Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 9, 2008

Singapore Plays with Fire

I had a strong sense of trouble lurking beneath the surface when a Singaporean colleague recently wrote me about the growing numbers of Chinese from the People’s Republic who are coming to Singapore. The reason: to fill jobs left vacant as native born Singaporeans continue to emigrate at what is perhaps the second highest rate in the world (an estimated 26.11 per thousand, second only to East Timor.)

Singapore is a small but strategically situated country of great prosperity (per capita income is over $20,000). It’s surrounded by perhaps 300 million mostly Muslim Malays and Indonesians. The Chinese and the Muslim peoples have never gotten on very well. The danger for Singapore is that the Malaysians and Indonesians could come to perceive Singapore as a cat’s paw for China. That would lead to disaster for the island state–yet it appears to be the direction in which Singapore is moving.

Read More

I had a strong sense of trouble lurking beneath the surface when a Singaporean colleague recently wrote me about the growing numbers of Chinese from the People’s Republic who are coming to Singapore. The reason: to fill jobs left vacant as native born Singaporeans continue to emigrate at what is perhaps the second highest rate in the world (an estimated 26.11 per thousand, second only to East Timor.)

Singapore is a small but strategically situated country of great prosperity (per capita income is over $20,000). It’s surrounded by perhaps 300 million mostly Muslim Malays and Indonesians. The Chinese and the Muslim peoples have never gotten on very well. The danger for Singapore is that the Malaysians and Indonesians could come to perceive Singapore as a cat’s paw for China. That would lead to disaster for the island state–yet it appears to be the direction in which Singapore is moving.


Instead of permitting immigration from Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore appears to be seeking guest workers from China. This is already causing ill-feeling inside Singapore, as the Singaporeans have only the remotest connections with China. A colleague recently emailed me:

[a close friend] told me that the number of PRC’s/ex-PRC’s in Singapore is quite large and is still on the rise. This is creating tension and resentment among the native-born Singaporeans because the PRC’s cannot speak English, are taking away jobs, and are behaving arrogantly towards native Singaporeans.

For example, my friend and his wife had trouble ordering food in a [food court] coffee-shop because none of the PRC stall-owners understood English or even Singaporean-accented Mandarin. One might assume that my friend’s wife wouldn’t have any inherent bias against PRC’s because she is [educated in the Singapore Chinese-language stream]. Additionally, while my friend was having dinner at a restaurant with his PRC neighbours, one of them stood up in the restaurant and started haranguing a waiter. This PRC gentleman then went on to sneer at the waiter (in front of everyone at the restaurant) for being a native-born Singaporean.

Instead of permitting immigration from Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore appears to be seeking guest workers from China. This is already causing ill-feeling inside Singapore, as the Singaporeans have only the remotest connections with China. My colleague emailed me:

If PRC Chinese become a significant presence in Singapore, then that country’s ties with its immediate neighbors, always delicate, will be inflamed. Furthermore, friends such as the United States will have to think twice about sharing intelligence and technology.

Most Singaporean émigrés leave because of the stifling atmosphere of the country and the political and intellectual lock-step enforced by the government. A looming internal problem would be solved, and a potential external disaster avoided, if that government would begin to democratize, and to allow its people to develop their talents–in Singapore, not abroad.

Read Less

Hilarious.

From Andy Borowitz, the funniest man on the Internet:

Hillary Schedules Official Crying Jag for South Carolina

Launches ‘Sniffling Tour’ Before SuperDuper Tuesday

Saying that she has learned valuable lessons from her victory in the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) today announced that she was scheduling an official crying jag for the eve of the South Carolina primary on January 26.

Speaking to reporters in Las Vegas this morning, her eyes noticeably watery, Mrs. Clinton said that her election eve crying jag would be scheduled for 4 PM EST on January 25.

But the newly lachrymose junior senator from New York indicated that her South Carolinian waterworks would only be one stop on an ambitious tear-drenched campaign schedule leading up to SuperDuper Tuesday on February 5, an itinerary which she and her aides are calling her “Sniffling Tour.”

“I’m going to be crying so much you’re going to think I’m Anderson Cooper,” she wept….

From Andy Borowitz, the funniest man on the Internet:

Hillary Schedules Official Crying Jag for South Carolina

Launches ‘Sniffling Tour’ Before SuperDuper Tuesday

Saying that she has learned valuable lessons from her victory in the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) today announced that she was scheduling an official crying jag for the eve of the South Carolina primary on January 26.

Speaking to reporters in Las Vegas this morning, her eyes noticeably watery, Mrs. Clinton said that her election eve crying jag would be scheduled for 4 PM EST on January 25.

But the newly lachrymose junior senator from New York indicated that her South Carolinian waterworks would only be one stop on an ambitious tear-drenched campaign schedule leading up to SuperDuper Tuesday on February 5, an itinerary which she and her aides are calling her “Sniffling Tour.”

“I’m going to be crying so much you’re going to think I’m Anderson Cooper,” she wept….

Read Less

McCain in Michigan

Independents are a huge factor in Michigan, and the reason why I think John McCain will win there next week. The Democratic primary is non-existent this year. When Michigan ignored the Democratic National Committee and moved up its primary date to January, the DNC punished it by taking away its 156 delegates from the convention.  The only names on the Democratic ballot will be Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd. Barack Obama is not even contesting there. Like New Hampshire, Michigan allows its registered independents to vote in either primary. That means they go to McCain (who won the state in 2000 in part due to an independent vote) in what would otherwise be a tight race for GOP voters among McCain, Huckabee, and Romney.

Independents are a huge factor in Michigan, and the reason why I think John McCain will win there next week. The Democratic primary is non-existent this year. When Michigan ignored the Democratic National Committee and moved up its primary date to January, the DNC punished it by taking away its 156 delegates from the convention.  The only names on the Democratic ballot will be Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd. Barack Obama is not even contesting there. Like New Hampshire, Michigan allows its registered independents to vote in either primary. That means they go to McCain (who won the state in 2000 in part due to an independent vote) in what would otherwise be a tight race for GOP voters among McCain, Huckabee, and Romney.

Read Less

Re: Is Iraq the Issue? Yes.

Yuval Levin questions Dan Casse’s contention that John McCain’s victory in New Hampshire demonstrates the centrality of Iraq in the election. He uses data from the exit poll last night indicating that McCain won with anti-war voters and Mitt Romney won with pro-war voters. It is true that the data, as reported, say this. But this is the problem with exit-poll data, which are often confused when it comes to detailing matters of policy. Remember the 2004 exit polls demonstrating that “moral values” were the key issue for voters in an election that was explicitly run as a referendum on matters of war policy? Yes, the exit polls said what they said, and presumably the voters queried said what the exit pollsters reported, but the reported result did not comport with reality. Democrats discovered this to their sorrow as late as 2007, when their own promises to end the war in Iraq proved impossible to enshrine in legislation because the central reality of the 2004 election still stood.

McCain ran, effectively, as a single-issue candidate. His issue was the war in Iraq. Mitt Romney did not run on the war in Iraq. By the end of the five-day election cycle after Iowa he was running as a reformist candidate pledging to fix a broken Washington. McCain won in New Hampshire. Romney didn’t. The election itself tells the story here, not the exit poll.

