Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic National Convention

Is Romney Running As a “Hawk”?

Ross Douthat takes a look at Mitt Romney’s stagnating poll numbers and concludes, in part, that Romney is being held back by his hesitation to offer more clarity and creativity on economic policy and refusal to break more clearly with the Bush administration, especially on foreign policy. I find Douthat’s argument on economic policy compelling, but his estimation of the Bush administration’s drag on Romney less so.

Douthat is right to call attention to the weaknesses in the Romney camp’s favorite analogy: 2012 is just like 1980. There are parallels, of course, but their utility is limited and create the danger of Romney’s overreliance on them producing overconfidence. According to most major metrics, the Carter economy was in noticeably worse shape than the current economy. This recovery is still far too weak and unemployment far too high, and Romney has a very strong hand to play here. But Romney chose vagueness at his convention address, just as Reagan did at his, while voters seem to want more from Romney. He may very well have to respond to that.

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Ross Douthat takes a look at Mitt Romney’s stagnating poll numbers and concludes, in part, that Romney is being held back by his hesitation to offer more clarity and creativity on economic policy and refusal to break more clearly with the Bush administration, especially on foreign policy. I find Douthat’s argument on economic policy compelling, but his estimation of the Bush administration’s drag on Romney less so.

Douthat is right to call attention to the weaknesses in the Romney camp’s favorite analogy: 2012 is just like 1980. There are parallels, of course, but their utility is limited and create the danger of Romney’s overreliance on them producing overconfidence. According to most major metrics, the Carter economy was in noticeably worse shape than the current economy. This recovery is still far too weak and unemployment far too high, and Romney has a very strong hand to play here. But Romney chose vagueness at his convention address, just as Reagan did at his, while voters seem to want more from Romney. He may very well have to respond to that.

Douthat continues:

Since Bush left office, conservatives have been willing to acknowledge his failures as a fiscal conservative and to promise more responsibility on deficits and debt. This has been a necessary and important shift, responsible both for the energy of the Tea Party in the 2010 midterm elections and for the current Republican ticket’s (relatively) brave proposals on entitlement reform.

But the shift toward fiscal rectitude is the easy part, in a sense, because it just involved calling conservatives back to their principles, without necessarily acknowledging the places where ideology might need to adapt itself to new realities. It’s made the Republicans more serious than they were in January of 2008, but it’s left the party’s post-Bush weaknesses on the economy and foreign policy conspicuously unaddressed….

On national security, he’s campaigned as a by-the-numbers hawk, with barely a hint that hawkishness might have delivered America into difficulties during the last Republican administration.

I’m not sure this is quite fair to either Bush or Romney. Americans binged on electing conservatives to Congress and, more dramatically, to the governor’s office in places like New Jersey, just to set limits on the Obama Democrats’ ability to govern. If anything, Romney has been less conservative on many of the issues than the Tea Party, yet it is Tea Partiers voters sent enthusiastically to the House and Senate while Romney fights lukewarm poll numbers.

So when Douthat writes that this Tea Party focus on debt and the deficit has “left the party’s post-Bush weaknesses on the economy” unaddressed, it seems to me the opposite might be true.

And on the “hawkishness” of Romney’s foreign policy, I think there’s less bluster to it than people seem to think. Romney took some heat for leaving Afghanistan out of his convention speech, and Politico reports that, in their estimation, at Romney’s foreign policy speech yesterday “he seemed to endorse the broad outlines of Obama’s policy.” This has actually become a popular refrain as well: Romney criticizes Obama generally on foreign affairs but hasn’t actually staked out more hawkish ground.

Then you have the Democrats’ convention, at which the crowd spent half the time cheering on targeted assassination. And then the Obama campaign rolled out its plan to “Kerry-ize” Romney on foreign policy. (Calling on Kerry to aid in the “Kerryization” of someone else is so thoroughly humiliating to the Massachusetts senator that it almost makes you hope Kerry gets something out of this after all, like the job at State that he so openly covets. Almost.)

And Obama’s most successful foreign policy moves were arguably hawkish ones. Take his announcement of the Afghanistan surge. As I wrote in March:

After Obama announced a troop “surge” in Afghanistan in December 2009, polls showed a 9-percent jump in Americans who thought staying in Afghanistan was the right course of action, and a 6-percent drop in those who opposed the war. Americans favored the speech itself by a 23-point margin. And the president saw a 7-point jump in public approval of his handling of the war.

If Romney is concerned that voters are having trouble imaging him as commander-in-chief, he will probably try to change the calculus on foreign policy, thinking it may also elevate his other numbers if he does so successfully. But it is Obama, surging at first in Afghanistan and then boasting of bin Laden and the Libya intervention, who is arguably running as the hawk in this election.

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Who’s Playing Politics on Israel Now?

At a joint event sponsored by J Street and the American Arab Institute during the Democratic National Convention last week, Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen claimed that Mitt Romney “would be game over for Israel’s existence,” according to the JTA. Surely Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the National Jewish Democratic Council will strongly rebuke this partisan attack on Romney’s Israel policy any minute now?

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is going on the offensive, accusing Mitt Romney of not just being bad for Israel, but of being an existential threat to the future of the Jewish state.

“I think that Mitt Romney would be game over for Israel’s existence,” he said at a panel discussion co-sponsored Tuesday by the Arab American Institute and J Street, “because just allowing us to follow what Netanyahu wants and not to try to force the process into bringing about a two-state solution will lead to  Israel’s nonexistence.”

He said that such a path “inevitably will result in a war,” warning that nuclear weapons could be involved.

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At a joint event sponsored by J Street and the American Arab Institute during the Democratic National Convention last week, Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen claimed that Mitt Romney “would be game over for Israel’s existence,” according to the JTA. Surely Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the National Jewish Democratic Council will strongly rebuke this partisan attack on Romney’s Israel policy any minute now?

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is going on the offensive, accusing Mitt Romney of not just being bad for Israel, but of being an existential threat to the future of the Jewish state.

“I think that Mitt Romney would be game over for Israel’s existence,” he said at a panel discussion co-sponsored Tuesday by the Arab American Institute and J Street, “because just allowing us to follow what Netanyahu wants and not to try to force the process into bringing about a two-state solution will lead to  Israel’s nonexistence.”

He said that such a path “inevitably will result in a war,” warning that nuclear weapons could be involved.

So, in Cohen’s estimation, the real looming existential threat to Israel is if the U.S. allows Israel’s democratically-elected leader to determine his government’s own policies. This is one of those “America must save Israel from itself” arguments that is wrong, patronizing, and anti-democratic on its own. But the additional hyperbole about Romney’s policies destroying Israel is ridiculously tone deaf during a time when Cohen’s own party is insisting any criticism of GOP or Democratic policies on Israel is “dangerous” for the Jewish state.

That notion — promoted by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the National Jewish Democratic Council — seems unnecessarily closed-minded. Most Israel supporters would surely welcome a debate over which presidential candidate has a stronger pro-Israel policy, and, of course, politicians can’t be held accountable unless we have an open discussion about their records.

Still, that is the stance of Democratic Party leaders. On CNN last weekend, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz reiterated her position that nobody should ever criticize GOP or Democratic policies as anti-Israel.

“I did not say that Republican policies were dangerous for Israel,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon. “In fact, saying that policies are different between the Republicans and Democrats on the United States is harmful to Israel, and I didn’t say it.”

If DWS actually believes that (as opposed to the alternative that she’s just trying to shut down legitimate GOP criticism of Obama’s Israel policies), where’s her condemnation of Cohen’s comments?

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Basic Info About Israel Still Eluding Dems

When Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank finally unburdens the Congress of his belligerent presence after his current term, he will leave two primary legacies. The first is his role in the housing crisis and subsequent deep recession by protecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from much-needed reforms, and the second is his decision to take the nastiness found in the far corners of the liberal blogosphere and mainstream it, introducing it into the regular give-and-take of the Congress. Those seeking comity and civility in American public life had few greater obstacles than Frank during his time in the House.

But Frank has a chance at a third legacy: there is a possibility that his district, deep blue but perhaps tired of Democratic governance in the age of Obama (as when his state voted for Scott Brown), may give a Republican a serious look to succeed Frank. That Republican is the Georgetown and Harvard-educated Marine reservist Sean Bielat, who ran against Frank last time and gave him a bit of a scare. (When Bielat met Frank for the first time during the election, he told him it was a pleasure to meet his congressman. Frank’s response: “I wish I could say the same.”) But with the renewed controversy over the broad Democratic Party opposition to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a statement made by Joseph P. Kennedy III, Bielat’s Democratic opponent for the seat, may garner some increased scrutiny.

