Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Poll Battle

Do Americans support the stimulus bill proposed by Congress, or hate it? The only way to glean a credible answer is by looking to reliable polls. Bruce did that earlier with respect to the ATI-News/Zogby poll which found that:

Amidst all the rhetoric surrounding President Barack Obama’s first signature piece of legislation, a massive $800 billion economic “stimulus” bill, one thing is clear: a majority of Americans reject the President’s handiwork. A just-released ATI-News/Zogby International poll shows that clear majorities of Republicans and Independents are against it.

On the other hand, a USA Today/Gallup poll found that support for the bill has dramatically risen [HT: Hot Air]:

Public support for an $800 billion economic stimulus package has increased to 59% in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Tuesday night, up from 52% in Gallup polling a week ago, as well as in late January.

So which is it? Is support up or down? Frankly, I don’t think we can really tell. Here’s why.

Both polls reveal the number of people questioned, and break down the results by party affiliation (although the ATI-News commissioned poll did not provide any numbers for Democrats). However, neither poll details how many participants of each party were polled, and/or whether the results were weighted. In short, if the ATI-News poll included substantially more Republicans and Republican leaning people among the 7,010 voters questioned, then the results should predictably skew towards the Republican side of the issue. Similarly, if there were significant number of Democrats and Democratic leaning independents among those 1,021 national adults polled by the USA Today poll, then we should expect that poll to favor the Democratic side.

Because we aren’t informed as to the breakdown of the total by party affiliation, we really can’t say how reflective the polls are of the country as a whole. Seeing as how the polls contradict one another, it’s safe to say that neither one accomplishes that task.

It’s tempting to conclude that, since the ATI-News poll was conducted over 5 days, as opposed to one, and interviewed almost 7 times as many people as the USA Today poll, the larger sample provides a more accurate picture. Moreover, the poll showing that the public is against the stimulus bill claims a margin of error (+/- 1.2%) that is far lower than the other poll (+/- 3.5%). Yet, the confidence interval for the latter poll is 95% and none is given for the ATI-News offering. If it was only 90%, I think (but could be wrong) that makes the USA Today poll slightly more accurate. In addition, without knowing how many answers came from each party (D/R/I), it’s impossible to say just how representative the poll actually is.

By the same token, the USA Today poll appears to offer a more comprehensive look at those questioned, and the questions asked seem less likely to evoke biased answers. For example, the main USA Today poll question was this:

As you may know, Congress is considering a new economic stimulus package of at least $800 billion. Do you favor or oppose Congress passing this legislation?

Compare that question to the following:

Most Republicans oppose the currently proposed stimulus bill supported by President Obama because they say there is too much money being spent for non-stimulus items. Do you agree or disagree that too much money is being spent on items that won’t improve the economy?

The first question above is simple, straightforward, and doesn’t present any potential bias words with respect to the issue. The second, however, sets up a premise, attaches “Republican” to it, and then asks for agree or disagree. Not surprisingly, the second question elicited a much stronger response from Republicans (93% agreed) and Independents (66%) than the first (56% Independents; 28% Republicans). Perhaps then the USA Today poll, despite its small sample, is the more accurate?

Once again, we don’t know how many of each party were questioned. If it was overwhelmingly Democratic Party leaners, then the results would have to be expected. In addition, the USA Today poll questioned all adults, while the ATI-News poll only queried voters, whom one might assume are somewhat better informed. Finally, the fact that any poll of voters could find a string correlation between the words “agree” and “Republicans” suggests that the wording was not causing any undue bias (unless, of course, it was mostly Republicans interviewed, which is pretty unlikely).

In the end, I don’t know how to view these two contradictory polls in a way that sheds any light on how the populace is actually feeling about the stimulus bill. Other than the glaring fact that Democrats overwhelmingly favor its passage, while Republicans do not, there is nothing definitive to be learned. I do agree with Bruce’s assessment that Independents are the best to look for answers, however the poll numbers we have don’t seem to match up.

