Thursday, March 1, 2012
Obama vs Netanyahu - Feckless vs Determined! More ALGAE! Snowe Job!!
Monday's meeting and the two perspectives. Obama and his anti- Neo-Colonialist apologist attitude and Netanyahu's survival problem.
Obama is in his feckless mode! (See 1 and 1a below.)
More "Algae" from Panetta and Clinton. (See 1b below.)
The cost of supporting Iran by Avi Jorisch. (See 2 below.)
Deciphering Obama? (See 3,3a, 3b and 3c below.)
Walter Russell Mead ponders about the 'blue mode.' (See 4 below.)
Olympia Snowe concluded since she could not continue to be a Democrat in Republican clothing she would not run again. The best evidence of this seems to be that it has energized Maine Democrats into believing they have a good chance of taking her seat.
Compromise to Democrats means Republicans cave which they always do for fear of being painted as demons.Time will tell.
Snowe may be intelligent and she may be willing to compromise to get things done but most of her recent voting record supported Obama's inane policies so good riddance. Enoughof her snow job! (See 5 below.)
1)Jerusalem, Washington, and the Iranian bomb
Next Monday, in the White House, the man from Washington and the man from Jerusalem will look into each other's eyes. Each will see the abyss in the other's pupils.
By Ari Shavit
The view from Washington: We went into an unnecessary, awful war in Iraq. We're in a complicated, depressing war in Afghanistan. Our economy is finally beginning to recover from the worst crisis it has known since World War II. In November we have elections. So we don't have the slightest intention of doing anything that could entangle us in a third war and a renewed economic recession. By no means will we attack Iran and we won't let Israel attack either. By no means will we impose a maritime blockade on Iran or collapse its central bank. We will not initiate a move that could break the rules and generate a global crisis. We will not allow the fanatics ruling Jerusalem to drag us into an insane, 21st-century-Masada war.
The view from Jerusalem: For 15 years we've been warning them about the Iranian bomb. For 10 years we've been giving them solid evidence. But they ignore us and refuse to budge. They tell us we're Masada-obsessed wackos who haven't recovered from the trauma of Auschwitz. They tell us they're loyal and intelligent and can be trusted. But the facts prove they cannot be trusted. They were wrong in Pakistan and wrong in North Korea and wrong in Osirak. They have betrayed every friend they had in the Middle East. When it transpires they were wrong about Iran as well, they will throw us into the garbage bin of history. But we're no suckers. We know the game and we will disrupt it - we'll preempt them. Instead of withering at their convenience, we'll strike at our convenience. And if the war raises oil prices and brings a Republican to the White House, tough luck. When someone rises to sacrifice you, sacrifice him first.
The view from Washington: The name of the game is "alibi." We know the Shi'ites are resolved and we are weakening and won't stop them. We know we aren't made of the stuff that Harry Truman and John Kennedy were made of. But we have to go through the motions for the sake of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. We have to go through the motions for Israel and the Jewish community. We've got to win in November. So we're putting on a show that Broadway can only dream of - make-believe warnings, make-believe sanctions, a make-believe military option. Make-believe unlimited support for the Jewish state and moderate Arab state. But after November we're getting rid of the props, dispersing the band and returning the costumes to the storeroom. We'll close some deal with the ayatollahs. We'll get a promise from Ali Khamenei not to set off the first nuclear explosion before 2016. This will ensure that during the second term both the American economy and Iranian centrifuges will be moving full steam ahead. And when the world finds out we were wrong and misled it, we'll say, oops, mistake. We tried, we really did. We have an alibi. Our hands did not enrich that uranium. Really, our heart aches for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates and Israel. The thought of Israel, especially, floods our Democratic heart with compassion.
The view from Jerusalem: Those who claim we entangled the Americans in Iraq in 2003 are lying. The truth is, we warned them at the time that the problem wasn't Iraq but Iran. But today the situation is different. Only the United States is capable of preventing Iran's nuclearization completely. Only if the United States threatens to use force against Iran will it be possible to prevent the use of force. But America insists on acting as Britain and France did in the '30s. There is no doubt - ultimately the West will sober up. But the West could sober up after Czechoslovakia falls again. So unless the Americans prove to us right away that they have opened their eyes, we'll act before November. The risk is high, but the alternative risk is total. There isn't a state in the world that would take a total risk upon itself. Certainly not the last and only state of the Jewish people.
Next Monday, in the White House, the man from Washington and the man from Jerusalem will look into each other's eyes. Each will see the abyss in the other's pupils. If U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fail again to rise above themselves and don't start working together as allies, they will bring disaster on their nations.
1a) Deepening US-Israeli discord on Iran. Obama says no to nuclear red lines
Last-ditch bid fails to bridge US-Israeli differences
Barring last-minute changes, US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will still be at profound cross purposes on Iran when they meet at the White House on March 5. Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak flew to Washington to try and work out with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Wednesday, Feb. 29 a formula for bridging the widening gap.
Washington sources report that notwithstanding their smiling embraces, Barak flew straight back home to inform the prime minister they had failed.
While still airborne, Barak heard White House Spokesman Jay Carney further sharpen Obama’s current tone: “I think we have been clear about this – that any (Israeli) military action in that region threatens greater instability in the region, because Iran borders both Afghanistan and Iraq – we have civilian personnel in Iraq, we have military personnel as well as civilians in Afghanistan.”
Carney added “But our approach right now is to continue to pursue the diplomatic path that we’ve taken, combined with very aggressive sanctions.”
Senior American and Israeli officials said on Thursday, March 1 that this statement confirmed that the president had turned down two key Israeli requests:
1. To set final and absolute red lines for Iran’s nuclear program which, if crossed, would provide the grounds for the US and Israel to strike its nuclear sites. Israel maintains that Washington’s Iran policy can be summed up as “shifting red lines:” Whenever Iran moves ahead with another nuclear achievement, the US sets new “red lines” to avoid a confrontation. This enables Tehran to jump its nuclear program forward from one US “red line” to the next.
2. To stop reciting the mantra that “all options are on the table’ for stopping Iran gaining a nuclear weapon and moving on to more definite language for specifying American military contingencies. However, the attempt to formulate a new locution evaded the efforts of Panetta and Barak.
President Shimon Peres is due to meet President Obama Sunday, March 4 although the hour has not yet been set. Whether it takes place before or after the US President’s speech to the AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) National Convention opening that day in Washington is significant.
If it takes place after, it would mean that the Americans are no longer amenable to Israeli persuasion to give up their objections to an Israeli attack and they expect Jerusalem to respect the Obama administration’s demand to give sanctions and diplomatic pressure more time to persuade Iran’s leaders to pack up their nuclear weapon program.