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When Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank finally unburdens the Congress of his belligerent presence after his current term, he will leave two primary legacies. The first is his role in the housing crisis and subsequent deep recession by protecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from much-needed reforms, and the second is his decision to take the nastiness found in the far corners of the liberal blogosphere and mainstream it, introducing it into the regular give-and-take of the Congress. Those seeking comity and civility in American public life had few greater obstacles than Frank during his time in the House.

But Frank has a chance at a third legacy: there is a possibility that his district, deep blue but perhaps tired of Democratic governance in the age of Obama (as when his state voted for Scott Brown), may give a Republican a serious look to succeed Frank. That Republican is the Georgetown and Harvard-educated Marine reservist Sean Bielat, who ran against Frank last time and gave him a bit of a scare. (When Bielat met Frank for the first time during the election, he told him it was a pleasure to meet his congressman. Frank’s response: “I wish I could say the same.”) But with the renewed controversy over the broad Democratic Party opposition to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a statement made by Joseph P. Kennedy III, Bielat’s Democratic opponent for the seat, may garner some increased scrutiny.

In a primary debate earlier this summer, the Democratic candidates were asked about Mitt Romney’s comments in Jerusalem about the city’s status as Israel’s capital. Kennedy offered the following statement, in direct contravention of an observable reality: “I think that the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv.”

It is true that some have decided not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital until a two-state solution is in place, even though much of Jerusalem is not contested nor considered “occupied.” This is a silly affront to Israeli sovereignty, but even that is a far cry from the bizarre claim that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital. No one in Israel argues this, and the mayor of Tel Aviv has gone out of his way to ask people to please stop lying about the status of his city. Those who claim Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel are attempting to express a uniquely uninformed brand of trendy leftist opposition to Israel.

Kennedy not only said that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital (it’s not), but he also said that this reflects longtime American policy (it doesn’t). Some are pointing out that Kennedy’s fairy tale about Tel Aviv conflicts with what is on his website, but since he obviously has nothing to do with his own website, it only goes to show that his Tel Aviv pronouncements are his own and not those he’s hired to speak for him. Carl in Jerusalem notes that Kennedy’s great-grandfather was no friend to the Jewish people, but his grandfather, Robert Kennedy, was. (To the extent that a Palestinian assassin murdered Robert Kennedy to prevent a pro-Israel voice from gaining the White House.) So the Kennedy family influence is not the determining factor here either.

Kennedy’s comments also came before the Democratic National Convention scene in which Democratic delegates voted down adding a reference to Jerusalem back into the party platform, and booed loudly when the pro-Israel language was added over their objections. So Kennedy’s comments may be indicative of the Democratic Party’s antipathy toward Israel, but they were not inspired by the convention mess. Kennedy can’t blame this on his anyone but himself, and Bielat has decided that the best way to take Kennedy to task for these comments is simply to make sure people hear them. So Bielat has put together an ad letting Kennedy speak for himself:

Bielat (who seems to have a stronger grasp of basic geography) would like Kennedy to at least have to answer to the voting public for his foolishness. If he does, Frank’s new legacy might be helping to turn a blue district red. If not, Kennedy seems like the kind of politician that will make Frank’s current legacy look good by comparison.

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Neither Party Seems to Want Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist had a plan. It would begin with trying desperately to smother the career of one of the Republican Party’s rising stars while trashing Democrats so he could prove his “conservative” credentials. It continued by losing to his opponent, Marco Rubio, and then trashing Republicans so he could prove his liberal credentials. It then proceeded to a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention, leapfrogging and alienating Democrats to elbow them out of the spotlight in the party he always opposed but now pretends to be a part of.

How would you suppose this plan works out? Now that Crist is expected to run for Florida governor again, this time as a Democrat, let’s take a look at what his fellow Democrats have to say about him:

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Charlie Crist had a plan. It would begin with trying desperately to smother the career of one of the Republican Party’s rising stars while trashing Democrats so he could prove his “conservative” credentials. It continued by losing to his opponent, Marco Rubio, and then trashing Republicans so he could prove his liberal credentials. It then proceeded to a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention, leapfrogging and alienating Democrats to elbow them out of the spotlight in the party he always opposed but now pretends to be a part of.

How would you suppose this plan works out? Now that Crist is expected to run for Florida governor again, this time as a Democrat, let’s take a look at what his fellow Democrats have to say about him:

“I was raised a Baptist, and if you want to leave your church and join our congregation, that’s fine with us. That doesn’t mean we necessarily make you minister.”—Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. (Politico)

“If he were to run for office, there’d be a lot of explaining to do.”—Former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. (Politico)

“If he gets up to speak at the convention, it’ll be a good time to go to the bathroom.”—Florida Democratic delegate Anne Gannon. (Miami Herald)

“He’s a flip-flopper. Charlie is only looking out for Charlie.”—Democratic delegate Karen Cooper Welzel. (Tampa Bay Times)

“Charlie is an opportunist; if this were a vegetarian conference, then Charlie would be a vegetarian.”—Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. (Tampa Bay Times)

That last one is significant, because (despite his recent denials) Buckhorn may want to run for governor and would now have to go through Crist to do so. The Florida Democratic Party probably understands that Buckhorn would be the far better candidate, but again, Buckhorn may very well mean it when he says he’s not running.

But the larger point is that Crist’s attempt to be a man of two parties seems to have resulted in his being a man of no party. Crist’s sense of entitlement was bound to get his marriage of convenience to the Democrats off to a rocky start. If he persists in this quest for power, he could tear the Florida Democratic Party apart. Ironically, that would at least endear him once again to the Sunshine State’s GOP.

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Re: The Jobs Numbers

The White House spins today’s grim August jobs report (which John Steele Gordon details below), calling it “further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression”:

While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007. To create more jobs in particularly hard-hit sectors, President Obama continues to support the elements of the American Jobs Act that have not yet passed, including further investment in infrastructure to rebuild our Nation’s ports, roads and highways, and assistance to State and local governments to prevent layoffs and to enable them to rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers and first responders. To build on the progress of the last few years, President Obama has also proposed an extension of middle class tax cuts that would prevent the typical middle class family from facing a $2,200 tax increase next year.

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The White House spins today’s grim August jobs report (which John Steele Gordon details below), calling it “further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression”:

While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007. To create more jobs in particularly hard-hit sectors, President Obama continues to support the elements of the American Jobs Act that have not yet passed, including further investment in infrastructure to rebuild our Nation’s ports, roads and highways, and assistance to State and local governments to prevent layoffs and to enable them to rehire hundreds of thousands of teachers and first responders. To build on the progress of the last few years, President Obama has also proposed an extension of middle class tax cuts that would prevent the typical middle class family from facing a $2,200 tax increase next year.

At the AEI blog, James Pethokoukis cites a far less optimistic take from Citigroup:

The unemployment rate dropped to 8.1% from 8.3%, but in this case with declines in both the labor force (-368,000) and the household-survey measure of employment (-119,000). With labor force participation falling back to a new cycle low of 63.5%, the drop in the unemployment rate should not be reported as good news.

Pethokoukis adds:

This was not the employment report either American workers or the Obama campaign were hoping for. A huge miss. It shows the U.S. labor market remains in a deep depression, generating few jobs and little if no income growth.

No amount of spin from the White House or Obama campaign can put a happy face on these numbers. While the unemployment rate dipped from 8.3 percent in July to 8.1 percent, Pethokoukis notes that the unemployment rate would actually be 8.4 percent if workforce participation had remained steady from July. The fact that many unemployed Americans have given up looking for jobs over the past month is obviously a distressing sign, even though it may have made the unemployment rate look modestly better on the surface.

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign jumped on the numbers this morning to contrast them with the positive recovery rhetoric from the Democratic National Convention: “If last night was the party, this morning is the hangover.”

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Democratic Convention Winners and Losers

After two weeks of speeches, non-stop abuse of Mitt Romney, platform fiascos and a steady diet of support for abortion, gay rights, illegal immigrants and mentions of the auto bailout and Osama bin Laden, the Democratic National Convention is finally over.

The completion of both party conclaves means that the fall campaign is officially launched. But before we move on to the home stretch of the presidential race, here’s a roundup of some winners and losers from Charlotte:

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After two weeks of speeches, non-stop abuse of Mitt Romney, platform fiascos and a steady diet of support for abortion, gay rights, illegal immigrants and mentions of the auto bailout and Osama bin Laden, the Democratic National Convention is finally over.

The completion of both party conclaves means that the fall campaign is officially launched. But before we move on to the home stretch of the presidential race, here’s a roundup of some winners and losers from Charlotte:

Winners

Joe Biden: Who would have bet that the blundering, bloviating vice president would give a better-received speech than the president? Biden went on way too long, blew some big lines and shouted more than he needed to. But he also gave Democrats exactly what they wanted. While he remains a strange mixture of national joke/partisan attack dog, he still knows how to talk to Democrats and his party is grateful.

