J.J. Goldberg

Bibi Bops Buji or Bye-Bye Bibi?

By J.J. Goldberg


From David Letterman’s Monday night monologue, a news update explaining where things stand in the Israeli election. It works best if you read it out loud:

As Israelis go to the polls this week, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu trails significantly behind Isaac “Buji” Herzog. This is a reversal of last week, when Bibi bested Buji. But after Bibi’s baffling Boehner boo-boo and a week of bubbly Buji embracing babies and bubbies, Buji bounced, beating Bibi badly. So will it be Bibi over Buji or Buji over Bibi at the ballotbox? We’ll know by bedtime if it’s Bibi beating Buji or bye-bye Bibi.

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Lame Effort To Counter Generals' Attack on Bibi

By J.J. Goldberg


A right-wing Israeli activist group tried today to counter the anti-Netanyahu campaign of a reserve generals’ peace group, Commanders for Israel’s Security, by announcing its own list of “Officers and Soldiers Against the Partisan-Political Use of the IDF.”

The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom reported on Monday that Im Tirtzu, best known for its attacks on the New Israel Fund, had gathered more than 400 signatures of retired officers and soldiers on a petition opposing the retired generals’ campaign. The petition was reported later in the day on the right-wing news site nrg.co.il, which said it included more than 1,000 signatures but didn’t mention Im Tirtzu’s role. Nrg’s report included a photo of the petition, which claims it has more than 1,000 signers, with 93 selected to illustrate .

The generals’ group, launched in November, calls for a regional peace conference with the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative as its frame of reference. It has 183 members. During the last two months, since the start of the election campaign, it has released a series of videos accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of irresponsibly exaggerating the threats Israel faces while failing to counter them effectively, and calling for his defeat.

The rightists’ statement says the generals’ actions “border on lawlessness” and questions their military record. “To our great regret, we have learned not infrequently in the past that the security predictions of those senior officers who were influenced by their political views were mistaken and cost Israeli society dearly in blood,” the petition says.

But the new ad unintentionally highlights the seriousness of the generals’ message and the feebleness of the right-wing counter-effort. The generals’ group consists entirely of veterans with the rank of general — including brigadier, major and lieutenant generals — along with retired chiefs and deputy chiefs of the Mossad, Shin Bet and national police. In all it includes about one-third of all living former generals.

The rightists’ petition, by contrast, lists exactly one ex-general, along with three retired colonels and 15 lieutenant colonels. The rest are field officers — majors, captains and lieutenants. Given that these are the names chosen for publication, it must be assumed that there aren’t many high-ranking names, if any, lurking among the other 900-plus signers left unpublished.

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Watch: Obama Kills at Correspondents Dinner

By J.J. Goldberg

Getty Images
At the White House Correspondents Dinner.

President Obama was in rare form at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, delivering zingers at House Republican leaders, Fox News, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his own Obamacare troubles. His best line of the evening, the pundits seem to agree, was this one aimed at House Speaker John Boehner:

I’m feeling sorry — believe it or not — for the speaker of the House as well. These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means orange really is the new black.

But the most outrageous lines came from comedian Joel McHale, the star of NBC’s Community and host of E Network’s The Soup. The workover he gave Christie must have set some sort of record. He opened his act by promising to keep it “amusing and over quickly, just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid.” Later, he asked, “Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes? I could go half and half — I know you like a combo platter.” Then he did an incredible parody of Christie’s Bridgegate response, saying his joke was inappropriate but while it was written by his staff he took full responsibility and would appoint an independent investigation headed by himself to find out whose fault it was. But why read my summary? Watch it below.

New York magazine’s Caroline Bankoff put together a pretty good roundup of the evening, including useful statistics on how many jokes each were aimed at CNN, Fox and MSNBC and who was the most ragged-on politician of the evening (Christie). And Fox has a full transcript of Obama’s remarks, which shows either that they’re masochists deep down or that they want to use it to get their base riled up, perhaps hoping to emulate the ADL’s success in taking down Nation of Islam leader Khalid Abdul Muhammad in 1993 by running his anti-Semitic ravings as a full-page ad.

Here are the videos of Obama’s and McHale’s routines, in full:

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Take Debt Limit to Court. It's Unconstitutional

By J.J. Goldberg

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‘I do solemnly swear…’

Wait a minute: I still don’t understand why the idea of a debt ceiling is constitutional.

The last I heard, the Fourteenth Amendment was still part of the Constitution. Here’s Section 4:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

Call me crazy, but that seems pretty straightforward: One may not take steps to impede the United States’ payment of its debts. That should mean that any law permitting or enabling the prevention of America paying its debts is prima facie unconstitutional. The debt ceiling statute, by asking members of Congress to decide whether the government may continue to pay the money it owes, is by definition a violation of the Constitution. Its very language questions the public debt of the United States.

Pelosi, Geithner and others have raised this argument several times in the last few years, but Obama punted then and he did it again this time (surprise, surprise) to avoid confrontation with Congress and stick to his mythical middle ground. He’s afraid the House would impeach him and cause an even bigger crisis of confidence.

But it doesn’t have to be a confrontation between the branches. An outside goo-government group—or House Democrats—could and should go to the D.C. Circuit and challenge the constitutionality of the 1917 statute creating the debt ceiling. They should ask for a temporary injunction suspending enforcement of the law until the matter has been adjudicated.

A constitutional scholar might tell us that the public debt of the United States doesn’t refer to bills it has agreed to pay, but to repayment of bonds it floated—money it borrowed—to pay those bills. Even by that reading, any measure that raises questions about service of the debt—keeping up interest payments—should be unconstitutional. The fact that Republican caucus members suggest a way around it—paying the interest and stiffing everyone else—doesn’t negate the fact that the question has been raised, and that’s what’s unconstitutional.

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To Grasp GOP Debt Stand, Picture a Bank Robber ...

By J.J. Goldberg

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House Speaker John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner is reported to have told fellow Republicans that he won’t allow the federal government to default. He said he will see to it that the debt ceiling is raised, even if it means passing a bill with the support of Democrats and a minority of Republicans. Here’s what Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel told the Washington Post:

“Speaker Boehner has always said that the United States will not default on its debt, but if we’re going to raise the debt limit, we need to deal with the drivers of our debt and deficits,” Steel said. “That’s why we need a bill with cuts and reforms to get our economy moving again.”

In other words, he’s going to make sure that the debt ceiling is raised, but only on condition that the measure to raise the ceiling includes some other fiscal and budgetary actions that the Republicans favor. Ezra Klein at the Washington Post Wonkblog unpacks what this means:

On the one hand, Boehner has always said he won’t allow the United States to default. On the other hand, he’s also always said that he won’t pass a clean debt-ceiling bill.

Imagine a bank robber who swears no hostages will be harmed under any circumstances but also says no one gets out alive if his demands aren’t met. That’s more or less Boehner’s position.

If you dig a little deeper, you come to a pretty shocking bottom line:

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