Commentary Magazine


Topic: Joe Biden

The Real Pressure is on Ryan Tonight

When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to be his running mate in August, Republicans spoke about how they couldn’t wait to see the Wisconsin congressman take apart Vice President Biden. But two months later, the stakes in that anticipated match-up are turning out to be far higher than anyone thought. After Mitt Romney’s smashing victory over President Obama last week in the first presidential debate, rather than just being a test of the strengths of the lower halves of each ticket, the vice presidential debate is now seen as a crucial second round that could help shape the rest of the race.

That sounds like an inviting opportunity for conservatives who could be said to have fished their wish when Ryan was put on the ticket. Ryan is the intellectual leader of his party as well as its most prominent advocate of entitlement reform and has long been seen as one of the brightest young stars in the GOP. He is an experienced Washington debater in the House as well as in other forums, such as his highly publicized confrontation with President Obama during a 2010 White House health care summit. But tonight’s encounter is a very different kind of animal. While Biden’s weaknesses and strengths are well known, the pressure is on Ryan to show that he belongs on the biggest political stage. If he fails, it could be a body blow to Republicans who in the last week have begun to feel as if victory in November is within their reach.

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When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to be his running mate in August, Republicans spoke about how they couldn’t wait to see the Wisconsin congressman take apart Vice President Biden. But two months later, the stakes in that anticipated match-up are turning out to be far higher than anyone thought. After Mitt Romney’s smashing victory over President Obama last week in the first presidential debate, rather than just being a test of the strengths of the lower halves of each ticket, the vice presidential debate is now seen as a crucial second round that could help shape the rest of the race.

That sounds like an inviting opportunity for conservatives who could be said to have fished their wish when Ryan was put on the ticket. Ryan is the intellectual leader of his party as well as its most prominent advocate of entitlement reform and has long been seen as one of the brightest young stars in the GOP. He is an experienced Washington debater in the House as well as in other forums, such as his highly publicized confrontation with President Obama during a 2010 White House health care summit. But tonight’s encounter is a very different kind of animal. While Biden’s weaknesses and strengths are well known, the pressure is on Ryan to show that he belongs on the biggest political stage. If he fails, it could be a body blow to Republicans who in the last week have begun to feel as if victory in November is within their reach.

Given his high profile in Washington for a member of the House of Representatives and his reputation as one of his party’s leading talking heads, it seems absurd to think of Ryan as an unknown factor in the veep debate. But the truth is, he has never been in this kind of situation before: head-to-head with a competitor, with the entire nation watching. His ability to deal with this sort of pressure and to deploy his considerable body of knowledge in such a way as to impress upon the public his seriousness and competence is the X factor.

Democrats may be counting on Biden to retrieve what the president lost last week, but the odds are that he is going into the debate feeling cocky rather than pressured. Biden’s high opinion of himself is legendary in Washington. It’s likely Biden will come out swinging at Ryan both because Democrats think Obama was too passive against Romney and also because he believes Ryan is vulnerable as the author of a controversial budget proposal that Romney has not completely embraced.

That means Ryan will have to keep his cool and respond like the wonk he is with logic, facts and figures, as well as a compelling defense of the philosophy of limited government and individual freedom that he has long championed.

That ought to be right in his wheelhouse, but Ryan has very little margin for error. A hostile press will jump on any hesitation, let alone a mistake on his part. If he falters, it will sink not only him but also Republican hopes, since you can take it for granted that any gaffe on his part will become the main story of the debate no matter what blunders Biden commits.

Despite efforts by liberals to treat him as a wise statesman, such as this fawning piece by James Traub in Foreign Policy, the country already knows Biden is a pompous fool. He will play the foreign policy expert even though he has been wrong about virtually every big question his whole career and has been defeated in every policy battle within the administration. But he is also an experienced and articulate political fighter who can hold his own on the stump and in debates.

Biden will hit Ryan hard about entitlement reform as well as foreign policy. He will attempt to portray him as the man in the Democrat ads pushing granny off the cliff. Ryan may be used to this, but most of the country has yet to see him in this sort of tussle. Debunking the liberal narrative is his specialty, but what we will find out is whether he can do so now when the pressure is greatest and the stakes are as high as they possibly can be. If Ryan weathers this storm with good humor and sharp replies, he will move his party one step closer to victory as well as to solidify his standing as the future of the GOP. But the pressure is on him to prove that he can do it. Stay tuned.

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Are Conservatives Overconfident About the Ryan-Biden Debate?

Among the chatter heading into tomorrow night’s vice presidential debate between Paul Ryan and current Vice President Joe Biden, it’s easy to pick up on the confidence conservatives have in Ryan and their dismissive attitude toward Biden. Both of those are well founded, since Ryan is a solid debater and in strong command of the facts, while Biden is … Biden. Furthermore, they seem to be making a kind of Talmudic a fortiori argument about the general momentum of the campaigns: if Mitt Romney could so thoroughly defeat Barack Obama, kal v’chomer Paul Ryan could dismantle Joe Biden.

But there are three things conservatives should keep in mind. First, at the Democratic National Convention, Biden was better than Obama was—and it wasn’t even close. Biden had the energy and the populist appeal—two staples of his political persona—while Obama was saddled with presidential exhaustion and a marked lack of ideas or inspirational rhetoric. Biden is the one candidate among the four who is capable of projecting warmth on command. If the Joe Biden from the DNC shows up tomorrow night, Ryan will have his work cut out for him.

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Among the chatter heading into tomorrow night’s vice presidential debate between Paul Ryan and current Vice President Joe Biden, it’s easy to pick up on the confidence conservatives have in Ryan and their dismissive attitude toward Biden. Both of those are well founded, since Ryan is a solid debater and in strong command of the facts, while Biden is … Biden. Furthermore, they seem to be making a kind of Talmudic a fortiori argument about the general momentum of the campaigns: if Mitt Romney could so thoroughly defeat Barack Obama, kal v’chomer Paul Ryan could dismantle Joe Biden.

But there are three things conservatives should keep in mind. First, at the Democratic National Convention, Biden was better than Obama was—and it wasn’t even close. Biden had the energy and the populist appeal—two staples of his political persona—while Obama was saddled with presidential exhaustion and a marked lack of ideas or inspirational rhetoric. Biden is the one candidate among the four who is capable of projecting warmth on command. If the Joe Biden from the DNC shows up tomorrow night, Ryan will have his work cut out for him.

Second, the lead-up to the first presidential debate was filled with reminders of the memorable moments of debates past. What did they generally have in common? They often had nothing to do with the substance of the arguments, but rather with nonverbal cues. Al Gore’s sigh; George H.W. Bush looking at his watch; George W. Bush’s brilliant but almost imperceptible nod at Gore when Gore tried to crowd him. And even when the moments were about the words spoken, what were they? “You’re no Jack Kennedy”; “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience”; and so on.

This is not to discount completely the role of substance. In fact, the first Romney-Obama debate was widely viewed as being more substantive than many previous debates, low on zingers and high on numbers, and this perception contributed to Romney’s margin of victory. Ryan will most certainly have substance on his side, and it will be of service. But the fact that one statement, let alone an audible exhalation, can rule the memory of these debates should be a warning to Ryan that debate performances are performances, sometimes above all else.

Third, Ryan may be taken aback by the extent to which Biden will invent alternate history and present it as fact. In 2008, Biden did exactly that, at one point offering a response on Lebanon that was quite possibly the most ridiculous statement ever made at a vice presidential debate. (If you need your memory jogged about it, please re-read Michael Totten’s post about it on this site.)

Biden gets a free pass—that’s the rule. In 2008, neither the moderator nor Sarah Palin called Biden on his repeated factually challenged ramblings. If Biden is not forced to work within observable reality, the debate will be conducted on his terms. Biden has been wrong on pretty much every major foreign-policy question in his time in the Senate, but foreign policy is not Ryan’s bread and butter. Will he be prepared enough to correct the record each time Biden wanders off?