Bill Clinton: His speech was greatly anticipated and rapturously received. It didn’t deserve all the adulation but what mattered is that Bill Clinton showed he still had the power to delight his party and fascinate the nation. That the president was forced to give the husband of his one-time rival this kind of showcase demonstrated how much he needed Clinton’s endorsement and the 42nd president made the most of it.

John Kerry: His Thursday night speech was obviously an audition for the chance to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State in a second Obama administration, and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee didn’t blow it. Kerry directed some powerful zingers at Mitt Romney and some of them landed. A lot of the speech was deeply unfair and classless (the opening line about neo-cons ought to have been beneath Kerry) but he did exactly what Obama and the Democrats wanted. No one is rooting harder for an Obama second term.

Andrew Cuomo: The governor of New York only stopped by Charlotte for a quick visit and didn’t speak. That didn’t help raise the national profile of a man who is clearly thinking about 2016. But Cuomo came out ahead simply because the convention illustrated the paucity of Democratic luminaries not named Obama or Clinton. None of the supposed young stars of the party impressed anyone this week leaving the silent Cuomo at the top of a very thin Democratic bench.

Sandra Fluke: Nobody had heard of Fluke until Rush Limbaugh turned her into a left-wing heroine by using a nasty word to characterize her, but Charlotte proved Fluke now outranks many senior Democratic officeholders in the liberal hierarchy these days. Her claims of victimhood and being silenced are laughable, but she is a full-blown media star and can pretty much write her own ticket once she decides what she wants to do with her celebrity. ObamaCare and the HHS Mandate haven’t done anything good for the country but they have been the making of the world’s most famous advocate of free contraceptives.

Losers

Barack Obama: The president is the victim of the heights to which his 2004 and 2008 convention speeches soared. But even though he is held to an impossibly high standard, his acceptance speech was nothing more than a well-delivered dud. In retrospect the awful jobs report numbers that his audience wouldn’t hear until the next morning, but which he already knew, may have influenced his performance. But whether that is true or not, as I wrote last night, there’s no doubt that the hope and change messiah of 2008 has left the building.

Hillary Clinton: The secretary of state remains a front-runner for 2016 if she wants to try again for the presidency but she was almost completely off the radar screen this week on an overseas trip. That might just be her job these days but she had no place in the Obama/Biden show and the fact that her husband overshadowed the ticket gives one the feeling that for all of her gifts, she may never get the chance to lead her party.

Julian Castro: The “Hispanic Obama” didn’t just fail to meet the impossible expectations that were placed on his keynote address. Castro wound up being eclipsed by the film clips of his toddler vogueing for the camera and tossing her hair during his speech. The mayor of San Antonio didn’t exactly flop, but he also showed that he’s nothing more than a middling political talent who isn’t likely to be following in the non-Hispanic Obama’s footsteps.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: This should have been a showcase event for the chair of the Democratic National Committee but instead the week turned into a nightmare for the Florida congresswoman. She was busted for telling a lie about Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren blasting the Republican Party as “dangerous for Israel.” She then compounded the trouble by claiming Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner misquoted her only to be confronted with the audio of her making the false statement. If that wasn’t bad enough, she then conducted a CNN interview in which she blatantly mischaracterized the voice vote about changing the Democratic platform and then denied that there had been any real change, prompting a panel of the network’s commentators to laugh at her for existing in an “alternative universe.” Getting caught in a lie is troublesome, but becoming a laughing-stock can be fatal for a politician.

National Jewish Democratic Council: The president’s Jewish cheering section has been laboring to present him as a friend of the Jewish state but the Democrat’s platform fiasco cut them off at the knees. The controversy over platform language is not a big deal by itself but it reminded Jewish voters about their doubts about the president. The NJDC will talk about the president’s intervention to change the platform (though the Democrats still left out much of the pro-Israel language of their 2008 document), but the spectacle of a clear majority of Democratic delegates voting “no” on the revision captured on video will linger in our memories more than the platform. It was a graphic illustration of the growing numbers, if not the power, of opponents of Israel within the party.

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Obama Spins His Unpopularity As a Virtue

Barack Obama unveiled his new campaign theme last night: the president is unpopular. More specifically, the president keeps enacting unpopular policies. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also Mitt Romney’s campaign theme: he, too, wants you to know the president is unpopular.

The audience last night heard this point alluded to throughout—usually euphemistically as a willingness to make tough choices–but Obama himself explicitly brought it up. “If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them,” Obama said near the end of his speech. And he’s right.

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Barack Obama unveiled his new campaign theme last night: the president is unpopular. More specifically, the president keeps enacting unpopular policies. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also Mitt Romney’s campaign theme: he, too, wants you to know the president is unpopular.

The audience last night heard this point alluded to throughout—usually euphemistically as a willingness to make tough choices–but Obama himself explicitly brought it up. “If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them,” Obama said near the end of his speech. And he’s right.

Even after the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality, only 13 percent of the country, according to Gallup, wanted to keep the law in place as-is. (Only 20 percent of Democrats did, so opposition to the bill continues to be bipartisan—though to be fair, 45 percent of Democrats wanted the law to be changed to expand the federal government’s role.)

By now, everyone paying attention is familiar with the Obama administration’s promises on the stimulus bill, and the massive failure of those promises. Polls reflect that as well; heading into the 2010 midterms, 68 percent of Americans said the bill was a waste. As the Hill noted at the time:

The figure suggests that the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s agenda to bolster the economy has fallen flat with voters as elections loom in four weeks. The poll also hints that the White House’s effort to sell the bill to the public has been far from successful.

It’s safe to say that Americans’ impression of Obama’s “agenda to bolster the economy” hasn’t much improved, as last month’s Gallup poll found only 36 percent approve of the president’s handling of the economy.

Of course, the centerpiece of the Obama effort to brand himself as a public opinion-ignoring executive is the auto bailout. It was mentioned all throughout last night’s convention lineup, and was likely what the president was thinking about when he joked about his inability to read polls. But the auto bailout was so unpopular that this is how the New York Times described its improving numbers:

It was, to put it gently, unpopular. In polls at the time, 3 in 4 Americans said Washington should not broaden its effort to help the carmakers, as it ended up doing; nearly 6 in 10 poll respondents opposed the bailouts once they happened; and 54 percent of people said they were “mostly bad for the economy.” Largely negative polls accumulated through 2010 and 2011, too.

But more recent polls seem to show a thaw in public opinion — even if the auto bailout remains relatively unpopular, as far as government initiatives go.

Keep in mind, that was the “good news.” So yes, the president’s policies are unpopular. But why is he reminding the public of that? The plain answer is that he has no other options. There is no getting around the president’s failure on the economy or the unpopularity of his policies. So the only way to spin those numbers is to depict the president as a man who follows his gut instead of the polls.

How to tell the president has nothing to run on? Just read the New York Times’s editorial on Obama’s speech. Its headline? “President Obama’s Second Chance.” The president, so fond of golf, wants a mulligan. And trying to turn his unpopularity into a virtue is his last shot at getting that second chance.

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Chicago in Meltdown As Rahm Fundraises

The city of Chicago, the third largest in America, is crumbling into anarchy. The murder rate is so out of control that federal authorities have agreed to assist the Chicago Police Department in their efforts to curb soaring violence. The city has seen over a thirty-percent rise in its murder rate this year and in the last eight days of August, 82 people were killed or wounded by gun violence. With his city in a violent downward spiral, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been focusing on what’s important: banning Chik-fil-A from Chicago.

On Wednesday, during Bill Clinton’s address to the DNC in Charlotte, cameras panned to Emanuel, laughing in the audience. While he was enjoying his stay in Charlotte at least three people were murdered back home in Chicago just that night. What could be more important than taking charge of one of the most violent cities in America? Apparently, for Emanuel, it’s fundraising for his old boss President Barack Obama.

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The city of Chicago, the third largest in America, is crumbling into anarchy. The murder rate is so out of control that federal authorities have agreed to assist the Chicago Police Department in their efforts to curb soaring violence. The city has seen over a thirty-percent rise in its murder rate this year and in the last eight days of August, 82 people were killed or wounded by gun violence. With his city in a violent downward spiral, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been focusing on what’s important: banning Chik-fil-A from Chicago.

On Wednesday, during Bill Clinton’s address to the DNC in Charlotte, cameras panned to Emanuel, laughing in the audience. While he was enjoying his stay in Charlotte at least three people were murdered back home in Chicago just that night. What could be more important than taking charge of one of the most violent cities in America? Apparently, for Emanuel, it’s fundraising for his old boss President Barack Obama.

