Archive

October 27th, 2015

Mrs. October exposes holes in the GOP game

    October has been a clarifying month. The first Democratic debate exhibited Hillary Clinton's competence and reassured the Democratic Party elite that she remains a formidable candidate. In addition, it helped chase two also-rans -- Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee -- from the primary and appears to have breached the porous borders of Sen, Bernie Sanders' support.

    This week, Vice President Joe Biden's retreat from the field ratified Clinton's commanding position, freeing up funds and quashing a distraction in the news media. Then the much- anticipated House Benghazi hearing unfolded.

    After two Republicans recently acknowledged the Benghazi committee's partisan agenda -- roughing up Clinton -- the Republicans on the panel had extra incentive to appear decorous and sober. A couple managed. Others played the role of barking seals at a dystopic Sea World, spinning bright conspiracies on their noses in hopes of being tossed a kipper from the fringe. If the goal was to soften the hard feelings some Democrats hold against Clinton, Republican pride must be swelling at the committee's resourcefulness.

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Is this how you hoped the Benghazi hearing would go?

    For those of you who have lives and have not spent a beautiful, sunny Thursday staring intently at a livestream of the Benghazi committee hearing, here is a quick summary of how it has been going, slightly condensed:

    Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), chairman: Hello and welcome to our nonpartisan Benghazi committee hearing, which has rigorously been hunting down facts wherever they may lurk. The only thing that exceeds our nonpartisanship is our rigor. We have talked to a lot of people and found a lot of findings.

    Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland): I object on the grounds that this is silly.

    Chairman Gowdy: You can't object.

    Committee Member (R): Madam Secretary, is it true that you sit on a throne of painted skulls?

    Clinton: No, not to my knowledge.

    Committee Member (D): Madam Secretary, is it true that you are made of sunshine?

    Clinton (smiles): Thank you.

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Ending occupation could push back against intolerance and violence of my countrymen

    I was a soldier in Gaza 27 years ago, during the first intifada. We patrolled the city and the villages and the refugee camps and encountered angry teenagers throwing stones at us. We responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

    Now those seem like the good old days.

    Since then, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has seen stones replaced with guns and suicide bombs, then rockets and highly trained militias, and now, in the past month, kitchen knives, screwdrivers and other improvised weapons. Some of these low-tech efforts have been horrifically successful, with victims as young as 13. There is plenty to discuss about the nature and timing of the recent wave of Palestinian attacks - a desperate and humiliated answer to the election of a hostile Israeli government that emboldens extremist settlers to attack Palestinians. But as an Israeli, I am more concerned with the actions of my own society, which are getting scarier and uglier by the moment.

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Biden's no-go decision lends clarity to Democratic race

    Joe Biden handed Hillary Clinton a huge gift in deciding not to run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. At the same time, he insisted that there be no ignoring of the Obama legacy built with his collaboration as vice president.

    Biden's withdrawal removed what could prove to be the major impediment to Clinton's campaign. But he also continued "to be the best vice president I can be" by calling on the eventual nominee to defend the economic recovery fashioned by the Obama-Biden administration.

    "I believe that President Obama has led this nation from crisis to recovery and we're now on the cusp of resurgence," he said. "I'm proud to have played a part in that. This party, our nation, will be making a tragic mistake if we walk away or attempt to undo the Obama legacy."

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Benghazi panel briefly keeps out partisanship

    About two hours into Hillary Clinton's much-awaited appearance beforethe House select committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, the boredom and outrage cracked through the facade. She began to shrug her shoulders, lean her chin on her hand, and raise her eyes to the point of rolling them.

    She let her exasperation show every time she uttered the words "previously," "again," and "as I said before."

    By the time the morning session ended, the hearings had devolved into the partisan exercise that many had predicted.

    But at least at first, the Republican chairman of the panel, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, seemed to take pains to avoid the impression that the investigation's real purpose was to bring down the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, as his colleague Kevin McCarthy famously gaffed.