I guess its possible that the a majority of people are ambivalent about the stimulus bill — yeah it’ll probably be a big screw up, but we have to do something, don’t we? — which would explain some of the apparent contradiction. And maybe Obama’s sales job made the difference in the numbers (the ATI-News poll ended on the 9th, while the USA Today poll was taken on the 10th).

Whatever the reason for the contradiction, I think it’s interesting that each day we have a different poll telling us that the public loves/hates the stimulus package, yet we never see any polls testing the public’s knowledge of what’s in the bill (much less anyone in Congress). Maybe if people were better informed about the contents of the legislation we see more consistent polling. Instead of constantly reading polls asking if the Republicans are right or wrong, or if $800 billion is a good number to spend, perhaps we’d learn more about what the public really thinks if we asked them how stimulated they would be by $4.2 billion for “neighborhood stabilization activities,” or $34 million to renovate the Department of Commerce headquarters, or $88 million to help move the Public Health Service into a new building, or $55 million for Historic Preservation Fund, or $6.2 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program, or $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. Now there’s a poll I’d like to see.

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More Fairness Doctrine Talk

The rent-seekers find another ally:

BILL PRESS: …And, thanks for your leadership, thanks for your good work, it’s great to have you there Senator. And, great to have you on the show. Appreciate it.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Well, anytime – just let me know Bill. I love being with you, and thanks again for all you do to get the truth and the facts out there. By the way, I read your Op-Ed in the Washington Post the other day. I ripped it out, I took it into my office and said ‘there you go, we gotta get the Fairness Doctrine back in law again.’

BILL PRESS:  Alright, well good for you. You know, we gotta work on that, because they are just shutting down progressive talk from one city after another. All we want is, you know, some balance on the airwaves, that’s all. You know, we’re not going to take any of the conservative voices off the airwaves, but just make sure that there are a few progressives and liberals out there, right?

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Exactly, and that’s why we need the fair—that’s why we need the Fairness Doctrine back.

BILL PRESS: We’ll work on that together. Hey, thanks, Senator! Always good to talk to you.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Thanks Bill, see you, bye.

BILL PRESS: There it is – you heard it here on the Bill Press Show. Senator Tom Harkin: bring back the Fairness Doctrine!

If you can’t make it on your own merit, get the government to step in and grant you what you haven’t earned.

Good work there, Billy.

~McQ

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Obama Losing Independents?

Perception is reality in politics. I’m not sure how many times we’ve made that point on this blog. And the perception among those out in flyover country is the stimulus package being pushed by the Democrats is a turkey. Or a pig. Or both. Regardless of which animal reference you choose to use, the fact is most Americans don’t think it will work. As further proof of that point, take a look at the latest ATI-News/Zogby results:

Question #1: ATI-News/Zogby asked likely voters, “Some people say that the nearly one trillion dollars in debt and subsequent interest incurred by the stimulus bill during an economic downturn will make the recovery hard to achieve. Do you agree or disagree?”

Overall, 53 percent of Americans agree that the Obama stimulus bill will actually hinder economic recovery; while only 31 percent disagree (16 percent are not sure). Fifty-six percent of Independent voters also agree, while only 27 percent disagree (17 percent are not sure). A staggering 88 percent of Republicans agree and just 6 percent disagree (another 6 percent are not sure).

Frankly, when looking at these polls, I expect the majority of Democrats polled to support Democratic policy and the majority of Republicans not to support it. I key on self-identified independents who have the luxury of going whichever way they choose to go on each policy question. And in the case of this issue, independents are not at all impressed with it. So while President Obama’s personal approval ratings remain high (and that should come as no real surprise this early in his presidency), he’s not been able to convincingly sell this mess to a majority of Americans.

Question #2: ATI-News/Zogby asked voters, “Some Republicans say the Obama stimulus package spends too much and stimulates too little. Do you agree or disagree?”

Fifty-seven percent of Independent voters agree that Obama’s stimulus package spends too much and does little to stimulate the economy; while just 31 percent of Independents disagree (12 percent are not sure). Eighty-nine percent of Republicans also agree, while only 5 percent disagree (6 percent are not sure).