Yuval Levin questions Dan Casse’s contention that John McCain’s victory in New Hampshire demonstrates the centrality of Iraq in the election. He uses data from the exit poll last night indicating that McCain won with anti-war voters and Mitt Romney won with pro-war voters. It is true that the data, as reported, say this. But this is the problem with exit-poll data, which are often confused when it comes to detailing matters of policy. Remember the 2004 exit polls demonstrating that “moral values” were the key issue for voters in an election that was explicitly run as a referendum on matters of war policy? Yes, the exit polls said what they said, and presumably the voters queried said what the exit pollsters reported, but the reported result did not comport with reality. Democrats discovered this to their sorrow as late as 2007, when their own promises to end the war in Iraq proved impossible to enshrine in legislation because the central reality of the 2004 election still stood.

McCain ran, effectively, as a single-issue candidate. His issue was the war in Iraq. Mitt Romney did not run on the war in Iraq. By the end of the five-day election cycle after Iowa he was running as a reformist candidate pledging to fix a broken Washington. McCain won in New Hampshire. Romney didn’t. The election itself tells the story here, not the exit poll.

Read Less

When Hugo Met Naomi

Aspiring world leaders frequently summon star power to help them on the campaign trail. As we’ve seen during the current presidential primaries season, certain stars’ endorsements can critically capture the mood of individual campaigns. For example, Obama has Oprah (unity, sensitivity); Huckabee has Chuck Norris (strength, values); Hillary has Bill (experience, stability); McCain has Curt Schilling (winner, sacrifice); and Edwards has Desperate HousewivesJames Denton (soon to be off-the-air).

But presidential candidates are hardly alone in using stars to further their aspirations. This week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s bid for increased power enjoyed a star-studded bump, when British supermodel Naomi Campbell visited Chavez in Caracas, calling him a “rebel angel” who is unafraid to speak his mind.

Read More

Aspiring world leaders frequently summon star power to help them on the campaign trail. As we’ve seen during the current presidential primaries season, certain stars’ endorsements can critically capture the mood of individual campaigns. For example, Obama has Oprah (unity, sensitivity); Huckabee has Chuck Norris (strength, values); Hillary has Bill (experience, stability); McCain has Curt Schilling (winner, sacrifice); and Edwards has Desperate HousewivesJames Denton (soon to be off-the-air).

But presidential candidates are hardly alone in using stars to further their aspirations. This week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s bid for increased power enjoyed a star-studded bump, when British supermodel Naomi Campbell visited Chavez in Caracas, calling him a “rebel angel” who is unafraid to speak his mind.

To be fair, Campbell’s rendezvous with Chavez wasn’t technically an endorsement. After all, Campbell interviewed Chavez in her capacity as contributing editor for the British edition of GQ. Her official reason for accompanying Chavez around the Venezuelan capital was thus journalistic, not political.

Still, it’s hard to take Campbell’s career as a journalist seriously. For starters, Campbell is probably the first reporter to allow her publication to post nude photos of herself on its website. But more importantly, her interview with Chavez is a total puff piece: Campbell said she “went to interview Hugo Chavez the man,” and that she “didn’t want to judge Chavez, or probe him for his political views.” Given this facile approach, it’s no wonder that Campbell viewed Chavez as posing no threat to democracy, praising him as “fearless, but not threatening or unreasonable.”

How does this help Hugo Chavez’s campaign for world power? For the most part, Campbell’s interview with Chavez serves the same purpose as Oprah’s endorsement of Obama—it gives him immediate access to a new constituency. Thanks to Campbell, young British males can now appreciate Chavez’s opinions on fashion and pop music, and sympathize with his view that Camilla is “not as attractive” as Princess Diana. Suddenly, Hugo Chavez—the Venezuelan ruler suppressing freedoms at home and extending an arm towards Iran abroad—is humanized. Indeed, GQ’s readers will wonder, how harmful can a guy who follows the Spice Girls’ reunion tour really be?
Chavez deserves credit for orchestrating this public diplomacy ploy. By challenging a supermodel to feel his pectorals, the Venezuelan leader made himself seem likeable to a demographic that was previously inaccessible to him. Meanwhile, Naomi Campbell has joined the ranks of Jane Fonda as the latest pretty face to use her star power for the wrong cause during dangerous times.

Read Less

Zadie Smith and Friends

I suspect that it’s difficult for critics to assess “charity lit” as honestly as they ought to. I’m referring to books like Nick Hornby’s Speaking with the Angel, Dave Eggers’s What Is the What, and now Zadie Smith’s The Book of Other People, which benefit autism research, Sudanese refugees, and children’s literacy, respectively. I’ve heard good things about the first and have written good things about the second, despite a dislike of Eggers that I’ve cultivated like a Venus flytrap for just about a decade. Three’s a trend, however, and that trend may suggest that young writers are afraid to meet readers on their own terms, without hiding in the warm glow of good intentions.

Each time this gang produces new material, the result asymptotically approaches a flawless and devastating self-parody. Michiko Kakutani’s review of Smith’s new anthology—which includes “well-known writers like Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Lethem, Dave Eggers, and Nick Hornby”—is more enthusiastic than one might hope, but at least it’s forthright: “All the stories in this lively collection are portraits, mainly of human beings, though a monster with an identity crisis, a giant in search of love and a puppy in need of a home put in appearances as well.”

Pace John Gardner’s Grendel, Hilary Mantel’s The Giant O’Brien, and, er, John Grogan’s Marley and Me, Kakutani couldn’t have lit upon three better examples of the oddly childish preoccupations of this generation of writers. I don’t mean that I expect the stories themselves to be childish, but I won’t be surprised if many of them evince the sort of eccentricity-on-autopilot that characterizes many of these writers, talented though they may be. (Eggers wrote the “giant” story, by the way, having already done the “puppy” thing in a different book; come to think of it, though, he’s also already done the giant thing, too. Are these guys working from writing prompts?)

This review from Spiked Online is less generous than Kakutani’s, and hints at a problem: The clubbiness and congeniality of writing for a “good cause” can discourage judgment and encourage less than challenging, if not downright frivolous, material. When the “good cause” becomes literature itself—”saving the short story” or “getting people excited about reading again,” expect taste and artistry to go right out the window.

I suspect that it’s difficult for critics to assess “charity lit” as honestly as they ought to. I’m referring to books like Nick Hornby’s Speaking with the Angel, Dave Eggers’s What Is the What, and now Zadie Smith’s The Book of Other People, which benefit autism research, Sudanese refugees, and children’s literacy, respectively. I’ve heard good things about the first and have written good things about the second, despite a dislike of Eggers that I’ve cultivated like a Venus flytrap for just about a decade. Three’s a trend, however, and that trend may suggest that young writers are afraid to meet readers on their own terms, without hiding in the warm glow of good intentions.