Obama is waiting anxiously to see if the Iranians turn up for nuclear talks with the five UN Security Council permanent members and Germany in Istanbul next month. To meet one of their conditions for coming to the table, the US stalled on leading the West and Arab powers into military intervention to overthrow Syria’s Bashar Assad.
But even if Peres gets to see Obama before the AIPAC speech, there is not much he can do to persuade the US president to accept a compromise formula that would save his talks with Netanyahu from digging the rift between them on Iran still deeper.
Thursday, March 1, senior American sources listed the US-Israeli schedule for the coming days:
Thursday: Former US presidential adviser Dennis B. Ross holds a background briefing on US policy for Iran with American journalists. Although he holds no official White House position, Ross is considered sufficiently influential and well-informed to outline the next stages of the presidential Iran strategy.
Sunday, March 4: President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu both address the opening of the national AIPAC Convention in Washington. The extremely sensitive order of appearance has not yet been settled.
Jerusalem would rather Obama go first to give Netanyahu the chance to answer his comments. For that very reason, the Americans would prefer their president to follow the prime minister and so, in a manner of speaking, carve his policy in stone.
The White House is making every effort to make sure no public confrontation over Iran takes place between the American and Israeli leaders in their widely broadcast and televised appearances before an audience of some 14,000 Jewish delegates from across America.
Monday, March 5: The Obama-Netanyahu summit at the White House.
1b)Clinton, Panetta defend administration on Israel
Officials dismiss claims that cut to US-Israeli defense program indicates declining support for Israel
Pushing back hard, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are rejecting Republican criticism of President Barack Obama's policy toward Israel, arguing that the election-year attacks ignore the strong cooperative relationship and the record billions of dollars in US aid for the Mideast ally.
In separate appearances on Capitol Hill, Clinton and Panetta defended the administration against complaints from some House Republicans that a slight reduction in the budget request for a joint US-Israeli missile defense program is a sign of inadequate support for a longtime friend. In fact, Obama's budget for next year calls for $3.1 billion in military assistance for Israel, a slight increase over the current level and the most for any foreign country.
"I can assure you that not only does the Obama administration strongly support the defense and security of Israel, but we have put more money behind that pledge than has ever been put before," Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. "We've increased US security assistance to Israel every year since" the 2009 budget.
Clinton noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the bilateral security cooperation between the two countries unprecedented.
Republicans see a political opening in the uneasy relationship between Washington and Jerusalem over settlements in the West Bank and the state of Mideast peace talks, further complicated by the Obama administration's pressure on Israel to hold off on a possible military strike against Iran's disputed nuclear development program. The criticism comes ahead of Netanyahu's visit to Washington next week to meet with Obama and congressional leaders.
Fight for Jewish votes
The Iranian threat to Israel has stoked the bitter rhetoric both in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail, where Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have accused Obama of throwing Israel under a bus and emboldening the Palestinians. The fierce talk reflects that Jewish voters, who comprise only 2% of the electorate nationwide, are a critical part of Obama's base and could be the difference in close battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada.
Financial contributions from Jewish voters are critical for both parties.
In a harbinger of the criticism if Israel does hit Iran, Indiana Republican representative Dan Burton asked why the administration "doesn't give complete support to Israel and say, you know, if Iran continues with its program, we will do whatever is necessary to stop that program and give Israel the support that I think they need."
At a House Budget Committee hearing, Tom Price pressed Panetta on why the administration budget requests for the missile defense program had declined. Obama has asked for $99.8 million for a program designed to help protect Israel from short-range ballistic missiles and rockets that might be fired from Gaza or from Lebanese Hezbollah territory or for longer-range missiles from Iran or Syria. The request for 2013 is slightly less than what the administration sought in 2012, $106.1 million.
"What justification, given what we see out of the nation of Iran, can you give?" Price asked.
"We have significantly increased the amount of funds that we provide to Israel," Panetta said. "It's now $650 million, which more than doubles what was the level in the prior administration of about $320 million."
Panetta later told lawmakers that US support for Israel is "unshakable."
2)Huawei Set Challenge by Sanctions on Iran
By Avi Jorisch
In recent years, a large number of Asian companies have profited by doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States and the European Union have struck back, cutting off access to these companies' markets by levying sanctions on Iran. As a result, Asian giants such as Huawei Technologies, one of the world's largest and most powerful telecommunications firms, have finally decided to cut back their Iranian dealings. Those companies that have yet to make the right decision should consider carefully whether doing business with the mullahs is worth the risk.
Huawei is a Chinese multi-national corporation that is soon expected to surpass Sweden's Ericsson as the largest telecommunications infrastructure supplier in the world. The company has annual revenues of $32 billion and over 110,000 employees, and its products and services are deployed in most of the world's largest telecom markets. Huawei was also recently ranked 352 out on Fortune magazine's global 500 list.
Until late last year, Huawei dominated Iran's telecommunications business and garnered massive revenue from doing so. Unfortunately, there are also reports that it played a role as Iran's partner in crime as the regime went about tracking, silencing, and killing Iranian opposition figures. In 2009, when Iranians took to the streets to protest President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election, Huawei reportedly installed tracking equipment for all of Iran's telecommunication providers that allowed the Iranian intelligence services to locate people through their cellphones, thus enabling the regime to pursue, jail, and often kill opposition members.
Of course, this type of technology exists in many countries, and it is widely known that law enforcement professionals in the West, including the United States, use cellphones to track illicit actors. But repressive regimes like Iran use this type of technology not only to go after criminals, but also to quash their political opposition. The U.S. State Department is now investigating Huawei, stating that it "shares the concern of potential export of technology to Iran that is used specifically to disrupt, monitor, or suppress communication."
For Huawei, doing business in Iran has had a definite downside, costing the company at least some of its access to the U.S. market. In October 2010, the administration, citing "national security concerns," blocked Huawei from building a wireless network for U.S. emergency workers, including police officers and firefighters. Huawei was also barred from acquiring three U.S. companies and forced to divest its shares of a cloud computing company called 3Leaf.
As a result, in December 2011, Huawei decided to scale back its operations in Iran. Bowing to U.S. pressure, the company chose to "restrict its business development by no longer seeking new customers and limiting its business activities with existing customers." In other words, it chose the U.S. market over the Iranian market.
Other Chinese companies will face the same decision in the months to come. In 2009, the People's Republic emerged as Iran's top economic partner, with trade totaling around $21.2 billion annually. Chinese companies supply Iran with 13 percent of its imports, approximately $7.9 billion per annum. In addition, over 100 Chinese state companies operate in Iran, where they invest heavily in the energy sector. U.S. lawmakers are increasingly trying to force companies doing business in both jurisdictions to make tough choices.