Of importance here is a majority of independents are agreeing with Republicans on the issue. That lays the responsiblity for the bill squarely in the lap of the Democrats. Of course that’s a double-edged sword for Republicans on the off chance this bill somehow succeeds. But if I were giving odds, I’d go 80/20 against.

Question #3: ATI-News/Zogby asked voters, “Most Republicans oppose the currently proposed stimulus bill supported by President Obama because they say there is too much money being spent for non-stimulus items. Do you agree or disagree that too much money is being spent on items that won’t improve the economy?”

Sixty-six percent of Independent voters think Obama wants to spend too much money on items that won’t improve the economy. As for Republicans, a staggering 93 percent agree.

Across the board, the poll found that, on average, 90 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Independents disapprove of Obama’s stimulus bill.

The answer to this particular question shows the sharpest split and the largest majority of independents against the Obama bill. That sort of percentage means despite all the TV appearances, town hall meetings and press conferences, the message Obama has been putting out there has been rejected.

That means that Republicans have been at least partially successful in framing the debate. Of course they’ve been helped by the common sense argument that you can’t cure a problem brought on by borrowing and spending with more massive borrowing and spending. Somewhere, as the public knows and many have experienced, we have to pay up. The public has also had enough experience with government programs to know they’re never speedy, they’re wasteful and they’re poorly monitored. My guess is what you see reflected in those independent numbers is a healthy dose of both skepticism and mistrust.

As the details of this bill have become public, the claim that there’s ‘no pork’ in it has been resoundingly rejected. The spin has not been effective and the public perceives this all as “business as usual” among Congress and Democrats. And it also isn’t helping the Obama image. Many now think he got rolled by Democratic leaders in Congress and, instead of displaying leadership, is now their front-guy trying to leverage his popularity into a win for this massive mess of a bill.

I still think the bill will pass in some form or fashion. But one thing I think is certain. Obama’s honeymoon was a short one and is now over. And I’m also of the opinion that he’ll never again be trusted by independents as the agent for “hope” and “change” in Washington DC. To them, in the future, those will be “just words”.

~McQ

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Fairness Doctrine Needed for Presidential Press Conferences?

Also included at the press conference was a blogger from the left-wing Huffington Post (and more power to him, I might add):

Longtime members of the White House press corps who are accustomed to sitting in the front row of presidential press conferences were surprised to find their prime real estate occupied by Ed Schultz, a strident liberal who hosts a nationally syndicated radio program originally based in Fargo, N.D., but of late broadcasting from the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

So, since no right-wing bloggers or talk show hosts were included, does this mean we need a Fairness Doctrine for Presidential press conferences?

Clearly, President Obama was making a point of showing deference to the Left at his first prime-time press conference, which was broadcast to millions from the stately East Room of the White House on Monday.

Like such a show was actually necessary. I can’t wait for Sen. Debby Stabenow to bring the Fairness Doctrine up again in the Senate. Watching someone embarrass themselves is usually pretty entertaining.

~McQ

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A Way Out Of The Wilderness?

Newt Gingrich lays out a succinct 3 step plan for conservatives in the future. It may seem funny that something like this has to be said, but with conservative Republicans wandering in the political wilderness, it’s obvious it must.

This isn’t rocket science, but it is good advice for just about any political movement.

The conservative movement has a simple and almost certainly successful future if it does three things:

1. Advocate first principles with courage, clarity, persistence and cheerfulness.

2. Insist on developing solutions based on those principles and insist on measuring other proposals against those principles.

3. Be prepared to oppose Republicans when they are wrong and side with Democrats when they are right, but always make the decision to support or oppose a matter of first principles and the application of those principles.

Note the last point.  Gingrich isn’t talking about Republicans, although those in charge of the Republican brand could stand to heed the advice.

There’s a reason Gingrich doesn’t use the word “Republican”. It’s because he links this Democratic administration with the past spend-thrift Republican administration:

The Bush-Obama big government, big bureaucracy, politician-empowering, high-tax, high-inflation and high-interest-rate system continues to grow and to place the country in greater and greater danger from inflation, bureaucratic control of the economy, political interference in every aspect of our lives and massive debt.