Each time this gang produces new material, the result asymptotically approaches a flawless and devastating self-parody. Michiko Kakutani’s review of Smith’s new anthology—which includes “well-known writers like Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Lethem, Dave Eggers, and Nick Hornby”—is more enthusiastic than one might hope, but at least it’s forthright: “All the stories in this lively collection are portraits, mainly of human beings, though a monster with an identity crisis, a giant in search of love and a puppy in need of a home put in appearances as well.”

Pace John Gardner’s Grendel, Hilary Mantel’s The Giant O’Brien, and, er, John Grogan’s Marley and Me, Kakutani couldn’t have lit upon three better examples of the oddly childish preoccupations of this generation of writers. I don’t mean that I expect the stories themselves to be childish, but I won’t be surprised if many of them evince the sort of eccentricity-on-autopilot that characterizes many of these writers, talented though they may be. (Eggers wrote the “giant” story, by the way, having already done the “puppy” thing in a different book; come to think of it, though, he’s also already done the giant thing, too. Are these guys working from writing prompts?)

This review from Spiked Online is less generous than Kakutani’s, and hints at a problem: The clubbiness and congeniality of writing for a “good cause” can discourage judgment and encourage less than challenging, if not downright frivolous, material. When the “good cause” becomes literature itself—”saving the short story” or “getting people excited about reading again,” expect taste and artistry to go right out the window.

Read Less

Re: Questioning Max

David and Max, allow me to jump into this discussion and share a couple of thoughts on the Gaza disengagement: Israel’s great mistake, in my view, was not in disengaging from Gaza–a territory of comparatively little historic significance to the Jewish people–but in neglecting to implement what should have been viewed as the second phase of the disengagement, namely the establishment of a new security paradigm regarding attacks emanating from Gaza. It is certainly true that Hamas, not to mention all of the other terror and Islamist groups in the region who were paying attention, took from Israel’s withdrawal a reinforcement of the conviction that western nations are weak, that they quickly tire of war, that their technological supremacy is worthless without the will among their people and leaders to fight until death or victory. This conviction remains a premise of Islamic movements from al-Qaeda to the Iranian Revolution.

Israel could have disengaged from Gaza in such a manner that would have gone a long way toward disabusing Hamas and its supporters from Gaza to Tehran of the idea that Israel was leaving under duress, or that its departure from Gaza indicated a flagging level of resolve. And the way to do that would have been to to lay out, in clear public statements, that Israel would treat any act of terrorism arising out of Gaza as an act of war by Hamas, the price for which would be paid first by the Hamas political and terror leadership (which itself is largely a distinction without a difference). There was an opportunity at hand, in other words, to stop treating Hamas like a terror group and to start treating it like a government — a turning of the asymmetrical warfare tables.

But Israel did not set any such boundaries: During and after the disengagement, rocket fire from Gaza continued, and even worsened, and still Israel did nothing. Gilad Shalit was abducted, and Israel barely responded. The message was thus conveyed to Israel’s enemies that, indeed, the Jews were tired of fighting and were hoping that if they ignored Gaza, Gaza would ignore them.

It is astonishing to think about the fact that it has taken Israel over two years to finally mount any kind of sustained military counterattack against Hamas and Islamic Jihad–and even today, only a few weeks into that campaign, high-level members of the Hamas political leadership have not been targeted. The problem with the Gaza disengagement, in my view, is not so much that it happened, but that Israel refused to leverage its departure by establishing new boundaries for the new Gaza. Fortunately, it is not entirely too late to set those boundaries. Israel could start by including members of the Hamas political leadership on its targeted killings list, and go about eliminating them until the rocket fire ceases.

David and Max, allow me to jump into this discussion and share a couple of thoughts on the Gaza disengagement: Israel’s great mistake, in my view, was not in disengaging from Gaza–a territory of comparatively little historic significance to the Jewish people–but in neglecting to implement what should have been viewed as the second phase of the disengagement, namely the establishment of a new security paradigm regarding attacks emanating from Gaza. It is certainly true that Hamas, not to mention all of the other terror and Islamist groups in the region who were paying attention, took from Israel’s withdrawal a reinforcement of the conviction that western nations are weak, that they quickly tire of war, that their technological supremacy is worthless without the will among their people and leaders to fight until death or victory. This conviction remains a premise of Islamic movements from al-Qaeda to the Iranian Revolution.

Israel could have disengaged from Gaza in such a manner that would have gone a long way toward disabusing Hamas and its supporters from Gaza to Tehran of the idea that Israel was leaving under duress, or that its departure from Gaza indicated a flagging level of resolve. And the way to do that would have been to to lay out, in clear public statements, that Israel would treat any act of terrorism arising out of Gaza as an act of war by Hamas, the price for which would be paid first by the Hamas political and terror leadership (which itself is largely a distinction without a difference). There was an opportunity at hand, in other words, to stop treating Hamas like a terror group and to start treating it like a government — a turning of the asymmetrical warfare tables.

But Israel did not set any such boundaries: During and after the disengagement, rocket fire from Gaza continued, and even worsened, and still Israel did nothing. Gilad Shalit was abducted, and Israel barely responded. The message was thus conveyed to Israel’s enemies that, indeed, the Jews were tired of fighting and were hoping that if they ignored Gaza, Gaza would ignore them.

It is astonishing to think about the fact that it has taken Israel over two years to finally mount any kind of sustained military counterattack against Hamas and Islamic Jihad–and even today, only a few weeks into that campaign, high-level members of the Hamas political leadership have not been targeted. The problem with the Gaza disengagement, in my view, is not so much that it happened, but that Israel refused to leverage its departure by establishing new boundaries for the new Gaza. Fortunately, it is not entirely too late to set those boundaries. Israel could start by including members of the Hamas political leadership on its targeted killings list, and go about eliminating them until the rocket fire ceases.

Read Less

How to Talk to Iran

This morning, the New York Times reacted to Iran’s recent naval maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz. On Monday, U.S. officials reported that five Iranian speedboats threatened three Navy warships in international waters at the narrow entrance to the Persian Gulf on Sunday. The small boats, probably operated by the Revolutionary Guard, closed within two hundred yards of the American vessels, communicated a threat to destroy them, and dropped boxes into the water in an apparent attempt to disrupt free passage in the waterway. Abe Greenwald reported and discussed this troubling development in this forum yesterday.

The Times, predictably, saw Saturday’s hostile act as an opportunity to begin a dialogue with Tehran. “At a minimum, the administration should use this incident to engage Iran in formal talks on conduct in the strait,” the paper said in an editorial. Why? “It is not clear what game the Iranians were playing or even who was giving the orders. President Bush’s refusal to engage Iran diplomatically makes it even harder for American officials to deconstruct Iran’s motives and increases the risk of future miscalculation on both sides.”

The principal flaw in the Times’s argument is that Iran’s motives for its dangerous conduct are relevant. They are not. The fact that Iranians sought to disrupt traffic in the waterway carrying 40 percent of the world’s traded oil is all we need to know.

Read More

This morning, the New York Times reacted to Iran’s recent naval maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz. On Monday, U.S. officials reported that five Iranian speedboats threatened three Navy warships in international waters at the narrow entrance to the Persian Gulf on Sunday. The small boats, probably operated by the Revolutionary Guard, closed within two hundred yards of the American vessels, communicated a threat to destroy them, and dropped boxes into the water in an apparent attempt to disrupt free passage in the waterway. Abe Greenwald reported and discussed this troubling development in this forum yesterday.

