Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 11, 2012

Did Biden’s Incivility Work For Him?

The vice presidential debate provided a test case about the way Americans think about civility. In terms of substance, both Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan had their moments of strength. Ryan was strong on foreign policy, while Biden squirmed and threw the intelligence community under the bus about administration lies about the Benghazi attack. Biden delivered class warfare body blows about Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe.

But the main difference between the two wasn’t so much their competing liberal and conservative ideas and arguments. It was the blatant disrespect shown by Biden for his opponent. Biden giggled, smirked and mugged throughout the debate almost every time Ryan spoke. He also interrupted the Republican almost at will without moderator Martha Raddatz saying a word to call him to order. It may be that Democrats were so dismayed by President Obama’s passive performance in his debate last week that Biden was urged to be more aggressive. But what he did wasn’t merely aggressive; he was openly rude. That may have encouraged the Democratic base, but it remains to be seen whether that is the sort of thing most Americans are comfortable with.

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The vice presidential debate provided a test case about the way Americans think about civility. In terms of substance, both Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan had their moments of strength. Ryan was strong on foreign policy, while Biden squirmed and threw the intelligence community under the bus about administration lies about the Benghazi attack. Biden delivered class warfare body blows about Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe.

But the main difference between the two wasn’t so much their competing liberal and conservative ideas and arguments. It was the blatant disrespect shown by Biden for his opponent. Biden giggled, smirked and mugged throughout the debate almost every time Ryan spoke. He also interrupted the Republican almost at will without moderator Martha Raddatz saying a word to call him to order. It may be that Democrats were so dismayed by President Obama’s passive performance in his debate last week that Biden was urged to be more aggressive. But what he did wasn’t merely aggressive; he was openly rude. That may have encouraged the Democratic base, but it remains to be seen whether that is the sort of thing most Americans are comfortable with.

Democratic spinners will say he is a “happy warrior,” that his nastiness and aggressiveness bloodied the Republicans and that it doesn’t matter that the way he did it was embarrassing. They may have a point. People probably won’t decide not to vote for Obama because they think the giggling, smirking and interrupting was beneath the dignity of the office he holds. If Biden’s job was simply to rally the base and attack his opponents, then his arrogant condescension will help the Democrats regain their momentum after a week in which they’ve lost a lot of ground.

But it is also possible that a lot of those Americans who saw the debate, even those who are Democrats but especially independents and undecided voters, will not think much of a vice president of the United States acting more like a schoolyard bully than a statesman.

Many Democrats will applaud Biden’s buffoonery and falsely claim that it was no different from Romney’s demeanor last week even though there is no possible comparison. Republicans can console themselves that while Ryan did seem a little nervous at times, he wasn’t intimidated. Nor did Biden succeed in painting Ryan as the monster that the Democrats claim him to be. Ryan also passed the plausibility threshold as a potential president because of his strong knowledge of foreign policy.

The bottom line here is that neither side won or lost. But it is also possible that Biden’s misbehavior will be remembered with distaste long after this election is decided.

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The Vice Presidential Debate

The COMMENTARY staff will be live-tweeeting the vice presidential debate tonight. But come back throughout the evening as we add blog items as the evening progresses.

The COMMENTARY staff will be live-tweeeting the vice presidential debate tonight. But come back throughout the evening as we add blog items as the evening progresses.

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Cutter in Complete Meltdown on Libya

This afternoon, the Obama campaign’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter melted down not once, but twice on national television. On a day the Obama campaign anticipated discussing the vice presidential debate, set to take place tonight at 9 p.m., they were instead issuing clarifications and creating a media firestorm.

While on CNN discussing the September 11 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Cutter remarked, “The entire reason that this [the Benghazi terror attack] has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — it’s a big part of their stump speech, and it’s reckless and irresponsible.”

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This afternoon, the Obama campaign’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter melted down not once, but twice on national television. On a day the Obama campaign anticipated discussing the vice presidential debate, set to take place tonight at 9 p.m., they were instead issuing clarifications and creating a media firestorm.

While on CNN discussing the September 11 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Cutter remarked, “The entire reason that this [the Benghazi terror attack] has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — it’s a big part of their stump speech, and it’s reckless and irresponsible.”

BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski immediately pounced on the remarks, paraphrasing Cutter on Twitter. From there, the story exploded as liberals and conservatives felt the need to remind Cutter and the Obama campaign that the outrage over Libya is centered on the deaths of four Americans, including the first ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. The gross negligence of those tasked with ensuring security was the topic of a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday, which Alana followed closely. The lack of security, in addition to the Obama administration’s flatfooted response, has indeed been a topic of conversation — for journalists and politicians alike.

Many, including myself, expected an immediate apology and perhaps even a resignation after Cutter’s remarks, however she soon doubled down in a written release to BuzzFeed and in person to Townhall’s Katie Pavlich, and later in a furious interview to Fox News’s Bret Baier.

It appears that Cutter was expressing the campaign’s belief that Romney’s stated concerns over national security are solely attributable to his desire to be elected as President Obama’s replacement. In the statement issued to BuzzFeed Cutter stated,

From the time of the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney has stopped at nothing to politicize these events. While Mitt Romney, Congressman Ryan, and their Republican allies in Congress have turned a national tragedy into a political circus, the President has been focused on getting the facts, finding the terrorists responsible, and bringing them to justice. Our nation’s security and how we handle the transitions in the Middle East and North Africa are critical issues in this campaign, and just 26 days before an election, the American people deserve real ideas and specifics from Mitt Romney.

The Obama campaign, which has spent the better part of the last week focusing on Big Bird, would like to get serious on issues of policy and leave unsaid developing matters of national security. It appears in Obama’s world immediately placing blame for a terror attack on a video next to nobody has seen constitutes “getting the facts” while Romney’s remarks about not apologizing for America in the face of a terror attack were merely politicization.

