As I pointed out yesterday, taken singly, polls indicate a snapshot in time. Taken collectively and analyzed, they provide trends. And those trends combined with the trends in other polls can mean good news or big trouble for incumbent politicians.
In the case of Barack Obama, they’ve repeatedly promised trouble. The latest? Public opinion on the state of the economy.
Three years after a financial crisis pushed the country deep into recession, an overwhelming number of Americans – 90% – say that economic conditions remain poor.
The number, reported Friday in a new CNN/ORC International Poll, is the highest of Barack Obama’s presidency and a significant increase from the 81% who said conditions were poor in June.
Of course when politicians see polls like this they look for whatever good news they can find:
For a White House now fully engaged in re-election efforts, there is one shred of good news: More than two and half years after inauguration day, Americans are still more likely to blame former President George W. Bush for current economic conditions.
The public has a bit of a incorrect view of the matter but such is life:
Asked which administration is to blame, 52% of Americans blame the previous Republican regime, while only 32% point a finger at Obama and Democrats.
There wasn’t a “Republican regime”. There was a Democratic Congress for the final two years of the Bush presidency. And, of course, while 52% may still blame Bush, didn’t they hire Obama to fix the economy?
Meanwhile, enter Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, with his usual wonderful timing, blurts out the political truth:
“There’s a lot of people in Florida that have good reason to be upset because they’ve lost jobs. Even though 50 some percent of the American people think the economy tanked because of the last administration, that’s not relevant,” Biden told WLRN’s Phil Latzman.
“What’s relevant is, we’re in charge. And right now, we are the ones in charge, and it’s gotten better but it hasn’t gotten good enough. And in states like Florida it’s even been more stagnant because of the real estate market. I don’t blame them for being mad. We’re in charge, and they’re angry.”
That’s right – three years in, for better or worse, it’s their economy. Biden finally has one right. Now it’s up to the GOP to push that point home. And 3 years of pitiful performance is going to see the “Bush’s fault” excuse wear thin.
Of course the final poll comes in November of 2012. That’s the time this administration has to change the direction of the economy and the growing perception of poor leadership and a lack of viable solutions. The economy is indeed theirs, and political opponents will make sure that everyone knows they’ve been in charge (2 years with a Democratic Congress at the most critical juncture) while the economy has performed so dismally.
It’s all there in the record.
After the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the left -automatically assuming that the shooter was some right-wing extremist – railed against the violent language of the right. They were sure that they, the keepers of the flame of civility, had been the victim of the right’s violent rhetoric. And that rhetoric had driven one of their own to attempt the assassination of the Congresswoman. They were wrong.
Of course it also soon became evident that the keepers of the flame were the worst offenders. Numerous examples of a lack of civility by the left have been documented since then. The most recent comes from the usual suspects. Labor and politicians. In a Labor Day speech, Jimmy Hoffa decided that instead of inspiring, he’d attack. Instead of celebrating labor, he’d stoop to general ad hominem attacks on the right. Apparently, like the race baiters of the passing generation, he see’s his meal ticket in trouble. Big labor has not been doing well. And its reaction is reflected in the rhetoric of one of its leaders. Violence:
Teamsters union president James Hoffa would say it all again if he could, he told TPM Monday.
Hoffa riled up Fox News and the right wing Monday with a Labor Day speech in Detroit in which he called Republican members of Congress "sons of bitches" and said union workers are ready to "go to war" with the tea party next year and "take out" Republicans at the ballot box.
Hoffa said he’d say the exact same words all over again.
"I would because I believe it," he said. "They’ve declared war on us. We didn’t declare war on them, they declared war on us. We’re fighting back. The question is, who started the war?"
The speech came shortly before President Obama took the stage in Detroit — and Hoffa’s remarks certainly overshadowed Obama’s on Fox. But the Teamsters chief said he was just matching fired-up conservative rhetoric when it comes to organized labor and Obama with some fired-up rhetoric of his own.
Hmmm … be nice if he provided some examples. Michelle Malkin, however, has provided a number of examples of union violence and violent rhetoric.
"The right wing — the tea party, backed by the Koch brothers, the Chamber of Commerce and the Walton family are underwriting, you know, bills to take away collective bargaining," Hoffa said. "Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor want to take away Social Security and Medicaid."