The Times, predictably, saw Saturday’s hostile act as an opportunity to begin a dialogue with Tehran. “At a minimum, the administration should use this incident to engage Iran in formal talks on conduct in the strait,” the paper said in an editorial. Why? “It is not clear what game the Iranians were playing or even who was giving the orders. President Bush’s refusal to engage Iran diplomatically makes it even harder for American officials to deconstruct Iran’s motives and increases the risk of future miscalculation on both sides.”

The principal flaw in the Times’s argument is that Iran’s motives for its dangerous conduct are relevant. They are not. The fact that Iranians sought to disrupt traffic in the waterway carrying 40 percent of the world’s traded oil is all we need to know.

At this time different elements are threatening free passage on international waters. Nations—most notably Russia and China—are claiming vast stretches of sea as their own. Moreover, we are experiencing a resurgence of pirate attacks, which rose 10 percent in 2007, the first increase in three years. The United States can either let bandits, rogues, and autocrats take over the world’s oceans, seas, and straits, or we can maintain safe passage for all nations. It is as simple as that.

The Iranians, over the weekend, were picking a fight with a vastly superior force. Why would they do that? They were undoubtedly seeking to learn about the U.S. Navy’s tactical reactions. More important, they were testing American resolve. The proper response is not meekly seeking an audience with the mullahs, as the Times suggests. A better way to safeguard shipping is employ force. On Saturday, the Iranians turned tail when the commander of one of the American ships, the Hopper, was about to open fire on the attackers.

The White House, responding to the incident, issued a series of formulaic statements from President Bush, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and spokesman Gordon Johndroe, all characterizing the incident as “provocative.” The Iranians, I suspect, already know that. What they need to hear is this: “The United States, acting either in conjunction with others or alone, will use overwhelming force on the high seas and on bases onshore against any party threatening to stop or restrict free passage on the world’s waterways.” Forget the Times’s proposed dialogue. This is the best way to talk to Iran.

Read Less

Why Is Bush in Israel?

There is, alas, vanishingly little to say about Bush’s visit to Israel, the most profound effect of which, I feel safe predicting, will be traffic jams in Jerusalem. I share Yossi Alpher’s take: “This visit, like Bush’s Israeli-Palestinian peace process in general, looks to be all hype and superficiality.”

So instead of adding to the verbiage, I’m going to just post some links to what other people are saying.

Michael Oren: “Presidential visits are always characterized as ‘historic,’ but Mr. Bush’s trip to the Jewish state is marked by a lack of momentousness.”

The Economist speculates that Bush’s visit will provide an opportunity for the Israelis to get a read on where America’s commitment to thwarting the Iranian nuclear project stands. I am skeptical.

Amir Taheri: “The president’s tour can acquire a positive meaning only if it is used to shape a new alliance for reform, progress and democratization as the chief guarantor of Middle East peace and security.” I’m a big fan of Taheri’s, but really–is this even remotely plausible?

Jon Alterman, on the excellent new Harvard Middle East Strategy blog: “The Bush administration has been mugged by reality.”

There is, alas, vanishingly little to say about Bush’s visit to Israel, the most profound effect of which, I feel safe predicting, will be traffic jams in Jerusalem. I share Yossi Alpher’s take: “This visit, like Bush’s Israeli-Palestinian peace process in general, looks to be all hype and superficiality.”

So instead of adding to the verbiage, I’m going to just post some links to what other people are saying.

Michael Oren: “Presidential visits are always characterized as ‘historic,’ but Mr. Bush’s trip to the Jewish state is marked by a lack of momentousness.”

The Economist speculates that Bush’s visit will provide an opportunity for the Israelis to get a read on where America’s commitment to thwarting the Iranian nuclear project stands. I am skeptical.

Amir Taheri: “The president’s tour can acquire a positive meaning only if it is used to shape a new alliance for reform, progress and democratization as the chief guarantor of Middle East peace and security.” I’m a big fan of Taheri’s, but really–is this even remotely plausible?

Jon Alterman, on the excellent new Harvard Middle East Strategy blog: “The Bush administration has been mugged by reality.”

Read Less

The Jewish Bradley Effect

Embarassed by its confident predictions of an Obama victory, the mainstream media these past few days has resurrected the supposed “Bradley Effect” as an explanation for why Barack Obama lost last night in New Hampshire. This political phenomenon is named after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost the 1982 California gubernatorial election despite a healthy lead (ranging from 9 to 22 percent in various polls) over his opponent. Some pundits have even argued that white voters told pollsters they were intent on supporting the black candidate but that deep-seated racism got the best of them upon pulling back the curtain.

A friend of mine has long been telling me that a similar sort of phenomenon occurs with Jewish voters. Being a Democrat is almost instinctive for American Jews; being a GOP supporter is akin to eating pastrami on white bread with mayonnaise. As Martin Peretz wrote in 2004, signaling his distaste for John Kerry:

Like many American Jews, I was brought up to believe that if I pulled the Republican lever on the election machine my right hand would wither and, as the Psalmist says, my tongue would cleave to the roof of my mouth.

Yet since 9/11, I’m convinced that a far larger proportion of Jews than the reported 25 percent voted Republican in 2004. These Jews–perfectly happy calling themselves Bill Clinton Democrats but more hawkish than a party now headed by Nancy Pelosi–don’t want to admit to anyone that they supported a Republican because everyone in their social circle would call them meshugeh. I imagine this is a topic about which John Podhoretz probably has something to say.

Embarassed by its confident predictions of an Obama victory, the mainstream media these past few days has resurrected the supposed “Bradley Effect” as an explanation for why Barack Obama lost last night in New Hampshire. This political phenomenon is named after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost the 1982 California gubernatorial election despite a healthy lead (ranging from 9 to 22 percent in various polls) over his opponent. Some pundits have even argued that white voters told pollsters they were intent on supporting the black candidate but that deep-seated racism got the best of them upon pulling back the curtain.

A friend of mine has long been telling me that a similar sort of phenomenon occurs with Jewish voters. Being a Democrat is almost instinctive for American Jews; being a GOP supporter is akin to eating pastrami on white bread with mayonnaise. As Martin Peretz wrote in 2004, signaling his distaste for John Kerry:

Like many American Jews, I was brought up to believe that if I pulled the Republican lever on the election machine my right hand would wither and, as the Psalmist says, my tongue would cleave to the roof of my mouth.

Yet since 9/11, I’m convinced that a far larger proportion of Jews than the reported 25 percent voted Republican in 2004. These Jews–perfectly happy calling themselves Bill Clinton Democrats but more hawkish than a party now headed by Nancy Pelosi–don’t want to admit to anyone that they supported a Republican because everyone in their social circle would call them meshugeh. I imagine this is a topic about which John Podhoretz probably has something to say.

Read Less

Is Iraq the Issue?