In job interviews, candidates are asked about their prior performance before being made an offer. This election is a job interview, and Obama’s performance as president is critical to his candidacy. Obama cannot seriously expect Americans to ignore his administration’s actions both before and after September 11 in Benghazi, nor can he ask Romney to leave his record unmentioned. In the face of developing issues of national security Romney and his surrogates have taken the right line with critiques of the president’s policies and actions without trying to drive from the back seat. Cutter’s assertions that Romney explain his own plans would be incredibly inappropriate for a presidential candidate, undermining a sitting president in the midst of a crisis, however self-created.

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The Myth of Biden’s Likability

Going into the debate tonight, there’s one major false assumption that needs to be cleared up: the myth of Joe Biden’s likability. A common theme in the pre-debate coverage is that Paul Ryan needs to come off as less wonky to balance out that folksy, blue-collar persona Joe Biden likes to adopt. It’s good advice, but it also shouldn’t give anyone the impression that Biden has some remarkable ability to connect with the average American, or that Ryan is a socially-awkward number-cruncher. Actually, the polls show the complete opposite.

And by “the polls,” I mean all of the polls. Ryan has scored higher favorability ratings than Biden in every national, non-partisan poll since he was chosen as Romney’s running mate, as The Hill reported last month:

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Going into the debate tonight, there’s one major false assumption that needs to be cleared up: the myth of Joe Biden’s likability. A common theme in the pre-debate coverage is that Paul Ryan needs to come off as less wonky to balance out that folksy, blue-collar persona Joe Biden likes to adopt. It’s good advice, but it also shouldn’t give anyone the impression that Biden has some remarkable ability to connect with the average American, or that Ryan is a socially-awkward number-cruncher. Actually, the polls show the complete opposite.

And by “the polls,” I mean all of the polls. Ryan has scored higher favorability ratings than Biden in every national, non-partisan poll since he was chosen as Romney’s running mate, as The Hill reported last month:

Paul Ryan has had a higher favorability rating than Vice President Biden in every major nonpartisan national poll since the Wisconsin lawmaker was picked for the GOP vice presidential slot.

In these polls, Ryan averaged a likability factor of about 7.6 percentage points higher than Biden, and he even bested President Obama’s favorability rating four out of six times.

The most recent Pew Research poll this week found Biden underwater on likability (51 percent viewed him unfavorably, 39 percent favorably):

Vice President Biden heads into Thursday’s debate with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) with opinion stacked against him. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, more voters view the vice president unfavorably than favorably by a 51 percent to 39 percent margin.

Opinions on GOP vice presidential nominee Ryan are more evenly divided, with 44 percent of voters viewing him favorably and 40 percent viewing him unfavorably.

I’m not sure where the myth of Biden’s likability comes from, but it’s not backed up by the numbers.

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Dems New Benghazi Defense: Blame the Tea Partiers

Who’s responsible for the security failures at the consulate in Benghazi? According to Dana Milbank, the blame lies with fiscal hawks in the House GOP:

For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

If Milbank was right, and this was just the predictable result of budgetary constraints, then the State Department had no business keeping an outpost open in a high-risk area, if it knew it couldn’t provide adequate security. The thing is, the State Department didn’t refuse to send additional security because it couldn’t afford it. It refused to send additional security because it said (and continues to say) that the security situation was adequate based on the knowledge at the time. Meanwhile, Ambassador Kennedy said yesterday that he has no faith in the diplomatic security services ever being able to defend against an attack of that level. “Under that kind of lethality, we’re never going to have enough guns,” he said. “We’re a diplomatic service. We are not an armed camp.”

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Who’s responsible for the security failures at the consulate in Benghazi? According to Dana Milbank, the blame lies with fiscal hawks in the House GOP:

For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

If Milbank was right, and this was just the predictable result of budgetary constraints, then the State Department had no business keeping an outpost open in a high-risk area, if it knew it couldn’t provide adequate security. The thing is, the State Department didn’t refuse to send additional security because it couldn’t afford it. It refused to send additional security because it said (and continues to say) that the security situation was adequate based on the knowledge at the time. Meanwhile, Ambassador Kennedy said yesterday that he has no faith in the diplomatic security services ever being able to defend against an attack of that level. “Under that kind of lethality, we’re never going to have enough guns,” he said. “We’re a diplomatic service. We are not an armed camp.”

This isn’t to diminish State Department funding, which is very important, but it’s also true that the budget has more than doubled since 2004. The big issue, according to the Government Accountability Office’s extensive report on diplomatic security in 2009, is that the security service’s funding and scope has expanded so rapidly that it’s suffered systematic organizational problems as a result.

Blaming the Republicans for that is a cheap shot, and it shows how desperate Democrats are getting on this issue. The State Department was aware of multiple security breaches and red flags in Benghazi in the months leading up to the attack; House Republicans were not. The Security Department had security personnel on the ground warning that the situation was reaching a crisis level; House Republicans did not. House Republicans have a say in the budget, but the State Department is responsible for how that money is spent. And their spending choices were revealing: Officials increased “danger pay” for security personnel in Benghazi, instead of hiring additional security or sending supplies. The buck stops with the officials who made the security decisions and the commander-in-chief, not the House Republicans.

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Republicans Won’t Play By Liberal Rules

The headline of today’s front-page feature in the New York Times on the future of health care in this country, “This Election, a Stark Choice in Health Care,” is exactly right. The future of President Obama’s attempt to impose a government-run system on the country that will raise costs and intrude into the personal decisions of individuals is on the line in November. If the president is re-elected, ObamaCare will survive even if the Republicans win control of both houses of Congress. If Mitt Romney wins and the GOP takes the Congress, it is certain to be repealed.

That’s a rather straight-forward choice, but what is interesting about the article isn’t the editorializing in favor of the bill’s retention in what is ostensibly a news article, but the historical context in which the Times attempts to place this choice. As far as the paper is concerned, the Republicans are not playing by the unwritten rules of modern American politics that state that once liberals pass a major expansion of government power, conservatives are forever barred from rolling it back. That was the conceit behind the president’s decision to ram ObamaCare down the throat of a reluctant Congress and a disapproving American public. He believed that once passed, that would end the discussion for all time. But the funny thing about democracy is that the voters always get the last word and it is that, rather than the rule-braking Republicans, that is the president’s problem.