"The answer to that is, people that do that, is we’re going to declare war on them," he added.
Of course Ryan and Cantor do not “want to take away Social Security and Medicaid”, they want to reform it so it is sustainable. What a horrible goal, no? And they’re not at all interested in unions in the private marketplace because there’s a market mechanism in place that helps control the excesses of collective bargaining found in public service unions. Even Democratic governors are moving to curb collective bargaining in those venues. Hoffa, however, seems to have missed that.
Finally, you see the classic leftist tactic of demonization. Straight from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”. It also helps keep those blinders firmly in place for the mob, those who will do his bidding as you witnessed in the Malkin piece.
And then there’s Joe Biden, always good for a negative example or gaffe. In this case, he characterized a large part of his supposed constituency – he being Vice President of the United States and not of the Democratic party – as “barbarians”, because, you know, they disagree with his political agenda.
“You are the only folks keeping the barbarians from the gates…the other side has declared war on labour’s house.”
Yes, we had a little hate fest this weekend and it was led by the left. You know, the civility police. The side which is sure it is only the right which uses uncivil and violent rhetoric and they are chaste and pure in that department. I can’t decide whether it is simple hypocrisy or cluelessness. Or a combination of both.
Interesting story from Fox News about labor unions and their approach to 2012. Fox describes their relationship to Obama as “wedded but wary”. One of the most interesting points is found in this paragraph:
Federal records show labor unions spent close to $100 million in the 2010 midterm cycle – over $20 million more than what they spent in 2008 – but nonetheless saw their share of the electorate drop from one cycle to the next, from 21 percent to 17 percent.
That’s a significant drop in 4 years. Also worth noting is more money was spent than previously (and spent in an off-year election to boot) and the results were less than stellar. In fact, they were disastrous.
As the article describes, there also seems to be some fracturing within the union ranks. You recall that yesterday it was announced that the NEA (teacher’s union) had again endorsed Barack Obama for president. For most that was “yeah, so what’s new” news. The news was contained in the vote:
…[T]he National Education Association (NEA), which represents teachers and school administrators and is one of the largest unions in the country, voted at its annual convention in Chicago on Monday to endorse President Obama for re-election. Still, analysts took note of the margin of victory for Obama in the NEA’s rank-and-file vote – 72 percent in favor, 28 percent opposed.
That’s a significant change from the near unanimous endorsement Obama received the last time around.
When challenged, union leaders usually revert to form. Remember, the key principle of unionism is “solidarity” and it is expected of the rank and file. It’s pretty bad, though, when the “thug” making the threats to those who don’t abide by that is the Vice President of the United States.
“Let me put it this way,” Vice President Biden told a Teamsters audience in Las Vegas last Friday, after raising the prospect that some rank-and-file members might vote Republican. “Don’t come to me if you do! You’re on your own, jack!”
Because we’re an administration of the unions, not the people.
But the White House’s problem is rekindling the union enthusiasm it captured when Obama was essentially an unknown quantity – before they found out he was mostly hot air. And that’s reflected by frequent White House guest and president of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka’s words:
“You can be a friend and make a mistake once in a while. And we forgive you for that mistake. The difference is this: that we’re not going to spend precious resources helping candidates that don’t stand up and help us.”
"I have a message for some of our ‘friends,’" Trumka reportedly told another Beltway audience last month, sharpening his tone. “For too long, we have been left after Election Day holding a canceled check, waving it about [and saying] ‘Remember us? Remember us? Remember us?’ – asking someone to pay a little attention to us. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a snootful of that s—."
That grumbling and the possible lack of enthusiasm could be a very important factor in the upcoming election. Unions provide much if not most of the “Get Out The Vote” (GOTV) troops that helped Obama to his victory. Dissatisfaction presents Obama with a problem. He is, at the moment, desperately casting around for a way to appear moderate and to being to run to the middle. He has a big job ahead to try and win back independents who poll after poll tell us have essentially deserted him. But on the other hand, he has to be concerned with the dissatisfaction being voiced by one of his largest and most powerful constituencies, one that has previously spent enormously in his (and his party’s) behalf and been instrumental in his victory. What’s a politician to do?
Now I’m not suggesting that unions will abandon Obama by any stretch. However, while union leaders may remain supporters of the administration and be enthusiastic about their support, it would appear they may have a very difficult time transmitting their level of support and enthusiasm to the rank-and-file.
