For most of the last decade, Iran treated Hamas as its Palestinian auxiliary force. Iran helped fund the group, and once it seized power in Gaza in a violent coup, it established a steady flow of arms into the enclave to challenge Israel in conjunction with its other Syrian and Lebanese allies. But the Iranians’ decision to pull out all the stops to save another ally, Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime, has helped break up their romance with the Palestinian terror group. Tension between Iran and Hamas has escalated in recent months after the latter’s international leader, Khaled Meshaal, shifted his headquarters from Damascus to Qatar. Faced with the choice between its old funder in Tehran and the whims of its Egyptian and Turkish allies, Hamas seems to have definitively chosen the embrace of the latter. The loss of Hamas is a blow to Iran’s hopes to become the dominant force in the region, and they are not taking it lying down. As the Times of Israel reports, an Iranian government newspaper this week threw the ultimate insult at Meshaal by calling him, wait for it, “a Zionist agent.”
While the spat between two groups of violent Islamist extremists can be viewed with schadenfreude, if not amusement, the West should not be fooled by this development into buying into some incorrect assumptions about Iran, Hamas or the situation in Syria. We should not be deceived into viewing Hamas’s decision as a harbinger of moderate behavior by the terrorist group. Nor should we be gulled into thinking Hamas’s defection from the Iranian fold will materially damage Iran’s hopes to keep Assad in power or lessen the need for a greater Western effort to end his reign of terror in Damascus.
Earlier, I wondered whether Democrats would fall into a trap of their own making by goading President Obama into engaging in personal attacks on Mitt Romney in the next presidential debate. But it appears that some on the left prefer to return to one of their old standbys to explain the president’s flop in the debate: he’s a bad salesman for brilliant policies. That’s the tack taken by New York Times editorialist David Firestone today in a piece in which he argues that the president’s inability to defend his record on the stage in Denver is no different from what the writer considers the failures of Democrats to speak up for ObamaCare, the stimulus and even the sequester of funds that will results in huge defense cuts.
Firestone is right about one thing. The president does consider the act of explaining liberal projects to the public tiresome and somehow “beneath him.” But the Times writer fails to observe that liberals have actually been defending these ideas for all four years of the Obama administration. Their failure to gain support for them from the public isn’t the fault of Obama’s poor salesmanship, but due to the fact that most Americans, including those who distrust the Republicans, are wary of a huge expansion of government power, unchecked federal spending and gutting national defense. That is why the only successes Democrats have had in putting across their ideas hasn’t stemmed from championing these unpopular policies but from sliming their opponents. When they abandon such tactics, as Obama did last night, they are left with very little that the voters find compelling.
It’s the line from the election that liberals are clinging to–it’s the only one they can. Romney will kill Big Bird and destroy public television, robbing our children of the joy of Sesame Street. The world will become a sad, dejected place without Big Bird and his posse if Mitt Romney is elected president of the United States. Who could possibly want that? Obama is already hitting the stump with this message, and liberals have picked up the fight for Big Bird.
The actual Romney quote from the debate reads as follows:
I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That’s number one.
Does this mean Mitt Romney wants to kill Big Bird? Will Big Bird and his friends disappear off the airwaves? No, on both counts.
When outgoing GOP Senator Richard Lugar lost his primary election to Richard Mourdock earlier this year, there was an unusual amount of disingenuous garment rending over the supposed death of bipartisanship due to the increasingly conservative nature of the Republican Party.
Yet there will be no sad songs for outgoing Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler. While the media was focused on the dwindling of moderate Republicans, they missed the fact that pro-life Democrats and moderate Democrats virtually disappeared completely. Yet Shuler’s retirement from Congress is notable in that he was the last remaining Democrat willing to challenge Nancy Pelosi. And his defeat at the hands of my-way-or-the-highway liberalism should have been a far bigger story—if the media’s concerns were at all honest—than the defeat of an eighty-year-old officeholder.
Politico reports that on his way out the door, Shuler shows actual concern for bipartisanship:
Among the alibis being promoted by Democrats in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s triumph in last night’s debate is that President Obama was unprepared for the Republican’s shift to the center. The president’s campaign rests on class warfare tactics in which Romney is portrayed not only as a heartless plutocrat but also as seeking to loot the middle class in order to give gifts to his fellow millionaires via tax cuts. Therefore, when Romney asserted in the debate that he had no plans to cut taxes on the rich or enact tax cuts that would increase the deficit, Democrats argue that the former law professor who now presides over the country was so flummoxed by the deception that he could offer no response.
It isn’t likely that many people, even those most devoted to Obama’s cause, will buy that excuse. A better explanation might be that once he decided to eschew the personal attacks on Romney that have been the hallmark of his campaign, the president was left with nothing to fall back on, since he is either uninterested in defending his record in office, or unable to do so. However, this line of inquiry does raise the question of how far to the center did Romney really shift in the debate? The answer is quite a bit, but no one should expect a Republican base that long distrusted Romney to abandon him. A year ago, when Romney was competing for the hearts and minds of the conservative base, his sidestep away from across-the-board tax cuts might have been fatal. But on the night when he reminded the right that he is the only person who can help them defeat Obama, it isn’t likely many are going to question his judgment.