Where could he have learned that this behavior is acceptable for a leader? During the Colorado wildfires President Obama went fifteen days without speaking with Gov. John Hickenlooper about the situation. The Washington Examiner reported at the time,

Obama called Hickenlooper about the fires on June 12. Obama has held 21 campaign events — including 18 fundraisers — since making that phone call, based on The Washington Examiner‘s survey of pool reports, the White House schedule, and WhiteHouseDossier.com. He made the call while heading to Baltimore for the first of six fundraisers that day (three of the fundraisers were in Philadelphia). He held four more fundraisers by the end of the week.  He attended one fundraiser last week. He held another seven fundraisers this week, before calling Hickenlooper again today after the briefing.

Apparently in Obamaland, and therefore in Rahm’s World, fundraising for the president’s reelection is the most important task at hand, more important than actually doing the job Obama’s been fundraising to retain. Since announcing his reelection campaign, President Obama has attended 205 fundraisers, a record for a sitting president–and it’s barely September.

The Kebbeh family of Gambia came to America and settled in Chicago in search of a better life for their children. The Chicago Sun Times reports, “They are considering going back to Africa after [their son Muhammed] became the city’s 370th murder victim this year and second of his six siblings to be gunned down on the South Side in the last six months.” Rahm Emanuel may feel he owes it to his former boss to go on the fundraising trail, but his obligations to him ceased the day he was elected mayor of Chicago. His bosses are now families like the Kebbehs, who feel there is no reason left to remain in the United States.

The Sun Times asked Mayor Emanuel about the city’s record-setting murder rate in the same story, to which he responded “We’re containing it.” If going out on the trail after the deadliest month in Chicago’s history is “containing it” one has to wonder what it would take for Emanuel to recognize that his city is self-destructing.

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The 2008 Messiah Has Left the Building

Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination for the second time on Thursday night. But the Obama that spoke in Charlotte was a very different candidate then the one who was hailed as the harbinger of a new era of American politics in 2008. The president was cheered wildly by the Democratic faithful in the arena, but the speech was only a faint echo of his 2008 triumph in Denver or his breakthrough address in Boston in 2004. His text was well delivered and he may yet be re-elected. But there is also no question that the “hope and change” messiah has left the building.

After four years in office the president labors under the burden of having a less than stellar record and that has made it impossible for him to recapture the fervor that catapulted him into the White House. With the country still mired in a downturn that he tried and failed to fix, his list of achievements is slim. Based on the speeches given in Charlotte, they consist mainly of the auto bailout and the killing of Osama bin Laden (the president said virtually nothing about ObamaCare and nothing at all about the stimulus). That left him with a speech that recycled a laundry list of 2008 promises that fell flat. Those who are devoted to his cause applauded what they heard. But while the president is still an impressive political actor, this was a pedestrian speech that fell far short of the mark he needed to hit to have an impact on voters.

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Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination for the second time on Thursday night. But the Obama that spoke in Charlotte was a very different candidate then the one who was hailed as the harbinger of a new era of American politics in 2008. The president was cheered wildly by the Democratic faithful in the arena, but the speech was only a faint echo of his 2008 triumph in Denver or his breakthrough address in Boston in 2004. His text was well delivered and he may yet be re-elected. But there is also no question that the “hope and change” messiah has left the building.

After four years in office the president labors under the burden of having a less than stellar record and that has made it impossible for him to recapture the fervor that catapulted him into the White House. With the country still mired in a downturn that he tried and failed to fix, his list of achievements is slim. Based on the speeches given in Charlotte, they consist mainly of the auto bailout and the killing of Osama bin Laden (the president said virtually nothing about ObamaCare and nothing at all about the stimulus). That left him with a speech that recycled a laundry list of 2008 promises that fell flat. Those who are devoted to his cause applauded what they heard. But while the president is still an impressive political actor, this was a pedestrian speech that fell far short of the mark he needed to hit to have an impact on voters.

Oddly enough, the great orator seemed to be outstripped by Vice President Joe Biden’s rambling, overlong speech that preceded his moment in the spotlight. Biden’s exaggerations and fibs will have the fact checkers working overtime tonight and he flubbed some lines, but his was a passionately partisan rant that probably did more to shore up the Democratic base than Obama’s often lukewarm effort.

It is perhaps unfair to judge Obama’s speech by the high standard he set at the last two Democratic conventions. Yet what he produced in Charlotte was not so much a statement of vision as a rerun of some of his less than exciting State of the Union speeches. Given the opportunity to make the case for his re-election, he did little to explain to voters why things happened as they did during his administration or to give them any real idea of how he could achieve any of the goals he set for himself in 2008 or this year. The result was a standard compendium of Democratic campaign talking points that often fell flat and didn’t answer the big question facing the country. After a week of Democrats speaking of what they now call the “Great Recession” that Obama inherited, the president wasn’t able to make a case that might persuade voters he will do better in his second four years than he did in his first four.

The president did engage in his standard rhetorical tic that consists of setting up straw men to be knocked down. In the world of Obama, his only opponents are always unreasonable extremists rather than people with opposing ideas. He also claimed Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had presented no plans about how to fix the economy. Considering that his party has been running against Paul Ryan’s plan for reforming entitlements, that takes his campaign slightly off message. But none of this moved the debate forward in a way that could help Obama win over undecided voters.

After spending much of his speech attacking those straw men, Obama concluded by returning to some of the familiar “hope” rhetoric of the past. But by that time there was no way to reignite the passion of the country on his behalf. Whereas in 2008 he was a historic figure challenging the nation, in 2012 he has been reduced to a standard issue politician spinning his record and putting down his opponents.

Hanging over Obama’s speech is the monthly jobs report that will be issued tomorrow. No matter how well Obama’s speech was received nothing he said on Thursday night was going to affect the race as much as news about the economy. But there’s no question that his address was a missed opportunity to try to get back the magic. If he loses in November, we may look back on this evening as the moment when that outcome became inevitable.

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Obama’s Recycled Promises

Excerpts of President Obama’s acceptance speech and the bullet points are flying around the Internet. According to Politico, he’s going to be promising the following:

* Create one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and double exports by the end of 2014.

* Cut net oil imports in half by 2020 and support 600,000 natural gas jobs by the end of the decade.

* Cut the growth of college tuition in half over the next 10 years; recruit 100,000 math and science teachers over the next 10 years and train 2 million workers for real jobs at community colleges.

* Invest in the economy with the money we’re no longer spending on war.

* Reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade.

But if a lot of this sounds familiar, it should: he gave some of the same promises in his first acceptance speech in front of those faux Greek columns at Invesco Field in 2008.

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Excerpts of President Obama’s acceptance speech and the bullet points are flying around the Internet. According to Politico, he’s going to be promising the following:

* Create one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and double exports by the end of 2014.

* Cut net oil imports in half by 2020 and support 600,000 natural gas jobs by the end of the decade.

* Cut the growth of college tuition in half over the next 10 years; recruit 100,000 math and science teachers over the next 10 years and train 2 million workers for real jobs at community colleges.

* Invest in the economy with the money we’re no longer spending on war.

* Reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade.

But if a lot of this sounds familiar, it should: he gave some of the same promises in his first acceptance speech in front of those faux Greek columns at Invesco Field in 2008.

In 2008 he also talked about jobs, but he now presides over an economy where unemployment is higher than when he took the oath of office.

In 2008, he said, “In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.” But in the past four years not only has he failed to make progress toward that goal, he has retarded that effort by bowing to environmental extremists by stopping the building of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.

On education, in 2008 he made a similar promise. He said, “I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries, and give them more support.”

In 2008, he did not promise a peace dividend but did complain about Iraq’s surplus and implied that the money being spent abroad should be used at home. But bragging about cutting our defense to the bone will leave us even less prepared than we were the last time the country was caught sleeping after thinking it no longer needed to worry about security.

In 2008, he spoke of going through the budget to save money and now he promises to cut it, but he’s recycling promises made throughout his presidency. And this pledge is also accompanied by the same inability to say where he will get the money other than gimmicks.

President Obama is entitled to repeat these vague promises, but after four years it’s clear his idea of moving “forward” is pretty much a faint echo of the same stuff he ran on in 2008. It falls far short of the “hope and change” messianism that first propelled him into office but perhaps he’s decided that rather than to try and fail to recapture that moment, he’s better off playing it safe with recycled campaign fodder.

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Will Obama Play Politics With Sequester Report Deadline?