Finally, unions continue to face this real world problem:
That the unions may be spending more money to achieve diminished results would reflect their shrinking percentage of the population as a whole. In 1950, an estimated 38 percent of the American labor force belonged to a union; today, that figure stands at around 12 percent, and even lower – 7 percent – for the private sector. This diminution in labor’s ranks is all the more significant when juxtaposed with the tripling of the American labor force over the same time period.
I’m always amused to read stories where Democrats whine about the outsized influence corporations have in politics. Union support somehow is never mentioned as being “outsized” for some odd reason. Go figure.
Leave it to Joe Biden to provide the answer to the question everyone is asking: if the Democrats did so well, why aren’t they running on their record?
Democrats aren’t running on the administration’s accomplishments like health-care and financial-regulatory overhaul and the stimulus because “it’s just too hard to explain,” Biden said. “It sort of a branding, I mean you know they kind of want the branding more at the front end.”
Or maybe it’s not like “branding” at all. Maybe it’s more like assuming that those in flyover land are too freakin’ dumb to understand the positive nuance of spending 1.4 trillion dollars we don’t have or nationalizing car companies or socializing health care.
Or maybe it’s because they know admitting to those things would kill them if they actually did run on them. After all it’s hard to explain, among other things, why “health care reform” requires 16,000 new IRS agents, isn’t it?
Let’s just say I was “underwhelmed”. As a friend ask in an email, “where did the great speech maker go?” I can only contend that this speech was like a task you know you have to do, but really don’t want to do. And the results are usually along the lines of what you saw or heard last night.
The big questions were would he acknowledge success, victory or George Bush?
While he didn’t come right out and acknowledge success with that word, his “turn the page” comment implied success. Victory? No way, no how does that enter into the speech. And his acknowledgement of George Bush explains why:
As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.
How does one who so adamantly opposed a war he ended up in charge of characterize it as anything but a mistake that somehow, in general, turned out well? After all he was a “patriot who opposed it”. And please, let’s turn the page.
No acknowledgment of the fact that the surge worked when all – to include our “patriot who opposed it” said it wouldn’t. And even though he and his staff are now trying to rewrite history, it’s clear he was against the surge and claimed it wouldn’t work.
“I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” – Senator Barrak Obama in response to the PSOTUS. (January 10, 2007 on MSNBC)
Of course, they had precisely the opposite effect. Why this is so difficult to acknowledge even when there’s video of him saying it remains a mystery.
And, of course, even with the acknowledgment of Bush, Obama couldn’t resist a shot as well:
Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.
That “trillion dollars” for war is not what has put us in the financial shape we’re in today. And anyone following the news knows that. That canard has been laid to rest. However, if you read the paragraph carefully, you find the usual lefty talking points firmly embedded in the substance of the message. Government is the answer and is the entity which should be making “tough decisions” about everything “from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform”. Of course not acknowledged in the paragraph is its previous decisions about those areas has given us what we have today. A pure mess.
Even in a speech about ending the combat mission in Iraq, Obama seems unable to avoid politicizing it. And, as usual, the blame Bush card – not as blatant as usual – is played.
Acknowledging the role of the military and the sacrifice of the troops, as well as the herculean job they did in filling roles outside their job description, was a good and appreciated part of the speech by all, I’m sure.
The rest – eh. The usual boilerplate, wordy finger-pointing delivered in an uninspired and flat speech. You can always tell when someone doesn’t have their heart in something. My guess is he’s not over his vacation-lag yet.
Perhaps – after that arduous night’s work, it’s time for another one.
UPDATE: And finally, Joe Biden is heard from on the subject:
Vice President Biden said the day after President Obama’s Oval Office address that the debate over who deserves credit for removing troops from Iraq isn’t “worth arguing about.”
And why is that Mr. Biden? Oh, yeah:
“At the end of the last administration, the transition was in place.”
Yes it was – which is another explanation for the lackluster speech marking the end of the combat mission in Iraq.
Apparently Joe Biden is the one chosen to carry the story that the reason the $862 billion “stimulus” plan failed is because of the stingy GOP.
Ed Morrissey pulls that apart like a kid pulling the wings off a fly. First Biden:
“There’s a lot of people at the time argued it was too small,” he said. “A lot of people in our administration…even some Republican economists and some Nobel laureates like Paul Krugman, who continues to argue it was too small.”