Chinese and other Asian companies doing business with Iran should be on notice that U.S. lawmakers are watching this issue closely, and are beginning to crack down. They may find that getting involved with a state sponsor of terror that routinely kills those who yearn for freedom is just not worth the bang for the yuan.
3)Obama and the End of American Exceptionalism
By Steve McCann
America's once-exalted position as the unquestioned leader of the free world has been greatly and deliberately eroded. A nation respected not only for its military and economic might, but more so for its dedication to the ideals of individual freedom and liberty is rudderless and adrift on a sea of uncertainty. As a result, the United States and the rest of the world are facing the most precarious and potentially dangerous period since the 1930s.
Barack Obama and his regime have accomplished much of what they set out to do -- namely, the transformation of American society and an end to the pre-eminent status of the United States. They have had a singleness of purpose and allegiance first and foremost to a confused and muddled ideology and not country.
When the leadership of a great nation exhibits this trait, the consequences can be catastrophic. The product of a lifetime of leftist indoctrination, Barack Obama has, as the basic foundation of his disorganized and uncertain belief system, a conviction that the United States has been the epitome of oppression and arrogance throughout its history.
Beyond that one tenet, Obama wavers between acceptance of crony capitalism and European-style socialism rather than rigid socialist/Marxist theory. This may be anathema to the hardcore left whence he came, but nonetheless it reflects a firm rejection of the principles of individual liberty and freedom as outlined by the nation's founders.
In short, Barack Obama is a leader without a core. Thus, he is able to rationalize the need to say or do anything as long as the end justifies the means. He therefore cannot be nor is he trusted by other leaders on the world stage, as he is devoid of character and integrity.
Coupled with his nonexistent executive experience and lack of accountability over his lifetime, he has placed the United States in a most precarious position in world affairs. In a young century that has already been beset with economic turmoil, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, unprecedented terrorist activity, and a rapidly changing world order thanks to enormous advances in communication and information, the American people could not have chosen a worse leader.
Barack Obama began his presidency by donning the hair shirt and groveling before the nations of world, begging forgiveness for what he perceived to be the sins of America's past. He did not care to understand that while allies may have mildly complained about past U.S. policy, it was out of a combination of envy and grudging respect. Yet it is America's enemies and their loud and false protestations that frame the basis of Obama's outreach and appeasement mindset. In reality, the world since the 1950s has looked to the United States for leadership and stability, not faux humility and self-flagellation.
This servile mindset by Barack Obama has projected an image of weakness which begets chaos, and chaos is what the international scene has become, be it in the Middle East, Asia, Russia, or Latin America.
In Afghanistan, by announcing a premature withdrawal date Obama has unleashed the Taliban and given them a green light to again subjugate the country. He has further exacerbated the situation by his innumerable apologies for the inadvertent burning of Korans defiled by Muslim prisoners. This has reinforced the image of not only a leader, but a nation of cowards in the minds of those who understand only strength and an indomitable will. The United States now has no option but to abandon its efforts in Afghanistan, as Obama did prematurely in Iraq, thus leaving both nations vulnerable to civil war and an Islamist takeover.
Barack Obama, determined to become the Muslim world's best friend, has instead unleashed the dogs of war in the Middle East. He has essentially told Iran that they are free to develop nuclear weapons and to meddle in the affairs of Lebanon, Syria, and whatever other country they choose. He has given tacit support to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in their confrontation with Israel, as U.S. policy is to browbeat and intimidate the Israelis into accepting any agreement with them, all the while insisting on Israel's acquiescence to Iranian nuclear capability.
In his Cairo speech in 2009, Obama shamelessly blamed the West for all the current and historical conflicts with Islam and never once used the words "terrorism," "terrorist," or "war on terror." Earlier in the same year he met secretly with the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of Hamas and al-Qaeda, thus legitimizing them with a wink and a nod.
Once the riots began in Egypt and other North African countries, regardless of what may have triggered them, the Islamists knew they had nothing to fear from the United States, as the American president and his administration had made no meaningful overtures to the true democratic movements in those countries. Obama chose instead to appeal to the radical elements, believing that by the sheer force of his personality and persuasion the Islamists would see the error of their ways.
While playing this game with Washington, the radicals knew that if they could get the population into the streets, they could maneuver the situation to their advantage. Today in Egypt, what began as student and middle-class demonstrations in the spring of 2011 has evolved into a government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups. The same is now true in Libya and Tunisia and soon will be in Yemen, among others.
In an eerie replay of history, the Middle East has become the Balkans of 1912-14, wherein any inadvertent action or misunderstanding will trigger not only a regional, but also a global conflict. Whereas the spark that initiated World War I was due to the egocentric and nationalist ambitions of many European countries, the underlying factor of any major war in the Middle East will be the abandonment of American resolve and the erosion of its economic and military power.
Beyond the Middle East, Russia and China are more emboldened than ever, openly mocking the United States and its leadership. China has begun acting as if it were already the pre-eminent power in the Pacific basin, which is not surprising, considering the deference shown by President Obama to the Chinese leadership while begging them to continue buying American debt created by the incomprehensible fiscal policies of his administration. The other nations of the region are modifying their policies to deal with the reality of a vacuum created by American uncertainty.
Russia has succeeded in intimidating the United States into abandoning a crucial missile defense system and allowing Russia a free hand to effectively reconstitute the old Soviet Union while browbeating its neighbors in Europe. Hugo Chávez and his fellow travelers in South and Latin America have been given a tacit green light to continue their socialist rampage throughout the continent with no fear of any consequences from their neighbor to the north.
With his self-serving allegiance to those who worship the false god of environmentalism, Barack Obama has further aggravated the nation's precarious economic and security circumstances by refusing to develop the energy resources of the United States. Instead, the country is more reliant than ever on importing oil from those regions he has helped to destabilize.
American fiscal and monetary policy continues to wreak havoc in the global economy through historically overwhelming spending levels and the subsequent necessity of printing vast sums of money. As a result, there is now an open discussion of replacing the dollar as the global exchange currency. The United States, as the largest economy in the world, has a unique responsibility in the stability of the global economy. Instead, President Obama has myopically chosen to spread chaos as he promotes his profligate domestic spending programs which by necessity will cause the United States to greatly reduce its military budget and force a once-proud nation to go hat-in-hand to other countries, seeking financial assistance.
Today American foreign and domestic policy is adrift on a sea of uncertainty, as there is a dishonest occupant of the White House who has no coherence in his personal beliefs and convictions except that American exceptionalism is a myth and that the nation must be transformed into another failed Euro-socialist state. He has succeeded in making the world a much more dangerous place while dramatically eroding America's position of pre-eminence.
3a)Ten Indications That Obama Is Scared
By Kevin Jackson
Obama is not the cool, calm, and collected guy that he portrays publicly; he's far from it. Obama is described privately as a thin-skinned hot-head when it comes to questioning his policies, or anything else, for that matter.