The White House is required to release a report this week detailing how the sequestration cuts to defense actually will be executed. The outline — which will help shape 2013 budget and employment decisions for the Pentagon and defense industry — was initially supposed to be released today, according to multiple reports and the Bipartisan Policy Center. Of course, that would almost certainly have conflicted with Obama’s attempts to play up his national security record at the convention — so it’s no surprise it’s nowhere to be found on the OMB website this afternoon.

“On and off the Hill, many suspect the Obama Administration will quietly drop the sequestration transparency report on Friday in close-of-business ‘data dump’ with little fanfare, perhaps sending the report only to House and Senate leadership,” said Robert Zarate, policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative. “But once the report gets to the Hill, you can expect lawmakers on both sides of the sequestration debate to start aggressively posturing and messaging.”

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The White House is required to release a report this week detailing how the sequestration cuts to defense actually will be executed. The outline — which will help shape 2013 budget and employment decisions for the Pentagon and defense industry — was initially supposed to be released today, according to multiple reports and the Bipartisan Policy Center. Of course, that would almost certainly have conflicted with Obama’s attempts to play up his national security record at the convention — so it’s no surprise it’s nowhere to be found on the OMB website this afternoon.

“On and off the Hill, many suspect the Obama Administration will quietly drop the sequestration transparency report on Friday in close-of-business ‘data dump’ with little fanfare, perhaps sending the report only to House and Senate leadership,” said Robert Zarate, policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative. “But once the report gets to the Hill, you can expect lawmakers on both sides of the sequestration debate to start aggressively posturing and messaging.”

According to House Speaker John Boehner’s office, the absolute deadline for the report is tomorrow, but there’s a chance Obama may delay it further.

“Tomorrow (September 7) is the deadline, which has us wondering…will President Obama comply with the Sequestration Transparency Act he signed into law?” asked Don Seymour, digital communications director for Boehner, in an email blast. “The administration has repeatedly ignored requests from Congress for ‘sequester’ information, even as top officials admit the defense cuts the White House demanded – in an effort to ensure the president wouldn’t face another debt limit vote before the election – would jeopardize our national security.”

Meanwhile, DoD Buzz reports that the administration could actually end up dragging its feet for a couple of weeks:

The White House Office of Management and Budget is scheduled to release a detailed report specifying how sequestration cuts will affect the Pentagon after President Obama ordered the report in August. Capitol Hill sources expect to see the report in the next couple weeks.

Although Kendall tried to simplify the complexity of the cuts with simple arithmetic, the defense industry is eager to see what the OMB report will contain. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told Congress the military has done minimal planning because of the simplicity of the across the board cut.

The impact of the cuts should be clearer once the report comes out, assuming the Office of Management and Budget provides sufficient detail. President Obama may not want this to drop the week of his convention, but the targeted industries and the general public deserve to see the specifics by the required deadline.

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The Obama Communication Myth

Democrats are awaiting President Obama’s acceptance speech at their National Convention tonight with a bit less excitement than the breathless anticipation that many of them had for former President Clinton’s oration. But the expectations for the event, albeit lacking the drama of an outdoor stadium setting and with fireworks or balloons waiting to fall upon the happy candidate at its conclusion, are still considerable. Though few doubt Obama will give a good speech, his supporters still seem to feel that he must wow the audience in Charlotte and at home watching on television. Part of this sense of urgency is driven by their belief that the only real failure of his administration has been an inability to communicate with voters.

That has been coming through loud and clear this week in Charlotte as Democrats keep telling Americans that they are better off than they were four years ago. With straight faces they say his policies have all worked, that the economy has been healed by his wisdom and that all we need to do is give Barack Obama another four years and America’s future is assured. The only thing they don’t seem to understand is why the majority of Americans consistently say they disapprove of the president’s job performance and think the country is heading in the wrong direction. They tend to put that down to the wicked plots of Republicans as well as what they see as an inexplicable reluctance on the part of the president to adequately explain himself or to respond to attacks. That is a conviction fostered by the president himself as well as by pundits like the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, who gave Obama an “F” for communication in a report card otherwise strewn with A’s and B’s. But this mythical communications gap tells us more about the disconnect between liberals and the voters than it does about Obama’s failings.

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Democrats are awaiting President Obama’s acceptance speech at their National Convention tonight with a bit less excitement than the breathless anticipation that many of them had for former President Clinton’s oration. But the expectations for the event, albeit lacking the drama of an outdoor stadium setting and with fireworks or balloons waiting to fall upon the happy candidate at its conclusion, are still considerable. Though few doubt Obama will give a good speech, his supporters still seem to feel that he must wow the audience in Charlotte and at home watching on television. Part of this sense of urgency is driven by their belief that the only real failure of his administration has been an inability to communicate with voters.

That has been coming through loud and clear this week in Charlotte as Democrats keep telling Americans that they are better off than they were four years ago. With straight faces they say his policies have all worked, that the economy has been healed by his wisdom and that all we need to do is give Barack Obama another four years and America’s future is assured. The only thing they don’t seem to understand is why the majority of Americans consistently say they disapprove of the president’s job performance and think the country is heading in the wrong direction. They tend to put that down to the wicked plots of Republicans as well as what they see as an inexplicable reluctance on the part of the president to adequately explain himself or to respond to attacks. That is a conviction fostered by the president himself as well as by pundits like the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, who gave Obama an “F” for communication in a report card otherwise strewn with A’s and B’s. But this mythical communications gap tells us more about the disconnect between liberals and the voters than it does about Obama’s failings.

While this administration has produced very little in the way of results in terms of fixing the economy, it has never been short of words. Throughout his first two years in office, when he had the luxury of controlling both houses of Congress, Obama made it clear to Republicans that “elections had consequences” and that he wouldn’t compromise on his plans. He got his trillion-dollar stimulus boondoggle and then the following year his health care plan over the objections of many in his party who feared the country couldn’t afford it and didn’t want it. As a result of this, the Democrats lost Congress and he has spent the last two years asking the Republicans to adhere to an idea of compromise in which they must abandon their principles to accommodate his views.

Liberals also labor under a victim mentality in which they believe Obama and the Democrats have failed to respond to dastardly Republican attacks. But as Politico notes today, there is no question that the Obama campaign has run rings around the GOP in terms of launching vicious personal attacks on Mitt Romney and his party.

Somehow it has never occurred to liberals that public discontent is produced by their disagreement with their policies rather than their lack of success in explaining them. Like the proverbial “ugly American” abroad, they seem to think that if they only speak loudly and slowly enough, their words will be understood and their demands granted. That’s why Democrats swooned over Bill Clinton’s speech last night and expect to do the same when Obama claims his nomination today.

Even if the president knocks it out of the park tonight in the manner of a Clinton, that won’t solve his problem. The only thing that will do that is an improvement in the economy. Americans have had four years of Obama’s rhetoric. More words from him, no matter how eloquent or lauded by the press, will not solve his problems.

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Obama’s Worst National Security Surrogate

To preview his speech at tonight’s final day of the Democratic National Convention, John Kerry has published a column in Foreign Policy defending the Obama administration’s record on foreign affairs. If, like most Americans, you view Kerry as a sad but somewhat amusing footnote in American presidential election history, then you will be glad to know he hasn’t changed. If, however, you are concerned by the possibility that in a second Obama administration Kerry’s ideas could be taken seriously, then you will be alarmed to know he hasn’t changed. Either way, he’s the same old John Kerry:

I grew up in a Senate and foreign-policy world where we treated as gospel the notion that — as Sen. Arthur Vandenberg famously said — “politics stops at the water’s edge.” How is it, then, not inconsistent that here on the pages of Foreign Policy, I’m offering a few thoughts now on a “Democratic foreign policy”? Very simply, because today, it is the Democratic Party that almost all alone occupies that once bipartisan space in national security policy, and it is the Democratic Party that today offers the clear-eyed vision of how to best honor our ideas in the world, while the Republican Party, too often in the grips of hard-edged ideology and a determination above all else to defeat President Barack Obama, is almost unrecognizable from its previous incarnation.

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To preview his speech at tonight’s final day of the Democratic National Convention, John Kerry has published a column in Foreign Policy defending the Obama administration’s record on foreign affairs. If, like most Americans, you view Kerry as a sad but somewhat amusing footnote in American presidential election history, then you will be glad to know he hasn’t changed. If, however, you are concerned by the possibility that in a second Obama administration Kerry’s ideas could be taken seriously, then you will be alarmed to know he hasn’t changed. Either way, he’s the same old John Kerry:

I grew up in a Senate and foreign-policy world where we treated as gospel the notion that — as Sen. Arthur Vandenberg famously said — “politics stops at the water’s edge.” How is it, then, not inconsistent that here on the pages of Foreign Policy, I’m offering a few thoughts now on a “Democratic foreign policy”? Very simply, because today, it is the Democratic Party that almost all alone occupies that once bipartisan space in national security policy, and it is the Democratic Party that today offers the clear-eyed vision of how to best honor our ideas in the world, while the Republican Party, too often in the grips of hard-edged ideology and a determination above all else to defeat President Barack Obama, is almost unrecognizable from its previous incarnation.

