Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 27, 2012

Pediatrics Academy Debunks Bris Foes

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.

Read More

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.

It should be specified that neither Jews nor Muslims, who also practice circumcision, do so for health reasons. Both treat the circumcision of males as a positive religious commandment and not one of either health or hygiene. But where opponents have been able to brand the procedure as either dangerous or without medical benefits has undermined support for the procedure even though the question is one of religious freedom.

Last week in Germany, an ethics committee sought to overrule the Cologne court but the country’s Professional Association of Pediatricians called the reversal “a scandal.” Given the evidence of the benefits of circumcision, it’s difficult to understand the willingness of German doctors to join the chorus of those seeking to ban the practice without thinking about the history of anti-Semitism in the country.

One of the authors of the American Pediatricians study, Dr. Douglas S. Diekema, told the Times that he wasn’t in favor of pushing anyone to circumcise their child but thought they ought to be given a “choice.” That’s exactly what the Germans pushing to ban circumcision want to deny parents. Such a position is only explicable in the context of what the U.S. State Department has rightly called “a rising tide of anti-Semitism” throughout Europe.

Read Less

Who’s Watching the Conventions?

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.

Read More

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.

That may not sound all that bad, until you realize it’s among likely voters — the ones who are most engaged in the political process. The numbers are sure to be lower among registered voters and the public at large.

The more viewers the better for Romney, who still has work to do defining himself with swing voters. Michael Warren reports on the general sentiment of uncommitted voters from a Frank Luntz focus group in Tampa:

Sentiment toward Romney, however, is cautiously ambivalent. The swing voters want to know more about his plans for the economy. They want to know if they can trust him. They want to see if he can prove he understands their lives. They want to see records of his tax returns—not, they insist, because they believe he has done anything illegal. “The IRS would have already caught him by now,” says a man in the back.

In true Luntz form, an uncomplicated question elicits perhaps the most profound answer on how these swing voters view Romney, just days before he plans to accept the Republican nomination for president. Luntz asks each individual for a word or phrase to describe their opinion of Romney.

After thinking for a moment when it comes to his turn, one man nods his head as he answers. “Question mark,” he says.

That question mark is what Romney needs to clear up in Tampa — if voters are paying attention, that is.

Read Less

All Ron Paul Backers Can Do is Complain

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.

Read More

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.

The original schedule for the convention would have put the roll call — and the potential for a mini-Paulite uprising — outside of the scope of broadcast network coverage. Hurricane Isaac has changed that and therefore the whole nation — or at least that portion of it that is sufficiently interested in the convention to not watch the hundreds of available television channels that will not be showing the Republican show — will get to see what happens when Paul’s supporters attempt to get five delegations recognized to nominate their hero.

But Republicans shouldn’t worry too much about the pique of the Paulites. Even if they get a brief moment of publicity at the convention, that won’t hurt Romney. And though the media is hungry for any sign of dissent from the Romney script, the problem for the Paulites is that hurricane coverage will probably suck up all the time the networks won’t be devoting to the real business of the convention.

Paul’s backers may not vote for Romney on the convention floor, and some of those who backed him in the caucuses may not vote for him in November either. Given that his most ardent fans were often Democrats, that’s not likely to affect Romney’s chances of victory.

All of which means the next time many Americans hear about Ron Paul’s extremist libertarians will be four years from now when they will be mounting a quixotic protest against Mitt Romney’s re-nomination or being swamped by the next generation of Republican leaders like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. The odds are four years from now we’ll be having the same sort of discussion about their attempt to distract us from the winner of that race at the next GOP convention.

Read Less

In Egypt, Up from “Realism”

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.

Read More

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.

They have more suggestions as well, so read the whole thing. Lately, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been throwing brushback pitches at her old friend Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense, in the everlasting turf war between State and Defense. Clinton’s tenure thus far at State has been mostly unremarkable, but managing diplomatic relations with the new Egypt is going to give her the chance to forge a legacy.