Though there has been a slight shift upward in Obama's poll numbers, Obama knows the real temperature of the American people. Here are 10 indicators as to why Obama will have sleepless nights leading up to the election of 2012:
Obama started African Americans for Obama. When blacks supposedly voted at 95 percent for Obama in the last election, one has to question his motives in starting this group. The answer is that Obama's poll numbers among blacks have fallen back to their lowest point, a clear sign that Obama is feeling the pressure. If Obama loses his street credentials amongst blacks, he will likely be abandoned by other groups. Obama must have the "race" element in 2012, even though the black vote will be much less significant in 2012. By the way, how would the media have covered "White Americans for McCain?"
Obama started a Spanish-language website. Now, most people would call this clever; however, this move could backfire and is a pure sign that Obama knows he is in trouble. A country that requires you to know English should not have a sitting president with a Spanish-language website. It would seem to be pandering to the massive non-English-speaking population of Latinos. Obama has not chosen to pander to any other potential immigrant voting bloc, which could have many Africans up in arms. Why not develop a website in Swahili or Bantu? Asians, Jews, and many other ethnic groups might wonder what Obama's obsession is with blacks and Latinos, while forsaking them. This could lead to the logic that the president is supposed to be the president of all Americans.
Obama's energy policy is pure comedy. When Obama took office, gasoline averaged $1.89. Gasoline is now at its highest point in history, averaging $3.65 a gallon -- and it's getting higher. When gas crested at $3 a gallon under Bush, Democrats were quick to put Bush in cahoots with the oil companies. Obama and other Democrats are blaming Wall Street, offering that high gas prices are "bringing families closer together" or that high gas prices are "saving lives." Nice try. The problem with gas prices is that they affect the lower end of the food chain the most. Poor people have to plan trips to the supermarket or buy gas in parts of a gallon. "I'll have ½ a gallon." Obama touts green energy, but he has not had a single successful example where his policy has worked, and despite the Truth Teams, Obama has wasted billions on "green" energy while people are suffering from a lack of "black" energy -- oil and coal.
Obama now supports super-PACs. Aside from the multitude of flip-flops or blatant "untruths," Obama has now decided that for the good of the country, he must embrace the idea of "buying his next election." I suggest that Obama has forgotten that he bought his first election, and that took everything he had, despite a weakening economy, hatred of Bush, and a less than stellar Republican candidate. Obama vowed to raise $1B in order to fight the right, and his newfound support of super-PACs only proves that he's panicked about raising money and about what he will have to spend to put the genie -- his record -- back in the bottle.
Obama has feigned shifting right. When a bona fide socialist begins talk of shifting right, you know he's panicked. Obama no more believes in the private-sector solutions for the economy than he believes that Rosie O'Donnell would skip a meal. Yet he is suddenly offering to cut business taxes. Welcome to Panderville. Many of Obama's panic moves will showcase the complete hypocrisy of what he campaigned on or truly believes, and how far he is willing to go to remain in power.
Obama began the Truth Teams, dismantling Attack Watch. Renaming Attack Watch is like renaming the Department of War the Defense Department. Attack Watch was a dismal failure, because the truth is not an attack. Renaming Attack Watch "Truth Team" now allows Obama to stamp out the truth wherever it may occur. Obama is deathly afraid of the unvarnished truth. The Truth Team's assignment is to varnish it. So now Obama was for Keystone XL and the 20,000 jobs that it didn't create. High gas prices are good for the economy in the form of higher revenues and more lives saved, due to less driving. Welfare is good for the economy, actually generating $1.85 return for every $1 spent. That's the truth, and they're sticking with it.
Obama is changing his slogan. Realizing that "Yes We Can" has turned into "Well, I Thought We Could," and that "hope and change" now applies to getting rid of him, Obama must adjust his catchphrases. Obama's handlers are testing various new sayings, but the bad news is that nothing is sticking. The new phrases being tested are "Winning the Future," "Greater Together," and "We Don't Quit," and Obama has begun lacing these in his speeches, but none are resonating, which is why Obama is panicking.
Obama's foreign policy strategy is in shambles. Generally when a president has such a weak domestic agenda, he may be able to recover based on decent foreign policy. This is not the case with Obama. Obama's foreign policy has made America weak and the laughingstock of the world. It was said when Obama was elected that the world would love us, which has proven simply not the case. Obama has revealed himself to be much worse than Bush in foreign policy, and he has created havoc all over North Africa and the Middle East. China and Russia are positioning to remove the dollar as the international monetary standard, which would devastate the U.S. economy. Their recent decision not to support the U.S. in the U.N. with respect to Syria proves that the Obama administration is not taken seriously. Foreign policy will be a huge influence on Obama's re-election chances, which is why he will try about anything to shore things up before November.
Obama is talking tough. As the saying goes, the shallower the stream, the louder the babble. Most people recognize that the bigmouth at the bar is far from the toughest, yet Obama all but guaranteed that he will serve "five more years" while on a Spanish-language radio program. It is difficult to balance tough talk with "It's Bush's fault." Further, Obama's constant and incessant apologies (and bowing) don't jibe with the tough talk. Again, this is a strategy that will likely backfire for Obama, as most people have begun to realize that the tough talker is generally weak, and Obama is no exception.
There is no real improvement in any sector in America. Obama's biggest problem is that the economy is being held together with paperclips and Band-Aids. The fragile nature of things does not bode well, so even the slightest uptick in inflation will wreak havoc on the deficit. The prospect for jobs will not improve between now and the election, so the media is the only potential distraction from real unemployment north of 15 percent. Another budget crisis is looming, and most of Obama's policies are under attack in multiple states.
Obama has much to be concerned about, despite being "The Money-Giver" to the poor. Americans have reached the end, and words just won't cut it. Further, Americans have tired of style and want substance. I believe that the new bumper stickers might be "You Had Your Chance!"
Kevin Jackson is national spokesman for TheTeaParty.net, an Amazon best-selling author, and a blogger.
3b)Obama 2012: All about Social Issues
By Lloyd Marcus
We conservatives are constantly scolded by the "smart" people in our camp, "Stay away from the social issues! It's the economy, stupid!" Conservatives would love to focus on Obama's horrific economy. Obama's minions are the ones trying to re-direct the focus to bogus social issues, such as claiming Republicans want to ban contraception, which is a lie!
However, the more I think about it, Obama's re-election campaign really is about social issues.
While lifelong Democrats like my parents were focused on trivia such as who shot JR, and today, American Idol, their Democratic Party was under siege. The '60s spoiled-brat white hippies and black-power militants became adults and hijacked the leadership of the Democratic Party. They still hate America and traditional values. Remember the line "This ain't your Daddy's Oldsmobile"? Well, This ain't your Daddy's Democratic Party.
