aging, white politician in an election. The older politician then leaves his party to join the party led by the politician who took unprecedented action to squash immigration reform. What would you call the older politician?
You would call him Charlie Crist, right? After all, that is exactly what happened in Florida, and over the weekend Crist bolted the party advocating for more immigration with a growing cadre of Latino political stars for the party of the status quo. Crist endorsed President Obama, perhaps unsurprisingly but not without a dose of irony and a mammoth lack of self-awareness. There is a lot to love in his Sunday op-ed announcing his endorsement of the president, but this is my favorite part:
But an element of [the Republican] party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people.
There are conflicting reports about whether Badruddin Haqqani, a senior commander in the Haqqani network founded by his father Jalaluddin and led by his elder brother Sirajuddin, has been killed in a CIA drone strike in North Waziristan. Afghan and Pakistani intelligence officials believe he is dead, and so does at least one Taliban commander, but another Taliban spokesman denies it. We will see if there is more definitive evidence forthcoming soon.
If he is indeed dead, it is a small but significant victory against the most malign terrorist organization operating in Afghanistan–a group responsible for the worst attacks in Kabul itself. The Long War Journal reports: “Badruddin was also one of several handlers for the fighters involved in the June 28, 2011 assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Badruddin was recorded while he issued instructions to one of the fighters, and was heard laughing during the attack that killed 11 civilians and two Afghan policemen as well as nine members of the attack team.”
The main task of the Republican National Convention this week is to introduce — or reintroduce, depending on your point of view — Mitt Romney to the American people. So we’ll be getting lots of biographical details, insights and testimonials during the convention sessions. In addition to that, we’re being deluged with Romney interviews. There are the soft features showing Mitt and his wife Ann at home with the kids and grandkids, such as this one run by Fox News in which we learn that there is no paid staff at the Romney New Hampshire vacation home and that everyone has chores to do (a fitting example for a nation that he intends to get back to work). And there are more substantial interviews, such as his sit-down with Politico, in which he outlined what his governing style in the White House would look like.
Not surprisingly, Romney says people recruited from the private sector will dominate his cabinet and that he will look to female business leaders, like Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, to join his team. Running through that interview and other Romney press appearances is the question of whether he is likeable enough to be elected president. Romney appears to know that he lacks the natural ability to connect with people that most successful politicians have. And he acknowledges that personal attacks on him by the Democrats have done some real damage. That means the reboot of Romney’s image this week has two purposes. One is to soften the hard edges created by ads depicting him as an outsourcing, heartless plutocrat by showing the dedicated, hard-working family man that he really is. The other is to convince voters that what they need is not someone who will feel their pain and make eloquent speeches about it but a C.E.O.-in-chief who can fix the economy, a result that will pay a dividend to every American family.
The latestWashington Post-ABC News poll found that the race has remained stable over the past month, with Romney currently at 47 percent and Obama at 46 percent with registered voters. In July, Obama and Romney were dead-even at 47 percent in the same poll. The bottom line from the Post:
The findings continue a months-long pattern, with neither the incumbent nor the challenger able to sustain clear momentum, despite airing hundreds of millions of dollars in television ads — most of them negative — and exchanging some of the harshest early rhetoric seen in a modern presidential campaign.
This is despite the massive spending on Obama’s side to paint Romney as everything from a felon to a tax-dodger to a killer. The fact that all that cash hasn’t moved the dial should be a big concern for the Obama campaign, particularly since Romney has more to gain from the conventions.
Arthur Brisbane, outgoing ombudsman at the New York Times, caused a bit of a stir this weekend with his final column. As Jonathan noted, much of Brisbane’s criticism of the paper is standard fare. But one aspect of it stood out to me. Brisbane wrote:
Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.
As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.
The paper’s bias on cultural issues always been more profound than its bias on other issues. This may be partly due to the fact that the paper’s editors hold consistent and clear positions on social issues, and so its dedication to those “causes” represents an animating principle of the paper’s coverage: they are part of the organization’s worldview. On other issues, the paper will usually advocate for an issue based on which party is in power. The Times will argue forcefully in favor of the filibuster when the Democrats need it, but against it once the Democrats have virtually unfettered power in the Congress and White House. The Times will argue in favor of fiscal responsibility when a Republican president presides over a federal deficit, but argue against restraining spending when a Democratic White House needs ammunition for class warfare.