Barak “Lavishes Praise” on Obama for Resolve

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak-Israel’s most decorated soldier and former Prime Minister-strongly praised President Barack Obama’s commitment to stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program during an interview with Israel Radio. Politico reported:

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak lavished praise on the president Thursday, commending him for being ‘ready to undertake the fiercest of political risks to his survival, in order to make good on what he believes in’ and defending him against those who call him a ‘soft appeaser.’

Barak forcefully pushed back against those who question Obama’s consistent resolve when it comes to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran by saying:

He added, ‘We are asked, sometimes, whether Obama is really a soft appeaser. To that, I say: “Go ask Osama bin Laden.”‘

Barak, who met with Obama in Washington last week, also hailed the president’s ‘internal consistency,’ which he said ‘stems from being a leader,’ and also pointed to Obama’s ‘circumspection that comes from seeing, above, only the heavens and one’s own conscience.’

Romney Backer Lobbied for Arab Bank


Arab Bank  Investigated by Bush Treasury for Links to Terrorism

— by David Streeter

JTA’s Ron Kampeas provided additional reporting yesterday on the story of Patrick Cave-a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney-and the lobbying work that Cave did on behalf of the Arab Bank. The Arab Bank was investigated for links to Palestinian terrorism by the Bush Administration’s Treasury Department and paid a significant fine to settle with the Treasury.

Kampeas’ full article appears the jump.
Why did Romney fundraiser continue to lobby for Arab Bank?

— by Ron Kampeas, JTA

Ben Smith at Politico reported Monday that a fundraiser for Mitt Romney, Patrick Cave, lobbied for the Arab Bank, which has faced accusations that it was used as a conduit for funneling money for Palestinian terrorist groups. The allegations prompted a Treasury Department investigation several years ago.

Regarding his lobbying, Cave tells Politico:

We encouraged [Arab Bank] to settle with the Treasury Department and cooperate with the Treasury Department and we were successful in communicating to the Congress any concerns they may have about the business.

I followed up with Cave, who told me he had nothing to add, in part because the bank’s no longer a client. (He last reported lobbying for the Arab Bank in 2008.)

According to USA Today, the Jordanian-based Arab Bank settled with the Treasury in August 2005, paying a $24 million fine, without admitting wrongdoing. The Treasury, USA Today reports, alleged that there were ‘serious’ weaknesses in the bank’s controls to prevent money-laundering and terrorist financing. The USA Today article also reported that ‘Arab Bank agreed in February [2008] to virtually shut down its New York office.’

The bank has faced lawsuits from families of victims of terrorist attacks. Among other things, the suits alleged that the bank facilitated the transfer of Saudi money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

According to this Jerusalem Post story from September of this year, the lawsuits are still very much alive.

Citing lobbyist disclosure forms, Politico reported that Cave’s company, the Cypress Group, had been paid by the bank for ‘its help managing congressional inquiries about the lawsuits.’

I’ve seen the lobbying filings: Cave’s lobbying, according to the 2008 filing, was for ‘issues related to the Bank Secrecy Act.’ The Act ‘requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, file reports of cash transactions exceeding $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities.’ In total Cave’s company was paid $323,000 for its work for Arab Bank.

Cave is a co-host of a $500-per-person fundraising event for the Romney campaign taking place tomorrow morning in Washington.

I asked the Romney campaign for comment on Monday and have yet to hear from them.

Time’s Klein: Romney “Wrong on Israel”


— by David Streeter

Time’s Joe Klein sharply criticized Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for continuing to perpetuate falsehoods about President Barack Obama’s strong record of support for Israel. Romney claimed today that “U.S.-Israeli relations have hit a low not seen since the Jimmy Carter years,” and repeated the false attack regarding Obama’s stance on Israel’s borders.

Klein wrote in response to Romney:

When he’s having a tough time-as he is this week-Mitt Romney’s first instinct is to attack President Obama. … But Romney’s execution is usually clunky. Last week, we had the Romney ad that pretended Barack Obama was saying something that John McCain had actually said-McCain wanted to avoid talking about the economy in 2008, a brilliant strategy. That was skeevy in the extreme, especially after it became clear that the Romney staff thought the controversy over their unscrupulousness would work in their favor (tone deaf politicians always assume the public is stupid enough to buy such stuff).

This week we have another example. Romney’s press office [put out a] statement about the President and Israel…

Actually, US-Israeli relations are better than they were when George H.W. Bush was President and Secretary of State Jim Baker threatened to cut off aid if Israel didn’t stop expanding its illegal settlements on the West Bank, and (then) in Gaza. And among the few good things Jimmy Carter accomplished overseas was the Camp David Accords, which has provided a generation of peace between Israel and Egypt, a peace now jeopardized by the Arab Spring.