So politics does indeed stop at the water’s edge—if John Kerry approves of your politics. If Kerry disagrees with you, all bets are off. So what type of policy might Kerry agree with Republicans on? Well, there was a big issue, as Max mentioned earlier, on which there was a bipartisan consensus and of which Kerry was a principle advocate: the Iraq war. Have the Republicans abandoned Kerry on Iraq? Nope—he’s abandoned them. Here’s Kerry:

This was a war of ideology, even hubris. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no immediate need to invade, particularly when the real concern was with bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Whose ideology? Whose hubris? There was a time Kerry was beating the drums of war in Iraq so loudly it seemed as though he would invade all by himself if America chose not to. Kerry also laments that in Afghanistan, “our efforts were languishing due to lack of attention,” so he is working hard to re-elect the president who resolved to give it less attention so no one would notice when he eventually gave it no attention at all.

Later on in the column, Kerry engages with the question of how much credit Obama should get for ordering the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which is a rookie-level unforced error and a tremendous disservice to the president, who certainly doesn’t want his campaign surrogates entertaining the debate or signaling that perhaps he doesn’t deserve the credit after all. (There is virtually no chance the electorate would discount Obama’s role in the operation, and Kerry shouldn’t even suggest otherwise, lest he inspire voters to wonder whether they should reconsider their initial–and almost certainly positive–reaction.)

Elsewhere, Kerry commends the reporting of David Sanger, a ham-fisted reminder to readers that the Obama White House has been involved in selectively leaking sensitive American military and intelligence information to a newspaper that prioritizes the election of Democratic presidents over national security concerns.

In other words, from top to bottom, Kerry’s column is a self-contradictory mess of bungled bragging and churlish rambling. Like I said, it’s the same old John Kerry—but it remains a mystery as to why the Obama campaign would put its national security reputation in his hands.

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Obama’s Abandonment of Iraq

Today is the day when Democrats are touting at their convention all of President Obama’s foreign policy achievements. Iraq will be mentioned frequently but only in the context of “ending the war.” Of the endgame in Iraq, little will be said—and for good reason: By not achieving an accord to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past 2011 (for want of will on his own part, I would argue), President Obama has effectively abandoned this country where the U.S.—with the support of Obama’s own secretary of state and convention speaker John Kerry, among other Democratic heavyweights—made such a heavy commitment over the course of the past decade.

In The Daily Beast, Eli Lake speaks with one of those we left behind —Sheikh Ahamd Abu Risha, brother of the slain sheikh who started the Anbar Awakening that turned Sunnis against Al Qaeda and helped the U.S. to avert a looming defeat. Four years ago candidate Obama visited Iraq and told Abu Risha and other tribal leaders that the U.S. would never leave them in the lurch. Lake writes:

“President Obama said he would not forget all the sacrifices that were made,” he said. “Now we look back at that meeting and we think it was political propaganda. What he said, we don’t see it happening”….

He said U.S. military leaders assured him he would receive regular visits from senior figures and diplomats to discuss the relationship that began in Anbar back in 2006 and 2007. “There is no contact right now,” he said. “They don’t visit at all. Ever since the United States withdrew, we haven’t gotten anyone to visit.”

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Today is the day when Democrats are touting at their convention all of President Obama’s foreign policy achievements. Iraq will be mentioned frequently but only in the context of “ending the war.” Of the endgame in Iraq, little will be said—and for good reason: By not achieving an accord to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past 2011 (for want of will on his own part, I would argue), President Obama has effectively abandoned this country where the U.S.—with the support of Obama’s own secretary of state and convention speaker John Kerry, among other Democratic heavyweights—made such a heavy commitment over the course of the past decade.

In The Daily Beast, Eli Lake speaks with one of those we left behind —Sheikh Ahamd Abu Risha, brother of the slain sheikh who started the Anbar Awakening that turned Sunnis against Al Qaeda and helped the U.S. to avert a looming defeat. Four years ago candidate Obama visited Iraq and told Abu Risha and other tribal leaders that the U.S. would never leave them in the lurch. Lake writes:

“President Obama said he would not forget all the sacrifices that were made,” he said. “Now we look back at that meeting and we think it was political propaganda. What he said, we don’t see it happening”….

He said U.S. military leaders assured him he would receive regular visits from senior figures and diplomats to discuss the relationship that began in Anbar back in 2006 and 2007. “There is no contact right now,” he said. “They don’t visit at all. Ever since the United States withdrew, we haven’t gotten anyone to visit.”

Why the lack of contact? Lake quotes Jim Jeffrey, the last US ambassador in Baghdad (a position currently unfilled), as follows:

Jeffrey, who left his post as ambassador at the end of May, said the meetings have not yet happened because without the U.S. military in Iraq it’s difficult for U.S. officials to travel to Anbar. “We have every intention of maintaining contact with the awakening and other people,” Jeffrey said. “We had several meetings after the military completed its withdrawal with tribal sheikhs from the greater Baghdad area, but it’s been hard to get people out to Anbar because of the security situation.”

No surprise, that lack of contact and travel; it was precisely what numerous observers, including me, expected would happen when U.S. troops would pull out. But State Department and administration spokesmen spent years assuring anyone who would listen that even with the troops gone, a mega-embassy relying on some 15,000 contractors could continue to carry on vital missions. Now the falsity of those claims has been starkly revealed: U.S. diplomats, devoid of military support for transportation, find it hard to get out of their own embassy in the old Green Zone, thus leaving the old Awakening leaders to find for themselves even as Prime Minister Maliki’s increasingly sectarian security forces increasingly persecute high-profile Sunnis including Vice President Tariq al Hashemi.

Having pulled our troops out, Obama has taken American influence out of Iraq too, giving the Iranians and their proxies a free hand. Thus, despite U.S. protests, the Maliki government is apparently allowing Iranian aircraft to overfly its air space to provide aid to the murderous Assad regime in Syria. The U.S. pullout has had other parlous consequences including allowing Al Qaeda in Iraq, once on the verge of annihilation, to stage a resurgence and to carry out fresh waves of bombings this year.

Iraq is not a geopolitical disaster, at least not yet; it is managing to muddle through in many years and even to increase oil production. But it is hard to avoid a sinking feeling that the Awakening leaders and our other allies in Iraq will not fare well in the years ahead in a country that is turning increasingly authoritarian under a hard-line Shiite leader. They have been abandoned just like the Hungarians, South Vietnamese, and other friends of America over the years. That is a part of the president’s record you won’t hear about at the convention.

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Shifting Blame for the Israel Debacle

Via the Washington Examiner, Obama advisor David Axelrod appeared on CBS today and blamed “others” for removing pro-Israel language from the Democratic platform while Obama was distracted with other obligations:

David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett played cleanup this morning on the Democratic platform mess, blaming ‘others’ for allowing ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘God’ to drop out of the platform language.

“Honestly Charlie, he was counting on others, he had some other duties and responsibilities so when he learned that it had been taken out of the platform, he had it put back in,” Axelrod said, explaining that the President learned about the missing language yesterday.

Who are the “others” Axelrod is referring to? We actually don’t have to wonder, since it’s listed on the DNC website.

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Via the Washington Examiner, Obama advisor David Axelrod appeared on CBS today and blamed “others” for removing pro-Israel language from the Democratic platform while Obama was distracted with other obligations:

David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett played cleanup this morning on the Democratic platform mess, blaming ‘others’ for allowing ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘God’ to drop out of the platform language.

“Honestly Charlie, he was counting on others, he had some other duties and responsibilities so when he learned that it had been taken out of the platform, he had it put back in,” Axelrod said, explaining that the President learned about the missing language yesterday.

Who are the “others” Axelrod is referring to? We actually don’t have to wonder, since it’s listed on the DNC website.

The platform drafting committee was organized jointly by the Obama campaign and the DNC, and included the following members:

The Platform Drafting Committee will be chaired by former Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio. Named to serve as members on the committee are former U.S. Representative Tony Coelho, Tino Cuellar, U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Donna Harris-Aikens, Colin Kahl, Nancy Keenan, Heather Kendall Miller, Thea Lee, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, Susan Ness, Mayor Michael Nutter, Carlos Odio, former U.S. Representative Robert Wexler and Christen Young. Serving as ex-officio members are Governor Deval Patrick, DNC Secretary Alice Germond, and Tom Wheeler.