Daniel Casse argues that McCain’s victory shows that Republican voters know that Iraq needs to be their top priority. “John McCain won because he stuck to the war in Iraq,” he writes.

It’s a plausible view, but the exit polling suggests otherwise. Asked “how do you feel about the U.S. war in Iraq?” 63 percent of Republican voters said they approve of it, and 35 percent disapprove. Of those who approve of the war, Romney got 37 percent support and McCain 33 percent. Of those who disapprove, McCain got 44 percent of the vote and Romney 19 percent. In other words, Romney narrowly won among hawks, and McCain among doves.

That doesn’t mean voters are confused about McCain’s views on the war. It seems to mean the war just wasn’t a crucial criterion in deciding who to vote for.

Daniel Casse argues that McCain’s victory shows that Republican voters know that Iraq needs to be their top priority. “John McCain won because he stuck to the war in Iraq,” he writes.

It’s a plausible view, but the exit polling suggests otherwise. Asked “how do you feel about the U.S. war in Iraq?” 63 percent of Republican voters said they approve of it, and 35 percent disapprove. Of those who approve of the war, Romney got 37 percent support and McCain 33 percent. Of those who disapprove, McCain got 44 percent of the vote and Romney 19 percent. In other words, Romney narrowly won among hawks, and McCain among doves.

That doesn’t mean voters are confused about McCain’s views on the war. It seems to mean the war just wasn’t a crucial criterion in deciding who to vote for.

Read Less

McCain’s Guarded Optimism

I just got off a conference call with John McCain, and, interestingly, the Senator seemed more sober in his new frontrunner status than he did when I spoke with him after Mike Huckabee took Iowa. New Hampshire had always looked promising for McCain, after all; what lies ahead is a bit trickier—especially considering the near-uselessness of polling.

The Senator spoke of the “transcendent struggle” that faces us, and stressed that national security, particularly the fight against Islamist terror, remains most important. He predicted that by November we’d see enough success in Iraq to prove him right on the war and the surge. McCain credits his “no surrender” tour and his ability to beat down the Webb Amendment with getting his national security message across. Additionally, he feels that people are ceasing to think of his immigration plan as amnesty. (Undoubtedly, some contentions readers will take exception here.)

When asked about potential VP’s, he playfully floated Phil Gramm, but stressed that seriousness on national security was the most sought after quality. Concretely, McCain stated that he backs Senator Tom Coburn’s push for earmarks on wasteful spending and, if no other means could be employed, would support an executive order to make it happen.

Other than that, the Senator sees hard work ahead. He takes obvious pleasure in (and has a gift for) townhall meetings, which he’ll continue to hold throughout the campaign. John McCain has a strong belief in the power of local effort and its ability to turn things around in the eleventh hour. And he may be onto something. The one thing most pundits agree on today is that the late undecided voters played a major role in last night’s results.

I just got off a conference call with John McCain, and, interestingly, the Senator seemed more sober in his new frontrunner status than he did when I spoke with him after Mike Huckabee took Iowa. New Hampshire had always looked promising for McCain, after all; what lies ahead is a bit trickier—especially considering the near-uselessness of polling.

The Senator spoke of the “transcendent struggle” that faces us, and stressed that national security, particularly the fight against Islamist terror, remains most important. He predicted that by November we’d see enough success in Iraq to prove him right on the war and the surge. McCain credits his “no surrender” tour and his ability to beat down the Webb Amendment with getting his national security message across. Additionally, he feels that people are ceasing to think of his immigration plan as amnesty. (Undoubtedly, some contentions readers will take exception here.)

When asked about potential VP’s, he playfully floated Phil Gramm, but stressed that seriousness on national security was the most sought after quality. Concretely, McCain stated that he backs Senator Tom Coburn’s push for earmarks on wasteful spending and, if no other means could be employed, would support an executive order to make it happen.

Other than that, the Senator sees hard work ahead. He takes obvious pleasure in (and has a gift for) townhall meetings, which he’ll continue to hold throughout the campaign. John McCain has a strong belief in the power of local effort and its ability to turn things around in the eleventh hour. And he may be onto something. The one thing most pundits agree on today is that the late undecided voters played a major role in last night’s results.

Read Less

Questioning Max

A few days ago, Max Boot cited my post about the reduction in terror in Israel in 2007, suggesting that this proves that Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza strip was the right move. I’d like to question Max’s conclusions.

The arc of Israel’s conflict with the Arab and Muslim world is a long one, and it begins with the belief, prevalent throughout the Arab world, that if Israel cannot be defeated through direct armed conflict, it can be brought to its knees through terror. This was first employed in the early 1960’s–before Israel ever captured the West Bank and Gaza–when Egypt and Syria helped create Fatah and the PLO, the two Palestinian terror groups which were later united under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. The idea was that just as the French had been successfully driven from Algeria through terror, so too could the “colonialist” Zionists from Palestine. This has remained the central tenet of Arab terror, the article of faith upon which all of it seems to rest, whether it be “Islamist” or “secular.”

Read More

A few days ago, Max Boot cited my post about the reduction in terror in Israel in 2007, suggesting that this proves that Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza strip was the right move. I’d like to question Max’s conclusions.

The arc of Israel’s conflict with the Arab and Muslim world is a long one, and it begins with the belief, prevalent throughout the Arab world, that if Israel cannot be defeated through direct armed conflict, it can be brought to its knees through terror. This was first employed in the early 1960’s–before Israel ever captured the West Bank and Gaza–when Egypt and Syria helped create Fatah and the PLO, the two Palestinian terror groups which were later united under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. The idea was that just as the French had been successfully driven from Algeria through terror, so too could the “colonialist” Zionists from Palestine. This has remained the central tenet of Arab terror, the article of faith upon which all of it seems to rest, whether it be “Islamist” or “secular.”

In conceding Gaza, Israel’s actions were interpreted as a major vindication of that reasoning. How else can we interpret Hamas’ immediate rise to power, when polls had previously shown only a minority support for that organization among Palestinians? Nor should we be too surprised at the ricochet effect to Israel’s north, in which Hezbollah, encouraged by a rising Iran and Hamas, needed to prove its own worth by throwing itself into a headlong terror conflict with Israel? That war last year, it will be recalled, began with Hamas’ successful kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, followed just days later by a copy-cat crime by Hezbollah. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza may have had a short-term benefit in Israel’s freedom to fight terror, but in the big picture, it seems unlikely that it did anything other than (a) bring to power an enemy far more hostile to any long-term resolution with Israel and the West, and (b) put a lot of wind into the sails of the West’s enemies.

Contrast this with the conditions which allowed Israel to turn up the heat on Hamas: It is true that world opinion shifted in favor of Israel. But such shifts have frequently proven to be of temporary value. They depend, to a great deal, on political winds that rustle like the autumnal leaves we are still enjoying in Jerusalem in January. Five or ten years from now, with a different Washington and a different Europe, Israel’s green light may have long turned red, and Hamas’ continuing rise may convince the diplomats of realism that Israel must deal with Hamas instead of Fatah as the new representative of the Palestinians. Israel’s defense will be forgotten, but the concession of land will be long remembered as the starting point for the next phase of war.

