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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.”
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.