In the '60s, marijuana, LSD, and Boone's Farm wine convinced hippies that "all we need is love" and the world would be a beautiful place. Today, these old hippies run the Democratic party. They believe that if they can control our behavior via government and confiscate enough of taxpayers' money, their '60s utopian ideas could become a reality: Strawberry Fields forever!
Despite Bill Clinton's popularity, Americans rejected his liberal social agenda. HillaryCare went down in flames.
Then, a junior black senator delivered an impressive speech at the Democratic National Convention. Eureka! Let's run a black guy! Who would dare criticize America's first black presidential candidate?
Obama was perfect! Talk about a shoe-in to win! Joe Biden called him "clean and articulate." Liberal media educated by leftist professors did everything in their power to protect their liberal black candidate. Obama bypassed the usual vetting process of one applying for the position of Leader of the Free World.
Ninety-six percent of black voters flocked to the polls, willfully ignorant or purposely ignoring who Obama was as a person. All that mattered was "The Black Code": in matters of black vs. white, authentic blacks rally around the black guy. In a way, it was déjà vu -- the OJ trial all over again.
Naïve whites enthusiastically voted for "the black guy," thinking they could never be called racists again. Media duped clueless youths into making Obama an American Idol.
Democrats and liberal media were thrilled that Obama sat under the social-justice America-hating ministry of Rev. Jeremiah Wright for twenty years. Surely, Obama must loathe America as much as they.
With their untouchable black president firmly entrenched, Democrats are well on their way to making their 1960s dreams a reality. Omnipotent ruler Obama boldly shreds the Constitution to implement their social agenda.
ObamaCare is the key to forcing their social agenda down our throats; abortion, gay marriage, population control, diet control, gun control, control of senior life-or-death decisions, and banning God from the public square -- all social issues.
Everything Obama says and does is birthed out of his laser-focused determination to "fundamentally transform America" by implementing his social agenda.
Obama considers the destruction of the American economy an acceptable casualty of war in his quest to implement his social agenda: to each according to his needs.
Why would Obama say "no" to the Keystone Pipeline, which would create jobs and move us closer to fuel-independence? Obama believes that oil destroys the planet. We must be forced to use less and drive his electric cars. A social issue.
If Obama is arrogant enough to attempt to force Catholic institutions, against their faith, to provide free abortion services, if re-elected, Obama will surely force clergy to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. A social issue.
Michelle Obama's food police told a little girl the lunch mom packed for her was bad. The food police gave the kid chicken nuggets to eat instead. Dictating what we feed our kids is a frightening social issue.
Bottom line: Obama and the Democrats seek total control of our behavior -- what we eat, drive, say, how we express our faith, the education of our kids, how many babies we're allowed to have, the amount of money we're allowed to earn and how we spend it -- all social issues.
Conservatives are cautioned not to mention social issues or morality. Meanwhile, the left's actions are dictated completely by their social agenda and sense of morality. The left believes that America is immoral. They say our cars, population (having babies), food, and energy consumption are destroying the planet. The world has too little because America has too much -- social issues.
Conservatives, stop allowing yourselves to be bullied into silence. Obama and company are hell-bent on forcing their hippie hangover-inspired social agenda down the throat of each and every American. When conservatives say "no" to their attacks on our freedom, liberty, and culture, they accuse us of being the aggressors. In reality, the true nascent supreme dictator is Barack Hussein Obama.
4)Beyond Blue 6: The Great Divorce
By WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
The decline of the blue social model is a subject I’ve been thinking about for the last thirty years. My first book, Mortal Splendor: The American Empire in Transition was written in the mid 1980s from the standpoint of someone who still believed that the blue model was synonymous with progress and civilization. In that book, I looked at how globalization was dismantling the social compact not just in the United States but throughout the developed world, and argued that the decline of consensual social market capitalism wasn’t just a challenge to the American domestic system. It was a challenge to America’s global leadership — the model and ideal we proposed for life under social capitalism was falling apart. Our argument against the communists had been that capitalism could produce more wealth and more justice than communism, and the social welfare state of the western world was Exhibit A for that proposition. At a time when the Soviet Union still stood, and the ideological competition with communism was still real in parts of the developing world, the thought that the capitalist welfare states of the west would soon be coming under immense pressure was an unsettling one.
It was also unsettling to think about what the decline of what I now think of as the blue social model would mean in the United States. We looked to be headed for a generation of wage stagnation among blue collar workers. The decline of manufacturing as a source of high wages and secure jobs in the United States had already begun by then; my reflections on globalization suggested that the decline would go on for quite a while — as it has. Our society was going to become less equal, and less able to provide the kinds of growing social insurance and welfare payments that it had done in the past.
At the time, I could not imagine an acceptable alternative to the blue model – and didn’t really want to, because the blue model seemed superior to anything else that could be imagined. Partly as a result, Mortal Splendor was a gloomy, sunset over the west kind of book.
Oh well. As Bob Dylan put it, I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now. Over the years I’ve gradually come to understand that the old model wasn’t just broken by evil corporate greedsters hellbent on pillaging the middle and working classes – not that such people don’t exist and don’t need to be watched. It was being broken from below as much as from above, and the left did as much to dismantle it as the right. The Ralph Nader consumer movement, for example, set about attacking the comfortable corporate oligarchies who sold shoddy goods at high prices to the public (can you hear me, Detroit?). Nader and his followers wanted consumers to have more choices, and they favored competition over monopoly. But it was exactly their ability to sell shoddy products at high prices that made so many American companies so profitable in the golden age of the blue model – and it was those profits that underwrote the wages and benefits that gave blue collar workers lifetime security and middle class incomes. Nader’s attack on corporate oligarchy was blue-on-blue violence.
Consumers wanted better goods and lower prices than the blue model could give them. Savers wanted higher interest rates than the highly regulated blue era banks could give them. Companies and consumers wanted more innovative telecom service at lower prices (and with less arrogance) than Ma Bell was ready to offer. The whole country was fed up with the inconvenient schedules and high prices that came with the oligopolistic air travel market. Individual investors were sick and tired of high trading fees and restricted information in the stock market. And given the choice between a shoddy and expensive American car, an expensive but well made European one, or a cheap and reliable Japanese car, fewer and fewer Americans picked something made in Detroit.
Americans wanted more than the blue model could give them, and increasingly they sensed that they could get it. That, more than corporate plots and Gordon Gekko style misdeeds on Wall Street, is why the blue model is going the way of the mastodon.
