Another day, another dollar and another crony impropriety. (See 1 below.)
A piece of Israel or peace with Israel? You decide (See 2 below.)
Let 'em eat cake! Pledging humanitarian aid allows Obama to duck an effective response and he can do what he is good at - bowing - this time to Russia. (See 3 below.)
Stratfor's Friedman. (See 3a below.)
I have yet to hear anyone suggest the closeness of Romney's win in Michigan could possibly be because a lot of Democrats voted for Santorum knowing him to be the weaker candidate. (See 4 below.)
Nothing crooked about Clive Crook's thinking. (See 5 below.)
In time, Republican guns will be pointed at Obama, his failures, his broken commitments, his feckless stances in the face of human tragedies and his vapid speeches. I maintain he will be beat with his own words. Let the good times roll. (See 5a and 5b below.)
You might be a liberal if. (See 6 below.)
This from a very dear friend, fellow memo reader and former IDF officer in response to previous article regarding Barak: "Between the years of 1967 and 1970 I served in this very same unit, “Sayeret Matkal” (along with Netanyahu), under Ehud Barak, and I agree with David Horovitz.
Barak is a poor politician but a very smart, calculated, careful, thriving for perfection and “thinking outside the box” type of a military commander and a head of the IDF.
No wonder Netanyahu wants him by his side, even though his political ideology is totally opposite."
1)LightSquared CEO resigns amid revelations of company’s proximity to Obama White House
By Matthew Boyle
LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday amid revelations of his company’s political proximity — and his own closeness — to the White House and Obama administration officials.
The Daily Caller first reported one week ago on emails and documents that indicate political ties and numerous meetings between LightSquared and Obama administration officials as the company was undergoing regulatory review.
Ahuja’s resignation comes after Obama’s FCC suspended conditional approval of a waiver LightSquared needed to complete its high-speed broadband network. Until two weeks ago, the company’s final approval appeared imminent.
Ahuja, who had never donated to Democrats before and has not since, gave the maximum allowable $30,400 contribution to the Democratic National Committee on the same day his lawyers were trying to arrange a meeting for him at the White House with top Obama technology adviser Aneesh Chopra and other officials.
In emails between Ahuja’s lawyers and White House officials Ahuja wanted to meet with, his lawyers pointed out that he would attend an Obama fundraiser on or about the same day he wanted the meeting.
In a statement accompanying the company’s announcement of Ahuja’s resignation, he made no mention of those revelations.
“During my tenure at LightSquared, we all worked tirelessly to create the nation’s first open wireless broadband network and provide consumers with a new wireless broadband experience,” Ahuja said. “That work continues and I wish the company and its fine management team well as they work to achieve this important goal.”
LightSquared spokesman Terry Neal did not immediately respond to TheDC’s request for comment on the possible connections between Ahuja’s resignation and revelations published exclusively by TheDC.
According to the release, Ahuja will remain LightSquared’s chairman.
Philip Falcone, the CEO of Harbinger Capital Partners — which created LightSquared from its predecessor, SkyTerra — was appointed to the LightSquared board on Tuesday as well. The Obama administration FCC approved Harbinger’s purchase of SkyTerra after what appeared to be a series of favorable regulatory decisions amid White House visits.
In the press release, Falcone said he remains confident in LightSquared’s future despite these new revelations and the company’s reported challenges related to GPS interference issues.
“LightSquared’s objective, through its wholesale business model, is to provide increased competition and lower prices in the telecommunications industry, and to bring broadband cellular phone service to rural areas that currently don’t have such service and that has not and will not change,” Falcone said.
“We are, furthermore, committed to working with the appropriate entities to find a solution to the recent regulatory issues. We, of course, agree that it is critical to ensure that national security, aviation and the GPS communities are protected.”
2)Not a Parody: Peace Now Shocked to Discover Arabs Don't Want Peace
By Jonathan Tobin
What will it take to convince supporters of Peace Now the imperative of their organization's name depends on the Arabs rather than the Jews? After 18+ years of Arab terrorism and rejection of peace offers since the Oslo Accords, it's hard to say whether anything the Palestinians could do or say would cause them to rethink their myopic view of the world.
But give Americans for Peace Now's Lara Friedman a little credit. After schlepping to an Arab League conference on Jerusalem, she at least had the wit to notice that just about everybody else there was focused on delegitimizing Israel, denouncing its existence within any borders and denying thousands of years of Jewish history.
However, it's hard not to chuckle a little bit at the indignant tone affected by Friedman in her op-ed published in the Forward as she conveys her shock and dismay to discover the Arab world believes Jews have no rights in Jerusalem or any other part of Israel. She and her group had so convinced themselves all it will take to create peace "now" was for Israelis to support a two-state solution and negotiate, it appears they never took the time or effort to realize the other side has little interest in peace, now or at any other time. This gives her piece the tone of a parody worthy of The Onion even though it was written in deadly earnest.
Indeed, it must be considered in writing such an article she has demonstrated the utter cluelessness of her group better than anything the group's critics could have come up with.
What is so touching (as well as more than a bit comical) about Friedman's piece is that much of what she says in it is true. For example:
If President Abbas cannot acknowledge Jewish claims in Jerusalem, even as he asserts Palestinian claims (a problem Yasser Arafat suffered from), he should not be surprised if it is more difficult for Israelis and Jews, wherever they are, to believe that he can be trusted in a peace agreement that leaves Jerusalem sites precious to Jews under Palestinian control.
