Leftists in both Israel and the United States would like President Obama to try and impose a peace plan on Israel in his second term. But the main plank of any American or international diktat is something that the vast majority of Israelis will not accept: division of Jerusalem. Earlier today, Evelyn Gordon wrote about how the woman leading the Labor Party back to political relevance has similar positions to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the peace process. But Shelly Yacimovich isn’t the only rising star of Israeli politics that wants no part of any Obama diktat. Haaretz repots today that Yair Lapid, the head of the new centrist party Yesh Atid, went even further than Yacimovich.
Lapid said yesterday that he explicitly opposes the division of Jerusalem and that retention of the united city by Israel is not an obstacle to the signing of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. This is significant not just because it shows that Israeli centrists are competing with Netanyahu for votes by taking allegedly right-wing stands on peace process issues, but also because it runs completely contrary to one of the firmest positions articulated by the Obama administration in the last four years.
Conservatives still reeling from the presidential election and the loss of some very winnable Senate seats can take comfort in a rather significant consolation prize: Republicans now control 30 governorships for the first time in more than a decade. The victory in North Carolina was particularly sweet for Republicans. But on a more fundamental level, the right has swamped the country with conservative reform-minded governors, and this success is not geographically constrained: such conservatives are at the helm in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Louisiana, New Mexico, and even Michigan.
In the last couple of years, out of power in the White House and stymied in Congress by Harry Reid–so enamored of grinding business to a halt that he’s refused to pass a budget for going on three years–conservative governors have led the charge. Though Virginia voters went for Barack Obama both in 2008 and 2012, they elected Bob McDonnell, a Republican, governor. And we can’t forget Texas Governor Rick Perry, who despite having a rough go in the presidential primary debates has presided over a state that has become a laboratory of conservative reform: tort reform, prison reform, education reform (ultimately blocked by the Democrats). Just how dominant is the GOP at the state level? U.S. News & World Report has this reaction from the Democrats:
Congressional Republicans aren’t letting up on the Benghazi investigations, and they’re planning a series of committee hearings next week. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has invited Hillary Clinton to testify, Fox News reports:
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled an open hearing for next Thursday on the Libya terror attack and has invited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify, Fox News has learned.
The committee joins two others planning to hold hearings, albeit closed ones, that day.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi. A local Libyan extremist group is suspected of carrying out the attack, but the Obama administration has been criticized for its confusing explanation for the strike and for security warnings that apparently weren’t heeded.
The battle over the “fiscal cliff” resumed yesterday, and so far it’s sounding much more mellow than it was before the election. In a speech, House Speaker John Boehner emphasized that Republicans are open to raising tax revenues through tax code reform:
House Republicans, Boehner said, are open to raising more tax revenue to reduce deficits — a key Democratic requirement — but only if it’s done through tax reform that lowers income tax rates and in conjunction with entitlement reform.
Done right, Boehner said in public remarks in Washington, a reformed tax code can raise more revenue by curbing special interest loopholes and deductions and by generating economic growth.
That’s very different than raising tax rates — something that has been off the table for Republicans.
Obama, by contrast, has proposed making a down payment on debt reduction by letting the portion of the Bush tax cuts that apply to high-income households expire. That would mean the top two income tax rates would increase to 36% and 39.6% next year from 33% and 35% today.
What impact did foreign policy have on the presidential election? Not much, to judge by the Fox News exit poll showing that only 5 percent of voters considered that to be their top issue. That fact that of those 5 percent, 56 percent chose Obama and only 33 percent chose Romney leads some observers (e.g. Dan Drezner) to suggest that “the GOP has managed to squander an advantage in perceived foreign policy competency that it had owned for decades.” He has a point, although the situation is not as dire as the one statistic cited above would indicate. The exit poll also asked whether voters would trust each of the candidates to handle an international crisis—50 percent said yes for Romney and 57 percent for Obama.
That is perhaps a natural gap given that Obama has been president for four years and Romney had scant foreign policy experience. Considering his background in foreign policy (or lack thereof), Romney actually did well to reach the 50 percent threshold of credibility. That suggests that lack of confidence in his ability to handle foreign policy was not a major contributing factor to his defeat.