On paper, the smart money would always be on a candidate like Ryan against someone like Biden. But the superior candidates have lost countless such debates over the years, for a variety of reasons. And overconfidence is often at the top of that list.

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Can Obama Play From Behind?

Democrats are now thinking about the vice presidential debate a bit differently than they might have expected just a week ago. Rather than Vice President Biden being given the task of merely not losing ground to Paul Ryan, he is now being asked to win it so as to offset the impact of last week’s disastrous showing by the head of his ticket in the first presidential debate. It remains to be seen whether that is likely or even possible, and we’ll have more about the veep matchup later today and tomorrow. But whatever winds up happening tomorrow night, placing this much emphasis on a Biden win puts the Obama campaign in a tight spot. It also raises the question of how they will react if, as is most likely, that debate, as well as the two presidential confrontations that will follow, doesn’t produce a clear-cut victory for the incumbents.

Both in 2008 and throughout all of 2012 up until this point, the president has had the luxury of running ahead of the competition. If the current trend, in which the national polls are now showing Romney with a slight lead in the race, continues, we will find out how he does when he is trailing. Based on the evidence of the past week as the Romney surge began, that is not an encouraging prospect for the Democrats.

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Democrats are now thinking about the vice presidential debate a bit differently than they might have expected just a week ago. Rather than Vice President Biden being given the task of merely not losing ground to Paul Ryan, he is now being asked to win it so as to offset the impact of last week’s disastrous showing by the head of his ticket in the first presidential debate. It remains to be seen whether that is likely or even possible, and we’ll have more about the veep matchup later today and tomorrow. But whatever winds up happening tomorrow night, placing this much emphasis on a Biden win puts the Obama campaign in a tight spot. It also raises the question of how they will react if, as is most likely, that debate, as well as the two presidential confrontations that will follow, doesn’t produce a clear-cut victory for the incumbents.

Both in 2008 and throughout all of 2012 up until this point, the president has had the luxury of running ahead of the competition. If the current trend, in which the national polls are now showing Romney with a slight lead in the race, continues, we will find out how he does when he is trailing. Based on the evidence of the past week as the Romney surge began, that is not an encouraging prospect for the Democrats.

It should be remembered that the president’s greatest strength doesn’t come from spinning weak economic statistics or from attacks on his opponents. His election in 2008 was the product of harnessing the positive feelings of Americans about an inspiring challenger whose victory would go some way toward righting the historic wrongs of the country’s legacy of racism. It is that historic status that is the foundation for President Obama’s positive personal image and a major deterrent to wavering independents and disillusioned Democrats crossing over to the GOP.

The remnants of the sentiment that drove that “hope and change” election dovetail nicely with the Democrats’ attempt to place the blame for a poor economy on George W. Bush rather than on the man who has been in office for four years. But it is far from clear if that rather flimsy argument will work as well for a candidate who is faltering as it does for one who seems in command.

Though the Democrats have been running a breathtakingly negative campaign against Mitt Romney all year, they’ve turned up the heat in the days since the debate. The barrage of ads calling Romney a “liar” because a liberal journalist quotes a liberal think tank that believes his tax plan will somehow require a middle class tax increase, even though there is no such provision in it, is one example. The one about Romney wanting to kill Big Bird is another.

The problem with these ads is not just that they are inaccurate but that they reek of desperation. This sort of heavy-handed sliming is intended to reduce the GOP candidate’s favorability ratings, but they may also have the unintended effect of making Obama look scared and nasty. That is exactly the sort of sentiment that is likely to kill any remnant of awe for the president’s historic status that is essential to his re-election.

Far from such tactics erasing Romney’s bounce, it is this sort of thing that may help transform it from a momentary surge to a fundamental change in the dynamic of this election.

In 2008, Obama showed the country that he knew how to play when ahead as he avoided mistakes and complacency and cruised to a most decisive victory. But by showing up unprepared in Denver while Romney demonstrated his command of the issues, the president put himself in a position where he may well have to spend the next month trying to catch Romney. That is a very different skill and requires drastically different tactics than the ones the Democrats have so far employed in this election.

While this situation may well be altered in the coming days and weeks, if both the candidate and his campaign are temperamentally unsuited to playing from behind, the debate loss may turn out to be a bigger problem than the president could ever have imagined.

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Biden: Middle Class ‘Buried’ Under Obama

The Romney campaign is calling Joe Biden’s comment about the middle class being “buried for the past four years” a gaffe, and it does fit the criteria of “accidental-honesty.” There’s no doubt the middle class has been hit hard under the current administration, which is why the Obama campaign is having such a difficult time cleaning up after Biden’s comment. They can’t claim Biden is wrong (or they’ll seem out of touch), but they obviously can’t acknowledge he’s right.

The solution? Agree with Biden’s assessment that the middle class has been buried for the past four years, but blame it all on Bush:

“As the Vice President has been saying all year and again in his remarks today, the middle class was punished by the failed Bush policies that crashed our economy – and a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a return to those failed policies,” an Obama campaign official said. “With more than five million private-sector jobs created since 2010, the Vice President and President Obama will continue to help the middle class recover and move the nation forward.”

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The Romney campaign is calling Joe Biden’s comment about the middle class being “buried for the past four years” a gaffe, and it does fit the criteria of “accidental-honesty.” There’s no doubt the middle class has been hit hard under the current administration, which is why the Obama campaign is having such a difficult time cleaning up after Biden’s comment. They can’t claim Biden is wrong (or they’ll seem out of touch), but they obviously can’t acknowledge he’s right.

The solution? Agree with Biden’s assessment that the middle class has been buried for the past four years, but blame it all on Bush:

“As the Vice President has been saying all year and again in his remarks today, the middle class was punished by the failed Bush policies that crashed our economy – and a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a return to those failed policies,” an Obama campaign official said. “With more than five million private-sector jobs created since 2010, the Vice President and President Obama will continue to help the middle class recover and move the nation forward.”

No surprise, Biden’s comment is barely registering with the mainstream press, except as evidence of how desperate the Romney campaign must be to make an issue out of it. After the media let Biden slide for his blatant racial pandering, what else would we expect? If Paul Ryan had made a similar allusion to slavery, the press would still be talking about it today (if he hadn’t been forced to drop out of the race, that is). Instead, Biden gets front-page investigations into whether he’s a “sex symbol.” Because, you know, it’s not like there’s any serious news to cover this week.

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Biden’s Strange Definition of Daylight

Unlike Senator Barbara Boxer, who understood that a clear breach has developed between Israel and the United States, Vice President Joe Biden is in denial. As Seth wrote earlier today, Boxer demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu retract his statements about the administration’s refusal to set red lines about Iran’s nuclear program. She asked him to reaffirm his comments from earlier in the year in which he said the two countries stand together. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case, with the Americans still implausibly insisting that failed diplomacy and inadequate sanctions will make the Iranians give up their nuclear ambitions. Boxer seems to think it’s the Israeli duty to subordinate their own ideas of security to those of an administration that has demonstrated no interest in translating their rhetoric into action on Iran. But while Boxer’s statement was as impertinent as it was wrongheaded, Biden’s comments are either obtuse or totally disingenuous.

Biden made the comment at a pre-Rosh Hashanah event at the vice presidential mansion. JTA reports that:

According to tweets posted by Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, Biden said that “Both our nations are intently focused on the threat of Iran” and “there is no daylight” between the United States and Israel.

Diament also quoted Biden as saying that “We will use all the elements of our national security, including military” to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The problem with these statements is that they are at variance with the comments made over the weekend by Secretary of State Clinton in which she pointedly refused to set any deadlines for the Iranians. The recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that the Iranians are making good use of the time President Obama has wasted during his four years in office pursuing feckless diplomacy to make substantial progress toward a nuclear weapon. The Israeli government has complained loudly that it is obvious, as the IAEA report made clear, that Tehran is fast approaching the point where it would be too late to use force to forestall Iran’s bomb. The contrast between Israel’s sense of urgency about this existential threat and the laconic manner of the administration could not be starker. If that doesn’t constitute daylight, then the term has no meaning.

