It was fascinating to watch the Democratic Party try to seize the upper hand on national security last night, a predictable strategy that the Romney campaign brought on itself. By mainly treating foreign policy as an afterthought, Mitt Romney is ceding this ground.
For many Republicans, the most surreal moment of the night had to be when Obama chided his opponents as “new…[pause for audience laughter]…to foreign policy.” If that rankled conservatives — who probably recalled that just the other day Obama was a freshman Senator running for president with almost zero foreign policy experience under his belt — that was the entire point. The Democratic base could probably care less how many terrorists the Obama administration has killed, but the Obama campaign is looking to knock the GOP off its game, forcing it to compete on territory it usually commands.
As Bill Clinton noted so eloquently on Wednesday night, even broken clocks are right twice a day. As I have written in the past, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen is rarely right twice a decade, let alone during a 24-hour period. But every now and then even he can score a bull’s-eye. Cohen has been deceived by some of the most transparent villains on the planet, such as the Islamist regime in Iran that he disgracefully sought to whitewash in 2009 and even claimed they were not anti-Semitic. Cohen is also a dependable supporter of the Palestinians and has little patience with measure of Israeli self-defense.
However, there are some frauds that Cohen is too savvy to accept. Though organic food is all rage among the fashionably liberal and precincts where his left-wing views are received with applause along with the rest of the output of Times writers, Cohen will have none of it. As he writes today, after four decades of research, Stanford University has issued a study declaring that foods labeled “organic” have no greater nutritional value than other food. The same is true for organic meat. Nor are any of these trendy items less likely to have dangerous bacteria like E.coli. As Cohen rightly puts it:
The takeaway from the study could be summed up in two words: Organic, schmorganic. That’s been my feeling for a while.
Like bees swarming to a honey pot, Europe’s extremist parties have wasted no time in seizing upon the Eurozone crisis to garner an electoral boost. In Greece, back in June, an assortment of unreconstructed communist and neo-Nazi parties won 101 out of 300 possible seats in the election. Next week, it’s the turn of the comparatively sensible (and far more prosperous) Dutch to decide whether they want a government based on prudence, or one based on protest.
Although a small majority of Greeks opted, at the very last moment, for a center-right coalition, political debate in the run-up to their election was dominated by talk of an extremist victory. That has also been the case in The Netherlands. For weeks, the Dutch press has been ruminating on the likelihood that the far left Socialist Party will triumph on September 12.
Charlie Crist had a plan. It would begin with trying desperately to smother the career of one of the Republican Party’s rising stars while trashing Democrats so he could prove his “conservative” credentials. It continued by losing to his opponent, Marco Rubio, and then trashing Republicans so he could prove his liberal credentials. It then proceeded to a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention, leapfrogging and alienating Democrats to elbow them out of the spotlight in the party he always opposed but now pretends to be a part of.
How would you suppose this plan works out? Now that Crist is expected to run for Florida governor again, this time as a Democrat, let’s take a look at what his fellow Democrats have to say about him:
Those watching the Democratic National Convention this week were subjected to a feedback loop of angry denunciations of Republicans for what we were told was their “war on women.” But if you want to see what a real war on women looks like as opposed to a political disagreement about abortion or whether Catholic institutions should be forced to pay for services, like contraception, that offend their faith, you need to look elsewhere. As the New York Times reports, despite their reassurances given to gullible Western reporters and the Obama administration, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is going full speed ahead with its campaign to impose its Islamist social agenda on the nation. And that agenda isn’t abortion or free contraceptives but a full-blown attempt to reverse the tenuous advances women made toward equality under the Mubarak regime.
Given the Muslim Brotherhood’s increasingly tight grip on the reins of power in Cairo this is not a theoretical question but one of vital importance for the future of the most populous Arab country. The Brotherhood says its priority is reviving the country’s economy and has convinced the Obama administration to forgive $1 billion in debt that they owe the United States and Western nations. As Max wrote earlier this week, this makes sense from the point of view of encouraging stability and seeking to encourage prosperity that will make the country less vulnerable to extremists. But we shouldn’t underestimate the Brotherhood’s determination to eventually wipe out secularism. Even more to the point, it seeks to gain political strength by promoting female subservience.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is pulling out all the stops in his bid to crush opposition to his authoritarian rule in the election scheduled for October 7. Chavez is seeking to discredit challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski by pointing out his Jewish roots. Chavez has sought to intimidate Venezuelan Jews in the past as a result of the close ties he has fostered with Iran and Hezbollah and his virulent hostility to Israel. But his attacks on the leader of the opposition have escalated the latent Jew-hatred of his regime.