“But, you know,” Biden told Tapper, “there was a reality. In order to get what we got passed, we had to find Republican votes. And we found three. And we finally got it passed,” Biden said.
But if it wasn’t for the legislative reality, Biden explained, “I think it would have been bigger. I think it would have been bigger. In fact, what we offered was slightly bigger than that. But the truth of the matter is that the recovery package, everybody’s talking about it [like] it’s over. The truth is now, we’re spending more now this summer than we — I’m calling this…the summer of recovery,” the Vice President said.
"Legislative reality" at the time consisted of prohibitive majorities on the Democrats side in Congress. They ddin’t need a single GOP vote – not one. And, in fact, as Morrissey points out, the original package was to be $775 billion and the final package was $862 billion pig we got stuck with. In fact it was bigger than what had been asked for by Biden and company. You have to love the revisionist history, don’t you?
Of course Biden is pretty sure the victory in Iraq is possibly one of the "greatest accomplishments" of this administration so it’s no like he’s new at rewriting history. Morrisey also provides us with a couple of Obama quotes that sort of kick the Biden contention in the gut:
February 5th, 2009:
While efforts have been under way in the Senate to whittle the plan back to $800 billion or less, Mr. Hoyer said he believed it should be higher, at like $880 billion. Earlier on Air Force One, Mr. Obama was asked by pool reporters traveling with him about the size of the proposal …
Asked if the figure should be $800 billion and not more, Mr. Obama said: “Well, I gave you a range. I think we’re in range.”
And February 9th, 2009:
“It is the right size, it is the right scope. Broadly speaking it has the right priorities to create jobs that will jump-start our economy and transform it for the 21st century,” Obama said of the more than $800 billion bill at a rally in Elkhart, Indiana.
If the stimulus was too small (it wasn’t), it had zip to do with the GOP. And Joe and company isn’t fooling anyone but those who want to believe fantasy over reality. As usual, the Democrats blame-game runs into reality and facts and comes out second-best.
he NY Post reminds us that the Joe Biden/Christina Romer dog-and-pony show now currently touring and touting some amazing "magical" job creation numbers are the same crew that gave us other estimates of job creation in the past:
Last year, when they touted their jobs figures, they wound up backtracking — after it turned out that hundreds of jobs were included from congressional districts that didn’t even exist.
Biden later admitted the data were flawed, noting that "further updates and corrections are going to be needed."
Then he and Obama bragged about new job numbers for May — some 430,000 of them. Except that 411,000 were temporary, part-time positions created by the Census Bureau.
Now the claim is that somehow, despite the unemployment numbers, they’ve managed to “create” or “save” anywhere from 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs with their excellent management of the financial and economic crisis.
Of course no one can put a finger on what jobs were “created” or, really, what jobs were “saved.” Says Romer, apparently trying desperately to keep some shred of professional integrity in tact:
"There’s obviously a lot of uncertainty about any jobs estimate," Romer acknowledged.
Really? That’s certainly true of the estimates this administration has put forth. However, as the Post points out, the timing of this estimate is perfect. This estimate shows an increase of 20% over the last estimate that was found to be based in fraudulent numbers. As the Post notes, this estimate arrives just as Obama’s poll numbers are down.
All that anyone really needs to know is that this all started within the administration when it promised that the massive pork bill of nearly a trillion dollars it passed early in its tenure would keep the unemployment rate under 8%. It didn’t. In fact it didn’t even come close. And the figure is now around 9.5% and shows no indication of falling anytime soon. Where these magic jobs are and why they haven’t had any impact remains a mystery.
Of course the entire point is to understand that they can (and are) claim whatever they wish and it’s pretty hard to check. But skeptics, like myself, aren’t going to be convinced by mere claims. Hard numbers that can be checked and verified will have to follow. And it is my contention that when they do, we’ll see a repeat of the previous two attempts at pulling the wool over the eyes of the America people for political reasons – something this administration shamelessly attempts pretty consistently on a number of fronts.
Coinciding with and probably as a result of the McChrystal firing, a lot of questioning has been directed toward the Obama administration about its previously announced decision to begin the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2011. That was originally announced by the President when he outlined his new strategy about a year ago. Since then, as administration officials have been questioned about the date, mixed messages have been the result. VP Joe Biden has said the date is “firm”. SecDef Robert Gates has said it would be based on “conditions on the ground”.