The other inaccuracy-alluded to [in Romney’s statement] but expounded upon in Romney’s stump speeches-is the notion that Obama wants Israel to return to its 1967 borders. He doesn’t. He wants the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, to be the basis for peace negotiations. Somehow, Romney neglects to mention the land swaps.

The fact is, Obama’s policy toward Israel has been in line with that of every US President since Nixon. No American President has favored the annexation of any Arab lands. The fact is that US-Israeli military and intelligence cooperation, especially when it comes to sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program, has never been greater….

One would hope that Romney, as one of the few plausible Republican candidates, would eschew such cheesy behavior…would not misrepresent Obama’s positions on foreign policy so gleefully. But, if this race continues to slip away from him, I suspect that’s exactly what we’ll continue to see.

   

Message to GOP: Stop Rooting for the Economy’s Failure

— by Ariela Fleisig
Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) wrote in Politico this week that while President Barack Obama continues to present bipartisan suggestions to improve the nation’s economy, the “dysfunctional and hyperpartisan” Republican Party offers only obstructionist rhetoric and failed policies.

Wasserman Schultz praised the administration’s “bold steps” to combat the ailing economy, including plans to make mortgage refinancing easier for homeowners and new measures to help students pay their tuition, and wrote:

The President has been clear: These actions are not a replacement for the American Jobs Act. Congress must take action to alleviate the constant pressure middle-class families are feeling and work together to create jobs and grow the economy. The stakes are too high and the consequences too dire if Congress continues to do nothing.

If we break down the numbers and look at the four early states, we can see the impact the American Jobs Act will have on small-business owners and the middle class. The American Jobs Act is a mix of tax breaks for middle-class families and small businesses and targeted aid to help keep teachers in the classroom and police and firefighters on the beat and to get construction workers on the job rebuilding our bridges and roads.

She specifically criticized Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his complete disregard for the average American’s financial stability:

Indeed, while the president is focused on saving homeowners thousands of dollars each year by helping them refinance their mortgages, Mitt Romney went to Nevada and told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that we should not ‘try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.’ He went on to say that it would be better to have families lose their homes so investors could swoop in, buy foreclosed homes and turn a profit, literally leaving the average American homeowner out in the cold….

What is Romney’s prescription for curing this ailment? He wants to kick those same people who have been suffering out of their homes, allow bankers and investors to make a quick buck and then rewrite the laws to allow bankers to write their own rules. Romney doesn’t just want to return to the same policies that brought our economy to its knees; he wants to double down on them.

But he doesn’t just stack the deck against hard-working American homeowners; he also undermines America’s middle class through tax policy. His tax plan slashes taxes for the wealthiest and corporations but does nothing to help middle-class families. In a telling moment at a Republican debate just a couple of weeks ago, he called payroll tax cuts in the American Jobs Act ‘little Band-Aids.’

She concluded:

While the Republicans may be getting more attention in the early states right now, there’s no denying that voters will face a very stark choice next year. Obama continues working to find sensible solutions to get more Americans back to work and to rebuild the economy through a strong middle class. Meanwhile, Republicans continue advocating tax breaks for the wealthiest and corporations while shifting more burdens onto seniors and the middle class.

Americans can’t wait. They need action now to get the economy moving again. The president continues to work hard to turn the economy around. Republicans need to get off the sidelines and join him and stop rooting for the economy’s failure in order to win an election.

Click here to read Wasserman Schultz’s full piece.

Independents: Might 2012 be the Year of the 3rd Party Candidate?

Two-Party System— Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

The current winner take all system for U.S. Presidential elections certainly encourages a two-party system. Candidate from smaller parties do run, along with independent candidates, but their vote totals are usually a small footnote in the records of history.

Might this coming election be one of the occasions where a third-party candidate or independent candidate can make a major splash, affect the election or even win? According to Politico:

The public has had it with Washington and conventional politics. It has lost trust and respect in the conventional governing class. There is mounting evidence voters don’t see President Barack Obama or the current crop of GOP candidates as the clear and easy solution. As Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg argues, it seems likely if not inevitable an atmosphere this toxic and destabilized will produce an independent presidential candidate who could shake the political system.

Polito suggests six possible independent candidates and invites readers to nominate their own.

I see three kinds of candidates who might be motivated to run for President:

  • Far Left,
  • Right, and
  • Far Right.

Right

Their is a heated battle for the soul of the Republican party between establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman which represent its corporate base, and Tea party candidates with a lot of grassroots momentum behind them.