If representatives of the organization that sponsored the Arab Peace Initiative cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the legitimacy of Jewish equities in Jerusalem, they should know that they discredit their own professed interest in peace. . . .
All throughout the day, it was unfortunately the same story. Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians.
Friedman is quite right about all of this. But does it really need to be pointed out that she needn't have traveled to Doha to figure this out? The Palestinians and their cheerleaders have been making this clear for decades. That is why Peace Now in Israel has been discredited by the events that have transpired since the Oslo Accords were signed, and their political supporters in the Knesset have been trounced in election after election.
The traditional left in Israel, at least as far as the Palestinian issue is concerned, is barely alive, though you wouldn't know it from the way many on the Jewish left in the United States talk. The conceit of groups like Americans for Peace Now and J Street — that Israel must be pressured to make peace by the United States for its own good — makes no sense once you realize the Jewish state has repeatedly tried and failed to trade land for peace and the Palestinians have little interest in a two-state solution no matter where Israel's borders would be drawn.
Friedman archly compares the Arab hate fest she is attending to Jewish conclaves where only pro-Israel speakers participate. This is a bit much as is her insinuation no one who cares for Israel's future can possibly oppose a partition of Jerusalem that would place Jewish holy places in the tender care of Abbas and his Hamas allies. As she has discovered to her consternation, Palestinians don't care about Jewish sensibilities, let alone Jewish rights.
Her failure to draw any rational conclusions from what she has heard in Doha tells us all we need to know about the irrelevance of Peace Now to any serious discussion about the future of the Middle East.
3)Obama rules out military intervention in Syria, weighs humanitarian corridors
Despite his strong words against Bashar Assad’s horrendous treatment of the opposition to his rule, US President Barack Obama Tuesday, Feb. 28, has vetoed plans submitted to him last week for Western-Arab military intervention to stop it, Washington sources report. He is weighing an alternative plan for setting up “humanitarian corridors” in the most embattled areas. That too would be contingent on Russian endorsement, because Obama believes Moscow holds the key to Assad’s consent - or at least abstention from sending his army to attack the aid routes.
The Russians have not so far responded to feelers on this from Washington. Neither have they rescinded their threat to block any such plan if tabled at the Security Council.
Ankara provided the clincher for the US president’s decision against military intervention in Syria by its evasiveness over participation in the operation. The plan has nowhere to go without Turkey’s cooperation and the use of its bases from which Western and Arab forces would mount the operation.
Turkish leaders are vocal about the pressing need to save the Syrian people, but when it comes to the brass tacks of operational planning, they develop cold feet.
Rerunning the eight-point military plan rejected by Obama.
1. A group of nations led by the United States will reserve a quarter of Syrian territory (185,180 sq. km) as a safe haven for protecting more than a quarter of the nation’s population (5.5 million people) a under a collective air shield.
2. The operation will be exclusively airborne. No foreign boots will touch the ground in Syria. American, Turkish, French, Italian and British Air Force planes will fly out from three Middle East air bases – Incirlik and Diyarbakir in Turkey, where the US maintains substantial air force strength, and the British facility in Akrotiri, Cyprus.
3. France has offered to make its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle available but accepts that without US air power, spy satellites and operational and logistical resources, the operation will not be feasible.
4. The safe haven will range from Tarkush on Syria’s northern border with Turkey and include the besieged towns of Jabal Al Zaweya, Idlib, Hama, Homs and their outlying villages.
5. The safe haven will be placed off limits to Syrian military and security personnel and its air space declared a no fly zone. Syrian intruders will be challenged by the Western fighter-bombers shielding the protected area.
6. The makeup of the coalition force for saving Syria is still a work in progress. Sarkozy has obtained the consent of Britain, Italy, Turkey and Qatar and is in discussion with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Participation of the last two would make it possible to expand the safe haven to southern and eastern Syria, to include the restive towns of Daraa, Deir a-Zour and Abu Kemal.
7. A regional Syrian administration assisted by Western liaison officers would run the safe haven’s day-to-day affairs. The coalition would take care of the population’s food, medicines and medical care needs.
8. The Western-Arab expedition would not seek Bashar Assad’s ouster as a mission goal or engage in combat with Syrian forces outside the safe haven.
3a)The State of the World: Explaining U.S. Strategy
By George Friedman of Stratfor
The fall of the Soviet Union ended the European epoch, the period in which European power dominated the world. It left the United States as the only global power, something for which it was culturally and institutionally unprepared. Since the end of World War II, the United States had defined its foreign policy in terms of its confrontation with the Soviet Union.
Virtually everything it did around the world in some fashion related to this confrontation. The fall of the Soviet Union simultaneously freed the United States from a dangerous confrontation and eliminated the focus of its foreign policy.
In the course of a century, the United States had gone from marginal to world power. It had waged war or Cold War from 1917 until 1991, with roughly 20 years of peace between the two wars dominated by the Great Depression and numerous interventions in Latin America. Accordingly, the 20th century was a time of conflict and crisis for the United States. It entered the century without well-developed governmental institutions for managing its foreign policy. It built its foreign policy apparatus to deal with war and the threat of war; the sudden absence of an adversary inevitably left the United States off balance.