Though she won’t be at State much longer, the first diplomatic moves with any new government tend to set the course, since Foggy Bottom’s inclination is to change direction only when absolutely necessary. The Arab Spring and the crumbling of the realist gambit have given Clinton the ability to lead down a different path, one that would finally give Arab liberals a voice and help create the institutions that could lead to real stability—one that relies on, instead of subjugates, the people.

Read Less

Democrats’ Crisis of Overconfidence

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.

Read More

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.

It’s no surprise that partisans are more optimistic about their own candidate’s chances. But the numbers are still wildly lopsided — just 14 percent of Democrats think Romney is going to win. Compare that to 35 percent of Republicans who think Obama has the better shot.

The RealClearPolitics average of national polls shows the race at a dead-heat. While polls of general Americans tend to be more favorable toward Obama than polls of likely or registered voters, this survey still seems overly rosy for Obama under the circumstances.

Obama’s star power has faded since 2008, and Democrats know they’re going to struggle to bring out the same number of supporters to the polling booths. That’s why they’re investing so heavily in get-out-the-vote efforts. But if a whopping 86 percent of Democrats believe Obama has this contest in the bag — despite his mediocre poll numbers and the widespread economic dissatisfaction — then there’s much less of an incentive for them to show up on Election Day.

Read Less

Isaac-Katrina Analogies Are Gift to Dems

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.

Read More

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.

Bush never really recovered from the widespread impression that his appointees were not on top of the crisis and the publicized delays in getting federal help to the stricken city. The collapse of local authority, the way first responders fled and the abdication of responsibility by both the city and state of Louisiana had far more to do with the crisis than anything the federal government did. But it was Bush who got the lion’s share of the blame. The plight of the poor refugees in the Superdome wasn’t merely put on his shoulders but falsely asserted as proof of administration racism.

Should President Obama decide to arrive on the scene of any flooding or damage this week, it will not merely upstage the GOP infomercial. It will also be a not-so-subtle reinforcement of his recurring campaign theme in which he blames everything that’s wrong with the country on his predecessor.

Hurricane Isaac won’t fix the country’s economy or lower unemployment, which are the real obstacles to the president’s re-election. But the timing and the path of the storm may provide the Democrats with an unexpected bonus of campaign fodder that could undermine any GOP hopes for a post-convention bounce. And there’s absolutely nothing the Republicans can do about it except pray that the hurricane proves to be a minor annoyance to the Gulf rather than a full-scale disaster. Residents of the coastal region, both Democrats and Republicans, will be praying along with them.

Read Less

Does the Convention Bounce Matter?

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.

Read More

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.

In nearly half the races since 1964, the larger bounce was on the losing side — which doesn’t give much confidence for its predictive power. But as Jonathan wrote yesterday, even a minor boost in the polls could mean a lot for Romney, since the race is in a dead-heat and there’s not much ground left for either candidate to gain.

The question is whether Romney will be able to hold onto any post-convention gains until the election. That may be more difficult this year, since the timing of the Democratic convention (which starts almost immediately after the GOP’s) seems to be designed to cut any bounce short.

Read Less

Can Mandel be the GOP’s Majority Maker?

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.

Read More

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.

Mandel was thought by some political observers to be too green and untested to defeat an entrenched incumbent like Brown. His list of political accomplishments is thin. He has less than two years as Ohio’s treasurer and two terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. Despite Brown’s designation as the “most liberal member of Congress” by the National Journal, the incumbent, who has also has seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives under his belt, was assumed to have an easy opponent in Mandel. But despite that modest resume, it’s now apparent that voters seem to like the Republican. The 34-year-old may not look old enough to shave but there is something about the Marine veteran’s smart, youthful persona and upbeat style that attracts voters.

Back in June, Politico alleged that the only thing that was keeping Mandel’s hopes afloat was support from super PACs like American Crossroads. But in the intervening months, Mandel was carpet-bombed by labor PACS and other liberal big spenders who lambasted his candidacy and record. Rather than letting this Democrat counter-punch floor the GOP hopeful, Mandel has actually gained ground over the summer.