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The headline of today’s front-page feature in the New York Times on the future of health care in this country, “This Election, a Stark Choice in Health Care,” is exactly right. The future of President Obama’s attempt to impose a government-run system on the country that will raise costs and intrude into the personal decisions of individuals is on the line in November. If the president is re-elected, ObamaCare will survive even if the Republicans win control of both houses of Congress. If Mitt Romney wins and the GOP takes the Congress, it is certain to be repealed.

That’s a rather straight-forward choice, but what is interesting about the article isn’t the editorializing in favor of the bill’s retention in what is ostensibly a news article, but the historical context in which the Times attempts to place this choice. As far as the paper is concerned, the Republicans are not playing by the unwritten rules of modern American politics that state that once liberals pass a major expansion of government power, conservatives are forever barred from rolling it back. That was the conceit behind the president’s decision to ram ObamaCare down the throat of a reluctant Congress and a disapproving American public. He believed that once passed, that would end the discussion for all time. But the funny thing about democracy is that the voters always get the last word and it is that, rather than the rule-braking Republicans, that is the president’s problem.

The Times comparison of ObamaCare to the passage of Social Security is no accident. Democrats believe that the election of Barack Obama meant they had carte blanche to change the country in much the same way that Franklin Roosevelt did after 1932. Indeed, Obama is seeking to duplicate FDR’s trick of winning a second term by running again against the man he replaced four years earlier. Yet even if George W. Bush is still unpopular (though not as unpopular as Herbert Hoover), Mitt Romney is not Alf Landon, the 1936 GOP nominee whose name the Times drags out of the dustbin of history in order to bolster the case for the retention of ObamaCare.

While the Times frames the issue as one of mean cost-conscious Republicans seeking to take benefits away from the people, they largely ignore the fact that the majority of Americans have always opposed the bill and that the 2010 midterm election was as much a referendum on it as it was on the president and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

Unlike Social Security, a measure that filled a gaping void in the needs of the vast majority of the electorate, ObamaCare attempts to fix a problem faced by a minority by transforming the health care system that, despite problems, largely works for most people. In doing so, it will aggrandize government, raise costs and, via the HHS Mandate, impinge on the religious freedom of many Americans.

That is why so many people are deeply anxious that ObamaCare be repealed. That may outrage the sensibilities of liberals who think conservatives must always accept as permanent any legislative defeat. The voters will decide the fate of both the president and his namesake. But whatever choice they make, it will be based on their beliefs about what is right for the country, not the unwritten rules of politics that liberals seek to enforce.

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The Battle of the Debate Prep Surrogates

If we can get any indication on the tone of tonight’s debate from Paul Ryan and Joe Biden’s chosen debate preparation opponents, it will be two things: wonky and heated.

Biden’s team has tapped Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee and a strong opponent of Paul Ryan’s budget plan. Van Hollen’s participation in Biden’s debate prep shows just how seriously the vice president is taking Ryan’s plan, and just how badly the Obama campaign wants to put the Romney camp on the defensive tonight. In advance of tonight’s debate the Obama campaign has released a new ad featuring Van Hollen; The Hill reports on its contents:

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If we can get any indication on the tone of tonight’s debate from Paul Ryan and Joe Biden’s chosen debate preparation opponents, it will be two things: wonky and heated.

Biden’s team has tapped Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee and a strong opponent of Paul Ryan’s budget plan. Van Hollen’s participation in Biden’s debate prep shows just how seriously the vice president is taking Ryan’s plan, and just how badly the Obama campaign wants to put the Romney camp on the defensive tonight. In advance of tonight’s debate the Obama campaign has released a new ad featuring Van Hollen; The Hill reports on its contents:

Ryan “will either have to stand by the extreme positions he and (Republican nominee Mitt Romney) hold, like turning Medicare into a voucher program that ends the program’s guarantee to seniors, or he will have to flat out deny their existence, as Gov. Romney did in last week’s debate, when he denied the plan to cut taxes for the wealthiest few at the expense of the middle class, a plan they have touted for months,” Van Hollen said in the ad.

During Van Hollen’s speech at the DNC last month, fear-mongering on Ryan’s plan and Bush-blaming were the focal points. He stated,

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s obsession with tax breaks for the wealthy is part of a rigid ideology. Give people like Mitt Romney a break, and hope something will trickle down and lift others up. But this theory crashed in the real world. We all lived through the recession when jobs went down and the deficit went up. So when they say they’ll turn around the economy, beware. They mean a U-turn back to this failed theory that lifted the yachts while other boats ran aground.

What does Obama expect of Biden’s debate style? CBS News reported last night,

In an interview with radio host Tom Joyner today, President Obama described himself as “too polite” in his debate, but predicted a strong performance from the Vice President. “Biden, I think, will be terrific in the debate this week,” he said

In stark contrast to the partisan rhetoric of Van Hollen, Paul Ryan’s chosen debate opponent, former U.S. solicitor general Ted Olson is a calm, experienced and successful litigator who successfully argued the Bush v. Gore case before the Supreme Court in the aftermath of the 2000 election.

If we can gain any insight from this Obama interview and Van Hollen’s aggressive attacks on Ryan’s budget plan over the past four weeks, we’re likely to see Biden coming out swinging hard against Ryan’s economic proposals tonight in Kentucky. We’ve yet to see many examples of Ryan’s debating style, but given his choice of Olson as a sparring and debate preparation partner, it’s likely we’ll see Ryan try to remain calm, cool and on message. We’ll see in a few hours how Americans respond to an aggressive sitting vice president as he spars with a well-informed and level-headed opponent, but if Biden attacks too forcefully, he could come off worse than President Obama’s meek performance last week.

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Israeli Leftists Ditching Labor for Olmert?

