Wrapping Up 2012


Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch.

The best year in review piece I've seen came from Dave Barry. You can read it here, and you really should. Where else could you see gems like this:

In labor news, Chicago teachers go on strike over controversial proposed contract changes that would allow the school board to terminate teachers who have passed away. Meanwhile, the NFL comes under increasing pressure to settle the referee strike following a game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Tennessee Titans in which the replacement refs call four balks and three traveling violations, and ultimately declare that the winner is the Green Bay Packers. At the end of the month the strike is settled, and the replacement refs move on to their new role as Florida elections officials.

 More after the jump.

We close the year with sad health news for two famous pols. George HW Bush is 88 years old, has Parkinson's, and breathing trouble. It doesn't look good for longevity. Hillary Clinton is at NY Presbyterian with a blood clot found after her fall-induced concussion. This is not her first blood clot. Shame on those right wing wacko pundits who claimed she was faking. We wish the best for Secretary Clinton.

The 112th Congress is ending. Tom Brokaw said it best yesterday on Meet the Press when he said that the real problem is that 75% of districts have been redistricted so that they're bulletproof. I hope that America wakes up to this, and changes the system by which we redistrict to non-partisan methods, and jungle primaries, so that we have a shot at a legitimate House. 

Aside from the House, it has been a good political year. This was the year that dark money failed, that liberals won the hearts, minds, and votes of a majority of Americans across the board. My personal goal for 2013 is to turn Pennsylvania blue at the local level, and position the state (block by block, town by town, county by county) to win back Harrisburg in 2014. Tall order for one as vertically challenged as myself, but I believe I'll have lots of help! And besides, there's this from some post on Facebook:

It's impossible, said pride.
It's risky, said experience.
It's pointless, said reason.
Give it a try, whispered the heart.

Happy coming 2013. The dream endures.

A Metaphor for the Bush Tax Credits Destroying the Middle Class

Two years ago today, Senator Bernie Sanders filibustered the extension of the Bush Tax Credits. Ligorano Reese put Sanders speech to music by Michael Galasso using a melting ice sculpture as a metaphor to represent the middle class in this video entitled “A Thousand Cuts”. Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of the year.

WSJ Reports On Iron Dome’s Development

DEBKAFile: “Israel’s operation was an intel coup to shut Iran’s gateway to Cairo via Hamas.”

— by David Streeter

In its story on the development of the Iron Dome missile defense system, The Wall Street Journal reported that President George W. Bush’s Administration gave a “frosty” response to the system when it was first brought to their attention.

Israel’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system spent the past two weeks successfully blasting Hamas rockets out of the sky-many in dramatic nighttime explosions-helping to end the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas in just seven days.

The battle to build Iron Dome, however, lasted years and provided fireworks of its own….

Despite initial Pentagon misgivings, President Barack Obama has given $275 million to the project since 2010 with the aim of reducing the rocket threat and eventually bolstering chances of a peace deal by making Israel feel more secure to agree to territorial concessions.

For years, Pentagon experts dismissed Iron Dome as doomed to fail and urged Israel to instead try a cheaper U.S. approach. Iron Dome faced similar skepticism at home. But an Israeli mathematician-general, along with a labor-organizer-turned-defense-minister, pushed the project through, overcoming the opposition of some of Israel’s most powerful military voices….

Israel’s Defense Ministry approached the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush with a request for hundreds of millions of dollars for the system. The reception at the Pentagon was frosty, according to current and former U.S. defense officials.

Mary Beth Long, the assistant secretary of defense who oversaw the Iron Dome review process, sent a team of U.S. military engineers to Israel to meet with the developers. After the trip, in a meeting in her office, the team voiced skepticism about the technology, citing poor performance in initial testing, Ms. Long said in an interview.

Rafael’s Mr. Drucker recalls an even harsher U.S. response. He said the U.S. team told them: ‘This is something that cannot be done.’

Some U.S. military officials argued that Israel should instead consider using a version of the U.S.’s Vulcan Phalanx system, which the Army was deploying in Iraq to try to shoot down incoming rockets, current and former defense officials say. Gen. Gold’s team had already considered and dismissed the Phalanx system.