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Unlike Senator Barbara Boxer, who understood that a clear breach has developed between Israel and the United States, Vice President Joe Biden is in denial. As Seth wrote earlier today, Boxer demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu retract his statements about the administration’s refusal to set red lines about Iran’s nuclear program. She asked him to reaffirm his comments from earlier in the year in which he said the two countries stand together. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case, with the Americans still implausibly insisting that failed diplomacy and inadequate sanctions will make the Iranians give up their nuclear ambitions. Boxer seems to think it’s the Israeli duty to subordinate their own ideas of security to those of an administration that has demonstrated no interest in translating their rhetoric into action on Iran. But while Boxer’s statement was as impertinent as it was wrongheaded, Biden’s comments are either obtuse or totally disingenuous.

Biden made the comment at a pre-Rosh Hashanah event at the vice presidential mansion. JTA reports that:

According to tweets posted by Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, Biden said that “Both our nations are intently focused on the threat of Iran” and “there is no daylight” between the United States and Israel.

Diament also quoted Biden as saying that “We will use all the elements of our national security, including military” to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The problem with these statements is that they are at variance with the comments made over the weekend by Secretary of State Clinton in which she pointedly refused to set any deadlines for the Iranians. The recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that the Iranians are making good use of the time President Obama has wasted during his four years in office pursuing feckless diplomacy to make substantial progress toward a nuclear weapon. The Israeli government has complained loudly that it is obvious, as the IAEA report made clear, that Tehran is fast approaching the point where it would be too late to use force to forestall Iran’s bomb. The contrast between Israel’s sense of urgency about this existential threat and the laconic manner of the administration could not be starker. If that doesn’t constitute daylight, then the term has no meaning.

The decision of the president to snub Netanyahu later this month when they will both be in New York was more than a symbolic snub. It was also a message that under no circumstances would Obama be pressured into behaving as if this wasn’t just a problem that could be jawboned while being postponed until after the election when, presumably, he will have the freedom to change his mind about his pledges on the issue. That he is arranging to meet with the President of Egypt while avoiding Netanyahu tells us all we need to know about whether he regards the friendship of the Muslim Brotherhood as being more valuable than that of Israel.

The president’s Telemundo interview — which received notice for his bizarre equivocation about Egypt’s status as an ally or an enemy — was also notable for his saying that the “red line” about Iran was merely their acquisition of a nuclear weapon. While that sounds plausible, it is far from satisfactory from Israel’s point of view since the priority is to ensure that they don’t have the materials from which they can quickly assemble a bomb. Waiting until they have one is simply too late to head off the problem or to deny them the leverage such a weapon would afford Tehran and its terrorist auxiliaries.

Netanyahu may have no choice but to accept this lamentable decision, but American Jews do have the ability to exercise their democratic privilege to speak truth to power and to inform the administration of their displeasure. That is why Biden is attempting to pretend that all is well between Israel and the United States, even if doing so this of all weeks strains even his considerable ability to fib with a straight face.

Biden’s statement was probably applauded by Democratic politicians at the event, such as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has plenty of experience of her own lying about the U.S.-Israel relationship (and who wouldn’t have wanted to be a fly on the wall if she and Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who was also at the event, had a private word together?). But it is to be hoped that others present were not cynical. The leaders of the major American Jewish groups in attendance at the reception are used to such pretenses. The question is whether any of them had the chutzpah to point out just how disingenuous Biden’s comments were.

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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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Dems Show Progressive Means Status Quo

Heading into this week’s Democratic National Convention, the party knows the country isn’t really better off than it was four years ago. They also know that President Obama can’t count on a repeat of the wave of messianic expectations that swept him into office in 2008. But they seem united on one proposition: the Republicans and their ideas for changing Washington must be stopped. Though most of those who gather in Charlotte dub themselves “progressives,” that word, which once evoked the liberal call to transform America into a more egalitarian society, now means something very different. In 2012, to be a progressive means above all to be steadfast in favor of maintaining the status quo on a wide range of issues. It is a credo of not of progress but merely in defense of the power of the state that generations of Democratic politicians have built.

The best of example of this came over the weekend as Vice President Biden, whose value as the administration’s rabid attack dog has never been more apparent, denounced Republican plans for reforming Medicare so as to enable it to survive despite the overwhelming demographic and budget disaster that looms over it. Biden’s battle cry claiming: “We are for Medicare; they are for Vouchercare,” contained no nuances about dealing with problems. Indeed, Biden, citing his own mother’s experience, gave a straightforward pitch for paternalistic government in which he said older Americans were too befuddled to make their own choices and needed to be told what to do by Washington.

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Heading into this week’s Democratic National Convention, the party knows the country isn’t really better off than it was four years ago. They also know that President Obama can’t count on a repeat of the wave of messianic expectations that swept him into office in 2008. But they seem united on one proposition: the Republicans and their ideas for changing Washington must be stopped. Though most of those who gather in Charlotte dub themselves “progressives,” that word, which once evoked the liberal call to transform America into a more egalitarian society, now means something very different. In 2012, to be a progressive means above all to be steadfast in favor of maintaining the status quo on a wide range of issues. It is a credo of not of progress but merely in defense of the power of the state that generations of Democratic politicians have built.

The best of example of this came over the weekend as Vice President Biden, whose value as the administration’s rabid attack dog has never been more apparent, denounced Republican plans for reforming Medicare so as to enable it to survive despite the overwhelming demographic and budget disaster that looms over it. Biden’s battle cry claiming: “We are for Medicare; they are for Vouchercare,” contained no nuances about dealing with problems. Indeed, Biden, citing his own mother’s experience, gave a straightforward pitch for paternalistic government in which he said older Americans were too befuddled to make their own choices and needed to be told what to do by Washington.

Biden’s speech was a shameless partisan distortion of the plan put forward by Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, who seeks a transition that will not change Medicare for anyone current receiving it. This is in keeping with the “pants on fire” style of Democratic campaign rhetoric we’ve been hearing lately. But it is also indicative of a belief that nothing, not even the impending collapse of these entitlement programs ought to be allowed to justify new ideas about government.

This isn’t the only important theme of the week for Democrats. We will hear a great deal about the “war on women” that Democrats falsely claim Republicans are waging. But at the core of that is another defense of big government and entitlements such as the right to free contraceptives, for which poster child Sandra Fluke will advocate again this week.

To the extent that we will hear new ideas this week about support for the environment or fear of global warming, they will all revolve around greater government involvement in the economy via cap and trade or restrictions on development of resources. At their core they are all about defense of an ever-expanding federal bureaucracy that must be fed by more taxes to pay for more spending.

If the Democrats can get more of the electorate to fear Republican reforms like Paul Ryan’s plan or to buy into the myth of a war on women, they may win. But if they do, it will be accomplished by a campaign oriented solely toward keep things as they are. We’ve come a long way from the hope and change of 2008.

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Party of Distractions Gets Talking Point

For some reason, liberals want to make this an election about social issues. In their minds, it showcases a broad array of imagined Republican bigotry. What they don’t realize, as residents of the coasts, is that the American people aren’t with them. Most Americans know that being pro-life isn’t tantamount to waging a war on women — the majority of Americans are pro-life themselves. Every single time the issue of gay marriage has been put to public referendum, even in the deep blue state of California, it’s been voted down.

Liberals are happy to blame the failures of these ballot initiatives on almost anyone: Mormons, the owners and customers of Chick-fil-A, etc. What they won’t admit is the fact that Prop 8 was upheld in California because traditional, Church-going black voters, who already came out to the polls in droves to vote for Barack Obama, voted for it. The added benefit of making this an election about social issues for liberals is that the president has nothing else to run on. No record, no plans to save Medicare, Social Security, or the economy in general. It was determined at Obama HQ a long time ago that this would be an election of distractions, not ideas, not hope, and certainly not change.