Military conflicts, like the football games that imitate them, are often a matter of momentum: When the tide shifts against one side, psychology kicks in, a narrative of defeat emerges in people’s minds, and collapse is at hand; when it shifts back, a narrative of victory prevails, and everyone gains the courage and strength to pull it together and muster new resources. Major events like the withdrawal from Gaza remain in memory for decades as a key building block to conceptions of who’s winning and who’s losing, of what is needed to defeat the enemy. Regardless of its (evident) advantages, the withdrawal was seen by most people in the region as a massive setback for Israel and a victory for the logic of terror. The effects of this go way, way beyond the number of terror attacks launched against Israel from Gaza–beyond into the West Bank, to Lebanon, even to Tehran, where the calculus of momentum is constantly being reconsidered. This is a price we may have scarcely begun to pay.

Read Less

Hillary’s Gift to The GOP

In spite of all premature celebrations (mine included) of the closing of the Clinton age, last night’s Democratic results may spell good things for Republicans. If Hillary continues to eke out primaries, Republicans could have an easier time of things in the general election. There’s a strong argument that Hillary is a much more beatable candidate than Obama.

As all the palpable (if largely erroneous) pre-New Hampshire hype demonstrated, the Obama campaign can come on like a force of nature. People praise him without quite knowing why. Others back him for admittedly superficial reasons (Andrew Sullivan citing Obama’s face as an asset in the war on terror.) Timing, talent, and enthusiasm can turn an Obama spark into a wildfire at any moment. No Republican wants to come up against that kind of momentum.

Hillary’s triumphs, on the other hand, are fragile, manufactured affairs. Instead of a wildfire, her campaign is made of errant friction with an army of stokers paid to keep to the flame going into the next round. One must remember she started out this election with most of the country thinking unfavorably of her. She’s erratic and unliked, and capable of great gaffes that swing the electorate one way or the other on a daily basis. Plus, lately her husband has been there to pick up the slack if things start to go too smoothly. An unstable Hillary nomination could be a Republican’s dream come true. . .

In spite of all premature celebrations (mine included) of the closing of the Clinton age, last night’s Democratic results may spell good things for Republicans. If Hillary continues to eke out primaries, Republicans could have an easier time of things in the general election. There’s a strong argument that Hillary is a much more beatable candidate than Obama.

As all the palpable (if largely erroneous) pre-New Hampshire hype demonstrated, the Obama campaign can come on like a force of nature. People praise him without quite knowing why. Others back him for admittedly superficial reasons (Andrew Sullivan citing Obama’s face as an asset in the war on terror.) Timing, talent, and enthusiasm can turn an Obama spark into a wildfire at any moment. No Republican wants to come up against that kind of momentum.

Hillary’s triumphs, on the other hand, are fragile, manufactured affairs. Instead of a wildfire, her campaign is made of errant friction with an army of stokers paid to keep to the flame going into the next round. One must remember she started out this election with most of the country thinking unfavorably of her. She’s erratic and unliked, and capable of great gaffes that swing the electorate one way or the other on a daily basis. Plus, lately her husband has been there to pick up the slack if things start to go too smoothly. An unstable Hillary nomination could be a Republican’s dream come true. . .

Read Less

Does This Presidential Election Matter?

The British prime minister Harold Macmillan was once asked what represented the greatest challenge to a statesman. His famous answer: “events, my dear boy, events.”

We’ve seen some events over the past decade and we are likely to see more. Who is better poised to handle them: John McCain (to whom I am giving the Republican nomination) or Hillary Clinton (to whom I am handing the Democratic nod)?

Or does it matter; are we inexorably following a path predicted by de Tocqueville? Here are pertinent reflections from the memoirs of Michael Howard, formerly of King’s College and Yale, now retired:

for a generation, under the dingy leadership of Harold Macmillan and Harold Wilson, Britain simply ceased to try in foreign affairs; abandoning its global responsibilities, following in the wake of an erratic American leadership, scrabbling belatedly to join the European enterprise, and getting the worst of every possible world. The ‘flip-side’, it must be said, was the creation of a standard of living for the bulk of its citizens beyond the wildest dreams of their grandfathers, if not indeed their fathers. Perhaps de Tocqueville was right in doubting the capacity of democracies to pursue consistent and successful foreign policies; but his countryman Raymond Aron was equally right when he remarked ruefully, when I met him at a conference in Italy, that the English people had regressed from being Romans to Italians in a single generation. My generation, I thought bitterly.

From Captain Professor: A Life in War and Peace, 2006.

The British prime minister Harold Macmillan was once asked what represented the greatest challenge to a statesman. His famous answer: “events, my dear boy, events.”

We’ve seen some events over the past decade and we are likely to see more. Who is better poised to handle them: John McCain (to whom I am giving the Republican nomination) or Hillary Clinton (to whom I am handing the Democratic nod)?

Or does it matter; are we inexorably following a path predicted by de Tocqueville? Here are pertinent reflections from the memoirs of Michael Howard, formerly of King’s College and Yale, now retired:

for a generation, under the dingy leadership of Harold Macmillan and Harold Wilson, Britain simply ceased to try in foreign affairs; abandoning its global responsibilities, following in the wake of an erratic American leadership, scrabbling belatedly to join the European enterprise, and getting the worst of every possible world. The ‘flip-side’, it must be said, was the creation of a standard of living for the bulk of its citizens beyond the wildest dreams of their grandfathers, if not indeed their fathers. Perhaps de Tocqueville was right in doubting the capacity of democracies to pursue consistent and successful foreign policies; but his countryman Raymond Aron was equally right when he remarked ruefully, when I met him at a conference in Italy, that the English people had regressed from being Romans to Italians in a single generation. My generation, I thought bitterly.

From Captain Professor: A Life in War and Peace, 2006.

Read Less

Iraq Is The Issue. Iraq Is The Issue. Iraq Is The Issue.

Wasn’t it just last month that we heard how Iraq has faded as an issue, even among Republicans?  Weren’t New Hampshire’s voters instead deeply concerned about taxes, immigration, health care? This was the great misinterpretation of the run-up to last night’s primary.

John McCain won because he stuck to the war in Iraq.

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, we read that McCain has never stopped talking about the subject:

“The first reason I’m running for president is the war in Iraq,” Sen. McCain said when he took the microphone. “The final reason I’m running is the war in Iraq.”

McCain has never been a conservative favorite because of his “apostasy” on the Bush tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and illegal aliens.  Michelle Malkin expressed typical right-wing antipathy toward McCain when, a month ago, she called him an “immigration drag queen.” This perspective has effectively become conventional wisdom. Even Mickey Kaus, no conservative, as recently as two days ago headlined his Slate column with the question, “Will Amnesty Sink McCain?”

We have been hearing this for a year during which self-identified conservatives have been trying to create a post-Bush, post-Iraq agenda. Last summer, the venerable rightist weekly Human Events listed its top conservative issues.  Illegal immigration was #1. The war on terror was #2.  Iraq was #7.  Before Iraq came federal spending, Supreme Court nominees, tax cuts, and the size of government.

