All of the back and forth over whether the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi was or was not a “terrorist” attack (can there be any doubt that it was?) has obscured attention from the real issue: Why wasn’t the consulate in Benghazi afforded better protection? There was obviously a grave breach of security. The Washington Post reveals the depth of unpreparedness:
U.S. officials appear to have underestimated the threat facing both the ambassador and other Americans. They had not reinforced the U.S. diplomatic outpost there to meet strict safety standards for government buildings overseas. Nor had they posted a U.S. Marine detachment, as at other diplomatic sites in high-threat regions.
A U.S. military team assigned to establish security at the new embassy in Tripoli, in a previously undisclosed detail, was never instructed to fortify the temporary hub in the east. Instead, a small local guard force was hired by a British private security firm as part of a contract worth less than half of what it costs to deploy a single U.S. service member in a war zone for a year.
Now that the Obama administration’s initial narrative that the Benghazi assault was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam film has collapsed, the new spin from the White House is that President Obama has actually called it a terrorist attack all along.
“Well, first of all, Candy, as you know, the President called it an act of terror the day after it happened,” David Axelrod told CNN’s Candy Crowley this morning, referring to a speech Obama made in the Rose Garden on Sept. 12.
Axelrod’s claim has been pushed by journalists over the past few days, most notably Josh Gerstein at Politico, in a blog post headlined “Obama talked of Libya attack as ‘terror’ 2 weeks ago”:
Despite a drumbeat from the right and even independent fact-checkers that President Barack Obama has been unwilling to label as terrorism the attack on a United States diplomatic mission in Libya, the president indicated just a day after the killing of the American ambassador there that the assault was part of a series of “acts of terror” the U.S. has faced.
Mark Landler made the same claim in an otherwise solid article at the New York Times:
The White House maintains that its account changed as intelligence agencies gathered more details about the attack, not from any desire to diminish its gravity. Mr. Obama, his aides point out, labeled the assault an “act of terror” in his first public response, in the Rose Garden, a day after it happened.
Gerstein and Landler are simply wrong on this.
Sure sign that President Obama’s media cheerleaders are worried about his upcoming debate performance? Four days before the first debate, Gwen Ifill of PBS has an op-ed in The Washington Post downplaying the importance of . . . debates. Or, as she puts it, “debunk[ing] five myths about presidential debates.”
Myth Number One: “Voters use debates to decide.”
As Ms. Ifill explains, “Gallup polls going back decades show precious little shift in established voter trends before and after debates.”
Many Republicans are not buying the numbers produced by national polls in the last few weeks that show President Obama padding his lead over Mitt Romney. Some of this sentiment can be put down to wishful thinking by conservatives who can’t fathom why so many Americans want to re-elect Obama. It is only human nature that we tend to think polls that verify our views of the way things should be are credible while dismissing those that contradict as bogus. Indeed, with the president taking the lead in so many national as well as swing state polls recently it is difficult to argue that the race hasn’t shifted in his direction. However, there are those, such as former Bill Clinton advisor/pollster and current pundit Dick Morris, who have consistently argued that the polls are wrong because their turnout model is incorrect. Morris believes that all of their numbers reflect a belief that the Democrats will be able to match their historic turnout they achieved in 2008, something he argues is not remotely likely to happen.
Morris’s argument was widely dismissed as mere spin by a conservative-leaning analyst, but recent reports showing a huge decline in Democratic registration when compared to four years ago should give even the most sanguine liberals some food for thought. As Fox News reports, several studies have shown that the number of voters declaring themselves to be Democrats has dipped precipitately in swing states, particularly in Ohio. The same is true, as I noted back in July, in Pennsylvania. That leaves us with a conundrum. If, as even left-wing think tanks agree, Democratic voter registration is in decline, why are pollsters assuming that the electorate will largely resemble the messianic “hope and change” outpouring that elected Barack Obama? And if they are wrong about the turnout model, does that mean their forecasts showing the president cruising to re-election are also incorrect?
Meanwhile, on the lighter side, back in Academe . . .
The Eagle, American University’s student newspaper, was about to create a “hostile work environment” for Assistant Anthropology Professor Adrienne Pine by running a story about her breastfeeding her baby during the opening lecture of her intro “Sex, Gender, and Culture” class. It seems the baby woke up sick that day and couldn’t be sent to daycare. So, rather than cancel the class, Ms. Pine brought her daughter to the lecture room, where she crawled around on the floor, tried to eat a paper clip, made a beeline for an electrical outlet, and ultimately needed to be breastfed.