AFTER THE COLD WAR
The post-Cold War period can be divided into three parts. A simultaneous optimism and uncertainty marked the first, which lasted from 1992 until 2001. On one hand, the fall of the Soviet Union promised a period in which economic development supplanted war. On the other, American institutions were born in battle, so to speak, so transforming them for a time of apparently extended peace was not easy. Presidents George HW Bush and Bill Clinton both pursued a policy built around economic growth, with periodic and not fully predictable military interventions in places such as Panama, Somalia, Haiti and Kosovo.
These interventions were not seen as critical to U.S. national security. In some cases, they were seen as solving a marginal problem, such as Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega's drug trafficking. Alternatively, they were explained as primarily humanitarian missions. Some have sought a pattern or logic to these varied interventions; in fact, they were as random as they appeared, driven more by domestic politics and alliance pressures than any clear national purpose. U.S. power was so overwhelming that these interventions cost relatively little and risked even less.
The period where indulgences could be tolerated ended on Sept. 11, 2001. At that point, the United States faced a situation congruent with its strategic culture. It had a real, if unconventional, enemy that posed a genuine threat to the homeland. The institutions built up during and after World War II could function again effectively. In an odd and tragic way, the United States was back in its comfort zone, fighting a war it saw as imposed on it.
The period from 2001 until about 2007 consisted of a series of wars in the Islamic world. Like all wars, they involved brilliant successes and abject failures. They can be judged one of two ways. First, if the wars were intended to prevent al Qaeda from ever attacking the United States again in the fashion of 9/11, they succeeded. Even if it is difficult to see how the war in Iraq meshes with this goal, all wars involve dubious operations; the measure of war is success. If, however, the purpose of these wars was to create a sphere of pro-U.S. regimes, stable and emulating American values, they clearly failed.
By 2007 and the surge in Iraq, U.S. foreign policy moved into its present phase. No longer was the primary goal to dominate the region. Rather, it was to withdraw from the region while attempting to sustain regimes able to defend themselves and not hostile to the United States. The withdrawal from Iraq did not achieve this goal; the withdrawal from Afghanistan probably will not either. Having withdrawn from Iraq, the United States will withdraw from Afghanistan regardless of the aftermath. The United States will not end its involvement in the region, and the primary goal of defeating al Qaeda will no longer be the centerpiece.
President Barack Obama continued the strategy his predecessor, George W. Bush, set in Iraq after 2007. While Obama increased forces beyond what Bush did in Afghanistan, he nevertheless accepted the concept of a surge -- the increase of forces designed to facilitate withdrawal. For Obama, the core strategic problem was not the wars but rather the problem of the 1990s -- namely, how to accommodate the United States and its institutions to a world without major enemies.
THE FAILURE OF RESET
The reset button Hillary Clinton gave to the Russians symbolized Obama's strategy. Obama wanted to reset U.S. foreign policy to the period before 9/11, a period when U.S. interventions, although frequent, were minor and could be justified as humanitarian. Economic issues dominated the period, and the primary issue was managing prosperity. It also was a period in which U.S.-European and U.S.-Chinese relations fell into alignment, and when U.S.-Russian relations were stable. Obama thus sought a return to a period when the international system was stable, pro-American and prosperous. While understandable from an American point of view, Russia, for example, considers the 1990s an unmitigated disaster to which it must never return.
The problem in this strategy was that it was impossible to reset the international system. The prosperity of the 1990s had turned into the difficulties of the post-2008 financial crisis. This obviously created preoccupations with managing the domestic economy, but as we saw in our first installment, the financial crisis redefined the way the rest of the world operated. The Europe, China and Russia of the 1990s no longer existed, and the Middle East had been transformed as well.
During the 1990s, it was possible to speak of Europe as a single entity with the expectation that European unity would intensify. That was no longer the case by 2010. The European financial crisis had torn apart the unity that had existed in the 1990s, putting European institutions under intense pressure along with trans-Atlantic institutions such as NATO. In many ways, the United States was irrelevant to the issues the European Union faced. The Europeans might have wanted money from the Americans, but they did not want 1990s-style leadership.
China had also changed. Unease about the state of its economy had replaced the self-confidence of the elite that had dominated during the 1990s in China. Its exports were under heavy pressure, and concerns about social stability had increased. China also had become increasingly repressive and hostile, at least rhetorically, in its foreign policy.
In the Middle East, there was little receptivity to Obama's public diplomacy. In practical terms, the expansion of Iranian power was substantial. Given Israeli fears over Iranian nuclear weapons, Obama found himself walking a fine line between possible conflict with Iran and allowing events to take their own course.
This emerged as the foundation of U.S. foreign policy. Where previously the United States saw itself as having an imperative to try to manage events, Obama clearly saw that as a problem. As seen in this strategy, the United States has limited resources that have been overly strained during the wars. Rather than attempting to manage foreign events, Obama is shifting U.S. strategy toward limiting intervention and allowing events to proceed on their own.
Strategy in Europe clearly reflects this. Washington has avoided any attempt to lead the Europeans to a solution even though the United States has provided massive assistance via the Federal Reserve. This strategy is designed to stabilize rather than to manage. With the Russians, who clearly have reached a point of self-confidence, the failure of an attempt to reset relations resulted in a withdrawal of U.S. focus and attention in the Russian periphery and a willingness by Washington to stand by and allow the Russians to evolve as they will. Similarly, whatever the rhetoric of China and U.S. discussions of redeployment to deal with the Chinese threat, U.S. policy remains passive and accepting.