Critics have rightfully said that announcing a firm withdrawal date is a strategically self-defeating thing to do. It gives the enemy a finish line they simply have to survive long enough to make. It also isn’t great for the morale of those US soldiers there now fighting in this war.
So it was interesting to hear the president – who originally announced the withdrawal date for next year –deny it was what he said it was:
“We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,” Obama said. “We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.”
Well that’s not exactly how it was interpreted then (light switching and door closing were certainly implied). Nor was that interpretation of the date then ever denied by the president or his staff – until now.
The announcement above is actually a change. White House spinmeisters will most likely characterize it as a “clarification”. But the bottom line is, the “firm” July 2011 withdrawal date announced by the president last year is much less “firm” with this “clarification”.
And, if I know my wars, the ANA and Afghan government are far from being ready to “transition” into taking “more and more responsibility”.
That, in fact, is why critics in the Senate are telling the president that the problem lies not with the military side of the house, but with the civilian/State Department (and other Departments) side of the house.
Until a credible and competent diplomatic staff is assembled in Kabul and is able to begin to do what was done in Iraq, there will be nothing to which to hand this “transition” off.
Yes, there’s corruption. Yes, we don’t like it. But Afghanistan isn’t the US and corruption and the like have been an integral part of their lifestyle for centuries. Is our goal to make them a mini-US, or to have them develop a functioning government and security apparatus that can hold the country and keep terrorists from basing there and threatening the US?
Two things to take from this – this is a mild presidential rebuke to the “this is a firm date” crowd (*cough* Biden et al *cough*). That may have further implications down the road. And it is also a case where strategic ambiguity – at least in this specific area – is a help and not a hindrance.
Leave it to Joe Biden to name it and Charles Krauthammer to recognize it:
I think he is the man who, perhaps without intending, has given historical context to this presidency. After all, Obama sees himself as a successor to FDR and Truman, so now we have the historical procession: the New Deal, the Square Deal, and the “Big F**n Deal.”
Hereafter forever known as the BFD. And more literally than anyone can imagine.
An odd set of circumstances and an ill timed Israeli announcement has evoked a very high profile and seemingly bitter denunciation of Israel by the US. And, instead of stepping it down, after the initial condemnation, the US seems to be continuing to step it up.
It all comes after a visit to Israel by VP Joe Biden coincided with an Israeli announcment that it had approved the construction of 1600 housing units in Jerusalem. The US chose to take that personally – literally. Variously described as an “insult”, a “slap in the face” and “affront” to the Vice President and the administration, the problem was escalated by a phone call by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to PM Benjamin Netanyahu. This weekend David Axelrod kept the controvery alive on the Sunday talk shows.
So what’s up with all of this? Certainly its fair to say that Biden was embarrassed by the announcement, something he had no idea was going to be made, much less coincide with his visit. And it is certainly clear, after you read about the announcment and how it was made, that no one was more embarrassed and surprised than Netanyahu. As he’s admitted subsequently, that it was ill timed and shouldn’t have been made while Biden was there.
End of problem? Hardly. It continues to grow, fester and escalate. But the announcement, other than its timing, isn’t something which should surprise anyone. We’re not talking about the West Bank here – where Israel has promised not to build. We’re talking about East Jerusalem in an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood. It is an area over which Israel has adamently refused to negotiate. This is not something of which the US is unaware:
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Thursday defended Israel’s decision to approve construction of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, saying sovereignty over the capital has never been negotiable and that Israel would not make any more concessions for peace.
Again, if true that “sovereignty over the capital has never been neotiable” why, other than the diplomatic embarrassment, has the decision suddenly become a matter of concern soliciting demands from Clinton to include one that reverses the housing decision?
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary thinks that part of the reaction is simply indicative of the personality of this administration. Its temperment, if you will:
It’s attack, attack, attack — just as they do any domestic critic (even the Supreme Court Chief Justice). It’s about bullying and discrediting, trying to force the opponent into a corner. And in this case, their opponent is plainly the Israeli government. For that is the party the Obami is now demanding make further concessions to… well, to what end is not clear. Perhaps we are back to regime change — an effort to topple the duly elected government of Israel to obtain a negotiating partner more willing to yield to American bullying.