By the end of 2007, Mr. Olmert and Mr. Peretz’s successor as defense minister, Ehud Barak, had both come around to backing Iron Dome….

Iron Dome got a significant boost soon after President Obama came to office in 2009. Mr. Obama visited Sderot as a presidential candidate and told his aides to find a way to help boost Israel’s defenses from the makeshift rockets, his aides said, although defense officials at the time still doubted Iron Dome was the way.

As president, Mr. Obama tapped Colin Kahl to run the Pentagon office overseeing U.S. military policy in the Middle East. Mr. Kahl found the Iron Dome request on his desk, decided to take another look and had what he later described as a light-bulb moment. ‘Ding, ding, ding. It just made sense,’Mr. Kahl said….

At the direction of a White House working group headed by then-National Security Council senior director Dan Shapiro (who today is the U.S. ambassador to Israel), the Pentagon sent a team of missile-defense experts to Israel in September 2009 to re-evaluate Iron Dome. The decision raised eyebrows in some Pentagon circles. Iron Dome was still seen as a rival to the Phalanx system, and previous assessment teams had deemed Iron Dome inferior.

In its final report, presented to the White House in October, the team declared Iron Dome a success, and in many respects, superior to Phalanx. Tests showed it was hitting 80% of the targets, up from the low teens in the earlier U.S. assessment. ‘They came in and basically said, “This looks much more promising…than our system,”‘ said Dennis Ross, who at the time was one of Mr. Obama’s top Middle East advisers.

That summer, Mr. Kahl’s office drafted a policy paper recommending that the administration support the Israeli request for roughly $200 million in Iron Dome funding.

Remembering 9/11

Drybones: September 11, 2001

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

On this 11th anniversary of the fall of the towers, the attack on the Pentagon and the downing of the plane in Western Pennsylvania, we are ALL Americans attacked. The DCW team bows its collective head in remembrance of those lost and injured, and of the brave men and women who did all they could in the aftermath.

While this should not be a day for politics, there is new information that the Bush neo-cons were apprised not just in August, but also in May of 2001 that Bin Laden was planning an attack on American soil. Rumsfeld and company chose to believe that Saddam Hussein was the greater threat. Read here. Think of everything that went wrong AFTER 9/11, the unnecessary war in Iraq, the ineptitude in chasing down Bin Laden by the Bushies, the intolerance directed against innocents. Remember it today, act on it November 6th.

Matt and I are Native New Yorkers, and Oreo is originally from the 'burbs. We grew up with the Towers being part of everyday life. Huge, a giant shadow, but just part of what we knew. I personally remember being a kid and going on school trips to see its construction. To those memories, there is this from Dan Meth.

We wish you peace on this sad anniversary. 


Obama and Israel

— by Steve Sheffey

Move a Chicagoan to San Diego and soon he’ll forget the wind, sleet and snow and start complaining when the temperature drops below 60 degrees. Relations between Israel and the United States are warmer under President Obama than under previous administrations, yet we hear that the President has a “Jewish problem.” The problem is not Obama, but us: In only three years, we’ve lost historic perspective. We’re criticizing Obama for what would have gone unnoticed in other administrations.

  • Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger threatened to “reassess” America’s relationship with Israel. Obama has declared that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable,” and Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak credited Obama for the strongest relationship between the two countries ever.
  • Ronald Reagan suspended arms shipments to Israel and supported a UN resolution criticizing Israel for bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Obama secretly sold Israel the bunker busting bombs it requested during the Bush administration and cast the only UN veto of his administration against the one-sided anti-Israel UN Security Council resolution on settlements.
  • George W. Bush pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections and made little progress in stopping Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons. Obama has not negotiated with Hamas. He has mobilized the international community to impose the toughest sanctions ever against Iran and flat-out declared that he will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, saying no options are off the table.

Obama’s pro-Israel accomplishments compare favorably with any Republican president. Yet we keep complaining.

We say he has not visited Israel as president, forgetting that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are the only two presidents who visited Israel during their first terms in office. George W. Bush did not visit Israel until his seventh year as president. Ronald Reagan never visited in his entire life. Obama went to Israel as recently as 2006 and 2008.