With only three days to go before the first presidential debate, each campaign is, as Politico points out, already busy trying to depress expectations for their candidate and inflate those for their opponent. That means Democrats are hyping Mitt Romney’s extensive experience and preparation while Republicans are pointing to the president’s reputation as an eloquent orator even if they don’t really believe him to be all that great. But the really interesting items leaking out of the two rival camps is not so much their spin about who should be the favorite or the underdog but the candor about their approaches to the contest.
If the sources for the New York Times’s front-page debate preview story are to be trusted, President Obama seems to be preparing to play it safe on Wednesday night while Romney is going to be trying to win it outright. This may reflect their current standing in the polls, but if the president really is approaching the debate in this manner, it’s a mistake. If he really thinks that he merely needs to show Americans he feels their pain, rather than defend his record, it will allow Romney to seize the initiative. One Democrat quoted in the story says that “the sale has been made … He just needs to reaffirm it. He just needs to not get in the way.” But that approach will set him up as a standing target when what he needs to do is to try demonize Romney.
A tipping point in the ongoing efforts by the Obama administration to downplay the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya may have been reached this weekend. After weeks of placidly regurgitating the White House spin on the Libya attack, the headlines on the front page of the New York Times showed that even the leading liberal cheerleader for the president understood the game was over: “Shifting Reports on Libya Killings May Cost Obama; An Opening for Romney; Intelligence Aides Say Attack on Compound Was ‘Organized.’”
That sums the situation up nicely, but the Times has it slightly wrong about the “Opening for Romney” it references. A proper understanding of what we have learned in the last 18 days is not that Mitt Romney’s campaign may have been given an opportunity to exploit the president’s shortcomings, but that the poor conduct of the administration in the aftermath of the Libya attack may have been motivated by their cynical political efforts to cover up a disaster of their own making. The refusal to talk about terror comes from a strategy in which the president’s re-election rests in part on promoting the idea that Obama won the war on al-Qaeda the day Osama bin Laden died. It isn’t Romney who has been playing politics on Libya but the president and his handlers.
It would seem that MSNBC has been caught in an act that can only be called tantamount to journalistic prostitution. Ace of Spades reports (h/t Instapundit) that the cable news network ran a clip showing an airport rally where Mitt Romney introduces Paul Ryan and the audience starts shouting, according to the chyron at the bottom of the screen, “Ryan! Ryan!” and Romney interrupts saying, “No, it’s Romney-Ryan! Romney-Ryan!” This, of course, makes Romney look both churlish and pathetic at the same time.
The only trouble is that the crowd wasn’t yelling “Ryan! Ryan!” it was yelling “Romney! Romney!” when Romney interrupts and graciously insists that his running mate is a vital part of the team–just about the exact opposite. The video, apparently, came from a left-wing blogger who put the clip on YouTube, including the chyron, and it was just much too good for MSNBC to check.
After insisting that he wouldn’t violate his principles by contributing to super PACs, billionaire left-wing donor George Soros has reportedly caved, and gave over $1 million to Democrat-supporting groups:
Billionaire financier George Soros has given $1 million to the primary super PAC helping President Obama.
The funding is a boost to Priorities USA Action in the final weeks of the campaign. …
Soros is also giving $500,000 each to two congressional super PACs, one aimed at protecting the Democratic majority in the Senate and the other dedicated to winning control in the House.
Soros and other Democratic donors are betraying their principles, though I’m sure they make excuses for their hypocrisy. For example, many Americans believe bribery is unethical and is rightfully illegal, but if they suddenly found themselves stuck in a country where bribery was a fact of life, they might grit their teeth and cave. I imagine that’s similar to the way people like Soros justify violating their principles on super PACs — they’re doing this because they feel it’s necessary to compete with Republicans, and maybe even comfort themselves with the thought that Obama will work to put an end to the practice in a second term. (Though that’s not to suggest that super PACs are akin to bribery, which is a common argument on the left. As I’ve written in the past, the Citizens United decision was a matter of free speech).
Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama sounded a battle cry at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner when she said protecting the right to vote is the nation’s most important civil rights issue. If that were true, that would mean there no credible civil rights concerns in the country. What Obama was talking about was the effort by Democrats to prevent the implementation of laws requiring voters to present a photo ID when casting their ballots. The common sense measure has the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans. They understand that cheating is baked into the DNA of our political parties and see nothing unreasonable about requiring someone to do the same thing as when they wish to board a plane, a train, open a bank account or buy a beer or a cigarette: prove they are who they say there are. Mrs. Obama’s attempt to demagogue this issue is the backdrop for false liberal arguments that voter ID legislation is the modern version of the Jim Crow laws of the segregation era. Those claims are currently being adjudicated in Pennsylvania, where a judge has until Tuesday to decide whether the state’s voter ID law should be thrown out.
In August, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr. threw out the challenge when he said that while he was sympathetic to those who claimed they had difficulty acquiring a photo ID, there was no proof of disenfranchisement. That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now kicked the case back to him and hearings were again held this week to determine whether the state is acting appropriately. Though the state has loosened the already lenient requirements to get a state card, the judge hinted that he might give in to pressure from liberal groups and grant an injunction to block its implementation. If so, it will undermine attempts to ensure voter integrity.
American Jews may take a more jaundiced view of the Iranian nuclear threat than the Obama administration, but that doesn’t seem to be affecting their opinions about the presidential race. The latest poll from the American Jewish Committee shows President Obama likely to take a smaller portion of the Jewish vote than he did in 2008 but avoiding the catastrophic decline that Republicans hoped his combative attitude toward Israel would produce. Obama leads Mitt Romney by a 65-24 percent margin among Jewish voters. That represents a marked decline from the 78 percent he got in 2008 (though Democrats now claim the number was only 74 percent). But Romney’s inability to get more than a quarter of the Jewish vote shows that resistance to the GOP among this largely liberal group is still intense.
That still shows a potential loss among Jewish voters for Obama that was larger than his expected decline from the totals he had in 2008 among the rest of the population. That can be reasonably interpreted as a backlash against the administration’s endless rounds of fights with Israel’s government, such as the latest one over Iran that gave the lie to the Democrats’ election-year Jewish charm offensive. But Romney’s failure to make more of this weakness on Obama’s part undermines any scenario by which lost Jewish votes for the Democrats could alter the outcome in swing states like Florida. While the poll shows some progress for the GOP this year, the data show that liberal ideology and partisan affinity for the Democrats still overwhelms any concerns about the Middle East for the majority of Jews.
On the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the General Assembly of the United Nations that time was running out to stop Iran’s nuclear program, a leaked report from Israel’s Foreign Ministry is being interpreted in some quarters as contradicting his stand. The report, first published in Haaretz and then recycled in the New York Times, is supposed to say that existing sanctions on Iran have caused a great deal of damage to the country. Combined with the fact that Israel’s diplomats have been campaigning for increasing the sanctions, some are concluding that not only does the document undermine Netanyahu’s warnings but that, contrary to what the prime minister and other Israelis have been saying, it is reasonable to believe that sanctions combined with diplomacy can solve the problem.
But the problem with such a conclusion is that, as even Haaretz notes, even if ordinary Iranians are feeling the economic pain brought on by sanctions, there is no evidence that the resolve of Iran’s leadership to push on with their nuclear project has been altered. Even more to the point, there is no contradiction between Netanyahu’s statements and a desire for increased sanctions. Indeed, his call for Western “red lines” — a point now made famous by his use of an illustration of a cartoon bomb across which he drew a “red line” — only makes sense if the West is ratcheting up sanctions and enforcing them.
President Obama has promised to bring the perpetrators of the Benghazi terrorist attack to justice, but over two weeks after the attack the FBI still hasn’t made it to Benghazi. According to the New York Times, it’s because the security situation in Benghazi is too unstable:
Sixteen days after the death of four Americans in an attack on a United States diplomatic mission here, fears about the near-total lack of security have kept F.B.I. agents from visiting the scene of the killings and forced them to try to piece together the complicated crime from Tripoli, more than 400 miles away.
Investigators are so worried about the tenuous security, people involved in the investigation say, that they have been unwilling to risk taking some potential Libyan witnesses into the American Embassy in Tripoli. Instead, the investigators have resorted to the awkward solution of questioning some witnesses in cars outside the embassy, which is operating under emergency staffing and was evacuated of even more diplomats on Thursday because of a heightened security alert.
Foreign Policy’s website has the article that everyone will be talking about today: a piece by Mark Perry about the American military’s speculation about how Israel might carry out an attack on Iran. There are two important caveats for the article: first, Perry relies on anonymous sources and former officials. Second, the sources admit to Perry that Israel won’t tell the U.S. what plans, if any, they’ve drawn up for such an attack—obviously aware that the Obama administration will leak that information eventually–so the entire article is speculation. The sources are trying to reverse-engineer an Israeli strike based on Israel’s perceived capabilities.