I can still remember the feeling I had back in the early eighties when I first began to see how low wage manufacturing in the developing world plus the globalization of finance were going to rip up the social fabric I identified with progress and stability. I see many people, some on the left, some in the center, going through that kind of moment today. My first reaction, and that of many people today, was to cling tighter to the blue model as I sensed its fragility and vulnerability. But over time I’ve come to see this breakdown and the transition to something new as the next stage in the story of social and human progress, rather that as some kind of horrible return to savagery.
One of the realizations that helped me accept the need to move on was the corrosive effect of one of blue model America’s most unattractive features: the emphasis on consumption rather than production as the defining characteristic of the good life. As I reflected on the corrosive consequences of this shift, and also began to see that a post-blue society might reverse this priority, I began to think more positively about what could come next. Frank Fukuyama wrote about the appearance of Nietzsche’s Last Man at the end of history; that Last Man is more or less Homer Simpson come to life, a mostly passive, consumption-focused individual whose life is all episode with no plot. But if the blue model isn’t the end of history, and if we are moving to something new — there is hope. Bart and Lisa just might grow up into a bigger world that would stretch their capacities and make them something more than Homer and Marge.
Under the blue model, Americans increasingly defined themselves by what they bought rather than what they did, and this shift of emphasis proved deeply damaging over time. The transformation to a new and higher kind of political economy will require us to put production and accomplishment back at the center of our value system. Both on the left and on the right this is something that should be welcome to a lot of thoughtful people.
Production and Consumption
In 19th century America, production and consumption were typically interrelated. The family on its farm was a production team as well as a consumption unit. They didn’t just play together and watch TV together; they worked together to feed and clothe themselves. Loyalty to your spouse was about much more than not cheating; it was about pulling your share of life’s load as you worked together on a common project. Your partner was really your partner then: the person you married was the person you worked with.
That wasn’t just true on the farm. Husbands and wives worked together to run stores, to train and care for apprentices, to operate inns – even to run embassies. The wife of a blacksmith might not shoe horses, but she might keep the books, manage supplies, and do many other things that made the joint business work. The wife of an ambassador might not negotiate directly with foreign potentates, but navigating the social labyrinths of a foreign capital, giving entertainments that drew the well informed and the influential, monitoring the domestic staff to see whether any were reporting secrets to foreign paymasters: all these fell within the purview of the diplomatic wife.
Beginning very early in life, children played a role in the family firm. On farms, very young children took care of chickens and learned to weed the kitchen garden; older boys and girls undertook increasingly responsible tasks, working side by side with their siblings and parents. A large family was an economic plus in those days partly because the labor of older children and teens often did more than offset the cost of their keep. (My redoubtable sister once complained that she had to hire a cleaning service when her kids went off to college to make up for all the chores they used to do. Women like her, and kids like my nephew and niece, were once much more common than they now seem to be.)
The family didn’t just work together. They planned together. Farm kids sat with their parents as they figured out each year what crops to plant: how many acres of wheat, potatoes, corn, tobacco and so forth. They learned how weather and price fluctuations on international markets affected the farm’s success and the family income. When they bought shoes or other store bought goods, they knew exactly how much work, planning and anxious calculation went into the money they brought to the store. They knew exactly what their taxes were and how much they hurt.
American kids spent more time in school as a general rule than kids in other parts of the world in the 19th century, but their “book learning” was only one part of a much broader and richer education that prepared them to be productive citizens. Parents taught kids the fundamentals of agriculture and animal husbandry; they taught them the hundreds of skills that went into maintaining a family farm. In urban areas and sometimes on farms, adolescents went to work on nearby farms or serve as apprentices. There they found production units much like the one they came from: the husband and wife were the proprietors of a bustling family enterprise that might include a few hired hands but in which young people and older people lived, learned and worked side by side.
American life is in many ways richer today than it was in the 19th century, and I personally have no desire to harness up Cyrus the mule to plow the north forty, but it’s hard to deny that the older model of family and work is more human than the rigid separation of roles and the progressive hollowing out of family life that marked life in the 20th century.
In the 20th century, it became increasingly common for both parents to work in quite different jobs and professions, often many miles from home. Blue collar workers worked in factories and warehouses; pink collar workers in service and clerical positions; professionals and white collar workers in offices. Almost always, the parents commuted to work as the kids commuted to school.
Kids continued to learn things from their parents and to help around the house, but their lives and education were increasingly distant from the home. Formal schooling took up more and more hours (though past a certain point of diminishing returns it’s not clear just how much more was always learned), and kids spent fewer and fewer hours working with and learning from their often absent parents.
The intensity of the partnership between the parents didn’t fade away completely in the 20th century, but the separation of work and home inevitably reduced the centrality of the pair bond in the lives of both halves of the couple. Husbands and wives continued to raise children and maintain a home together and of course their financial well-being was bound up in each other, but increasingly they spent huge portions of their time away from each other and developed networks of friends, relationships and connections that did not include their spouse. The family became a kind of retreat from the cares and troubles of the workaday work: it was a place you went to get away from it all, rather than the place where everything happened.
If we wonder why marriage isn’t as healthy today in many cases, one reason is surely that the increasing separation of the family from the vital currents of economic and social life dramatically reduces the importance of the bond to both spouses – and to the kids.
Education and child-rearing were greatly affected, and in my view not always for the better, by the Great Divorce between family life and work. The educational program of the 19th century, in which formal schooling played a limited role, was integrated into the activities of daily life for the most part. Life wasn’t divided into “learning years” and “working years”; you were always doing some of each and work was seen as part of the education of most kids: it built character and it built skills.
That old model changed for many reasons. As the American workplace moved away from the family farm to the office or the factory, there was less learning to be done in the home. The new kinds of work were less suited to this kind of learning. Repetitive factory work taught very little; to put ten-year-olds in a factory for a shift was to deprive them of learning and stunt their intellectual growth. On the other hand, office and administrative work often demanded skills that few children could acquire. It was cruel to put kids in the factories or coal mines; useless to put them in an office.
As the educational system grew more complex and elaborate (without necessarily teaching some of the kids trapped in it very much) and as natural opportunities for appropriate work diminished, more and more young people spent the first twenty plus years of their lives with little or no serious exposure to the world of work. Summer jobs filled the gaps for some, but over time even these have become less available and in any case, those jobs tended not to have a lot to do with what many kids would go on to do in their adult lives. These jobs rarely served the same kind of integrated educational and work purpose that, for example, helping your parents around the farm did for kids who expected to grow up and farm themselves.
The Hollow Men
There is nothing natural or particularly benign about this long isolation from the realm of economic production. Historically, young people defined themselves and gained status by contributing to the work of their family or community. Childhood and adulthood tended to blend together more than they do now. Young people in hunter-gatherer tribes hunted and/or gathered with greater success as they approached adulthood. Farm kids moved toward adulthood as they contributed to the family’s well being at a higher and higher level. The process of maturation – and of partner-seeking – took place in a context informed by active work and cooperation.
