Netanyahu showed some realism but was Congress listening?
The best moments of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress came when he showed a more nuanced, realistic view of the Iran nuclear negotiations. But you had to listen carefully.
Netanyahu effectively acknowledged that the "zero option" — an Iran stripped of all nuclear capability — is a fantasy. An agreement is likely to leave Iran with some number of enrichment centrifuges, and Israel "could live" with that.
Netanyahu also said negotiators should demand that Iran stop committing aggression against its neighbors, supporting terrorism around the world and "threatening to annihilate" the state of Israel — if not before a deal is signed, then at least before a deal expires, another attempt to engage with reality. The agreement being discussed would reportedly last at least 10 years. He made a point of clarifying that he was not expecting Iran to take these steps immediately, but over the course of time. Netanyahu was full of bluster but there were nuggets of realism. I hope Congress actually listened.
Obama doesn't dispute selling out allies
President Barack Obama is capitulating entirely after years of saying that negotiations would make clear Iran had to give up its nuclear ambitions. In his very odd response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech, Obama did not dispute he is making these huge concessions and he did not argue they are wise. Instead, he argued Netanyahu said nothing new (well, Obama knew he had bargained away an awful lot, but many Americans did not).
Obama's arguments made no sense because they are excuses — excuses to conceal that his negotiators were inept, to avoid the perception that he failed to understand the nature of the regime and for not having gotten more leverage.
Obama does not dispute Netanyahu's accusation that he is seeking an alliance with Iran to defeat the Islamic State. That in a way is a far more grievous and fundamental error than his nuclear negotiations posture, for it involves selling out all our allies in the region and cozying up to a nation that wants to destroy Israel, tyrannize its own people and sponsor terrorism.
Who is Republicans' best hope in 2016?
It has become conventional wisdom that Republicans are blessed with a talented crowd of potential presidential candidates. Fine. But here's my case for why only one of them is likely to win the general election.
Jeb Bush was an excellent conservative governor, can raise money, speaks Spanish and is married to a Hispanic. Assuming Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, running another Bush vitiates the argument that Republicans are the party of reform and the future. Scott Walker's fumbling of some simple questions raises worries that he's not tuned to the pitch necessary to solo with the big orchestra.
Marco Rubio doesn't make those kinds of errors. He has distinguished himself as the most inspirational speaker in the Republican Party and as as a serious policy innovator. Rubio has another huge advantage: likability. He has a sense of humor and can be self-deprecating. The conservative message he carries is wrapped in sincerity, uplift and warmth, not scowls and censure. He has the combination of qualities that the Republican Party and country need right now.
Politics, rhetoric of pizza all too familiar
The politics of pizza these days resemble those of, say, coal or tobacco.
The rhetoric is familiar. The pizza lobby portrays itself as the defender of personal choice and personal responsibility. It's up to the consumer, so the argument goes, to decide what he or she wants to eat.
It's an argument many people find persuasive, but it doesn't hold up too well. Nutrition, where increased choice can be a bad thing because it all too often leads to bad choices, is one of those areas, like smoking, where there's a lot to be said for a nanny state.
There is a clear correlation between lifestyles and partisan orientation: heavier states tend to vote Republican, and the GOP lean is especially pronounced in the "diabetes belt" of counties, mostly in the South. Officials from that region have led the pushback against efforts to make school lunches healthier.
Health experts may say that we need to change how we eat, pointing to scientific evidence, but the Republican base doesn't much like experts, science or evidence.