The inevitable narrative after a presidential election is that the losing side is on its way to extinction. In 2008, the argument was that the GOP had become a regional party of white southerners. We’re seeing a variation on that this time around, with the claim that Republicans can’t win an election because minorities and women are eclipsing the white male demographic:
The Los Angeles Times is leading the charge with a story headlined “Obama’s reelection marks a turning point in American politics: With the growing power of minorities, women and gays, it’s the end of the world as straight white males know it.”
Even more than the election that made Barack Obama the first black president, the one that returned him to office sent an unmistakable signal that the hegemony of the straight white male in America is over. …
Exit poll data, gathered from interviews with voters as they left their polling places, showed that Obama’s support from whites was 4 percentage points lower than in 2008. But he won by drawing on a minority-voter base that was 2 percentage points larger, as a share of the overall electorate, than four years ago.
The president built his winning coalition on a series of election-year initiatives and issue differences with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. In the months leading up to the election, Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, unilaterally granted a form of limited legalization to young illegal immigrants and put abortion rights and contraception at the heart of a brutally effective anti-Romney attack ad campaign.
The result turned out to be an unbeatable combination: virtually universal support from black voters, who turned out as strongly as in 2008, plus decisive backing from members of the younger and fast-growing Latino and Asian American communities, who chose Obama over Romney by ratios of roughly 3 to 1. All of those groups contributed to Obama’s majority among women. (Gay voters, a far smaller group, went for Obama by a 54-point margin.)
There are two ways conservatives can respond to this analysis. One is to devolve into a Buchananite frenzy that the White Male is under siege and the country is being hijacked by minorities and women who are fundamentally at odds with the Republican Party. Not only is that unhelpful, it also buys into identity politics in a way that runs counter to the conservative and American message.
With the president’s election victory still fresh in their minds, Democrats are assuming that Tuesday’s results mean that Congressional Republicans are bound to bow to their demands for tax increases. Such sentiments are understandable given the Democrats’ clear victory in the presidential contest as well as their gains in Congress. Having campaigned on a platform of raising taxes on the wealthy, there may be little reason to assume President Obama is going to back down on his demands and, as many liberals have already pointed out, he’s going to be bitterly criticized if he does compromise on his soak-the-rich approach. Yet though Republicans may still be shell shocked by the election returns, there is no reason for them to cave in on their principles just because the president and his media cheering section expect them to.
House Speaker John Boehner sounded an appropriate note, albeit one that was pure political boilerplate, when he said yesterday, “Mr. President, this is your moment. We’re ready to be led — not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative, but as president of the United States of America.” But his airy rhetoric contains a kernel of truth. If the country is to avoid going over the fiscal cliff in the next month, and avoid the terrible consequences that would result from a failure to reach a budget deal, it is going to require the kind of presidential leadership and ability to compromise that Obama has never been willing to provide in his first four years in office. The question before the country is not so much the one that liberals have been asking about Republicans simply waving the white flag as it is whether the president can actually bargain in good faith and get a deal.
By all accounts, given President Obama’s focus on domestic policy initiatives in his first term, he will play the “flexibility” card he promised the Putin/Medvedev tandem and seek to cement a foreign policy legacy in his second term. But there are serious challenges to this, flexibility or no flexibility.
The immediate challenge that comes to mind is that, as has been exhaustively chronicled by a usually adoring media, Obama is not only terrible at diplomacy, but it’s the part of his job description he most loathes. He doesn’t like building relationships at home or abroad, which may very well put statesmanship far beyond his reach. But there is a more fundamental problem, and it’s not one limited to Barack Obama: For all the talk of a second-term “clean slate,” which exempts the president from electoral considerations, a president cannot undo his first term. There is no true clean slate abroad on any issue, or with any country, that was part of the first term agenda.
It may be tempting for some to try to turn anti-Muslim filmmaker Mark Bassely Youssef, who was blamed by the Obama administration for the attack in Benghazi, into a martyr for free speech, but the fact is he took the plea deal. If he truly believed he was innocent, or thought a one-year sentence was wildly disproportionate to his charges, he could have fought it out in court. Why pass up the free publicity of a public trial, unless you’re guilty and think a plea bargain is the best deal you’re going to get?
The California man behind an anti-Muslim film that led to violence in many parts of the Middle East was sentenced Wednesday to a year in federal prison for probation violations in an unrelated matter, then issued a provocative statement through his attorney.
