Oct 5, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 04 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Let me risk ridicule by mentioning the ruthless Vladimir Putin and the clueless Joe Biden in the same sentence: The emergence of Putin abroad and Biden at home could reshape the 2016 Republican presidential race.
Putin: The decline in American power and prestige under our current president, culminating in the deal with Iran, has become so pronounced that Putin’s Russia has virtually replaced Obama’s America as the center of gravity in Middle East politics. Under Obama, the White House is still the world’s premier venue for fancy receptions. But the Kremlin is where the work gets done.
How have the Republican candidates for president reacted to this extraordinary development? Have they reacted at all? They say many of the right things. But have they adjusted to the gravity of the moment? Do they grasp the magnitude of the task that would lie before them as president in a post-Iran deal, post-Syria collapse, post-occupied Ukraine, post-rise of ISIS world? At best, the jury is still out.
Biden: Meanwhile, on the domestic scene, the odds are increasing that the Democratic ticket in 2016 will consist of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. Republicans have assumed that Hillary Clinton would be the nominee. If she were, the election would be in large measure a referendum on Hillary, and that would be on the whole favorable to Republicans. A Biden-Warren ticket complicates things.
It’s true that making the case for what will in effect be a third Obama term would be a burden for Biden. On the other hand, running with Warren would adjust the economic message in a more populist direction. And Biden would remind voters that though growth has been tepid, there’s been no recession on Obama’s watch, to say nothing of a major financial meltdown. As for foreign policy, he’ll point out we’ve gotten out of the wars we were fighting and entered no new ones, and he’ll dare Republicans to really convince voters that the world has become much more dangerous on Obama’s watch.
Such a strategy wouldn’t give a Biden-led ticket better than a 50-50 chance in 2016; but it probably would give Democrats a better chance than a Hillary ticket. Consider the new Quinnipiac poll, released September 24. Hillary Clinton loses narrowly to almost every GOP candidate against whom she’s tested. Joe Biden wins narrowly. It’s only a difference of a few points, but in today’s highly polarized environment, with just a small slice of swing voters, that’s how general elections tend to be decided. The two key findings from the survey: Hillary Clinton’s favorable/unfavorable rating among all voters is 41 percent to 55 percent. Joe Biden’s is 50 percent to 34 percent. That difference could turn a losing Democratic campaign into a winning one.
Indeed, the only Republicans with better net favorability than Biden are Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Carson is a fine man but will not be the nominee. Fiorina may or may not rise to the occasion. Marco Rubio and John Kasich are the only other Republicans within hailing distance of Biden—but they’re not nearly as well known, and haven’t been subjected to a real negative assault. The other Republicans are underwater.
All of this raises the specter of a 1988-type campaign, where an incumbent vice president is able to exploit weaknesses in the record of an inexperienced challenger to make it through to victory. We believe the current field of Republican candidates is superior to Michael Dukakis. But so did the Democrats in 1987 believe Michael Dukakis would prove a superior candidate.
Republicans have been telling themselves that this is the strongest field in years, and that the GOP has a deep bench. But as Sean Trende pointed out at Real Clear Politics this week, the two aren’t quite the same thing. It is a deep field, with lots of credible, reasonably impressive candidates. But a deep field doesn’t guarantee a strong nominee. It’s like having a pitching staff with lots of above-average pitchers. It’s better than not having them—but in the playoffs you need an ace or two. Will the Republican field produce an ace?
It’s only the end of September. In 1979, Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy in November. In 1991, Bill Clinton announced his in October. This year, Scott Walker went from frontrunner to ex-candidate in 10 weeks. In an extraordinarily fluid and volatile environment, there’s plenty of time for the current candidates to up their game. And there’s even time for a new candidate or two to get in. Republicans can’t count on coasting to victory behind a journeyman nominee.
And if Republicans don’t win, we face the prospect of living in Vladimir Putin’s world and Joe Biden’s America.
Apr 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 30 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
What is to be done about Obama’s Iran “deal”? We could, fatalistically, lament the collapse of American foreign policy. We could, indignantly, gnash our teeth in frustration at the current administration. We could, constructively, work to secure congressional review of the deal and urge presidential candidates to commit to altering or abrogating it.
Or we can stop it now.
Apr 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 30 • By LEE SMITH
Ever since it announced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran last month, the Obama administration has flooded the news media with technical details elaborating the many virtues of the proposed framework agreement. Indeed, the White House sent its energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, onto the Sunday shows to helpfully explain the knotty fine points that are likely to be lost on laymen—or anyone who doesn’t celebrate its signal accomplishment.
Mar 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 26 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Three moments stood out for me as I watched Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday from the gallery of the House of Representatives.
Mar 9, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 25 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Sometimes a speech is just a speech. Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech about Iran policy on March 3 will not be his first address to Congress. It will make familiar, if important, arguments. One might assume that, like the vast majority of speeches, it would soon be overtaken by events in Israel and the United States and the world.
Jan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
It did not take the attack on Charlie Hebdo to reveal that the Islamic world has a terrible problem. For quite some time, that’s been clearer than day. This is not an assertion made from outside Islam or against Islam. On New Year’s Day, the president of Egypt, in a major speech, called for a “religious revolution” in Islam that would replace an embrace of violent jihad with “a more enlightened perspective.” “We have to think hard about what we are facing,” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the clerics of Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
How to introduce students to conservative thought? It’s hard. The colleges and universities aren’t interested. The media and popular culture are hostile. What if young Americans nonetheless become aware of the existence of such a thing as conservative thought? How to convey its varieties and complexities? Even tougher. You can write articles and put things online, but there’s an awful lot competing for young people’s attention these days.
But there’s good news nonetheless. Help has arrived. Its name? President Barack Obama.
Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Republican voters are down on the sluggish GOP officials they elected, and the officeholders whine about the unreasonable people who voted for them. Republican backbenchers complain about their lame leaders, and GOP leaders grumble about their unruly followers. Right-wing pundits despair of unimaginative Republican pols, and the hard-headed pols are impatient with impractical commentators. Conservative activists loathe the GOP establishment, and the establishment is terrified and contemptuous of the base.
Sep 22, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 02 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
In his September 10 speech to the nation, President Obama said, “This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.”
Sep 8, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 48 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
"Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” President Obama told the American Legion’s annual convention in Charlotte on Tuesday, August 26. He repeated the thought in his pre-Labor Day weekend press conference on August 28. A week before, the day after the murder of James Foley, Obama had remarked, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.1:05 PM, Aug 22, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on the supposed "good failure" the Obama administration is touting in their failed effort to save the late James Foley, who was brutally killed by ISIS.
Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On Tuesday, August 19, an American citizen, James Foley, was savagely killed. The group of jihadists known as ISIL had previously killed and brutalized tens of thousands of non-Americans. But they killed Foley because he was an American. They titled the grotesque video of this particular act of barbarism “A message to America.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:48 PM, Jul 28, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on President Obama's track record on the rule of law, Israel, Immigration, and more.
Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On Tuesday, President Obama visited the Dutch embassy in Washington to pay his respects to the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, shot down over Ukraine by forces armed and backed by Vladimir Putin. Obama wrote in the embassy’s condolence book, “We will not rest until we are certain that justice is done.”
Then he rested.
Actually, that’s not fair. Obama didn’t rest. He flew off to the West Coast on a busy fundraising trip.
Jul 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 41 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook has previously lauded the work of the Foundation for Constitutional Government. To support the serious study of politics and political philosophy, it’s developed a series of websites devoted to important, contemporary thinkers (Walter Berns, Irving Kristol, Harvey Mansfield, James Q. Wilson, and more to come).