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Tags: Obama

Sorry Mr. President, ISIS Is 100 Percent Islamic



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In a televised address on how to address the Islamic State this evening, President Barack Obama declared the organization variously known as ISIS or ISIL to be “not Islamic.”

In making this preposterous claim, Obama joins his two immediate predecessors in pronouncing on what is not Islamic. Bill Clinton called the Taliban treatment of women and children “a terrible perversion of Islam.” George W. Bush deemed that 9/11 and other acts of violence against innocents “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.”

None of the three has any basis for such assertions. To state the obvious: As non-Muslims and politicians, rather than Muslims and scholars, they are in no position to declare what is Islamic and what is not. As Bernard Lewis, a leading American authority of Islam, notes: “It is surely presumptuous for those who are not Muslims to say what is orthodox and what is heretical in Islam.”

Indeed, Obama compounds his predecessors’ errors and goes further: Clinton and Bush merely described certain actions (treatment of women and children, acts of violence against innocents) as un-Islamic, but Obama has dared to declare an entire organization (and quasi-state) to be “not Islamic.”

The only good thing about this idiocy? At least it’s better than the formulation by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (known as CAIR) which has the nerve to call the Islamic State “anti-Islamic.”

In the end, though, neither U.S. presidents nor Islamist apologists fool people. Anyone with eyes and ears realizes that the Islamic State, like the Taliban and al-Qaeda before it, is 100 percent Islamic. And most Westerners, as indicated by detailed polling in Europe, do have eyes and ears. Over time, they are increasingly relying on common sense to conclude that the group is indeed profoundly Islamic. 

Tags: Obama , ISIS , Islam

The Case for Formally Threatening Obama with Impeachment Right Now



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In what follows, I will be making the case for the current Republican members of Congress, and all new Republican candidates running for House election to sign, ASAP, a pledge to this effect:

“We the undersigned promise the American People, that we will initiate impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama if he either a) commits three more violations, no matter how minor in practical effect, of the take-care clause and/or presentment clause of the Constitution, or if he b) commits one such violation that has the effect of providing amnesty to more than 100,000 illegal immigrants. 

This promise is totally independent from whatever occurs with the lawsuit.  Nor does it rule out or promise impeachment for other reasons, such as impeding investigations of current or future scandals.  This promise does not apply to just any independent executive actions, regardless of controversy about their being constitutional, but only to the kind indicated.  While this pledge could be used to judge how we actually vote on the final House decision on impeachment if such occurs, it does not pre-determine that vote:  each of us would certainly weigh all House debate and all input from our particular districts concerning that vote.”

A good brief argument against doing anything like this is found in Newt Gingrich’s remarks the other day

A solid case for undertaking some kind of future impeachment against Obama, once public opinion has been made ready for it, was made yesterday by Andrew McCarthy.  I am in broad agreement with Andrew, and particularly with his condemnation of the confusing lawsuit path, but note that the case I am making here would judge Andrew’s timetable as too slow and vague.  My case is that some commitment-to-impeach statement has to occur before the election, and some definite warning-shot has to be fired in response to Obama’s trial-balloon/threat this last weekend to unilaterally amnesty several millions. 

Keep reading this post . . .

Tags: Impeachment , Obama

Our Sudden De Facto Travel Ban on Israel



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Our Sudden De Facto Travel Ban on Israel

If your direct flight from New York to Tel Aviv suddenly turns around in the eastern Mediterranean and heads back to Paris . . . do you get the frequent-flyer miles for the new longer route?

Perhaps there’s a bit of logic to the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to bar all flights into Tel Aviv — after the shoot-down in the Ukrainian skies, surely everyone in the aviation world is more jittery than usual. But by barring flights, we’re giving Hamas what they want. We’re stopping all U.S. flights into Tel Aviv for 24 hours . . . and then what?

We’ve just told Hamas that we’ll stop our flights into Israel whenever they hit near the airport. The airport is well within range; it’s just a matter of firing enough until one gets through the Iron Dome air-defense system and scaring away air travelers.

With the U.S. decision, most European carriers announced they were cancelling flights to Israel, too. Cruise ships are altering their courses and canceling stops in Israel. Think about it, this is a de facto travel ban to Israel. (Anybody arriving in Israel by boat or overland right now? Didn’t think so.) Right now our State Department merely recommends against traveling to North Korea. Right now you can book a flight from a U.S. airport to Havana, Cuba, or Caracas, Venezuela. But you can’t fly to Tel Aviv . . . with one exception.

Israeli airline El Al is still flying . . . and a guy most folks on the Right don’t like very much is taking a bold stand:

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is heading to Israel Tuesday night, flying on El Al in a show of unity with the Jewish state while U.S. and European airlines are canceling flights amid deadly fighting in Gaza.

