Nel's New Day

April 13, 2015

Rubio Wants to be the Young President

Another GOP presidential candidate rollout, today Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Writing for Nate Silver’s famous election analysis website, fivethirtyeight.com, Harry Enten puts him in the top tier following Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Despite Rubio’s poor showing in polls, Enten calls him “electable and conservative.” A hawk on foreign policy, he may avoid Rand Paul’s pitfalls; less extreme than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), he hasn’t alienated fellow senators; and more conservative than Bush, he could be an alternative, rather than a challenger.

resizeRubio’s entrance into the ring failed to make the splashes of the first two because Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy yesterday. His polling is even below Donald Trump with New Hampshire Republicans. Twitter responded with Rubio’s infamous video of reaching for a water bottle 11 minutes into his 14-minute speech responding to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech. Constant references to the incident may seem cruel, but his votes against the people of the United States are also cruel.

Tweets about Rubio’s positions were less funny than the water bottle. As one said, “Rubio used to believe in climate change. Now he’s running for president.” Another suggested that he would lose Latino votes through his denial of climate change. They also included his argument that employers should be able to fire people for being LGBT and recorded robocalls for the National Organization of Marriage, an anti-LGBT group. One tweet posted a video of his top-ten anti-LGBT statements. He has also called adoption as a “social experiment” on children and joined 29 other senators in voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

In 2013, the Russian parliament declared war on LGBT people with a law that promoted anti-LGBT atrocities, including beatings and causing LGBT Russians to try to flee the country. The same day, Rubio dropped his personal immigration reform legislation because of an amendment allowing U.S. LGBT citizens to sponsor foreign spouses for permanent residency, even if they had death sentences in other countries. Thirteen days later the Supreme Court struck down a major provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, making Rubio’s argument moot. Because conservatives were increasingly opposed to his reform, Rubio may have jettisoned the immigration reform by blaming LGBT people.

Rubio has made as many—if not more—flip-flops as Rand Paul. Originally a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, he changed his position to look GOP presidential. He could separate himself from the GOP crowd by opposition to lower taxes for high earners and punishing the poor and working class, but he won’t. When he fails in persuading anyone toward his position, he caves to the popular GOP position on increasing income inequality. He makes promises such as improving the lives of poor people with no substance, even compromising in causing more harm to the poor.

To identify as the foreign policy specialist in the candidate field, he collected right-wing advisers who call themselves “reform conservatives” to address economic issues. Rubio’s tax reform pairs a few middle class benefits with massive cuts for the wealthy, similar to George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts that cost the country trillions of dollars. His tax plan would eliminate capital gains taxes and the estate tax, dropping taxes for the wealthy like Mitt Romney far below the 14 percent that Romney claimed he paid. Romney’s sons would also pay no taxes on the millions that they inherit from their wealthy dad.

Criticized by conservatives as too generous, Rubio added more regressional tax cuts for the wealthy into his earlier unworkable plan, greatly increasing his plan’s original $2.4 trillion deficits over a decade. He also followed the conservative approach that solves the increased deficit with massive reductions in social spending, just like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. In theory, that worked when he was just a senator. As a presidential candidate, he will be scrutinized for his tax and spending proposals. No one can successfully argue the success of simultaneous upper-income tax cuts, middle class credits, and anti-poverty spending.

Attempts to woo warring parties usually alienate both of them. Rubio wants both the conservative base and the left-leaning minorities. The Tea Party calls Rubio’s former immigration reform as his “amnesty” plan and refuses to believe that he has abandoned this position. His public scolding of undocumented protesters also alienated Latino voters. According to his own campaign staff, Rubio needs over 40 percent of the Latino vote but is trailing Hillary Clinton in polls with this population. Romney got only 27 percent of Latino vote.

Rubio brags that his foreign policy credentials as his signature, setting him above other GOP candidates, but he vows to block normal trade with Cuba, calling President Obama’s position a “victory for oppression.” Koch Brothers’ business megadonors think that Rubio’s philosophy is “out of step with the more noninterventionist” beliefs amongst Koch network donors.

In March, Rubio stumbled badly while questioning Secretary of State John Kerry on foreign affairs. Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that Rubio fails his own test that the next president have a “clear view of what’s happening in the world” and a “practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs.” The next week he complained that President Obama is nicer towards Iran than Israel, despite Netanyahu’s gratitude for the billions of dollars the Obama policy annually gives Israel and the help for attacks on Israel, for example the Hamas rocket assault. Rubio’s position is that he would immediately abandon U.S. allies and negotiating partners by “unilaterally” imposing “crushing” sanctions on Iran—which, as president, he couldn’t do.

Rubio wrote in his memoir that he has shifted among the Mormon, Catholic and Baptist churches. He grew up a Catholic before he became a Mormon, then switched back to Catholicism, then became a Southern Baptist and a Catholic, then left the Baptists and simply became a Catholic, then he became a Baptist again, then a Catholic again, all the while technically remaining a Mormon. Even right-wing websites are a bit snarky about this statement, responding that “many Americans might question how someone could attend both churches and fully share in both denominations.”

