NEWS AND OPINION:
$19.9 TRILLION LEGACY
The Republican National Committee has assembled some telling numbers as President Obama prepares to leave office and do other things. “Obama touts his legacy, but the numbers tell a different story,” the committee notes in a lengthy analysis of hard data, all current and gleaned primarily from federal sources.
Here’s a sampling from the RNC:
• $19.9 trillion: “The staggering mountain of debt Obama will leave behind on January 20, 2017.” Source: Treasury Department.
• $9.2 trillion: “The increase in the national debt since Obama took office.” Source: Treasury Department.
• $1 trillion: “Tax increases in Obamacare over a decade.” Source: House Committee on Ways and Means.
• $870.3 billion: “Estimated economic cost of new federal government regulations finalized since Obama took office.” Source: American Action Forum.
• $750 billion: “Americans global trade deficit in 2015 under Obama.” Source: U.S. Census Bureau.
• $690 billion: “Increase in student debt since Obama took office.” Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
A PERSISTENT BELIEF
Years ago, then-private citizen Donald Trump was very vocal about the idea that — maybe, just maybe — President Obama was born in Kenya. The “birther movement” agreed with Mr. Trump and asserted itself. Mr. Obama issued his long-form birth certificate, the Democratic Party made light of the phenomenon, the news media squawked, and Mr. Trump himself backed away from the theory in late September.
“President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” he told a group of military veterans. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”
Well, maybe not.
The idea still percolates in certain sectors. A new Economist/YouGov poll gauging the longevity and political nature of assorted conspiracy theories reveals that 36 percent of Americans still believe that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya; that number includes 20 percent of Democrats, 39 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans.
“Once a story is believed, it also seems to stay believed. Donald Trump may have proclaimed that President Obama was born in the United States (having doubted that for years), but half of his supporters still think that it is at least probably true that the President was born in Kenya,” writes YouGov analyst Kathy Frankovic. “And in the U.S. as a whole, a majority believes that in 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that the U.S. never found.”
See more numbers in the Poll du Jour at column’s end.
MR. KERRY: DON’T ISOLATE ISRAEL
Secretary of State John F. Kerry delivered a speech Wednesday from the State Department that contained a pivotal phrase: “Here is a fundamental reality. If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both. And it won’t ever really be at peace.”
Coupled with a recent vote within the U.N. Security Council to restore old borders in the region, Mr. Kerry’s speech proved particularly irksome to some observers.
“President Obama and John Kerry are playing the Jewish community for fools. Their recent actions at the United Nations did nothing more than allow President Obama to take a parting shot at Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while at the same time creating new roadblocks to peace,” says Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “True peace in the region cannot be achieved by isolating Israel in the international community, but rather can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
The organization is troubled — and saddened as well, Mr. Brooks notes. And they are not alone.
“The ‘path to peace’ laid out today by Secretary Kerry would actually bring the exact opposite. It is a path to pain. This whole charade is putting Israel at a huge disadvantage in peace negotiations, and needlessly tests our nation’s relationship with a critical ally in a volatile part of the world,” says Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican.
FRIEND TO TRUMP
Allies of President-elect Donald Trump are emerging. The folks who founded Great America PAC — which raised and spent $30 million in support of his candidacy — have recalibrated their efforts. Now open for business: the Great America Alliance, a nonprofit research and advocacy group pushing a stronger economy, a more secure nation and a society with fewer government intrusions.
“To fully achieve the goals we all share, we must do all we can to support and advocate the President-elect’s vision to restore and rebuild America’s greatness,” says Ed Rollins, a veteran GOP strategist and a point man with the new organization. “We’ve already secured $10 million to promote our message right out of the gate. Just as the PAC was the largest group supporting President Trump’s election, the alliance will be the largest outside group to support President Trump’s agenda.”
POLL DU JOUR
• 53 percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that were never found; 69 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of independents and 42 percent of Democrats agree.
• 52 percent overall believe Russia hacked into Democratic emails to help Donald Trump win the election; 27 percent of Republicans, 47 percent of independents and 75 percent of Democrats agree.
• 52 percent believe “a handful of Wall Street insiders” secretly orchestrated the 2008 financial crash; 51 percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats agree.
• 46 percent believe that “millions of illegal votes were cast in the election”; 52 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of independents and 36 percent of Democrats agree.
• 37 percent believe Russia tampered with vote tallies to help Mr. Trump; 18 percent of Republicans, 33 percent of independents and 52 percent of Democrats agree.
• 36 percent believe President Obama was born in Kenya; 52 percent of Republicans, 39 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,376 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 17-20.
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