We complain that the Obama administration criticizes Israel’s settlement policy, forgetting that every administration since 1967 has criticized Israel’s settlement policy. But unlike George H.W. Bush, Obama never threatened to withhold U.S. aid to Israel because of settlement activity; instead, Obama has taken U.S. financial assistance to Israel to record levels.

We complain about imagined slights to Prime Minister Netanyahu, forgetting that when the chips were down, Obama came through for Israel and Netanyahu. When Israel asked for help fighting the Carmel forest fires, President Obama’s response was “get Israel whatever it needs. Now.”

In September 2011, when the late-night call came from Israel to Obama asking for help in rescuing the Israelis trapped in the Egyptian embassy, Netanyahu himself called it a “decisive and fateful moment,” recalling that Obama “said ‘I will do everything I can.’ And he did.”

The list goes on and on. Obama opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, and successfully derailed Palestinian attempts to unilaterally declare statehood at the UN. He’s done more than any president to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Yet despite the facts, despite the historic perspective, it’s almost as if some of us want Obama to be anti-Israel because that would validate our worst fears. Attacking Obama on Israel is like attacking John Kerry on his personal military record. The Swift Boat campaign worked because Kerry and his supporters were too slow to take it seriously and fight fiction with facts. The result was four more years of George W. Bush.

Maybe it’s our nature to complain. But President Obama’s words and deeds prove that he is not only a strong friend of Israel, but that he is willing to stand up for Israel publicly and behind the scenes. That’s what matters, and that’s why most Jews will again vote for Obama in 2012.
Reprinted courtesy of the Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update. Subscribe at http://visitor.constantcontact…

JTA: Obama “Owns U.S. Backing for Iron Dome”

JTA’s Ron Kampeas wrote that President Barack Obama rightfully deserves credit for his leadership in support of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Kampeas wrote:

The following assertion has been up occasionally in the conservative blogosphere: That Iron Dome, the system that successfully defended Israel from a recent spate of Gaza-based rocket attacks, was launched under the aegis of President George W. Bush.

But that turns out not to be correct. In fact, Obama more or less owns U.S. backing for Iron Dome.

Conservatives who make the claim seek to undercut another recurrent meme peddled by pro-Israel Democrats, that President Obama’s decision to underwrite the project is evidence of his pro-Israel bona fides (Obama earmarked $205 million for Iron Dome above and beyond the $3 billion average that Israel gets in defense assistance each year, and Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, is working with lawmakers in Congress who want to appropriate more for additional batteries.)…

A Congressional Research Service report in March (PDF) assessing foreign aid to Israel squarely attributes funding to Obama. (The Iron Dome chapter starts on p. 10 and an illustrative chart is on p. 15.)

In March 2010, the Obama Administration announced that it would support $205 million in defense assistance to Israel for the purchase of up to ten Iron Dome batteries.

Israel began developing Iron Dome in 2005 and it became a priority in 2007, but there’s no evidence that Bush gave funding for the project an advance nod. The Pentagon spokesman in this May 2010 Reuters report pegs the funding decision to the fall of 2009, when Obama was president.

Israel Can’t Afford Reagan 2.0

Originally published in Haaretz

— by David A. Harris

During these perilous times, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is more important than ever. Mitt Romney’s admiration for the Reagan and Bush administrations, which consistently gave Israel slaps in the face, is a warning sign of his potential policies towards Israel if elected.    

We hear it from Republican candidates all the time – the pledge to be the next Ronald Reagan, to return to the conservative principles and policies of Republican presidents of the past.

More after the jump.
Mitt Romney is no different. His proposals look like carbon copies of Republicans’ greatest hits: tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, weakened regulations that ensure public safety, an end to Medicare as we know it, and an embrace of the same failed ideas that undermined our middle class and left our economy in tatters.

Governor Romney says he’ll do all of this and more, and we should take him at his word. Yet, when it comes to Israel, is following the path of Republican predecessors really in the best interest of the Jewish state?

Given Romney’s admiration for former U.S. presidents Reagan and Bush, a look at their records reveal some clues to how Romney might approach the U.S.-Israel relationship. The results do not bode well for Israel.