If a tea party candidate like Rick Perry,  Michelle Bachmann or Herman Cain wins the Republican Nomination and the economy continues to show weakness, many experts would see an opportunity for a third-party to seize the center. One possibility is Mayor Michael Bloomberg (NY). He was a registered Democrat until he ran for Mayor of New York City in 2001 as a Republican, and has been an independent since 2007. He has a net worth of over $18 billion, so he could easily get in late and still run a self-finance (Perot-style) campaign.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) has had a peculiar performance at the Republican Presidential debates often criticizing the Republican party as a whole for its backwards stands on issues from global warming, evolution and homosexuality. This does not sound like a good strategy for winning the Republican nomination, but it does lay the ground for a possible third-party bid next year.

Similarly, more “moderate” candidates like Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Mayor Rudy Giulliani (R-NY), and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) refused to run in a race in which they would be more moderate than the majority of Republican primary and caucus goers. Similarly, Gov. Tim Pawlenty performed anemically and had to drop out. However, they may be willing to try their luck to pick up a plurality of the vote against President Obama and a tea party candidate especially if the economy continues to show weakness.

Far Right

Mitt Romney is the current leader in the Republican primary. He is polling around 25%, has considerable money behind him and the prediction market inTrade gives him a 55.8% chance of getting the nomination. However, most Tea Party supporters can not tolerate moderate positions which Romney holds (or at least once held when he was Governor of Massachusetts). For example, some of them equate abortion to murder and consider Romney to be insufficiently pro-Life. They would consider opposing Romney to be a moral imperative and could jump behind a third-party candidate on the extreme right.

Perhaps Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) is waiting for just such an opportunity. We could also see current Republican party candidates such as Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) or Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) willing to jump ship and run as an independent against Romney. Other people mentioned in the past like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Donald Trump could or have considered running as an independent.

With all these possible candidates being discussed, how much of an impact will they make. Will they pass by unnoticed? Will they be kingmakers? Do they have any chance to win? Prediction market inTrade shows a 2.7% chance of a successful Presidential bid by a third-party or independent candidate, so I guess “the market has spoken”. A win by a third-party or independent candidate is not totally out of the question.

Keep your eyes and ears open. This may be an election which will make history yet again.

More after the jump.
Far Left

Some supporters of Obama in 2008 are unhappy Obama’s willingness to compromise with Republicans, but getting nothing in return. They are upset that the Defense of Marriage Act has not been repealed, the Bush tax cuts were extended, no cap has been placed on carbon emissions, we did not get a single payer health care system, and we have not pulled out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanimo.

Perennial candidate Ralph Nader will surely run again. Perhaps he will be joined by film-maker Michael Moore, or Democracy for America founder, former DNC Chairman Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT), or Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). Already, Nader is planning “to run a slate of six primary “challengers” to the president, with each focusing on issues of ideological concern. The point of this initiative is not so much to displace the president as it is to move Obama and the party toward the left — an in so doing to provide the themes and the energy to excite the Democratic base and draw new voters to the polls in 2012.”

Even candidates with small amounts of support can affect to overall result of the election. For example, the “official result” of the 2000 race between Al Gore, Jr. and George W. Bush hinged on a 537 vote margin in the State of Florida. This margin was dwarfed not only by the vote count of the 3rd party candidate Ralph Nader (Green Party, 97,488 votes) but also by

  • 4th place Pat Buchanan (Reform Party, 17,484 votes),
  • 5th place Harry Browne (Libertarian, 16,415 votes),
  • 6th place John Hagelin (Natural Law/Reform Party, 2,281 votes)
  • 7th place Monica Moorehead (Workers World Party, 1,804 votes),
  • 8th place Howard Phillips (Constitution Party, 1,371 votes),
  • 9th place David McReynolds (Socialist Party USA 622 votes),
  • and even 10th place James E. Harris, Jr. (Florida Socialist Workers Party, 562 votes).

History of Third-Party and Independent Presidential Campaigns

Sometimes third-party candidates achieve stronger results. These are the candidates since the Civil War which gathered double-digit support on election day:

  • 1992: Businessman Ross Perot ran as an independent. He got 18.9% of popular vote, and came in second place in Maine (ahead of George H. W. Bush) and Utah (ahead of Bill Clinton).

  • 1968: Former Gov. George Wallace ran on the American Independent Party line. He got 13.5% of the popular vote, winning 5 states totally 46 electoral votes (AR, LA, MS, AL, GA).

  • 1924: Sen. Robert M. La Follette (WI) ran as a progressive, splitting the Democratic vote, leading to the reelection of Republican incumbant President Calvin Coolidge. He got 16.6% of the popular vote and won his home state of Wisconsin (13 electoral votes).

  • 1912: Theodore Roosevelt ran as the Bull Moose Party candidate hoping to return to the White House. He finished with 27.4% of the popular vote (winning 6 states totaling 88 EV). He bettered the incumbent William Howard Tart (23.0% of popular vote, 8 EV) but in the end he lost of the Democrat Woodrow Wilson (42.0% of popular vote, 435 EV).