It is in Iran that we see this most clearly. Apart from nuclear weapons, Iran is becoming a major regional power with a substantial sphere of influence. Rather than attempt to block the Iranians directly, the United States has chosen to stand by and allow the game to play out, making it clear to the Israelis that it prefers diplomacy over military action, which in practical terms means allowing events to take their own course.
This is not necessarily a foolish policy. The entire notion of the balance of power is built on the assumption that regional challengers confront regional opponents who will counterbalance them. Balance-of-power theory assumes the leading power intervenes only when an imbalance occurs. Since no intervention is practical in China, Europe or Russia, a degree of passivity makes sense. In the case of Iran, where military action against its conventional forces is difficult and against its nuclear facilities risky, the same logic applies.
In this strategy, Obama has not returned to the 1990s. Rather, he is attempting to stake out new ground. It is not isolationism in its classic sense, as the United States is now the only global power. He appears to be engineering a new strategy, acknowledging that many outcomes in most of the world are acceptable to the United States and that no one outcome is inherently superior or possible to achieve. The U.S. interest lies in resuming its own prosperity; the arrangements the rest of the world makes are, within very broad limits, acceptable.
Put differently, unable to return U.S. foreign policy to the 1990s and unwilling and unable to continue the post-9/11 strategy, Obama is pursuing a policy of acquiescence. He is decreasing the use of military force and, having limited economic leverage, allowing the system to evolve on its own.
Implicit in this strategy is the existence of overwhelming military force, particularly naval power.
Europe is not manageable through military force, and it poses the most serious long-term threat. As Europe frays, Germany's interests may be better served in a relationship with Russia. Germany needs Russian energy, and Russia needs German technology. Neither is happy with American power, and together they may limit it. Indeed, an entente between Germany and Russia was a founding fear of U.S. foreign policy from World War I until the Cold War. This is the only combination that could conceivably threaten the United States. The American counter here is to support Poland, which physically divides the two, along with other key allies in Europe, and the United States is doing this with a high degree of caution.
China is highly vulnerable to naval force because of the configuration of its coastal waters, which provides choke points for access to its shores. The ultimate Chinese fear is an American blockade, which the weak Chinese navy would be unable to counter, but this is a distant fear. Still, it is the ultimate American advantage.
Russia's vulnerability lies in the ability of its former fellow members of the Soviet Union, which it is trying to organize into a Eurasian Union, to undermine its post-Soviet agenda. The United States has not interfered in this process significantly, but it has economic incentives and covert influence it could use to undermine or at least challenge Russia. Russia is aware of these capabilities and that the United States has not yet used them.
The same strategy is in place with Iran. Sanctions on Iran are unlikely to work because they are too porous and China and Russia will not honor them. Still, the United States pursues them not for what they will achieve but for what they will avoid -- namely, direct action. Rhetoric aside, the assumption underlying U.S. quiescence is that regional forces, the Turks in particular, will be forced to deal with the Iranians themselves, and that patience will allow a balance of power to emerge.
THE RISKS OF INACTION
U.S. strategy under Obama is classic in the sense that it allows the system to evolve as it will, thereby allowing the United States to reduce its efforts. On the other hand, U.S. military power is sufficient that should the situation evolve unsatisfactorily, intervention and reversal is still possible. Obama has to fight the foreign policy establishment, particularly the U.S. Defense Department and intelligence community, to resist older temptations. He is trying to rebuild the foreign policy architecture away from the World War II-Cold War model, and that takes time.
The weakness in Obama's strategy is that the situation in many regions could suddenly and unexpectedly move in undesirable directions. Unlike the Cold War system, which tended to react too soon to problems, it is not clear that the current system won't take too long to react. Strategies create psychological frameworks that in turn shape decisions, and Obama has created a situation wherein the United States may not react quickly enough if the passive approach were to collapse suddenly.
It is difficult to see the current strategy as a permanent model. Before balances of power are created, great powers must ensure that a balance is possible. In Europe, within China, against Russia and in the Persian Gulf, it is not clear what the balance consists of. It is not obvious that the regional balance will contain emerging powers. Therefore, this is not a classic balance-of-power strategy. Rather it is an ad hoc strategy imposed by the financial crisis and its impact on psychology and by war-weariness. These issues cannot be ignored, but they do not provide a stable foundation for a long-term policy, which will likely replace the one Obama is pursuing now.
4)Survival of the Mittest
By Jonathan Cohn
JACKSON, Michigan – Did Mitt Romney win the Michigan primary? Or did he merely survive it? That really depends on your perspective.
As recently as a few days ago, Romney was trailing in the polls. And as recently as Tuesday afternoon, Romney staffers were talking down expectations. But Romney won a clean victory on Tuesday night. He won handily in the Detroit metro area, his home turf, but he also ran strong in more contested counties, like Livingston and Jackson, to the west.
But why was it ever this close? Romney had superior money, organization, and, for a long time, name recognition. This state ought to be friendly to him – not because of his family ties, which were never as important as pundits assumed, but because the economy is the biggest issue in Michigan and Romney bills himself as the candidate best positioned to deal with it. Instead, Romney had to fight off an insurgency from Rick Santorum, who appealed to economically strapped voters by appealing to their cultural values.