“This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel,” Bloomberg said in a prepared statement emailed by former City Hall spokesman Marc La Vorgna shortly after 8 p.m.

“Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely,” Bloomberg continued. “The U.S. flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately. I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.”

Bloomberg will be accompanied by one aide and, during his brief stay, plans to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, La Vorgna said.

This sure feels like a backdoor way to pressure Israel to accept a cease-fire on terms it doesn’t like.

Tags: Israel , Obama , FAA

John Kerry: ‘Nobody’ Expeted Mosul to Fall

Via Fox News:

Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview with Fox News, claimed “nobody expected” Iraqi security forces to be decisively driven out by Sunni militants, as they were earlier this month in Mosul — despite reports that Kurdish officials warned Washington and London well in advance about this threat. 

Kerry spoke with Fox News on Tuesday in the middle of a multi-country swing through the Middle East and Europe as he tries to calm the sectarian crisis in Iraq. 

Pressed on whether the takeover of Mosul and other northern cities and towns by Sunni militants marks an intelligence failure, Kerry said nobody could have predicted Iraqi security forces would have deserted. 

“We don’t have people embedded in those units, and so obviously nobody knew that. I think everybody in Iraq was surprised. People were surprised everywhere,” he said. . .

By "nobody" he means everybody but the United States maybe. - Greg Pollowitz

Tags: ISIS , Obama , Iraq

Are Democrats Just Unable to Get Out the Vote in Midterms, Period?



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From the final Morning Jolt of the week:

Can Obama’s Usual Get-Out-The-Vote Tools Work in a Midterm Year?

Clip and save: Nate Cohn, writing in the New York Times, writes that the usual Obama campaign turnout tools can’t and won’t be effective on a large scale in a midterm election:

Much of the optimism on Democratic turnout stems from Mr. Obama’s successful turnout operation in 2012, or from experiments showing large increases in turnout when voters receive targeted mailers or contacts. But political scientists and campaign operatives found that even Mr. Obama’s impressive ground operation was worth less than one point in his presidential elections.

Boy, that conclusion hasn’t permeated the conventional wisdom about 2012, has it? Here’s Ryan Enos and Anthony Fowler, writing at the site of GW political-science professor John Sides:

Among these select groups, we estimate massive campaign effects of 15.4 percentage points for registered Democrats and 13.8 percentage points for Republicans. These numbers suggest impressively effective mobilization efforts by BOTH the Obama and Romney campaigns.

Despite all the celebration of the Obama campaign’s technological and other superiority, their campaign only had a 1.6 percentage point advantage over Romney in turning out party registrants. Of course, we don’t know whether Democratic registrants are inherently more difficult to mobilize than Republican registrants (although we find similar effects in 2008 before the Obama campaign had adopted the technological innovations of 2012, casting further doubt on the importance of these innovations). Also, keep in mind that the 1.6 percentage point difference that we detect may have been enough tip the election in a very close state like North Carolina in 2008, so the Obama mobilization effort may have helped to pad Obama’s victory. Nonetheless, these preliminary results suggest that the praise for Obama’s 2012 campaign may be overblown. Both campaigns appear to have been effective in mobilizing voters, and the 2012 Obama campaign was not dramatically more effective than Romney’s campaign or Obama’s 2008 campaign.

The thing is, wouldn’t a get-out-the-vote effort be minimally effective in a hugely covered mega-event like a modern presidential campaign, compared to a midterm election, off-year election, or special election? In other words, if an election is big enough, most people don’t need to be reminded to come out and vote, while they would in the less-covered, lower-profile election years.

Back to Cohn:

And those experiments are usually conducted in extremely low-turnout elections, like a local mayoral race, in which there are many more marginal voters. Finding people who are potential voters but not existing voters in a national election is harder.

Even Democratic operatives know the limits of the ground game. In a New Republic cover article that otherwise suggested that a strong turnout operation could solve Democratic problems, Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, conceded that field operations would “only solve our problem if the election is a close one.”

He discusses Terry McAuliffe’s efforts in Virginia in 2013 and notes:

But Mr. McAuliffe’s win was narrow — especially considering the tepid Republican effort. And no Democratic turnout effort will revitalize the so-called Obama coalition of young and nonwhite voters in an off-year election. The levels of voter interest in a midterm election and presidential election are simply too different. Indeed, Mr. Kreisberg said the McAuliffe campaign didn’t aim to match 2012 turnout; it was mainly focused on outperforming turnout in 2009.

He adds, “Democrats won the 2006 midterms in a landslide partly by winning voters over 60.” Gallup observed earlier this year:

U.S seniors — those aged 65 and older — have moved from a reliably Democratic group to a reliably Republican one over the past two decades. From 1992 through 2006, seniors had been solidly Democratic and significantly U.S seniors — those aged 65 and older — have moved from a reliably Democratic group to a reliably Republican one over the past two decades. From 1992 through 2006, seniors had been solidly Democratic and significantly more Democratic than younger Americans. Over the last seven years, seniors have become less Democratic, and have shown an outright preference for the Republican Party since 2010. more Democratic than younger Americans. Over the last seven years, seniors have become less Democratic, and have shown an outright preference for the Republican Party since 2010.