  • 1860: Abraham Lincoln (R-IL) won in a 4-way race with 39.8% of the popular vote, carrying 18 states which gave him a majority in the Electoral College (180 electoral votes). John C. Breckinridge (Southern Democrat-KY) took 18.1% of the popular vote during 11 southern states (72 electoral votes). John Bell (Constitutional Union-TN) took 12.6% of the popular vote carrying his home state of Tennessee as well as Virginia and Kentucky (39 electoral votes). Finally, Stephen Douglas (D-IL) took 29.5% of the popular vote but only carried Missouri (and splitting New Jersey with Lincoln).

Obama Supplied Israel with Bunker-Busting Bombs

— by Ariela Fleisig

It was reported last night that President Barack Obama covertly authorized an unprecedented amount of aid to the Israeli military, including bunker-busting bombs.

Politico’s Mackenzie Weinger reported that Obama authorized the sale of deep-penetrating bombs to Israel, a deal that President George W. Bush consistently rejected:

Just a few months after taking office, Obama authorized the delivery of 55 deep-penetrating bombs to Israel, Newsweek will detail in an article appearing on Monday. Israeli and U.S. officials told Newsweek that Israel first requested the ‘GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators’ in 2005, but the Bush administration did not okay the deal. Then, in 2007, President George W. Bush told Israel he would order the bombs for the country and release them in 2009 or 2010.

Obama delivered the weapons in 2009, the report says. While Israel had developed the capability to make its own deep-penetrating bombs, officials said, the U.S. sale was less expensive.

Weinger also noted:

The article will include additional information on the U.S.’s covert efforts to assist the Israeli military. U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) told the magazine that Obama issued ‘orders to the military to ratchet up the cooperation at every level with Israel.’

Weinger reported why the deal was made in secret:

Gen. James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Newsweek although U.S. military officials were fine with the sale, they had concerns about ‘how the Iranians would perceive it.’

‘If we say yes, have we somehow given someone a green light without intending to? Whether that green light was an Israeli green light to go do something or whether it was a message to the Iranians, OK these guys aren’t serious about talking, they are starting to arm themselves,’ Cartwright told the magazine.

Click here to read Weinger’s full article.

Geither: Debt Ceiling is Unconstitutional

The United States is the only country in the world with a “debt ceiling”.

Congress has approved a budget in which revenues are insufficient to cover expenses (thanks in part to extending Bush era tax cuts to Millionaires and tax loopholes for hedge fund managers, oil companies, ethanol producers and companies which ship jobs overseas). Simple arithmetic tell you that if Congress commits to a level of expenses without providing adequate revenue, then the debt will as a consequence expand. By denying the expansion of the debt already implied by the budget Congress has passed into law, Congress defies not only logic and mathematics, but the United States Constitution itself.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was asked by Mike Allen about the negotiations over default and the debt ceiling. According to Geithner, a debt ceiling requirement is unconstitutional:

Geithner: I think there are some people who are pretending not to understand it, who think there’s leverage for them in threatening a default. I don’t understand it as a negotiating position. I mean really think about it, you’re going to say that– can I read you the 14th amendment?

Geithner whipped out his handy pocket-sized Constitution. Allen tried to brush it aside.

Allen: We’ll stipulate the 14th Amendment.

Geithner :No, I want to read this one thing.

Allen: It’s paper clipped! [Geithner’s copy of the Constitution was clipped so that it would open directly to the passage in question.]

Geithner “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion” — this is the important thing — “shall not be questioned.”

Rep. Broun Fails To Condemn “Who is going to shoot Obama?” Question

— Jason Attermann

During a town hall meeting, Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) failed to condemn a question relating to the assassination of President Barack Obama. As Politico reported:

A constituent at a town hall for Georgia Rep. Paul Broun drew laughter on Tuesday when asked, ‘Who is going to shoot Obama?’ and the Republican didn’t come anywhere near condemning the question in his response.

‘The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president,’ Broun said, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. ‘We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president … who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.’

Following the question, Broun chose not to address the misplaced humor in the harming of the president, but instead remained passive and ignored the question for the duration of the town hall meeting. His press secretary eventually denounced the question, but the incident is still cause for concern.

More after the jump.
Broun has a history of using and tolerating over-the-top rhetoric, so his silence and toleration of an assassination innuendo at the event comes as no surprise. Despite bipartisan support for replacing vitriol with civility, Broun’s failure to immediately condemn the question demonstrates a betrayal of the oath that he swore to uphold the Constitution because of his failure to speak out for the safety of the president.

As we have said repeatedly, threats – even jokes – on the lives of public officials are unacceptable and must be condemned by all. In the wake of the Arizona tragedy, we simply must do better.