Romney succeeded, but the exit polls suggested a familiar class divide. Romney won among voters who attended at least some college and those making more than $100,000 a year. But he lost among voters who attended no college and among those making less than $100,000 a year.
As New York Times economics guru and Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt tweeted, if you genetically engineered the typical Romney voter, it was a single Catholic woman who was older than 65 and with a household income of more than $100,000.
I think I met that woman, or at least some real-life versions of her, over the course of my interviews this past week. At campaign events and then on Tuesday, outside a polling place in Jackson, I met plenty of Romney supporters. And most of them made cogent arguments for why they liked him: He understood business, could turnaround the economy, and seemed more likely to win over moderate voters in the campaign to oust President Obama.
But, as best as I can recall, every single one of them – and I mean every single one – was either a small business owner, a professional, or a reasonably affluent retiree. The closest I came to a working-class or poor Romney supporter was a man in work boots and a denim jacket that I spotted at rally in Albion Monday. But it turned out he, too, owned a small business selling farm equipment. I had assumed my reporting sample was just unscientific. The exit polls suggest it wasn't so unrepresentative after all.
In a Republican primary, or at least this Republican primary, you can prevail by losing among all voters making less than $100,000. But it’s tougher in the general election. Romney and his advisors can take comfort in the fact that the downscale conservatives who voted for Santorum will generally support the Republican nominee, whoever it is. They may not love Romney, but they hate Obama, and that will be enough to get them to the polls. Still, Romney has to win over at least some middle class votes to win in November. And he’s shown very little ability to do that.
Which brings us to the other guy who was making a play for Michigan votes this week – although he was doing it from Washington. I’m talking about Obama, who gave a fiery speech to a meeting of the United Auto Workers on Tuesday.
By now, if you read this space, you know all about the auto bailout – and why it’s likely to help Obama’s reelection campaign, in Michigan and more contested rust belt states like Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. But, as Greg Sargent observed, "Obama used the auto-bailout argument as a jumping off point for his larger case." It wasn’t just about saving the automakers or even the Midwest. It was about taking action to fix the economy – and about taking the side of working Americans.
The speech included a direct shot at Santorum, who talks about working class values. But mostly it was a shot at Romney, on biography and on policy. As Steve Benen put it,
The surface-level trouble facing Romney is that he comes across as an out-of-touch, plutocratic elitist. The just-below-the-surface trouble is that Romney, if elected, intends to help other out-of-touch, plutocratic elitist, while making life significantly tougher on those working families who are already suffering.
A recent poll from Democracy Corps warned Democrats not to be overconfident – and, my goodness, they shouldn't be. The economy is stronger but not strong. Obama's poll numbers are higher but not high. But the same poll suggested that Obama’s message on the middle class was working, while other surveys have shown, clearly, average voters are unlikely to think Romney is on their side. And, as my colleague Alec MacGillis notes, Romney did almost everything he could in the last week to reinforce that perception.
If Romney becomes the nominee, as seems likely, he could certainly win in November. But he won't have an easy time of it. That's the message Michigan sent on Tuesday.)
5)Empty Politics Pose Biggest Threat to U.S. Power: Clive Crook
By Clive Crook
Theorists of American decline are preoccupied with the surging growth of emerging rivals, especially China. That’s an important issue, I don’t doubt. But there’s a much bigger threat to U.S. power: the increasingly abject failure of the country’s own political class.
Washington sees it as obvious and unremarkable that public policy has been in hibernation for the past few months and isn’t expected to wake up until January 2013. Of course the country needs tax reform. Yes, a budget would be good, maybe some longer-term spending plans that anybody could take seriously, too. But this is an election year. What do you expect? How long have you lived in the U.S., anyway?
One thing a foreigner like myself might naively expect is serious discussion of relevant policy options. That isn’t happening either. The contest for the Republican presidential nomination, which has the U.S. political class transfixed, is barely even pretending to be serious. In this election, the country has to make a “foundational” choice, says Rick Santorum. Does the U.S. want to follow the European welfare- state model, asks Mitt Romney, or stay true to its principles?
Gosh, so much is at stake.
This bogus fundamentalism is an excuse to avoid discussing real decisions that will have to be made. The economic plans of the main Republican rivals are entirely unserious -- too vague to appraise and impossible to implement if they meant what their proponents claim them to mean. Public borrowing is out of control, say the Republicans. Therefore, slash taxes, maintain middle-class entitlements and invest more in national security. You can call that a foundational fiscal choice or a self- indulgent fantasy. It comes to much the same thing.
At the moment, the Democrats are letting their Republican rivals tear themselves apart. From the liberal point of view, what could be better? The best Republican candidates have taken themselves out of the running. The party has fielded a roster of second-rate candidates (I’m trying to be generous) and in a frenzy of mutually assured destruction is thinning this list down to the one it dislikes least. Thus, a country limping away from a shattering recession is treated to debates about the ethics of contraception -- contraception, if you can believe that -- and a competition to see which candidate is the most “severely conservative.”
