There is an obvious danger lurking for Republicans in the Benghazi affair: The more they attack President Obama for alleged weakness in allowing the U.S. consulate to be attacked and the ambassador killed, the more vulnerable they make themselves to a backlash should Obama act decisively to capture or kill the perpetrators of the attack. This New York Times article suggests such a response may be in the works: It reports the not-terribly-surprising news that the Joint Special Operations Command, home of Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, and other top-tier operators, is preparing “target packages” on those believed to be responsible for this brazen assault. It is not hard to imagine that Obama could well go on TV sometime in the next month to announce that justice has been delivered to Ambassador Stevens’s killers by the U.S. military’s elite forces, thus reinforcing the impression fostered by the Osama bin Laden raid that this is one commander-in-chief who is not afraid to use lethal force against our enemies.
Republicans have been trying to turn Benghazi into another Iranian Hostage Crisis but with such a tough response Obama could turn the analogy on its head. Just imagine what the political fallout would have been if the mission to rescue Iranian hostages had succeeded, rather than ending in a fireball in the Iranian desert. Jimmy Carter could have dispelled in an instant the impression that he was weak and might well have defeated Ronald Reagan.
The Romney campaign is calling Joe Biden’s comment about the middle class being “buried for the past four years” a gaffe, and it does fit the criteria of “accidental-honesty.” There’s no doubt the middle class has been hit hard under the current administration, which is why the Obama campaign is having such a difficult time cleaning up after Biden’s comment. They can’t claim Biden is wrong (or they’ll seem out of touch), but they obviously can’t acknowledge he’s right.
The solution? Agree with Biden’s assessment that the middle class has been buried for the past four years, but blame it all on Bush:
“As the Vice President has been saying all year and again in his remarks today, the middle class was punished by the failed Bush policies that crashed our economy – and a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a return to those failed policies,” an Obama campaign official said. “With more than five million private-sector jobs created since 2010, the Vice President and President Obama will continue to help the middle class recover and move the nation forward.”
Did the Obama administration reject requests for increased security from the U.S. consulate in Benghazi prior to the 9/11/12 attack, as whistle blowers have reportedly claimed? The White House won’t say. Spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment when asked about the security request during a press briefing today:
White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on an assertion by the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that requests from diplomats in Libya for added security prior to the September 11, 2012 attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, were denied.
“I’m not going to get into a situation under review by the State Department and the FBI,” Carney said. …
President Obama came into office with high hopes of transforming America’s foreign relations and he has enjoyed some real successes, notably the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi and the killing of Osama bin Laden. But there have been even more setbacks. In country after country he has not shown much progress in dealing with intractable problems.
Iran creeps ever closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, while Benjamin Netanyahu warns that the mullahs could pass the point of no return as early as next spring. Israel and the Palestinians are as far apart as ever on a peace deal; Obama’s heavy-handed pressure on our ally predictably resulted in more gridlock, not a breakthrough. Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups are showing resilience in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, notwithstanding the loss of Osama bin Laden. U.S. standing in the Middle East appears to be no higher than it was when he took office and threats to U.S. interests are just as great, as seen from the killing of our ambassador in Benghazi. Iraq has just seen the most violent September in two years and Iran continues to use Iraqi airspace to ship weapons to the Assad regime in Syria. The fighting in Syria grows worse and worse—as does frustration among America’s Arab allies with the current American inaction. Russia is openly poking Uncle Sam in the eye by stopping all American support for civil society organizations. China is growing ever more belligerent with Japan, the Philippines, and other U.S. allies locked in disputes over tiny island groups in the East and South China Seas. North Korea continues to proceed apace with its nuclear and missile programs.
This isn’t a total victory for proponents of the voter ID law, but it is a very positive sign. While the judge upheld the Pennsylvania law requiring voters to show identification at the voting booths today, part of the law will be postponed until after this election:
A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge has ruled that the state’s controversial new voter ID law will stand, but voters without a valid picture ID card will still be able to cast their vote and have it counted this November.
Judge Robert Simpson has effectively decided to postpone part of the law. Following his ruling, voters will still be asked for a valid voter ID at the poll. But if they don’t have it, they will still be able to cast their vote in the usual manner.
The Iranian rial has crashed. Over the past 36 hours, it has lost almost 30 percent of its value. The value of the dollar against the rial is now up around 300 percent from what it was just a couple years ago. After long denying that the sanctions have had any effect on Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now blames outside “enemies” for the country’s economic trials. As the price of foodstuffs climbs for ordinary Iranians, the Iranian leadership hopes that it can blame economic hardship on the West and on sanctions. They will be fooling themselves. While Iranians would rally around the flag in the event of military confrontation or should any foreign power partner with the terroristic and cult-like Mujahedin al-Khalq against the regime, at no point have ordinary Iranians accepted their leaders’ attempts to blame the West for Iran’s financial predicament. Iranians are not fools: they recognize the result of the regime’s gross economic mismanagement.
While some in the Obama administration may breathe a sigh of relief on the logic that biting sanctions may bring the regime to the table and buy time against a potential Israeli strike, they should remain wary. A regime dominated by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) alumni does not much care about the economic hardship ordinary Iranians face. After all, much more so even than the grandpa who marched uphill both ways barefoot in the snow, IRGC veterans will dismiss the complaints of anyone who did not suffer the deprivations of the Iran-Iraq war front.
You know something has officially become a problem for the White House when Jon Stewart picks up on it:
Unless Congress acts before January 1, sequestration will kick in and the defense budget will be slashed some $50 billion across the board—the first stage of cutbacks which could total $1 trillion over the next decade. That is certain to have a severe impact not only on Defense Department employees, civilians, and military, but also on the defense contractors that produce the vehicles, aircraft, ships, missiles, ammunition, and everything else needed to equip the armed forces.
Under the 1989 WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) companies with more than 100 employees are obligated to give 60-days notice of mass layoffs and plant closings. Lockheed Martin threatened to send out those notices on November 2, four days before the election–and with many of them arriving in swing states such as Virginia. That would not be good for President Obama’s reelection chances so his Office of Management and Budget has alternatively bullied and bribed the defense contractors not to send out the layoff notices–the demands of the law notwithstanding.
In a front-page, above-the-fold story this morning, the New York Times reveals that Mitt Romney obeyed the tax laws! He actually took advantage of provisions in the tax code that allowed him to minimize his tax obligations.
This ghastly revelation is followed by an editorial:
The biggest beneficiaries of government largess are not those who struggle along on Social Security payments, Medicare or Medicaid benefits, or earned-income tax credits, . . . Rather, they are those at the highest end of the income scale: government contractors, corporate farmers and very rich individuals who have figured out how to exploit the country’s poorly written tax code for their benefit.