That said, the speculation is divided into the political and military spheres. The military aspect is interesting—it includes what Perry’s sources call the “Entebbe Option,” which would involve special forces instead of an air assault—but doesn’t add much information to what we already know. The political guessing by Perry’s sources actually avoids the major question everyone is wondering at this point.
It would be hard to dream up a clearer example of an entitlement mentality than this e-card on the Obama campaign website:
Mitt Romney says he would repeal the Affordable Care Act. So here’s a quick question: Can I borrow $18,000 to help pay for my birth control?
The e-card is supposed to point out that it’s ridiculous to ask your mother for $18,000 to pay for birth control. True, but that begs the question: wouldn’t it be even more ridiculous to ask a perfect stranger to pay for your birth control? Because that is essentially what Obama’s “free birth control” law does. Pills cost money to make — the materials, the research, the labor, complying with government regulations. It costs money to package and export to pharmacies. It costs money to advertise. It costs money to fight against class-action lawsuits. It costs money for pharmacists to fill the prescription. It costs money for the doctors to write the prescription.
Yesterday at the UN several groups, including Rotary International, the World Health Organization, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation met to discuss their commitment to, and the strides made, campaigning to end polio worldwide. Yesterday Rotary announced,
The side event — “Our Commitment to the Next Generation: The Legacy of a Polio-free World” — brought together leaders of the remaining endemic countries, and representatives of donor governments, development agencies, the GPEI partners, and the media to underscore the urgent need to finish the job of global polio eradication. Although the wild poliovirus is endemic only in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria, other countries are still at risk for re-established transmission of the virus through its “importation” from the endemics.
Millions have been pledged towards the effort and we are slowly watching countries become polio-free. Unfortunately, polio and other preventable diseases could (and already are) facing a resurgence thanks to dangerous parenting fads in the West.
It is good to hear that most partnering operations between coalition and Afghan forces have resumed after a ten-day pause due to the furor over the anti-Mohammad video and a spat of “green on blue” insider attacks. Such operations are absolutely essential in order to improve the combat effectiveness of the Afghan forces; advisers stuck on giant bases, waving good-bye to Afghan troops as they venture outside the wire, would not be nearly as effective in getting the job done as troops who share the same hardships and risks with their Afghan counterparts. Out in the field, our troops can not only teach the Afghans by example; they can also provide the critical enablers (everything from IED-clearance packages to medevac) that allow the Afghan forces to be more effective.
This decision may, unfortunately, increase the short-term risk to coalition troops–but in the long run it will decrease risk because it is the surest method to bring about a more peaceful Afghanistan. Those who suggest a permanent end to partnering are raising the likelihood that the Afghan security forces will be unable to cope with an insurgency which benefits from bases in Pakistan–and thus raising the likelihood of a larger civil war leading, quite possibly, to the Taliban recapture of significant chunks of the country.
The Obama campaign, according to the New York Times, has a very serious honesty problem. And, in a way, it’s Mitt Romney’s fault, they suggest. The old “Republicans made me do it” excuse is often trotted out in an election year. In 2008, when Obama put a stake through the heart of public financing—a cause liberals championed—by promising to use the system and then reneging on that promise when it became clear he would raise far more money than his Republican opponent, the Times bought the explanation that somehow it was the Republicans’ fault. (The Washington Post, to its credit, didn’t.)
But now it turns out that the 2012 Obama campaign has built its argument against the Romney-Ryan ticket on a slew of falsehoods so obvious that the Times seems to openly wonder what Obama could be thinking. The Obama campaign’s claims fall into two main categories, according to the story: (1.) Made up out of whole cloth; and (2.) based on figures the campaign knows aren’t accurate. The story beings with the Obama camp’s claims that Romney would raise taxes on the middle class and that his Medicare plan could raise seniors’ costs by over $6,000. The Times explains:
The Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper flags two photos of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the UN, which were reportedly pushed out on the AP and Reuters wires. They show Netanyahu waving his hand, but the camera caught him mid-hand gesture, making it appear that he’s doing the Nazi salute (except with his left arm). Halper writes:
Two shocking photos coming off the wire of Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the United Nations moments ago.
Of the hundreds of professional photos taken at this speech, the AP and Reuters decided to push these onto the wire.