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For some reason, liberals want to make this an election about social issues. In their minds, it showcases a broad array of imagined Republican bigotry. What they don’t realize, as residents of the coasts, is that the American people aren’t with them. Most Americans know that being pro-life isn’t tantamount to waging a war on women — the majority of Americans are pro-life themselves. Every single time the issue of gay marriage has been put to public referendum, even in the deep blue state of California, it’s been voted down.

Liberals are happy to blame the failures of these ballot initiatives on almost anyone: Mormons, the owners and customers of Chick-fil-A, etc. What they won’t admit is the fact that Prop 8 was upheld in California because traditional, Church-going black voters, who already came out to the polls in droves to vote for Barack Obama, voted for it. The added benefit of making this an election about social issues for liberals is that the president has nothing else to run on. No record, no plans to save Medicare, Social Security, or the economy in general. It was determined at Obama HQ a long time ago that this would be an election of distractions, not ideas, not hope, and certainly not change.

Yesterday’s comments by Rep. Todd Akin played right into Obama’s (and Claire McCaskill’s) hands. They gave the Obama camp talking points that they can focus on for days, if not weeks. They also ensured that Democrats would hold onto a Senate seat that was in very serious jeopardy just two days ago.

In no uncertain terms, it’s clear that Akin’s comments were insulting on several levels. They insinuate that women who become pregnant as a result of rape weren’t “legitimately” raped (i.e.: they’re lying about the rape). They also show just how ignorant of basic biology Akin is. According to his logic, if women’s bodies had the ability to “shut down” and prevent pregnancy, there would have never been an unplanned pregnancy in the history of humanity. He’s now claimed to have “misspoken” and as John wrote earlier, it’s time for him to step down so that Missouri Republicans have a prayer for winning the seat.

The liberal media orchestra will, no doubt, play whatever sheet music the left hands them, keeping the story alive for several news cycles. Vice President Biden’s comments about Republicans wanting to put a largely African American crowd “back in chains” will disappear, written off as a gaffe. A good deal more attention will be paid to the statements from Akin, a member of Congress running for a Senate seat in Missouri. His statements, unlike Biden’s, will not be deemed a gaffe, but will instead be described as a feeling shared by all Republicans in their ongoing War on Women. The media’s hypocrisy is on full display, as they are on one hand outraged over idiotic statements about rape, while they were silent about actual rapes and coverups that took place in Occupy Wall Street camps across the country during the movement’s heyday.

Many are worried that the comments will sink the stock of the whole Republican Party. If Republicans repudiate not just Akin’s comments and the misogyny behind them, Americans will realize that one House member does not speak for the entire GOP. As Alana reported this morning, the Romney camp has already and unequivocally rejected Akin’s comments flat out. If the liberal mainstream media continues to obsess about Akin’s remarks, ignoring the imminent bankruptcy of Europe, American persistent unemployment and mounting debt and a looming conflict with Iran, the American people will take notice of the distraction. They will realize that the media furor surrounding his remarks is crowding out an honest discussion on the real issues facing our country at a turning point in our history. While this may give Democrats a bump (outside of Missouri) in the short term, it will once again show them to be the party of distractions, not of ideas.

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What’s Up With All the Clinton VP Rumors?

We all know it’s not going to happen. The White House has directly denied it. And yet, the rumors that President Obama is considering replacing Vice President Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton keep coming:

Pundits and talking heads have discussed in recent weeks the possibility of Vice President Joe Biden being replaced on the Democratic presidential ticket, particularly with news of his brief hiatus from the spotlight this weekend.

“Up until just a couple of weeks ago the White House was putting out feelers to see if Hillary would accept the vice-presidential nod and replace Joe Biden,” [author Ed] Klein said. “Bill Clinton was, I’m told, urging his wife to accept the number two slot. He saw this as a great launching pad for her for running in 2016.”

“But then Hillary had lunch in the White House a couple of weeks ago with Valerie Jarrett — Michelle [Obama]’s best friend, senior adviser to both the first lady and the president … and she told Valerie that she would not accept the vice president’s spot. The lunch was ostensibly about other matters, but it came up. … Hillary felt burned out after four years as Secretary of State. But I’m told there were more important reasons for her not accepting.”

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We all know it’s not going to happen. The White House has directly denied it. And yet, the rumors that President Obama is considering replacing Vice President Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton keep coming:

Pundits and talking heads have discussed in recent weeks the possibility of Vice President Joe Biden being replaced on the Democratic presidential ticket, particularly with news of his brief hiatus from the spotlight this weekend.

“Up until just a couple of weeks ago the White House was putting out feelers to see if Hillary would accept the vice-presidential nod and replace Joe Biden,” [author Ed] Klein said. “Bill Clinton was, I’m told, urging his wife to accept the number two slot. He saw this as a great launching pad for her for running in 2016.”

“But then Hillary had lunch in the White House a couple of weeks ago with Valerie Jarrett — Michelle [Obama]’s best friend, senior adviser to both the first lady and the president … and she told Valerie that she would not accept the vice president’s spot. The lunch was ostensibly about other matters, but it came up. … Hillary felt burned out after four years as Secretary of State. But I’m told there were more important reasons for her not accepting.”

I find it hard to believe that Obama would even be able to replace Biden at this point. Clearly Biden has 2016 ambitions — as delusional as that may be — and he knows getting axed as VP would effectively destroy any chance of that happening. Convincing Biden to leave gracefully (and quietly) would be near impossible. Plus, shaking up the ticket would be an admission of defeat and a sign of severe desperation from Obama.

So what’s the deal with these rumors? Is the Clinton camp putting them out to boost her name for 2016? Or, is it part of some GOP effort to psych out Biden and sow divisions between him and Obama? Notice that a lot of this speculation is coming from the right. The Republican Party knows these mind games all too well, since it’s previously been on the receiving end of them.

On the other hand, maybe I’m completely wrong and Obama actually is thinking about cutting Biden loose. His VP has given him nothing but grief since the beginning. And after days of disastrous media coverage over Biden’s billionth racially-charged gaffe, who could blame Obama for wanting him out?

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Ryan’s Bounce May Come in October

Over at his New York Times blog, Nate Silver probes the question of whether the polls that have come out in the last few days indicate any bounce for the Republican ticket in the days since Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan will be his vice presidential nominee. Though, as Alana noted earlier, a series of swing state polls brought some good news for the Republicans, he’s right to say there’s nothing in the data to indicate any real surge in their direction. Pollsters and analysts have in recent election cycles become obsessed with the idea that vice presidential picks and conventions must produce some sort of bounce in the polls to be justified. But, as Silver concedes, Republicans were not claiming that picking Ryan would have an immediate impact on the polls.

While Ryan is a well known, and at least as far as the liberal media is concerned, a controversial figure, he doesn’t have the sort of celebrity that would create a quick change in public opinion about the race. What he does have — and what Republicans who cheered the choice are counting on — is the ability to have a long-term impact on the election. The GOP is counting on Ryan’s intellect, charm and powers of persuasion to impress voters as the race wears on this fall, not to mention, the possibility of a mismatch against Vice President Biden in their debate. Indeed, Romney’s choice of a serious and thoughtful man to run with him is looking even smarter if only because the more Biden roams the country committing gaffes and throwing out wild and irresponsible slurs against the Republicans, the better Ryan looks.

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Over at his New York Times blog, Nate Silver probes the question of whether the polls that have come out in the last few days indicate any bounce for the Republican ticket in the days since Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan will be his vice presidential nominee. Though, as Alana noted earlier, a series of swing state polls brought some good news for the Republicans, he’s right to say there’s nothing in the data to indicate any real surge in their direction. Pollsters and analysts have in recent election cycles become obsessed with the idea that vice presidential picks and conventions must produce some sort of bounce in the polls to be justified. But, as Silver concedes, Republicans were not claiming that picking Ryan would have an immediate impact on the polls.