The Democrats’ recovery in the polls is therefore, to my mind, quite a mystery. Why has it been so modest? The Republicans are following a script that no Democratic strategist covertly inserted into the Republicans’ campaigns could improve on, and President Barack Obama’s support is still only around 50 percent. Still, the Democrats are gaining ground, and an election that Republicans should have expected to win is sliding away from them. So far Democrats have had the sense to see that this will do just fine for now.
It tells you something, though, that the smart strategy is to remain silent while your political rivals self-destruct --not, I would submit, the sign of a healthy polity. When Democrats do get around to debating the anointed Republican loser, I dare say they will be unable to resist talking about foundational choices, too. Remember the party’s delight when Obama gave his speech last year in Kansas -- an address that reminded the country what the Democrats really stand for, how much this coming election really matters and what a pivotal decision the electorate is about to make.
Checks and Balances
What I want to know is how long the people who believe that have lived in the U.S. How often does an American election settle anything?
The Constitution’s checks and balances are expressly designed to prevent foundational lurches -- and its record of doing just that is pretty impressive. The Republicans look as though they intend to throw away the presidential election, but Democratic control of both chambers of Congress next year seems unlikely. This supposedly pivotal election may very well change nothing. (You remember how transformative 2008, which actually did give Democrats unified control, proved to be.)
I admire the Constitution for the way it protects the U.S. from the reckless machinations of the country’s political class -- but one has to admit the downside. By guarding against the dire results of rule by either tribe of would-be fundamentalists, this system accommodates and thereby encourages that very fundamentalism. Washington is a zone of advocacy without consequences. In the end, the posturing is for nothing: That’s why it persists. Meanwhile, policy emerges unpredictably and almost inadvertently, through a process of deal-making that has nothing to do with what politicians tell voters in their speeches, hence with no real accountability or consent.
Two other things follow. One is protracted delay as the political pantomime plays out. The other is that it’s impossible to make a credible commitment to long-term answers. If the next transformative election is never more than two years away, nothing is expected to stick.
America’s fiscal challenges, for instance, are serious yet surmountable. Just read the report of the fiscal commission led by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. Critical elements of what needs to be done are by now obvious: base-broadening tax reform and control of entitlements through a higher retirement age. But the U.S. political class would rather keep prating about foundational choices than get on with those straightforward fixes. While Washington quarrels endlessly over transformations that will never happen, the fiscal problem worsens to the point where it may turn around and kick the economy in the teeth.
I’d say China is the least of this country’s problems.
(Clive Crook is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
5a)Memo to GOP: Beat Obama
Rick Perry had it right: "I think anyone on this stage is better than what we've got in place."
By William McGurn
As Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum force Republican voters to make their choice in a hotly contested Michigan primary, once again we hear the great lament that we have looked at the candidates and found them all unworthy. Not everyone puts it as harshly as the headline over Conrad Black's piece in the National Post: "The Republicans Send in the Clowns." But it's a popular meme in the campaign coverage.
Like so many others who find the field wanting, Mr. Black laments that "the best Republican candidates—Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Haley Barbour—have sat it out." We'll never know, will we? Because the "best" Republicans opted not to put their records and statements up for national scrutiny, commit themselves to a grueling campaign trail, and subject themselves to TV debates moderated by media hosts who often seem to be playing for the other team.
So say this for the final four: They had the guts to put themselves out there—and stick with it. That's something a winner needs.
As this campaign has progressed, we've also seen the traditional tensions emerge among the party's different constituencies. The lines cannot always be neatly drawn. For example, though Mr. Romney comes from a blue state and represents the business wing of the party, his positions on social issues are similar to Mr. Santorum's. Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, boasts a pro-Israel, pro-freedom foreign policy in addition to uncompromising stands on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Mr. Gingrich offers something to all three GOP constituencies and adds an engaging ability to turn questions back on his liberal interlocutors.
Amid the hurly-burly of a closely contested race, it can be easy to miss a simple fact: In all these areas—the economy, national security and social policy—the real disagreements between the candidates are a matter mostly of emphasis and tone. Only Ron Paul, in the area of foreign affairs, offers a truly substantial departure from the broad Republican tradition.
On economic issues, all four men represent a move toward lower taxes and a lighter government hand. On national security, all (again, save Mr. Paul) are opposed to Iran's getting nuclear weapons and in favor of a more robust foreign policy than President Obama's.
Even on social issues, there is not so much difference where actual policy is concerned. That's because the social issues today are not so much about morality per se but about whether these issues are to be decided by We the People or by the edict of some Health and Human Services secretary who decides that church institutions must provide free birth control and sterilizations. Or by a federal appeals court that has overturned a state referendum and crafted an opinion cleverly designed to encourage Justice Anthony Kennedy to throw out a public referendum in California, thereby re-imposing same-sex marriage on a state whose people voted against it.
In the heat of primaries, it's easy to indulge in hyperbole. Thus Mr. Romney finds himself derided as a flip-flopper on abortion; so was Ronald Reagan, who signed abortion into California law. He is accused too of being a phony, of authoring a RomneyCare that has no important differences with ObamaCare, of being at once a country-club Republican beholden to Wall Street and the advance guard for Occupy Wall Street class warfare.
University of Virginia Center of Politics director Larry Sabato on a new USA Today poll that shows both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum leading President Obama in the 12 swing states and voters overwhelmingly opposed to the President's health-care law.
