The latest round of European Union sanctions on Iran were welcomed by both Israel and the United States as helping to continue Tehran’s isolation. The restrictions on Iranian banks, trade and gas exports will increase the pain being felt by ordinary Iranians and worsen the government’s fiscal difficulties. But the latest intelligence about the nuclear program that has generated this dispute is hardly encouraging for those who believe sanctions and diplomacy will avert the danger of an Iranian nuke. Reuters reports that diplomats familiar with the latest reports coming from the International Atomic Energy Agency show that despite the toll sanctions have taken on its economy, the ayatollahs are doubling down on their nuclear gambit.
According to the diplomats, Iran has continued installing new centrifuges at the underground site at Fordow near the holy Shiite Muslim city of Qom in what has become a rapid buildup of its capacity to enrich the uranium needed to produce a bomb. The next IAEA report to be published in November will reveal that the expansion of the enrichment subterranean facility is near completion. As Reuters writes:
It also takes Iran a significant technical step closer to the 90 percent concentration needed for bombs, explaining the West’s growing concern about the Islamic state’s stockpile of the material.
A U.S.-based think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), this month said Iran would currently need at least two to four months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear bomb, and additional time to make the device itself.
While the Obama campaign spent the day giggling over “binders full of women,” Paul Ryan made the rounds on the news networks, questioning the White House’s handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi last month:
“It was a passing comment about acts of terror in general, it was not a claim that this was a result of a terrorist attack,” Ryan said on ABC’s “Good Morning America. “Nobody believed at that Rose Garden speech that the president was suggesting that particular attack was an act of terror.” …
Ryan doubled down in three separate appearances on broadcast morning shows, saying, “What’s troubling about this Benghazi attack is that it took two weeks for the administration to get their story straight.”
Ryan went over the timeline distributed by the Romney campaign that documents statements by the White House and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for two weeks following the incident, where it was called spontaneous and the violence was blamed on an anti-Islam YouTube video.
The administration has since acknowledged it was a terrorist attack.
Fox News analyst Brit Hume spoke for many Americans last night when he predicted that the Hofstra University smackdown between President Obama and Mitt Romney would be the last presidential debate to use the town hall format. Let’s hope he’s right. Though some observers, like George Will, thought it was the best debate ever because it was a “good fight” that elicited a lot of discussion of the issues, the spectacle of the two candidates circling each other like a pair of animals in a fighting pit did little to enhance either’s credibility. It also led to a series of nasty and often confusing exchanges that didn’t do much for either man’s image or shed much light on the issues.
The format, which is an attempt to inject the voices of ordinary voters into the process, was, as it always is, something of a fake. Most of the supposedly undecided voters rounded up by the Gallup organization didn’t sound all that undecided. Even worse, the town hall format gives even more power to the moderator to not only choose the questions but to intervene in a contest that is, by its nature, more likely to veer out of control than a normal podium debate. That’s exactly what happened, as CNN’s Candy Crowley tilted the playing field in the president’s direction not only by backing up Obama on the Libya incident, as Alana noted earlier, but also by choosing more questions that were geared to favor the Democrat. If that doesn’t motivate Republican debate negotiators in 2016 to refuse to go along with another one of these circuses, then they won’t be doing their jobs.
Among the many dismaying aspects of the Benghazi attacks which left our ambassador and three other American dead, there is this point which I have not yet heard publicly debated: that readers of the New York Times and Washington Post probably had a better idea of what happened than readers of the President’s Daily Brief and other highly classified intelligence products.
The office of the director of national intelligence offered the following in a statement issued September 28: “In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to Executive Branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available.”
Yet those who read about the attack in “open source,” unclassified publications had reason to reach a very different conclusion. On September 13, just two days after the attack, the New York Times published an article, datelined Benghazi, by Suliman Ali Zway and Rick Gladstone, which began by quoting a Libyan security official, Wanis el-Sharif, who claimed that there had been two attacks–the first a spontaneous demonstration, the second a planned terrorist attack. But then the intrepid reporters noted:
Today’s Gallup seven-day tracking poll shows Mitt Romney with a solid lead against President Obama among likely voters. At NRO, Charles C.W. Cooke reports on why this poll is historically meaningful:
Mitt Romney is up six points on Gallup’s seven-day likely-voter tracker, 51–45. Romney is also winning the seven-day registered-voters poll, 48–46. These statistics are there to be broken, but it is worth pointing out for the record that, in the history of Gallup, no presidential candidate has ever been over 50 percent in mid-October and gone on to lose.
Back in 2010, pro-Palestinian groups at the University of California-Berkeley staged a protest of Israel during which they set up checkpoints around certain parts of campus asking people if they were Jewish before deciding to let them through, and then watched as Jessica Felber, a Jewish pro-Israel student, was allegedly assaulted trying to participate in a counter-protest. To many, the incident typified an uncomfortable reality about pro-Israel students on campuses around the country, though it has been particularly hostile at UC schools.