While Ryan is a well known, and at least as far as the liberal media is concerned, a controversial figure, he doesn’t have the sort of celebrity that would create a quick change in public opinion about the race. What he does have — and what Republicans who cheered the choice are counting on — is the ability to have a long-term impact on the election. The GOP is counting on Ryan’s intellect, charm and powers of persuasion to impress voters as the race wears on this fall, not to mention, the possibility of a mismatch against Vice President Biden in their debate. Indeed, Romney’s choice of a serious and thoughtful man to run with him is looking even smarter if only because the more Biden roams the country committing gaffes and throwing out wild and irresponsible slurs against the Republicans, the better Ryan looks.

As much as conservatives love Ryan for his ideas and talent for taking on the opposition in a reasonable manner, no veep candidate is going to make that much of a difference in November. But Ryan’s presence on the ticket has altered the race somewhat in that the future of entitlements and government spending is now in the spotlight rather than being pushed to the side by concern over the economy. That is something that scares some Republicans and delights Democrats.

But the notion that Obama can be re-elected by running as the candidate of the status quo, who will, as Vice President Biden stated, oppose any changes in Social Security or Medicare may underestimate the intelligence of the American people. As I wrote after the pick was announced, Ryan’s presence on the ballot will provide a test of whether voters will prefer demagoguery to ideas. We won’t know the answer to that question until October at the earliest.

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The Party of Status Quo

The Washington Post editorial board argues that Joe Biden’s comments on Social Security the other day were far more disturbing than his “chains” gaffe:

On the same trip to southern Virginia, Mr. Biden wandered into the Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart. According to the White House pool report, when a diner there said, “I’m glad you all are not talking about doing anything with Social Security,” Mr. Biden responded: “Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

Why is this so depressing? Because, as Mr. Biden knows, Social Security is going broke. If “no changes” are made, then by 2033 the program will not be able to pay benefits as promised.

The Post pressed the White House on whether Biden’s comments reflected official policy, and were given the brush-off:

In response to our inquiry, White House officials said that Mr. Biden’s “flat guarantee” was not meant to convey a change in administration position, which they said is best understood from Mr. Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, which called for “a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

That speech was hardly a profile in courage: Mr. Obama opposed “slashing” benefits for future retirees. But that presumably (if tacitly) left room for trimming benefits. The president went further in failed negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner last summer, putting on the table changes in the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated.

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The Washington Post editorial board argues that Joe Biden’s comments on Social Security the other day were far more disturbing than his “chains” gaffe:

On the same trip to southern Virginia, Mr. Biden wandered into the Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart. According to the White House pool report, when a diner there said, “I’m glad you all are not talking about doing anything with Social Security,” Mr. Biden responded: “Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

Why is this so depressing? Because, as Mr. Biden knows, Social Security is going broke. If “no changes” are made, then by 2033 the program will not be able to pay benefits as promised.

The Post pressed the White House on whether Biden’s comments reflected official policy, and were given the brush-off:

In response to our inquiry, White House officials said that Mr. Biden’s “flat guarantee” was not meant to convey a change in administration position, which they said is best understood from Mr. Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, which called for “a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

That speech was hardly a profile in courage: Mr. Obama opposed “slashing” benefits for future retirees. But that presumably (if tacitly) left room for trimming benefits. The president went further in failed negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner last summer, putting on the table changes in the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated.

Why won’t the White House get into specifics? For the same reason Senate Democrats have declined to take up a budget plan, and President Obama has declined to offer a proposal to keep Medicare solvent and reduce the deficit. Because of the political risk involved. It’s much easier to attack the Republican plans than to offer new solutions. The Obama campaign prefers to propagate the myth that Republicans are callously trying to target the poor and the elderly with their plans, rather than acknowledge that reform is hard — and that any solution will require tradeoffs.

The Obama campaign also wants to have it both ways; attacking Romney and Ryan for their “radical” proposals, while simultaneously mocking the idea that Ryan’s reforms are bold or courageous.

Of course the Ryan plan took courage. If it didn’t, Obama would have proposed his own detailed response a long time ago. Instead, during the White House press briefing today, Jay Carney refused to specify when, if ever, the president would give more details on his plan to keep Medicare afloat.

When the media wonders why Romney’s VP choice hasn’t resulted in an elevated debate, the answer is clear. The country can’t begin the serious conversation that Obama claims he wants until he puts more details on the table.

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Obama Poses as Uniter While Biden Smears

President Obama took time out from his latest campaign trip yesterday to give an interview to “Entertainment Tonight” and got exactly what he bargained for: an opportunity to spin the news with a softball questioner. The president, who avoids the serious journalists of the White House press corps like the plague was asked breathlessly by ET’s Nancy O’Dell what he thought of Mitt Romney’s charges that the Democrat is conducting a campaign of hate. His response was an incredulous assertion that he is the man trying to unite the country. That he said so with a straight face the day after his vice president claimed Republicans were going to put “y’all back in chains” — a clear reference to black slavery — and with Democrats accusing Romney of killing people, is a tribute both to his high regard for himself and his political skills.

Democratic operatives have been quite frank about the fact that Obama’s re-election isn’t going to be about “hope and change” but an attempt to destroy the character of his opponents. But if the next 82 days are going to center on each party’s efforts to bring out their base, then it should be expected that the president will try to keep up the pretense that he is holding on to his 2008 claim of being above petty partisanship. In order to do that, he’s going to let his running mate whip up resentment against Romney by using racial incitement.

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President Obama took time out from his latest campaign trip yesterday to give an interview to “Entertainment Tonight” and got exactly what he bargained for: an opportunity to spin the news with a softball questioner. The president, who avoids the serious journalists of the White House press corps like the plague was asked breathlessly by ET’s Nancy O’Dell what he thought of Mitt Romney’s charges that the Democrat is conducting a campaign of hate. His response was an incredulous assertion that he is the man trying to unite the country. That he said so with a straight face the day after his vice president claimed Republicans were going to put “y’all back in chains” — a clear reference to black slavery — and with Democrats accusing Romney of killing people, is a tribute both to his high regard for himself and his political skills.

Democratic operatives have been quite frank about the fact that Obama’s re-election isn’t going to be about “hope and change” but an attempt to destroy the character of his opponents. But if the next 82 days are going to center on each party’s efforts to bring out their base, then it should be expected that the president will try to keep up the pretense that he is holding on to his 2008 claim of being above petty partisanship. In order to do that, he’s going to let his running mate whip up resentment against Romney by using racial incitement.

Obama and his wife Michelle claimed Republicans were distorting the meaning of Biden’s words and were attempting to avoid a serious discussion of regulating Wall Street. But there can be no mistake about what it means for a northern white politician like Biden to affect a southern drawl and tell a mostly black audience the GOP is going to put them in chains. While most of the coverage of Biden today has depicted him as an out-of-control mistake machine that is a burden to the president, the truth is, the veep is filling an important role in the Democratic campaign. Biden’s reputation as a gaffe-prone gasbag hasn’t caused him to tone done his routine or have his handlers keep him on a leash. On the contrary, the more political observers roll their eyes at him, the more he seems to be free to be himself and unleash a torrent of abuse at the Republicans while the president is allowed to play the victim of unjustified criticism.

Of course, Obama’s hypocrisy on this score is nothing new. Throughout his presidency he has spoken of himself as a reasonable man of the center all the while depicting those who disagree with him as extremists who put ideology and party above the needs of their country. His brazen use of class warfare attacks on the Republicans is a classic example of a politician who seeks to profit from sowing division and hate.

Democrats are counting on the way his supporters insulate themselves from views and news reports that will point out the inconsistencies and lies that are the foundation of the myth of Obama the uniter. But as the election heats up and Democratic incitement reaches fever pitch, even his acting skills are going to be tested if he expects any but his most fervent cheerleaders to accept his pose as a man who is above the fray.