And here come the Obama administration’s home-health-care Medicaid cuts.

Coming soon to a voting booth near you: Irate senior citizens.

Tags: Obama , Midterm , Democrats , Get-Out-The-Vote

Total Recall: GM’s Chance for Rebirth



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Before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday, the CEO of America’s biggest auto company will apologize for her company’s negligence in pursuing a defective part that has been linked to the loss of 13 lives.  

“As soon as l learned about the problem, we acted without hesitation. Whatever mistakes were made in the past, we will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future,” Barra will say of the recall of 2.5 million vehicles with potentially faulty ignition switches, according to a copy of her written testimony released Monday. “That begins with my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall. My management team and I . . . will hold ourselves fully accountable.”

Barra’a contrition is a jarring contrast to President Obama’s arrogant defense of his disastrous Affordable Care Act. America’s CEO lied about his product and has refused to recall it even as millions (including cancer patients) have suffered from the loss of their insurance and doctors. Calling for a full investigation by a U.S. attorney, Barra promises “we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers.” Obama refuses anything of the sort. Such are the expectations of our political leaders vs. our business leaders.

For all GM’s troubles, “Switchgate” — named for the faulty ignition switch that can inadvertently stall cars made between 2005–2011 — could ultimately benefit Barra and her company.

As the first female CEO of an American automaker, Barra will benefit from enormous political  goodwill. She is assisted by the fact that none of the cars effected are still in production. They are relics of an old GM — a pre-bankruptcy GM that was burdened by excessive labor costs, pension overhead, and poorly designed sedan products.

With the massive recall, Barra can help sever Old GM from New GM, putting in place safety systems (she has already announced a new veep for Global Vehicle Safety) that will assure that Switchgate won’t be repeated. Indeed, the ignition snafu is an anomaly in a company — and an industry — that is quick to recall unsafe products. For example, the 2005 Chrysler Pacifica – of similar vintage to Switchgate star, the Chevy Cobalt — also had a mysterious stalling problem. It was recalled within two years of launch.

Conspiracies will abound. Did GM bury Swtichgate because of pressure to keep a new vehicle launch on schedule? Did Chevy resist the recall expense because the company was in increasing financial straits?

Perhaps.

But GM insiders say there likely is no smoking gun — that the Cobalt’s (and Pontiac Solstice, and Chevy HHR, etc.) ignition was considered by engineers to be a mechanical issue that never rose to the level of safety defect (thus, its part number was never changed even after the ignition was fixed sometime around 2007).

The deaths associated with the ignition had muddying factors — drivers were alcohol-impaired or youngsters driving in wet conditions — preventing easy connection of the dots. By the time the ignition was definitively linked to air-bag deployment — circa 2009 – the part had been repaired.

Critics — my NRO colleague Jim Geraghty among them — will rightly question whether Switchgate was further buried by a government-run bankruptcy (would NHTSA embarrass its own White House with a recall?). Fair enough. But the White House Auto Task Force was uninterested in liability — only in quickly restructuring the company’s balance sheet so that the UAW could survive and continue to feed the Democratic Party campaign cash. It was a UAW bailout, not an auto bailout.

In crisis there is opportunity, and GM has a chance to redeem itself under the hot glare of public attention. With the best products it has ever produced in showrooms now (new Corvette, new Malibu, new Tahoe, new Caddies, etc.), a new focus on customer service would do a lot of good.

Tags: GM , Obama , Obamacare , Chevy Cobalt

The Lights Stay On



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The Obama administration’s War on Carbon rages, but the good news is the incandescent light bulb still lives.

For the third year in a row, the federal ban on the popular incandescent light bulb — the choice of most Americans — was postponed by Republican House intervention that defunded EPA enforcement of the law.

“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used . . . to implement or enforce the standards with respect to incandescent reflector lamps,” reads section 322 of the $1.1 trillion budget signed by the president in January. The language was cheered by Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) and endorsed by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.) who has become a champion of the common bulb after infamously teaming with Lame Duck Bush and then-speaker Pelosi to kill the bulb in a 2007 global-warming-fighting energy bill.

After a firestorm of criticism from consumer groups led by Freedom Action’s Myron Ebell, Upton & Co. stayed the bulb’s sentence hours before its January 1, 2012 execution. The law eliminates the common bulb by capping the energy that bulbs can draw — effectively a mpg law for bulbs that only CFLs can meet.