That has got to worry the Democrats, since it shows that the more the voters see of Mandel, the more they like him. And with Brown running slightly behind President Obama, he’s going to need a surge at the top of the ticket in order to be carried over the finish line. That means a Senate seat that Democrats believed they were likely to keep is very much up for grabs this fall. Akin’s collapse was a blow to the GOP’s plans to win the Senate. But since a Mandel win should no longer be considered a long shot, they can easily make up for a loss in Missouri with an unexpected triumph in Ohio.

Read Less

Good Riddance, Ron Paul

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.”

Read More

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.”

In other words: cutting off our allies when the going gets tough, and ignoring threats as they metastasize globally — all the while, hoping that our enemies return our courtesy and leave us alone.

As a side note, did you ever notice that Paul fans only seem to use blowback to explain acts of Islamic terrorism? The U.S. has bases in 38 countries, yet you never hear about terror attacks from the Bulgarians, the Singaporeans or the Portuguese. If our bases are supposed to be so threatening, why aren’t others rising up against them?

Maybe it has to do with the fact that our enemies are radical Islamists who don’t really need much of an excuse to kill capitalist infidels. Rudy Giuliani said it best when he shot down Ron Paul’s nutty theories during the 2008 GOP primaries:

Read Less

The Extravagant Hypocrisy of Charlie Crist

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.

Read More

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.

The senator who defeated Crist, you’ll remember, was Marco Rubio. Rubio, no doubt, can’t help but laugh at the thought of Crist lecturing him–the son of Cuban immigrants–on what is good for Latino immigrants. But it’s even more risible as Rubio’s defeat of Crist enabled the Republican Party to raise the issue of liberalizing immigration policies. Rubio put together his own version of the Dream Act, which was expected to gain such bipartisan popularity that the Democratic Party moved to destroy any chance of it coming up for a vote. So President Obama released an executive order directing authorities not to enforce immigration law against certain immigrants rather than pass legislation to fix the problem.

Additionally, Crist mentions education, but Crist’s predecessor, Jeb Bush, enjoys a legacy that includes a reformed state education policy with impressive results. In other words, Crist hails from the state at the center of an immigrant-friendly, pro-education reform movement led by the party he is walking away from.

Both Bush and Rubio have earned extraordinary respect from the national party and the conservative movement. If Crist wants to take a stand on behalf of a status quo that is failing students in order to enrich union bosses and preventing bipartisan immigration reform, he is free to do so. But it should be acknowledged that this is exactly what he is doing.

Read Less

Entire Haqqani Network Should Be Designated as Terrorists

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.”

Read More

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.”

There is also more than a bit of irony in the whole affair. For while Badruddin and eight other Haqqani family members have been individually designated as global terrorists by the U.S., and they are now apparently being actively hunted by Reaper drones (a very positive and overdue development), the Obama administration still refuses to designate the Haqqani Network as a whole as a terrorist entity, apparently because it hopes to pursue peace talks with the Haqqanis. (Why the terrorist designation can’t simply be lifted if talks get somewhere–a very unlikely eventuality–remains a mystery.)

Congress got so frustrated with this nonsensical state of affairs–how can the U.S. government kill senior Haqqanis but not call their organization a terrorist entity?–that it passed legislation, signed by President Obama on August 10, that gives the administration 30 days to either designate the Haqqanis or explain why it refuses to do so. Those 30 days will expire soon so we can hope to have some greater clarity on the U.S. position vis a vis the Haqqanis. There is quite simply no excuse not to call the Haqqanis by their rightful name: terrorists.

Read Less

Meeting Mitt — the Likeable Enough CEO

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.

Read More

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.