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Biden Won’t Back Down on “Chains” Gaffe

Joe Biden isn’t apologizing for his “chains” blunder yesterday, but he is trying to downplay it — a sign that the Obama campaign realizes how bad this looks:

Speaking in Wytheville, Va., late this afternoon, Biden hit back at the Romney camp’s claims that his comments were outrageous, saying, “If you want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies.” …

Biden continued: “And I’m told when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Virginia, the Romney Campaign put out a Tweet, you know Tweets, and went on the air, went on the airwaves saying ‘Biden’s outrageous in saying that – I think I said, instead of unshackled, unchained or – anyway, outrageous to say that, that’s what we meant. I’m using their own words. I got a message for them, if you want to know want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies, and the effects of their policies on middle class America, that’s what’s outrageous.”

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Joe Biden isn’t apologizing for his “chains” blunder yesterday, but he is trying to downplay it — a sign that the Obama campaign realizes how bad this looks:

Speaking in Wytheville, Va., late this afternoon, Biden hit back at the Romney camp’s claims that his comments were outrageous, saying, “If you want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies.” …

Biden continued: “And I’m told when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Virginia, the Romney Campaign put out a Tweet, you know Tweets, and went on the air, went on the airwaves saying ‘Biden’s outrageous in saying that – I think I said, instead of unshackled, unchained or – anyway, outrageous to say that, that’s what we meant. I’m using their own words. I got a message for them, if you want to know want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies, and the effects of their policies on middle class America, that’s what’s outrageous.”

Outrageous? Yes, that’s a fair description when a vice president tells a largely black audience that the GOP policies will “put y’all back in chains.” Biden is trying to defend this as another quote taken out of context, but once again the context is perfectly clear. MSNBC’s Willie Geist had a good take this morning (via Playbook), when he pointed out the media double standard for Biden:

“It has to be said that if Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate, said that to an African-American audience, there would be calls this morning for him to get out of the race, for Mitt Romney to withdraw from the race. There’s a double standard.”

The Romney campaign knows it’s being held to a different standard, which is why it’s not going to let Biden off the hook on this. At a campaign event yesterday, Romney called on Obama to take his campaign of “division and anger and hate” back to Chicago — powerful words that highlight the contrast between Obama’s Hope and Change rhetoric of 2008 and his overtly negative 2012 campaign.

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The Biden Double Standard

The liberals hyperventilating at the thought of Paul Ryan “a heartbeat away from the presidency” seem completely unaware of who’s filling that slot at the present moment. Why is it that Joe Biden is the only national campaign surrogate who’s never expected to put together an appropriate sentence? Every time he spouts off some wildly offensive stereotype, or makes a glaringly false assertion, journalists treat him like a chatty, precocious four-year-old who has no control over what comes out of his mouth.

“Joe Biden doing his best Joe Biden,” joked Politico about Biden’s latest blunder, which, as Jonathan noted, crossed the line into blatant racial incitement. But the media rarely, if ever, seems to be concerned that this guy they view as a hopeless buffoon is sitting a “heartbeat away from the presidency” — next in line, in an emergency, to deal with a nuclear Iran, the fiscal cliff, Medicare teetering on bankruptcy, and global terrorism. In fact, all the grave murmuring about vice presidents and “heartbeats” only seems to come up during discussions of Republican tickets.

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The liberals hyperventilating at the thought of Paul Ryan “a heartbeat away from the presidency” seem completely unaware of who’s filling that slot at the present moment. Why is it that Joe Biden is the only national campaign surrogate who’s never expected to put together an appropriate sentence? Every time he spouts off some wildly offensive stereotype, or makes a glaringly false assertion, journalists treat him like a chatty, precocious four-year-old who has no control over what comes out of his mouth.

“Joe Biden doing his best Joe Biden,” joked Politico about Biden’s latest blunder, which, as Jonathan noted, crossed the line into blatant racial incitement. But the media rarely, if ever, seems to be concerned that this guy they view as a hopeless buffoon is sitting a “heartbeat away from the presidency” — next in line, in an emergency, to deal with a nuclear Iran, the fiscal cliff, Medicare teetering on bankruptcy, and global terrorism. In fact, all the grave murmuring about vice presidents and “heartbeats” only seems to come up during discussions of Republican tickets.

The Obama campaign is defending Biden’s racially charged comment, and why not? If past Biden-related goofs are any prediction, this controversy may not have much shelf life. Once again, the media may simply shrug and dismiss this as “Biden being Biden.”

That’s unfortunate, because journalists can’t expect to be fair analysts of the race unless they’re willing to hold Biden accountable for remarks that could ruin any other politician’s career. Right now, every move Paul Ryan makes is being evaluated under a microscope — as it should. But is it too much to ask that our sitting vice president be held to the same standards? He is, after all, a heartbeat away from the presidency at this very moment.

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Ryan Unleashes Liberal Incivility

With the heightened focus on the Republican vice presidential candidate, it was only natural that the Democratic incumbent in that office would say something to get a little attention for himself. Vice President Joseph Biden, the gift that keeps giving to Republicans, wasn’t content to merely criticize Republican policies at a campaign appearance in Danville, Virginia; he claimed the GOP would revive slavery. As the Weekly Standard noted, affecting a drawl for the benefit of his south Virginia audience, Biden lambasted the idea that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would free up Wall Street to create more prosperity:

“Look at their budget, and what they are proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They going to put y’all back in chains.”

While Democrats may defend this as just another Biden exaggeration, this is a clear-cut case of racial incitement. After all, unless he is referring to Jews being returned to slavery some 3,500 years after the Exodus from Egypt, the only possible allusion here is to the enslavement of African Americans in the south. This is more than just garden-variety political hyperbole. It is an unfortunate example of just how desperate Democrats are to scare voters into backing the president’s re-election.

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With the heightened focus on the Republican vice presidential candidate, it was only natural that the Democratic incumbent in that office would say something to get a little attention for himself. Vice President Joseph Biden, the gift that keeps giving to Republicans, wasn’t content to merely criticize Republican policies at a campaign appearance in Danville, Virginia; he claimed the GOP would revive slavery. As the Weekly Standard noted, affecting a drawl for the benefit of his south Virginia audience, Biden lambasted the idea that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would free up Wall Street to create more prosperity:

“Look at their budget, and what they are proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They going to put y’all back in chains.”

While Democrats may defend this as just another Biden exaggeration, this is a clear-cut case of racial incitement. After all, unless he is referring to Jews being returned to slavery some 3,500 years after the Exodus from Egypt, the only possible allusion here is to the enslavement of African Americans in the south. This is more than just garden-variety political hyperbole. It is an unfortunate example of just how desperate Democrats are to scare voters into backing the president’s re-election.

We can expect Democratic spin masters to excuse this as merely Joe being Joe, the crazy uncle of our political system whose excesses should be tolerated if not smiled at. But what is on display in this video is a willingness to demonize opponents that eclipses the routine nastiness we’ve become accustomed to during elections. Biden’s comment is at the level of 9/11 truther–let alone an Obama birther. But this is more than just another example of how hypocritical mainstream liberal complaints are about civility in politics.

The Biden blast shows that in this election, there is literally nothing to which the Obama campaign would not stoop in order to besmirch their opponents. If, as Seth wrote earlier today, liberals are prepared to call Romney and Ryan “murderers,” why wouldn’t they claim the GOP is in favor of slavery?

While some conservatives are guilty of uncivil behavior, the Biden gaffe (and it will be interesting to see if liberals are prepared to admit it was a gaffe rather than a justified comment) points out commentator Dennis Prager’s insight about the difference between the left and the right. Most conservatives merely think liberals are wrong. Most liberals really believe most conservatives are evil.

While it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable — a character trait for which Ryan is well-known — to expect civility from someone who thinks his opponent is beyond the pale is to demand more than a partisan such as Biden can manage. As long as liberals are prepared to demonize Republicans in this manner, we must expect more of this kind of despicable behavior from Democrats this fall–if not far worse.

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Who Will Be the Next April Glaspie?