Mr. Santorum has been caricatured too. He's a bluenose bent on sending the government into American bedrooms, a reactionary who seeks to outlaw contraception, and a theocrat who wishes to bring back Europe's Middle Ages.
Like Mr. Romney, he finds himself the focus of contradictory attacks: derided at once as too doctrinaire on abortion while at the same time too willing to compromise his pro-life principles by endorsing the liberal, pro-choice Arlen Specter—then the senior Republican senator from Pennsylvania—over a conservative, pro-life challenger.
Let's be clear: Today, the most vituperous charges are coming from conservative Republicans. The attacks are already being picked up by the Democratic National Committee. Unless the various constituencies cease their schoolyard sniping, these charges will come back to haunt whoever emerges as the GOP's presidential candidate.
Back in January in New Hampshire, during the first debate of 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then a candidate for the presidential nomination, said of his fellow Republicans, "I think anyone on this stage is better than what we've got in place."
That's an argument America is more than willing to hear. It does not require the perfect candidate or the perfect political party. It does require candidates and surrogates who recognize that their ultimate goal in these Republican primaries is not to read other constituencies out of the party but to bring them together to defeat President Obama.
5b)Obama's Mythical America
The president will win if his Depression-era picture of America goes unanswered.
By DANIEL HENNINGER
It of course was no coincidence that on the day Michiganders voted to give Mitt Romney a three-point win in his primary shootout with Rick Santorum, Barack Obama delivered a high-powered defense of the Detroit auto bailout to the United Auto Workers Convention. No, he wasn't in Detroit. That's the UAW's second favorite city. He and the UAW were in home sweet home—Washington, D.C. That's where the money is.
A pattern is emerging. Like some World Wrestling troupe on tour, the Republican rasslers travel through their primary states slamming each other into the turnbuckles. By contrast—and "contrast" is the most important word in election politics—the incumbent president continues to deliver the same speech, which defines him as saving America from them.
To be sure, the Obama re-election speech, as delivered to the auto union this week, isn't very presidential. It sounds like something one might have heard around South America in the 1950s: "They're saying that the problem is that you, the workers, made out like bandits. . . . Even by the standards of this town [Washington] that's a load of you-know-what."
But make no mistake: Barack Obama is defining his opposition, clearly and relentlessly. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are ensuring that November's voters will end up with no idea who its nominee really is or what he stands for. That's not quite right. One thing is proven: Both have traduced "conservative principles."
The Obama campaign knows it has to compete in big, "working-class" states laden with electoral votes—Ohio (18 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16) and Wisconsin (10). To this end, the Obama narrative, his mythic America the Unfair, is now set. As defined in speeches from the State of the Union through the UAW barnburner, it goes like this:
Working men and women are the true American patriots: "It's unions like yours that helped build an arsenal of democracy that defeated fascism." (A nice Gingrichian touch there.)
You were in trouble: "The heartbeat of American manufacturing was flatlining."
They were going to sell you out: "Some even said we should 'let Detroit go bankrupt.'"
I saved you: "It wasn't just because of anything management did. It was because I believed in you. I placed my bet [the $80 billion bailout] on American workers."
They resent you: "They're still talking about you as if you were some greedy special interest that needs to be beaten."
The deck is stacked: "We will not settle for a country where a few people do really well, and everyone else struggles to get by."
The answer, as always, is America's abandoned values: "Hard work. Fair play. The opportunity to make it if you try."
Only one place to go—to the ramparts: "So I'll promise you this: As long as you've got an ounce of fight left in you, I'll have a ton of fight left in me. . . . God bless the work you do, and God bless America."
This is a caricature of a $15 trillion American economy functioning amid the complexities of the world circa 2012. Even Upton Sinclair, who wrote this sort of thing in "The Jungle" in 1906, would be embarrassed to pump out such a vision today.
Embarrassment is not in the Obama vocabulary. Mr. Obama's stock "working man" speech has been designed to paint the affluent businessman Mitt Romney as a cartoon Monopoly figure. Who would buy it? The same sort of people who bought Mitt Romney's caricature of Newt Gingrich in Florida. In politics, simple works, if simple is repeated and goes unanswered. And of course the Obama working-man myth is intended as a marker against Rick Santorum's variation of the myth pulled from the Pennsylvania coalfields.
Excepting the unlikely event that Mr. Romney sweeps Super Tuesday next week, it looks as though the Republican candidates could run until the June 5 primary with California's 172 delegates and New Jersey's 50 at stake. If what's to come the next three months is more of the same, then the winner, whether Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, will emerge as pulp. Neither man is likely to let up on the other. So be it. That's how this game is played.
Inexcusable, though, would be if the GOP bruisers let Barack Obama's Depression-era portrait of America go unchallenged. On current course, enough American voters really will believe that Barack Obama saved them from the 1930s.
But this rewrite of reality is precisely where Mr. Obama is most vulnerable. The economic and social world Barack Obama inhabits, and has always inhabited, is totally static. Your lot in life—income, status, mobility—is largely set, with little prospect of escaping upward.
He spoke in the UAW speech of "sons and daughters" aspiring to assembly-line jobs held by their grandparents. Even they don't believe life is that static. He promises to solve their economic problems by expropriating money from the wealthy. (France's Socialist presidential candidate called for a 75% top tax rate this week.) Boeing will be forced to make planes in Washington state—forever. Naturally this president's biggest believers live in Hollywood.