Not only was this group responsible for drafting the initial platform, but also all publicly proposed changes to the original draft had to be approved by a majority of the board members. If Axelrod wants us to believe Obama and/or his staff didn’t see the platform until yesterday (which is absurd), his only option is to shift the blame to the DNC.

Which raises additional problems for the Democrats. Remember, the DNC attacked the Romney campaign for segments of the GOP platform that Romney has publicly disagreed with. According to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, “he had an opportunity during the drafting of that platform language to make sure that his own view, if that really is his view, is in that party’s platform language.”

“There is no way that a presidential candidate, a party’s nominee, can separate themselves from that party’s platform,” she told Anderson Cooper in August.

It’s difficult to see how DWS could stand by that comment at this point.

The fiasco has had an unintended benefit for the Romney campaign, beyond just highlighting Obama’s poor record on Israel and distracting from the convention. It’s also destroyed the biggest link Democrats had between Romney and “extremist” positions on abortion. Democrats had planned to contrast Romney and Obama on women’s issues, and they were going to do that (in part) by continuing to link Romney to segments of his party’s platform that he doesn’t support. After elevating the importance of the RNC platform, Democrats really have no excuse for dropping the ball on their own.

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Dems Respect Voting Rights? Not Yesterday

Yesterday, as Alana reported, a voice vote over an amendment to change the Democratic platform went horribly awry. Apparently at the behest of the president, language to add the word God as well as calling the city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel was reinserted into the Democratic platform. Despite it being present in 2008, the language was removed from the platform that was written (and uncontroversially passed) by the Democratic delegates present in Charlotte this year. After Republicans made the issue a story only a week after Democrats hammered Republicans about parts of their platform, the president decided to intervene.

As you can see from the video that Alana posted from BuzzFeed, the voice vote was so unclear that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had to ask for three different votes. Before announcing his interpretation of the “yeas” and “nays” an unidentified woman approached him and audibly told him “Let them do what they’re gonna do.” From the video each vote sounds at best 50/50, with the nays sounding louder as the votes go on. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg was on the scene and reported his (and his liberal reporter-seat mate’s) interpretation of the vote:

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Yesterday, as Alana reported, a voice vote over an amendment to change the Democratic platform went horribly awry. Apparently at the behest of the president, language to add the word God as well as calling the city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel was reinserted into the Democratic platform. Despite it being present in 2008, the language was removed from the platform that was written (and uncontroversially passed) by the Democratic delegates present in Charlotte this year. After Republicans made the issue a story only a week after Democrats hammered Republicans about parts of their platform, the president decided to intervene.

As you can see from the video that Alana posted from BuzzFeed, the voice vote was so unclear that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had to ask for three different votes. Before announcing his interpretation of the “yeas” and “nays” an unidentified woman approached him and audibly told him “Let them do what they’re gonna do.” From the video each vote sounds at best 50/50, with the nays sounding louder as the votes go on. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg was on the scene and reported his (and his liberal reporter-seat mate’s) interpretation of the vote:

The first time he couldn’t tell if he got it. The second time the no votes clearly had it. The third time: the nos won again. I’m sitting in the upper decks by the Fox cameras, so I’m in a very good place to hear without being misled by proximity to one faction or another. It was obvious that the nos had it. Still, I suppose it’s possible the ayes were in a bare majority. But there’s simply no way they had a two-thirds majority. I was sitting with a decidedly non-conservative journalist and he was even more sure than me that the no voters won. Villaraigosa simply opted to declare the amendment adopted. Boos rang out.

Only a few hours after the Democratic party clearly and publicly ignored their own delegate’s votes on the amendment, Cristina Saralegui, a Latina media personality, took the stage to deliver her remarks to the same crowd of delegates. She remarked, “So I’m asking toda mi gente—all of my people—to join me. Many of us come from countries where votes aren’t counted properly or are not counted at all. Here, we Latinos have a powerful voice, but only if we use it.” The irony that only hours earlier a Latino official ignored the votes of his fellow Democrats was lost on Saralegui.

Later, former President Bill Clinton took the stage. He also took aim at what he viewed as Republicans’ disrespect for voter’s rights: “If you want every American to vote and you think its wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.” It appears that Clinton was taking issue with voter ID laws like the one that recently passed in Pennsylvania. Clinton stood on stage, hours after his party ignored the rights of members of his own party to vote on their platform and lectured Republicans on their attempts to ensure that eligible citizens receive one vote, and that vote be counted properly. If that’s not the definition of chutzpah, I don’t know what is.

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Fact Checkers Not Swooning Over Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton showed us last night that he is still a master of the art of political rhetoric. Democrats loved his convention speech on behalf of President Obama and so did most of the media which had begun swooning over his magic touch hours before he even began talking. The genius of Clinton’s political style is that, unlike most of the Democrats on the Charlotte podium this week, he understands that there is more to political oratory than merely bludgeoning your opponents and damning them as women-hating plutocrats. Thus, Clinton not only sought to charm the audience with his aging but still potent down-home routine, he was also seeking to disarm listeners by throwing out some lines designed to make us think his goal is fairness. That led to perhaps the most awkward moment of the evening when he actually briefly praised President George W. Bush, leaving his partisan audience momentarily stunned.

But what the Democrats and the media really liked was Clinton’s lengthy refutation of Republican arguments as he spouted figures and claimed he was merely doing “arithmetic” in pointing out the GOP’s flaws. Clinton produced the laughs and the scorn he was trying for, earning applause in the arena and in the glowing notices that followed. But the notion that he demolished Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan has more to do with a willingness on the part of his listeners to buy whatever he’s selling than logic. As the Washington Post Fact Checker and the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis report this morning, there were a number of points on which there is a wide gap between what Clinton said and the truth.

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Former President Bill Clinton showed us last night that he is still a master of the art of political rhetoric. Democrats loved his convention speech on behalf of President Obama and so did most of the media which had begun swooning over his magic touch hours before he even began talking. The genius of Clinton’s political style is that, unlike most of the Democrats on the Charlotte podium this week, he understands that there is more to political oratory than merely bludgeoning your opponents and damning them as women-hating plutocrats. Thus, Clinton not only sought to charm the audience with his aging but still potent down-home routine, he was also seeking to disarm listeners by throwing out some lines designed to make us think his goal is fairness. That led to perhaps the most awkward moment of the evening when he actually briefly praised President George W. Bush, leaving his partisan audience momentarily stunned.

But what the Democrats and the media really liked was Clinton’s lengthy refutation of Republican arguments as he spouted figures and claimed he was merely doing “arithmetic” in pointing out the GOP’s flaws. Clinton produced the laughs and the scorn he was trying for, earning applause in the arena and in the glowing notices that followed. But the notion that he demolished Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan has more to do with a willingness on the part of his listeners to buy whatever he’s selling than logic. As the Washington Post Fact Checker and the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis report this morning, there were a number of points on which there is a wide gap between what Clinton said and the truth.

As Pethokoukis points out, the catchiest statistic of Clinton’s 50-minute talkathon was his attempt to highlight a “jobs score” between Republican and Democratic administrations in which the GOP finds itself at the short end of a 42-24 million-job deficit. But the problem here is that some of the Democrats had conservative fiscal policies and some of the Republicans tilted left. Thus, John Kennedy’s tax cut for everyone, including the wealthy, produced a jobs gain while George H.W. Bush’s tax increase produced the recession that helped elect Clinton. The Nixon and Ford administrations were big spenders and taxers and, ironically, produced fewer new jobs than Clinton who cut taxes, reformed welfare and shrank government.

The real jobs score is that conservative economic policies created 40 million jobs while liberals, including Barack Obama created only 26 million.

The Post’s Fact Checker column also took Clinton to task for deceiving his audience by claiming President Obama’s proposed budget reduced the deficit by $4 trillion, something it says “is simply not accurate.” The number is compiled by the usual Washington budget gimmickry counting savings that aren’t really budget cuts. As the Post says, “it’s fake money being used to pay for real spending projects.”

The paper also chided Clinton for his description of the president’s bogus jobs plan that was to be paid for with “imaginary money.”

This sums it up:

Get the picture? Clinton praises Obama both for his sound budget math and for his jobs plan, even though the money to fund the budget and the jobs plan is used twice. That certainly doesn’t pass the Arkansas 2+2=4 test.

Clinton also strained credulity when he claimed that ObamaCare is already reducing the cost of health care before it has even been implemented. But as the Post says, any reductions have been due to the lousy economy over which Obama has presided. The former president also distorted the numbers of those newly insured under the law who will get private coverage as opposed to Medicaid.

And though the Fact Checker chooses not to analyze his comments about welfare reform, the column also alluded to Clinton’s claims saying “there may be less to this than meets the eye.”