The worst thing to happen to the Israeli left was not the rise of Benjamin Netanyahu, who managed somehow to win the first Israeli election after Oslo and then find the political acumen to take Likud back to power after Ariel Sharon bolted the party. It was not the eventual end of the Israeli left’s one-party rule, for such a political monopoly could not have gone on forever in a democracy, and if it had it would have corrupted the movement from unaccountability. No, the worst thing to happen to the Israeli left was the Palestinian leadership, which humiliated Israeli peacemaker after Israeli peacemaker until the country could no longer watch the ritual humiliations.

The last such humiliation wasn’t all that long ago. It was when, battered by a failed premiership, a mistake-ridden war effort, unpopularity that seemed to have no floor, and the murmurings of corruption scandals, Kadima leader Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas the store. And the final indignity was that Abbas didn’t even attempt to renegotiate or engage the offer in any way. He simply walked away. Now that Netanyahu has called for early elections to take place this winter, Olmert has returned—maybe—as the great hope of those on the Israeli left who cannot bear the thought of another four years of Netanyahu, who has presided over relative peace, security, and tranquility, but who they don’t like, with his perfect English and his Republican friends.

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The worst thing to happen to the Israeli left was not the rise of Benjamin Netanyahu, who managed somehow to win the first Israeli election after Oslo and then find the political acumen to take Likud back to power after Ariel Sharon bolted the party. It was not the eventual end of the Israeli left’s one-party rule, for such a political monopoly could not have gone on forever in a democracy, and if it had it would have corrupted the movement from unaccountability. No, the worst thing to happen to the Israeli left was the Palestinian leadership, which humiliated Israeli peacemaker after Israeli peacemaker until the country could no longer watch the ritual humiliations.

The last such humiliation wasn’t all that long ago. It was when, battered by a failed premiership, a mistake-ridden war effort, unpopularity that seemed to have no floor, and the murmurings of corruption scandals, Kadima leader Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas the store. And the final indignity was that Abbas didn’t even attempt to renegotiate or engage the offer in any way. He simply walked away. Now that Netanyahu has called for early elections to take place this winter, Olmert has returned—maybe—as the great hope of those on the Israeli left who cannot bear the thought of another four years of Netanyahu, who has presided over relative peace, security, and tranquility, but who they don’t like, with his perfect English and his Republican friends.

This desire to be rid of Netanyahu for the chance to duplicate the wild errors of the Olmert years has led some commentators to say things that don’t seem to be particularly well thought through. Thus we have the comment in Haaretz from David Landau that, if Olmert decides to run after everything he has put himself and his country through, he “will have demonstrated, to his supporters and his traducers alike, that confronted once more with a conflict of interest, he chose the national interest.”

Yes Olmert, one month removed from sentencing stemming from his conviction on the charge of breach of trust, is somehow the paragon of selflessness and self-sacrifice that Israel needs to save itself from its honest, but oh-so-rightist, prime minister.

As it happens, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Olmert is currently not polling so well. He has not spent the requisite time out of the spotlight to fully rehabilitate his image, and Israelis, keen on political competition but wary of those at the helm in the frustrating and fateful summer of 2006, so far seem to prefer Netanyahu. That may change, certainly—Olmert has not even formally thrown his hat in the ring yet. But as of this week, the Associated Press reports:

The centrist Kadima, which currently holds 28 seats in parliament, would tumble to just six or seven places, while the Independence Party, headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, would win no more than two seats, according to the polls. Haaretz said only 15 percent of voters would want Barak, a one-time prime minister, back in the top job.

The rejuvenated Labor Party, led by a former television journalist Shelly Yachimovich promoting social welfare issues, would win 17 to 19 seats — more than double its current eight, the polls predicted.

Political newcomer Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party would win 11 to 17 seats, according to the polls. Lapid, also a former TV commentator, has portrayed himself as representing everyday middle class Israelis.

What is an “everyday middle class Israeli” in a country that barely has a middle class to begin with? No matter, Lapid will be in an interesting position if this holds, since he is a vague enough newcomer that he could conceivably join almost any governing coalition. But if he does so, he will lose his one opportunity to brand his party and his movement—in Israel the branding takes place in exile, not as someone else’s rubber stamp.

Those polls show Netanyahu’s Likud and current coalition partners, which include Shas and Israel Beiteinu, holding together about 62 to 68 seats, which means they could potentially strengthen their current coalition without having to expand it to other parties. Again, it’s still early, but the left has two fresh faces in Yachimovich and Lapid who are poised to make a serious run in the next election. For the leftist commentariat, putting their hope in Olmert instead is a strange gamble. It may pay off, but it also may very well backfire in spectacular fashion.

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Attack on Israel Must End Interfaith Sham

For mainstream American Jewish groups, it has long been an article of faith that strong alliances with liberal Protestant denominations with whom they shared a common agenda on domestic issues is integral to the safeguarding of the security and the rights of the Jewish community. That has been tested in recent years, as some of their liberal Christian partners debated supporting efforts to boycott, divest and sanction the state of Israel. But the latest instance of liberal Christians attacking Israel ought to cut the cord completely.

As the Times of Israel and JTA report, the leaders of several of the leading American Protestant denominations and one small Catholic group have signed a letter calling for a congressional investigation whose purpose would be to end U.S. aid to Israel. The letter alleges that Israel is involved in crimes that violate U.S. law that should prevent the sending of aid or arms to the Jewish state. These charges are a tissue of deceptions, distortions and outright lies that are the product of Palestinian propaganda. (Though some of it is supported by radical leftist Jewish groups like B’Tselem, whose leaders own ambivalence toward Zionism has been documented in COMMENTARY.) The main focus of the letter is to delegitimize Israeli self-defense and to ignore the reality of Palestinian intransigence and opposition to peace. However, the reaction of Jewish groups to this latest development should not be ambivalent. To its credit, the Anti-Defamation League has said it will withdraw from a national Jewish-Christian dialogue event. They should not be the only Jewish group to do so.

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For mainstream American Jewish groups, it has long been an article of faith that strong alliances with liberal Protestant denominations with whom they shared a common agenda on domestic issues is integral to the safeguarding of the security and the rights of the Jewish community. That has been tested in recent years, as some of their liberal Christian partners debated supporting efforts to boycott, divest and sanction the state of Israel. But the latest instance of liberal Christians attacking Israel ought to cut the cord completely.