Remember, we’re on bailout 5 right now. Both Obama and Biden, when Senators, voted “yes” on the first three and are now in the middle of putting the next two together. So the linkage, in my estimation, is correct. This is as much Obama’s problem as it was Bush’s despite his protestations to the contrary. The last two years have seen the Congress under Democratic control, while the executive branch was Republican. The recession is 17 months old, folks and that split government was in charge before the recession developed.

Gingrich hits on another key point:

While telling the truth, we also have to bear the burden of providing solutions and not merely criticism.

That’s critical. Anyone can criticize. Putting plausible solutions together that adhere to the principles of a movement and also are attractive to the citizenry is no easy job. But that is what any movement that wants to be taken seriously must do.

Gingrich concludes with:

Finally, the conservative movement has to learn to reach out to every American who wants a better future through freedom, hard work and opportunity.

Yes, he’s talking about a “big tent” based on only three requirements: a belief in freedom, hard work and opportunity. Conspicuously absent are mentions of wedge issues that normally are identified with Republican politics.

Gingrich’s separation of “conservative” from “Republican” is a warning shot across the bow of the GOP. Shape up or prepare to hear from conservatives. And if Republicans don’t listen, they should prepare to lose conservative support. Conservatives may be finding a way out of the wilderness. It remains to be seen if Republicans will follow.

~McQ

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Where Do These People Come From?

The arrogance of “art” or the artist, if you prefer.

Val Kilmer is thinking about running for governor of New Mexico. Says Kilmer:

He told The Hill at Monday’s Huffington Post party at the Newseum that he has been approached to run for the highest office of the state where he owns a ranch and has family roots.

“Actually, they’ve asked me to run for governor,” he said, not specifying who “they” are. “People seem to want me to.”

I bet I can name one group who doesn’t want you.

Veterans. Specifically, Vietnam veterans.

Why you may ask?

Read this from an interview in Esquire where the interviewer is asking Kilmer how he relates to the characters he plays:

[Klosterman]: You mean you think you literally had the same experience as Doc Holliday?

Kilmer: Oh, sure. It’s not like I believed that I shot somebody, but I absolutely know what it feels like to pull the trigger and take someone’s life.

[Klosterman:] You understand how it feels to shoot someone as much as a person who has actually committed a murder?

[Kilmer] I understand it more. It’s an actor’s job. A guy who’s lived through the horror of Vietnam has not spent his life preparing his mind for it. He’s some punk. Most guys were borderline criminal or poor, and that’s why they got sent to Vietnam. It was all the poor, wretched kids who got beat up by their dads, guys who didn’t get on the football team, couldn’t finagle a scholarship. They didn’t have the emotional equipment to handle that experience. But this is what an actor trains to do. I can more effectively represent that kid in Vietnam than a guy who was there.

Pompous ignorance. And the absolute certainty this poseur displays is laughable. He knows “absolutely” what it feels like to pull the trigger and take someone’s life” although he’s absolutely never done it.

And he “understands it more” than a combat veteran what it is like to have been in combat.

He crowns his burst of ignorance with a stereotypical but untrue characterization of a group he obviously knows nothing about. The disrespect he displays is both disgusting and inexcusable.

Let’s see, he played a fighter pilot once, didn’t he? Well let’s plop his rear-end in an Airbus A320 over the Hudson River at about 2500 feet, kill both engines and see if he can “effectively represent” former fighter pilot Sully Sullenburger, shall we?

Piece of cake, right?

Whatever happened to actors like Henry Fonda who when given an Oscar I believe, said, and I paraphrase, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I just pretend to be someone who really did something”.

That’s you, Kilmer!

New Mexicans, I love you, but if you ever elect this trumped up fraud to the governor’s office, I can promise you I will never, ever again step foot in NM for the rest of my natural life. And I’ll do everything I can to persuade others never to do so either. In fact, for all I’ll care, La Raza can have you.

Signed: Some poor borderline criminal punk who volunteered to go to Vietnam.

[There, I feel better.]

~McQ

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Don’t Worry Julio!

Julio works at Mickey D’s and has for the last 4 years. President Obama tells him not to worry, that upcoming legislation is going to cover him up with money he didn’t earn (“refundable tax credits”) and help pay for his college too!

