Timing is everything in politics. In the summer and fall of 1992, the U.S. economy was growing at a solid 3 percent clip, but American voters, by and large, did not notice. They had already accepted the conventional wisdom drummed into their consciousness by countless media reports and overheated campaign rhetoric from Bill Clinton and the Democrats that the economy was stalled, and then that President George H.W. Bush’s policies were the cause. Clinton ran on a platform of stimulating the economy and ending the recession. As Clinton's campaign manager James Carville said on more than one occasion, there was only one issue: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton won, in part thanks to the third party candidacy of Ross Perot, and took office in an economy that was not only not in recession but already growing smartly.
Barack Obama has been intensely focused on his re-election campaign for some time, and now major governance decisions, as pointed out in an article by Charles Krauthammer, seem almost exclusively a result of pandering to specific elements in the patchwork coalition of special interest groups, or minorities that Obama needs to stitch together to win again next November. In just the past few weeks, the president delayed a decision on the XL pipeline from Canada until after next year’s election, so as not to anger his environmental base, which he apparently deemed more important than those out of work, some 20,000 of whom might have gotten good paying jobs (“shovel ready jobs”) building and supplying parts for the pipeline. The construction workers who are out of work are unlikely to contribute to a presidential campaign. But environmentalists, who are well represented among the president’s very affluent liberal base, most certainly do. Hence, it was an easy choice for Obama to demand more studies for a proposed pipeline that is already the most studied in U.S. history.
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Krauthammer outlines three other recent decisions that seem more motivated by the election calendar than by substance:
“Obama’s decision to wind down the Afghan surge in September 2012 is militarily inexplicable. It comes during the fighting season. It was recommended by none of his own military commanders. It is explicable only as a talking point for the final days of his reelection campaign.
"At the height of the debt-ceiling debate last July, Obama pledged to veto any agreement that was not long term. Definition of long term? By another amazing coincidence, any deal large enough to get him past Election Day (and thus avoid another such crisis next year).
"Tuesday it was revealed that last year the administration pressured Solyndra (an energy company that went bankrupt in August after receiving $535 million in U.S. government loans) as it was failing, to delay its planned Oct. 28 announcement of layoffs until Nov. 3 — the day after the midterm election.”
Regrettably for the president, Iran does not seem to be willing to delay completion of the weaponization of its nuclear program until after the president’s re-election fate is decided by voters. And even more distressing for the White House: It appears that Israel is not attuned to that calendar either, and has provided no assurances of how it will act with regard to the Iranian nuclear program, or in what ways it would coordinate with the U.S. should any military action be contemplated. As for the second consideration, the Netanyahu government clearly understands at this point that if a decision were made to take military action against Iran, that previewing it much in advance with the Obama administration would almost certainly lead to the leaking of such plans, designed to short-circuit such an Israeli effort. While coordination with the U.S. military would likely be essential to any Israeli effort, the need for this may only require notification soon before such action were contemplated.
The uncertainty surrounding the likelihood and timing of an Israeli military option would seem to be a reason for the Obama administration to use any other option in its arsenal to squeeze Iran, and incentivize it to give up the nuclear program. So far, it seems the administration has chosen to change the subject. The recently released International Atomic Energy Agency report was not a surprise to anyone with even passing interest in the subject, and pretty much verified that earlier U.S. Intelligence agency reports from 2007, saying that the Iranian nuclear weapons program had been mothballed in 2003, were nonsense. So too, the new reports provided strong support for thinking that the former head of the IAEA, Egypt’s Mohammed Elbaradei, had used his authority to protect the Iranian program and delay and weaken any serious international effort to address Iran’s effort.
Congressional supporters of Israel from both political parties have recommended sanctioning Iran’s central bank, which might be an alternative route to cutting off Iran’s revenue from dollar denominated sales of domestically produced oil. But the White House has rejected this option, since it might lead to higher oil prices, which might lead to some slowdown in economic activity, which, horror of horrors, might impact the president’s re-election effort.
Of course, the administration has done almost everything in its power to slow the growth in domestic production of oil and gas, which could serve to temper any oil price rise, again with a nod to the president’s base of environmentalist supporters. Almost zero new permits have been issued for offshore drilling, and the federal government and its environmentalist allies have combined to slow down the development of shale gas and oil from tar sands, both of which provide an opportunity for the U.S. to greatly increase our domestic supplies and known reserves of both fuels. The administration has been far more interested in providing government guarantees for highly risky “green energy” projects, which so far have created fewer than 4,000 “green jobs” at a cost of about $19 billion.
The Iranian nuclear threat is one that is clearly worrisome for Barack Obama. And events in Iran have consistently been inconveniently timed for the White House. For the first 18 months of his administration, Obama leaned on House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman to delay new congressional sanctions against Iran, so he could feebly try to engage with the mullahs. The Iranian green revolution, which followed the stolen elections in the spring of 2009, occurred while the engagement effort was in full swing, and as a result, the U.S. stayed on the sidelines, not even offering moral support to the protestors.
Now the president has to worry about the inconvenient timing of several possibilities with regards to Iran. The Iranians could complete their nuclear program before next November, meaning it occurred on his watch, a bad rap for the administration, similar to Truman being blamed for “losing China.” Or Israel could choose to act before November, based on its own estimate of Iran’s timing for its nuclear program. An Israeli attack would likely draw the U.S. into the conflict, and on the side of Israel, with negative implications for Obama’s Muslim outreach program, not to mention the risk of casualties and widespread destruction.
If only Iran and Israel could agree to just put everything off until the second week of November, 2012, it would be so much more convenient for the White House.
Richard Baehr is the co-founder and chief political correspondent for the American Thinker, and is a visiting fellow at the Jewish Policy Center.
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