Last year he alienated both LGBT and conservative religious people by condemning discrimination against gays and lesbians and arguing they should be denied equal legal rights. He went farther this year with harsh statements against the pope for helping arrange talks between the US and Cuba, accusing him of not prioritizing “the cause of freedom and democracy.” Seventy percent of Latino voters identify as Catholic.

Enten may see Rubio as a viable “alternative” to Jeb Bush, but Bush has been working behind the scenes to collect the elite support to decide the nomination. Both are establishment-oriented candidates who aim for compromise within the party. The New York Times described Rubio’s competition:

“Scott Walker, who took on unions and won in Wisconsin, is a conservative hero. Ted Cruz is a favorite of the Tea Party. Mike Huckabee is a favorite of evangelical Christians. Then there is a long list of other conservative candidates—like Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal—who might compete for votes.”

enten-datalab-rubio-21 chart conservativeRubio has lost credibility with almost everyone in the GOP. He failed to carved a niche in any majority faction of the party, and his message fails to resonate with any wing of the GOP. A winning candidate needs to be seen as exceptional—and Rubio does not have that designation.

Rubio’s speech slogan is that “it’s time for our generation.” The 43-year-old disses his old mentor, 62-year-old Jeb Bush, as well as many more in the over-50 crowd—Huckabee, Santorum, Carson, Fiorina, Graham,  Rick Perry—even Rand Paul and Chris Christie. On the other hand, he has “young” competition: 48-year-old Scott Walker, 44-year-old Ted Cruz, and 44-year-old Bobby Jindal. President Obama was only 47 when he was elected for his first term. Everyone took the hit from Rubio’s slam against 67-year-old Hillary Clinton.

Other conservatives are attacking Clinton, for example Meet the Press host Chuck Todd who asked, “How does Hillary Clinton deal with this freshness issue?”

Panelist and journalist Maria Hinojosa responded: 

“I have to be honest with you. The terms ‘expiration date’ and ‘stale’ and ‘too late for you’ as a woman, it’s like, I don’t know if men have that same reaction, that’s nuclear.”

Panelist Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore, agreed, adding that the GOP is “stale.”

Rubio’s website uses the motto, “New American Century,” an organization that led the U.S. into war against Iraq. In 1997 founders called for regime change and much greater defense spending for the U.S. as the “world’s pre-eminent power” that led to George W. Bush’s “dominant” power. The focus was on military attacks rather than diplomatic strategy. By 2006, the organization had dissolved into a voice mail-box. Rubio may be bringing back the neo-con group to declare war on the world.

March 6, 2015

Prosecute Boehner for Netanyahu Speech

The rapture could have arrived with the GOP reception to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival before a joint meeting of Congress on March 3 because of a secret invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). During the speech, 23 standing ovations greeted his message that President Obama was failing the world in his diplomacy with Iran and that the victims of the Holocaust were weaklings. During Netanyahu’s 40-minute speech trying to destroy the emerging nuclear deal between the United States, Iran, and the major world powers, the prime minister was interrupted by applause approximately 50 times. Although he gave no alternatives to keep Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, he did indicate that Israel would protest a negotiated agreement by taking military action “alone.”

The United States, Iran, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are close to an agreement guaranteeing strict inspections and controls on Iran’s uranium enrichment over several years in exchange for lifting sanctions against the country during the last five years. The strategy is to control Iran for a decade or longer until democratically-elected leaders can take power. Netanyahu insisted, however, that there be no negotiation until Iran stops “threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.” With no specific ideas he wants the U.S. to strike “a much better deal” that wipes out Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure and maintains sanctions against the country “until Iran’s aggression ends.”

President George W. Bush’s similar policy of zero-enrichment allowed Iran’s centrifuges to grow from 164 in 2003 to approximately 19,000 centrifuges today, with Bush officials conceding during his presidency that “there was no way to reach a deal without Iran retaining at least a face-saving amount of enrichment capability.” The current negotiations started after an interim agreement with Iran that has frozen Iran’s nuclear program and rolled back its stockpiles of enriched uranium. Inspectors confirm that Iran is holding up the bargain. March 24 is the deadline for broad principles with technical details by June 30. Increasing sanctions has not stopped Iran, and losing the negotiation would allow Iran to accelerate its nuclear program with no oversight.

The five prominent newspapers from the LA Times to the New York Times failed to include some information about Netanyahu and his speech. Jim Naureckas of FAIR filled in pieces:

Israel owns nuclear weapons, an important piece of information when a foreign leader demands that the United States stop a rival state from getting nuclear weapons.

Iran consistently states that it has no interest in building a nuclear weapon, and the intelligence agencies of the United States doubt that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program.

Israel hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty although both the United States and Iran have. This guarantees “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Netanyahu has a decades-long record of making false nuclear predictions about Israel’s enemies and crying wolf. Almost two decades ago, he gave another speech to a joint session of Congress and warned:

“If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind…. The deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close.”