    So Gowdy was solicitous of the former secretary of state, letting her take the oath behind closed doors rather than having to raise her right hand in public like a tobacco company executive.

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Behind Netanyahu's desperate Holocaust blunder

    The latest round of violence in Israel was not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's biggest problem this week, although it may yet spin out of control. Most of his week was devoted to damage control after he foolishly said it was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem during the Second World War and a father of Palestinian nationalism, who invented the idea of the Final Solution, in which the Nazis and their collaborators murdered 6 million Jews in Europe during the Holocaust.

    Speaking to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu laid the blame for the extermination of one-third of the Jewish people not at the feet of the Nazis but, essentially, on the Palestinians. "Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew," Netanyahu said. "And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.'" Then, Netayanhu said, Hitler asked al-Husseini, "What should I do with them?" and said that the mufti suggested, "Burn them."

    QuickTakeTwo-State Solution

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The future of the U.S. Navy's sitting duck

    With Iran testing ballistic missiles, the Russian military bombing in Syria, war grinding on in Yemen and Islamic State as deadly as ever, it may seem like a very dangerous time for the U.S. to find itself without an aircraft carrier near the Persian Gulf. Actually, it's very unlikely to be a problem, and it's a good occasion to reconsider the Navy's plans to build a new fleet of superexpensive "supercarriers."

    The Theodore Roosevelt carrier turned for home last week, and the Harry S. Truman won't arrive until late this winter, a rotation planned by the Pentagon long ago. This is unusual, as the Navy usually has one or two carrier groups in the Gulf region. But the Navy is rethinking its rotations, and some gaps will result. Under the latest plan, the 10 U.S. nuclear carriers are on 36-month schedules, which include two deployments overseas of roughly seven months each. This gives them nearly two years in port for maintenance and renovation. This year, the Navy has had just two carriers out on station at a time, down from three or four, largely to save money.

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Rubio attempts an immigration magic trick

    Marco Rubio is a crafty, talented 44- year-old politician who is in serious danger of splitting his pants. More than anyone else in the Republican presidential primary, Rubio is trying to straddle his party's most visible divide, presenting himself as a solid choice for the corporate elite and as a tribune of the (very angry) people who don't have much use for corporate elitists. As a Fortune columnist wrote, Rubio has "a chameleon-like ability to sound like an outsider even when his policy positions match those of the party establishment."

    The Florida senator has yet to break through to the top tier of candidates. Both the RealClearPolitics and Huffpollster polling averages show Rubio in third place nationally, but at around 9 percent of the primary vote he is closer to cellar dwellers Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham than he is to soaring novices Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

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Public college should be free

    In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes became the first president to make a strong case for universally available public education. "Universal suffrage should rest upon universal education," he said in his inaugural address, adding that "liberal and permanent provision should be made for the support of free schools." Hayes, a Republican, didn't worry that some poor kid might benefit from access to "free stuff," nor did he believe that the children of wealthy elites should be excluded from the universal nature of the program. For him, education was the basis for full economic and political participation, and full participation was the basis for all prosperity. An education should be available to all regardless of anyone's station.

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Orchestra concerts aren't patriotic. Stop opening them with the national anthem.

    Since as early as World War II, American orchestras traditionally have performed the national anthem at the first concert of the season. "The Star-Spangled Banner" has become routine during holiday and outdoor performances, as well. But in the blaze of patriotism that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, some orchestras began playing the anthem at every concert, and 14 years later, a few are still clinging to that ritual.

    It's an odd, and frankly inappropriate, custom. In a performance that celebrates global artistry, this is no place for perfunctory patriotism. The pomp and circumstance of a national anthem mercilessly clashes with the complex creativity of classical composers.

    The practice recently stirred controversy in Fort Worth. There, at each performance of the local orchestra, an opening drumroll cues a spotlight on an American flag on the Bass Performance Hall stage. The audience rises, and row upon row of patrons - hands earnestly over hearts - belts out Francis Scott Key's vision of the 1814 battle of Fort Henry. Rousing vocalism suggests an audience filled with serious church choir members.

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