As the Times of Israel and JTA report, the leaders of several of the leading American Protestant denominations and one small Catholic group have signed a letter calling for a congressional investigation whose purpose would be to end U.S. aid to Israel. The letter alleges that Israel is involved in crimes that violate U.S. law that should prevent the sending of aid or arms to the Jewish state. These charges are a tissue of deceptions, distortions and outright lies that are the product of Palestinian propaganda. (Though some of it is supported by radical leftist Jewish groups like B’Tselem, whose leaders own ambivalence toward Zionism has been documented in COMMENTARY.) The main focus of the letter is to delegitimize Israeli self-defense and to ignore the reality of Palestinian intransigence and opposition to peace. However, the reaction of Jewish groups to this latest development should not be ambivalent. To its credit, the Anti-Defamation League has said it will withdraw from a national Jewish-Christian dialogue event. They should not be the only Jewish group to do so.

The point here is that the letter, as well as the divestment activities of some of these churches, is nothing less than a declaration of war on the Jewish state. So long as these religious groups dedicate themselves to promoting libels against Israel, denouncing the security fence that has saved countless lives from Palestinian terrorism and seeks to isolate Israel and cut it off from its only ally and source of military aid, business as usual between them and American Jewry must end.

Some Jews see such dialogue efforts as an end in itself, but this is a fallacy. Any interfaith program must be based on mutual respect and any church group that aligns itself with Israel’s enemies lacks respect for Jewish life. Dialogue on those terms is a sham.

That these church groups couch their letter in language that seeks to portray their efforts as those of “peacemakers” is all the more offensive. Far from promoting peace, these anti-Zionist clerics are actually fomenting violence by undermining Israeli defensive measures and thereby encouraging Palestinians to think they can succeed in isolating Israel.

The letter, signed by, among others, the leaders of the National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Methodist Church, American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., the American Friends Service Committee, and other groups, including the Catholic Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, is also particularly vile since it seeks to extend the BDS movement from church investments to the instruments of American foreign policy. It is nothing less than a manifesto seeking to sever the U.S.-Israel alliance and therefore cast the still-besieged Jewish state adrift in a hostile region bent on its destruction.

That the groups should have sent the letter only days after Iran repeated its latest slanders and threats is ironic but no coincidence. Despite their protestations of a desire for peace and non-violence, these churches have been remarkably silent about the religious persecution going on in Iran. It is only little, democratic Israel that is beset by enemies seeking its destruction that attracts their passionate opposition.

It should be specified that in most cases, these positions are largely the work of a small group of left-wing activists that dominate the public affairs policy work of their churches. Most rank-and-file members of Presbyterian, Lutheran and Methodist churches are, like most Americans, strong supporters of Israel and have little idea that this assault on Israel is being done in their name. But it is incumbent on them as well as other decent church leaders to denounce this letter and other BDS activities. Until they do, no American Jewish group should have any dealings with the signatories or the groups involved in this letter.

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The Real Pressure is on Ryan Tonight

When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to be his running mate in August, Republicans spoke about how they couldn’t wait to see the Wisconsin congressman take apart Vice President Biden. But two months later, the stakes in that anticipated match-up are turning out to be far higher than anyone thought. After Mitt Romney’s smashing victory over President Obama last week in the first presidential debate, rather than just being a test of the strengths of the lower halves of each ticket, the vice presidential debate is now seen as a crucial second round that could help shape the rest of the race.

That sounds like an inviting opportunity for conservatives who could be said to have fished their wish when Ryan was put on the ticket. Ryan is the intellectual leader of his party as well as its most prominent advocate of entitlement reform and has long been seen as one of the brightest young stars in the GOP. He is an experienced Washington debater in the House as well as in other forums, such as his highly publicized confrontation with President Obama during a 2010 White House health care summit. But tonight’s encounter is a very different kind of animal. While Biden’s weaknesses and strengths are well known, the pressure is on Ryan to show that he belongs on the biggest political stage. If he fails, it could be a body blow to Republicans who in the last week have begun to feel as if victory in November is within their reach.

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When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to be his running mate in August, Republicans spoke about how they couldn’t wait to see the Wisconsin congressman take apart Vice President Biden. But two months later, the stakes in that anticipated match-up are turning out to be far higher than anyone thought. After Mitt Romney’s smashing victory over President Obama last week in the first presidential debate, rather than just being a test of the strengths of the lower halves of each ticket, the vice presidential debate is now seen as a crucial second round that could help shape the rest of the race.

That sounds like an inviting opportunity for conservatives who could be said to have fished their wish when Ryan was put on the ticket. Ryan is the intellectual leader of his party as well as its most prominent advocate of entitlement reform and has long been seen as one of the brightest young stars in the GOP. He is an experienced Washington debater in the House as well as in other forums, such as his highly publicized confrontation with President Obama during a 2010 White House health care summit. But tonight’s encounter is a very different kind of animal. While Biden’s weaknesses and strengths are well known, the pressure is on Ryan to show that he belongs on the biggest political stage. If he fails, it could be a body blow to Republicans who in the last week have begun to feel as if victory in November is within their reach.

Given his high profile in Washington for a member of the House of Representatives and his reputation as one of his party’s leading talking heads, it seems absurd to think of Ryan as an unknown factor in the veep debate. But the truth is, he has never been in this kind of situation before: head-to-head with a competitor, with the entire nation watching. His ability to deal with this sort of pressure and to deploy his considerable body of knowledge in such a way as to impress upon the public his seriousness and competence is the X factor.

Democrats may be counting on Biden to retrieve what the president lost last week, but the odds are that he is going into the debate feeling cocky rather than pressured. Biden’s high opinion of himself is legendary in Washington. It’s likely Biden will come out swinging at Ryan both because Democrats think Obama was too passive against Romney and also because he believes Ryan is vulnerable as the author of a controversial budget proposal that Romney has not completely embraced.