The Obama EPA, greens, and their corporate-crony allies have continued to push the ban, however. As in so many of its transformation-of-America ventures, the White House has teamed with Big Business — in this case GE, Philips, and Sylvania — as they use regulation to gain higher profit margins on alternative energy and expensively energy-efficient products. Hundreds of jobs have already been lost as these companies shuttered U.S. incandescent plants to begin CFL production in China – part of the process of “transforming the global lighting industry,” as GE put it.

A ban would come at considerable cost to consumers. In the run up to the 2012 ax, retailers tried to mask the inconvenience to buyers by advertising CFLs at huge discounts. They were short-lived. These days an 8-pack of 60-watt incandescents sells at Lowe’s for $2.98, while equivalent CFLs sticker for six times more: $8.78 for a 4-pack.

Now we know why the president wants that $10 minimum wage — to help low-income workers pay for his bulb ban.

The 40W-60W bulbs not only make up over 50 percent of the market, but CFLs are not the energy-savers greens promised. CFLs are fragile — particularly when turned on and off multiple times. Meanwhile, thanks to general media silence, recent polling indicates only 28 percent of the public is aware that their primary bulb source hangs by a thread. Keep the lights on, GOP.

Tags: light bulb , Obama , Upton

Edict Watch: Obama T-Bones the Small-Trucking Industry



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President Obama issued yet another edict on Tuesday that requires semi-trucks to meet federal fuel-economy standards. And, like other edicts choking coal plants and hiking the federal minimum wage, the little guy will suffer most.

Fuel efficiency is a major concern in the trucking industry. No surprise then, that the truck market — without any federal intervention — has favored diesel engines for decades. Nevertheless, the Trucker-in-Chief has decided that the EPA must now set mpg standards for commercial vehicles just as it does for cars and SUVs as Obama continues his relentless expansion of the regulatory state.

“Improving gas mileage for these trucks . . . reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers,” said Obama at a Safeway store in Maryland. “So it’s not just a win-win, it’s a win-win-win. You’ve got three wins.”

Actually, it’s only a win for politically connected Big Business — and a lose-lose for small truckers and consumers.

Independent truckers have vehemently protested the edict as costly to small business since EPA first announced the proposal in 2011.

“The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and its members are warning that the Obama administration’s proposed fuel-economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks could put the cost of new trucks out of reach for many of America’s hard-working professional truckers,” said the trucking industry’s trade group in a statement today.

The EPA itself estimates that the mpg rules will hike the cost of trucks by nearly $6,000, making it harder for small operators to buy new equipment. Larger operators will pass the costs on to consumers. But most conspicuous in the president’s announcement were Big Business supporters of his unilateral order — companies like Safeway, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, UPS, and FedEx. All operate their own trucking fleets and have been bought off by the Obama White House courtesy of the National Clean Fleets Partnership which provides federal alternative fuel subsidies to these member giants.

Oh.

Not surprisingly, none of these inconvenient truths was reported by Obama’s media parrots, especially the global warm-mongers at the Associated Press which repeated the president’s spin almost word-for-word.

With the economy limping along, the Obama administration continues to pile regulations on the back of business. The result is fewer jobs, higher costs, and more pain for small business — the very folks the president says he is in office to defend.

Tags: trucks , mpg , Obama

Suddenly Every Pundit Wants to Be a Revolutionary.



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Pundits, Columnists Run to the Barricades to Begin New Revolution

I see our nation’s political scribes are in a revolutionary mood.

Matthew Dowd:

Could an “Arab Spring” type of upheaval be brewing in the United States? Is the frustration and anger toward our dysfunctional politics and economics beginning to reach a tipping point where young folks begin to push for profound change? Has our democracy become so broken that citizens are going to find creative avenues to express their feelings? Will we pass through the holidays and winter of our dysfunction to arrive at a spring of change? I sense a movement of social unrest growing strongly and quietly towards our own version of the Arab Spring . . . 

For more than a generation, the middle class of this country has not seen any significant improvement in their financial situation. In fact, when you factor in inflation, the majority of the country has actually seen a decline in their economic status over the past 25 years. The wealthiest 5 percent of America has basically garnered nearly all the gains we have seen in economic growth over the last few decades. Many in New York City, Washington, DC and small enclaves around the country have done very very well, while the rest of America is either stagnant or in decline. As we reflect on Nelson Mandela’s passing it is time to ask if we have our own version of apartheid here — not by race, but by economic status.

Ron Fournier of National Journal, who had been on an anti-Obama tear lately:

Cities across the nation have become flash points of polarization, as one population has bounced back from the recession while another continues to struggle. One in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania.

Written by Andrea Elliott and illustrated by photographer Ruth Fremson, Dasani’s story is an indictment of a political system that is aiding and abetting America’s division by class, where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class gets squeezed into oblivion. Both major parties are complicit, but Republicans, more than Democrats, seem especially eager to widen and exploit American inequality.

