Israel and its supporters have spent most of the weeks since the conclusion of the latest round of fighting with Hamas pointing to the great success of the Iron Dome missile defense system. The improved ability of Israel’s Defense Forces to render harmless the bulk of the rockets launched from the terrorist enclave in Gaza has enhanced the country’s security, even if the spectacle of a sizable portion of the population cowering in shelters cheered Palestinians. But the notion that the prolonged exchange of fire in November that saw hundreds of missiles fired into Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense was an unalloyed success is being undermined by the concessions that Israel has made since the cease-fire.
In the days following the dustup, it was clear that Gaza fishing craft were being allowed to sail further into the Mediterranean by the Israeli Navy, but this might have been dismissed as unimportant since the blockade of the region was still intact. However, the news that Israel is now allowing in construction materials that it had heretofore prevented from entering Gaza must be regarded as yet another indication that Hamas’s own claims of victory were not empty boasts. Though it may be argued that neither of these measures seriously degrades Israel’s security, they both make it clear that Israel paid a not insignificant price for the cease-fire brokered by the Obama administration and the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt.
John Boehner isn’t resigning from his position as House speaker–despite dubious Internet rumors to the contrary–but there is clearly a campaign to try to push him out. Breitbart’s website, RedState, and a group called American Majority Action seem to be at the forefront.
Boehner was already under attack from the right over last night’s fiscal cliff deal. It didn’t help that he punted on a Hurricane Sandy aid bill, sending cable-soundbite kings Chris Christie and Rep. Peter King into histrionic fits. Boehner likely calculated that the pork-filled Sandy aid bill would hurt him with conservatives after the fiscal cliff deal, so he sought a delay. But Breitbart’s website speculates that Boehner had more sinister motives:
There is something almost charming about the left’s habit of using childish name-calling in the service of declaring their political opponents to be intellectually unserious. And so we should probably have expected nothing less (or nothing more) in Michael Lind’s Salon essay explaining why he has moved away from the American right. But conservatives shouldn’t be deterred by the headline, “Right-wing dreams of demented utopias,” because it isn’t at all clear that Lind knows what the word “utopia” means.
Lind, the author of a clumsy and error-riddled new book on American economic history, sets out to demonstrate that conservatives have inherited the left’s predilection for the pursuit of transformative utopian politics. But, as one might expect, Lind ends up making a powerful case against his own thesis.
Last week local papers in New York City were captivated by yet another senseless killing. A 46-year old Indian immigrant, Sunando Sen, was pushed onto the subway tracks as a train was pulling into the station by a woman standing nearby. He was killed by the collision and initially, the woman, with whom he had not visibly communicated in any way, fled the scene. The city was left asking what many communities affected by senseless violence ask: Why?
Interviews with police after the perpetrator’s capture indicated that she harbored hatred toward Muslims and Indians since the attacks on September 11, 2001. Immediately the fingers of blame settled on Pamela Geller, the creator and funder of controversial subway ads about Muslims earlier this year. Her detractors called them incendiary and warned of potential violence; this incident was the moment they were waiting for–a chance to say “I told you so.” And they did.
Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of ObamaCare ended the discussion about the president’s signature health care legislation as far as most of the media was concerned. But for Americans whose rights have been infringed by the bill’s mandate requiring business owners to pay for services that violate their religious beliefs, the issue remains a matter of vital concern. On January 1 the penalties associated with that mandate went into effect and the battle in the courts to head off this grievous infringement of religious liberty is meeting with mixed success.
One federal judge blocked the enforcement of the mandate in a lawsuit brought by the founder of Domino’s Pizza, saying the legislation “substantially burdens the exercise of religion.” In doing so, the court prevented the government from levying massive fines on Thomas Monaghan’s property management firm while his challenge to the constitutionality of the provision proceeds through the courts. That ruling comes in the wake of decisions from federal appeals courts in St. Louis and Chicago that stopped the Department of Health and Human Services from punishing those who are fighting the mandate to pay for contraception and abortion drugs. But in a signal defeat for the cause of freedom, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor turned down a similar request from the owners of Hobby Lobby stores and a Christian book store firm. That means these companies will be subjected to millions of dollars in fines for violating the law even though they claim it is a matter of conscience.