The harassment—which, as in Felber’s case, can sometimes turn violent—has been all-too-common at universities, even (sometimes especially) at schools with a vibrant Jewish community. Anti-Israel activity doesn’t always take the form of physical intimidation; as Brooke Goldstein and Gabriel Latner revealed in COMMENTARY last year, it can take the form of university-funded events that raise money for groups that aid terrorists. But though the latter example presents a clear solution—don’t enable such fundraising—the question of what to do about harassment, especially nonviolent harassment, has been more difficult for universities, which often try to err on the side of free speech, to answer.
To those outside of Lower Manhattan, it appears Occupy Wall Street has faded into obscurity. Unfortunately for some residents of New York City, the movement is still maintaining a presence on public property. After finally being ejected from Zuccotti Park after months of vandalism, violence and disruption, OWS hobos — I mean protesters — have taken up residence on the sidewalks outside Trinity Church, a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The Episcopalians, not exactly known for being Christianity’s stalwarts of conservatism, aren’t happy about it.
This week Trinity Church announced that it would be canceling its annual Halloween celebration because the encampment makes the area around the church increasingly unsafe. In a statement issued on Sunday, Trinity’s Rev. James Cooper stated “Last year, more than 1,200 people took part. However, we are deeply concerned about the escalating illegal and abusive activity the camp presents.” Fox News went on to report,
CNN’s Candy Crowley has always seemed like a tough, sharp and relatively fair reporter. So when she said earlier this week she was going to take an active moderator role in last night’s debate, that didn’t immediately seem like a bad thing. There’s no problem with an impartial moderator keeping the candidates on topic and pressing them with follow-ups.
But by the end of the night, it was clear Crowley had done damage to her own reputation of objectivity. It wasn’t just because of the Benghazi question, either. Matt Latimer lays out the instances of bias at the Daily Beast:
Apologies, O Ladies of the Internet.
Mitt Romney mentioned “binders full of women” in describing his (extremely successful) efforts to hire women for top-level jobs when he was governor of Massachusetts. We all knew exactly what he meant, but really; boo hoo hoo, sniff sniff sniff — the phraseology!
The post-debate polls taken last night seemed to more or less line up with the conventional wisdom forming on social media: President Obama won a narrow victory over Mitt Romney, helped late by escaping the Libya question—thought to be his Achilles’ heel—when Romney dropped the ball.
But that Libya exchange—in which moderator Candy Crowley intervened on Obama’s behalf and only afterwards seemed to realize that she had been wrong on the facts—also revealed the flip side of Romney’s lack of focus on Benghazi: his fluency and preparation for questions on the economy, and Romney’s continuing bet that the economy will overshadow the other issues in voters’ minds. Polls back this up, and the post-debate polls seemed to as well. While both the CNN and CBS polls gave Obama a hard-fought win on points, respondents to both polls gave Romney the win on the economy by wide margins. CBS reports:
When did President Obama refer to the Benghazi attack as an “act of terror”? According to Candy Crowley and White House spin artists, it was in his Rose Garden speech on September 12. But as I wrote last month, the reference was ambiguous at best. It was never clear whether Obama was referring to the Benghazi attack, the 9/11 attacks, the unrest across the Muslim world, or just terrorism in general.
However, at Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin dug up a transcript of Obama referring to the Benghazi attack more directly as an “act of terror” on Sept. 13 — at a campaign event in Colorado:
President Obama went ballistic during the presidential debate at Hofstra University when Mitt Romney questioned the conduct of the administration in its reaction to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya:
And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander in chief.
It was potentially a strong moment for the president as he was able, at least for the moment, to deflect concern about the administration’s failure in Libya and turn into a question of whether Romney overstepped the mark in his criticism. But a dispassionate look at the question on which the president made his grandstand play shows that his administration stands guilty of doing exactly what he denied.
President Obama didn’t repeat his mistakes in the first presidential debate in Denver two weeks ago. He looked interested in the proceedings on Long Island and responded strongly to attacks and got in plenty of stingers as well as making some clever tactical strokes at Romney’s expense. Romney had his moments, especially when speaking about the president’s economic failures. The Republican also missed some wide-open opportunities to nail the president on issues like the Libya terrorist attack. But that won’t necessarily translate into a complete reversal of the losses Obama experienced after their previous encounter. The question that pollsters will be wondering most about won’t be which of the two candidates scored the most points but whether the bruising and nasty tone of the confrontation turned off more voters than it engaged.
The president’s palpable anger at Romney was barely contained. He fulfilled the Democratic base’s desire to bash the GOP candidate relentlessly but he did so at times by taking the cheapest of shots such as a hypocritical swipe about Romney’s investments and by filibustering and taking up more than three minutes more of airtime than his opponent. Though he stopped short of repeating Vice President Biden’s bullying act last week, it’s far from clear that the most of the public — especially undecided voters — will regard the evening as anything but a muddled slugfest.