But don’t expect most of the media to pick up on these glaring mistakes or to label them as “lies” the way they followed Democratic talking points after Paul Ryan’s speech last week. The true magic of Bill Clinton is not his ability to persuade wavering centrists to back Obama. Few votes were changed by his speech. The magic lies in Clinton’s ability to say anything and by dint of his seductive charms get most of the media and his party loyalists to treat it as the truth even if it isn’t.

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The Changing Story of the DNC Platform

Even the DNC can’t keep its story straight on why it initially omitted language affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from its 2012 platform, and then hastily shoved it back in over the objections of delegates.

On Tuesday, CNN’s Dana Bash said the DNC told her it was “simply following what the Obama administration’s policy is, and the White House said several months ago that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in the final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

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Even the DNC can’t keep its story straight on why it initially omitted language affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from its 2012 platform, and then hastily shoved it back in over the objections of delegates.

On Tuesday, CNN’s Dana Bash said the DNC told her it was “simply following what the Obama administration’s policy is, and the White House said several months ago that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in the final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

But this morning on CNN, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz contradicted that initial statement, claiming the removal of the pro-Israel language was a “technical omission” that wasn’t discussed before the convention.

“Essentially, with Jerusalem, it was a technical omission and nothing more than that,” Wasserman Schultz said Thursday on CNN. “There was never any discussion or debate commentary over adding or subtracting it.”

Why didn’t the DNC just say it was a technical error in the first place, instead of calling it a reflection of Obama’s policies? If that wasn’t confusing enough, Politico reports that President Obama saw the Israel plank before the convention, but didn’t press for changes until after Republicans seized on the issue:

Two platform planks sparked division at the Democratic National Convention here Wednesday.

Things got so bad that President Barack Obama was forced to personally intervene, ordering language mentioning God and naming Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel be added.

Obama had seen the language prior to the convention, a campaign source said, but did not seek to change it until after Republicans jumped on the omissions of God and Jerusalem late Wednesday. And even then, it had to be forced through a convention hall full of delegates who nearly shouted down the change.

And yet Wasserman Schultz went on Starting Point this morning and claimed Obama was completely unaware of the omission before the convention, and “when he realized there was this omission said, this platform should reflect my personal view” on “an important issue like Jerusalem.” David Frum immediately skewered this argument:

So we’re supposed to believe Obama feels so passionately about Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and yet, 1.) The only time he’s ever mentioned it was in a 2008 campaign speech to AIPAC, which he immediately walked back, 2.) His White House not only scrubbed its own website of any reference that Jerusalem is in Israel, it also scrubbed the Bush administration’s references to it, 3.) While Obama administration officials have refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when pressed by reporters, none of them have ever mentioned the president’s supposedly strong personal view.

Beyond that, we’re also supposed to believe that neither Obama nor his staff — who would presumably be aware of a position the president is allegedly so passionate about — ever saw the DNC platform before it was released. Do they really think the public is that clueless?

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The Democrats and Israel: What Now?

When you hear a Democratic Party official accuse Republicans of using Israel as a political football, you know one thing for sure: someone in the Democratic Party did or said something patently offensive toward Israel and is being called on it. The accusation that someone on the right is politicizing Israel is an indication that Democrats believe whatever just happened could cost them among Jewish voters—a constituency they take for granted.

So what does it mean when multiple party officials, liberal pundits, and even television “reporters” start making that accusation all at once? Panic. That’s what set in last night after the Democratic Party’s convention delegates angrily voted down adding pro-Israel language back into the party’s platform yesterday—though the language was added anyway over their objections—after party officials were left trying to explain why they and President Obama wanted such language deleted in the first place. Politico notes that Obama approved the deletion, though there wasn’t much doubt of that, and then adds this delightful anecdote:

The division over Israel also flies in the face of a prediction Obama strategist David Axelrod made days earlier on “Fox News Sunday,” when he crowed that Obama’s convention would be free of the sideshows that plagued the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa.

“We don’t have the problems that the other party has,” Axelrod said then. “We’re not divided. We don’t have to worry about, you know, what people are saying on the side or about their affection for the president or — we don’t have those problems.”

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When you hear a Democratic Party official accuse Republicans of using Israel as a political football, you know one thing for sure: someone in the Democratic Party did or said something patently offensive toward Israel and is being called on it. The accusation that someone on the right is politicizing Israel is an indication that Democrats believe whatever just happened could cost them among Jewish voters—a constituency they take for granted.

So what does it mean when multiple party officials, liberal pundits, and even television “reporters” start making that accusation all at once? Panic. That’s what set in last night after the Democratic Party’s convention delegates angrily voted down adding pro-Israel language back into the party’s platform yesterday—though the language was added anyway over their objections—after party officials were left trying to explain why they and President Obama wanted such language deleted in the first place. Politico notes that Obama approved the deletion, though there wasn’t much doubt of that, and then adds this delightful anecdote:

The division over Israel also flies in the face of a prediction Obama strategist David Axelrod made days earlier on “Fox News Sunday,” when he crowed that Obama’s convention would be free of the sideshows that plagued the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa.

“We don’t have the problems that the other party has,” Axelrod said then. “We’re not divided. We don’t have to worry about, you know, what people are saying on the side or about their affection for the president or — we don’t have those problems.”

In fact, not only is the Democratic Party divided on Israel, but as Ari Fleischer pointed out on CNN right after the debacle, the Democrats are practically split down the middle on this. He cited a Gallup poll from earlier this year showing that only 53 percent of Democrats—versus 78 percent of Republicans—side with Israel in the Middle East conflict.

Which leads to a larger point about the issue and the reason the Democrats went into damage control last night: the Democratic Party’s base is pulling it away from Israel. It’s disturbing that only half of Democrats sympathize with Israel, but as yesterday’s events showed, among the base sympathy for Israel is not nearly that high.

As Abe wrote last night, yesterday’s disastrous convention session and the fact that Obama will take criticism from all sides on this issue are the price the Democrats are paying for a party divided. But the uproar among Democrats was over adding the pro-Israel language; omitting the language inspired no such soul searching. It is becoming easier in the Democratic Party to ignore Israel than to pronounce support for the Jewish state.

Axelrod was wrong that the party has no divisions. But the question now is: For how much longer will Axelrod be wrong? That 53 percent constitutes a tenuous grasp on a majority. Democratic Party officials can pretend they have no “Israel problem” all they want, and they may soon get their wish. The original version of the 2012 Democratic Party platform was uncontroversial among party faithful. Republicans did the Democrats a favor by stating the obvious, since it gives the Democrats a chance to try to convince their base of the merits of supporting Israel and try to turn the tide. But that there is a tide to turn is undeniable.

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DWS Refuses to Apologize for Israel Flap

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is apparently unrepentant, after falsely accusing a Washington Examiner reporter of misquoting her in a story that put her at odds with the Israeli ambassador. The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo confronted the beleaguered DNC chair at the Democratic convention last night:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) told the Washington Free Beacon Wednesday evening that she will not be apologizing to Washington Examiner reporter Philip Klein after she falsely accused him of “deliberately misquoting” her.

“No, I definitely will not” offer Klein an apology, Wasserman Schultz said with a slight laugh as she was exiting an event meant to honor Center For American Progress founder John Podesta.

Asked if she had a message for Klein, Wasserman Schultz bristled.

“I don’t,” she said.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz is apparently unrepentant, after falsely accusing a Washington Examiner reporter of misquoting her in a story that put her at odds with the Israeli ambassador. The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo confronted the beleaguered DNC chair at the Democratic convention last night:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) told the Washington Free Beacon Wednesday evening that she will not be apologizing to Washington Examiner reporter Philip Klein after she falsely accused him of “deliberately misquoting” her.

“No, I definitely will not” offer Klein an apology, Wasserman Schultz said with a slight laugh as she was exiting an event meant to honor Center For American Progress founder John Podesta.

Asked if she had a message for Klein, Wasserman Schultz bristled.

“I don’t,” she said.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren has publicly denied that he made the anti-GOP comment, as Wasserman Schultz claimed; and an audio recording of the Florida congresswoman’s remarks confirmed that Klein did not misquote her. She’s been caught dead to rights on this, so her refusal to apologize is all the more remarkable. It makes you wonder whether DWS would actually issue an apology for lying under any circumstances.

Klein certainly isn’t under any illusions: “If I could hold my breath long enough to wait for a Debbie Wasserman Schultz apology then I’d probably try to enter myself in the Guinness Book of World Records,” he told Kredo.

Meanwhile, DWS has reportedly been skipping out on news interviews — hardly a surprise, considering all the disasters that have plagued the DNC this week. As for her possible options after her first term as party chairwoman runs out, Politico takes a look and finds they’re few and far between.

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