Where to begin?

One problem with the “this is intolerable, and we need an uprising!” cry is that we’ve already had at least two “uprisings” at the ballot box in recent years: The Obama wave of 2008 and the Tea Party wave of 2010. But their remedies for the “intolerable” condition are contradictory — one envisions a much greater role for government in Americans’ daily lives, while the other concludes government’s growing role exacerbates the problems instead of solving it.

Ironically, the two sides agree in their denunciation of crony capitalism, but what they usually mean is that they’re opposed to the other guy’s crony capitalism. Obama voted for TARP and then exploited its discontent, shrugged at the taxpayers’ getting stuck for the bill of Solyndra and other green energy boondoggles, then did his part to help walking conflict of interest Terry McAuliffe become governor of Virginia. The flip side of the coin is that too many Republicans are all too comfortable with their own versions of crony capitalism — loans and loan guarantees subsidize U.S. exporters, state economic development boards, and Bob McDonnell’s cozy financial arrangements with donors, among other examples. While crony capitalism isn’t really a driving force behind our national sense of diminishing economic opportunities, it certainly doesn’t help anyone except the cronies, and enhances the sense that wealth is built through cheating and secret deals, not hard work or innovation.

(Notice that this expression of economic discontent is so generic that everybody’s got a grievance, and nobody thinks they’re the beneficiaries. This is how you get multimillionaire rapper/mogul Jay-Z selling Occupy Wall Street-themed t-shirts, or the CEO of bailed-out insurance giant AIG explicitly comparing the treatment of his company to lynchings in the South, or the number of members of Congress who have complained about their $174,000 per year salary.)

Dowd and Fournier aren’t dumb guys. They must know that the problems of the poor and the squeezed middle class aren’t just a matter of enacting policy A instead of policy B. Or, more specifically, you would go a long way towards solving the problem of the middle class getting squeezed and the poor getting poorer if you could alter any one of the persistent social problems in American life:

  • Public schools that stink, fail to prepare kids for college or the working world, and often provide the worst education to the poorest kids who need it the most.
  • Teenagers having children and kids being raised without a mom and a dad who are engaged in their daily life, teaching them the out-of-the-classroom life lessons, providing discipline and a moral compass, and providing good role models.
  • Helping those who encounter difficulties in life from succumbing to drug abuse and/or alcoholism.

Perhaps most frighteningly, even young college-educated people who don’t face the daunting problems above can still begin their careers dreadfully unprepared for the requirements of the workplace:

. . . the problem with the unemployability of these young adults goes way beyond a lack of [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] skills. As it turns out, they can’t even show up on time in a button-down shirt and organize a team project.

The technical term for navigating a workplace effectively might be soft skills, but employers are facing some hard facts: the entry-level candidates who are on tap to join the ranks of full-time work are clueless about the fundamentals of office life.

A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.

Another employer survey, this one by staffing company Adecco, turns up similar results. The company says in a statement, “44% of respondents cited soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, as the area with the biggest gap.” Only half as many say a lack of technical skills is the pain point.

There was no “Create Poverty and Exacerbate the Division Between Rich and Poor Act” that was passed and that we could repeal. We, as a society, did this to ourselves. Mickey Kaus dissects Obama’s recent speech on income inequality and asks:

2. Where’s the Culture of Poverty? It’s especially hard to claim government can easily fix some of the disturbing social trends that seem to underlie the “coming apart” of the classes — especially the rise in single-parent, mainly fatherless, families. Amazingly, as Via Meadia notes, Obama mostly ignores these “social patterns” except in a fudge-paragraph where he associates them with poverty but doesn’t say which is causing which. To the extent government policy has influenced family structure it almost certainly made the problem mostly worse, with a welfare system that enabled a culture of single motherhood. The 1996 reform of welfare so far has not transformed the family structure at the bottom of the income distribution (though it does appear to have had some positive effect). That suggests the rise of single-parent families, like falling pay for unskilled work, may in part be the product of Larger Forces. For example, it’s not crazy to think that prosperity itself enables more people to get by without traditional families in the shorter term (with possibly damaging long-range consequences). But it’s hard to blame government inaction, and Republicans, for that.

But it’s easier to blame the opposition party, isn’t it?

Tags: Economy , Obama , Tea Parties , Poverty , Opportunity

Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya: America’s Out of the Deposing-Rulers Business



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Today’s Morning Jolt features a surprising vote for Ken Cuccinelli in the governor’s race, analysis of Putin’s maneuvering in the Syria crisis, and then a look at an element that’s been missing from the discussion of war in Syria:

Why Americans Aren’t that Angry at Bashir Assad

Real American anger at Assad is missing from the current debate about Syria; by and large, we don’t really feel enormous animosity or fury or rage towards the Syrian dictator. Ironically, there isn’t much dispute about his worst crime; the polling is pretty clear: “While eight in 10 Americans believe that Bashar al-Assad’s regime gassed its own people, a strong majority doesn’t want Congress to pass a resolution authorizing a military strike against it.”