Think back to the days of President Reagan. To protest Israeli actions of which he didn’t approve, Reagan suspended a U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation agreement – in what the conservative commentator William Safire has called “the most stinging slap in the face administered to any US ally in recent history.” The Reagan Administration sold sophisticated weaponry to Saudi Arabia – AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance planes – while blocking the delivery of F-16s to Israel. And it supported anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, while condemning Israel’s attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor.

Time after time, Reagan publicly humiliated the United States’ best friend in the Middle East. Is Mitt Romney going to follow suit?

Now, think back to President George W. Bush. His administration allowed Israel’s qualitative military edge to erode and deteriorate, violating security agreements with Israel. It rescinded nearly $300 million in loan guarantees to our closest Middle East ally as punishment for construction activities in the West Bank. The Bush Administration endorsed Hamas’ participation in Palestinian elections over Israeli objections.

When Bush took office, Iran’s nuclear weapons program was virtually non-existent. By the time he left, Iran had thousands of centrifuges spinning and its power in the region was on the rise. Yet, when Israel requested bunker-busting bombs for potential use against the Iranian nuclear threat, Bush said no. Will Mitt Romney follow in his footsteps?

With this history, a pro-Israel voter would think Mitt Romney would want to “do the opposite” of these Republican presidents and not model his proposals after their actions. But instead, he claims he’ll reverse course from U.S. President Barack Obama’s policies, which leads to the question: why?

Obama has restored Israel’s qualitative military edge with record levels of aid and the deepest security cooperation in the history of our alliance. He has repeatedly defended Israel at the UN, vetoing anti-Israel resolutions, denouncing the Goldstone Report, and boycotting the anti-Semitic Durban conference. He has said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with any entity dedicated to its destruction and that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, from any threat.

To combat the rise of a nuclear Iran, the president imposed the most crippling sanctions regime in history – and the sanctions are biting. He secretly sold bunker-busting bombs to Israel to ensure it had the tools necessary to defend against the Iranian threat. He has stated that America will take no options off the table to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran – and, as we know, this president doesn’t bluff.

Elections are about choices, and this year is no different. In November, voters must choose between a candidate who seeks to follow the path of Reagan and Bush or a president who backs his words with actions and stands up for Israel’s security through thick and thin.

Many of Romney’s advisors were part of the Reagan and Bush Administrations, including Dan Senor, Tevi Troy, Mary Beth Long, and John Lehman – among many others. Will they steer Romney in the same direction, such as rejecting Israel’s request for bunker-busting bombs for use against Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

During these perilous times, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is more important than ever. When it comes to Bush’s freezing of loan guarantees or Reagan’s blocking of arms sales to Israel, we can’t afford for the next president to follow in their footsteps.

ECI Supports Romney Not Israel

— by David A. Harris

The motivation behind the so-called Emergency Committee for Israel’s newest ad can be summed up by its last line’s inclusion of ‘President Mitt Romney.’ If their previous behavior — including one of their founders appearing at a Romney fundraising retreat — wasn’t enough to show that their focus is only about electing a Republican president, then their cover is certainly blown today. ECI is not concerned with supporting Israel or adhering to the long-standing norms of the pro-Israel community. The Emergency Committee for Israel is a fraud — plain and simple.

What’s more, ECI’s top leader William Kristol publicly said recently, ‘I’m happy to sit here and agree with President Obama to a considerable degree’ about Israel — further evidence of the cynicism of their campaign to elect a Republican. And when it comes to Jerusalem, the position they’re criticizing is one carried out of course by the Bush Administration, and administrations before it as well. Given their long history of lying, ECI’s ads should be rejected by networks and ignored by voters.

Ten Israel Questions Mitt Romney Must Answer

— by David A. Harris

We are thrilled that Mitt Romney will be following the lead set by President Obama and visiting Israel as a presidential candidate. Romney’s visit to Israel will provide him with the perfect opportunity to clarify a number of broad and unclear foreign policy statements that he’s made on the campaign trail. Our hope is that Romney will be inspired by his surroundings and give the thorough and detailed answers to the questions on which many have been seeking answers.