As the Jerusalem Post reports, a study conducted by Tel Aviv University shows that the Caracas government has produced a steady stream of vilification of Capriles that centers on his Jewish roots. Capriles is a Catholic but he is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and many of his mother’s family perished at the hands of the Nazis.
“This is done in a variety of methods, such as defamation, intimidation and conspiracy theories, many of which portray Capriles as a Zionist agent, and by mixing classic and neo-anti-Semitism,” said the report, authored by Lidia Lerner, an expert on Latin America. “A Capriles victory, it is claimed, will inevitably lead to Zionist infiltration.” …
Op-Eds warning of a “Zionist takeover” if Capriles wins repeatedly have appeared in government-controlled media since Radonski’s candidacy was announced in February, the report said. He also has been the subject of anti-Semitic cartoons.
The White House spins today’s grim August jobs report (which John Steele Gordon details below), calling it “further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression”:
While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007. To create more jobs in particularly hard-hit sectors, President Obama continues to support the elements of the American Jobs Act that have not yet passed, including further investment in infrastructure to rebuild our Nation’s ports, roads and highways, and assistance to State and local governments to prevent layoffs and to enable them to rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers and first responders. To build on the progress of the last few years, President Obama has also proposed an extension of middle class tax cuts that would prevent the typical middle class family from facing a $2,200 tax increase next year.
While the Obama administration grants waivers to Iran’s trading partners to lessen the effectiveness of sanctions, not every country is approaching Iran’s failure to abide by international norms and its proliferation and terrorist activities with the same lack of seriousness.
Calling Iran the “most significant threat to global peace and security” today, Ottawa has announced a suspension of relations. The CBC reported:
Iran is among the world’s worst violators of human rights. It shelters and materially supports terrorist groups,” [Foreign Affairs Minister John] Baird said. In the statement, Baird said Canada has closed its embassy in Iran, effective immediately, and declared personae non gratae all remaining Iranian diplomats in Canada. Those diplomats must leave within five days. All Canadian diplomats have already left Iran. “Canada’s position on the regime in Iran is well known. Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” he said in the statement. The statement cited Iran’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and failure to comply with UN resolutions on its nuclear program, and its threats against Israel. The statement also makes reference to Iran’s “blatant disregard” of the Vienna Convention that guarantees the protection of diplomatic personnel…
By now a pattern has emerged in President Obama’s foreign policy: Inclined to “lead from behind,” the cool, unexcitable and cerebral chief executive normally hesitates and agonizes before taking decisive action, then, when pushed to do so by allies, aides, or by Congress, or all three, he claims credit for having been tough all along. The mission to kill Osama bin Laden was an exception–the president was, by all indicators, more unwavering than his senior advisers–but the decision to intervene in Libya certainly falls into this category as does the decision to keep Guantanamo open and the decision to impose a tough new round of sanctions on Iran’s central bank and oil industry. The latter sanctions were compelled by virtually unanimous votes of Congress after the president spent the first three years of his administration trying to reach out to Tehran.
Now the pattern is being repeated with regard to the Haqqani Network. For the past two years, despite strong arguments to do so from both U.S. military and diplomatic representatives in Afghanistan, the administration has refused to add the Haqqani Network to the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, presumably for fear of offending Pakistan which provides sanctuary and other support to the Haqqanis. Then in early August Congress passed legislation giving the administration 30 days to either list the Haqqanis or explain why not. And lo and behold the White House has finally decided to designate the Haqqanis, which will make it easier to go after that organization’s finances.
The hulking budget cuts now facing the Pentagon were initially pitched to Harry Reid by the White House, which saw them as a way to leverage a tax-increasing “grand bargain” from Republicans, according to Bob Woodward’s latest book. Politico reports:
The book The Price of Politics, by Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward, makes it clear the idea for the draconian spending cuts originated in the White House – and not in Congress.
According to the book, excerpts of which were obtained by POLITICO ahead of the Sept. 11 release, President Barack Obama’s top deputies believed the prospect of massive defense cuts would compel Republicans to agree to a deficit-cutting grand bargain.
Then-OMB Director Jack Lew, now the White House chief of staff, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors pitched the idea to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Woodward writes. Under the deal, which Republicans accepted after several rounds of bargaining, the federal debt ceiling was raised — staving off a potential financial crisis.