This isn’t like most of the other Chuck Hagel endorsements, which have hurt him more than they’ve helped him. Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s support is actually meaningful, especially for someone like Hagel, who was a big critic of the Iraq war while Crocker was ambassador to that country. He pens a strong defense of Hagel at the Wall Street Journal today:
Mr. Hagel understands far better than most the evils of Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran. He also appreciates the importance of looking in and among those groups for fissures that might lead to internal debate, dissension or division—or even to areas of agreement with the U.S. In the months after the 9/11 attacks, I negotiated with Iranian officials regarding Afghanistan; it accomplished a little of both, spurring agreement on some issues and internal debate among the Iranians on others.
Chuck Hagel understood this, as he understood the importance of the unsuccessful talks I had with the Iranians in 2007, when I was serving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq. The failure of those talks helped convince Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that a diplomatic solution to Iranian interference in Iraq wasn’t possible, at which point he decided to use his army successfully against Iranian-backed militias.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post this week, public relations expert Laura Kam argued that the ongoing controversy over Women of the Wall is particularly harmful to Israel because it’s seen as an issue of women’s rights. I agree that Israel’s current policy unacceptably violates Women of the Wall’s rights in some respects. But there’s another group of women whose rights the organization’s overseas advocates too often overlook: the thousands of women who visit the Western Wall every day not to “see and be seen,” as Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman shockingly described her goal, but to pour out their hearts to God.
Because much of what the organization seeks to do at the Wall in no way disrupts other people’s worship, the existing ban on these activities is unjustified. A woman wearing a tallit or carrying a Torah, for instance, doesn’t impede anyone’s prayers: If you’re there to pray, your eyes should be on your prayer book, not on what other people are wearing or carrying. Even a full women’s prayer service complete with Torah reading wouldn’t necessarily be disruptive if it were quiet, as Orthodox worship often is: At many Orthodox services, you can’t even hear the Torah reading from more than a few feet away.
It did not escape the notice of political observers that some of the leading candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination came down on opposite sides of the vote on the fiscal cliff deal. No one was surprised that an extreme libertarian like Rand Paul would be one of the eight no votes in the Senate on the pact. But the votes of Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Paul Ryan did raise some eyebrows, and could potentially impact the way conservative primary voters view the pair four years from now when Iowa and New Hampshire are again the center of the political universe.
Rubio’s decision to join Paul in opposition to the deal makes sense for those who remember that although he is a very mainstream figure today, just three years ago he was viewed in Washington as just another Tea Party insurgent determined to upset the plans of the establishment to make Charlie Crist the GOP candidate for a Florida Senate seat. However, the reaction to Paul Ryan’s decision to join House Speaker John Boehner in supporting the pact did create something of a stir. Ryan’s vote for a deal that he and most other Republicans despised might have been the responsible thing to do since the alternative was to let the taxes of all Americans go up. But in doing so he may have lowered his stock among conservative activists who preferred the futile gesture of protest that most House Republicans made when they joined Majority Leader Eric Cantor in voting against the bill. Though no one should be under the misapprehension that we can know what will determine the outcome of primaries that will be held so far in the future, there’s little doubt Ryan’s stand is going to be held against him by some segments of his party.
This is ones of the best media stories so far to highlight the hypocrisy of the anti-Second Amendment crowd. After publishing the names of pistol permit holders in Rockland and Westchester, a local newspaper with a pro-gun control bent has decided to hire armed guards because of the negative backlash it received. The paper’s competitor, the Rockland Times, has the exclusive:
According to police reports on public record, Journal News Rockland Editor Caryn A. McBride was alarmed by the volume of “negative correspondence,” namely an avalanche of phone calls and emails to the Journal News office, following the newspaper’s publishing of a map of all pistol permit holders in Rockland and Westchester.
Due to apparent safety concerns, the newspaper then decided to hire RGA Investigations to provide armed personnel to man the location. …
The Journal News caused an international stir when they released an interactive map of pistol permit holders names and addresses in Rockland and Westchester counties last Sunday, December 23. The editors have said they believe knowing where guns are is in the public’s interest. The newspaper has also taken a strident editorial position in favor of strict gun control.