Most Americans are not so credulous. But unless the GOP candidates start spending more time dismantling Obama's mythical America instead of each other, this grim fairy tale could win.
6) A Guide to the Liberal Mind
By Victor Volsky
As a great fan of Jeff Foxworthy, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to use his hilarious you-might-be-a-redneck comedy routine in an attempt to characterize the liberal mindset (tweaking Jeff's formula a bit to convert it from the suppositional to the unconditional). So, with apologies to the wonderful country comedian, here are some of the notable features of the liberal's mental landscape:
- If you believe that freedom of expression is sacrosanct but would like nothing better than to deny it to anyone who doesn't share your views, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that the 1st Amendment separates church from state, but not state from church, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that the 2nd Amendment was the founding fathers' big mistake and that the 10th Amendment shouldn't be taken seriously, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that endlessly discussing a problem amounts to actually solving it, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that the results of progressive programs are irrelevant and that only good intentions count, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Mark Foley, who wrote salacious e-mails to a young but legally adult congressional page, was an evil libertine, while Gerry Studds, who had sex with an underage congressional page, was a knight in shining armor, you are a liberal intellectual.
- If you believe that Obama is an intellectual giant whose IQ is off the charts even though you have no idea what his IQ actually is, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that a decades-old drunk-driving episode in George W. Bush's biography comes under the "people's right to know" doctrine while the entire past of Barack Obama is protected by his right to privacy, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that we can spend and borrow our way out of the recession in keeping with the thoroughly discredited Keynesian model, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that taxpayers don't change their behavior when the government tries to squeeze more tax money out of them, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Americans are undertaxed, while carefully hiding your own money in offshore tax shelters, you are a liberal.
- If you believe, with Nancy Pelosi and Valerie Jarrett, that are a boon to the economy (but without taking this brilliant insight to its logical conclusion: that the path to unprecedented prosperity lies through 100% unemployment), you are a liberal.
- If you believe that affirmative action improves the lot of poor minorities rather than miring them in perpetual misery and dependence, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty failed because not enough money (a trifling $16 trillion) was spent on it, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that God's middle name is Kennedy, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Jimmy Carter, who has been working indefatigably over the last three decades to subvert his country's foreign policy, is the best ex-president ever, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that the Fox News Channel is the modern-day equivalent of Völkischer Beobachter and The New York Times a light unto the world, and whatever the Times publishes is God-given truth while whatever it deems unfit to print doesn't deserve to be known, you are a liberal.
- If you angrily castigate your compatriots for being profligate with their energy consumption while generously allowing yourself to use more than 20 times as much energy as a regular household (see Gore, Al), you are a liberal.
- If you believe that your choice of a affects the planet's climate while sunspot activity doesn't, you are a liberal.
- If you are notoriously stingy with personal charitable giving but deliriously generous with other people's money while proudly posing as the true benefactor of the poor, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that human nature is infinitely malleable and that nurture easily trumps nature, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that your women's studies degree is superior to a Ph.D. in engineering, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that the anarchists, hoodlums, and hobos who make up the Occupy movement are noble idealists who truly represent the 99 percent of America while the Tea Partiers are Nazi troglodytes and of course racists, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that perjury is not a crime if it is about sex, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Bill Clinton defended the Constitution as he repeatedly perjured himself, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Hillary's rather primitive bribery scheme with cattle futures was so complicated as to be beyond human comprehension and thus ought to be shoved into the memory hole, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Chuck Colson, who served seven months behind bars for procuring a single FBI file, got away with murder, but the Clintons, who demanded from the FBI some 900 files, were defenseless lambs relentlessly persecuted by cruel Republicans, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that the mountains of corpses and rivers of blood that have been the chief result of all communist "experiments" are merely collateral damage, a possibly regrettable but unavoidable byproduct of the high-minded attempts to build paradise on earth and thus nothing to talk about, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Alger Hiss or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were innocent victims of McCarthyism, you are a liberal.
- If, to reinforce your salon cred, you bedeck your infant in a T-shirt bearing the likeness of that murderous sadist, Che Guevara, you are a liberal.
- If you believe, against plentiful historical evidence to the contrary, that appeasement works and that America's unilateral disarmament will surely mollify enemies by demonstrating our peaceful intentions and shame them into following our example, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that negotiations are the be-all and end-all of international relations and that as long as our adversaries deign to talk to us, everything is fine and dandy, even if they clearly use the negotiations as a smokescreen to pursue their nefarious schemes unmolested, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that the Palestinians sincerely want an accommodation with Israel and that only the stiff-necked Jews' obduracy stands in the way of Middle East peaceful settlement, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that all cultures are equal but that Western culture is less equal than the others, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that a crucifix immersed in the "artist's" urine or a bucket of paint splashed onto a canvas is genuine art, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that a murderous hoodlum is not really guilty because he grew up in a tough neighborhood and that "judgmentalism" is really the only crime deserving of opprobrium, you are a liberal.
- If you reflexively sympathize with the while scornfully ignoring the crime victim, you are a liberal.
- If you believe that Bill Maher is indeed politically incorrect and Warren Buffet is dying to pay more taxes, you are a liberal.
- If you love the "people" but despise the "populace," you are a liberal.
- If you believe that you and your ilk will be able to fool the American people indefinitely...well, you may have a point there.