  1. Governor Romney, when you say that you will “do the opposite” of President Obama on Israel, to what are you referring? Are you planning to reverse the unprecedented amount of military assistance that has come from this Administration? Are you planning to stop voting with Israel 100% of the time in the United Nations Security Council? Are you planning on driving a wedge between the U.S. and Israeli militaries, which are cooperating closer than ever before?
  2. Governor Romney, what is your Iran policy? Several media outlets — including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times — have noted that when it comes to a specific Iran policy, the steps you mention are not much different from those of the current Administration. What will you actually do differently? Sound bites like “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon… If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not” are unacceptable answers.
  3. Governor Romney, if Russia is indeed the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe,” what do you make of the growing closeness between Israel and Russia — particularly vis-à-vis stopping Iran? Perhaps you could provide your answer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, who recently hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  4. Governor Romney, in addition to your campaign forming a “strategic partnership” with Ron Paul, one of the U.S.-Israel relationship’s staunchest opponents on the Hill to win your nomination, your campaign advisors include:
    • Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sonunu as an attack dog;
    • “Special Adviser” Vin Weber who lobbied for companies that did business with Iran;
    • “Special Adviser” Norm Coleman who dog whistled about the U.S. embassy while belittling Jewish voters; and
    • Surrogate John Bolton who passed off a false story authored by an “anti-Israel warrior” and former Yasser Arafat adviser as fact.

    How will these individuals shape your Israel policies? Are these individuals with checkered pasts on Israel part of your “do the opposite” plan?

  5. Governor Romney, are you actually vetting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for vice president? How do you account for Rice’s much-criticized record on Israel? Are you comfortable with her comparison of Palestinians to African Americans fighting for civil rights in the 1960s? Do you agree with the way she pressured Israel to accept a peace treaty with Hezbollah before the Israeli military had a chance to complete its military operations?
  6. Governor Romney, do you intend to start all foreign aid at zero, including to Israel? You went on record as agreeing with Texas Governor Rick Perry during the primary debates, without clarifying whether or not this promise included any memorandums of understanding in regards to Israel. Furthermore, you failed to clarify your stance during an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition. You may want to make your position clearer when meeting with Israeli citizens who have benefitted from President Obama’s unprecedented foreign aid record.
  7. Governor Romney, does your admiration for President Ronald Reagan extend to his mixed Israel record? As a reminder, Reagan — who never visited Israel throughout his lifetime — sold weaponry to Israel’s enemies while refusing sales to the Jewish state, supported anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, condemned Israel’s attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, and suspended key cooperation agreements between the United States and Israel. Are these the actions that inspire your “do the opposite” plan?
  8. Governor Romney, with so many of President George W. Bush‘s advisors — including Dan Senor, Tevi Troy, Mary Beth Long, and John Lehman — on your staff, how similar will your foreign policies be? After serving in an Administration that allowed Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge to collapse, revoked hundreds of millions of dollars in loan guarantees, endorsed participation by Hamas in Palestinian elections, and refused to sell bunker-busting bombs for potential use to halt the Iranian nuclear efforts, isn’t it fair to wonder whether these advisors will push you in a similar direction as their previous boss?
  9. Governor Romney, do you still believe that politics ends at the water’s edge? You strongly criticized members of the Democratic Party during President George W. Bush’s time in office, arguing that “we need to not have people running their own separate foreign policies.” During your travels overseas, will you keep your own words in mind, as well as the pledge you made this week in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, and refrain from criticizing a sitting president’s foreign policies?
  10. Governor Romney, you repeatedly have failed to offer any of your own original ideas for how you would conduct foreign policy in your own administration. Rather than offer criticisms of President Obama — what would you do?

IsraelQuiz.org Launches: Compares Obama, Romney, Bush, Reagan

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council today officially launched the website IsraelQuiz.org to provide an informative and fun opportunity to compare and contrast the records of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The website is a game in which players match up each individual with statements and actions from their careers in public life.

IsraelQuiz.org is an important tool to educate voters about the real differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney, as well as Presidents Bush and Reagan,” said NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris. “Anyone who takes the quiz will realize that President Obama is a great friend of Israel, which is why American Jews will overwhelmingly choose him as the right person to continue strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Click the image on the right to test your knowledge!