After two weeks of speeches, non-stop abuse of Mitt Romney, platform fiascos and a steady diet of support for abortion, gay rights, illegal immigrants and mentions of the auto bailout and Osama bin Laden, the Democratic National Convention is finally over.
The completion of both party conclaves means that the fall campaign is officially launched. But before we move on to the home stretch of the presidential race, here’s a roundup of some winners and losers from Charlotte:
Barack Obama unveiled his new campaign theme last night: the president is unpopular. More specifically, the president keeps enacting unpopular policies. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also Mitt Romney’s campaign theme: he, too, wants you to know the president is unpopular.
The audience last night heard this point alluded to throughout—usually euphemistically as a willingness to make tough choices–but Obama himself explicitly brought it up. “If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them,” Obama said near the end of his speech. And he’s right.
The city of Chicago, the third largest in America, is crumbling into anarchy. The murder rate is so out of control that federal authorities have agreed to assist the Chicago Police Department in their efforts to curb soaring violence. The city has seen over a thirty-percent rise in its murder rate this year and in the last eight days of August, 82 people were killed or wounded by gun violence. With his city in a violent downward spiral, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been focusing on what’s important: banning Chik-fil-A from Chicago.
On Wednesday, during Bill Clinton’s address to the DNC in Charlotte, cameras panned to Emanuel, laughing in the audience. While he was enjoying his stay in Charlotte at least three people were murdered back home in Chicago just that night. What could be more important than taking charge of one of the most violent cities in America? Apparently, for Emanuel, it’s fundraising for his old boss President Barack Obama.
The official unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point in August to 8.1 percent. That’s the good news. The rest isn’t so great.
Only a net of 96,000 jobs were created in August, way below what is needed to bring down the unemployment rate long term. And the numbers for both June and July were revised downwards. (June was down from 64,000 jobs created to 45,000, July from 163,000 to 141,000). The percentage of the population in the labor force continued to decline (to a dismal 58.3 percent), 5 million people have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, 40 percent of the total unemployed. Involuntary part-time workers remains at 8 million.
All in all, the sluggish recovery continues sluggishly at best. These numbers cannot make the Obama campaign very happy the morning after the candidate’s big night in Charlotte. They powerfully reinforce the idea that Obama just hasn’t gotten the job done in the last three and a half years and that perhaps Clint Eastwood is right: if a public servant isn’t performing you have to let him go.
When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in Turkey almost a decade ago, it promoted itself as a clean alternative after years of governance by corrupt parties and politicians. Many Turkish politicians made no secret of their desire to hold seats in parliament in order to shield themselves behind parliamentary immunity. The most prominent case was Cem Uzan, who created a party and almost bought his way into parliament after, as courts subsequently confirmed, he defrauded Motorola of more than a billion dollars.
AKP leader and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies, however, have been just as corrupt. As mayor of Istanbul and subsequently prime minister, Erdoğan accumulated tens of millions of dollars; as of 2008, before he completed his take-over of the judiciary, he faced 13 separate corruption cases. He retains immunity so long as he remains in parliament, but as soon as he leaves office, he is fair game for any independent prosecutor who remains. So too are his cabinet ministers who together face almost three dozen separate corruption probes. One Wikileaks cable reported AKP informants accusing several trusted Erdoğan aides—most notably current Minister for European Affairs Egemin Bağış—of corruption. Regarding Erdoğan, it said, “We have heard from two contacts that Erdogan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdogan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame.”
Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination for the second time on Thursday night. But the Obama that spoke in Charlotte was a very different candidate then the one who was hailed as the harbinger of a new era of American politics in 2008. The president was cheered wildly by the Democratic faithful in the arena, but the speech was only a faint echo of his 2008 triumph in Denver or his breakthrough address in Boston in 2004. His text was well delivered and he may yet be re-elected. But there is also no question that the “hope and change” messiah has left the building.
After four years in office the president labors under the burden of having a less than stellar record and that has made it impossible for him to recapture the fervor that catapulted him into the White House. With the country still mired in a downturn that he tried and failed to fix, his list of achievements is slim. Based on the speeches given in Charlotte, they consist mainly of the auto bailout and the killing of Osama bin Laden (the president said virtually nothing about ObamaCare and nothing at all about the stimulus). That left him with a speech that recycled a laundry list of 2008 promises that fell flat. Those who are devoted to his cause applauded what they heard. But while the president is still an impressive political actor, this was a pedestrian speech that fell far short of the mark he needed to hit to have an impact on voters.