Watch this performance – on both sides:

Maybe that car and mortgage payment aren’t such a wild thought after all.

But as Walter Williams reminds us:

“In stimulus package language, if Congress taxes to hand out money, one person is stimulated at the expense of another, who pays the tax and is unstimulated. A visual representation of the stimulus package is: Imagine you see a person at work taking buckets of water from the deep end of a swimming pool and dumping them into the shallow end in an attempt to make it deeper. You would deem him stupid. That scenario is equivalent to what Congress and the new President proposes for the economy.”

Welcome to the deep end. You’re going to be putting Julio through college. Do you think he’ll even send you a thank you note?

~McQ

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Obama Attempts To Spin Tax Cuts And Does It Badly

My favorite line from the other night’s Obama presser:

Now, just in terms of the historic record here, the Republicans were brought in early and were consulted. And you’ll remember that when we initially introduced our framework, they were pleasantly surprised and complimentary about the tax cuts that were presented in that framework. Those tax cuts are still in there. I mean, I suppose what I could have done is started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some, and then let them take credit for all of them. And maybe that’s the lesson I learned.

Maybe that is a lesson he’s learned. Always nice to see your chief executive engaged in on-the-job training, no?

But more importantly, I enjoyed the spin. “Republicans were brought in early and were consulted”. That’s a bit of a stretch. In actuality the Republicans and Democrats were in agreement that government had to do something. And they were further in agreement with the broad outline of a stimulus package that would include a large percentage of tax cuts.

Now whether or not you agree that a stimulus package is needed or not, the point to be made here is a bunch of politicians from different sides agreeing that something must be done and one of them being pleased that the other side is considering tax cuts as a major part of that “something” does not equal being “brought in early” or being “consulted”.

A "Spinorama" Adventure

A "Spinorama" Adventure

That happens when the bill is written and put into final form, and as everyone know, Republicans weren’t brought in at all on that process, much less consulted. So when that final bill was trotted out and placed before the full House, with no debate, Republican voted 177-0 against it. They did so for a number of reasons, but primary among them was they had had no part in writing the bill. But of equal importance, the tax cuts that they were promised would be in the bill and comprise approximately 40% of it total, just weren’t there.

Oh the Democrats had used language to attempt to convince the Republicans and the press they were in there, but the CBO pretty well killed that meme.  Look on the huge graphic which lays out the spending proposed by the House and check out the upper right hand corner where the CBO discusses the tax cuts.  Its analysis reduces the Democratic claim that the bill contains 26% tax cuts down to 22%.  The primary reason the CBO denies what Democrats call tax cuts is because in reality they’re tranfer payments.  Approximately 100 billion dollars will go to people who don’t pay taxes in the first place.  Other than among Democrats, no other rational person would call giving money to people who don’t pay taxes a “tax cut”.

So when you hear President Obama say that the framework he outlined (which supposedly contained 40% tax cuts) was met with Republican approval, he’s probably right.  But when he then says, referring to those tax cuts, “they’re still in there”, he’s wrong and my guess is he knows that.  But as was obvious in the press conference, he was interested in characterizing the Republcians in a negative light, again mocking them and denigrating them, while at the same time speaking out of the other side of his mouth with faint praise to escape criticism for doing so.

That is not how I define “acting presidential”.

The fact remains the level of the promised tax cuts are not in the House version of the bill.  And while it is somewhat closer in the Senate bill, the reconciliation process may lower that as well.  Without the level of promised tax cuts in the bill which passes out of the reconciliation process, Republicans cannot be faulted for voting against its passage.  Again, that’s not to say I support a single bit of this – but I cannot fault the Republicans for not voting for it if what they were promised initially isn’t in the final bill.

~McQ

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If the logic behind the stimulus applied to everyday life

I was thinking something as I watched the video that McQ posted earlier. Those guys point out several times that it’s pretty silly to think you can solve a problem created by too much borrowing and spending by doing a lot more borrowing and spending.

If everyone followed that logic in everyday life, imagine the results:

“Gosh, I’m forty pounds overweight now. I better start eating more.”

