In an age of hyperpartisanship, will a legitimate, viable third party emerge?

That was one of the questions that emerged during the first panel discussion at the launch of “No Labels” in New York.

MSNBC host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough said it’s “inevitable” that third-party candidates will start winning — if the major parties continue to fail to tackle the national debt and energy independence.

“The practical barriers to a national third party are so substantial,” disagreed outgoing Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.). “More likely, one of the two existing parties will get it.”

Asked to rate the partisanship in Washington on a scale of 1 to 10, Republican political analyst David Gergen pegged it at 15. He said the spirit of the World War II generation, that we are Americans first and partisans second, has been eroded.

Newly elected Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he was struck at his first Armed Services committee meeting how the Democrats and Republicans sat apart – unlike they do at committee meetings in his home state.

Bayh agreed that the caucus system needs to change. “It’s almost tribal,” he said, adding that there were only three times during his 12 years in the Senate that Democrats and Republicans sat down and listened to each other.

“The whole notion of principled comprise seems to have gotten a dirty name on the far left and the far right,” said Bayh, who cited the divisive political climate when he decided not to run for re-election. “If you see people being exceedingly partisan or exceedingly ideological, don’t support them. Join the raging center.”

Hotline On Call

Paul

Earlier this week, Israel said it would agree to expand its moratorium on building in settlements if the PA would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The offer was quickly hooted down as “racist” by the PA, raising this question: Why would Israel even bother to negotiate with an outfit that has a problem recognizing Israel as what it is at its core?

But now there is, perhaps, an equally pressing question: Why would Israel accept as an intermediary in its relations with the PA a U.S. administration that is reluctant to recognizie Israel as a Jewish state? The question arises from this exchange between administration spokesman P.J. Crowley and members of the press, as reported by Rick Richman:

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. . . .

QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has — it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that — the special character of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?

QUESTION: P.J., it’s — do you want to answer his question or –

QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.

As to the other part of the original question — whether the administration will attempt to persuade the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the exchange continued as follows:

QUESTION: … Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some — I’m trying — I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the — what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the — a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

A 2004 letter from President Bush stated that the U.S. is “strongly committed to … [Israel] as a Jewish state.” Yet, as Richman points out, “this administration has to be prodded six times to answer whether it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and — after an affirmative response is extracted — cannot give a one-word answer on whether it wants the Palestinians to recognize one as well.”

The idea that the Obama administration has Israel’s core interests at heart as it attempts to broker a deal between Israel and the PA is laughable and, I assume, viewed as such by the Israeli government, however much it may try to humor the current American president.




Power Line

A new Ivan Moore Research survey in Alaska found Joe Miller (R) leading Scott McAdams (D) in a head-to-head match up for U.S. Senate, 43% to 28%. Interviewers made no mention of write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski but respondents could volunteer her name and she received 18%.

A follow up question informed respondents that Murkowski was indeed campaigning as a write-in candidate and could be chosen. In this case, Murkowski led with 43%, followed by Miller at 36% and McAdams at 14%.
Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

by Conor Friedersdorf

Imagine a successful two-term Republican governor with a credible small government record, a demonstrated commitment to
civil liberties, skepticism about foreign wars, a longstanding determination to
right America's fiscal ship, evidence of competent management skills in
the public and private sectors, and an utter lack of ugly populist
rhetoric during the whole of his substantial time in public life. You'd think he'd be a God send for tea partiers and civil
libertarians, a possibility to win the GOP nomination in 2012, and an
appealing alternative for those of us who think that given a sane
alternative Barack Obama doesn't deserve another term.

That attractive, reality-based Republican exists! His
name is Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico. Says Niall Stanage
in a Salon.com profile:

Aside from his low name-recognition, he has no discernible power
base. After eight years on the job in Santa Fe, he was term-limited out
of the governorship at the end of 2002 and stepped back from public life
thereafter. Fundraising will be arduous. And his ambitions are the
object of outright scorn from the Washington establishment. 

"His chances are zero," political analyst Stu Rothenberg says via
e-mail. "I'd say that they are less than zero, if there was such a
thing. I'd expect his impact to be nonexistent."

Tell a savvy politico that you'd love to see former Governor Johnson win the Republican nomination
and they'll tell you the same thing, usually in a condescending tone:
he doesn't have a chance. It's a dynamic I might accept if the GOP field
were filled with excellent options. As things are, however, there's talk of Mitt Romney reappearing in a guise that has yet to be determined, a new xenophobic version of Newt Gingrich advancing the notion that Saudi
Arabia and its treatment of religious freedom should inform attitudes toward religious freedom in America, and Sarah Palin, whose crowning achievement as governor of
Alaska was… well, never mind that, she's a cultural phenom and really
connects with the base!!

Here's the thing about politicians and their initial rise to national
attention: it's often a phenomenon driven by elites. Sometimes promising young
leaders are given a speaking slot at a political convention, like Barack
Obama. Other times it's taste-makers in coastal media who launch a pol from obscurity: take Bill Kristol's role in the rise of Sarah Palin, who he championed after meeting her on a luxury cruise to Alaska. There isn't anything wrong with elites alerting the wider public to a deserving candidate. What I object to are the judgments about who is worthy of that boost.

The GOP establishment gave us George W. Bush as a fait accompli during the 2000 primary season, and taste-makers in the conservative movement remain proud of having launched Sarah Palin's career in national politics. Either the elites on the right should start alerting us to worthier leaders, or else the GOP rank-and-file should start looking elsewhere for inspiration. (Being a Gary Johnson partisan, I'd suggest Reason magazine, where writers seem more interested in advancing the careers of people who share their professed beliefs, as opposed to helping ciphers who'll advance their agenda out of a combination of policy ignorance, malleability, and personal indebtedness.) At the moment, the best way to raise your profile in the GOP is to denounce the mosque and community center being planned a few blocks from Ground Zero. Is that the incentive structure the right wants?

It remains to be seen what Barack Obama will do for the remainder of his term. And national politics tends to reveal previously unknown facts about people who enter it, so perhaps Gary Johnson is less appealing than he seems. Were our criteria for viable presidential candidates more sane, however, he'd be a strong contender, due to his experience, desire to reform obviously broken policies, apparent lack of disqualifying traits, credibility in principled statements, and alignment with a sizable chunk of the most dissatisfied voters on key issues.

Instead attention is meted out based on opaque standards that are causing us to consider Mitt, Sarah and Newt as front-runners, a status quo that does a special disservice to tea party voters who'd love a former New Mexico governor if only they knew more about him.

At the very least, it is time to give Gary Johnson a fighting chance.





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