In the absence of any meaningful connection to the world of work and production, many young people today develop identities through consumption and leisure activities alone. You are less what you do and make than what you buy and have: what music you listen to, what clothes you wear, what games you play, where you hang out and so forth. These are stunted, disempowering identities for the most part and tend to prolong adolescence in unhelpful ways. They contribute to some very stupid decisions and self-defeating attitudes. Young people often spend a quarter century primarily as critics of a life they know very little about: as consumers they feel powerful and secure, but production frightens and confuses them.
The separation of learning and work was originally seen as a way to promote learning: by allowing young people to concentrate full time on learning without the “distraction” of work, they could do a better job in school. It is certainly true that working kids too hard can make it impossible for them to learn – but it is also true that cutting kids off from work can also reduce their ability to learn. The maturity and sense of purpose that come with responsibilities in the real world make students more serious about what they choose to learn and how hard they work to take advantage of the educational opportunities they have.
That so many American kids spend so many years in school without learning basic, elementary school-level reading and math skills — to say nothing of the other things that in theory 12 years of formal education should teach — is a devastating critique of the way we organize this part of our lives. The sheer amount of time wasted is staggering – to say nothing of the money, effort or lost potential. People often speak of the need to revive vocational and industrial education as a way of reaching students for whom the traditional academic classroom holds little appeal; more basically, education needs to be integrated with the priorities and purposes of life as these young people experience it.
The segregation of work and the elevation of consumption weaken our society profoundly, but the isolation of family from work and from school was part of a bigger shift. In the 19th century, the social emphasis was on production generally, and not just in the family. In the 20th century, as work became more alienating and less human in many jobs (robotically repeating mechanical activities on an assembly line, robotically repeating routine clerical procedures in an office) Americans defined themselves less by what they did at work, and more on the basis of lifestyle choices and leisure activities. You “expressed yourself” by what kind of car you drove, music you listened to, church you attended, food you ate and other lifestyle choices that you made.
You were also increasingly a consumer rather than a producer of government. In the 19th century, American communities were small and generally self-managed. Most Americans lived in small towns or in rural areas where government really was something people did for themselves. The “state” scarcely existed; outside port inspectors and postal officials, the federal government was largely invisible. And even at the state level, local communities were much more autonomous than they generally are now. Local mayors and selectmen had very few mandates coming down from on high; people managed their own schools and roads and other elements of their common life by their own lights.
In the 20th century Americans became more politically passive as the state grew. The citizen was less involved in making government and more involved in watching it, commenting on it, and picking candidates who were sold the way other consumer goods are marketed: you voted for which party and candidates you supported, but more and more of the business of government was carried on by permanent civil servants acting under expert guidance. Government did much more to you, and you did less of it yourself.
The shift from producer to consumer took place in many fields – often with very important and beneficial results, but always taking a certain toll on the autonomy and dignity of many people. In the 19th century most American health care was provided by family members, often relying on traditional medicines. In the 20th century professional doctors and nurses took over the job. In the 19th century most Americans provided most of their own entertainment: amateur theatricals, family and neighborhood music and so on. In the 20th century you watched television, saw movies and bought music. Americans grew and prepared most of their own food in the 19th century; in the 20th century they bought it in restaurants and supermarkets.
Why We Turned Blue
Part of the shift was the natural result of urbanization, the specialization of labor and the rapid development of scientific knowledge. People in cities can’t raise their own food and a denser, larger population can’t be as informally and directly self governed as a small community; as the world becomes more complicated it pays to concentrate on one or two activities that you do well, and buy more goods and services from others who specialize in different things; and while the average grandmother might have known as much or more about health care than a college educated doctor in 1830, by 1930 it was pretty clear that the trained doctor knew best.
Another force behind the shift was that the subjection of so many millions of workers to rote tasks was, as the Marxist critics of progressive society used to point out, profoundly alienating. The worker on the assembly line and the typist in the typing pool were producing something of economic value, but the process of working was not rewarding in any way. There was none of the satisfaction a craftsman derives from the experience of skills and tools well used to create. There was none of the healthy interaction with nature that a farmer has. Like slaves relentlessly chopping cotton or cutting cane to the demands of a taskmaster, the toiling masses of the 20th century were often doing jobs of no intrinsic interest at a pace they did not control; they were cogs in a machine — though unlike slaves, they were paid and could, in theory, quit.
Since work itself was so unrewarding for so many, satisfaction came from getting paid and being able to enjoy your free time in the car or the boat that you bought with your pay. It was a better deal than most people have gotten through history, but the loss of autonomy and engagement in work was a cost, and over time it took a greater and greater toll.
Another force promoting the shift to a consumption based social model was the felt need to keep up consumption so the economy could work. It was not just the experience of the Depression that led so many to the conclusion that under consumption was the characteristic problem of a capitalist economy. Marxists believed that overproduction was a chronic and irremediable feature of a capitalist system, but they weren’t alone. Many businessmen promoted imperialism in European countries and to some degree in the US because they wanted overseas markets for their goods. When the age of imperialism came to an end, the intensive development of home markets replaced the extensive development of foreign markets in the eyes of many social thinkers and planners: promoting the growth of the domestic market struck many observers as a necessary part of promoting growth overall. (In much the same spirit, China today is thinking about how to expand its domestic consumer market as its production outstrips the demand overseas for Chinese made goods.)
The long decline of the family farm and the stagnant or falling incomes of farmers led many ordinary Americans to define America’s economic problems in terms of insufficient demand. The Great Depression was widely understood to have resulted from insufficient demand: the problem was that an excess of supply reduced prices, and the New Deal attacked the problem on the one hand by restricting supply (imposing quotas on agricultural production, for example) and pumping up demand through public works and transfer payments. Stimulating consumption was the goal.
Another factor promoted the rise of a consumer economy: the development of new and much more expensive goods required a psychological and institutional shift. If people couldn’t buy cars and refrigerators — to say nothing of houses — on credit, the markets for these goods would be vanishingly small. Americans had traditionally been averse to debt, whether personal or governmental. They thought like producers, for whom debt is sometimes necessary but always a cost. Thrift mattered, and for many Americans it was a point of pride not to buy on credit; if you didn’t have the cash for something, you waited.
That kind of attitude wouldn’t keep the car factories humming. The blue social model involved an unprecedented expansion in the use of credit by private households, large companies and all levels of government. Debt was the mother’s milk of blue prosperity and John Maynard Keynes was the prophet of the blue age. While consumer finance has deep roots in Anglo-American history, with installment plans used to sell goods like furniture and sewing machines well back into the 19th century, the 2oth century became a golden age of consumer credit, and to carry large balances on credit cards, home mortgages and student loans came to seem normal and respectable in a way that would have shocked Americans living in the 19th century.