“Honey, you’re getting too many speeding tickets.” “Well, then, I better start driving faster.”

“That girl says I irritate her, but I really like her. I guess I should start being more obnoxious.”

“Oh, dear, the roof is leaking again. I better make the hole bigger.”

I’ve been expecting some sort of major meltdown at some point since I first became aware of the demographics of Social Security and the trend lines for government spending about thirty years ago. But I never would have predicted that so many supposedly smart and serious people would take blatant nonsense seriously.

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Parsing Iran’s “Dialog With Respect” Demand

The new line out of Tehran is that Iran is ready for talks with the US if those talks are a “dialog with respect”. So let’s check out President Ahmadinejad’s words, shall we?

“The new U.S. administration has said that it wants change and it wants to hold talks with Iran,” President Ahmadinejad said.

“It is clear that change should be fundamental, not tactical, and our people welcome real changes,” he said. “Our nation is ready to hold talks based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad went on to say that Iran could cooperate with the United States to uproot terrorism in the region. “The Iranian nation is the biggest victim of terrorism,” he said.

But he referred to former President Bush as one of reasons for insecurity in the region and said, “Bush and his allies should be tried and punished.”

“If you really want to uproot terrorism, let’s cooperate to find the initiators of the recent wars in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, try them and punish them,” he said.

Is Iran really willing to talk?

Is Iran really willing to talk?

“Fundamental, not tactical”. Remember, Ahamdinejad accused the Obama administration of only favoring a tactical change. His claim was the Obama administration would not be fundamentally different in its approach to relations with Iran than was the Bush administration. While in Munich, VP Joe Biden made it clear that the US wouldn’t tolerate Iranian nuclear weapons and reserved the right to pre-emptively attack Iran in case it refused to stand down its nuclear weapons program and produced a nuclear bomb. That is the very same policy the Bush administration advanced. How that can be spun as a “fundamental change” vs. a “tactical change” will be interesting to watch. But one is certainly hard put to describe such a policy as one which would place the talks on a plane of “mutual respect”.

An interesting line, of course, is Ahmadinejad’s declaration that the “Iranian nation is the biggest victim of terrorism”. The obvious reason for that declaration is found in the next line, i.e. the policies of the Bush administration are interpreted by Ahmadenijad as being terroristic in nature as they pertain to Iran. But, other than the “let’s talk” invitation, the policy of pre-emptive action remains the announced policy of the Obama administration as well.

Last, but certainly not least, Ahmadinejad clearly puts the Israel question on the table and lays out his solution for stopping terrorism. While Iran demands a “fundamental” change in the US approach to relations with that nation, there’s certainly nothing to suggest that Iran is willing to make fundamental changes in return. And its proxy war with Israel, through Hamas and Hezbollah is certainly an indicator of its continuing attempt to take the “Zionist entity” on.

Or is that simply a delaying tactic until they achieve their aims?

Or is that simply a delaying tactic until they achieve their aims?

So while some may be encouraged by the fact that Ahmadinejad is at least talking about better relations with the US, I say take it all with a large grain of salt. Iran has aspirations toward being the regional power in the Middle East. That is what brought it in direct conflict with Iraq and precipitated their 8 year war. Iraq also had such aspirations. Iraq is no longer a threat in that regard, and the only entity that really stands in its way is the US. Obviously Iran would like to neutralize the US and its influence in the region. One way to do that is to pretend to give the new administration what is so desperately wants – a foreign policy success. Entering into direct talks with the US would do that while really costing Iran nothing. In return for those direct talks, Iran would demand that the US tone down its rhetoric and lift sanctions thereby accomplishing it’s neutralization goal. It can extend the talks as long as it wishes while it proceeds on its merry way to creating a nuclear weapon and marrying it to a long-range missile. At that point, the US is no longer necessary as Iran, by fiat, will be if not the dominant regional power in the Middle East, a close second (assuming as everyone does, that Israel has nukes).

At that point, an Obama administration would be left to either live up to Biden’s words or back off and hope Iran doesn’t finally deal with the “Zionist entity” before Israel deals with it.

Food for thought.

~McQ

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