The sentence was the result of a plea bargain between lawyers for Mark Bassely Youssef and federal prosecutors. Youssef admitted in open court that he had used several false names in violation of his probation order and obtained a driver’s license under a false name. He was on probation for a bank fraud case.
Shortly after Youssef left the courtroom, his lawyer, Steven Seiden, came to the front steps of the courthouse and told reporters his client wanted to send a message.
“The one thing he wanted me to tell all of you is President Obama may have gotten Osama bin Laden, but he didn’t kill the ideology,” Seiden said.
Asked what that meant, Seiden said, “I didn’t ask him, and I don’t know.”
To follow up on my previous item on how much trouble Republicans face with Latino (and other minority) voters, take a look at the results of the Fox News exit polls.
They show that 11 percent of voters were Latinos and that they went for President Obama by margins varying from 65 percent (those 65 years old and up) to 74 percent (18- to 29-year-olds). The fact that the youngest group–which made up 4 percent of the total electorate–is the most Democratic is especially alarming because of what it says about the future.
Republicans are still licking their wounds today, but from the sound of it, some in the Romney campaign aren’t letting go of their vendetta with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. While this Washington Post story centered on Mitt Romney’s efforts to thank and console his supporters and made clear just how decent a guy he is, it also gave a platform for some of his staffers and leading fundraisers to vent their anger at Christie and his role in puffing up President Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy:
Although Romney himself stopped short of placing any blame on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who praised President Obama’s leadership during the storm, several Romney supporters privately pointed fingers at the outspoken governor.
“A lot of people feel like Christie hurt, that we definitely lost four or five points between the storm and Chris Christie giving Obama a chance to be bigger than life,” said one of Romney’s biggest fundraisers, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.
Another major Romney fundraiser said Christie’s embrace of Obama after Sandy walloped his state only deepened a rift that opened between the Romney and Christie camps over the summer Christie and his wife were unhappy with Romney’s vice presidential search process, believing they were “led a little bit far down the garden path” without being picked, the fundraiser, said.
Any losing campaign needs scapegoats, and it’s clear that some in the Romney campaign are anxious to divert the focus away from their own failures. The hurricane, and Christie’s embrace of the president, was a setback. Yet a dispassionate look at the returns and the turnout figures shows that even if the weather had stayed nice on the East Coast in the week before the election, Romney would have still lost. To say that Christie lost the election for the GOP is bunk. But even though the attacks on Christie are off base and ought to stop, the controversy still tells us something about the problem with the governor and why those assuming he will succeed where Romney failed are probably wrong.
Now that the elections are over and President Barack Obama is returning to business, one person he should pay some serious attention to is the new head of Israel’s Labor Party, Shelly Yacimovich. All polls show Labor becoming the second-largest party by a large margin after Israel’s January 22 election. Thus, if Obama is hoping for an alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she’s the only serious possibility.
So here, according to Israeli embassy reports on her meetings with French officials in July, is what she thinks on diplomatic issues: She thinks the Palestinians should negotiate without preconditions – just like Netanyahu. She thinks they must recognize Israel as a Jewish state – again like Netanyahu. She thinks Israel should retain the major settlement blocs, and shouldn’t withdraw to the 1967 lines – yet again like Netanyahu.
On Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued the Islamist movement’s official statement in Pashto, which the Open Source Center translated:
1. Obama should fully utilize the new opportunity preventing the United States from acting as world police, focusing on solving own problems, and not allowing the country to burn in the fire of world’s hatred.
2. Obama realizes that Americans are now tired of the war and useless military expenditure. Therefore, he should take into account the demands and expectations of his people, and end the meaningless war. He should not let the United States become notorious by committing more war crimes.
3. Obama realizes that the American nation is tired of the war losses and back-breaking economic crisis. Therefore, he should immediately withdraw his troops from the country and prevent deaths of more US troops.
4. The elements who are currently supporting the United States in our country are indeed the most disgraceful and unwanted faces. Relying on such elements will cost the United States more financial and human losses.
5. Perhaps Obama has now realized well that he has lost the battle in Afghanistan. Therefore, instead of wasting time and telling lies, he should immediately leave our sacred soil and think about his country and people’s lives.