That means Ryan will have to keep his cool and respond like the wonk he is with logic, facts and figures, as well as a compelling defense of the philosophy of limited government and individual freedom that he has long championed.

That ought to be right in his wheelhouse, but Ryan has very little margin for error. A hostile press will jump on any hesitation, let alone a mistake on his part. If he falters, it will sink not only him but also Republican hopes, since you can take it for granted that any gaffe on his part will become the main story of the debate no matter what blunders Biden commits.

Despite efforts by liberals to treat him as a wise statesman, such as this fawning piece by James Traub in Foreign Policy, the country already knows Biden is a pompous fool. He will play the foreign policy expert even though he has been wrong about virtually every big question his whole career and has been defeated in every policy battle within the administration. But he is also an experienced and articulate political fighter who can hold his own on the stump and in debates.

Biden will hit Ryan hard about entitlement reform as well as foreign policy. He will attempt to portray him as the man in the Democrat ads pushing granny off the cliff. Ryan may be used to this, but most of the country has yet to see him in this sort of tussle. Debunking the liberal narrative is his specialty, but what we will find out is whether he can do so now when the pressure is greatest and the stakes are as high as they possibly can be. If Ryan weathers this storm with good humor and sharp replies, he will move his party one step closer to victory as well as to solidify his standing as the future of the GOP. But the pressure is on him to prove that he can do it. Stay tuned.

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Adelson on What Adelson Wants

Several months ago, the New York Times editorial column ran a piece headlined “What Sheldon Adelson Wants” (which is sort of like Russia Today running a story on “What the National Endowment for Democracy Wants”). The Times’s answers ranged from money, to ending a Justice Department investigation, to Adelson’s supposed opposition to a two-state solution.

“He is even further to the right than the main pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” the editorial board wrote breathlessly. Today, Adelson finally weighed in with a column for the JNS wire service.

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Several months ago, the New York Times editorial column ran a piece headlined “What Sheldon Adelson Wants” (which is sort of like Russia Today running a story on “What the National Endowment for Democracy Wants”). The Times’s answers ranged from money, to ending a Justice Department investigation, to Adelson’s supposed opposition to a two-state solution.

“He is even further to the right than the main pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” the editorial board wrote breathlessly. Today, Adelson finally weighed in with a column for the JNS wire service.

He writes that his support for Romney is based on his opinion that Romney would be more supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Adelson’s concerns seem to hew closely to the concerns voiced by Democratic critics of Obama’s Israel record. He cites Obama’s rejection of a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu last month, his support for “daylight,” and his foot-dragging on sanctions, among many other issues.

Adelson also pushed back against the duel-loyalty charges that have colored some of the news coverage of him:

To be sure, no one should argue that Jews must support Romney just because he is more reliable on Israel. But neither should they dismiss him because they don’t agree with his every position. When the Jewish homeland is at stake, we must not let ourselves be fooled by Obama’s oration skills. Nor can we afford to ignore his troubling track record on Israel.

Those who support Obama are asking the rest of us to trust a president who has yet to recognize Israel’s ancient capital, a promise he made in the last election.

This wasn’t a fire-breathing, right-wing critique of Obama’s Israel policy. It was a fairly moderate one, which may surprise many of Adelson’s critics.

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U.S.-Russia Relations Keep Plummeting

Now that Moscow has expelled USAID from Russia and announced it will not renew one of the pillars of U.S.-Russia post-Soviet cooperation–the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program–the Obama administration and other disappointed actors will be looking for a silver lining.

At least the Obama administration can take solace in the fact that while Putin is thoroughly dedicated to publicly and without consequence bullying Obama in the last month of the presidential election, he isn’t only isolating the U.S. As usual, Putin reserved some of his ire for NATO as well. Reuters reports:

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Now that Moscow has expelled USAID from Russia and announced it will not renew one of the pillars of U.S.-Russia post-Soviet cooperation–the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program–the Obama administration and other disappointed actors will be looking for a silver lining.

At least the Obama administration can take solace in the fact that while Putin is thoroughly dedicated to publicly and without consequence bullying Obama in the last month of the presidential election, he isn’t only isolating the U.S. As usual, Putin reserved some of his ire for NATO as well. Reuters reports:

Russia will stop cooperating with NATO over Afghanistan after 2014 unless the alliance gets U.N. Security Council authorization for its new training mission in Afghanistan, a senior Russian diplomat said on Wednesday.

A NATO official said only that it would be “helpful” to have a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the post-2014 training mission, but stopped short of saying it was essential.

Nikolay Korchunov, Russia’s acting ambassador to NATO, did not specify what any halt to Russian cooperation with NATO on Afghanistan after 2014 would mean, but Russia will be an important transit route for NATO as it ships out billions of dollars of equipment from Afghanistan in the next few years.

This morning, the New York Times also reported that Turkish authorities forced a Syrian plane en route from Moscow to land in Ankara, and the Russians–perhaps feeling they were caught red-handed–lashed out in response. “I think that tension will now develop in the relationship between Russia and Turkey,” a Russian Foreign Ministry official told the Times.

Turkey claims there were materials on the plane that violate international regulations, but there were also passengers on the plane, leading a Russian arms export official to offer a quote that is both amusingly arrogant and ominous: “If it had been necessary to ship any military hardware or weapons to Syria, this would have been done through the established procedure rather than in an illegal way.”

Of course Russia will help a dictator murder thousands of his own people in broad daylight–but they’d never do anything illegal.

The question lingers, however: What does Putin want from Obama? The answer is, the last concession remaining: the plans for a missile shield in Europe. Yet regardless of Obama’s decision on that front, Putin’s habit has been to simply pocket concessions and then renegotiate. Which means despite the administration’s attempts to placate Putin, the U.S.-Russia relationship, at a low point during the first Obama term and in many ways since the fall of the Soviet empire, will remain where it is. The new low will become the new normal.