Politico notes that Romney’s pledge to try to get into the weeds on issues with his staff and do his own thinking, rather than being force-fed solutions by his staff to rubber stamp, sounds reminiscent of Obama’s ponderous decision-making. But Romney’s proven managerial abilities, his knowledge of the fine line between necessary delegation and abandoning responsibility, and formidable powers of research analysis provide a strong contrast to the president’s style. Above all, Romney promises accountability to the voters. Unlike the president’s grandiloquent pledges of hope, change and turning back the oceans, Romney’s ideas are far more concrete and down to earth and are far better suited to the business of fixing what’s wrong with the country.

Nevertheless, the Republicans understand that Romney won’t win a straight popularity contest with Obama, and that is a huge handicap in any presidential election. The president’s likability is somewhat overrated. The admiration he inspires has far more to do with his historic status as the first African-American president than his personality. But that, along with the cool he exudes, has greater appeal than Romney’s “Father Knows Best” persona.

As today’s Washington Post poll shows, despite the tremendous advantages that Obama possesses in terms of incumbency and his place in history, he is still deadlocked with his GOP opponent. Romney doesn’t have to be more likeable than Obama. But he does have to convince more Americans that he’s got the right stuff to lead the nation. Based on the evidence of the Republican rollout this week, he’s made a good start.

Read Less

WaPo Poll: Presidential Race a Dead-Heat

The latest Washington 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.

Read More

The latest Washington 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.

Romney has a chance to dispel the falsehood that he’s an “extremist” during his speech. Since voters are already very familiar with Obama, he doesn’t have the same opportunity to define himself.

That’s why Romney’s speech at the convention has to be focused on who he is and what he would do as president. Obama’s will necessarily have to focus on cutting down his competition and shifting blame for the slow economic recovery.

Read Less

NYT Ombud Knocks “Occupy” Cheerleading

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.

Read More

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.

The editorial direction of the Times is that of a partisan journal. On most issues, then, the Times’s editors do not communicate a guiding principle to their reporters, so the bias takes the form of tone, story choice, story placement, etc. But that has never been the case with regard to social issues. The paper’s reporters generally join the paper’s editorialists–raising questions about the thorough and troubling disregard to journalistic ethics and traditional practices–in cheerleading for such “causes.” Both Brisbane’s column and Times editor Jill Abramson’s response acknowledge the fact that on social issues, New Yorkers—or, to be more accurate, the New Yorkers the paper wishes to acknowledge, often at the exclusion of much of the city—see things differently than the rest of the country.

Because this bias on social issues isn’t hidden by the paper, Brisbane’s comments are not only not controversial, but in the media environment in which the Times operates, constitute a badge of honor.

More interesting by far is Brisbane’s inclusion of the “Occupy” movement with that of the issue of marriage equality. A perfect example came on July 13, when the Times published an absurd puff piece on the establishment of an Occupy Wall Street summer camp, run by a couple of bored radicals.

This was eight months after even the mainstream media became forced to report on the widespread revelations of sexual assault taking place at the Occupy camps. To make matters worse, the camp organizers, rather than help the victims of sexual violence, established the policy of aiding the escape of the rapists by ordering them quietly out of the camps to prevent unwanted attention from the police. Though Mayor Bloomberg was far too tolerant of the violent, anarchic protest camps, even he was forced to concede the Occupy policy of shielding rapists from the police was “despicable.”

So how did the Times reporter covering the Occupy summer camp, Alan Feuer, tackle the ridiculous notion that these people should be allowed near children? He didn’t. Any possible danger to the children goes unmentioned, but the reporter did find time for some levity, joking about how there was a “lack of sufficiently radical activities,” such as, Feuer suggests, “shoot-the-banker archery.”

Arthur Brisbane probably didn’t find jokes about murdering bankers nearly as funny as Feuer or his editors at the Times did, so this type of coverage likely inspired Brisbane to express his discomfort with treating violent radicals as earnest goofballs. On this issue, however, the Times cannot use geography as an excuse. As I wrote earlier this month, New Yorkers have been catching up to the rest of the country in their loathing of Occupy. Even longtime fans of the Times like Brisbane find the paper’s extremism on this issue troubling.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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