Shell-shocked Democrats are still trying to figure out what happened to President Obama last night as he got his clock cleaned by Mitt Romney. Most of the post-mortems seemed to center on his lack of aggressiveness on stage and his failure to raise the sort of personal attacks on Romney that have largely characterized the Democratic campaign. The expectation now is that the next time Obama and Romney face off, the president will be more engaged and perhaps ready to attack the challenger in a way that will please his followers. But the question Democrats should be asking themselves today is not just what was wrong with Obama that caused him to be so lackluster, but whether an attempt to savage Romney in person will be such a smart idea.
While the president did mention some of his familiar class warfare themes, pundits were almost unanimous in expressing their surprise that the phrase “47 percent” never passed through the president’s lips. Liberals were also appalled by his omission of any mention of Romney’s Bain Capital experience or tax returns. But if the only lesson the president learns from his defeat in Denver is that he must double down on personal attacks on his opponent, he may be setting himself up for another drubbing on October 16.
Israel won a rare media victory this week when the UK’s nongovernmental press regulator ruled that the Guardian was wrong to call Tel Aviv Israel’s capital. The ruling by the UK Press Complaints Commission, according to Honest Reporting (which filed the PCC complaint), “set a precedent on British coverage of Israel, effectively barring all British publications from referring to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.”
The commission also did the Guardian, and the British press in general, a favor. Since Jerusalem is, in point of fact, Israel’s capital, and since a large part of Jerusalem is uncontested, the refusal to put embassies there or to refer to Jerusalem as the capital has always been an assault not only on the Jewish state’s sovereignty but also on basic logic. However, calling Tel Aviv the capital is inexplicable. Whatever Israel’s opponents think of Jerusalem, how could anyone possibly justify inventing a new capital for the Jewish state? No newspaper that refers to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital could possibly retain any credibility. The Times of Israel reports:
Mitt Romney accomplished in one night of debate what the marquee names of the Republican Party couldn’t accomplish in three nights of the convention: he boosted his likability rating. A CBS News poll found that the percentage of undecided voters who say they feel Romney cares about their needs spiked by 33 percent after last night’s performance:
By a 2 to 1 margin, uncommitted voters crowned Mitt Romney the winner over President Obama in the first presidential debate in Debate, Colo., on Wednesday night, according to a 500-person instant poll taken by CBS News.
Perhaps most promising for Romney, whose upper-class income has helped stifle his ability to relate to the “average American,” the percentage of those polled who said they felt the former Massachusetts governor cares about their needs and problems spiked from 30 percent pre-debate to 63 percent post-debate. President Obama also enjoyed a bump in that category, with 53 percent of voters saying they believed he cares about their issues before the debate, moving to 69 percent after the debate. …
Uncommitted debate watchers saw Mitt Romney as the winner on handling the economy (60 to 39 percent) and the deficit (68 to 31 percent), just as they did before the debate. These voters also think Romney will do a better job on taxes (52 to 47 percent), a reversal from before the debate, when uncommitted voters gave the president a 52 to 40 percent advantage on that. The president still leads on Medicare, 53 to 45 percent.
Jim Lehrer for moderator-in-chief!
Did someone slip me a psychedelic mickey last night as I watched the debate? Because I have to say I was shocked to wake up this morning to find people on the right and the left agreeing that Jim Lehrer laid an egg, whereas I found it to be one of the best, most interesting, least infuriating debates in a long time. In fact, at several points, I found myself wishing out loud that all the debates could be moderated by Mr. Lehrer.
Foreign policy wasn’t on the debate agenda last night, but Mitt Romney did say, “What’s happening in the Middle East? There are developments around the world that are of real concern.” Indeed. The latest being that for a second day in a row Turkey has shelled Syria in retaliation for Syrian mortar shells landing in Turkey and killing several people. This is only the latest sign of how the Syrian conflict continues to rage and to spill over Syria’s artificial borders. Yet President Obama seems to be acting as if he could wish the conflict away, presumably because to do anything would be to interfere with his campaign narrative that the “tide of war is receding.”
Though it hardly needs to be said, what is happening in Syria is not only a human-rights disaster but also a very dangerous situation from the standpoint of America’s interests and of America’s allies in the region. It is high time the U.S. and its allies acted more decisively. Yet even as the parliament in Ankara passes a resolution authorizing further military action inside Syria, it is clear that Turkey will not institute a no-fly zone or take other vital steps without American leadership. The region continues to look to Washington for action and instead is met with a “Do Not Disturb” sign. That is pretty disturbing.
There’s one thing almost everybody can agree on: last night’s debate was a bloodbath, with Obama on the losing end of it. But re-watching some of the clips this morning, it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what was so unusually great about Romney’s performance and what was so unusually awful about Obama’s.
The successes and failures are more easily spotted in the contrasts. Romney was more engaged, more enthusiastic, more lucid, more relaxed, and more cheerful than Obama. He looked like he actually enjoyed being there. Obama, in comparison, came off as more detached, rustier on the facts, and slower on his feet.