That was almost 20 years ago, and Netanyahu has returned with more dire predictions about an imminent Iranian nuclear weapon. In 1992, 23 years ago, Netanyahu said that Iran was “three to five years” away from reaching nuclear weapons capability, and that this threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S.” Netanyahu’s 1995 book, Fighting Terrorism, asserted that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in “three to five years.” In 2009, Netanyahu told a Congressional delegation that Iran was “probably one or two years away” from nuclear weapons capability. A year later he said, “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. That’s what is happening in Iran.” By 2012, Iran was just “a few months away” from nuclear capabilities, according to Netanyahu.

In the 1990s, he temporarily transferred his focus to Iraq’s nuclear threat, claiming that there was “no question” that it was “advancing towards to the development of nuclear weapons.” Again he spoke to Congress in 2002 to say that Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear program was so advanced that the country had “centrifuges the size of washing machines.” He was part of the reason that the U.S. made a preemptive strike against Iraq, and the U.S. is spending trillions to recover from those claims.

Mossad intelligence chief Meir Dagan disagreed with Netanyahu in 2011 and said that an Iranian nuclear weapon was not imminent. He added that any military action against the country could end up spurring the development of such a weapon. He called Netanyahu’s idea of an Israeli attack on Iran the “stupidest thing I have ever heard.” A year later, the Israeli intelligence agreed.

Netanyahu spoke to Congress because he wants the following:

The United States to declare war on Iran because Israel doesn’t have the military to do so.

An embarrassing experience for the U.S. president who won’t take orders from Netanyahu.

Recognition that his false perspectives of Iran’s capabilities is superior to U.S. intelligence and diplomatic capabilities.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) support to ensure a veto-proof majority in Congress for a bill to stop negotiations with Iran.

A re-election in Israel by taking on the U.S. president.

A firm alliance with the GOP and a threat of repercussions toward Democrats who oppose him.

A distraction with Iran from President Obama’s goal of a Palestinian state in the disputed territories and Gaza.

The United States has provided billions of dollars every year—an average of $8.6 million every day—to help Israel destroy Gaza and wipe out the Palestinians. Netanyahu expects this nation to provide even more funding to carry out his other wars.

Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash, described Netanyahu as “the Dick Cheney of Israel.” Karlin wrote:

“If this unprecedented effort of a foreign leader to publicly destroy the delicate foreign policy negotiations of a sitting US president succeeds, it will be US soldiers who die and are injured. This particular war, with a military as advanced as Iran’s–which possesses long range missiles–could also ignite a Middle Eastern conflict of horrific proportions.”

The Republicans want war, but they’re making the same mistake that George W. Bush made in 2003. They can’t see beyond getting into a war; they have no idea how to get out.

 

Opposing Netanyahu is no more anti-Israeli than opposition to President Obama is anti-U.S. The 200 veterans of the Israeli security services, all with the rank of general and called Commanders for Israel’s Security, call Netanyahu a “danger” to Israel. They are not anti-Israel, and neither are the six former generals who held a press conference in Tel Aviv last Sunday, urging the prime minister to cancel his speech. General Amnon Reshef, a hero for his role in the 1973 war against Egypt and Syria, said, “Nothing good for Israel can come from humiliating the US president.”

Hawkish former military chief of staff Dan Halutz has said that senior commanders know that Netanyahu’s lack of diplomacy creates an untenable situation in policing occupied territories. He said, “They recognize that there is no military solution to Israel’s predicament with the Palestinians and that borders created by force are inherently fragile and insecure.” The current Mossad head, Tamir Pardo, has declared that the “biggest threat to Israel’s security is the conflict with the Palestinians and not Iran’s nuclear program.”

 

Considerations to take away from Netanyahu’s speech:

 

  • The United States has a single foreign policy—not a Republican one and a Democratic one: A disagreement should be taken to the president and the public, rather than letting a foreign leader use the United States foreign policy for his own politics.
  • Boehner and Netanyahu’s actions weaken America’s bipartisan support for Israel: Together these two men have the sole intent of undermining the President of the United States and force people to choose between a commitment to Israel and to their own country. Netanyahu deliberately refused to meet with Democrats as they requested, which damages the U.S.-Israel relationship.
  • U.S. negotiations with Iran are the best way to proceed: Absent a negotiated, verifiable agreement, there is no way to ensure that Iran will not get nuclear weapons.
  • Almost all Israel wars since the country’s formation in 1948 have been initiated by Israel’s pre-emptive strikes: Israel has the 12th-largest military in the world with over 400 nuclear weapons.

 

A petition on MoveOn.org calls for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to be prosecuted and removed from office for conspiring with a foreign leader to interfere in U.S. foreign policy matters. Boehner’s  purpose for the Netanyahu speech was to force the United States into war with Iran. By secretly inviting Netanyahu to speak at a joint session of Congress in an effort to undermine the U.S. President, Boehner violates the 1799 Logan Act which forbids unauthorized government officials from interfering in relations between the U.S. and foreign nations, a power only the president has.

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