Between the 1930s and the 1970s this worked better than many of its critics expected. In a relatively closed economy like the US, if more people went into debt to buy more stuff, the demand would stimulate economic growth, which would tend to raise wages and employment. The additional income would offset the cost of carrying the debt and support additional consumption as well.
There are many things to be said about this form of economic organization, both good and bad, and economists are still arguing over basic Keynesian ideas. It’s not necessary to resolve that conflict, however, to see that whatever may or may not have been the case in the past, today Keynesian demand-side management seems to be less sustainable than it once was. We stimulate more and grow less than we did back in the halcyon days.
But the real problem with the debt-based, consumption-focused blue social model, the one that bothered many social critics even in the days when the blue model was working and looked sustainable, is one of values. A consumption-centered society is ultimately a hollow society. It makes people rich in stuff but poor in soul. In its worst aspects, consumer society is a society of bored couch potatoes seeking artificial stimulus and excitement. They watch programs on television about adventures they will never have. They try to change their consciousness through the consumption of products (entertainment, consumer goods, drugs) rather than by changing the world and accomplishing things. The massive use of recreational and mood altering drugs reflects and embodies the distortions that a passive, consumption-based society produces in human populations over time.
There is a kind of double consciousness that a consumer society gives people. On the one hand, in the realm of consumption, you are king. Companies bid for your attention and favor. You are a critic and a connoisseur: politicians bid for your votes, networks and film companies for your attention. As long as you are spending your money (earned or borrowed) society feeds your sense of power and worth.
But outside of that realm of consumption, most Americans had very little power under the blue model. You worked in a factory or an office where you did not have a whole lot of autonomy, and where your job, as often as not, was pretty dull. You did not make big plans, take big risks or otherwise wrestle with the world.
The logical endpoint of blue society is a nation of underemployed, pot smoking couch potatoes snarking superciliously at Hollywood while they watch the Oscar ceremonies on TV. Those are the Last Men at the end of blue history. The good news is that this can’t last. A society of such people can’t summon up the will and the vision, or make the sacrifices, necessary for this state of things to continue. Long before a society reaches the ultimate point of blue dissolution, things will change.
We are seeing those changes now. Competition from low wage labor overseas and automation at home is forcing millions of people to face life on new terms. The low rent cocoons of the welfare state — warehousing “surplus” people for generations at a time — are becoming unaffordable. We are being called — driven — to a new kind of life and a new social model that gives us another chance to get the balance between consumption and production right.
It took me a while to see it, but since the 1980s I’ve come to understand that the shift away from blue is not all loss. The blue model was a very comfy couch, but there is much more to do in this world than watch Simpsons reruns while eating chips.
5)Olympia Snowe’s huge gift to Democrats
She’s let the Tea Party push her around, but she may have just ruined the GOP’s 2012 Senate hopes
BY STEVE KORNACKI
For the past few years, Olympia Snowe seemed very interested in winning reelection to the the U.S. Senate as a Republican. The evidence: her voting record, which has shifted measurably to the right since the Tea Party crowd began making threats against ideologically impure GOP incumbents — and proving it could back them up.
As the New York Times noted on Sunday, Snowe is one of several Senate Republicans whose moderate, or at least pragmatic, streak has faded in the Tea Party era. From 2009 to 2010, her rating from the American Conservative Union jumped from 48 to 64 percent. And she’s gone from breaking with her party’s floor leader on 37 percent of votes in the last Congress to just 25 percent in the current one. And on the big votes, she’s gone from providing critical support for President Obama’s stimulus in early ’09 to helping to derail the Dream Act and joining the unanimous Republican opposition to his healthcare law.
This has coincided with the rise of Tea Party Republicanism. Nationally, angry conservatives scored a series of stunning primary season victories in 2010, ousting entrenched incumbents or beating heavily favored establishment figures in Utah, South Carolina, Colorado, Delaware and elsewhere. In Maine, Tea Party adherents produced a surprise of their own, rallying around the little-known, little-funded Paul LePage, who won a jarringly lopsided victory over a well-funded former Boston Red Sox part owner in that year’s GOP gubernatorial primary. LePage went on to win (barely) in the fall and has governed with the same blunt absolutism he showcased in the campaign.
Stylistically and ideologically, LePage and Snowe couldn’t be more different, but since ’10 she’s been the one moving in his direction, not the other way around. That’s as clear a sign as any of where the GOP base is today. And it seemed to be the clearest sign possible that Snowe was willing to do what it took to run for a fourth term as a Republican in 2012.
Which is what makes her retirement announcement this afternoon such a surprise. It’s not like her attempt to mollify the right was failing, or she was facing an impossible race. Despite plenty of bluster from Maine Tea Partyers, Snowe seemed on course to win the GOP nomination with ease. And even if the GOP road became impassible, the option of running as an independent was always there for her. No state in America is as friendly to independent candidates as Maine, which was governed by an independent (Angus King) from 1995 to 2003 and came within a point of electing another (Eliot Cutler) in ’10. It would have been a lot more messy than simply running on the GOP line again, but it would have been a viable path. This is not a Joe Lieberman situation; Snowe was not out of options.
But evidently she was out of patience with what her political life had become. In her statement this afternoon, Snowe said:
“Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.”
The charitable way to read this is that Snowe is tired of pretending to be more outraged by the Obama administration and Democrats in general than she actually is and that she’d rather retire than keep catering to the Tea Party. More realistically, she just honestly believes that D.C.’s current polarized condition is equally the fault of both parties. Again, if she really wanted to work across the aisle and with the White House more, she probably could have, because of the option of an independent reelection candidacy.
But even if she wasn’t particularly helpful to them these past few years, Snowe is doing Democrats a huge favor now. With Snowe in it, Democrats had virtually no chance of winning the Maine Senate race this year. Now they are likely to do so, given the state’s partisan bent. Two Democrats, Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud, represent the state in the U.S. House now and are potential candidates. So is John Baldacci, who was governor from 2003 to 2011, and Tom Allen, who gave up his House seat after six terms in 2008 to run unsuccessfully against Sen. Susan Collins. The race is not a gimme for Democrats, particularly with the possibility that an independent candidate (Cutler maybe?) could get in and draw substantial support. But it’s very, very winnable for them.
And a pickup in Maine would alter the playing field nationally, where Democrats can survive a net loss of three seats and still retain control of the chamber (if Obama is reelected, with Vice President Joe Biden breaking a 50-50 tie). The party is facing potential losses in Virginia, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico and elsewhere, with only two obvious pickup targets (Massachusetts and Nevada) — until now. If there is a second term for the Obama White House, Snowe may end up being a lot more helpful to it than she was in the first term.