Hypocrisy is an abiding weakness of most politicians. Republicans tend to specialize in hypocrisy regarding sex and family—think of Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde, or Robert Livingstone—while Democrats go in for financial or class hypocrisy—think of John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, or John Edwards.
Recently, I went with friends to a talk by former Senator Edwards at New York’s Cooper Union, to hear, in the candidate’s words, how he plans to “dramatically reduce poverty.” Laudably, he wants to cut the current poverty rate of 12.6 percent by a third within a decade. But he offered few specifics. Those that were trotted out, such as more job-training programs, sounded like leftovers from the Great Society days. But if Edwards is retrogressive about poverty, he’s been very progressive in building up a fortune of as much as $62 million.
Tim Middleton of MSN, evaluating the former Senator’s new financial disclosure statement, describes Edwards as a man “of the people and profits” with “substantial investments in limited partnerships, sub-prime mortgage lenders, and an offshore hedge fund.” Edwards has (to some degree rightly) criticized offshore hedge funds as unpatriotic, and sub-prime lenders as piratical. He’s described the sub-prime lending business as the “wild west of the credit industry, where . . . abusive and predatory lenders are robbing families blind.”
This morning, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof launched a full-throated—and empty-headed—defense of free trade. Along the way he praised President Bush and attacked Senators Clinton and Obama.
Their offense? The pair of presidential hopefuls engaged in “cowboy diplomacy” by co-sponsoring legislation that targets China for manipulating the value of its currency (he was referring to the bipartisan Baucus-Grassley-Schumer-Graham bill). The proposed legislation, in Kristof’s view, will antagonize the Chinese, politicize trade disputes, and betray President Clinton’s “outstanding legacy on economic issues.”
Outstanding legacy? There may be many magnificent aspects of Bill Clinton’s economic policies, but his strategy for dealing with the mercantilists in Beijing is not one of them. It was he, after all, who decided that China should be permitted to join the World Trade Organization without first reforming its currency regime. The Chinese, once admitted to the global trading body, pegged the renminbi and from July 2005 on have maintained a managed float. As a result, Middle Kingdom manufacturers have obtained an enormous price advantage, which has translated into outsized Chinese trade surpluses against the United States.
In his victory speech on election night this past May, Nicolas Sarkozy declared that under his reign, “the pride and the duty of France” will be on the side of “all those who are persecuted by tyranny and dictatorship.” Sarkozy appealed to “all those in the world who believe in the values of tolerance and democracy” to join him. Specifically, Sarkozy pledged, “France will be on the side of the locked-up nurses in Libya.” Whereas his predecessor Jacques Chirac acted out of delusions of grandeur, Sarkozy’s goal is to restore identity to a nation imbued with failure and doubt.
This week Sarkozy produced a “success,” bringing home the nurses. But aiding the persecuted should not entail paying off their persecutors. Sarkozy’s pledge became farce when Madame Sarkozy, followed by le président de la République himself, sat in Colonel Qaddafi’s tent, after which the Madame said that she and the Libyan dictator had built “a real relationship of trust.”
Speaking at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Michael Williams noted that “Unless the crossings [into Gaza] are open for imports and exports, the downward economic spiral will lead to extensive hardship for an already impoverished Gaza Strip.” He also highlighted the plight of 6,000 Palestinians, currently stranded in Egypt, who cannot re-enter the Strip because Hamas will only let them in through the Rafah crossing (which Israel has relinquished), while Egypt and Israel are ready to let them in only through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Why anyone would wish to re-enter Gaza may be a mystery. But that question is beside the point. Israel is not the only country sharing a border with Gaza, though it is the only country bordering Gaza that Gaza’s rulers wish and work to destroy. That the UN wants Israel to conduct trade negotiations with them boggles the mind.
Many Americans I know are dismayed by the British academic boycott of Israel. What, they wonder, lies behind the rise of such attitudes on British campuses? The truth is, however, we do not know the half of it. A case that has just ended at the Old Bailey criminal court in London—a case that has gone largely unreported—throws light on this dark corner of university life.
This morning, the BBC’s flagship radio news program, Today, reported on the case. It involves a schoolboy and four Muslim students at Bradford University who have been convicted of “possessing articles for terrorism”—in other words, downloading jihadist material from the Internet. The only reason this particular group came to light was that a 17-year-old member, who had run away from home, told his parents about the group’s activities. The parents decided to tell the police, who arrested the other group members.