Rather than take the map down following the public uproar, the executive board at the Journal News has decided to “stick to their guns” and double-down on their original decision, as they have said a map listing all pistol permit holders in Putnam County will soon to be posted.
In April 2008, during the Democratic primary season, Barack Obama criticized John McCain for seeming to favor economic policies of the Bush administration that McCain had once opposed. “Well, they may have stopped offending John McCain’s conscience somewhere along the road to the White House, but George Bush’s economic policies still offend my conscience, and they still offend yours,” Obama said.
The Bush tax cuts offended his conscience, and so did the Bush deficits. Well, they may have stopped offending Barack Obama’s conscience somewhere along the road to the White House, you might say, considering the fiscal cliff deal the Obama White House has agreed to. The reason conservatives enjoy pointing things like this out is not to play “gotcha” so much as to remind people why Obama was always so off-putting to non-liberals. To Obama, those who disagreed with him were cast as immoral. They weren’t simply political opponents of Obama’s; they were, to the current president, opponents of all that is good and righteous.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor broke with Speaker John Boehner on the fiscal cliff deal vote yesterday, fueling speculation that he may challenge Boehner in Thursday’s Speaker election. At the Guardian, Jim Antle writes:
It’s rare for the top two members of the House leadership to split on an important vote. Bob Michel, the hapless leader of the House Republicans during a long period in the minority, and Newt Gingrich voted differently on the 1990 “read my lips” tax increase. They split again over the 1994 assault weapons ban.
Even less common is a House speaker and majority leader going their separate ways on big-ticket legislation. The last major example is when the Democratic-controlled House debate funding President George W Bush’s surge in Iraq. House speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed the measure to proceed to the floor and voted no. House majority leader Steny Hoyer voted yes.
House speakers typically don’t even vote at all unless it is necessary to break a tie. So it may have been a clarifying moment when speaker of the House John Boehner and House majority leader Eric Cantor parted ways on the deal that ended the long national nightmare known as the fiscal cliff. Boehner voted for the bipartisan agreement negotiated between Vice-President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; Cantor breathed the final moments of life into the opposition.
As Antle notes, despite conservative frustration with Boehner, Cantor is the only one who could potentially rally enough members behind him to seize the gavel. And Breitbart reports that there may be growing support for it:
The deal to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff was a lousy one: tax rate increases during a weak economy, no spending reductions, nothing on entitlement reform. And yet if House Republicans had succeeded in derailing this deal, negotiated between Senator Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden, it would have been disastrous.
It would have led to much higher tax increases on all Americans, even beyond the increase in payroll taxes that will now go into effect, and triggered decimating cuts in the defense department. And it would have done a great deal to advance the storyline that Republicans — at least House Republicans — are extremists enamored with nihilism.
President Obama got the best of both worlds with the passage of the deal to prevent the country from going over the fiscal cliff. He got the massive tax hike on wealthier Americans that he wanted and paid for it with no spending cuts. Though he acted throughout the crisis as if he might prefer the political advantage that he would gain by a Republican refusal to pass these measures, the avoidance of the cliff prevents the economy from going into a tailspin that would blight his second term. And he accomplished all this while making Republicans looking bad with the passage of the compromise being accomplished despite overwhelming opposition from the House majority caucus.
But the president’s claim that he wouldn’t have another debate with Republicans about taxes and spending in the future was a hollow challenge. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans who voted for the unsatisfactory package and ensured its passage knew that the alternative was a devastating tax hike for all Americans that would harm the economy and hurt their party for years to come. Though liberals have often claimed that it was the GOP and its Tea Party faction that was holding the nation hostage, this time it was the Democrats who were the ones with a gun to the heads of the nation. It was either vote for a tax increase for some and no spending cuts or see middle class America pay a terrible price. These circumstances won’t apply in the coming months when the debt ceiling and other budgetary measures must be passed. Though the cliff bill was a win for the president, he isn’t likely to have one like this again.