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi invasion followed months of escalating rhetoric, much of which American diplomats downplayed in the belief that Arab dictators didn’t mean what they said.  Meeting with Saddam Hussein eight days before the invasion, Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Iraqi officials subsequently claimed that Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s remarks as a pledge of non-interference and perhaps even a green light.  The press made Glaspie into a scapegoat, but she was only the product of a larger diplomatic culture.

The invasion of Kuwait unleashed a cascade of events which culminated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The question both politicians and historians should ask is whether they might have headed off the invasion months or years ahead of time as the true nature of Saddam Hussein became clear.

Rather than suppress reports of Saddam’s chemical weapons use against Kurdish civilians, the Reagan administration should have cut Saddam off right then and there. But sophisticated diplomats hoped to rehabilitate Saddam, both as a means of containing Iran and also to peel Saddam away from Soviet influence.

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Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi invasion followed months of escalating rhetoric, much of which American diplomats downplayed in the belief that Arab dictators didn’t mean what they said.  Meeting with Saddam Hussein eight days before the invasion, Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Iraqi officials subsequently claimed that Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s remarks as a pledge of non-interference and perhaps even a green light.  The press made Glaspie into a scapegoat, but she was only the product of a larger diplomatic culture.

The invasion of Kuwait unleashed a cascade of events which culminated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The question both politicians and historians should ask is whether they might have headed off the invasion months or years ahead of time as the true nature of Saddam Hussein became clear.

Rather than suppress reports of Saddam’s chemical weapons use against Kurdish civilians, the Reagan administration should have cut Saddam off right then and there. But sophisticated diplomats hoped to rehabilitate Saddam, both as a means of containing Iran and also to peel Saddam away from Soviet influence.

Against a steady stream of reports suggesting Saddam’s cruelty and aggressive intent, Sen. John McCain pushed for military sanctions on Iraq. Sen. Arlen Specter decided to travel to Baghdad to talk with the Iraqi dictator. Like his senate colleagues John Kerry, Joseph Biden, and Dick Lugar, as well as Nancy Pelosi in the House, Specter believed that he had a unique ability to talk dictators back from the brink: He could engage successfully, where all others had failed. Specter met Saddam on January 12, 1990. He believed Saddam’s talk of peace, and effectively became Saddam’s useful idiot. Over the next few months, he persistently undercut McCain’s proposals to extend military sanctions on Iraq.

Saddam may today be gone, but history seems to be repeating with regard to Iran. Iranian leaders issue a steady stream of genocidal rhetoric against Israel, support repression in Syria, and question the sovereignty of Bahrain. Yet, diplomats and many academics dismiss Iranian rhetoric. While senators have largely embraced sanctions against Iran, just as Specter did almost 23 years ago, President Obama and senior administration officials still suggest that there is enough time for diplomacy to work, even as Khamenei, like Saddam before him, pushes full steam ahead with plans to fulfill his regional ambition.

As history repeats itself, the only questions are who will be the next Glaspie and how much ruin will the Obama team’s blind belief in diplomacy bring.

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Barack’s Message to Bill: It’s My Party Now

Reactions to the report that Bill Clinton will place President Obama’s name into nomination at the party’s convention in September, and that he will play a more high-profile role than the vice president himself, have generally fallen into two categories: mocking Joe Biden for his party’s treatment of him, and acknowledging that Obama believes he needs Clinton to win.

Both are correct. But there is another aspect to Clinton’s role as nominating figure: passing the torch. Obama wants to make clear that this is his party now. He has never been able to fully conceal his contempt for Clinton’s “third-way” politics, which seek to, like chess players, control the center. While Obama has tried to have his cake and eat it too, by spurning Clintonian politics while taking credit for the popular aspects of some Clinton policies, he has also tried to outrun Clinton, who is more popular than Obama.

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Reactions to the report that Bill Clinton will place President Obama’s name into nomination at the party’s convention in September, and that he will play a more high-profile role than the vice president himself, have generally fallen into two categories: mocking Joe Biden for his party’s treatment of him, and acknowledging that Obama believes he needs Clinton to win.

Both are correct. But there is another aspect to Clinton’s role as nominating figure: passing the torch. Obama wants to make clear that this is his party now. He has never been able to fully conceal his contempt for Clinton’s “third-way” politics, which seek to, like chess players, control the center. While Obama has tried to have his cake and eat it too, by spurning Clintonian politics while taking credit for the popular aspects of some Clinton policies, he has also tried to outrun Clinton, who is more popular than Obama.

Consider:

  • Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Obama campaigned on unilaterally renegotiating it and possibly withdrawing from it–even running “Buy American, Vote Obama” ads during the election–and waited years to sign other free-trade agreements that were ready for him on day one.
  • Clinton signed welfare reform; Obama handed down an executive fiat to gut the very successful legislation.
  • Clinton tried, and failed, to pass health care reform; Obama tossed congressional Democrats under the Tea Party bus just to have health care legislation bear his name.

Clinton’s message to Democrats in 1992 was that they could either have a very liberal party, or they could win the White House. The country would not let them have both. Even so, the Democrats took a shellacking in mid-term elections, leading to the first Republican House majority in four decades. Clinton understood that this was a partial rebuke to his more liberal first attempt at governing, and was forced to the center to keep his job.

We should not overstate Clinton’s centrism, of course. He did not craft NAFTA; he inherited it from George H.W. Bush and signed it. He did not craft, nor even like, welfare reform; it was a Republican initiative that Clinton vetoed repeatedly before accepting it.

But Clinton left office with a high approval rating and was celebrated for his move to the center: he became the first Democrat to win a second full term as president since Franklin Roosevelt. Obama wants to step out of Clinton’s shadow and win a second term as well—but it won’t be enough for him to win it on Clinton’s terms. It has to be on his own terms, with a party remade in his image. That image is becoming clearer by the day, as moderate Blue Dog Democrats disappear, as do pro-life Democrats. And this year, as Joshua Muravchik writes for COMMENTARY this month, is the last in which the Congress will have a Scoop Jackson Democrat, as Joe Lieberman is retiring.

It’s a different party, and Clinton’s role at the nominating convention will make that clear.

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Obama’s Gift to Romney

This past week, the president and the vice president have made some rather curious arguments on their behalf.

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama said. “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, offered up this argument. “Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn’t mean the private-equity guys are bad guys. They’re not,” Biden said at New Hampshire’s Keene State College. “But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there’re an awful lot of smart plumbers. All kidding aside, it’s not the same job requirement.”

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This past week, the president and the vice president have made some rather curious arguments on their behalf.

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama said. “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, offered up this argument. “Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn’t mean the private-equity guys are bad guys. They’re not,” Biden said at New Hampshire’s Keene State College. “But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there’re an awful lot of smart plumbers. All kidding aside, it’s not the same job requirement.”

I suppose one could say that being a plumber makes you more qualified to be president than being a community organizer, but set that aside for the moment.

The case both Obama and Biden are making is that Obama (a) understands what the job of president entails and (b) is promoting the common good. And based on his record, it’s not clear Obama understands or is doing either one.

To sharpen the point a bit: How exactly is the common good being advanced when during the Obama presidency the number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty has seen a record increase, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty. In addition, the budget deficit and federal debt have reached their highest percentage since World War II. The same is true when it comes to federal spending as a percentage of GDP. During the post-recession period from June 2009 to June 2011, the median annual household income fell by 6.7 percent– a more substantial decline than occurred during the Great Recession. The Christian Science Monitor points out , “The standard of living for Americans has fallen longer and more steeply over the past three years than at any time since the U.S. government began recording it five decades ago.” The housing crisis is worse than the Great Depression. Home values worth one-third less than they were five years ago. The home ownership rate is the lowest since 1965. And government dependency, defined as the percentage of persons receiving one or more federal benefit payments, is the highest in American history.”

There’s more, but you get the point.

For Obama and Biden to lecture Romney on the qualifications for being president is like John Edwards and Bill Clinton lecturing us on the importance of fidelity in marriage. Their case is undermined by their record, their actions, and their failures.

I cannot imagine a greater in-kind gift to the Romney campaign than for the president and the vice president to run on their stewardship. But that is what they’ve decided to do, at least this week.