But Assad doesn’t set Americans’ blood to a boil. Perhaps a decade of war, and runaway anti-Americanism, have left us shrugging when we see an evil man who has, at least so far, avoided direct confrontation with the United States.

America has a lot of enemies in that region who are directly confronting the United States: Just under one year ago today:

  

Cairo, above; Benghazi, below.

The pictures above are from Egypt — where we thought we stood with the Egyptian people, in their decision to depose Mubarak — and Libya, where we and NATO took military action to help the Libyan people against the dictator Qaddafi. And then the locals turned on us and attacked our diplomatic facilities and personnel. Then you throw in the response of the Iraqi people and the Afghans, last seen inflicting “green on blue” attacks by infiltrating the Afghan security forces and killing coalition personnel.

Right now, Americans aren’t that convinced that anybody over there is really deserving of our help. We’re not convinced that we would do much good, we’re nearly certain no one would be thankful, and we’re suspicious that the folks we help will just turn around and attack us again later. It’s painting with a broad brush, but one shaped by hard experience.

Tags: Obama , Syria , Benghazi , Egypt , Afghanistan

Free Syrian Army Depicts Obama as Captain America



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This photo, on the Facebook page of the Free Syrian Army, depicts Obama as Captain America, waiting for Congress to unchain him to take on Assad, spraying poison gas on people:

The administration must be glad to see somebody finds the president’s Syria policy heroic.

Of course, not every photo on every Facebook page of every Syrian faction is so cheery. NBC News spotlighted this photo on the page of

the “Al-Aqsa Islamic Brigades,” a small armed Sunni rebel faction fighting with the Free Syrian Army, the main umbrella military organization of the opposition forces. Two other photos posted on the group’s page feature the widely recognized black flag of the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist group, which operates freely in Syria.

Yes, that appears to be the U.S. Capitol building burning in the background. 

Tags: Obama , Syria

Say, What Does That Water Gun Look Like?



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I know this is a bit silly, but isn’t it a bit weird to see the president at Camp David in June 2011, holding a water gun that appears to be modeled after the TEC-9 (or perhaps the TEC-22), a semiautomatic handgun with an extended magazine, the kind of weapon his allies would like to ban?

Yes, yes, no one was ever killed by a water gun, and so on.

The photo was spotlighted by the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker, attempting to find any corroboration of the president’s claim that he goes skeet-shooting at Camp David all the time.

As for the TEC-9, this bit of history is illuminating in light of the recent debate:

On September 13, 1994, a United States federal ban on assault firearms went into effect. This ban made it illegal to manufacture the TEC DC-9, but not illegal to own. Consequently, the weapon went through another redesign to comply with the new federal regulations. Intratec removed many of the “assault” features of the DC-9, such as: threaded barrel, barrel shroud and forward pistol grip. They also reduced the magazine size to 10 rounds, though it was still compatible with the same after-market high capacity magazines that were used by the TEC DC-9.

Tags: Guns , Obama

RNC: Obama Attacks Prove He Can’t Run on His Record



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The RNC greets Monday morning with an infographic . . .

One of the fascinating developments of this cycle is the near-bipartisan consensus that President Obama “can’t run on his record.” (Bob ShrumMaureen Dowd, John Cassidy of The New Yorker, ABC News’s Jake Tapper, and The Economist, for a few examples.)

So what we have is a widespread agreement that Obama’s record, by itself, does not warrant a second term . . . and yet the debate continues. But once both sides concur about the incumbent’s proven inability to improve the state of the nation . . . isn’t the debate effectively over?

Tags: Obama , RNC

Obama Message on the Times Poll: ‘They Re-Biased the Same Sample.’



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It’s entirely possible that the New York Times poll out this morning is an outlier, that subsequent polls will show the traditional gender gap returning, and so on. Don’t break out the party hats when you see a poll result you like, and don’t order the hemlock when you see a poll result you don’t like.

Having said all that, the argument from the Obama campaign is that the entire poll is erroneous, and that its results indicate nothing.

Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, drew the short straw this morning and had to argue that the poll’s finding that 67 percent think Obama announced his personal support of gay marriage for “political reasons” and only 24 percent think he did it because “he thinks it’s right” cannot be trusted.

If you want to argue that the divide is a bit closer, fine, but… here’s Cutter:

Chuck Todd: “This is such a resounding number, it’s within any margin of error you want to create… That’s a lot of people saying he did this for politics.”

Cutter: “We can’t put the methodology of that poll aside, because the methodology was significantly biased–”

Todd:  “You think this is so flawed, that this number–”

Cutter: “This is a biased sample.”