The language the Obami employ – ”personal,” “insulting,” and “affront” – suggests an unusual degree of personal peevishness and hostility toward an ally. That, I suppose, is the mentality of Chicago pols and of those who regard Israel not as a valued friend but as an irritant. And it is the language not of negotiators but of intimidators.
I certainly think that’s part of it. But it still doesn’t explain it all. That’s more about style – and while I think it is a fair description of this administration’s style, I’m still not convinced that answers the mail in this regard. As Rubin goes on to remind us, 15 years ago the official US policy declared that Jerusalem should be the “undivided capital of Israel”. It seems a little odd to get this excited about the internal zoning decisions concerning that city if that’s our policy.
So what else is it? How does an embarrassing situation become escalated into a diplomatic confrontation with an ally? Well, there’s an interesting article in Foreign Policy magazine that says it is much more than just a matter of embarrassment. And, if I read it correctly, the US was, most likely, looking for the diplomatic equivalent of a fight with Israel if this is true:
On Jan. 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) “too old, too slow … and too late.”
The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus’s instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. “Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling,” a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. “America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding.“
You connect the dots. Was this rather minor problem the perfect excuse to try and recover our image of strength? As many of us have been saying, 2009 was a year of assessment when other world leaders took stock of the new administration. It looks like the Arab world’s verdict is in.
The briefing went further to say that the weakness and Israeli “intransigence” (as described by the various Arab leaders) was actually putting the lives of our soldiers in the CENTCOM theater at further risk.
This briefing and its revelations has been mostly unreported, although Jake Tapper did hint at it when questioning David Axelrod on ABC’s “This Week”:
TAPPER: All right, last question. Vice President Biden went to Israel this week and he was greeted by a slap in the face, the announcement by the Israeli government of the approval of new housing units in an Arab section of Jerusalem. President Obama was said to be very upset about it. Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton made very strong comments about it. Will there be any consequences, tangible consequences beyond the tough talk? And does Israel’s intransigence on the housing issue put the lives of U.S. troops at risk?
AXELROD: Well, look, what happened there was an affront. It was an insult, but that’s not the most important thing. What it did was it made more difficult a very difficult process. We’ve just gotten proximity, so-called proximity talks going between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and this seemed calculated to undermine that, and that was — that was distressing to everyone who is promoting the idea of peace — and security in the region.
Israel is a strong and special ally. The bonds run deep. But for just that very reason, this was not the right way to behave. That was expressed by the secretary of state, as well as the vice president. I am not going to discuss what diplomatic talks we’ve had underneath that, but I think the Israelis understand clearly why we were upset and what, you know, what we want moving forward.
TAPPER: I hate to say this, but yes or no, David, does the intransigence of the Israeli government on the housing issue, yes or no, does it put U.S. troops lives at risk?
AXELROD: I believe that that region and that issue is a flare point throughout the region, and so I’m not going to put it in those terms. But I do believe that it is absolutely imperative, not just for the security of Israel and the Palestinian people, who were, remember, at war just a year ago, but it is important for our own security that we move forward and resolve this very difficult issue.
Tapper raised the issue brought up by the CENTCOM briefing and Axelrod simply avoided it.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have taken the escalated diplomatic row as an excuse to bail on the peace talks again much to no one’s surprise.
Is this row all about posturing for the Arabs in reaction to the findings of the CENTCOM briefing? Is it an attempt to strengthen our image in those circles? If so this is a pretty poor way of doing that. It accepts the premise that Israel is the only problem and therefore it is only Israel that must concede to solve the problem. Read Clinton’s demands if you doubt that’s not the case. It also identifies as a problem something that has previously never been considered one.
In the meantime, much like the people of the US, Arab leaders are not going to be impressed by only talk – something the administration is long on. It is going to demand action – something which puts the administration in a very awkward position given what they’re now demanding vs. what Israel may be willing to do. And even if Israel capitulates, it will simply mean more demands – all to the detriment of our strongest ally in the region.
A very interesting situation brought on by perceived weakness and a diplomatic style akin to a pit bull at a cat show. It will be interesting to monitor the situation and see what comes of it, but, as one Israeli envoy noted, US/Israel relations are at their lowest ebb in 35 years. And I doubt this has substantially increased our image among the Arabs.