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GOP Shouldn’t Waste Time on Biden

It hasn’t been a very good couple of weeks for Joe Biden, and the polls show it. Though President Obama followed his vice president’s lead and endorsed gay marriage, White House resentment about the incident lingers. There has been a torrent of leaks about the president’s dissatisfaction with his number two, and Republicans have taken to targeting the veep and pointing out his numerous gaffes at every opportunity. Though the only person whose opinion he needs to care about — President Obama — has been publicly silent, all this has taken a toll on Biden’s public standing. So yesterday’s Gallup Poll in which the vice president is shown to have a negative approval rating for the first time since taking office is likely to feed the rumors circulating around Washington about Biden being dumped from the Democratic ticket this summer. It will also tempt Republicans to double down on their attacks on the vice president.

But while none of this comforts Biden, it would also be a mistake for Republicans to put much stock in any of it. Biden may not be much of an asset to Obama, but it’s not likely that he will cost him any more votes than he will win for him this year. The same was true in 2008, although the comparison with his GOP counterpart Sarah Palin helped him play the statesman. Though we spend a good deal of time handicapping the unofficial run for the vice presidency every four years, it’s a rare election in which they have any but the most marginal impact. Rumors notwithstanding, the president understands that dumping the veep would be a sign of panic. While some Republicans will enjoy slugging away at his gaffes, any effort diverted from the main task of taking down the president’s record is a waste of time.

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It hasn’t been a very good couple of weeks for Joe Biden, and the polls show it. Though President Obama followed his vice president’s lead and endorsed gay marriage, White House resentment about the incident lingers. There has been a torrent of leaks about the president’s dissatisfaction with his number two, and Republicans have taken to targeting the veep and pointing out his numerous gaffes at every opportunity. Though the only person whose opinion he needs to care about — President Obama — has been publicly silent, all this has taken a toll on Biden’s public standing. So yesterday’s Gallup Poll in which the vice president is shown to have a negative approval rating for the first time since taking office is likely to feed the rumors circulating around Washington about Biden being dumped from the Democratic ticket this summer. It will also tempt Republicans to double down on their attacks on the vice president.

But while none of this comforts Biden, it would also be a mistake for Republicans to put much stock in any of it. Biden may not be much of an asset to Obama, but it’s not likely that he will cost him any more votes than he will win for him this year. The same was true in 2008, although the comparison with his GOP counterpart Sarah Palin helped him play the statesman. Though we spend a good deal of time handicapping the unofficial run for the vice presidency every four years, it’s a rare election in which they have any but the most marginal impact. Rumors notwithstanding, the president understands that dumping the veep would be a sign of panic. While some Republicans will enjoy slugging away at his gaffes, any effort diverted from the main task of taking down the president’s record is a waste of time.

Biden’s negative ratings  — 45 percent disapprove of him while 42 percent approve — actually aren’t all that much worse than the ratings he has received in the last three years. Though he was favored by margins of 42-40, 43-41 and 46-41 in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively, none of these results are dramatic enough to affect the Democratic ticket. Democrats still favor him by a margin of 73-17 even if independents and Republicans don’t care for Biden. And it should be pointed out that even his recent bad numbers are not all that much worse than those of his boss, who has a 52-46 favorability rating in the most recent poll.

It also bears pointing out that it is more than likely that those floating the rumors about Biden’s fate have ulterior motives. Some Democrats may see promoting the idea of promoting Hillary Clinton as Biden’s replacement as way to get on her bandwagon early should she try again for the presidency in 2016. It is also more than likely that those Republicans who have been harping on the idea of dumping Biden may be merely seeking to make mischief rather than providing any genuine insight as to the thinking of their rivals.

But either way, the focus on Biden is a sideshow, and President Obama’s high opinion of himself is certainly enough to make him think he can win re-election with anybody — even a gaffe-prone crazy uncle gasbag like Joe Biden. Republicans should take a lesson from this and confine their focus to the man at the top of the other ticket.

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Why Obama Isn’t Dumping Biden

The idea that President Obama is seriously considering dumping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket this year is a seductive one. To assume that this is a real possibility, as William Kristol argues in the Weekly Standard, you must believe the president is not only sick and tired of Biden’s bloviating, but that he believes his re-election effort is in real peril. While I don’t doubt the former proposition for a moment, I have yet to see proof President Obama’s messianic self-image has been so punctured by reality that he is willing to do the unthinkable and not only discard a sitting vice president but elevate Hillary Clinton as his figurative and actual successor.

Unlike Kristol and my esteemed colleague Pete Wehner, who also thinks Biden is on his way out, I think the potential costs to the president outweigh the benefits. Even more to the point, the essential prerequisite of this scenario — a panic-stricken White House that sees the president as doomed to defeat unless the Democrats throw the sort of Hail Mary pass that caused John McCain to make a fateful veep pick — doesn’t exist. The president is behaving as if he is convinced that a campaign to destroy Mitt Romney’s character will succeed. Conceding that all is lost without Clinton to save him goes against everything we know about Obama’s belief in himself and his abilities. He may also understand that Biden wouldn’t go quietly, and the perception of weakness the veep’s political execution would engender would merely discourage his supporters rather than energize them.

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The idea that President Obama is seriously considering dumping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket this year is a seductive one. To assume that this is a real possibility, as William Kristol argues in the Weekly Standard, you must believe the president is not only sick and tired of Biden’s bloviating, but that he believes his re-election effort is in real peril. While I don’t doubt the former proposition for a moment, I have yet to see proof President Obama’s messianic self-image has been so punctured by reality that he is willing to do the unthinkable and not only discard a sitting vice president but elevate Hillary Clinton as his figurative and actual successor.

Unlike Kristol and my esteemed colleague Pete Wehner, who also thinks Biden is on his way out, I think the potential costs to the president outweigh the benefits. Even more to the point, the essential prerequisite of this scenario — a panic-stricken White House that sees the president as doomed to defeat unless the Democrats throw the sort of Hail Mary pass that caused John McCain to make a fateful veep pick — doesn’t exist. The president is behaving as if he is convinced that a campaign to destroy Mitt Romney’s character will succeed. Conceding that all is lost without Clinton to save him goes against everything we know about Obama’s belief in himself and his abilities. He may also understand that Biden wouldn’t go quietly, and the perception of weakness the veep’s political execution would engender would merely discourage his supporters rather than energize them.

Kristol’s idea of David Petraeus sliding from the CIA over to State while Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential candidacy turns a close-run affair into a cakewalk makes sense for the Democrats. Yet though it is the sort of bold stroke that would captivate the media and dominate the news for days if not weeks, it also reeks of panic. Barack Obama is too savvy a politician to want to show the public he not only lacks confidence but needs Clinton to bail him out.

As for Biden’s merits as vice president or his value to his party, I readily concede the arguments Bill and Pete put forward on that score are conclusive. The vice president’s contributions to the administration are risible and pale when compared to those of his recent predecessors, who were given far more responsibility. The fact that he has little political appeal and doesn’t help Obama govern should argue for his dismissal. But doing so will be extremely messy at a time when that is the last thing the president should want.

Biden is not the sort of politician to go quietly into the night just because the president can’t stand him. If there is anything the president should have learned about the vice president in the last four years, it is that his ego is as healthy as his own. Politics is his life, and he will fight for his position — and the fantasy he harbors of running for the presidency in 2016 — with all he’s got. The notion that he will meekly accept a demotion to being a third-tier campaign surrogate for Obama’s re-election strikes me as highly unlikely.

This isn’t about loyalty. I agree with Pete the president’s Chicago-style approach to politics renders him immune to such fine sentiments. Rather, Obama’s own self-regard is such that he probably believes he is great enough to succeed even while lugging around the loquacious Biden on his back. That’s good news for the vice president as well as for Republicans who would have good reason to fear the power of an Obama-Clinton ticket. Although many Democrats would happily make the exchange, I think the odds of this happening are slim and none.

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