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Obama “Big Bird” Strategy Officially a Joke

Hopefully the “Daily Show” wasn’t one of those “comedy shows” that Team Obama planned to air its “satirical” Big Bird advertisement on, because Jon Stewart tore the ad to shreds last night. Noting that “the most damning line in that ad” was “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message,” Stewart practically pleaded with the campaign to “let it go”:

It’s not just Stewart; in a Reuters report, Democrats said they’re stumped by the small-ball strategy as well. Some wonder whether there’s some hidden strategy here, aimed at cutting into Romney’s gains with women voters, or if it’s simply an effort to rally the base:

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Hopefully the “Daily Show” wasn’t one of those “comedy shows” that Team Obama planned to air its “satirical” Big Bird advertisement on, because Jon Stewart tore the ad to shreds last night. Noting that “the most damning line in that ad” was “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message,” Stewart practically pleaded with the campaign to “let it go”:

It’s not just Stewart; in a Reuters report, Democrats said they’re stumped by the small-ball strategy as well. Some wonder whether there’s some hidden strategy here, aimed at cutting into Romney’s gains with women voters, or if it’s simply an effort to rally the base:

The more conspiratorial campaign watchers reckon maybe the president’s team must know something Washington does not.

Perhaps, promising to save Big Bird is a winner among moms. A Pew Research Center survey released this week observed an 18-point swing in Romney’s favor among likely women voters over the course of the last month.

Maybe the Obama folks think the only way to bandage the hurt caused by Obama’s weak debate performance is with laughter.

The winking ad with its knowing use of irony could be a play for young voters, a nudge that says Obama is still the hip politician they knocked on doors for in 2008.

Based on the reaction from Stewart and others, this ad isn’t going to convince younger voters that Obama is “still hip.” But could it be a play for the women’s vote? The Obama campaign would have to be making some pretty broad (and patronizing) assumptions about women if it thinks many will be persuaded by a Sesame Street character. Then again, both Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett, the two women Obama supposedly relies on the most for advice in his life, are zealous Sesame Street fans.

To be honest, I doubt there was any strategy here, beyond a panicked campaign looking for any story to grab onto that wasn’t Obama’s debate performance or Libya. They partially succeeded at that goal, but also made their candidate look like a joke in the process. Now they can’t admit they miscalculated, so they’re insisting this was really just a savvy play for the women’s vote that went over the heads of Washington pundits. Watch them drop the Big Bird line as soon as Paul Ryan and Joe Biden step off the stage tonight.

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CNN: Mother of Benghazi Victim Pleads for Answers

If you’re already angry about the administration’s stonewalling on the Benghazi attack, get ready to be furious. Anderson Cooper’s interview last night with the mother of Sean Smith, who was killed in the attack, is simply devastating. She says President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Leon Panetta all promised her they would get to the bottom of her son’s death as soon as possible, but so far she’s heard nothing (h/t Dan Halper):

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If you’re already angry about the administration’s stonewalling on the Benghazi attack, get ready to be furious. Anderson Cooper’s interview last night with the mother of Sean Smith, who was killed in the attack, is simply devastating. She says President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Leon Panetta all promised her they would get to the bottom of her son’s death as soon as possible, but so far she’s heard nothing (h/t Dan Halper):

COOPER: So you don’t even know the cause of death?

SMITH: I don’t even know if that’s true or not. No, I don’t. I don’t know where. I look at TV and I see bloody hand prints on walls, thinking, my God, is that my son’s? I don’t know if he was shot. I don’t know — I don’t know. They haven’t told me anything. They are still studying it. And the things that they are telling me are just outright lies.

That Susan Rise (sic), what — she talked to me personally and she said, she said, this is the way it was. It was — it was because of this film that came out.

COOPER: So she told you personally that she thought it was a result of that video of the protest?

SMITH: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. In fact all of them did. All of them did. Leon Panetta actually took my face in his hands like this and he said, trust me. I will tell you what happened. And so far, he’s told me nothing. Nothing at all. And I want to know.

We were given false information — some of which appeared to be knowingly false — from Obama administration officials since the attack. Whatever you want to call that, it’s a terrible scandal, particularly when there are grieving mothers who are desperate to know facts as basic as how their sons were killed. It should not take a month to determine cause of death. Ambassador Stevens’s was determined by the next day. To hear Smith’s mother describe how every time she sees a bloody handprint in a photo of the consulate, she wonders whether it was her son’s, is just appalling. We all deserve answers, and deserve to know why the answers weren’t forthcoming from the beginning.

*Sean Smith was a State Department official, not a former SEAL. Headline changed to reflect that.

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Al-Qaeda’s Resurgence

Much attention has been focused in recent days, and for understandable reasons, on the emergence of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists as a serious threat in Libya. Indeed Lt. Col. Andrew Wood of the Utah National Guard, who led a security assistance team in Libya, testified yesterday that its “presence grows every day. They are certainly more established than we are.”

Libya is hardly alone, however. There is also growing evidence of al-Qaeda’s reemergence in Iraq. The Associated Press reports that “the insurgent group has more than doubled in numbers from a year ago — from about 1,000 to 2,500 fighters. And it is carrying out an average of 140 attacks each week across Iraq, up from 75 attacks each week earlier this year, according to Pentagon data.” There are said to be as many as ten al-Qaeda in Iraq training sites in the western deserts of Iraq.

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Much attention has been focused in recent days, and for understandable reasons, on the emergence of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists as a serious threat in Libya. Indeed Lt. Col. Andrew Wood of the Utah National Guard, who led a security assistance team in Libya, testified yesterday that its “presence grows every day. They are certainly more established than we are.”

Libya is hardly alone, however. There is also growing evidence of al-Qaeda’s reemergence in Iraq. The Associated Press reports that “the insurgent group has more than doubled in numbers from a year ago — from about 1,000 to 2,500 fighters. And it is carrying out an average of 140 attacks each week across Iraq, up from 75 attacks each week earlier this year, according to Pentagon data.” There are said to be as many as ten al-Qaeda in Iraq training sites in the western deserts of Iraq.

Meanwhile, other al-Qaeda-associated organizations are gaining strength in Mali and Yemen, among other places. According to one report, Tuareg jihadists in Ansar al Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, both affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, now control a region the size of France in Mali. And they are also making fresh inroads in Syria where the al-Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant has claimed responsibility for an attack on Tuesday by suicide bombers on an intelligence compound near Damascus.