Other groups built other lists. The Club for Growth argued that McCain could not be trusted on economic issues. Mitt Romney tried to capture the conservative mantle with much talk about free market health care and, in the fall, religion. CNN and the Washington Post insisted that immigration was the new driving force for conservatives and Republicans. Mike Huckabee’s surge was interpreted as a return of the social-values agenda. More recently, some assumed that if Romney faltered, Fred Thompson would be the obvious conservative choice with his Reaganesque gravitas and anti-Washington instincts.

In the end, though, the war remains the conservative issue.

For all the noise about amnesty, taxes, and Washington politicians, Iraq remains the most vibrant issue – and the one that distinguishes the GOP most from the Democrats. McCain’s role as Rumsfeld critic but earliest supporter of the Iraq surge gave him his most forceful and principled arguments.  His best stuff with Tim Russert on last Sunday’s Meet the Press was all about Iraq. (Rudy Giuliani, too, has been making this case, but McCain’s detailed criticism of the handling of the war seems to give him more credibility.)

If conservative commentators don’t yet realize that staying power of the war in Iraq as an issue, some Democrats do. Listen to Hillary’s speech last night. She is already drawing a distinction between getting out of Iraq immediately (Obama’s position) and getting out “the right way.” She understands that, despite what everyone else says, Iraq will be an issue in the fall and the Democrats cannot look McGovernite, especially if McCain is the nominee.

Yes, the race is still wide open, etc.  But the most important message emerging from New Hampshire is the re-establishment of George W. Bush’s signal issue as the uniting force of the GOP.  How deliciously ironic that John McCain has become the torch bearer of the Bush legacy.

Wasn’t it just last month that we heard how Iraq has faded as an issue, even among Republicans?  Weren’t New Hampshire’s voters instead deeply concerned about taxes, immigration, health care? This was the great misinterpretation of the run-up to last night’s primary.

John McCain won because he stuck to the war in Iraq.

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, we read that McCain has never stopped talking about the subject:

“The first reason I’m running for president is the war in Iraq,” Sen. McCain said when he took the microphone. “The final reason I’m running is the war in Iraq.”

McCain has never been a conservative favorite because of his “apostasy” on the Bush tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and illegal aliens.  Michelle Malkin expressed typical right-wing antipathy toward McCain when, a month ago, she called him an “immigration drag queen.” This perspective has effectively become conventional wisdom. Even Mickey Kaus, no conservative, as recently as two days ago headlined his Slate column with the question, “Will Amnesty Sink McCain?”

We have been hearing this for a year during which self-identified conservatives have been trying to create a post-Bush, post-Iraq agenda. Last summer, the venerable rightist weekly Human Events listed its top conservative issues.  Illegal immigration was #1. The war on terror was #2.  Iraq was #7.  Before Iraq came federal spending, Supreme Court nominees, tax cuts, and the size of government.

Other groups built other lists. The Club for Growth argued that McCain could not be trusted on economic issues. Mitt Romney tried to capture the conservative mantle with much talk about free market health care and, in the fall, religion. CNN and the Washington Post insisted that immigration was the new driving force for conservatives and Republicans. Mike Huckabee’s surge was interpreted as a return of the social-values agenda. More recently, some assumed that if Romney faltered, Fred Thompson would be the obvious conservative choice with his Reaganesque gravitas and anti-Washington instincts.

In the end, though, the war remains the conservative issue.

For all the noise about amnesty, taxes, and Washington politicians, Iraq remains the most vibrant issue – and the one that distinguishes the GOP most from the Democrats. McCain’s role as Rumsfeld critic but earliest supporter of the Iraq surge gave him his most forceful and principled arguments.  His best stuff with Tim Russert on last Sunday’s Meet the Press was all about Iraq. (Rudy Giuliani, too, has been making this case, but McCain’s detailed criticism of the handling of the war seems to give him more credibility.)

If conservative commentators don’t yet realize that staying power of the war in Iraq as an issue, some Democrats do. Listen to Hillary’s speech last night. She is already drawing a distinction between getting out of Iraq immediately (Obama’s position) and getting out “the right way.” She understands that, despite what everyone else says, Iraq will be an issue in the fall and the Democrats cannot look McGovernite, especially if McCain is the nominee.

Yes, the race is still wide open, etc.  But the most important message emerging from New Hampshire is the re-establishment of George W. Bush’s signal issue as the uniting force of the GOP.  How deliciously ironic that John McCain has become the torch bearer of the Bush legacy.

Read Less

Edwards’s End

What else can Hillary Clinton’s come-from-behind victory–and John Edwards’s dismal third-place showing–in New Hampshire last night mean for the former, one-term Senator from North Carolina other than that he must now drop out of the race? This might seem counterintuitive in the lead up to the South Carolina Democratic primary, to be held on January 26th, where Edwards is presumed to have favor with voters because it’s his own neighborhood. But the latest poll from South Carolina shows Barack Obama with 42 percent, Clinton with 30 percent and Edwards with a dismal 14 percent. The poll was published Monday, before Clinton’s resounding New Hampshire win, so it’s probable that she’ll pick up even more support from Obama, and possibly Edwards as well. To avoid a crushing, embarassing coda to his already lackluster political career, Edwards should probably just call it quits now.

What else can Hillary Clinton’s come-from-behind victory–and John Edwards’s dismal third-place showing–in New Hampshire last night mean for the former, one-term Senator from North Carolina other than that he must now drop out of the race? This might seem counterintuitive in the lead up to the South Carolina Democratic primary, to be held on January 26th, where Edwards is presumed to have favor with voters because it’s his own neighborhood. But the latest poll from South Carolina shows Barack Obama with 42 percent, Clinton with 30 percent and Edwards with a dismal 14 percent. The poll was published Monday, before Clinton’s resounding New Hampshire win, so it’s probable that she’ll pick up even more support from Obama, and possibly Edwards as well. To avoid a crushing, embarassing coda to his already lackluster political career, Edwards should probably just call it quits now.

Read Less

Eating Crow

It wasn’t enough for me to predict, as I did on Monday, that Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Noooo. I had to predict that Obama would sink the Clinton campaign and end the Clinton Era. I even provided a eulogy. About predictions and punditry I can only say, echoing the emotional words of Senator Clinton from earlier this week, “It’s not easy.” But in the best pundit tradition, I’ll simply plow ahead, chastened but unbowed.

Some thoughts, then, on last night:

1. Hillary Clinton’s comeback was at least as impressive as what her husband did 16 years ago (he came in second in New Hampshire). A campaign that by all accounts, including her own staff, was collapsing not only stopped the free-fall; it emerged with a victory. One Clinton adviser told the Washington Post’s Dan Balz that no one in the campaign foresaw the result. And so a race that most observers thought was going to provide clarity is now as fluid (if less fractured) than the Republican race. Hillary Clinton won among women, seniors, low-income Americans and union voters; Obama won among men, young voters, high-income earners, and independents. And almost one-fifth of Democratic voters made up their mind on whom to vote for on the final day (the figure was only slightly less for Republicans). This is an indicator of just how unstable things are.