Todd: “This three to one margin is somehow going to shrink down the other way?”

Cutter: “I don’t want to go through methodology on your show. I think your readers – I think your viewers would be pretty bored by it.”

Todd: “They’re junkies. They like this stuff.”

Cutter: “They sampled a biased sample, so they re-biased the same sample. I think that the results of that poll are probably pretty flawed.”

The argument is that because the Times went back to 562 of the 852 registered voter respondents they reached in April, it somehow doesn’t accurately represent the views of the electorate the way the preceding poll did. It’s possible that the 562 lean further to the right than the preceding sample. But because the Times provides the partisan breakdown of both samples, we know that the sample is essentially the same in partisan composition. It shifted from 26 percent Republican, 34 percent Democrat, and 33 percent Independent (D+8) to 27 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat, and 34 percent Independent (D+8).

The sample of 562 is a bit smaller than one would like to see in a national poll, but it’s not wildly smaller than other national polls, and as the Times writes, “In theory, in 19 cases out of 20, results based on such samples of all adults will differ by no more than 4 percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by seeking to interview all American adults.”

The Times doesn’t break down its newer, smaller sample by race or age, so some might argue that the sample has too few African-Americans or young people. But for what it’s worth, the Times says they’ve taken that into account already: “Overall results have been weighted to adjust for variation in the sample relating to geographic area, sex, race, Hispanic origin, age, education, marital status and number of adults in the household. Respondents in the landline sample were also weighted to take into account the number of telephone lines at their residence. This poll also included weights based on respondents’ party identification and their presidential vote preference from the earlier survey.”

In other words, like all polls, this one could be out of whack… but there’s nothing obviously wrong with the sample.

Tags: New York Times , Obama , Polling

Obama’s ‘All-of-the-Above’ Energy Plan Rejects Many Options



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USA Today:  “As public angst grows over gas prices, President Obama hits the road today in hopes of reinvigorating his argument that the USA must embrace a broad strategy to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.The two-day trip, which will take him to the Copper Mountain Solar Facility 1 in Nevada, oil and gas drilling sites on federal land in New Mexico and a segment of the Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma, is an opportunity for the president to highlight his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which calls for investment in clean energy and expanding domestic oil and gas production.”

No, Obama doesn’t have an all-of-the-above energy strategy.

To Obama’s credit, under his watch, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a license for two new nuclear reactors in Georgia. Of course, two new reactors are a drop in the bucket for our energy needs, as that was the first license issued since 1973.

Here in Virginia, the George Allen for Senate campaign is unveiling a gimmicky, but effective, web site that allows people to calculate how much more they have paid since Obama took office if gas had remained at the level of January 20, 2009, TooMuchAtThePump.com.

Then again, it just reminds me of this recent sight:

Tags: Gas Prices , Obama

Grim Poll Numbers for GOP, Awful Ones for Gingrich



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Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart and Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conduct the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, were just on with Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown. They noted that in their latest poll, Barack Obama carries rural women — traditionally a Republican-leaning demographic — over Newt Gingrich.

South Carolina Republican women may be comfortable with Gingrich, but women elsewhere are not, it would seem.

In the MSNBC writeup on the poll, there is this ominous note:

“Gingrich is Goldwater,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “In the general election, Gingrich not only takes down his ship, he takes down the whole flotilla.”

There’s plenty of bad news for Republicans in the poll, as Romney does better, but not by a ton:

Women say they would vote for Obama over Gingrich by a wide 69-21 percent gap, far wider than the 54-38 percent difference by which Obama beats Romney. With independents, Gingrich gets just 28 percent against Obama, who wins with 52 percent. By contrast, Obama narrowly edges Romney with independents, 44 percent to 36 percent.

Tags: Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Obama , Polling , Republicans

Obama: Let’s Escape Partisanship by Blaming Senate Republicans



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It’s nothing new, but there’s something striking about how easily and effortlessly Obama can blame partisanship and pointing fingers in one breath and then blame Republicans in the next, and never recognize any contradiction between the two actions.

Once you escape the partisanship and the political point-scoring in Washington, once you start really start listening to the American people, it’s pretty clear what our country and your leaders should be spending their time on. Jobs.

Moments later:

None of this matters to the Republicans in the Senate — because last week they got together to block this bill. They said no to putting teachers and construction workers back on the job. They said no to rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports. They said no to cutting taxes for middle-class families and small businesses when all they’ve been doing is cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans. They said no to helping veterans find jobs.

I take it the president will be taping attack ads against Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, both Democrats who voted against his jobs bill.