This is an obvious election issue since President Obama keeps saying that “al-Qaeda is on its heels.” It is true that “al-Qaeda central”–the organization headquartered in Pakistan and headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri–does appear to be on its heels; certainly it is less of a threat than it was in the days when Osama bin Laden was alive. But al-Qaeda has managed to spread its tentacles to other corners of the greater Middle East, and its franchises and affiliates remain far from being on their heels. These groups are increasingly well-funded through criminal rackets such as hostage-taking for ransom. Daniel Cohen, the Treasury Department’s top official on terrorist-financing, has recently said that “the U.S. government estimates that terrorist organizations have collected approximately $120 million in ransom payments over the past eight years.”

Part of the reason why al-Qaeda has been able to infiltrate Libya is because of the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi–a war that I believe was, on the whole, in our national security interests. But there has been too little follow-up to try to help the nascent, pro-American government in Tripoli establish its authority. In Iraq, AQI’s reemergence is tied directly to Obama’s ill-advised withdrawal of U.S. troops after half-hearted negotiations with the Iraqis to extend their mandate failed. In Syria, al-Qaeda has an opening because the administration refuses to do more to help the non-jihadist rebel groups overthrow Bashar Assad’s regime. And in Somalia and Yemen the group is finding traction because of the breakdown of state authority–conditions that the Obama administration can hardly be blamed for and that it is grappling with just as the Bush administration did. Overall, the resurgence of al-Qaeda shows the limitations of the Obama administration’s preferred response–drone strikes. They are a good idea, but insufficient to prevent extremists from gaining control of territory. That can only be done by bolstering state authority–something that is notoriously hard to do, especially in lands where the U.S. does not deploy large numbers of ground troops.

However this issue plays out in November, the resurgence of al-Qaeda is a worrisome trend that the next president will have to confront through a variety of mechanisms which will draw the U.S. even more closely into the morass of the Middle East. There is simply no other choice. If America retreats, our enemies advance.

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Admin Libya Lies Take Mitt Off the Hook

As he has done many times in recent years, ABC’s Jake Tapper hit the nail on the head when he asked White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday whether President Obama hadn’t done exactly what he and other Democrats and liberals accused Mitt Romney of doing:

TAPPER: President Obama, shortly after the attack told “60 Minutes” that regarding Mitt Romney’s response to the attacks, specifically in Egypt, the president said that Romney has a tendency to “shoot first and aim later.” Given the fact that so much was made out of the video that apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi, that there wasn’t even a protest outside the Benghazi post, didn’t President Obama shoot first and aim later?

CARNEY: First of all, Jake, I think your assessment of what we know now is not complete, but I would simply say that the –

TAPPER: I’m just going by what the State Department said yesterday.

CARNEY: Look, there is no question that in the region, including in Cairo, there were demonstrations reacting to the release of that video, and I will leave it to those who are testifying on the hill to –

TAPPER: You said yesterday there was no protest? I’m talking about in Benghazi.

This was yet another cringe-inducing moment from a White House that is allergic to the truth. But Tapper’s question hits an important political point that has been ignored, as the country seeks answers to the questions about the Benghazi attack that the Obama foreign policy team still finds itself incapable of answering honestly. Mitt Romney is still taking abuse from those who claim he was wrong to criticize the administration’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi disaster as well as the assault on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The Republican spoke out before all the information about both incidents was aired. In retrospect, that was a mistake. But it pales in comparison to the many deceptive statements from the president, the secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations that were not only wrong but part of what appears to have been a campaign of deception aimed at distracting the American people from a major security breakdown.

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As he has done many times in recent years, ABC’s Jake Tapper hit the nail on the head when he asked White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday whether President Obama hadn’t done exactly what he and other Democrats and liberals accused Mitt Romney of doing:

TAPPER: President Obama, shortly after the attack told “60 Minutes” that regarding Mitt Romney’s response to the attacks, specifically in Egypt, the president said that Romney has a tendency to “shoot first and aim later.” Given the fact that so much was made out of the video that apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi, that there wasn’t even a protest outside the Benghazi post, didn’t President Obama shoot first and aim later?

CARNEY: First of all, Jake, I think your assessment of what we know now is not complete, but I would simply say that the –

TAPPER: I’m just going by what the State Department said yesterday.

CARNEY: Look, there is no question that in the region, including in Cairo, there were demonstrations reacting to the release of that video, and I will leave it to those who are testifying on the hill to –

TAPPER: You said yesterday there was no protest? I’m talking about in Benghazi.

This was yet another cringe-inducing moment from a White House that is allergic to the truth. But Tapper’s question hits an important political point that has been ignored, as the country seeks answers to the questions about the Benghazi attack that the Obama foreign policy team still finds itself incapable of answering honestly. Mitt Romney is still taking abuse from those who claim he was wrong to criticize the administration’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi disaster as well as the assault on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The Republican spoke out before all the information about both incidents was aired. In retrospect, that was a mistake. But it pales in comparison to the many deceptive statements from the president, the secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations that were not only wrong but part of what appears to have been a campaign of deception aimed at distracting the American people from a major security breakdown.

As Alana wrote yesterday, the first day of hearings of the House Oversight Committee began to unravel the layers of misinformation with which this administration has sought to cover up its failures. But beyond the specifics of this disaster, and the dishonest way it was represented to the American people by officials, is the distinct impression we are getting that the attempt to put the focus on the video was in line with the general philosophy of this administration about America’s role in the world.

In that sense, it is becoming increasingly clear that Romney’s fundamental criticism of the administration’s penchant for apologizing for America is on target.

Romney’s initial statement about the attacks last month was not entirely correct, but it was not based on a lie, as it appears the president’s efforts to obfuscate the issue have been. It was, as Jake Tapper said yesterday, Obama who decided to “shoot first and aim later.” Those establishment figures that spent so much time attacking Romney owe him an apology. So does Obama.

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