2. The Obama loss shocked almost everyone who follows politics in part, I think, because the enthusiasm for him in New Hampshire was real (the snaking lines of people waiting to hear his speeches were not imaginary)–and he made no apparent errors or missteps which would explain why his momentum came to a skidding halt.

3. Obama supporters, having had a decisive victory within their grasp, must be crestfallen. To let an opportunity like that slip away can haunt a campaign. But Obama is still well positioned. After two attempted coronations–-first hers and then his–the Democratic race is a toss up. And if you’re a Democrat this year it’s worth avoiding, at all costs, the appellation “front runner.”

4. The Obama loss will now put new and intense scrutiny on him. Clinton absorbed an enormous blow in Iowa and recovered. Will he? It’ll be fascinating to see how Obama, as well as the newly aggressive and negative Clinton campaign, wil respond.

5. The two candidates who emerged victorious last night, John McCain and Hillary Clinton, both had been declared finished–McCain in the summer of ’07 and Clinton after her loss in Iowa last week. This is a year of political resurrections.

6. Whatever flaws he has, and he does have them, McCain early on tied his campaign to the success of the surge and the success of America at war. That was admirable–and if you’re going to win a primary, being on the right side of the war is a pretty good reason to do so.

7. Based on the Democratic results in New Hampshire, we can say with high confidence that political polling–at least in New Hampshire, among Democrats–is about as reliable as our National Intelligence Estimates of Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs.

Last night Democrats could have turned the page on the Clinton Era. The voters of New Hampshire politely and emphatically declined. Time will tell if that was a wise decision or not. But for now, they’re baaack.


It wasn’t enough for me to predict, as I did on Monday, that Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Noooo. I had to predict that Obama would sink the Clinton campaign and end the Clinton Era. I even provided a eulogy. About predictions and punditry I can only say, echoing the emotional words of Senator Clinton from earlier this week, “It’s not easy.” But in the best pundit tradition, I’ll simply plow ahead, chastened but unbowed.

Some thoughts, then, on last night:

1. Hillary Clinton’s comeback was at least as impressive as what her husband did 16 years ago (he came in second in New Hampshire). A campaign that by all accounts, including her own staff, was collapsing not only stopped the free-fall; it emerged with a victory. One Clinton adviser told the Washington Post’s Dan Balz that no one in the campaign foresaw the result. And so a race that most observers thought was going to provide clarity is now as fluid (if less fractured) than the Republican race. Hillary Clinton won among women, seniors, low-income Americans and union voters; Obama won among men, young voters, high-income earners, and independents. And almost one-fifth of Democratic voters made up their mind on whom to vote for on the final day (the figure was only slightly less for Republicans). This is an indicator of just how unstable things are.

2. The Obama loss shocked almost everyone who follows politics in part, I think, because the enthusiasm for him in New Hampshire was real (the snaking lines of people waiting to hear his speeches were not imaginary)–and he made no apparent errors or missteps which would explain why his momentum came to a skidding halt.

3. Obama supporters, having had a decisive victory within their grasp, must be crestfallen. To let an opportunity like that slip away can haunt a campaign. But Obama is still well positioned. After two attempted coronations–-first hers and then his–the Democratic race is a toss up. And if you’re a Democrat this year it’s worth avoiding, at all costs, the appellation “front runner.”

4. The Obama loss will now put new and intense scrutiny on him. Clinton absorbed an enormous blow in Iowa and recovered. Will he? It’ll be fascinating to see how Obama, as well as the newly aggressive and negative Clinton campaign, wil respond.

5. The two candidates who emerged victorious last night, John McCain and Hillary Clinton, both had been declared finished–McCain in the summer of ’07 and Clinton after her loss in Iowa last week. This is a year of political resurrections.

6. Whatever flaws he has, and he does have them, McCain early on tied his campaign to the success of the surge and the success of America at war. That was admirable–and if you’re going to win a primary, being on the right side of the war is a pretty good reason to do so.

7. Based on the Democratic results in New Hampshire, we can say with high confidence that political polling–at least in New Hampshire, among Democrats–is about as reliable as our National Intelligence Estimates of Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs.

Last night Democrats could have turned the page on the Clinton Era. The voters of New Hampshire politely and emphatically declined. Time will tell if that was a wise decision or not. But for now, they’re baaack.


Read Less

NEW HAMPSHIRE: In Sum

We will not soon be delivered from these presidential primaries. The longest primary season in American history, 12 months and counting, will continue. For at least another month. Just think of it as though we were all the invitees to the ghastly dinner in Luis Bunuel’s absurdist classic film, The Exterminating Angel – who arrive at the party and find, for no reason whatever, that they are unable to leave the dining room. For days and weeks. Such is our fate. Don’t try the veal. Thanks for joining us tonight.

We will not soon be delivered from these presidential primaries. The longest primary season in American history, 12 months and counting, will continue. For at least another month. Just think of it as though we were all the invitees to the ghastly dinner in Luis Bunuel’s absurdist classic film, The Exterminating Angel – who arrive at the party and find, for no reason whatever, that they are unable to leave the dining room. For days and weeks. Such is our fate. Don’t try the veal. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Read Less

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Is There a Romney Future?

Hugh Hewitt offers the most optimistic take in the wake of Romney’s second consecutive loss:

When Romney had to beat a dominant Rudy Giuliani, he had to win one or both of Iowa and New Hampshire.  The fall of Rudy leaves a wide open field, and Romney’s two second place showings in Iowa and New Hampshire along with a win in Wyoming means he’s in the thick of the race.

The problem is that Romney faces the prospect of consecutive defeats without a significant victory.  Mike ,Huckabee is threatening in Michigan where is evangelical base is huge, and remains dominant in South Carolina. In Florida, even as Rudy slips, Romney is in fourth place with McCain rising. In California, Romney is running behind Huckabee.

The problem with second place is that it doesn’t create converts and it doesn’t drive up enthusiasm.  I agree with Hewitt that the race remains wide open and the seeming disappearance of the Giuliani campaign is reason for Romney to stay in. But the message out of Iowa and New Hampshire has to be that Romney, who spent more time and money in both states than anyone else, just can’t persuade enough Republicans to vote for him.

Hugh Hewitt offers the most optimistic take in the wake of Romney’s second consecutive loss:

When Romney had to beat a dominant Rudy Giuliani, he had to win one or both of Iowa and New Hampshire.  The fall of Rudy leaves a wide open field, and Romney’s two second place showings in Iowa and New Hampshire along with a win in Wyoming means he’s in the thick of the race.

The problem is that Romney faces the prospect of consecutive defeats without a significant victory.  Mike ,Huckabee is threatening in Michigan where is evangelical base is huge, and remains dominant in South Carolina. In Florida, even as Rudy slips, Romney is in fourth place with McCain rising. In California, Romney is running behind Huckabee.

The problem with second place is that it doesn’t create converts and it doesn’t drive up enthusiasm.  I agree with Hewitt that the race remains wide open and the seeming disappearance of the Giuliani campaign is reason for Romney to stay in. But the message out of Iowa and New Hampshire has to be that Romney, who spent more time and money in both states than anyone else, just can’t persuade enough Republicans to vote for him.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.