Tags: Jobs , Obama , Senate Republicans

Two New Surveys Show Obama in Trouble With Latinos, Swing States



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I don’t think either of the survey results cited in Mike Allen’s Politico newsletter are really that surprising, considering the state of the economy, etc., but he calls them “sobering” for Democrats:

THIS CYCLE’S BIGGEST SURVEY OF LATINO VOTERS: Campaigns and party committees are getting confidential briefings on the findings of a bipartisan poll for Univision of 1,500 likely Latino voters, conducted by Mark Mellman of The Mellman Group (a Democratic firm) and Dave Sackett of The Tarrance Group (Republican). About one-third of the interviews were conducted in Spanish, and the poll oversampled in CA, TX, FL, NV, NM and AZ. Playbook was provided an exclusive look at the findings:

–The research finds A SUBSTANTIAL HISPANIC SWING VOTE. Dissatisfaction with the country’s direction creates an opening for Republicans with Hispanics, and PERRY’S STANDING IN TEXAS REVEALS HOW WELL THE GOP CAN DO WITH LATINOS. 57% of those polled consider themselves Democrats, 19% Republican and 15% independent. But 43% call themselves conservative, 37% liberal and 20% moderate. Even 32% of Democrats call themselves conservatives!

–Get this: For SWING Latino voters, the top concern was “the federal gov’t in DC is wasting too much of our tax money,” just ahead of education, Medicare, deficit, “family values are in decline” and jobs. Their top issues mirror the top issues of other swing voters: “illegal immigration is out of control” was cited by 14%, compared with 17% for “politicians aren’t serious about real immigration reform” (participants could give multiple answers).

–The point to the campaigns is that Spanish-language ads can be run on the candidates’ primary message – it doesn’t have to be a separate Hispanic track. 30% of Latino swing voters watch mostly Spanish-language TV, and even English speakers consider candidates’ Spanish ads as “a sign that they respect the community.”

2) PURPLE POLL: Purple Strategies, the bipartisan public affairs and business advisory firm, is out today with a survey putting Obama’s favorability rating at 41% in 12 swing states he carried in 2008 (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin . . . 1 in 4 (24%) have a favorable view of Texas Governor Rick Perry, and his numbers are worse (19 %) among independents. Mitt Romney’s favorability was 32%. In a general election matchup, Obama is in a statistical dead heat with both (Romney 46%; Obama 43% . . . Obama 46%; Perry 44%). The survey shows Obama struggling in these crucial states, especially with independents and seniors.

“Sobering?” Well, let’s face it, perhaps the prospect of the president running for reelection after what feels like a four-year recession is driving them to drink . . .

And why the surprise that the top concerns of Hispanic swing voters mirror the top concerns of other swing voters?

Tags: 2012 , Obama , Polling

Hey, How About Filtering That Sample, ABC?



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In the ABC News poll out this morning: “In a head-to-head matchup among all adults, Obama leads Trump by 12 points, 52-40 percent; Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota by an identical 12 points; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by 15 points each; and Palin by 17. Closer, as noted, are Huckabee, who trails Obama by 50-44 percent; and Romney, who comes within a scant 4 points, with 45 percent to Obama’s 49.”

That’s among adults, where traditionally Democrats poll best. I wonder what the numbers look like among registered voters and among likely voters.

Also note: “Beyond the economy overall, and despite declining unemployment, more say the availability of jobs in their area is getting worse (37 percent) than better (26 percent). And most striking is the weight of rising prices: Seventy-eight percent of Americans say inflation is getting worse in their area, and nearly as many, 71 percent, continue to say the rising price of gasoline is causing them financial hardship (“serious” hardship for more than four in 10).

As noted, 57 percent now disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, matching the most of his career; 46 percent “strongly” disapprove, a new high and double the number of strong approvers.”

UPDATE: One other number jumps out at me as I peruse the Washington Post/ABC News poll: Obama is actually doing worse on his chances for reelection than December. Right now, 28 percent of respondents (again, adults, not registered or likely voters) would definitely vote for Obama for reelection, and another 25 percent said they would consider it. The number who say now that they will not vote for Obama is 45 percent. The December poll had 26 percent definitely supporting, but 30 percent in the “maybe” category.

Tags: 2012 , Obama , Polling

Obama: Let’s Just Put Citigroup in Charge of the Economy



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As Larry Summers prepares to follow the rest of Obama’s economics team into richly deserved unemployment (okay, not really, they’ve mostly got tenured professorships to fall back on, Summers at Harvard, Romer at Berkeley), who is the president going to name as a replacement? The smart money apparently is on Anne Mulcahy, the former CEO of Xerox.

But that’s not all she’s done with her business career: She was, until a few months ago, on the board of directors at Citigroup, the $45 billion bailout baby that is still partly owned by Uncle Sam, who is desperately trying to dump the stock but keeps driving the price down every time he tries to offload it.

What, Lloyd Blankfein and Tony Hayward turned the job down?

That thundering sound you hear is Republicans across the fruited plains dropping to their knees praying that Obama appoints her.

Tags: Democrats , Despair , General Shenanigans , Obama

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